Tag Archives: Caterham

Pondering Petrov

23 Jan

The delay by Caterham to announce their second driver, coupled with the shock exit of Timo Glock from Marussia this week, presents an interesting situation at the back of the grid.

Vitaly Petrov is the seemingly logical driver to take the Marussia seat – a Russian driver in a Russian backed team, with a Russian GP planned in 2014. He also has the vital sponsorship which the team needs. However, things are not that simple.

Petrov has been in the queue for the remaining seat at his current team, Caterham, along with his unlikely-to-get-it 2012 team-mate Heikki Kovalainen, Giedo Van Der Garde, Luiz Razia and Bruno Senna. Petrov’s manager, Oksana Kosachenko, has made it clear that they are focussed purely on securing the Caterham seat. This has caused some head-scratching in some quarters given the obvious Russian connection I mentioned earlier.

I have no doubt that the sudden vacancy at Marussia will have raised hopes in many quarters, including Petrov’s, but he and his manager are in a precarious position. Heikki Kovalainen has been publicly criticised by his team for seeking a seat elsewhere; indeed the somewhat egotistical senior management appear to feel personally slighted by him wanting to consider a seat in a more competitive car. If Kosachenko starts to make overtures to Marussia it could seriously jeopardise their chances with Caterham.

I suspect they have to play a waiting game (publicly at least) to see how things turn out with Caterham and if the seat does go to another driver I think we can expect them to be knocking on Marussia’s door very publicly immediately afterwards if that vacancy is still free. It is possible that Marussia may wait for that very scenario.

Storm Clouds Are Gathering

22 Mar

The Formula 1 season has barely begun, but it already feels like it’s never been away. As race 2, Malaysia, rapidly approaches, tensions appear to be increasing, and I’m not just talking about the stormy weather forecast for the weekend. Here’s my look at what has been bubbling up over the last few days, as well as a look ahead to the weekend.

Inter-team bickering

A new season always brings new technical developments, and an inevitable knock-on effect of that is disputes between teams about who may be breaking FIA rules or breaching informal agreements between teams. Red Bull and Mercedes are currently engaged in a spat about the respective legality of their Renault engine behaviour and the  Mercedes ‘Super F-Duct’. The FIA has ruled that both are legal, and since Ferrari aren’t involved in the dispute those rulings are likely to stay in place (ooo handbag!). I hope this dispute doesn’t rumble on all season as it can get incredibly tedious.

A ruling in the long-running intellectual property theft case between Sahara Force India and Caterham F1 and Aerolab has also emerged today. If you’re not familiar with the case, Force India accused Aerolab, a wind tunnel supplier, of copying the F1 team’s design in the development of the Team Lotus T127. Legal proceedings were also launched against Mike Gascoyne (Caterham F1’s then-Chief Technical Officer) and the team. The ruling conceded some intellectual property ‘theft’ on the part of Aerolab and awarded Force India 25,000 Euros in damages. However, much more significantly, the High Court ruled in favour of Aerolab with regards to £4 million of unpaid legal costs; a bill which Force India really could do without right now with the near-collapse of Vijay Mallya’s Kingfisher Airlines.

Drivers

After their performances in Melbourne, all eyes are on Lewis Hamilton and Felipe Massa and for once this is due to unrelated events.

Lewis Hamilton’s disappointment at coming third in Melbourne was plain to see last Sunday as he stood stony-faced on the podium and then spoke through gritted teeth during the post-race official press conference. After such a tumultuous season in 2011, the media are desperately looking for any sign that Lewis hasn’t got over all of his ‘issues’ from last year. Whether he has or not, Lewis really needs to learn some good sportsmanship and appear graceful in defeat. In his Telegraph column this week, David Coulthard pondered whether Jenson Button’s seemingly easy success in Melbourne has knocked Lewis’s confidence. I think there is little doubt that it has knocked him, and if Lewis can’t strike back with a strong victory in the first few races then his frustrations may re-emerge on the track.

Felipe Massa did not fare well in Melbourne, and an unusually worded press release from the Ferrari team about his new chassis has ignited speculation about whether he will still be driving for them all season: “Felipe knows he can count on the team to do everything, both from the technical and the operational point of view, to put him in a better state to show off his talents – even at the cost of extra work in these few days that separate the Australian race from the one in Malaysia. For example work has already begun in the Sepang pits to prepare chassis number 294, which replaces the number 293 and will be used by the Brazilian in the second race of the season. This choice was taken to clear up any doubts about the unusual performance of his car during the weekend at Albert Park” (from http://www.ferrari.com). A number of drivers have been linked with Massa’s seat, including Sauber driver Sergio Perez and currently unemployed Jarno Trulli. Ferrari and Massa have been quick to dismiss these rumours but they have a habit of not going away. If Massa doesn’t improve his performance on track then this will only continue to distract all parties.

F1 this weekend

Melbourne saw all cards get thrown up in the air, and it still isn’t clear exactly how things compare between some of the teams. Mercedes and Lotus both clearly have very strong cars, but they were hindered by problems over the weekend. Hopefully the race at Sepang will bring both teams more luck and we’ll see what they’re really capable of.

The mid-field appears to be a tightly bunched pack and we should see some fierce battles for points.  Williams, in particular, appear to have turned themselves around, and I really hope to see them do well and score the points they so narrowly missed out on in Melbourne.

