News and views on motorsports

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Some News And Thoughts

To no one's surprise, Nick Heidfeld has signed for the BMW team for 2007-2008. What remains to be seen is whether or not he drives for the Hinwil based squad in 2006. This all depends on the outcome of Buttongate II. Either driver would do a great job for Frank and Patrick in my opinion. However, Frank is reputedly holding on to Button because of sponsorship deals that depend on the Englishman to return to Grove. Its a mess but I think Frank should just keep Nick around.

Whilst the driver's championship is by and large a foregone conclusion, the Italian Grand Prix has left McLaren just eight points behind Renault and with the fastest machines at the moment I think looks spot on to capture the constructor's title. Nevertheless, I'm quite annoyed with Mercedes-Ilmor for all the cock ups they've done this season. By rights, McLaren ought to have both championships in the bag.

This horrible trend of unreliability goes way back to Hakkinen's time and probably cost that other Flying Finn another title for himself. This habit of letting their driver's down simply must stop. I surely hope now that the Formula 1 side of Ilmor has been sold on to Mercedes things will improve in the future. Also, with Honda leaving the IRL, Ilmor has one thing less on its mind and can put more focus on where it counts, the world championship. Although I'm not sure if the Mercedes buyout means that Ilmor no longer plays any part in Formula 1 directly. Honda's IRL engines are made by Ilmor. Ilmor is also involved in a NASCAR programme with Roger Penske.

The other team thats on the move seems to be Toyota. I've hoped that the Cologne based squad would win at least one race this season but I think if they were to do that, they would have demonstrated the required speed by now. At the moment they're simply too far behind in terms of speed to be able to challenge the McLarens and Renaults, or even the BARs for that matter. Still they are only eight points behind Ferrari and are looking good to beat Maranello to third spot. If that is the case, it would still be a good achievement for Toyota considering years of chronic underachievement.

In the driver's championship, Montoya looks well placed to put Michael Schumacher down a notch. He's just five points behind. In fact, Jarno Trulli is also in the running to finish ahead of the German. Even though the Italian is 12 points behind Schumacher, he's at least finishing in the points whilst Schumacher's prancing mule is too slow to score any.

I just had this thought the other day. Which current Formula 1 engine maker has the least experience building racing V8s? Lets see. There's Toyota in the IRL and Champcars both using V8 engines of 3.0 litres normally aspirated and 2.65 litres of turbocharged configurations. The same goes for Honda although their IRL engines are built by Ilmor. Ilmor of course builds Mercedes Formula 1 engines and formerly built the Chevrolet and Mercedes Champcar V8s, so we can count Mercedes as V8 ready. Cosworth we all know about.

That just leaves Renault, Ferrari and BMW. I'm not sure that BMWs V8 on the M3 GTR gives them much relevant experience. Ferrari have in the past made turbo V8s for the Lancia sportscar team but that was ages ago. But at least they have a V8 running right now. That just leaves Renault. I don't recall but has Renault got their V8 up and running yet? Whatever it is, 20,000 plus RPM V8s are new to all of them but I should think Mercedes, Toyota and Cosworth should be quite strong next year. So too can Honda who have also got their V8 up and running in a car, no doubt aided by some American domestic racing experience.

A Fernando Alonso related poll is running on PlanetF1 Readers are asked whether Alonso deserved to win this year's title. Of course internet polls cannot be relied upon totally for their accuracy but apparently a little more than half of the respondents believed that he does not. I can't for the life of me understand why that should be the case. I think he's driven really well for Renault, taking crucial victories and making very few mistakes. He's temprament is superb and he's also incredibly quick. Let us not forget that Fisichella up until this point has beaten every team mate thats come across his path. That includes the likes of Ralf Schumacher and Jenson Button. Yes, he's had his share of poor luck but by and large the Spaniard has had the upper hand.

Alonso to my mind deserves the championship this year. Even Ron Dennis would agree to that. Looks like he'll be the first of the year 2001 class, a group that includes Montoya and Raikkonen, to win the world championship. Its great to see that all three are currently thriving, winning races with a bright future ahead.

