Monday, February 23, 2009

F1: Good Week/Bad Week

Sunday 22nd February 2009

Bad Week

In the battle for Honda survival, the name of Rubens Barrichello has largely been forgotten. The man who virtually matched Jenson Button for pace in 2008 and outscored him on points isn't mentioned in dispatches any more. As the battle for Honda comes down to Branson versus Fry, Bruno Senna's money and name (and perhaps Takuma Sato's Japanese connection for Virgin Japan) is the one being bandied about. It will be sad for Barrichello to exit the sport without the fanfare he deserves. And at a time when intra-season testing looks to have been banned, the job of development driver, seems to have disappeared.

Good Week

The telephone lines have closed, the votes have been counted and FOTA are set to reveal the results of their global F1 survey on March 5th. If you haven't already heard - it's a "vision thing". They asked you, the fan, what you wanted from F1. The aim of the survey was... " to make Formula One commercially sustainable, environmentally friendly and compellingly attractive for spectators, TV viewers and Internet consumers alike for years to come."

What's more, FOTA are keen to press ahead with the changes for this season. One simple way of exciting a global TV audience would have been to restore the 8-screen digital service that they ran in 2002. F1 varies from most major sports on the box in that with football, rugby, cricket, basketball, ice hockey etc the natural focus is on one thing - the ball, with F1 everybody wants to see different thing at once. The technology that was proven in 2002 is even more sophisticated today - how many people would love to see a pure Ferrari channel with one screen changing between on-board shots of Massa and Raikkonen? Millions. The trouble is Bernie's sold all this expensive trackside advertising that won't get glimpsed if you spend a race inside Felipe's cockpit. That's what FOTA will be up against.

Good Week

A much better week for Toyota in Bahrain where they actually got to put some serious mileage on the TF109. The quickest time swapped between Ferrari, BMW and Toyota, and on Wednesday Timo put his car on top of the timesheets. With all three cars stopping out on track through the week, the chances of the teams achieving the reliability levels of the 2008 season looks pretty remote right now.

Bad Week

It didn't stop Kimi Raikkonen going quickest, but Ferrari's KERS device overheated and led to a three-hour delay during the Bahrain test this week. Ferrari's technical director Aldo Costa had this to say about progress on KERS: "As far as the KERS is concerned I have to say that we're quite satisfied with what we've seen so far, although there's still lots of work to do."
That's a bit like saying your girlfriend is quite pretty.

Good Week

Following the testing week from hell in which running was curtailed by sandstorms and fog, the Sakhir circuit in Bahrain showed its F1-friendly side this week. We joked that it might be now visited by a plague of locusts, but animal intervention did threaten the running. Like the Turkish GP track, the Sakhir circuit seems an irresistible draw for stray dogs.

"They came very near the track and it was a dangerous position," Bahrain Motor Federation operations officer Jassim Ebrahim told the Gulf Daily News.

"We don't know what they will do or where they will go while in the circuit, so we have to take the right precautions for them to leave the track as soon as possible."
We knew the big front wings on F1 cars would be good for something.

Good Week

If the new USF1 team sign up IndyCar racer Danica Patrick, then they're guaranteed the kind of global TV exposure that most brand managers can only dream of. Patrick says they haven't phoned her yet. "It's very flattering. I think that any time you are (mentioned) in the same sentence as Formula One, it's a flattering thing," she said. "I haven't really expressed a lot of excitement and interest in world travel. We'll see what they'll say though. Maybe they'll call."
Not wishing to be overtly sexist about it, but for a woman, that's a yes isn't it.

Bad Week

It's not a question of good or bad weeks for Honda right now. It's more like really bad weeks or not so bad weeks. This week was towards the bad end as they had to act like parents threatening to hide the remote control because their children were arguing over which channel to watch. Faced with opposite factions in the Virgin vs Management Buyout they banged on the door and threatened to sell Honda Racing to nobody if the parties didn't negotiate properly.

Good Week

Ferrari didn't dominate proceedings during the Bahrain test, but they came away with the two best times of the week. Felipe Massa stole the headlines by ending the week on top with a 1:32.162, but Kimi Raikkonen took the honours on Tuesday with a 1:32.102. Portents of a titanic struggle in the season ahead...?

Good Week

There is quiet pressure growing over the future ownership of F1. This week Red Bull boss Dieter Mateschitz weighed into the argument. The man who could reduce the grid to just 14 cars in a single stroke accused the current commercial rights owners of having no expertise or passion for motorsport. "There is just one logical and ethically justifiable owner of Formula One and that is the teams," said the Austrian entrepreneur. "That is the only way that the survival of motorsport is guaranteed on a long-term basis."

Good Week

Richard Branson has emerged from the shadows to be the only visible contender alongside a Honda Racing management buyout of the Brackley-based F1 team. Branson savours the role of saviour. He also likes to be associated with innovation, but it was a bit worrying to read his Saturday comments made on the BBC.

"I love grands prix," said the never-media-shy bearded one. "If Bernie Ecclestone can make it more cost-effective for the likes of the Virgin brand to come into the sport, and if he can champion clean motor-car racing - which is possible to do by making sure all the cars run on clean fuels - then at some stage we might be interested in getting involved."

The key words being "at some stage". So was this a negotiating ploy aimed at getting the price down, or was he genuinely showing cold feet at the last minute? The "Virgin brand" that he's touting is in competition in the UK with Sky television. It's not been unknown for media moguls to take stakes in football clubs just so they could get an inside track for when the TV rights get sold. Was Sir Dick trying to get the inside track on F1 rights and has now realised they're not as easy to come by as he thought...?

Andrew T. Davies

Source : Planet F1

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