Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Upgrade for the TF108

Jarno Trulli was a happy man after Toyota finally got a good day of running in better weather conditions at Barcelona on Tuesday. The veteran racer was testing a major new aero package upgrade for the TF108 and was very positive.

"We have made good progress today," Trulli said after covering more than 450km in the day."We made it through a lot of different set-up work and we had a strong long run in the afternoon," he added. "The car seems more suited to long runs than to a single flying lap at the moment. So we still have some work to do in order to get a qualifying lap because that is important for the race. But in general it was a positive day."

Toyota grateful with new aero

Toyota has this week brought two cars featuring its new aerodynamics package for the first time. So race drivers Jarno Trulli and Timo Glock both had busy days as the team collects data in preparation for the Australian Grand Prix on March 16. Both drivers did aero testing today along with work on brakes and set-up. Timo and Jarno will return to the track tomorrow hoping for similar conditions for the last full day of testing before Melbourne.

Pascal Vasselon, Senior General Manager Chassis commented, "Finally we had a full dry day during which we could work quite a lot and move forwards in our preparations for Melbourne. Now we have all the information to decide the aero configuration for race one. The new aerodynamics package we brought here is a clear step forward. Things went quite well with our race preparation for Jarno. We will dedicate tomorrow to refinement but basically we are very pleased with his pace today. Timo was running a different programme and we will have to review the set-up direction with him tomorrow to see how we can help him to progress."

Catalunya keeps racism away

The Circuit de Catalunya near Barcelona has said it made some changes to its security for this week's Formula 1 test. The Formula 1 teams are at the track for a three-day test programme. And while a few weeks ago there were a few fans that spoiled the party, this week things are calm.

The barriers prohibited access for fans, media and hospitality staff. The organisers also closed the right-hand part of the main stand, and supporters were denied access to the roof above McLaren's slot in the paddock. "We have made some changes," a circuit spokesperson told the Guardian. "We checked all banners and fans' clothes as they came in, which we usually only do at the grand prix. We also shut off the part of the stand opposite McLaren so that the fans would be unable to upset him. Access has been reduced in the paddock and we have also closed part of the roof because we want McLaren and Hamilton to be comfortable."

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Camp Car and IRL agree merger

As F1 revs up for the start of the new season, there's action over the pond as the Champ Car and Indy Racing League have agreed to unify the two series in principle from the 2008 season onwards.

The new series will be called Indy Racing League and will be known as the IndyCar series. The Indy Racing League broke away from Champ Car in 1996 taking the Indianapolis 500 with it, but in recent years both series have been fighting against falling sponsor investment and falling spectator numbers.Full details haven't yet been announced, but provisionally there is a 2008 test scheduled for Wednesday. About six teams from Champ Car are expected to join IRL and will receive financial compensation for doing so, while the rest are expected to fold.

Alonso to defence of his Spanish fans

Fernando Alonso has jumped to the defence of his Spanish fans saying they are not racist by nature, despite the furore that has erupted since a group of spectators at Barcelona testing a fortnight ago threw racial abuse at Lewis Hamilton.

"I don't think Spain is a racist country and the fans aren't either," Alonso told the Spanish As newspaper. "Whoever says there is racism in Spain is talking about isolated cases."

In response to the Barcelona incident the FIA plans to launch an anti-racism campaign at the Spanish Grand Prix."The less we talk about what happened two weeks ago, the better, because that's a completely isolated case from someone who was celebrating a carnival," Alonso added, echoing Bernie Ecclestone's comments that this was just an isolated case.

"It was an isolated incident and the FIA or anyone saying that the Spanish fans are racists is a joke," he went on. "Last year, they even called me a dog in a few races. Niki Lauda said those things about me, and no-one came to me to show me their support."

A major aero for Toyota

Toyota is preparing a major aerodynamic upgrade for both of its cars as the final test before the start of the new season looms. The team will have three more days on track at Barcelona next week to make final preparations.

"Finally we had a day of running in the dry today so we could at last begin meaningful work on our new aerodynamics package," Toyota's chief engineer Dieter Gass said after the end of the current test. "It was still a difficult day because there were many disruptions for red flags. But on Timo's car we made it through the programme of work that we had pencilled in for the first day of this week's test. Kamui also made it through his programme and collected some useful data."

"We will now have to go back and analyse the findings in order to decide which direction to follow up next week," he added. "Both cars will have the new aero package so we will be able to make quicker progress. But the weather is still a question mark, with a mixture of sun and rain forecast."

RBR showed strong pace

Mark Webber and David Coulthard continued their Melbourne preparation work at Barcelona this week and showed strong pace, despite a handful of small car problems. The team was also hindered by the poor weather conditions all week, but still managed to make good progress.

