Wednesday, December 31, 2008
I've dreaded this possibility for some time as I don't want to see Alonso in a competitive car. He's such a spoilt brat. But the latest rumours about it seems to carry some weight. I almost jumped out of my skin when I suddenly thought about the partner he will get should he move to Ferrari - Massa. These two have no love lost between them.
It was very obvious last year when they raced side by side at Nurburgring if I'm not mistaken, where Alonso won and Massa finished 2nd. They were reportedly swearing at each other (especially Massa) in the changing room. This would work well for Lewis if it happens as Alonso and Massa will keep each other busy while Lewis snatches the win. Woohoo!
Monday, December 22, 2008
Lewis Hamilton believes there is still plenty of room for improvement after winning the World Championship in only his second season in Formula One.
Hamilton became the youngest ever F1 World Champion last month when he pipped Ferrari's Felipe Massa by just one point, and the Briton believes he can get even better.
"I've won the Championship in my second year, but there is a lot more to come," Hamilton said on ITV's season-highlights show.
"I can do better, I can be fitter, I can be sharper, I can make less mistakes... I've analysed everything that's happened this season, the positives and the negatives, and I've turned some of the negatives into positives. I'm enjoying the present and I really look forward to the future."
The 23-year-old admits the pressure is off now that he has collected his maiden title.
"I feel less pressure. I don't feel the pressure comes from my surroundings, I feel it comes from within," he said.
"Putting that pressure on yourself to succeed is what either makes you or breaks you. I still have that pressure on me, but I know I can control it and use it to my own advantage now."
The McLaren driver also played down his unpopularity among other drivers, saying "it doesn't really bother me".
"It's been part of my life since my first year of racing," he said. "It's just the way it is. It's not necessarily people not liking me, it's that no one likes to lose. To have someone come up so quickly, like I have, and go straight to a team that perhaps someone else was hoping to be sitting in and then beating them... you know, I don't like losing."
Source : Planet F1
Instead of being a time of peace on earth and goodwill to all men, the struggle for power and control at the head of F1 has intensified this Christmas with Bernie's latest salvo against Ferrari.
Following an extensive press briefing by Ferrari chief Luca Montezemolo at Maranello suggesting that Bernie's time in charge is coming to an end and that the (for now) unanimous Formula One Team's Association, FOTA, is in the ascendancy, Bernie has struck back.
Montezemolo, who also speaks for FOTA, is unhappy about a number of moves by Ecclestone and there are signs that FOTA are prepared to back up there grumbles with future action. The big thing, of course, is money. But there are other issues, too...
"In terms of revenue, we want to know more about them," said Montezemolo earlier this week. "Theoretically, like in other professional sports, like basketball in the USA, we can have a league made by us and appoint a good league manager to run our own business. Because it is our own business.
"We want to know the revenues better so we can decrease the cost of the tickets. Then we have the matter of traditional tracks rather than exotic tracks just because they have a nice skyline. We have to discuss the show. How to promote. I'm not prepared any more to have all this dictated to us by outside without any control."
Ferrari and McLaren are fed up with Bernie making big money deals with countries that want an F1 race as a badge of international pride, but whose population have very little history of attending F1 races. Sepang is the oldest and least-attended of the fly-away exotica, and now that the initial novelty is over, the organisers struggle to sell all the tickets for the race.
Contrast that with Montreal which is almost always a sell-out but which the promotors cannot make money from because of the high price charged by Ecclestone for the privilege of holding a GP. There is a feeling that Bernie tends to favour new destinations because the organisers are keen to hold the race and are eager to let him have all the trackside advertising he wants.
Ron Dennis has said that he expects F1 to be back in North America within the next three years. With an important North American customer base for Mercedes and Ferrari, no doubt FOTA are angling for it to be sooner. They're also worried about the financial solvency of other traditional races that are important to them, such as the French and German GPs.
Montezemolo is quite right in that elite sports, such as the NFL in America and England's Premiership, control their own revenues and it seems faintly ludicrous that they spend millions of dollars to compete yet have a kind of feudal ownership by Ecclestone/CVC and are dictated to by the FIA. They are the show.
But it's actually all Montezemolo's fault.
