It was Rubbergoat’s choice of topic this week for “Thursday Thoughts” so he chose “What F1 Needs For Christmas?”
Here is my list of presents (if I could actually afford it) for each F1 driver that competed during 2009.
A Braun Electric Razor so he complies with McLaren’s no facial fuzz policy – he needs to clean-up his appearance to “fit in” with the smart factory.
A Red Bull endorsed Australian floppy hat complete with bobbing corks since he has been practicising his Mark Webber impersonations to such good effect.
A fire-retardant treated under-shirt that on the one side says “Mr Happy” and on the other side says “blah blah blah blah” so he does not need to give verbal post-race press interviews during 2010 by just wearing this special “mood” FIA endorsed underwear.
A video collection of DC Formula 1 starts that caused the most first lap carnage, he needs to perfect this art from the master of carbon fibre destruction.
A set of six wax dolls that each have an uncanny resemblance to Jenson Button complete with tufts of original ginger hair removed from the shaved “beard” of the world champion, a pack of extra long pins and “A Pictorial Guide to Voodoo Dolls” by Denise Alvarado.
A Ferrari cap that actually fits his head!
The following books to add to his library: Michael Schumacher: Driving Force; Michael Schumacher: The Edge of Greatness; Michael Schumacher: The Whole Story; Michael Schumacher: The Definitive Race-by-race Record of His Grand Prix Career; Michael Schumacher: The Greatest of All? so he has no excuse when he gets rammed off the the race track by his team mate or finds out that he has to give his team mate all his data but gets no data in return.
A six-day course in Adobe Photoshop so he has photos that tell his side of the story to present to the FIA marshals.
A pack of self-adhesive stickers that say “Please be kind to doors, we are not to blame that Felipe is faster than you” together with a Fridge magnet that has the same pacifist message.
A signed copy by the 2008 World Champion of the book “Lewis Hamilton: A Dream Comes True” acknowledging past services rendered.
A year’s supply of extra-strong pain killers because either the racing or his team mate is going to give him a pain in the neck.
He already has had his Xmas present, it is to drive in F1 next year courtesy of Lotus. So I will give him a hand-made Xmas card featuring Lewis Hamilton in the 2009 McLaren F1 car on the front and inside Lewis Hamilton wearing only a strategically placed Santa cap.
A Dinky Matchbox 1:43 scale 1955 Mercedes Gullwing Die Cast Car painted in silver in the original box – since it is to be as close as he is going to get to driving a Mercedes in 2010.
A collection of inflatable F1 cars in 2010 livery so he can practice hi-speed conjugation since he enjoyed his first experience with the Trulli Toyota early this season.
A scalextric set that can be built as a replica of the Spa circuit complete with a Red Ferrari and a Force India slot-car so this time he can repeatedly beat Kimi.
An original 1952 Mr. Potato Head boxed set to play with over the Xmas period.
A wall-sized poster for his study of Kimi in a Ferrari F1 car that appears to be only inches away.
A German to Swiss German dictionary together with pronounciation classes so he can be understood by his new employers.
A pack of Kleenex tissues presented in an ornate plastic, gold-coloured Indian-made tissue box to wipe his glasses and his tears when he is fired yet again from a team.
A letter of reference to present to Mr Kobayashi when he applies for vacancies for kitchen staff at the Sushi Bar owned by Kamui’s father.
A dartboard in the shape and life-sized of Flavio Briatore wearing only his famous “thong” together with a set of darts in ING Renault team colours.
A shiny metallic gold cap similar to the one worn by Force India’s team principal Vijay Mallya.
A voucher for 20% off, redeemable at any cost-saver hair saloon.
An insurance policy to cover all the carbon-fibre he is going to destroy in 2010 should he secure an F1 drive.
A remote-controlled, electric powered model Ferrari F60 car to play with as the company won’t let him drive a real one ever again.
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Max is gone as president of the FIA, the problem is that he has left his legacy in the form of the Todt. Since taking the presidency what has the Todt done for F1? Made some mutterings about bringing back the French GP. He seemed very quiet about Toyota leaving the sport. Possibly he was quietly celebrating as FOTA has been the bane of the FIA this past year. With Toyota leaving it was the last he would be seeing of John Howett Vice Chairman of FOTA. John was seen as the person most likely to succeed Luca di Montezemolo who has always intended to step down as Chairman of FOTA at the end of the year due to other commitments.
Another FOTA strongman was Flavio but the disgraced Renault F1 team boss has been banned from any association with FIA. BMW Sauber is another team who will be departing from FOTA following the company’s withdrawal from F1. There is a chance that they will be back in 2010 but their participation has still not been confirmed.
My drift here is although FOTA managed to get the FIA to agree to various terms in stand-offs during the year and in so doing appeared to have won some battles, I think the FIA might still win the war unless a really tough heavyweight is elected as the the FOTA chairman.
In Formula 1 when I think heavy I think of Norbert Haug the President in charge of all Mercedes-Benz motorsport. He will be transferred to a garage within the Mercedes GP (nee Brawn) pits. I think Norbert could do a good job but he has lot of other duties at the new team so I would select him as the new vice-president.