"This has been a very useful three days, despite the weather," commented Red Bull's chief test engineer, Ian Morgan. "It was the first time this season that we have had the full race crew personnel all attending a test to operate as a team and, as such, it was excellent preparation for Melbourne."

Williams is showing a promising

The Williams Formula 1 team is showing a promising pace this winter at the tracks in Spain. The team has made good progress compared to last year and both of the team's drivers are happy with the current pace of the FW30.

Speaking after this week's three-day test at Circuit de Catalunya Nico Rosberg concluded: "We've had plenty of running in the wet this week and we looked pretty good, which was positive. It wasn't that easy to drive in the conditions, it's hard to keep the tyres in the working window, especially without traction control, so you're always quite on the limit. The last day was dry and so we managed to cover a lot of laps with no problems at all. Over the three days, we got some important reliability issues sorted out. We seem to be progressing well with the new car and I am happy with the improvements we're making."

Looking back at his days of testing this week Nakajima said: "Initially it was a bit of a difficult test because of the weather but it was good for me to get some experience in wet conditions. The car is feeling good, but we couldn't do as much work with it as we wanted to because of the bad weather. It was still a good week for us though overall."

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Red Bull Optimistic

After yet another damp start to the day, which allowed the team to practice pit stops, this afternoon saw the first really dry track of the test. Both Mark Webber and David Coulthard continued their Melbourne preparation work although the former was sidelined by a minor problem, but was able to continue after a brief spell in the garage. Coulthard completed his planned programme as scheduled. Webber and Coulthard set the sixth and seventh fastest times today with best laps of 1:22.477 and 1:22.499s respectively. Red Bull Racing is back on track, still in Barcelona, for the final pre-season test from Monday.

Ian Morgan, Chief Test Engineer “This has been a very useful three days, despite the weather. It was the first time this season that we have had the full race crew personnel all attending a test to operate as a team and, as such, it was excellent preparation for Melbourne.”

Renault has failed

Fernando Alonso believes Renault has failed to make up enough ground on last season’s top three teams to go to the first race in Australia in contention for a podium.

The former world champion squad has targeted making it back to the front of the field with its new R28 in 2008 after slumping into the midfield last year.

However its returning superstar is pessimistic about its chances of producing an immediate turnaround in three weeks' time following the relative pace of its closest rivals in pre-season – and is predicting it will be in a fight for the lower points positions.

"We are far, far away," Alonso was quoted as saying by Spain’s AS newspaper on Thursday.

"I think it's looking like at the end of last year: two Ferraris, two McLarens and two BMWs, and if everything goes like that, you can almost only fight for seventh place.

"Thinking about the podium would be too optimistic right now, but then you arrive in the first grand prix, you start warming up in practice, your morale starts going up and you think you can be on the podium.

"But right now, thinking coldly, reaching the podium is a dream.”

The double world champion admitted at the launch of the R28 last month that Renault needed to find one second in pace during the rest of pre-season before it could challenge Ferrari and McLaren.

But although he concedes it has not made up that ground yet, he points to BMW’s recent step forward in form as an example of how things can soon change.

“In F1 everything changes very quickly,” he said.

“Just two or three weeks ago BMW was a little further back, we were near them.

“Now they are quite close to McLaren.

“Everything changes very quickly.”

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Peugeot recruiting from F1

The automotive media are all abuzz with Peugeot's announcement of its drivers' line-up for this year's 24 Hours of Le Mans. The French automaker's team took pole and second place at the event last year, and an overall victory in the European series where the equally matched Audi R10 TDI did not compete. PSA, however, is not about to rest until its team thoroughly trounces its rivals, especially Audi, and as we reported previously, towards that effort Peugeot has been recruiting top talent from Formula One to pilot the 908 HDi to victory lane.
The announced roster includes Ferrari test driver Marc Gene, BMW Sauber tester Christian Klien, former Lotus pilot Pedro Lamy, former Super Aguri driver Franck Montagny, former Minardi driver Stephane Sarrazin, Honda F1 test driver and former Le Mans winner Alex Wurz, F1 veteran Ricardo Zonta, and former world champion Jacques Villeneuve. Nicolas Minassian joins the team as the only member never to have earned his F1 Superlicense. Notable is the absence of Sebastien Bourdais, the four-time Champ Car champion who drove the second-place 908 HDi last year alongside Sarrazin and Lamy, but he has his hands full in F1 this year. With such an experienced roster of drivers, Peugeot could stand a more than decent chance of unseating Audi from its domination of the event, broken since 2000 only by the Bentley Speed 8, which Audi themselves supported.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Bernie dismisses FIA's racism response

F1 Chief Executive Bernie Ecclestone has played down the FIA's response to the Lewis Hamilton racism affair as not ‘necessary’. After Spanish spectators at the recent Barcelona test abused the sport's only black driver, the governing body reacted by vowing to launch a Motorsport-wide anti-racism campaign - called Racing Against Racism - at this year's Spanish Grand Prix.