At the back of the pack, Caterham will be seeking to show what they can really do after some bad luck in Australia. Heikki Kovalainen will be hindered by a 5 place grid penalty, but he should be able to push forward through the field. Whether he will need to negotiate the mobile chicanes of the HRT cars won’t be known until after qualifying – will they be able to pass the 107% rule?

The greatest unknown in all of this though is the weather. Stormy weather is forecast which would inevitably complicate things further. If the race is wet I’d expect Button and Schumacher to do well, given their particular skills in the rain.

Other action this weekend

The GP2 season kicks off in Malaysia, and after only occasionally dipping in to coverage in previous years, I’m looking forward to getting to know this formula a lot better in the coming year. Coverage on Sky will, of course, help this rather than somewhat erratic coverage on Eurosport last year.

Also starting this weekend is the Indy Car season. The first race from St Pete’s is being broadcast on Sky Sports F1, and I’m looking forward to getting in to it again. I’m sure interest will be higher amongst F1 fans this year, with Rubens Barrichello competing, and it’ll be great to see him getting his teeth in to the races. I also can’t wait to see Dario Franchitti back in action.

Some Reflective Moments

There’ll also be a real sense of poignancy races on both sides of the globe this weekend.

It is the first Indy Car race since the tragic loss of Dan Wheldon, and this street circuit takes place in his adopted home town. Dan’s sister Holly will be waving the green flag, as well as presenting the winner’s trophy. A street on the track has also recently been dedicated as ‘Dan Wheldon Way’.

Back in Malaysia, the scene of the equally tragic loss of Moto GP rider Marco Simoncelli, drivers and teams have been visiting T11 where Marco lost his life, and pausing to remember their friend. Fernando Alonso’s comments about being in Sepang this weekend and remembering Marco have been particularly touching.

 

This will be a weekend packed full of racing action; bring it on.

Who Nose?

4 Feb

It has been a long old winter break for us F1 fans, and although there’s snow falling outside for many of us today, it feels like the F1 Spring has finally sprung. Car launch season is here! So far we’ve seen 4 of the 12 cars for the coming season, with unveilings from Caterham F1, McLaren Mercedes, Ferrari and Sahara Force India. In this post I’m going to be looking at some of what we’ve learned so far.

The Noses

The main talking point for everyone has been the nose of the 2012 car. The stepped ‘platypus’ nose which we’ve seen on the Caterham, Force India and Ferrari isn’t exactly stunning to look at, but if it is good from an aerodynamics perspective then that is all that counts.

The three

When asked about the appearance of the Caterham CT01, Tony Fernandes said “Personally I love this car, and it’s very flattering that people want to talk about our car and our team, but the main consideration is that it is quick. As long as it is quicker than last year’s car I don’t think the looks matter, and I am sure that when all the other cars are unveiled we will see a pretty common thread running through all of them. I actually think it’s beautiful. It’s different, and different does not equal ugly – in fact I think its difference is what makes it beautiful, but then I am probably a bit biased.” (Caterham F1 Website).

McLaren have opted for a ‘traditional’ nose which is sweeps down gradually. Their nose has inevitably gone down better with the team’s fans, who have been quick to gloat about how ‘nice’ it is in comparison to the other teams. We shall have to see who in fact, has the last laugh when it comes to noses. It will be interesting to see which route the other teams have opted for as the other cars are unveiled, and whether teams will opt for some “in-season rhinoplasty” if they feel the other style is more effective. Which is the most effective? Who nose?

With two different styles out there, attention is inevitably turning to the Red Bull Racing RB8 launch on Monday. Which style will the master of aerodynamics have chosen? The picture that Red Bull have posted on their website to promote the launch shows a style of nose that is almost a hybrid of the two – a gentle lip at the top which then appears to curve down slightly. This may, of course, not be the actual nose, but if it is then Adrian Newey appears to have opted to go for the best of both worlds.

The RB8 promotional image

The Teams and Drivers

Car launches also give us the opportunity to see the new team congregated together, (race) suited and booted….well, most of them do.

Caterham F1 opted to just release images of the car in the F1 Racing magazine and on their website, and have so far only released interviews with Tony Fernandes and Mike Gascoyne. This is undoubtedly down to ongoing uncertainty about whether Vitaly Petrov will secure the second race seat alongside Heikki Kovalainen.

After last year’s drama, all eyes were on Lewis Hamilton at the McLaren launch. Hamilton didn’t appear as relaxed as his team-mate, but then he has more to prove. The McLaren launch was definitely the glitziest, but it struck me as being a tad too glitzy in order to compensate for a current lack of certainty. They have a major upgrade coming for the third pre-season test, and a cunningly disguised exhaust. Some are readying to question the legality of that exhaust after some leaked comments from a McLaren staff member.

Sadly Ferrari’s first run of the F2012 was disrupted by an exceptional amount of snow in Maranello, which resulted in an online launch. Despite the disruption of the weather, the message coming out of Maranello was loud and clear with regards to Felipe Massa – “buck up or you’re out”.

The Force India unveiling was quite traditional, and it was good to see all three drivers smiling and ready to go. Force India have a great driver line up and the battle between Paul and Nico will be great to watch this season.

Looking forward to the next few launches in the coming days, as well as the start of testing on Tuesday.