I have outlined the need for FOTA to have a tough chairperson. Luca was certainly Machiavellian enough to deal with Max, but I think the Todt needs to be put into his place very firmly before the FIA completely discredits the sport and losses more fans.
In looking at the team principals available I am simply am not convinced that most would be tough enough to deal with the Todt. Certainly Patrick Head might be a possibility yet Williams is beholden to the FIA in a number of ways including financial and in fact left the fold when issues got hot earlier this year.
In the end I decided that Mike Gascoyne of the new Lotus team might be the right person. His nickname is the Rottweiler, due to his tenacity and his straight talking. He was too much for Toyota management, hopefully he will keep the Todt in its place.
This post is in response to Sidepodcast’s Thursday Thoughts and its call for posts on New Presidents at FOTA.
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My last article discussed McLaren’s options for driver choices and concluded that if Kimi was not going to accept any offer from Woking, there were a pair of tiny little hands that might be quite good. Those competent little hands are still available.
McLaren resolved its dilemma by hiring the World Champion Jenson Button for 6 Million pounds per year over three years. Many Jenson supporters have been disappointed by the news of the defection to the enemy. The press and even Sir Jackie Stewart have questioned the wisdom of the decision. I think it is a great opportunity for Jenson and wish him all the best at McLaren.
One person’s sport is another person’s work
Many people have naturally jumped to the conclusion that Jenson simply followed the cash cow. Certainly Brawn were mostly sending out a message that it would only go so far to secure his services (limit being about 4 million pounds). It is rumoured and likely to be true that they did raise this to 8 million when the wabenzi took control of their company.
I think an important point missed, is McLaren were giving Jenson a three-year contract. Both teams wanted to start the 2010 season with the Number 1 on their cars. Jenson and his negotiating party had used his salary cut from the heady Honda days as ammunition to gain public support fuelled by emmotional media headlines.
Given that the previous season he scored a massive 3 points, even if his salary was now only 3.1-3.5 million Jenson was still looking the most expensive driver on the grid in terms of cost per point at the start of the season. Sure during the season he amassed numerous points, wins and helped secure both championships and his salary was finally met with appropriate results. I say well done Jenson now you can move on and establish your reputation as a driver.
Jenson was not Mercedes long term option
I am sure Jenson was being only offered either a one or two year contract or for a longer contract at a lesser amount. Mercedes’ longer term vision is to get Sebastien Vettel having missed out on Schumacher scene they did not want to miss out second time round. He is still very young, very fast (especially in the wet) and mostly without an overtaking manoeuvre to his credit. When his current contract ends at Red Bull, if not earlier, he will be recruited. I think Jenson read this message as well and said so long and thanks for all the cash.
Ross will be given a free hand to run the team
Well firstly I doubt that Nico was Ross’s first choice – he was secured by Mercedes to either slot in at McLaren or at Brawn depending on progress with planned negotiations. Up until his cheating during the yellow flags incident at Japan I quite liked the guy. He is very marketable with his flaxen hair and has good communication skills. Intellectually he is no slouch (he was accepted in an engineering programme at Imperial Colleague) and has done enough to convince me he has the driving potential.
No one would deny Nico had less than at least a solid 2009 season. He scored consistently but failed to get onto the podium but scored all of the team’s points. Williams have always fought extremely hard to retain his services and Nico has shown loyalty to the team. Williams did release him this time with uncharacteristically little fight.
Is it just possibly he under-performed given their projected targets? Or is it now the team is going back to being more independent and is cash-strapped? I really like Kazuki, but he was a burden on a team wishing to score points. The final proof was Williams actually lost sixth place – ironically through Nick’s good performance in the last race. Sam Michael has also said Nick compared very well to Robert.
I think Williams had to trim costs so the option of Rubens and the new Nico mark II is a very smart one. Nico I is now Ross’s baby (or burden) and he has to build a team around this German starlet. I think Brawn are genuinely surprised that Jenson split because now they need a second seat kept warm for the arrival of Vettel. I am sure Ross has a free hand on this choice, if not the first choice. So lets review the options
A cheap Nick to replace an expensive Button
The press has latched onto Nick Heidfeld, he is German and obviously Mercedes wants an all German Team. For an international company this is the last thing their marketing department wants. Nick was put up as the second driver for both Mercedes-powered teams, because he a) will come in cheap(ish) and b) it is like a threat either sign this really good driver or you will end up with Nick. By reputation Nick is a “Journeyman” a competent driver at most and too modest for convincing PR duty. To Nick’s fans (including me) this is strange but we have to accept combined wisdom of the media and the F1 fraternity. Both Martin and Norbert have recognised that Nick is under-rated as a driver so I am sure Nick remains a fall back option for Ross.
Michael Schumacher has been linked to team up with Mercedes having gained a renewed appetite for F1 driving. I think we can discount this or his neck injury was a cover-up for other issues (like the Ferrari F60 was a complete swine to drive). I cannot see the sense in this choice. At most he might be be drafted in for testing and development purposes and I still consider that to be a long shot.