The final word on the Raikkonen, Schumacher and Valentino Rossi rumours must go to Bernie Ecclestone who says in this article that Raikkonen will replace a retiring Schumacher after 2006. The Finn would be driving alongside Valentino Rossi. This despite all the denials by Kimi. Schumacher at least has owned up to the possibility of retirement after 2006. A decision the German says will be forthcoming in March of next year. In the meantime, FIAT's chairman Luca diMontezemolo and Ferrari boss Jean Todt are both saying nice things about Rossi. This has earned the disapproval of one Niki Lauda, former Ferrari driver. Personally I'd prefer to see Raikkonen remain at McLaren and Fernando Alonso Maranello bound. Whatever it is, Bernie's word should never be ignored in Formula 1 because they have a habit of coming true.

BAR has finally released Anthony Davidson and the Brit is free to look elsewhere for a race seat. The only thing he's got right now is a Jordan test. If those BAR morons had released him last year, Anthony would be in a Williams by now. So much for keeping him as a future race driver, instead BAR go and hire Rubens Barrichello and are fighting to keep Jenson Button. Can you believe the 90 million dollar story? Jeez.

Wish I was back in London. McLaren are throwing a bash at Harrods featuring last years MP4/19, the overrated Mercedes SLR and a McLaren Mercedes Formula 1 simulator. Apparently the quickest customer on the simulator will get to win prizes. Never mind the prizes but if I beat Kimi's time on the simulator, can I then have a go in the real MP4/20? In fact Senna's 1988 MP4/4 as driven by his nephew Bruno at Goodwood will do just fine.

Interesting article at about Petronas. The Petronas E01 engine designed by Sauber Petronas Engineering headed by ex-Honda man Osamu Goto will be licensing the technology to a couple of Chinese car companies, Nanjing and Brilliance. The article also tells the tale of an aborted Formula 1 engine programme under SPE and Osamu after the Asian economic crisis.

Anyway, its just funny. The 2.0 litre Petronas E01 engine was fitted to a Proton Satria (Mitsubishi Colt) and a Proton Perdana (Mitsubishi Eterna) and it was thought that these would make it into production. I have a friend who had sampled both cars fitted with these prototype engines and apparently they're stunningly superb. That would have been something to us performance starved enthusiasts in Malaysia but that plan was ditched. Instead what did Proton do? Source underpowered Renault engines for the Proton Waja (Impian in the UK) and Savvy and fit in the Proton designed and completely rubbish Campro engine in the Gen2. The Campro engine is known to have some serious design issues. I'm sure the cronies have their reasons but from a car buyer and enthusiast standpoint, they're morons. There goes an opportunity to delight high performance enthusiasts.

Make no mistake, despite the astronomical sales of these horribly borring family cars like the Toyota Camry and Innova (ugh!), there are lots of performance enthusiasts just waiting to get their hands on an affordable offering. At the moment you just can't find a good enthusiast car for under 100,000 ringgit in Malaysia and thats completely sad. No, bloody Satria GTis absolutely do not count. In these days it can't even be considered anywhere near high performance. And I'm not shelling out 70 grand for technology thats more than 12 years old.

Minardi is apparently going to be taken over by Red Bull. Pitpass article is here. Red Bull, concerned about the lack of racing seats for their young 'uns wants to take over the Faenza based squad and turn it into Red Bull Team USA. Presumably they'll put Scott Speed in one. If this is true then that just fantastic news for Minardi. I've always thought the little squad deserves better than what they've got now. A large dollop of cash would be of enormous benefit and I'm sure they'll make better use of the funds than some of the other teams in the paddock.

This also plays into the hands of Bernie and Max. With Paul Stoddart out of the way, thats a big thorn out of their sides. Plus, with Red Bull already signing up to the Concorde agreement, here's another team that could do so by default.

Speaking of Concorde agreements, according to Bernie a number of teams are on the verge of signing the new one. Moreover, the FIA president believes the GPMA is all show and no go. In recent months after the announcement of the GPMA we've in fact hardly heard anything from these blokes. All the talk seems to be on reconciliation. Now that Frank Williams is free of BMW he's expressed some concerns about the GPMA especially commercially.

Williams' stance lately has been puzzling. Rumour has it they are on the verge of switching to Bridgestone tyres for next season. And now these reservations regarding the GPMA tells me he's about to sign up with Bernie sometime soon and could be one of those people Max keeps referring to.

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