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More cars unveiled as first test kicks off

February 1st, 2010 No comments

The first pre-season test of 2010 kicks off at Valencia today which means it is the first chance to see how the different cars perform on track.

On the weekend, BMW Sauber and Renault launched their 2010 machines. The BMW Sauber C29, despite the name of the team, is powered by a Ferrari engine and as Drivers Pedro de la Rosa and Kamui Kobayashi pulled back the covers at the Valencia circuit a car with a very high nose and a long shark fin was revealed.

Shark fins seem to be popular this year as Renault’s new car is also sporting one. The R30, to be piloted by Robert Kubica and Russian rookie Vitaly Petrov, was also unveiled on Sunday. With the departure of sponsor ING, Renault has returned to their historic yellow and black livery which gave the Renault RS01 the nickname ‘Yellow Teapot’.

On Monday morning, Toro Rosso revealed their first car as a fully independent constructor. Team boss Franz Tost said:

After four years of working in collaboration with Red Bull Technology, the STR5 is the first car that is one hundred percent down to our own endeavours.

Although the car looks quite similar to last year’s STR4, it has been designed to take full advantage of running a double-diffuser.

Mercedes GP also revealed their W01 in the pit lane ahead of today’s test (the car presented at the team’s launch last week was a repainted Brawn BGP01). It is a nice looking car with a graceful, swooping nose and a small shark fin engine cover.

Williams are foregoing an official ‘launch’ and will reveal their Cosworth-powered FW32 when it rolls out of the garage for it’s installation lap.

Pictures of the Renault R30 below:

After four years of working in collaboration with Red Bull Technology, the TR5 is the first car that is one hundred percent down to our own endeavours.
Categories: Cars Tags: , , , ,

The Renault verdict: Briatore banned for life

September 21st, 2009 No comments

RenaultThe World Motor Sport Council met in Paris today to decide Renault’s punishment for asking Nelson Piquet Jr to deliberately crash during the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix.

They got off pretty lightly, I think.

Even though the FIA thinks that “offences of this severity merit permanent disqualification from the FIA Formula One World Championship”, that penalty was suspended for two years.  All Renault had to do was admit it was wrong, say sorry and sack the people responsible.  Oh, and make a “significant contribution to FIA safety-related projects.”

So, no fines, no loss of constructors points and no real ban for the team.  I suppose it is understandable.  After the loss of Honda and BMW, the FIA will do just about anything to prevent any more constructors pulling out of Formula One.  If Renault were to be forced out it would also negatively impact teams like Red Bull who are engine customers.

But if Renault as a team were let off lightly, the FIA really threw the book at Flavio Briatore and Pat Symonds.

Briatore got, in effect, a lifetime ban from professional motor sport:

for an unlimited period, the FIA does not intend to sanction any International Event, Championship, Cup, Trophy, Challenge or Series involving Mr. Briatore in any capacity whatsoever, or grant any license to any Team or other entity engaging Mr. Briatore in any capacity whatsoever. It also hereby instructs all officials present at FIA-sanctioned events not to permit Mr. Briatore access to any areas under the FIA’s jurisdiction.  Furthermore, it does not intend to renew any Superlicence granted to any driver who is associated (through a management contract or otherwise) with Mr. Briatore, or any entity or individual associated with Mr. Briatore

So not only is he banned from all FIA events, he can no longer even manage drivers.  The WMSC have cast him out of the FIA paradise, utterly.

Pat Symonds gets it a little easier, but not much.  Due to him expressing his “eternal regret and shame” that he participated in the conspiracy, he gets a 5 year ban.

Fernando Alonso was cleared of any knowledge of the plot.

After the judgement, Renault F1 Team president Bernard Rey issued the following statement:

Today, we fully accept the decision of the Council. We apologize unreservedly to the F1 community in relation to this unacceptable behaviour. We sincerely hope that we can soon put this matter behind us and focus constructively on the future.

And what of Nelson Piquet Jr?  In a statement on his blog he said:

I bitterly regret my actions to follow the orders I was given. I wish every day that I had not done it.

Mr Briatore was my manager as well as the team boss, he had my future in his hands but he cared nothing for it. By the time of the Singapore GP he had isolated me and driven me to the lowest point I had ever reached in my life.

I feel sorry for Piquet.  Obviously he should have refused to crash his car but he was clearly under intense pressure and it didn’t help that his team boss and his manager was a total ass-hat.

Who knows what will happen to him now?  He has immunity from the FIA so in theory he could race again, something he clearly wants to do:

I have had to learn some very difficult lessons over the last 12 months and reconsider what is valuable in life. What has not changed is my love for Formula One and hunger to race again. I realise that I have to start my career from zero. I can only hope that a team will recognise how badly I was stifled at Renault and give me an opportunity to show what I promised in my career in F3 and GP2. What can be assured is that there will be no driver in Formula One as determined as me to prove myself.

The trouble is, there are so many talented drivers and so few seats in Formula One that if you screw up just once, that’s it.

Full WMSC statement.

Categories: News Tags: , , ,

Piquet’s out

August 4th, 2009 No comments

Nelson Piquet Jr, Germany, 2009“Flavio is a business man, but he doesn’t understand shit about F1.”

When Nelson Piquet Jr said that, we knew he wasn’t much longer for Renault and on Monday he confirmed that he had been told his services would no longer be required.