Does the Iceman cometh’
Kimi’s negotiation at McLaren became very public. It is McLaren or nothing, my terms and my freedom or nothing etc etc. no matter how much McLaren would have wanted Kimi he was making himself unattainable. Then, in an even more public way, Kimi announces he will not drive in 2011. Among Kimi’s fans this has been met with borderline hysteria. I am sure this has been an entirely calculated strategy by his manager and they are negotiating with Ross as I write this blog.
I have no idea how successful it will be because Kimi and his team have the third option and that is to get a Red Bull seat at some time in the near future. From a marketing point of view Kimi and Red Bull make perfect sense. Whether Ross takes the bait of Kimi will depend on Mercedes’ purses and the freedoms they will provide him. I am not sure that signing a mega million buck contract with the party animal antics of Kimi will go down terribly well with the struggling factory workers who’s jobs are on the line or lost.
Could it be Jarno, Heikki, or a Sutil?
It now has come down to one of the above. Trulli has another option that he has admitted to (and it will be with Lotus where at least his talent will be recognised). Mercedes and Brawn could take on Heikki as an act of charity but it also looks like you are inheriting another team’s reject. Ironically anyone signing Kimi is actually accepting another reject, but so much better packaged. Ferrari wanted to get rid of the guy at almost any cost (sure to get Fernando – but is he really worth so much?). Sutil would be cheap to buy but will push up the running costs on carbon fibre budget (though with Kimi not around it might almost be worth the risk).
The Ross Brawn Magic
For the second year in a row Ross is going to have to weave some magic. Were I Ross I would steer well clear of Kimi and work on getting Vettel as soon as possible. Draft in an interim driver to support Nico. If it be Nick, market both Nico and Nick as underdogs who have never had the chance to be in consistent race winning cars (and at the same time have a little stab at BMW). If either driver happens to reverse their record books by winning, claim all the credit and start a new fairytale, replacing a British setting with a German one.
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The driver market this time is not being held up by Fernando. It is Mr Iceman himself that is the cause this season after being kicked out of Ferrari one year earlier on his contract. I will come back to that.
What do McLaren need from their driver next year?
Although a large number of F1 fans would love to see Kimi race alongside Lewis, the team’s primary interests are the winning of championships and getting of sponsorships. Despite McLaren for a number of years being either the best or second best outfit, their trophy shelf of championships is rather meager compared to the red team. Their last constructor’s championship was won in 1998 and since then they have won only two drivers championships (1999 and 2008) in contrast to the red team who has lost count of the number of championships it has won. In 2007 McLaren had potentially the strongest driver pairing this century but it went terribly wrong and the team endured a punishment of almost biblical proportions.
With Lewis do McLaren have the best current F1 driver?
In Lewis McLaren have a star. In his three seasons he has delivered to the team 256 points and 11 victories which represents some 4.75 points per race. This is particularly surprising since Lewis, is a) still fairly new to F1 and b) still makes a significant number of unforced errors. In other words, with fewer mistakes that usually comes with more experience (excepting DC and Mark Webber), Lewis is set to become stronger still.
McLaren would be moronic to upset Lewis given his success, he has been their prodigy and has mostly produced the goods. While I can (and do) criticise some of his on track performance, he is clearly reponsive to his fans. His commitment to the team also cannot not be faulted.
This year was not a good one for the team as they struggled on track during the opening rounds, and the team got compromised with respect to its sporting honesty.
However, the under-performance of the McLaren MP4-24 has been greatly exaggerated. Lewis has also exploited this to somewhat over-emphasise his driving skills. All teams this season have shown significant highs and lows depending on the track, its configuration of fast and slow corners and ambient temperatures.
The McLaren MP4-24 under Lewis’ guidance was still the best at a number of circuits this year (Monaco, Hungary, Singapore and Abu Dhabi). Only four races into the season Lewis was still able to secure fifth grid position and fourth race position. Sure Silverston was a track the MP4-24 really did not like. Nevertheless in the last eight races Lewis got half of the poles and one-quarter of the victories.
In statistical terms Lewis/Macca is the best combo for the second half of the 2009 season. McLaren could have scored so many more points and Lewis could have run DeSeb close for bridesmaid honours were it not mistakes on both team and driver. Examples include the team losing 5 points in Australia (Liegate), an almost certain victory at Monaco (Lewis made a big mistake in qualifying), an almost certain fourth at Monza (5 more lost points) and of course the mechanical problems at Abu Dhabi which probably cost a victory.
For 2010, McLaren and Lewis must be the favourites at least for World Drivers Championship. What do they need to make it a double championship like back in 1998? The simply answer is a points winning-machine backing Lewis with his drive to the championship. Available to McLaren are, in terms of points per race, the third and fifth highest scoring drivers over the last three seasons (Kimi 4.28 and Nick 2.70).