When the teams, driven by the manufacturers, were about to put an end to this financial feudalism in 2003 and set off on their own series, the Grand Prix World Championship (GPWC), it was Montezemolo who scuppered it.
As Bernie revealed at the weekend, Ferrari's price for breaking ranks with the other teams and returning to Formula 1 was $80m a year. He knew that any new series without Ferrari would not have credibility and that as soon as he signed Montezemolo up the momentum would swing his way. Williams joined them, and the GPWC fell apart.
Now Montezemolo says he's prepared to give up Ferrari's traditional larger share of the funds in return for a greater share of revenue for the teams overall. But it's not because he's had a Dickensian moment (a la Christmas Carol) when he's been visited by three ghosts of F1 past. He knows that the edifice is about to crumble and he needs to have teams around him to race against. Despite what everybody says publicly, Renault could well be next. Company boss Carlos Ghosn has never been more than lukewarm about F1.
FOTA need to continue to display unity against Ecclestone now that he is at his weakest. His financial empire looks like it's about to be re-organised with a divorce from his wife Slavicia, who had interests (if only nominal) in the companies he controlled. And there is still that business with Max and the cellar and Bernie's calls for him to resign and Max's quest for who tipped off the press in the first place...
Luca Montezemolo is still the best person to lead the F1 teams forward and out of the financial dependency they've found themselves in. Despite Bernie's revelations putting an exact figure on the annual Ferrari bung, the rest of the teams in the pitlane probably had a good idea of the figure anyway. And F1 needs Ferrari more than any other team.
Ecclestone looks like someone who's in a tight corner right now. Never one to reveal his financial dealings willingly, this latest disclosure looks like an indication of just how seriously he's feeling the pressure. And if Bernard Charles were to get a spectral visitation on December 24th, just like Ebenezer Scrooge did in Christmas Carol, then it would be nice to think it was the ghost of Ken Tyrrell.
Ken would never have stood for any of this.
Source : Planet F1
Friday, December 19, 2008
McLaren are the world's favourite Formula One team and 2008 World Champion Lewis Hamilton is the world's favourite driver, according to a survey.
The ING/F1 Racing Formula 1 survey polled nearly 70 000 fans in order to track the profiles, viewing habits and preferences of the average F1 fan.
When asked to name their favourite driver, the fans' verdict was overwhelming: Hamilton gained a massive 27 per cent of the votes. Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen was second with 17 per cent while Fernando Alonso picked up 12 per cent of the votes with Felipe Massa taking nine per cent.
"I think the standard of drivers currently racing in Formula One is higher than it's been for years so I'm humbled to have earned the fans' support," Hamilton is quoted on the McLaren website.
"Drivers like Kimi, Felipe, Fernando, Robert and myself have made the battles at the front probably the closest and most exciting they've ever been - and, more than anything, I hope that's what the fans enjoy the most.
"The icing on the cake is the popularity of the team. I know just how hard everyone at Vodafone McLaren Mercedes works - they've done an unbelievable job this year and every single member of the team deserves this honour."
McLaren emerged top in the team category with 29 per cent of the votes. They were followed by Ferrari (28), Renault (six) and Williams (six).
Winning back-to-back World Championships are always difficult, but Lewis Hamilton feels he will have an even bigger handicap next season following the introduction of several cost-cutting measures.
Besides the new aero rules, introduction of KERS and the return of slicks, the FIA last week announced additional changes to Formula One for 2009 in an attempt to dramatically slash costs.
Hamilton, who won the title by the narrowest of margins this year, admits the changes will make it a lot tougher to retain his Drivers' Championship crown next season.
"I don't think it will make it easier," the McLaren driver is quoted by The Associated Press.
"With the new regulations it's going to make it very tough to win the Championship again."
The FIA was forced to announce the dramatic changes following Honda's withdrawal from F1 due to the global economic crisis. The key components of the changes that will come into effect will see savings on engine costs, a ban on in-season testing outside grand prix weekends and a reduction in staff numbers.
The 23-year-old, though, is banking on his McLaren team to pull together and be difference to winning and losing the Championship.
"We have less testing obviously but I think we as a team are in a position to pull together and make a difference in some other way," Hamilton said. "But everyone's in the same boat.