All season there has been a question mark over the young Brazilian and his future in Renault and Formula One.

At the Hungarian Grand Prix Flavio Briatore was seen leaving the circuit after Alonso had retired but Piquet was still running.

There has been no official comment from the team but Piquet posted a lengthy statement on his website:

I have received notice from the Renault F1 team of its intention to stop me from driving for them in the current F1 season. I want to say thanks to the small group who supported me and that I worked together at Renault F1, although it is obviously with great disappointment that I receive such news. But, at the same time, I feel a sense of relief for the end of the worst period of my career, and the possibility that I can now move on and put my career back on the right track and try to recover my reputation of a fast, winning driver. I am a team player and there are dozens of people I have worked with in my career who would vouch for my character and talent, except unfortunately the person that has had the most influence on my career in Formula 1.

Piquet confirmed that he had signed a contract requiring him to score 40% of Alonso’s points by mid-season but said that the development of his car was always one race behind the double World Champion’s:

For the 2009 season Briatore, again acting both as my manager and team boss of Renault F1, promised me everything would be different, that I would get the attention I deserved but had never received, and that I would get ‘at least equal treatment’ inside the team. He made me sign a performance-based contract, requiring me to score 40% of Fernando Alonso’s points by mid-way through the season. Despite driving with Fernando, two-time world champion and a really excellent driver, I was confident that, if I had the same conditions, I would easily attain the 40% of points required by the contract.

Unfortunately, the promises didn’t turn into reality again. With the new car I completed 2002km of testing compared to Fernando’s 3839km. Only three days of my testing was in dry weather – only one of Fernando’s was wet. I was only testing with a heavy car, hard tyres, mostly on the first day (when the track is slow and reliability is poor), or when the weather was bad. Fernando was driving a light car with soft tyres in the dry, fine conditions. I never had a chance to be prepared for the qualifying system we use. In Formula 1 today, the difference between 1st and 15th position is sometimes less than a second. It means that 0.2 or 0.3s can make you gain eight positions.

In addition to that, car development is now happening on a race-to-race basis due to the in season testing ban. Of the first nine races that I ran this year, in four of them Fernando had a significant car upgrade that I did not have. I was informed by the engineers at Renault that in those races I had a car that was between 0.5 and 0.8s a lap slower than my teammate. If I look at Germany (where I out-qualified my teammate despite that), if I had that advantage in qualifying I would be fifth and not tenth. If we had that difference in the race, I would have finished ahead of my teammate, which I did in Silverstone, despite him having upgrades that I did not have.

It has been suggested that Piquet’s three-time World Champion father could take over the BMW Sauber team when BMW withdraw from Formula One at the end of the year.  He has had experience running the Piquet Sports team with which Piquet Jr raced in F3 and GP2.  In 2006, Piquet Jr came second in the GP2 Championship, just 12 points behind Lewis Hamilton.

I feel sorry for Nelsinho.  In fact, I feel sorry for anyone who has to work for Flavio Briatore and I hope he gets another shot at Formula One next year.  His performances in other racing series suggest he is a talented driver and with 56,000 twitter followers he is clearly quite popular.

But then again, how many other talented drivers are out there?  With only 26 seats available people are always going to miss out.

Categories: Drivers 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: , , , ,

Happy 30th anniversary Renault!

July 1st, 2009 No comments

Jean-Pierra Jabouille, 1979A couple of days ago, in a post asking when will Toyota win their first race, I included a list of the current Formula One Teams and the years they won their first Grand Prix.

By chance today happens to be the 30th anniversary of Renault’s first Formula One Grand Prix victory by Jean-Pierre Jabouille at the 1979 French Grand Prix.

In 1977 Renault introduced the RS01; the first Formula One car to be powered by a turbocharged engine.  Completely different from every other car on the grid, the innovative but unreliable RS01 soon earned the nickname ‘Yellow Teapot’ and would often end the race billowing smoke.  The massive turbo lag also made the car uncompetitive on tight circuits.

Despite the problems, Renault were determined to make the new technology work, as Jabouille recalls:

The new technology was what interested Renault – they wouldn’t have come into F1 had it been a question of building another V8 like the Cosworth. They wanted that challenge, but on top of that, we were also developing Michelin’s new radial tyres. It was a lot of work, complicated work, in a short space of time, and with the engine, it wasn’t just a question of developing the technology, we then had to make it drivable. There was a world of difference between the engine delivering good power on the dyno, and being usable in the car.

The RS01 eventually developed into the RS10.  First introduced at the 1979 Monaco Grand Prix, the new car overcame the turbo lag by using twin turbos and had one of the new ground-effect chassis.

The RS10 went on to take five poles and Renault’s first win and in so doing kick-started the turbo years of the 1980’s.  Once Renault had claimed the first win for a turbocharged car in Formula One, all the major teams started developing turbos.  Soon the engines were producing up to 1500bhp or as Martin Brundle said ‘way more power than grip’.

Incidentally, the 1979 French Grand Prix also produced one of the most epic Formula One battles for second place between the Renault of René Arnoux and the Ferrari of Gilles Villeneuve.  After practically driving each other off the road in the final laps, Villeneuve crossed the line 0.24 seconds ahead of Arnoux in a race he would later describe as ‘my best memory of Grand Prix Racing’.

Categories: Teams Tags: ,
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