It is very difficult to actually compare Kimi driving a Ferrari with Nick driving a BMW Sauber as clearly they are not the same car or have equal potential performance. Due to the dissimilarity between cars the only way is to compare each driver to their team mate for the same races that they have competed in. There is an assumption that as team mates they get equal treatment, which in the case of Ferrari and BMW Saubers seems to be a reasonable assumption if taken over a sufficient length of time. Given that Kimi is significantly higher paid you could argue that he at least started of as the clear number one driver.
Kimi versus Fellipe
To Kimi’s credit he won the World Driver’s Championship in 2007. However, it should not go unnoticed, that his win in the first race was with an illegal car and his last win of the season was gifted to him by his team mate so he could secure the championship. If we compare all the races they have been team mates over the last three years, on average Kimi has returned 4.20 points per race compared to Felipe with 4.85 points per race (which is rather surprisingly more than Lewis). In other words Kimi has score only 85% of the points his team mate has scored. In terms of victories Felipe has returned one more during the same period that they have both competed (9 vs 8 wins).
Nick versus Robert
Robert has a GP victory to his credit (and a pole position) and the only ones scored by the team during the last three year period (or ever). The victory was partly a product of race strategy, as Nick was leading Robert while heavy with fuel and yielded position to ensure the team got their well-deserved victory. During most of 2008 Robert was the better driver, however, during 2007 and 2009 Nick has been clearly the better driver with respect to the score board and despite some terrible luck at the end of 2009 year. In terms of points per race that both drivers have competed in, Nick has returned 2.75 points per race as opposed to Robert with a return of 1.9 points per race. In other words Robert has scored only 69% of the points his team mate has scored.
What Kimi wants and can offer the team
If rumours be true Kimi has had a pay-out from Ferrari of $25.5 million if he does not drive for another team and $15 million if he does drive for another team. Consequently Kimi not driving is earning as much as any other driver competing next year and a fair bit more than the world champion will be getting. It is also rumoured that McLaren have offered Kimi some $7.5 million. Salary demands are not the only agendas that Kimi is making. He is apparently insistent on being available for rather few PR events (12 during the year according to one source) and the right to compete in rallies when not competing in F1. Add to this Kimi’s displays of intolerance when out of the driving seat (e.g. like pushing over the well respected veteran press photographer Paul-Henri Cahier) and a reputation for heavy drinking, it is difficult to see how this image fits with the somewhat sanitized McLaren corporate profile.
Consequently in a team you have driver who will be earning more than the star of the team, doing less for their money in terms of media events and wants dispensation to compete in other sporting events. Personally I think to accept this is a recipe for discontent and to produce a repeat of the Lewis-Fernando relationship that the team paid so dearly for.
What Nick wants and can offer the team
I have absolutely no idea what Nick would want to put on the table as contract conditions. He is the only driver, who is on record to have said that in the weakening global economy F1 drivers should expected to be treated no differently to the rest of the industry. In other words, drivers can and should expect rather less income. I am fairly sure Nick could be signed on under much the same conditions that Heikki was employed on.
Nick is the most error-free driver currently on the race track and probably in the history of the sport (who can/will have 41 consecutive finishes?). Williams F1’s last pole position was gained by Nick and during 2008 he gained two fastest laps of the race. He is obviously not as slow as the press will lead you to believe. Nick is also known to be very good at car development and McLaren could be losing the services of Pedro de la Roso, so experience may come in handy. Nick also seems incredibly professional in a somewhat low-key fashion (even his partner Patricia Papen does not really have the model good looks that most F1 drivers aspire to). Possibly Nick simply comes over as too normal and just like the guy next door to be an F1 driver.
Who should it be for 2010?
The only way to make comparisons is to standardise driver performance. This is actually quite difficult and the best measure is how they related to their team mate. Kimi has under-performed compared to his team mate by 15%.
While Kimi has returned more fastest laps during the race than any other driver during the last three seasons, this rather suggests that he is inconsistent but does indeed have the equipment to win. In addition Kimi has put a significant number of demands which suggest that he should be given preferential treatment over McLaren’s current number one driver.
Finally Kimi has been pushed out of the Ferrari home. It seems they did not want him to such an extent that they were prepared to pay him his full contract to not drive in 2010. Can Fernando really be that good, or was it a chance to rid themselves of an uncommitted and under-performing driver?
The alternative choice is Nick, a driver who rarely makes mistakes and if given the equipment (and possibly some Jenson good fortunate) could shine the way the Brawn and Red Bull drivers did this year. Nick’s apparently quiet public appearance seems to ensure that he is most usually forgotten as an F1 driver.
Least we should forget when Nick and Kimi were team mates Nick scored 33% more points than Kimi. Nor should we forget that when Kimi was in the one of the fastest cars on the grid (McLaren) and Nick in one of the slowest (Jordan) a third of the way into the 2004 season Nick still had more points than Kimi.
For 2002 McLaren signed Kimi rather than Nick, despite having scored fewer points. Ironically Nick had been associated with McLaren and their then sponsors (West) for a number of years and so was easily assessed in terms of talent. Further in 1999 he was the McLaren test driver.
