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Archive for the ‘Barcelona’ Category

Spanish GP slideshow

I’ve been enjoying working with the leading F1 photographer Darren Heath this season.

He has a fantastic eye and always gets an original view on a Grand Prix weekend. We are experimenting with ways we can work together on content and this is a Flickr slideshow with my captions.

For maximum impact, expand it to full screen and click on “Show info” to get the captions. (You will need the latest Flash plug-in installed and your browsers might prefer to go directly to the JAF1 Flickr pages)

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One of the high points of the day was seeing Rubens Barrichello back in the F1 paddock wearing Brawn team gear. Or at least what passes for it at the moment, it’s Henry Lloyd grey sailing wear from the looks of things. No sponsors, it’s all very 1960s really having these unbranded people and an unbranded car.

Anyway, Rubens looks great, pretty thin, like most of the drivers with the new KERS diet a must in 2009. It’s been a tough few months for him, not knowing if the team was going to survive and if it did, whether he’d be part of the plans. Ross Brawn knew that his experience would be vital as the team tries to make up for lost time. Also, frankly, he was faster than Jenson Button quite a few times last year, so he deserves to still be in F1. Jenson admitted that tonight and said that he would be making sure that doesn’t happen again this year!

I asked Rubens whether he expects the team to act differently now that it is no longer Honda. Here’s what he said,

“Is it going to be like a small Stewart family working? It might be a smaller team just working together, not going through too many people to get an answer. It might work in our favour. I think Honda have done brilliantly and I am sorry to see them go, but you have got to say that there is always a culture difference and a difficulty in the language. So it was a tough thing.

“Coming from that tough moment, walking through the desert and not seeing the end – right now we are at the end. So now the smaller team could be an affirmative answer to all the problems. All I wanted to see at the team was what I found at Ferrari – they were really good at winning together and losing together. The team is quite small now, so it could be like that. That is what I am looking forward to working on, and I am sure Ross is in the same boat. That is what makes it a competitive F1 team. It is not going to the press and saying this is bad or this is good, it is about winning together and losing together and working on the problem.”

This is the key to Ross Brawn’s management. He knows from his Ferrari days that a team is like a family and has to be treated like one. He’s tough but he makes sure everyone relies on each other and looks out for each other and without the corporate influence of Honda bearing down on them, with all the attendant politics and expectation, this team can move forward quickly. It’s basically a pretty decent engineering firm that had poor technical leadership. Last year Brawn put that right and now, with a second lease of life, they can move forward, as long as the money lasts.

They may be an independent team, but they are based on a big team infrastructure.

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After several months of not hearing and seeing racing cars it was fabulous to come to the Montmelo circuit in Barcelona today and get up close to the 2009 cars.

At the end of the day, all the drivers lined up for practice starts on the main straight and I could feel my heart thumping the inside of my rib cage, just as it was when the last engine was switched off in the pit lane in Brazil last November.

All the teams are here and, although the 2009 cars take some getting used to with their ungainly front wings and tiny little rear wings, they are starting to grow on me.

It’s an important week for all the teams. Some like BMW, Ferrari and Toyota, have already done the bulk of their days of testing and for them this represents a final dress rehearsal before Melbourne. The race team mechanics are here, they’ve got their fireproof suits on and they are practising pit stops and sharpening up for the new season. Others, like McLaren, Renault and Williams have another few days after this in Jerez to bring some new parts to the car and find a bit more performance.

As the teams are at different stages of their plans, so some are trying qualifying and low fuel simulations, whereas others are running heavier. I think the times are closer in reality than they appear on the chart below. It’s not yet clear exactly what the pecking order is, but from what I’m seeing here with my own eyes, BMW and Toyota start out as the teams nibbling at Ferrari’s heels. It’s very close between them all and perhaps it’s no coincidence that those are the three teams who were testing in Bahrain where, sandstorms apart, they did some useful work.

Toyota keep bringing new things to the car at every test and improving it. The team was trying a new front wing today and this looks like it could be the year of the breakthrough win for the team (see separate post). Meanwhile Renault seems to be catching up after a tricky start, which was no doubt due to the channeling of efforts into their 2008 car right to the end of the season, whereas BMW in particular threw their effort into 2009.

McLaren have some problems, that is very clear. It’s in the rear of the car, either the rear wing, or possibly the diffuser, which is causing the back of the car to be unstable and is causing quite high tyre wear. The fact that they keep changing the rear wing doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the rear wing that is the problem. It could be the diffuser as problems there can sometimes be sorted by changing the rear wing. Either way, it looks like it’s not a simple problem, more like a series of things, which makes it harder to identify and to fix. They are going to have to work hard to get the car up to speed for the start of the season. Can you imagine if they were the third fastest Mercedes-powered team at the first race?

BARCELONA TEST DAY 1 – TIMES

1. HEIDFELD -BMW 1’20.338
2. RAIKKONEN – FERRARI 1’20.908
3. TRULLI -TOYOTA 1’20.937
4. BUTTON -BRAWN 1’21.140
5. PIQUET -RENAULT 1’21.662
6. BOURDAIS -TORO ROSSO 1’22.158
7. WEBBER -RED BULL 1’22.246
8. SUTIL -FORCE INDIA 1’22.452
9. NAKAJIMA -WILLIAMS 1’22.813
10. KOVALAINEN – MCLAREN 1’22.948

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