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Monthly Archives: August 2007

No Home at Renault for Alonso

Earlier in the week Flavio Briatore of Renault said he would love to have Alonso back at Renault, and then there were reports that Renault could make a bid to buy Alonso’s contract from McLaren for next year, reuniting him with the team he won his two Drivers World Championships for.

Today however Renault CEO Carlos Ghosn squashed the rumors by saying that Renault does not need Alonso to be successful in the future.

“Success in F1 is always the product of team work, It needs a perfect car, chassis, engine, tyres, team effort, and driver of course. The best driver cannot succeed without a perfect team and vice versa.”

“I demand from the team to compete at the highest level. If we cannot come first we have to be at least runner-up. But I do not interfere with the daily operations, for this we have Flavio (Briatore) and Alain (Dassas).

“The team know what it takes to win. This year, we started late because the title fight of 2006 took our full efforts until the very last race.”

“We had to pay for this and we had to get used to new tyres, a new driver. But I am absolutely confident we will be successful in 2008.

“But this is not depending on one person.”

Renault has always been reluctant to pay a huge amount to and for drivers, and have been known as the team in pitlane making the best use of it’s budget, which has never been one of the largest in Formula One. Knowing this it was surprising that Briatore would say that Renault would be prepared to buy Alonso out of his contract, as negotiations with Ron Dennis are known to be very difficult, especially if he has a signed contract in his hand.

What is known is that Alonso does have a contract with McLaren for next year, and even he admitted earlier in the week that he would be at McLaren next year. A year away from racing was also floated for Alonso next year, but again he knows that a year off is not desirable, especially next year when it will be the first season under a new rules package, and especially with traction control being outlawed. Spending a year on the sidelines would mean Alonso would come back a year behind all the other top contenders.

Look for Alonso in a McLaren next year, but for 2009, who knows, but the smart money is on either Toyota or BMW.

A1 GP Rules Changes

It’s almost time for the A1GP series to get underway for it’s third season, with testing going on over the last weeks, and both new and old drivers being named to fill the seats on the grid form each country.

The series has managed to capture the attention of a good fan base around the world, but in order to spice up the action even more there have been some significant rule changes over the second off season.

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New Qualifying Format

Qualifying has been changed significantly. There will still be four qualifying segments of 15 minutes each, but now the first two sessions will be used to set the grid for the first (sprint) race, and the second two quarters will be used to set the grid for the second (feature) race.

This means teams will no longer have to worry about two flying laps counting towards and aggregate time, and also they won’t have to worry about their finishing place in the first race determining their starting position for the feature race.

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Extra Pit Stop

The number of required pitstops for the feature race has been increased from one to two. The first one must still be completed between laps 8 and 16 of the feature race, while the new one will have a window, but that window will only be announced as pit lane opens 30 minutes before the start of the race.

With only 30 minutes to get their race strategy organized it should make for some interesting strategy decisions.

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Points Revamp

In an attempt to close up the championship even further, and keep more nations in the championship longer, there has been a points shake up, with extra points on offer deeper into the field.

The points for each race (both sprint and feature races are worth the same) will be awarded as follows: 1st 15, 2nd 12, 3rd 10, 4th 8, 5th 6, 6th 5, 7th 4, 8th 3, 9th 2, 10th 1, with an extra point available for setting fastest lap in each race.

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My 2 Cents

The racing over the last two seasons has been good, but the old system of setting the grid by incorporating the results of the sprint race did lead to situations where I am sure drivers backed off to secure a place instead of chasing hard more often than anyone would have liked. Kudos to A1GP for correcting that situation and moving the allocation of grid positions back to where it should be, in qualifying.

Also it is great to see qualifying moving back to the more traditional “go for it witout any constraints” qualifying, without any worries about having to put in two great laps to secure your grid position for the sprint race. This series bills itself as the World Cup of Motorsport, and features the future titans and lions of motorsport, so they should be out there going all out, not holding anything back. Now if only we could get the FIA and Bernie to take notice for Q3 in Formula One.

As for the points being awarded further into the field, that too is a good thing. With young drivers going all out there is sure to be additional chances for mistakes, so with the extra points safety net a driver can screw up a little, and still remain in the points.

Overall some good improvements to a series that is gaining popularity, and quite honestly is one of the best series to watch.