"It's amazing how many different things happen in a year but all we're thinking about is how we can continue in the sport and continue to put on a good show. How we can move forward and continue to win as a team.
"We don't know who's going to be quick, surely we're going to be at the front, with Ferrari maybe, BMW, but you never know. Maybe there's going to be a fourth team up there with us."
Thursday 18th December 2008
Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo has claimed that he wouldn't sign Lewis Hamilton if the World Champion was offered to his team.
In a set of remarks that are bound to be interpreted as a psychological ploy to unsettle Hamilton and boost the confidence of Kimi Raikkonen and Felipe Massa, Di Montezemolo insisted that signing Hamilton would not improve his team.
"Lewis Hamilton? Let's make this clear: he's a great driver, able to get within a whisker of the title in his first year in F1 and winning it on his second," Di Montezemolo told The Daily Telegraph. "However, with all due respect, I wouldn't change him with Felipe Massa."
"Kimi Raikkonen came to Ferrari and won the title. If Massa didn't win it this year it's our fault. It would have been normal for him to win it, but he didn't because of our errors.
"Felipe is extremely popular, for the man he is, for the great driver he's demonstrated to be, and for the beautiful way he lost this championship."
Later, in a separate interview with The Times, Di Montezemolo was more complimentary about Hamilton, although he remained insistent that he wouldn't sign the Englishman even if he were available.
"I think he is a very, very good driver," he told the newspaper. "Last year Hamilton was fantastic. He can pay a little price last year because of the pressure and his lack of experience. But I think if he will continue to drive a competitive car, he can enter the history of Formula One.
"Regarding Ferrari, of course I would like to have a driver like Hamilton, like Alonso. But that will be in another life, because in this life I have Michael, Kimi and Felipe. Maybe in two years I will tell you something different, but at the moment I am very, very happy. And don't forget Felipe won the championship until 15 seconds to go - he won more races than Hamilton. But there is no question that Hamilton deserved to win, particularly in light of what he lost last year."
Sunday, December 14, 2008
Saturday 13th December 2008
"I'm number one," proclaimed new Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton after finally collecting his title trophy.
Hamilton has had to wait almost six weeks to get his hands on the silverware following a thrilling conclusion to the 2008 F1 season in Brazil.
It was on November 2 that the 23-year-old clinched his maiden world championship, claiming the title on the penultimate lap of the final race of the season at Interlagos, pipping Ferrari's Felipe Massa by just a single point.
It was arguably the most dramatic conclusion to a world championship since the inaugural season back in 1950.
The denouement to a campaign that started on Hamilton's 23rd birthday on January 7 with the launch of the McLaren car that propelled him to glory unfolded in front of 585 specially-invited guests at the FIA Gala Dinner in Monte Carlo.
An hour long presentation heralded the champions in karting, regional rally, European rally cross, truck racing, historic rally, GT, the World Touring Car Championship, and the World Rally Championship, before finally concluding with F1.
A five-minute video montage began with footage and comments from Hamilton interlaced with those of his all-time hero in Ayrton Senna during his glory days.
There followed dramatic scenes from various stages of the season, before the curtain finally arose on Hamilton standing alongside his suspended McLaren, with its nose pointing to the floor.
The thrilled Briton said: "This year has been a very special one in my life, the fulfilment of a dream I have had since childhood.
"It is the conclusion of an ambition that has taken me and my family on an amazing journey
"The fact that I have the drivers' world championship trophy in my hand makes me so proud, and it's testament to the great determination and spirit that has helped me get here.
"Tonight has been an incredible evening, so very special.
"To be here with the Prince (Albert of Monaco) and my family, is again another very overwhelming experience.
"As you can imagine, it was a very emotional moment for me to be standing there holding the trophy - I am number one."
Hamilton will now take an extended break before finally returning to the cockpit of next season's car early in the New Year.
Bernie Ecclestone - changes to F1.
Motor sport's world governing body, the FIA, in conjunction with the Formula One teams on Friday announced a raft of proposals in a bid to cut escalating costs.
Following a meeting of the World Motor Sport Council in Monte Carlo the key components of the changes will see savings on engine costs, a ban on in-season testing outside GP weekends and a reduction in staff numbers.
Engines will be available to the independent teams from 2010 for less than £4.5million per team per season, supplied by an independent supplier or a manufacturer backed by guarantees of continuity.
