Archive for the ‘Race Weekend’ Category

The fuel weights have been published for the British Grand Prix and Sebastian Vettel is in even better shape than he looked after qualifying. The Red Bull has taken a huge step forward this weekend and Vettel took the pole with four laps more fuel in the car than Rubens Barrichello’s Brawn. Vettel will stop on lap 23.

For once the luck was with him too, because his Red Bull team mate Mark Webber had set the fastest time after the first runs in qualifying, but hit traffic on his decisive lap in the form of Kimi Raikkonen, so the threat from him was neutralised.

Red Bull had two equally matched cars and drivers so they had to give one an advantage in qualifying and the other an advantage in the race. They have told the drivers that there are no orders at this stage, they are free to race. Webber was given the qualifying advantage by running three laps less fuel than Vettel, but he wasn’t able to convert that into his first F1 pole. This surely was his best chance of making that breakthrough, so no wonder he as so annoyed with Raikkonen.

Meanwhile Vettel’s main rival, Jenson Button suffered badly from not being able to get his tyres warmed up. Barrichello is more aggressive on the tyres and this hurts him relative to Button in the race (as we saw in Monaco) but is an advantage on cold days like today. Meanwhile it is clear that the Red Bull is able to warm its tyres up very quickly. We will see what that does to their longevity in the race tomorrow,

Vettel is in a position to dominate the race, from pole. The main areas of interest will whether Webber can get past Barrichello. He should do, he has the crucial extra lap advantage on the first stint which means if he is behind on the first stint, he can take on more fuel to leap Barrichello at the second round of stops. Button will be aiming for a podium, but might have to settle for fourth place, while the battle for points between Trulli, Nakajima and Rosberg, Glock and Raikkonen will be interesting. Nakajima looks the most vulnerable with only 17 laps of fuel in the car.

Pos Driver Weight (kg)
1. Sebastian Vettel 666.5 Lap 23
2. Rubens Barrichello 657.5 Lap 19
3. Mark Webber 659.5 Lap 20
4. Jarno Trulli 658.0 Lap 19/20
5. Kazuki Nakajima 652.5 Lap 17
6. Jenson Button 657.5 Lap 19
7. Nico Rosberg 661.5 Lap 21
8. Timo Glock 660.0 Lap 21
9. Kimi Raikkonen 654.0 Lap 18
10. Fernando Alonso 654.0 Lap 18
11. Felipe Massa 675.0 * Lap 27
12. Robert Kubica 689.5 * Lap 33
13. Heikki Kovalainen 695.5 * Lap 35
14. Nelson Piquet 682.5 * Lap 30
15. Nick Heidfeld 665.5 * Lap 23
16. Giancarlo Fisichella 668.0 * Lap 24
17. Sebastien Bourdais 687.5 * Lap 32
18. Adrian Sutil 692.0 * Lap 34
19. Lewis Hamilton 666.0 * Lap 23
20. Sebastien Buemi 672.5 * Lap 26

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Sebastian Vettel took his third pole position of the 2009 season today with a stunning lap on his final qualifying run at Silverstone.

He and Red Bull team mate Mark Webber had been trading fastest laps all weekend, indicating that the Red Bull is now clearly the fastest car in F1. What is impressive about the latest round of developments on this car is that it is now clearly faster in the high speed corners, but also in the low speed corners, like the complex here in Silverstone.

Brawn did a good job in Turkey of improving their car in high speed corners, but here they have not been able to compete with the Red Bulls in that area.

Team insiders believe that this could be a turning point of the season, albeit tempered by the fact that Jenson Button enjoys a huge advantage over Vettel of 32 points.

Nevertheless some of them feel that Red Bull is now around half a second per lap faster than the Brawn, possibly the biggest margin between the fastest and second fastest car we have seen all year. Red Bull could be in for a second half of the season like Brawn’s first half. If Jenson were to suffer a DNF at any stage, it could turn it from a formality into a sporting competition.

Toyota were quick in the qualifying session today, with Jarno Trulli trading times with the Williams of Nakajima and Rosberg.

Nakajima had one of his best days in an F1 car today, with 5th fastest time ahead of Rosberg. He was fastest in Q1, although no-one really noticed because of Adrian Sutil’s accident which caused the red flags.

