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Archive for July, 2009

Schumacher’s back!

July 29th, 2009 No comments

Felipe Massa and Michael SchumacherForget BMW leaving Formula One.  That’s old news.  The big shock is the announcement today that seven-time World Champion Michael Schumacher will return to drive for Ferrari in place of the injured Felipe Massa.

This comes just 24 hours after Schumacher’s manager, Willi Weber, discounted rumours of a comeback by saying he was 200% sure someone other than Michael would be driving in Valencia.

Today Ferrari issued the following statement on their website:

Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro intends to put Michael Schumacher in Felipe Massa’s car untill the brazilian driver will be able to race again. Michael Schumacher said he is ready and, over the next few days, will undertake a specifc training programme at the end of which confermation will be given of his participation in the Championship with effect from the European Grand Prix on the 23rd of August.

Schumacher is a close friend of Felipe Massa and was a mentor to the young Brazilian when he was his team mate at Ferrari in 2006.  No doubt this influenced his decision to return to F1.  On his website Schumacher wrote:

The most important thing first: thanks God, all news concerning Felipe are positive. I wish him all the best again.

I was meeting this afternoon with Stefano Domenicali and Luca di Montezemolo and together we decided that I will prepare myself to take the place of Felipe.Though it is true that the chapter Formula 1 has been closed for me since long and completely, it is also true that for loyalty reasons to the team I cannot ignore that unfortunate situation. But as the competitor I am I also very much look forward to facing this challenge.

He won’t be the only one looking forward to it.

While Ferrari don’t have the crushing dominance they did in 2004 when Schumacher won 12 of the first 13 races, Kimi Raikkonen and Felipe Massa have put the Red Cars on the podium three times so far this year.  How incredible would it be if Schumacher returned to give the Scuderia their first victory of the season?

Michael won’t be able to test the F60 — with KERS and an adjustable front wing — before the European Grand Prix but I’m sure it won’t take Schumacher long to get used to the extra buttons on the steering wheel.

It’s going to be a fascinating European Grand Prix with Schumacher going head to head with Hamilton, Vettel and his old team mate Rubens Barrichello.

And when Michael gets to Monza in September the Tifosi are going to go mental.

Image: Reuters

Categories: Drivers Tags: , ,

BMW to leave Formula One

July 29th, 2009 No comments

Nick Heidfeld, Turkey, 2009BMW have announced they are exiting Formula One at the end of the 2009 season.

The shock announcement made at a press conference held at BMW’s headquarters in Munich comes as the teams prepare to sign a new Concorde Agreement, the document that governs the sport.

Although BMW have been struggling this season, team boss Mario Theissen had previously stated that BMW’s commitment to Formula One had not changed.

However, in a meeting of BMW’s Board of Management yesterday it was decided that BMW should concentrate on the development of new drive technologies and projects in the field of sustainability.

Dr. Norbert Reithofer, Chairman of the Board of Management of BMW AG. said:

Premium will increasingly be defined in terms of sustainability and environmental compatibility. This is an area in which we want to remain in the lead. In line with our Strategy Number ONE, we are continually reviewing all projects and initiatives to check them for future viability and sustainability. Our Formula One campaign is thus less a key promoter for us. Mario Theissen has been in charge of our motor sports program since 1999. We have scored a large number of successes in this period, including some in Formula One racing. I would like to express my sincere gratitude to Mario Theissen and his team for this.

BMW will continue with its motor sport programmes in touring cars, Formula BMW and the American Le Mans Series.

What will this mean for BMW drivers Robert Kubica and Nick Heidfeld?  I’m sure Kubica will find a drive somewhere else – of course, there are already rumours about him replacing Massa at Ferrari – but Heidfeld could find it more difficult.  He is an experienced driver, having competed in over 150 races.  But he also holds the record for the most Grand Prix starts without a win.

This also means there will be space for another team on the grid in 2010.  Who will it be?  Prodrive?  Lola? Litespeed?

Let the rumours begin!

Categories: Teams Tags:

Schumacher considering a return to F1

July 28th, 2009 No comments

Michael Schumacher, 2006It has been more than two years since Michael Schumacher last raced an F1 car but comments from his spokeswoman Sabine Kehm suggest we might see him back on the track in Valencia.

On Sunday, Felipe Massa was hit in the head by a spring that had fallen off Rubens Barrichello’s car at the Hungarian Grand Prix.  The 160mph impact fractured Massa’s skull and injured his left eye.  The Brazilian seems to be making a steady recovery but doctors say it is still to early to know if he will compete again this year or even at all.

So that leaves Ferrari with a decision to make some time in the next four weeks; who will drive Felipe’s car while he is recuperating? They could decide to run only one car but that seems unlikely as it would almost halve the number of constructors points available to them at each race.

While a number of possible replacement drivers have been suggested let’s not forget that Ferrari actually have two reserve drivers, Marc Gene and Luca Badoer, who they employ presumably for this very possibility.  But, despite being Scuderia test drivers, their recent F1 experience is limited. Badoer’s last race was for Minardi in the 1999 Japanese Grand Prix where he finished last and Marc Gene hasn’t raced in Formula One since the 2004 British Grand Prix where he filled in for the other Schumacher brother at Williams.

There are mixed messages about Schumacher’s possible return.  His spokeswoman told the BBC:

The whole thing will be considered by Ferrari. If they approach Michael, then he will consider it. Usually, I would say he’s not interested because he’s fine with his life and he doesn’t miss anything but now the situation is so different.