There will be no in-season testing from next year except during a race weekend and during scheduled practice.
The teams have also agreed manpower will be reduced by means of a number of measures, including sharing information on tyres and fuel to eliminate the need for 'spotters'.
The FIA estimate the list of changes for 2009 will save the manufacturer teams approximately 30% of their budgets compared to 2008, with the savings for independent teams even greater.
Other proposals are as follows: * Engine life to be doubled. Each driver will use a maximum of eight engines for a season, plus four for testing (i.e 20 per team).
* A limit of 18,000 rpm.
* Cost of engines to independent teams will be approximately 50% of 2008 prices.
* No wind tunnel exceeding 60% scale and 50 metres/sec to be used after 1 January 2009.
* Factory closures for six weeks per year, to accord with local laws.
* The engine from 2010 will continue to be used in 2011 and 2012 (thus no new engine for 2011).
* Subject to confirmation of practicability, the same transmission will be used by all teams.
* The FIA are to compose a standard parts list relating to the chassis. Some parts will be allowed development, other will be required to use inexpensive materials.
* For a race weekend there will be standardised radio and telemetry systems, a ban on tyre warmers, mechanical purging of tyres, and most crucially, a ban on refuelling.
* There will also be a possible reduction in race distance or duration (with a proposal to follow from market research).
* With regards to factory activity there will be further restrictions on aerodynamic research, combined with a full analysis of factory facilities with a view to proposing further restrictions on such facilities.
In the longer term, the FIA and FOTA are to study the possibility of an entirely new power train for 2013 based on energy efficiency.
The rules will be framed to ensure that research and development of such a power train would make a real contribution to energy-efficient road transport.
The FIA believe an enhanced Kinetic Energy Recovery System (KERS) system is likely to be a very significant element of an energy-efficient power train in the future.
In the short term, KERS is part of the 2009 regulations, but is not compulsory, however, from 2010 FOTA is considering proposals for a standard KERS system.
With regard to F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone's medal system, market research will be conducted, also into a possible change to qualifying.
Source : Planet F1
FIA president Max Mosley believes Formula One has taken its first step towards salvation by introducing a raft of ideas designed to save over a billion pounds per season.
Drastic action has been forced upon the sport in the wake of the global economic crisis which last Friday sparked Honda's shock withdrawal.
Just seven days ago there were heightened fears for the entire future of Formula One. But drastic times call for drastic measures, and Mosley, uniting with the Formula One Teams' Association (FOTA), are to implement a wide range of cost cuts from next year.
Mosley anticipates the changes for 2009 will save the manufacturer teams approximately 30% of their budgets compared to this year, whilst the savings will be even greater for the independents.
As from 2010, when more stringent changes will be enforced, Mosley expects teams to be on budgets of less than half their current spend.
Ultimately, the goal is a budget of around £45million per team per season, in stark contrast to the £200-300million currently spent.
"We're now going to become much more cost effective," was Mosley's enthusiastic response following a four-hour meeting of the World Motor Sport Council in Monte Carlo.
"I think this is probably the first step towards Formula One saving itself because everybody recognised the situation had become very serious and that something needed to be done.
"The teams have now really got behind the idea, and instead of being reluctant, they are being positive.
"That's made a huge difference, and I think we can now get it under control."
For 2009 engine life will be doubled, with the cost of engines to independent teams approximately 50% of 2008 prices.
There will be no in-season testing outside of a grand prix weekend, a reduction on wind-tunnel testing, whilst factories will close for six weeks per year.
There will also be a reduction in manpower by a number of means, including sharing information on tyres and fuel to eliminate the need for 'spotters'.
For 2010, the major regulation changes include engines available to the independent teams for less than £4.5million per season.
They will be supplied by Cosworth, as an independent supplier, or one of the manufacturers, but with strict guarantees imposed, with that engine to be used for three years from 2010.
Chassis development will be strictly regulated, whilst during a race weekend there will be a ban on tyre warmers and re-fuelling, and possibly a reduction in race distance or duration.
The FIA and FOTA are to also study the possibility of a new power train (engine and gearbox) for 2013 based on energy efficiency.
"It's a major step forward," insisted Mosley.