British fans at Silverstone were left disappointed with Button in 6th place and Lewis Hamilton a career worst 19th on the grid. The McLaren looked very unstable in the fast corners here and Lewis, as last year, was not able to match team mate Kovalainen in qualifying.

Adrian Sutil is fine and has been released from the hospital after a heavy accident, caused by a brake failure.

Meanwhile Bernie Ecclestone has said that Silverstone could well still be the home of the race next season if Donington is not ready in time. It makes sense for him to speak on this now because it will play well with the fans, who are feeling bruised by the breakaway talk this week and also because any venue needs to be able to start selling tickets in the week following a race. Amazingly that is when a great deal of the sales are made. It will also keep Silverstone on side and less likely to side with an FOTA breakaway, if it gets that far.

Ecclestone is also reported to have suggested that he is working on brokering a solution ot the breakaway crisis, proposing that the budget cap be dropped completely if the teams sign up until 2014. He told reporters, “I say, provided they commit for at least five years, they can spend what they like.”

More will no doubt come out on this later.

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The row between the FIA and FOTA entered a new phase this afternoon as the FIA put out a statement saying that they were preparing legal action,

“The FIA’s lawyers have now examined the FOTA threat to begin a breakaway series. The actions of FOTA as a whole, and Ferrari in particular, amount to serious violations of law including wilful interference with contractual relations, direct breaches of Ferrari’s legal obligations and a grave violation of competition law. The FIA will be issuing legal proceedings without delay.

“Preparations for the 2010 FIA Formula One World Championship continue but publication of the final 2010 entry list will be put on hold while the FIA asserts its legal rights. ”

The FIA is meeting fire with fire. Part of the reason for the delay is that some of the potential new teams have withdrawn, leaving a potential entry list looking thin.

The legal threat is serious, but it does allow a period of reflection and dialogue, if a way can be found to restart the talks. The next major stage is Wednesday’s FIA world council meeting. I still think that the FOTA strategy is to try to effect change, but Mosley seems to be very sure of his ground and his support.

Ferrari are singled out in the FIA statement and their contract with the FIA remains the single most important aspect of this.

They responded this evening by saying that they have already launched an arbitration process at a civil court in Lausanne, this was done on Monday. This will establish the validity of the contract.

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Max Mosley arrived in the Silverstone paddock midway through this morning’s free practice session and went straight into Bernie Ecclestone’s motor home.

The announcement by FOTA of a breakaway series is no surprise to him, indeed he will have been expecting this. He has a huge appetite for this fight and he knows what a huge undertaking it would be to start a new racing series. The FIA put out a brief reaction earlier today as follows:

“The FIA is disappointed but not surprised by FOTA’s inability to reach a compromise in the best interests of the sport. It is clear that elements within FOTA have sought this outcome throughout the prolonged period of negotiation and have not engaged in the discussions in good faith.

“The FIA cannot permit a financial arms race in the Championship nor can the FIA allow FOTA to dictate the rules of Formula One.

“The deadline for unconditional entries to the 2010 FIA Formula World Championship will expire this evening.

“The 2010 FIA Formula One World Championship entry list will be announced tomorrow. ”

There is a grim determination about the FOTA members. They have decided to pull the trigger and now they await the full reaction from the FIA. This is likely to involve an entry list for 2010 which features Williams, Force India, Ferrari, Red Bull and Toro Rosso along with USF1, Manor and Campos, with another five teams from the list of teams hoping to enter, such as Prodrive.

The atmosphere here at Silverstone is febrile. It’s going to be a dramatic day. The FIA press conference at 3pm will be interesting with four team principals, Brawn Horner (Red Bull), Parr (Williams) and Whitmarsh (McLaren).

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Some good news…

Hi James,

Got this message today from one of my readers, Charlie. Put a smile on my face and hope it will do for you too.

“James, Do you remember me taking your advice and putting £20 on Brawn to win the Championship? at 15-1? well I got this email from Paddypower this morning:

…..With the British Grand Prix around the corner and Jenson Button and the Brawn team still thrashing allcomers, we’ve decided to accept reality and settle all bets on Jenson Button to win the World Drivers Championship and Brawn to win the World Constructors Championship as winners!

That’s right – given there’s no point in making you wait another four months to collect on what is effectively a racing certainty, we’ve paid you your winnings today….”

The suggestion was made when we first saw the Brawn in anger at the Barcelona test. You get a mega car which shows itself in pre season testing to be head and shoulders above the others about once every five years or so. Last time was Ferrari on the new Bridgestones in 2004, before that McLaren in 1998.