While his manager, Willi Weber, seems pretty sure that Michael won’t want the job:

Whoever sits in the car at the next race in Valencia, it will not be Michael Schumacher. I am not 100 per cent sure; I am 200 per cent sure. The pressure on him would be huge. He would be expected to win, but he has not driven this car.

When Michael was racing he would get as close to perfection as possible. In this case, it would not be perfection; it would be a gamble – and that’s not Michael’s style.

I think it is pretty unlikely Schumacher will make a comeback.  While I would love to see him race against drivers like Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian ‘Baby Schumi’ Vettel, I don’t think it would suit his perfectionist style.  The expectations on him would be huge and Ferrari isn’t the same team it was when he was winning Championships.

Who would you like to see take Massa’s seat?  Bourdais?  Senna?  Rossi? Alonso?

Image: Ferrari

Categories: Drivers Tags: , ,

Prediction game: Round 10 results

July 27th, 2009 No comments

Jenson Button, Hungary, 2009The order hasn’t changed at the top of the prediction game standings with Sergio and Andrew both scoring 6 points in the last round.

Quite a few people recognised the improvement in the McLarens but only Kathryn and myself predicted a victory by Hamilton.

The Ferraris didn’t feature in anyone’s predictions, but even with only one Red Car in the race the Scuderia still came away from Hungary with 8 points.  That puts Ferrari in third place in the Constructors’ Championship, just 1.5 points ahead of Toyota who didn’t have such a bad weekend with both drivers finishing in the points.

Jenson Button is getting worried:

It is nice leading the championship, but it won’t be the case in the next three or four races if we have the performances like we have had in the last few.

Image: Brawn GP

Categories: Prediction Game Tags: ,

McLaren back on top

July 26th, 2009 No comments

Lewis Hamilton, Hungary, 2009The  Hungarian Grand Prix has been called Monaco without the glamour and, like Monaco, the twisty Hungaroring circuit has something of a reputation for processional races but on a weekend that had already seen a dramatic qualifying session the race proved anything but processional.

At the German Grand Prix, Lewis Hamilton showed a hint of the performance improvements the McLaren engineers had made to his MP4-24 but his collision with Mark Webber ended any hopes for a podium Hamilton might have had.  Today there was nothing stopping him.

From fourth on the grid Hamilton used his KERS to charge past Kimi Raikkonen into the first corner and briefly take second from Mark Webber before ceding it again in the second corner.  A few laps later Hamilton had passed Webber and was hunting down a very lightly fueled Fernando Alonso.  When Alonso made his first stop, Hamilton had him.

After Alonso’s stop it soon became apparent that his Renault’s right front wheel wasn’t properly attached and a few corners into his out lap the wheel became completely detached and bounced off the track and into the Armco.

After Saturday’s incident in qualifying that put Felipe Massa in hospital, the stewards were obviously very sensitive about bits coming off cars and subsequently suspended Renault from the European Grand Prix at Valencia in four weeks time.  The stewards statement said:

[Renault] knowingly released car no. 7 from the pit stop position without one of the retaining devices for the wheel-nuts being securely in position, this being an indication that the wheel itself may not have been properly secured.

Renault have filed notice to appeal this decision.

It was the first win of the season for McLaren and Hamilton’s first victory since the Chinese Grand Prix in October last year.  Hamilton said:

It’s an incredible feeling to be back on the top spot after what feels like such a long time and such a struggle. This was one of my best races – I never gave up and, more importantly, neither did anyone in this team. I’m so proud of all the guys. We didn’t expect to win today – we didn’t think we quite had the overall pace – but the car was just perfect to drive, it felt fantastic for the entire race.

It was also the first victory for a KERS powered car.

With Mark Webber finishing third behind Kimi Raikkonen and Jenson Button finishing seventh, Button’s lead in the Championship has narrowed to 18.5 points and Red Bull have closed the Constructors’ gap to just 15.5 points.

2009 Hungarian Grand Prix Race Results

Pos Driver Team Grid Time Points
1 Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 4 1:38:23 10
2 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 7 1:38:34 8
3 Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault 3 1:38:39 6
4 Nico Rosberg Williams-Toyota 5 1:38:49 5
5 Heikki Kovalainen McLaren-Mercedes 6 1:38:57 4
6 Timo Glock Toyota 13 1:38:58 3
7 Jenson Button Brawn-Mercedes 8 1:39:18 2
8 Jarno Trulli Toyota 11 1:39:31 1
9 Kazuki Nakajima Williams-Toyota 9 1:39:31 0
10 Rubens Barrichello Brawn-Mercedes 12 1:39:32 0
11 Nick Heidfeld BMW Sauber 15 1:39:33 0
12 Nelson Piquet Jr Renault 14 1:39:34 0
13 Robert Kubica BMW Sauber 18 1:39:37 0
14 Giancarlo Fisichella Force India-Mercedes 16 lapped 0
15 Jaime Alguersuari Toro Rosso-Ferrari 19 lapped 0
16 Sebastien Buemi Toro Rosso-Ferrari 10 lapped 0
RET Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault 2 retired, 29 laps 0
RET Fernando Alonso Renault 1 retired, 15 laps 0
RET Adrian Sutil Force India-Mercedes 17 retired, 1 laps 0

Image: McLaren

Categories: 2009 Season Tags: , , , ,
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