"Obviously there is a crisis because of the falling car sales with the major manufacturers, and nobody knows if it will get worse before it gets better. We need to take care of that contingency.
"If a miracle happened and the whole world situation sorted itself out in the next couple of months, then all that would happen would be the teams would make a profit.
"But what's significant about these changes is when you walk down the pit lane, or you sit in the grandstand or watch on television, you will notice no difference at all.
"It will be Formula One as we all know it, but clearly much less expensive."
An inevitable consequence of the changes will be job losses, with Mosley expecting teams to whittle their 700-1000 strong work-forces down to 200 over time.
"What the teams are saying is what they will try and do is bring in-house a lot of work that they currently contract out," stated Mosley.
"But inevitably, in any industry, if you reduce the costs then you reduce the number of people.
"There are some obvious immediate losses because at the moment they take people to every race to do nothing except spot the fuel and tyres of the other teams.
"Those people will disappear because they're now going to share the information.
"But unfortunately, job losses, that's just part of cutting costs.
"But if you see it from the other point of view, they currently employ between 700 and 1000 people just to put two cars on the grid. In any event that is not sustainable.
"Even if nothing was wrong with the economy worldwide, it couldn't possibly operate at that level for very long."
As for supremo Bernie Ecclestone's proposal to replace the current points system with medals, market research is to be conducted on whether it is a valid idea.
"Bernie's wedded to medals, but it will be genuinely interesting to see what the fans say because they do pay the bills," added Mosley.
Source : Planet F1
Monday, December 8, 2008
For a motorsport season that saved its biggest drama for the final seconds of the final race, the announcement that Honda are quitting F1 saved the biggest surprise till last.
On Friday they announced that they were dramatically scaling back their F1 activities till March of next year, after which they hope to have found a buyer for the team.
With global car sales suddenly falling off a cliff the world over, should it have been such a shock? Honda sales are down and they are shutting their massive Swindon factory for February and March of next year. BMW sales are down 25% year-on-year and that's only going to get worse. And FIA President Max Mosley has been banging on for years that unless F1 cuts its costs manufacturers are going to leave.
In a way he's right and in a way he's wrong. Even Honda didn't see this one coming and the company's reaction was a management firefighting decision and an advertising and PR disaster. "We are sorry, it is a big let down for the fans and all concerned, but you have to understand that the sale of cars took a big dip - especially in November," explained Honda CEO Takeo Fukui. "All around the world, the November sales went down massively - beyond our imagination. This decision did not exist in September definitely. The team were ready for 2009 and they were doing their best efforts, and we decided against them.
So it was clearly a last-minute knee-jerk reaction that led to their withdrawal from F1, not a studied evaluation. However Honda are not cancelling their involvement in MotoGP or Indycars, which would back up Mosley's argument that F1 is just too costly compared to other forms of motorsport.
It's a PR disaster because Honda have been carefully building their brand on being a forward-looking technology company, with the Asimov robot etc, and then the second that car sales drop, they abandon the whole F1 enterprise. Just as F1 starts to embrace road car technology.
We've been here before. In 2004 Ford pulled the plug on the Jaguar team after their performances trailed off and the commercial team failed to find a title sponsor for the following season. At the same time the Jaguar road car division was announcing 1,150 job cuts and restructuring at their main plant in Coventry.
Instead of increasing the allure of the marque, Jaguar's involvement in F1 was seen as detracting from the brand. For Honda, even though there was anticipation that they could make serious strides forward in 2009, the damage had already been done.
Plastering the car with their own Earth Dreams logos may have given them a great corporate presence (when the TV cameras found them), but the commercial riskiness of not having a Vodafone or an ING or a Panasonic on board has bitten them as it bit Jaguar.
The great news for any aspiring F1 team owner (such as ProDrive) is that they could come in and pick up a top F1 outfit for very little money, providing they can convince Ross Brawn to stay on and don't have to pick up Jenson Button's multi-million pound driver contract.
Brawn has been busy telling Autosport how optimistic he is for the forthcoming 2009 season.
"I am committed to this programme to see it through to the end, whatever that might be. I am committed for all sorts of reasons because it is a very good team here, nice people and they have worked very hard on this car. And it would be wrong of me to do anything but stay here and support the efforts to keep it alive.
