Thursday, 10 February 2011

Day one of Jerez testing

After a relatively slow day in the world of F1 yesterday (hence no posts!), things got back underway today as the second pre-season test of the year started in Jerez, Spain.

This time, eleven of the twelve current F1 teams were present, all with their 2011 machinery. Nothing absolutely extraordinary happened, as is the usual in testing. However, there is still plenty to write about. Let's start with the fastest lap times, courtesy of
Pos  Driver             Car                   Time       Gap
 1.  Felipe Massa       Ferrari               1m20.709s
 2.  Sergio Perez       Sauber-Ferrari        1m21.483s  + 0.774s
 3.  Mark Webber        Red Bull-Renault      1m21.522s  + 0.813s
 4.  Daniel Ricciardo   Toro Rosso-Ferrari    1m21.755s  + 1.046s
 5.  Lewis Hamilton     McLaren-Mercedes      1m21.914s  + 1.205s
 6.  Jaime Alguersuari  Toro Rosso-Ferrari    1m22.689s  + 1.980s
 7.  Adrian Sutil       Force India-Mercedes  1m23.472s  + 2.763s
 8.  Vitaly Petrov      Renault               1m23.504s  + 2.795s
 9.  Nico Rosberg       Mercedes              1m23.963s  + 3.254s
10.  Jarno Trulli       Lotus-Renault         1m24.458s  + 3.749s
11.  Timo Glock         Virgin-Cosworth       1m25.086s  + 4.377s
12.  Pastor Maldonado   Williams-Cosworth     1m34.968s  + 14.259s

It is wrong to draw any conclusion about any team's form based solely on lap times from this one test, but we can still draw some interesting conclusions when we take into account certain other factors.

First of all, everything seemed to have gone right for Ferrari. They were easily the fastest today and the car ran the most laps of all. This is great news, as they seem to have got the reliability sorted. I think they will definitely be a force to be reckoned with this season.

Sergio PĂ©rez in the Sauber surprised me a little. Rookie driver, maybe doesn't know the car well, but it looks like he did an excellent job. Of course, we have no idea how much fuel he (or any of the other teams, for that matter) had on board, but this result should be huge boost to his (and his team's) confidence. However, we cannot forget that the Sauber showed similar pace in last season's testing and come the first race it was clearly one of the slower cars on the grid...

Nothing really extraordinary in the midtable, with Webber, Ricciardo, Hamilton and Alguersuari all doing a solid job for their team. Perhaps it is a little strange that Ricciardo proved faster than Alguersuari, using the same machinery. Again, we do not know their respective fuel loads.

Petrov is slightly disappointing for Renault in eighth, especially after they topped the first pre-season test. Petrov really needs to step up his game, with Kubica out for the forseeable future, he has to take on a lead role within the team. In order to do just that he will have to show he can cut out the silly mistakes that held him back last season, and really pick up his pace.

Rosberg in ninth is definitely the disappointment of this session. The consensus among the press being that Mercedes looks like it has once again failed to deliver a car capable of challenging for the championship. They quite fancied their chances before testing began, but I think they are going to need major upgrades before they can challenge for race wins, or even the podium. Then again, this is only testing and we won't know for sure until the first Grand Prix.

Glock and Maldonado had tremendous reliability issues, which explains their relatively slow lap times. Their mechanics have some serious work to do overnight, with testing already limited as it is, every lap in pre-season counts...

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

New McLaren, Virgin, HRT and Force India

Over the past few days, the remaining four F1 teams that had not yet unveiled their new machines for the upcoming season, did just that. Like I did for the previous teams, I'll post my thoughts regarding these new cars.

First up was McLaren with an original, but slightly awkward 'reveal event' in Berlin. They had fans carry in pieces of the car, where it was assembled in front of a big crowd. The assembly offered us the chance to see the internals of the machine, only to find out they're made of plastic! Clearly, the 'real' parts are not made of plastic, proving that McLaren might have a few tricks up its sleeve. One unique feature we did get to see tough, were the U-shaped sidepods that have never been seen before. A truly unique feature, but it makes the car look slightly funny.

The McLaren MP4-26 with its U-shaped sidepods

Next up was Virgin which showed us the car that hopes will bring them closer to the established teams in only their second season in F1. Now I should probably say I have a bit of a soft spot for Virgin. I'm a great admirer of Sir Richard Branson's marketing and bussines expertise and I thoroughly wish the best for his F1 team. I also think their first driver, Timo Glock, is criminally underrated. Plus, the colours on their car look pretty awesome. I can't really make out any special features of their new machine, but cars need not necessarily be revolutionary in order to be fast.

The Marussia Virgin Racing MVR-02
Then it was Hispania Racing's turn to unveil their new car. Last year, HRT was the laughing stock of F1, with various people questioning why they were in it at all. With a lack funding, and therefore a lack of improvement to their car, it was questioned whether they would be in F1 much longer. Still, they managed to at least design a 'new' car. It looks more like a slightly updated version of their old car, but since these are only early renders, the final car might differ. As last year, HRT will be the last team to actually let the new car hit the track. This does not bode well for them and I fully expect them to, once again, be the slowest team on the grid. One good thing about the HRT: The colour looks pretty damn awesome!

Hispania Racing Team's F111
Finally, Force India unveiled their car online. The number one reason I would not unveil a car only, is because you might encounter various technical issues. This is exactly what happened to Force India, which must have been hugely frustrating for them. The new car looks good, features a 'bladed' rollbar, like the Lotus. Force India's goal, when it started competing in F1 in 2008 has always been to achieve a podium finish at the first Indian Grand Prix. With the first Indian Grand Prix this season, it'll be interesting to see whether they can meet that goal.