McLaren defended their decision by saying that Kimi had more room for improvement than Nick. Is there evidence that Kimi has more room for improvement and is more hungry for wins and committment to the team in 2010 than Nick? What Kimi wants in his contract suggests less commitment that you might reasonably expect given his salary demands. Is it coincidence that Kimi has put his house up for sale in Finland for $21.5 million and that he may have grown accustomed to a very lavish life style that second highest paid sportsperson gets in the world?
Have a look at this video of Nick driving the 1999 McLaren F1 car at the Goodwood Festival of Speed and I think you will agree there is commitment and speed.
I hope that this time that McLaren give the other driver the chance to see what he can deliver have a look at these overtaking maneuvers.
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Excitement Builds Up
Billed as the first OFFICIAL* twilight F1 race in history and built with zillions of eco-unfriendly oil bucks. This was the spectacular Finale for the 2009 Formula One season.
Here are some exciting facts to wet your appetite about the circuit that I have gleamed from their fantastic website.
Track Length (centre line): 5.555 Km
Track Length (ideal line): 5.491 Km
Track Width: 12 m – 16 m
Start / Finish Straight Width: 15 m
Longest Acceleration Section: 1173 m
Estimated Top Speed (F1 in front of turn 8): 317 Km/h
Estimated Lap Time (F1): 1 min : 40 sec
PADDOCK AREA (paved) 40 000 m2
RUN OFF AREA (asphalt) 59 100 m2
PROJECT AREA: 161.9 Hectares
Wanting to be a spectator to the first day-night F1 race?
For those intending to be spectators the instruction attached to your race ticket are most spectacularly detailed (4351 words to be precise), but there is important stuff to leave at home other than the obvious AK47 that your normally carry around for personal protection and you have to re-assign your pet Rottweiler its guard-dog duties to guide-dog duties.
i. any alcohol, food, beverages, glass bottle or container, any metal flag or banner pole, any flag or banner pole longer than 1 metre, chairs, benches, stools, any cooler box or hamper or helium balloons;
ii. pets or animals (other than a guide dog used to assist a Patron with a disability);
iii. any item that could be used as a weapon or firearm (whether imitation or not);
iv. golf buggies, bicycles, scooters, skateboards and roller blades/skates, fireworks, laser pointers, frisbees, prams and strollers, musical instruments and/or amplification equipment including public address systems, distress signals, whistles, loud hailers, horn or bugle, electronic equipment or other broadcast equipment;
v. any other item for which a Patron does not, in the opinion of ADMM, have an ordinary and reasonable use and which may be used to damage or deface property, buildings or any part of the Circuit and surrounding areas, hinder, obstruct or interrupt the Race or adversely affect public safety, any goods or Tickets for the purpose of sale or commercial distribution, any dangerous goods and any other item prohibited by law.
I guess this is to ensure that the UAE and FOM organisers provide all the entertainment and not the spectators and to protect various FOM approved commercial interests.
My unanswered letter of request to the organisers
Since I am not allowed to bring my own food I trust as the organizers you have food outlets that meet my strict dietary requirements for it to be prepared as Kashrut. Here is an abbreviated list of such requirements.
i) Only mammals that both chew their cud (ruminate) and have cloven hooves can be eaten (this excludes camels, rabbits and horses but I will consider giraffe meat).
ii) Only birds that do not eat other birds or bits of other vertebrate animals (carrion) can be considered. Only species of bird traditionally found in the Middle East can be prepared but this can be stretched to include the “Fowl of India”, which has to have been grain-feed. New World birds like Turkeys are forbidden. Finally birds that are feathered and able to immediate walk (precocial) can also only be considered so please no songbird pasties.
iii) Meat from the sea and rivers must have both fins and scales. Meat and milk may not be prepared together, this means served as in the same meal, served or cooked using the same utensils, or stored together.
iv) Mammals and bird meat must be slaughtered by a shochet with a shechita. The animals must be free of any disease or medical condition or defeat (either at birth of having developed latter). The slaughter must be done using a single continuous cutting action with a sharp knife that severs the jugular vein, carotid artery, esophagus or trachea and ensures the animal avoids unnecessary pain. As much blood as possible must be removed from the meat prior to further preparation and cooking.
v) All utensils used for preparing, cooking and serving may not have had contact with food not prepared to Kashrut standards and must be prepared by the hands of people who share my same religious belief and therefore who also only eat Kashrut-prepared food.
For further details please refer to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kashrut
My Race Summary
Some young German dude won when UK’s favourite champion retired. It could have gone wrong for this guy as a young Spanish dude accidentally drove into his pit spot just before he was pitting. Minor excitement included when a young Japanese dude overtook the “World Champion to be” driving a Toyota in only his second race with it. Lots of farewells, some official like BMW Sauber (with the cryptic Servus on their backsides meaning “bye” in Bavarian) and others unofficial (bye bye Romain Grosjean and keep in touch through Twitter and to Kazuki Nakajima there is a position going for kitchen staff at Kamui Kobayashi father’s sushi bar which he had originally reserved for his son).