Fiat vs Ferrari vs F1 Ferrari

Another Formula One speed demonstration, this time by Ferrari. First to start is a road going Fiat, followed by a road going Ferrari driven by Eddie Irvine, then Michael Schumacher chases after them both in a F1 Ferrari.

Formula One 1967

Going way way back, before Formula One was a huge rolling advertisement, and when some would say drivers were real drivers, and when the Nurburgring was a feared 13 mile plus track, with 70 plus corners and elevation changes of over 1000 feet, a far cry from todays sanitized tracks.

Check out this great film of the 1967 German Grand Prix, won the late Denny “The Bear” Hulme, who then went on to win the 1967 World Championship, New Zealands first and only Formula One World Champion.

Here is another great film form the 1967 season. No commentary, but some amazing footagefrom a number of the races in 1967.

Yet another clip from 1967, this time from the 25th Annual Monaco Grand Prix. This one again was won by Denny Hulme, and also featufred the fatal crash of Ferrari driver Lorenzo Bandini.

Why NASCAR Should Drop Title Sponsors

Today we are greeted with the news that NASCAR is now scrambling around to find a suitable title sponsor for the Busch Series to replace Busch when they leave at the end of this year.

There have been many names thrown about since the announcement that Busch would not be returning including Subway, KFC, Dunkin Donuts and Allstate. The title sponsorship for the series was rumored to be up for grabs for about 30 million dollars per year, with about a third of that being spent on marketing and promotion, including a large buy of advertising time on ESPN to go along with the race coverage.

With all the hype surrounding NASCAR and the big steps it has taken to becoming one of the biggest sports in the world it is surprising that the title sponsor has not yet been found, and rumor again is that the dollar figure is dropping almost daily, and is probably about half of the original asking price, with the media buy portion a lot smaller than it originally was.

Subway has been rumored to be the front running contender, but it appears now that the main stumbling block with their sponsorship of the series is category exclusivity. With Subway being involved in the very broad “quick service restaurant” category, and with existing car owner deals with companies like Arby’s, McDonalds and Domino’s already involved, and owners that are talking to others in the same category, it seems a deal cannot be put together.

Of course this has risen to the surface lately with all the news about the ongoing lawsuits between NASCAR, AT&T and Nextel/Sprint, and it seems Subway do not want to get involved in anything that could get as costly and time consuming as that whole mess.

Title sponsorships of this magnitude are not good for the sport. Sure NASCAR owns the sport and can do whatever it wants, but going out into the market place competing for sponsors with it’s own teams and then taking whole sponsor categories away from their teams is not a good thing, after all no matter how ignorant and out of touch NASCAR is, without the teams it has absolutely nothing, and without money there are no teams.

As we have seen in recent years team sponsorships are getting more and more difficult to find as the costs of running a team increase, and this is proven by the number of mergers with outside marketing organizations. I am sure Jack Roush did not really want to sell half of the team he has worked so hard to set up, but he could see the writing on the wall and the cost spiral moving upwards all the time, so he did what he had to do, bring in someone with extra marketing clout to make sure his team survives. Over at Evernham Motorsport it’s exactly the same story, more money needed and sponsors looking at the moves NASCAR is making and getting cold feet.

NASCAR, like all organizations has become a huge corporation, with huge facilities and large numbers of people to support. It’s needs for money are growing all the time, and noone is really sure if there are enough sponsorship dollars out there for NASCAR and the teams to have enough. Maybe it’s time for everyone to go on a cost cutting mission and diet, including NASCAR, so that it can guarantee the survival of it’s teams long term.

Ford Formula One Road Car Comparison

Another Formula One speed comparison, again it’s from a few years ago, but still gives a great comparison of speed between a Formula One Car and other cars.

This one was created for the English Top Gear show, and features Johnny Herbert in a Stewart Grand Prix Formula One Car, Colin McRae in a Focus Rally Car and host Jeremy Clarkson driving a Ford Cougar (European sports car about the size of a Focus).

This one is a little different to most of the Formula One Speed comparisons as it is held on a wet Silverstone Circuit in England. Look out for Colin McRae as he is quite spectacular in the rally car.

Glock to Replace Schumacher in 08 ?

Glock to replace Schumacher in 08Ralf Schumacher is a man whose options to stay in Formula One appear to be very limited, despite the recent comments of his father Rolf Schumacher, who said that Ralf will be in Formula One next year, and the he has several options.