The Force India VJM04

Finally, a quick update on Robert Kubica: he is recovering very well and will have to undergo further surgery sometime this week. He is fully conscious and, according to people who have spoken with him, in good spirits.

Monday, 7 February 2011

Get well soon, Robert!

I was going to do a quite lengthy post about the new McLaren that was revealed on Friday, because some of its more intricate details are shrouded in mystery, but Lotus Renault F1 driver Robert Kubica's massive crash over the weekend feels infinitely more important.

I have always liked Robert Kubica. First F1 driver from Poland, won his first (and so far only) F1 race in Canada in 2008, one year after he had a massive crash at the same circuit. He is very down to earth, funny and all-round professional. I remember watching a press conference where an interviewer asked him if he had seen his Canada 2007 crash on TV. His answer: "I saw it also live, when I was there." Not to mention that he is rated (also by people who know a lot more about F1 than me) as one of the top 5 drivers out there.

Kubica likes rallying and had a clause added in his contract that he was allowed to compete in certain rally events. One of these being the Ronde di Andorra rally this past weekend. He and his co-driver were about 4 minutes into their run when he hit a wall and crashed rear-first into the edge of a crash barrier. The barrier pierced through the back of the car and partially severed his lower right arm and caused multiple injuries to his right leg. His co-driver fortunately escaped uninjured. Robert was stuck in the car for at least an hour and lost a lot of blood. It was feared that his entire lower right arm would have to be amputated, but fortunately, after seven hours of surgery, the doctors restored basic functionality to his hand and are confident he will recover.

Doctors estimate he will be out for about a year, but added that F1 drivers, because of their immense fitness, recover a lot quicker than us regular folk. Nevertheless, he will almost certainly miss the first few races of the new season. Renault have appointed no fewer than five reserve/back-up/test drivers, so they will certainly find someone to replace him.

I hope Robert will make a speedy recovery and would like to wish him all the best.

If you are interested in the importance of having a good pair of hands while controlling an F1 car, you might like to read this very insightful article by 13 time Grand Prix-winner David Coulthard.

Friday, 4 February 2011

Car launches

Now that the first offical test of the pre-season is over and every F1 team except for Virgin, Force India and HRT have unveiled their 2011 cars, I thought I'd post a quick round-up of the last couple of days and my thoughts on the new cars unveiled so far.

Traditionally Ferrari was the first team to unveil their new car. The F150 (called so because of 150 years of Italian unification) does not seem particularly special or innovative at first glance. But, then again, Ferrari have never been known for their innovative ideas, yet they still manage to be in contention every season. The one thing that caught my attention was the fact that Ferrari opted for a traditional push-rod suspension at the rear, whereas it had been widely assumed that every team would go for the pull-rod suspension introduced by Red Bull last year. Nevertheless, Ferrari is confident that push-rod is the way to go, and I'm sure they have researched the benefits of both systems thoroughly.

Lotus, Renault and Sauber unveiled their cars next, all on the same day. The Sauber does not have any striking new features and seems, like the Ferrari F150, a solid car. I certainly hope they are able to make a decent step forward this season. If they do, with Kamui Kobayashi behind the wheel, we might get to see some fireworks.

Lotus found themselves at the centre of some controversy when they unveiled their car. The legality of their "bladed" rollbar, as developed by Mercedes last year, was questioned by some, but Lotus seem confident that their car complies with all FIA regulations.

Renault definitely caught the most attention when they unveiled their car. The media was very quick to find out that their R31 does not have a traditional exhaust system. The better of the first day of testing was spend trying to find out where exactly the exhaust is and what it does. It has since been suspected that their exhaust exits at the front of the car, with the air passing underneath the floor of the car, thereby blowing the air into the diffuser. Apparently this system offers significant gains and we may expect to see it on other teams' cars sooner rather than later.

Next up were Mercedes, Red Bull, Toro Rosso and Williams. Mercedes will be hoping their car will put them in the title hunt this season. They ceased development on their previous car pretty early last year and therefore have had plenty of time to design and built their new machine. I have read that their two-tier front wing is supposedly more of a disadvantage than an advantage, but I'm pretty confident Ross Brawn and his staff know what they are doing.

Red Bull, as defending world champions, drew a massive crowd for the unveiling of their car, which does not seem to feature any controversial or innovative design solutions. Of course, with the car standing in front of a bunch of photographers they will play their cards close to their chest, but for a team that was miles ahead in terms of innovation last year, I felt slightly disappointed. Nevertheless, Adrian Newey is still F1's best designer in my book and I have no doubt the Red Bull will be fighting for the title again this season.

Williams did not really unveil their car in the traditional way. Rather, they painted it in interim colours and just let it do its laps on track. Therefore I have yet to get a decent look at the Williams, but as a team that always gets my sympathy, I hope they're capable of making a decent step forward.

Thursday, 3 February 2011


Since you are reading this, it means that my blog is functioning exactly (well, at least somewhat exactly) like it should. You will have to excuse the standard, out-of-the-box design for now. I am ridiculously incompetent when it comes to designing a webpage.

It has been a hectic few days in the world of F1. Challengers for 2011 were being unveiled left, right and centre. I imagine for a lot of teams, the season is truly starting now, even though there is still more than a month to go to the first race of the season in Bahrain. All the hard work put in over the winter and months before that will now finally be tested. There will be some very nervous people in the teams' design departments as the car they have been working on for well over a year finally hits the track.

I hope you will enjoy reading my blog, and if you do, why not follow me? I'll try to bring updates and give my opinions on all the major events in the world of F1, starting with a round-up of the first test session of the season, tomorrow.