I spent most of the time during the race installing the new KDE 4.3 NetBook Remix Ubuntu 9.10 (Karmic Koala) based Operating System launched late last week on a Lenovo S10e netbook. It looks great with funky cover flows to navigate across your open windows. One problem is that they seem to have forgotten a bin to get rid of unused icons such as the Firefox Install Icon. The pre-loaded Konquorer web browser is utterly useless as it does not open Google Documents nor works with Sidepodcast Real-time Doohickey. Absurd your would have thought they would have tested their browser with this benchmark F1 website.
I was very disappointed with Abu Dhabi – if you compare it to Brazil or Japan. Sure it was not deciding any championship (other than who will be the first loser) but somehow I did not get the feeling of a passionate public watching an epic race. It seemed like little toy cars rotating around a rather large blob of an over-decorated Xmas tree which was being watched by a surveillance webcam automatically posting videos onto YouTube. Utterly soulless.
Joe’s Blog summarised it rather more eloquently as “Great Place Poor Race”
* I think many would consider the first race of the season held in Melbourne, Australia to be unofficially and un-intentionally the first twilight race in F1 history.
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This is an analysis of the driver market as each team principal could be seeing it.
Ferrari – on the back foot
The team was completely unprepared for the mid-year loss of Felipe. It has certainly cost them a likely third-place in the championship. Replacing Kimi with Fernando is a slightly strange decision on first appearance.
Few would argue that Fernando is not overall the better racing package (Driving, Marketing, and appeal to the Tifosi). Too date Ferrari have had two good drivers, which when you even things up over the past three seasons, are not been too dissimilar in racing talent.
Neither driver appears to demand a number-one status, so Felipe helped Kimi secure his World Championship in 2007, and Kimi returned the favour in 2008 giving Felipe the chance to win in 2008.
The Alonso acquisition is also clearly linked to sponsorship but potentially could backfire on the team by destabilising it (trouble has accompanied his last two seasons). Fernando likes (and may even needs) to be centre and focus of the team.
Felipe is not going to accept playing second fiddle without a fight. In truth, I think Ferrari are not expecting Felipe to be immediately competitive on his return. The team will be by default returning to a single-driver-focussed team like in its glorious immediate post-millennium MS dominated period. Perfect for Fernando, and possible hell for Felipe.
I sincerely hope Felipe returns with even more fight in him to take on and more than occasionally beat Fernando to keep the team honest (I am not entirely optimistic though).
Kimi had a contract with Ferrari which would have taken considerable negotiation and payment to get out of. Read Kimi could and would demand a lot of money. I am speculating that Kimi had a very healthy financial packet (incentive) if he did not drive for another team or decided to try rallying.
The rallying option with Ferrari/Fiat could be really mutually attractive. Firstly, if Felipe fails to get back to competitive driving they could draft Kimi back to pair with Fernando (Kimi could therfore have a back-door to regain an F1 seat). Secondly I think Kimi could promote Fiat in its rally ambitions (a future Finnish World Rally Champion in the making).
That Ferrari could not draft MS back was a huge blow to their strategy in 2009 and I doubt that we will ever see him back in an F1 race seat (I also hope not to see this happen). For next year Ferrari having a returning (and hopefully recovered Felipe) teamed-up with temper-tantrum Fernando so I think will be on the back foot compared to Team McLaren.
Conclusion: Fernando and Felipe are the drivers with a remote chance of seeing Kimi Rallying in a Fiat.
McLaren – on the front foot
Quite obviously the team is built around Lewis. The second driver is very much a supporting role. The team will not want to necessarily repeat the mistakes of 2007 with signing two drivers each wanting number one status.
However, the second driver does need to score points as this has hurt their last two campaigns. McLaren have now almost the best package (competitive at a range of low and high downforce circuits). I think next year they will be immediately and massively competitive from the start.
This year they have run with the imposed extra weight of the KERS, this will have helped them design a car with the extra weight of fuel while still optimising their weight distribution (Ferrari will have the same advantage).
On paper Kimi is a good choice as he has little time for in-team feuds and will certainly be quicker than his Finnish country-man. Delve deeper and its not quite such a easy decision.
Firstly Kimi will demand a very large pay package (I am sure he has a clause with a lower settlement if he drives for another team to compensate for lost income). McLaren may not be in the position (or willing to) fork out so much. Kimi is not the most open with his data and information, and further does not really like all the public relations bit which is central to McLaren’s business plan.
Is Kimi really the right person to join Lewis in the Johnnie Walker driver pact to “never drink and drive”?.
On Kimi’s side there must be doubts, McLaren is a team designed around Lewis who is a naturally talented but error-prone driver. Will Kimi be in a position to beat his team mate? While I think Kimi could join McLaren, I think it is far from such a forgone conclusion that the press thinks.
Supposing McLaren do not take up Kimi what options are there? Of course they could keep Heikki, he is marketable and supportive so he is an option card if other negotiations fail.