There have been a number of drivers linked to his Toyota F1 seat, and the latest one sees current GP2 racer Timo Glock taking over the seat fulltime next year. It is known that Glock has visited the Toyota F1 factory in the last few week.

Glock does have a BMW deal, but with Heidfeld and Kubica recently being signed to race next year, and with no announcement about the test and reserve driver for next year so far, it all points to a Glock exit from BMW. It is believed that he does have a clause in his BMW contract that would allow him to leave for a race seat elsewhere.

Even if it is not Glock that will be in the cockpit of the Toyota F1 car next year, there are signs that Ralf will not be returning, with team manager John Howett commenting at the Turkish Grand Prix that he is just one of the drivers under consideration for the ride next year.

Offering just a glimmer of hope for Schumacher over the weekend was the news that he had reportedly been offered 1/3 of his current salary to stay for one more year, but this could not be confirmed.

How Fast is a Formula One McLaren

Have you ever wondered just how fast a McLaren Mercedes Formula One car is compared to a road car ? Well have a look at the video below to find out.

It’s a couple of years old now, but the video is narrated by racing legend Murray Walker, and features David Coulthard driving the F1 McLaren, pitted against Ian Flux in an A series Mercedes and Johnny Mowlem in an E Series Mercedes, at Silverstone Circuit in England.

More On Alonso and his Complaints and 2008 from Niki Lauda

It Takes a Team FernandoIn the recent post about Fernando Alonso claiming that he is responsible for more than half a second of the McLaren teams gains this year and that Alonso wants more McLaren recognition and love, Lewis Hamilton has now weighed in with his views, hitting back at Alonso’s claims.

Hamilton did acknowledge that Alonso has played a big part and has contributed “hugely” to the team this year, he said that Alonso has not recognized the contribution of the 1000 other staff at McLaren Mercedes in the teams great form this year.

In an interviw on ITV Hamilton said “It’s a lot of people, so if he’s found six tenths, then what have they found? It’s really through their work.”

“You know… they make improvements, we test them out, so it’s really a team thing; it’s not one individual that’s found all that time.”

McLaren F1 CEO Martin Whitmarsh also weighed in with his views on Alonso’s comments “I think Fernando is immensely competitive and looking for an advantage,” he said. “He’s certainly bringing a lot — he’s a great, great driver.”

Niki Lauda has also chipped in his views on the current complaining and moaning by Alonso, adding that he thinks that Alonso is just handing the advantage to Hamilton, as he is more focused than Alonso and is just getting on with the job.

“When they sit in the car, you cannot control them,” the Austrian legend told the German newspaper Die Welt. He predicted that the pair will “try everything” to become this year’s world champion. “He (Alonso) is complaining, he is thinking about Renault or BMW, it cannot be helpful for him now. He is not focused enough.”

Lauda also thinks that Alonso’s behavior and attitude with McLaren is “dangerous” because if it has not already, it will make him outsider in his own team. “It could be the beginning of a negative spiral for him, especially if he does not get a grip on it.”

Alonso and 2008

Alonso also made reference to where he will drive in 2008 this weekend, admitting that his options are limited “There are not many options I think and I have a contract with McLaren so the possibilities for the near future are around here, driving for McLaren”.

He was also asked if he was happy at McLaren and he replied “As far as I have a winning car, I’m happy. This year we have a winning car, we are 1st and 2nd in the drivers and leading the constructors so I am happy”

This adds fuel to the fire that some of his recent comments have been misunderstood by many, as it seems form his comments that no matter what is going on in the team, if he has a winning car he is ok. How that leaves the rest of the McLaren team feeling is unknown, but I am sure that within the 1000 people employed by the team and related companies it does not sit well. As Niki Lauda commented he is on the fast track to becoming an outsider within his own team, which is dangerous for any driver.

With Alonso being realistic on his options for 2008, Niki Lauda added his comments to Alonso’s own comments, saying Alonso would be imbecilic to leave McLaren. “He has a contract with McLaren until 2009, so, Dennis would need $10 million for his release, Alonso would want $20 million from his team — no driver is worth that much.”

Lauda, then added his own take on F1 drivers, “F1 drivers are assholes, nothing is different to in my day. Only with arrogance can you be successful. But instead of complaining constantly, Alonso needs to simply try to beat his teammate on the track.”