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I want to write about something other than the FIA/FOTA war today. There will be plenty of that tomorrow.

It has been well reported that Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button have exchanged fortunes from last season to this. Button has gone from the back of the grid to the front and Lewis the opposite way.

But there is a common factor in the success of both men and that is the Mercedes engine, which is made in Brixworth, about 20 minutes from Silverstone. Button visited the staff yesterday to say thank you for giving him an engine which has won six of the seven races so far and Hamilton dropped in today to say thanks for the KERS system, without which McLaren would be even further behind!

I also went there today to take a look around and to get a closer look at the only KERS system in F1 which is really working well.

Mercedes High Performance Engines is supplying three teams this year; McLaren, Brawn and Force India. Each team requires 16 engines for the season to cover the race weekends, eight per driver. It’s a far cry from the days when engines were unlimited and before they were homologated, but there is no less effort going on.

As you would expect the place is spotless, I’m tempted to say like a hospital but I’ve never seen a hospital as clean as this. We toured the machine shop and design office and went to the engine build area. There are two men in there who build the engines, using 3,000 components. It takes five days to build one engine and they check each other’s work. Quality control is the name of the game and they haven’t lost an engine yet in a race.

Of the eight engines each of Mercedes’ six drivers will use this season, roughly half of them have already been built. Engine planning is important this year, because you want to try to have a new engine for the real power tracks like Spa and Monza.

The most interesting part of the visit was looking at the KERS system which is the class of the field. The system is used only on the McLaren at the moment and weighs just 24 kilos. Of that the motor is 5 kilos, the converter pack is 3 kilos and the battery pack is 14 kilos. The rest is cabling. The cable, which connects the battery pack to the converter carries 700 volts, which is serious current to have running from one side of a car to another! There are several fail-safes to make sure that the driver doesn’t get electrocuted. The system is 70% efficient, in other words 70% of the energy harvested under braking is available to go back into the system as boost on the straights when the driver wants it. Another thing I had not realised is that Mercedes has the system primed so that it can be used out of the final corner going into a qualifying lap and then reset when the car crosses the start line and then used again immediately.

For Mercedes the whole KERS project has worked out pretty much exactly as the FIA intended it. The F1 division has innovated and come up with a system, which is being used on road cars. So amid the political chaos of the moment is an example of one manufacturer which has worked with an FIA initiative and got something positive out of it.

Despite its success with KERS, however, Mercedes supports FOTA’s position of getting rid of it for next season, to save costs. But it is not a waste for them, because in 2013 F1 will have a new engine, which will be based more on fuel efficiency, rather than capacity and all engineers agree that this engine will have to be based on the hybrid system.

The economic situation at the moment makes throwing cash at KERS difficult to justify but it will the standard in a few years time, with a system like the one Mercedes are running now at the heart of it.

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A tense day ahead at Silverstone for everybody. The teams have proposed that the deadline be moved back to July 1st to allow more time for discussion but that was rebuffed by FIA president Max Mosley yesterday. The FOTA teams sent a letter to Mosley with suggestions for a compromise to the issue of budget caps, and the method of financial control,

“We detect… that a solution might be possible based on the FOTA resource restriction proposal but with measures introduced,” the letter said.

“We would propose in this respect that we nominate a top firm of independent accountants who will devise an audit methodology that will be implemented by all of the teams.

“This methodology and the annual results would be disclosed to the FIA… we can see no reason why such a system based on objective verification of compliance would not be acceptable to all parties.”

But later in the day Mosley wrote back in a letter which was widely circulated, with his version of a compromise he would be prepared to accept. Once again this was based on the teams all signing up unconditionally and then negotiating changes to the rules from within. Mosley has said repeatedly that there has to be a cap. He has offered for an ‘mutually acceptable auditor’ to be the investigator should policing be required.

Mosley confirmed that there would be no two tier system of rules, but that Cosworth, which has not built a new F1 engine for three years, would be allowed to run their engine unrestricted.

A letter will go out today or tomorrow in Silverstone requesting signatures from all the FOTA teams with the deadline Friday.

With their actions last week, the teams have got themselves into a position where they seem to be suggesting that a deal can only be done if Mosley doesn’t stay in his role. Mosley, for his part, is sticking to his guns.

Who will blink first?

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