There are a lot of drivers without confirmed seats, two of whom statistically have the highest chance of bringing the coveted “number 1″ status. I know everyone thinks Jenson is automatically going to win the championship (very good odds on that one being correct) but will he also sign for Brawn next year?
Jenson wants his previous large salary package restored which Brawn appear to be a little reluctant to provide. It has not been discussed but I bet Jenson has had discussions with McLaren. Sure it is unlikely he would go to the Woking factory, but he could still come in cheaper than Kimi and with a more-user friendly profile for the sponsors. Can you imagine Jenson pushing photographers over, or having reporters having to step over you because of a hang-over from last night’s party?
Since McLaren’s relationship with Mercedes appears to be at least slightly strained they could possibly run two Brits in the same team.
McLaren is likely to be a better seat than Brawn whose success this year was based on a considerable development time, past Honda capital investment and a fortuitous engine choice combined with other teams getting it seriously wrong at the start of the season.
We can discount Rubens at McLaren (the blah blah blah story) together with Nico (he is bespoke to Brawn due to Mercedes love affair of the golden boy).
So what is left that could arguably be better than Heikki? As I see it only Timo and Nick. I am going to discount Adrian (perfect pairing with Lewis in terms of driver compatibility) since he makes a mess of too many things from pit-stops to silly racing incidents.
Toyota have managed to un-sell Jarno so that his prospects next year are virtually nil and other drivers like Tonio and the kindergartens are too much of an unknown.
Of course Nick is the perfect second driver, he has had past connections with the team (still holds the Goodwood Festival of Speed record driving a McLaren F1 car in 1999), given a point-scoring car he will deliver consistently without threatening team harmony. For British tastes he is somewhat colourless in terms of marketing but being German he could help repair relations with Mercedes.
I rate Timo as possibly a faster than Nick but a less complete overall package for delivering points to back up Lewis’ championship aspirations. Timo being German has similar value to Nick with respect to appeasing Mercedes but has a slightly more colourful personality.
Conclusion: the most obvious choice is Kimi but delving deeper and doubts emerge about his compatibility. Both Nick and Timo should be considered if the decision not to renew Heikki’s contract is taken. If negotiations fail at the Brawn camp Jenson could be a surprise option.
Red Bull: both feet firmly planted on Terra Firma
We know Red Bull will run Sebastian and Mark. There was some rubbish reporting about Kimi joining the team at the expense of Mark. It became more ridiculous with the suggestion that Mark would move to Toro Rossa. Firstly, next year Toro Rosso’s umbilical cord will be cut and it will be an independent team. Secondly I cannot see Mark agreeing to such an arrangement.
Conclusion: An unchanged Team.
Brawn: Standing on one foot
Since Brawn and Mercedes have decided to hop into bed with each other they are only likely to have one available seat for their current two drivers who will likely fill the top two spots in the drivers championship.
Mercedes desire to have Nico fill the one seat is almost certain. The other seat is reserved for Jenson if he wishes it but on their terms. Brawn still hold the ace card, since this year it could be argued their cars early-season advantage helped both drivers.
If Jenson’s salary demands are higher than Brawn’s pockets, they have a back-up plan of using Rubens. If Brawn cannot pay for Jenson we can probably discount Kimi as an option for the team.
Conclusion: Brawn hold the ace card while Nico and Jenson are clearly obvious choices, Jenson could elect to find a better offer elsewhere and Rubens is plan B. They have no need to consider other drivers.
Toyota: no shoes for their feet?
Toyota has no options on either of its drivers. This clearly means they need to provide the parent company a very clear and fresh plan to be considered for funding next year.
Joe Saward says of Jarno that over one lap he is the bench-mark for maximum speed, but his consistency and race pace are concerns. While they were unsuccessful in their pursuit of Robert they remain hopeful for Kimi. I am not sure on what planet they live on?
Kimi is not a complete enough a driver to go to Toyota and build the team up for success like MS did at Ferrari. I am sure Toyota would pick-up the tabs for Kimi’s salary and fill the second seat with a Japanese hopeful.
Clearly Kimi and Robert were not the only options on Toyota’s shopping list. Although not stated I am sure both Brawn Drivers have had discussions. It is very likely that either one could bring the coveted number 1 status to the team.
One of the two Brawn drivers is also without a seat and at least one Brawn driver wants more financial benefit that the team may wish to pay for. Jenson would clearly be an attractive choice were his salary demands not met at Brawn. Rubens is really only attractive in the unlikely event of him winning the World Championship together with him being dumped by his team.
Conclusion: Toyota is the second most unlikely team to not reach the grid next year (after Sauber). They need a star driver (Kimi, Jenson or a “Number 1″) backed with probably a Japanese driver to sell themselves to the parent company. They will probably test Kamu in both remaining races as the second part of their strategy and Timo having a fractured vertebra.
Renault: At least one foot in one shoe
Although doubts over Renault’s participation have been now been resolved. Crashgate had the effect of making the team somewhat unsellable and in order to save face the parent company could not withdraw from F1 immediately.