Hamilton's team, McLaren-Mercedes, immediately backed the move, while a spokesman for Toyota confirmed:

"(We support) any efforts to combat racism and we fully endorse the stance being adopted by the FIA."

Super Aguri also backed the campaign, while a spokesman for Ferrari said: "Ferrari has solidarity with all initiatives against any type of discrimination." But speaking on BBC Radio 5 Live's Sportsweek programme, 77-year-old Ecclestone said of the FIA campaign: "I don't think it's necessary.

"All it does, like all these things, is give attention to the people who want attention." The Briton dismissed those who abused Hamilton as football-style hooligans, and predicted that the incident will not be repeated. "It was a one-off, nothing to worry about," he said. "We'd have to have a look it if anything like that happened (again), but this is just an isolated incident."

I 'm just a shy boy, says Raikkonen

Formula One World Champion Kimi Raikkonen, whose monosyllabic and understated demeanour is often at odds with the glamour of his sport, says he's just a shy boy at heart.

"Me, shy? I've always been like this and probably always will be. It works so I see no reason to change,"

the Finn admits in a television interview due to be screened on Sky Italia today.

"I'm the same person even if I'm different at work to what I'm like at home, with my family or friends. These are different situations.

"Raikkonen will begin the defence of his Formula One title on March 16.

New BMW is much better

Despite the problems BMW has been suffering in testing so far this winter in finding raw pace from the F1.08, driver Nick Heidfeld insists the new car is much better than its predecessor.

"The car is most definitely than last year's," Heidfeld said. "You just have to take a look at the lap times to realise this. At the latest test, I said the old car was better balanced - but you shouldn't forget that we had an entire year to find this balance. Since then, we've had time to improve the new car's balance too, and it is also equipped with new components."

"Currently, we are trying different setup options," he added. "But it's not unusual to focus on the balance before making the next steps. As I see it, we are moving within the normal window."

Kovalainen buys Swiss villa

Heikki Kovalainen has followed his McLaren teammate Lewis Hamilton's lead by choosing Switzerland as his adopted home.

The Finnish driver, believed to have signed a more lucrative contract for 2008 after debuting last year with Renault, is reported to have bought a villa in picturesque Coppet, on the north shore of Lake Geneva.

The current resident of England plans to move in April, the Swiss daily newspaper Le Matin said, citing the confirmation of Kovalainen's laywer Dominique Warluzel.Kovalainen, 26, joins active rivals Kimi Raikkonen, Fernando Alonso, Nick Heidfeld, Sebastian Vettel and Adrian Sutil as fellow Swiss residents.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Tonio Liuzzi in Nascar or Champ Car

Tonio Liuzzi has had another go at Scuderia Toro Rosso co-owner Gerhard Berger saying the former F1 driver was the reason he ended up without a race drive at the end of 2007.

"I had alternatives, in Nascar and Champ Car but I preferred to concentrate on the Force India F1 programme, even if it is only as a test driver because the team's potential is so big and I can be back racing in F1 in the medium term," Liuzzi told Autosprint. "When I found myself without a drive at the end of last season it was mainly Gerhard Berger's fault," he added. "He's never been a fan of mine, just like Adrian Newey who has also blocked my arrival in the past as a regular Red Bull driver.""I'm sorry to have left the Red Bull orbit most of all for Dietrich Mateschitz, who has always believed in me - I can't say the same about others," he concluded.

McLaren for Aero programme

McLaren's three day session in Jerez drew to a close on Thursday, with weather conditions in the morning more favourable. The team continued the aerodynamic programme for the week. In addition Kovalainen spent some time in the morning conducting simulated qualifying runs, to further understand the handling of the MP4-23 in all race weekend situations.

"The primary focus of the test this week has been pushing forward with the aerodynamic programme," explained McLaren F1 chief Martin Whitmarsh. "There was some disruption to this on Wednesday and Thursday due to the windy conditions. However the test team have been able to complete the proving process on a range of aerodynamic components."

"The team has seven track days remaining before the cars depart for Melbourne on 6th March, incorporating full test sessions and some straight-line work," he added. "Naturally there will be a focus externally on the multi-team test at Barcelona in the final week of February. It will be the first time in a few weeks that all the leading teams will be on the same track. Whilst this will give us the possibility of a more comprehensive comparison, we will nevertheless focus on our own test programme rather than chase times. The real litmus test of performance will take place in Australia."