"Whether I stay here long term is another matter. It depends on the level of the team, the new owners, whether I want to work with them. I don't have any great interest in scratching around the back of the grid so if unfortunately the team cannot find owners who have the ability or aspirations to compete, then I will see it through and we will go from there.
"The thing with the new regulations is that there will be quite a big of disparity between the teams, especially to begin with, and if the constraints on wind tunnel testing which we (FOTA) are debating now come into force, then the chance for massive catch up will be lessened. So I think there is still every chance that we can be very competitive next year."
ProDrive's David Richard's will never have a better opportunity to take on a top team, that is based not too far from him, with a driver (Jenson Button) he knows and has supported in the past, when he was briefly at BAR.
The question is will Jenson be prepared to drive for a lot less money? Honda have signed a big money contract with him for at least 2009 (and very likely 2010 with an option on 2011). Honda CEO Takeo Fukui has said they are prepared to enter talks to undo Jenson's contract. We bet they are. Whether Honda provide a racing car for him or not they will have contracted his services for the next two years at what some estimate to be a minimum of $15m a season. The new team could have Rubens Barrichello (now 3kgs lighter) for a fifth of that - and Bruno Senna for a fifth of what they pay Barrichello.
Button knows that the 2009 chassis will be a good one. What he's had in the past is a big salary and a car not worthy of it. This year he might have to consider a much smaller salary, but a car that could actually bring him results and show off his talents. The big question marks are who will fund the team, and what effect will there be when they stick a non-Honda engine in the 2009 chassis? All the development has been built around a Honda unit, and though Brawn is trying to sound as optimistic as he can, that is the big unknown.
If David Richards does want to buy the team he needs to start talking to his bank manager straight away, before key personnel start getting picked off by the circling vultures. They're over Brackley already...
Source : Planet F1
Friday, December 5, 2008
Double World Champion Mika Hakkinen believes Lewis Hamilton has the talent and time to become the best grand prix driver Britain has ever produced.
Hakkinen, who won his titles in 1998 and 1999, has been impressed with Hamilton's ability to cope under pressure despite making high-profile mistakes on his way to becoming the youngest ever F1 World Champion this year.
The Finn said: "He can be the best England has seen because he is a young guy and he has plenty of time to make this his goal.
"He is in a great team and has good commitment to it, so I don't see any problems there.
"He has a fantastic fitness programme and will have the energy for many, many years to maximise his performance. So I don't see any reason why he can't be the most successful.
"He is only in his second year of Formula One and it is a very high-pressure environment. It is normal that mistakes happen."
Source : Planet F1
Thursday, December 4, 2008
Lewis Hamilton has already started preparations for the defence of his Formula One World title - in icy isolation in Finland.
Hamilton, who became the youngest World Champion in F1 history just four weeks ago, is currently in the middle of a week-long intensive training camp.
The 23-year-old is being tested to the limit at the Kuortane Sports Institute in western Finland, a rigorous regime that has become an annual event on the team's calendar for drivers and staff in recent years.
"Travelling to Finland for our winter training camp is one of the best weeks of the year for me," insisted Hamilton.
"It feels like you're miles from anywhere and totally cut off from the outside world, which allows me to focus solely on my training, which is great.
"It's certainly not an easy week as Finland in the winter is cold and icy, and we're pushed hard for day after day.
"We spent the first part of the week doing tests to monitor our core strength and flexibility.
"Then we will spend the rest of the time building on specific exercises that will help us once we're back in the car."
Although McLaren are to test at Jerez and a new circuit on the Algarve this month, Hamilton is unlikely to be back behind the wheel until the new year.
Given the new regulations - the re-introduction of slick tyres and radical aerodynamics - Hamilton will find the new model in complete contrast to the car in which he clinched his maiden crown.
"Brazil already seems a long time ago and I'm now focusing 100% on 2009," added Hamilton.
"I had my seat fitting at the McLaren Technology Centre late last month, and while the plan at the moment is to start testing in January, I'm really keen to get going.
"I've already had a close look at the new car and the engineers have explained the philosophy behind it and just how different things will be next year.
"I think the new cars will make next year's Championship wide open, and I'm really looking forward to tackling the new regulations."
source : Planet F1