With Robert confirming his seat in the team for at least one year they are in no hurry to fill the remaining seat. On the track Romain Grosjean has been similarly slow and crash-prone to Nelsinho who he replaced. Add the Briatore connection and his chances are nil for next year.
Were I Bob Bell I would bring Lucas di Grassi in for the final two races. Renault needs a complete new strategy (Bob Bell has said as much). I doubt that they will be winning anything next year, but if they can finish next year’s season with more points than this year (without the Alonso benefit) they will be progressing.
Robert is a young gun without the greatest set-up skills, so the obvious choice would be to draft in an experienced driver. Were I the team principal I would hire Nick before someone else does. It provides the most quantifiable known outcome for securing points.
Although both Timo and Adrian have also been linked to Renault they provide less assurance of scoring points (if not podiums). Something not discussed is Rubens at Renault (very very unlikely since I think he has better offers elsewhere), but just a consideration were he not to find an alternative drive.
Conclusion: Renault, is not going to be a team flush with money, so it needs to consolidate on its good choice of Robert with a more experienced driver to ensure it troubles the score board. Top of list has to be Nick with Timo.
Williams: Needing to find two replacement feet
Its fairly obvious that Nico is off to matrimony with Mercedes and been given a Brawn seat. With no Toyota engine contract, Kazuki is now not a necessary part of the wheeling and dealing. It is widely believed they will pick up Rubens.
I think there are other options. More importantly will Williams break rank and run a KERS car next year? Rubens might also have other options as well (e.g. Jenson wanting too much money so staying at Brawn, Toyota or Renault).
Personally, were I the team principal I would simply select the option that brought the most sponsorship from Rubens, Nick or Timo. Williams was the team that vetoed Sauber joining as 14th team since they wanted Sauber’s long-term sponsor Petronas (who clearly have little faith in the “Lotus” team).
Sam Michael has recently said of Nick “Against Kubica, Nick looks very good. To say that his career is over would be ridiculous”. He also went on to discuss the risks of using a rookie with so little time for testing. Despite this I think Nico Hülkenberg has a very good chance for a race seat. I think it is possible they are also eyeing Sauber’s other driver to accompany getting the sponsorship – just a thought. Nick brought to Williams rather more success with two podiums and a pole position than Mark in the same year.
Conclusion: Williams will probably replace one Nico with another. I will concede Rubens is the most likely, but I think they are still looking at Nick Heidfeld. Rubens is a bit old and and don’t forget Frank Williams was very critical of Ruben’s blah blah blah outburst.
Force India: Will inherit the same feet for their shoes?
Personally I am not expecting much change. Adrian is as good a driver as the team is likely to expect to get. Adrian’s propensity for mistakes and crashes will reduces his marketability elsewhere. I think Force India will honour Tonio’s loyalty to the team as the reserve driver, at least in the short term.
In the longer term they will obviously try and draft in Karun when he is ready, but not just yet. I think it is a team that could really go places next year and I hope they do.
Conclusion: A team unchanged from the end of 2009. Both Adrian and Tonio will know that the moment Karun looks ready their seat will not be safe.
Toro Rosso: Baby steps or the retirement park?
Red Bull’s junior team has rather been a graveyard for young talent (Christian, Scott, Tonio) and some older talent (le Sebastien). Next year is going to be tougher still with their independence from Red Bull.
Possibly now they are free from their sister team they will not need to run two kindergarten drivers. Were I the team boss, I would be filling Jarno Trulli’s email box. He is Italian, experienced and on the right day and on the right lap very fast. You at least have barometer in which to judge your young talent. I would then select which ever young talent came with the most sponsorship – possible Jaime (he is really not that bad!).
Conclusion: Toro Rosso will have new freedoms to explore a new wide world, but they cannot do it with their current naive driving talent. They need an experienced driver matched to a paying driver. Please apply here!
BMW Sauber: Both feet in the air
My team BMW Sauber with it’s now shadowy owners (QADBAK) is unlikely to be on the grid. I cannot see them having the opportunity to develop a car on the off-chance that another team will fail. They certainly cannot offer Nick any assurance of a drive for next year.
Other teams: the patter of tiny feet
The other teams I simply do not know enough. It seems reasonable for USF1 to hire Alex to help develop the car, beyond that I have no idea as they seem to have dropped the idea of recruiting an North America driver – surely JV will not return?.
Campos are rumoured to have Pedro (McLaren’s reserve driver) and Bruno (Senna) under consideration.
Manor racing will probably select Adam Carroll (Ireland’s A1GP driver) and either Anthony Davidson or Christien Klien.
The Malaysian “Lotus” team under the watchful eye of Mike Gascoyne could spring a surprise and hire Jarno.
I have realised that I have not really found poor little Heikki a seat. I would love to see him in another team so lets sow the seeds of wild speculation and say he will join a new outfit.
A lot depends on whether McLaren risk selecting Kimi, which Brawn driver wins the championship and whether Brawn will up their present offers to Jenson for a 2010 seat. I think the confirmations will only occur once the championship is won.
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