An unfortunate question

Robert Kubica’s accident yesterday has left the Formula 1 world in a genuine state of shock. Robert is a lovely bloke and a bloody fast racing driver, and after spending time with him in Valencia just a few days ago and listening to his thoughts on the positive steps his Renault team had taken for 2011, to learn that he is in such a bad way has hit everyone for six.

With the news that Robert may be forced to sit the majority of the 2011 season out, there is thus a natural but unfortunate question which will be asked and will no doubt be poured upon over the coming days. Who will step into his seat?

The problem for Renault is that Robert is an absolute number 1. His natural instincts and feeling inside the car make him a phenomenal car developer and the team will miss his input and directional lead at this most critical period of development. With just three test sessions left, Renault needs every piece of insight and feedback to develop what could be an excellent racing car into a race winner.

There were a few raised eyebrows when Renault launched with five reserve drivers, but their role could now become all important to the team. Naturally, all of the talk right now is centering around the two most experienced reserve drivers, and the team’s two official third drivers, Bruno Senna and Romain Grosjean.

In Valencia, Eric Boullier said that should a reserve driver be needed it would most likely be Senna who received the call as Romain Grosjean has commitments in the GP2 and GP2 Asia championships, the latter of which begins racing next week. Grosjean has just half a season of F1 under his belt and that was over a year ago. Senna meanwhile has an entire campaign (bar one race) of racing in F1, albeit at HRT who put no updates on their car in 2010.

I rate Senna highly and a promotion to a race seat could very much be a case of “cometh the hour, cometh the man.” But will the team take the risk, or will they, as has been suggested, look to a more experienced driver to lead the team in 2011, for while Vitaly Petrov has shown class and speed he is not yet close to being a team leader.

Nick Heidfeld and Tonio Liuzzi are two names which have already been mentioned. Both are unemployed and both are highly regarded, with much experience in Formula 1. For Liuzzi, it could be the shot he’s been waiting his entire career for and an opportunity to finally show the potential that his numerous fans have awaited since he made his debut back in 2005. For Nick Heidfeld, his vast experience could prove to be the key, and “Quick Nick” would be keen to show he can still mix it with the youngsters.

Anthony Davidson is a name which has not yet been mentioned but which I believe should be. Rarely has there been a better car developer than Davidson. His work at BAR Honda was incredibly highly valued, and he made something of a name for himself as a Friday driver. He has recent and relevant racing experience for Super Aguri in F1, regular simulator sessions over at Mercedes have kept him sharp, and racing for Peugeot at Le Mans hasn’t done him any harm either. Could he lead the team? You bet. Could he take a good car and turn it into a race winner? Absolutely. He is, perhaps, the very best driver to do so in these circumstances.

Clever, technically gifted, a wonderful development driver, a proper bloke and a team player, Davidson would be a perfect fit.

And what of Giorgio Pantano? The 2008 GP2 champion is the only GP2 champion not to have gained promotion back to Formula 1 and for many this is a baffling fact. Pantano is now into his 30s and he is a very different driver to the youngster who made his F1 debut in 2004. He is fast in everything he ever steps into, and if he was to be afforded a shot at an F1 drive you can guarantee he would give it everything. He has recently been praised for his technical diligence by such big hitters as Chip Ganassi and his GP2 team boss Alfonso de Orleans Borbon who claimed that Pantano, along with Sebastian Vettel, was the best driver he had ever run. Eric Boullier knows Pantano well given both of their long shared careers in F3000 and GP2, and will also be well aware of the very close relationship between Pantano and Vitaly Petrov given that it was in 2007 when, as Pantano’s team-mate, Petrov made perhaps his greatest strides as a driver before being paired with Robert Kubica at Renault last season. Would Renault take the risk on a man who still, for some reason, has question marks hanging over him? It would certainly be a bold move. But would favour fortune the bold? And yes he had an F1 shot in 2004 and didn’t make the most of it, but anybody who read my piece on Giorgio in last month’s F1 Racing mag will hopefully see why he deserves a second shot.

Of course there are others. Nico Hulkenberg has moved to Force India as a tester and has been mentioned as a possible replacement, but again if you bypass Senna on the sole basis of his inexperience then that counts out Hulkenberg too. The same is true of Lucas di Grassi, who is a magnificent car developer. Sebastien Bourdais might feel that F1 is unfinished business for him, and there has even been talk that Kimi Raikkonen could step into the void.

It all seems far too early to be talking about any of this, but sadly while nobody wanted to be in this situation and while our thoughts and prayers will rest with Robert and what everyone hopes will be a swift recovery, this is a question which will be asked and must be asked because there are just three test sessions left until the season begins, and the next one starts in just three days’ time.

What can be in no doubt, however, is that everyone in this sport hopes that whatever replacement is made is but a temporary change, and that we see Robert back in a racing car soon. Mieć odwagę Robert.

F1 to Watch – Alice Powell

Alice Powell - c/o Alice Powell

Time to resurrect a feature I used to write for Formula 1 Magazine back in the day… F1 to Watch. The concept is simple enough: every now and then I’ll bring you a profile or an interview with an up and coming racer who I reckon has something that little bit special. Back in the F1 Mag days our hit rate was pretty good – Alan van de Merwe went on to play a big role at BAR Honda and now drives the FIA Medical car, Ryan Briscoe may never have raced in F1 but has been hugely succesful in the States, Christian Klien got a good run at Jaguar and Red Bull before becoming a tester and then moving to HRT this season, and Tonio Liuzzi went on to smash the F3000 crown and then make his mark in F1.

So to bring this feature back to life, I can’t think of anybody better than the 2010 Formula Renault BARC champion Alice Powell. I first met Alice last year when she was in the middle of her debut single-seater season in Formula Renault UK and I was immediately impressed with her maturity and outstanding racecraft.

She moved from karts into Ginetta Juniors in the winter of 2007, coming fifth in the winter series before taking part in the full Junior championship in 2008 in which she recorded four podium finishes. In 2009 Alice moved into single seaters and the Formula Renault UK championship which launched the careers of the likes of Lewis Hamilton and Kimi Raikkonen, joining the hugely succesful Manor Competition as team-mate to eventual champion Dean Smith.

This season Alice moved across with Manor to Formula Renault BARC and became the first female driver to win not only races but also the championship.

Still aged just 17, Alice Powell has already announced herself to the single seater fraternity and is a talent I can’t wait to see develop and grow over the coming seasons.

Winning at Silverstone c/o Alice Powell

Will Buxton: Congratulations on winning the championship. Talk us through this season.

Alice Powell: At the start of the year I didn’t know if I was racing but we managed to get some money together at the last minute. The season started off well and I was able to keep consistent which I think ended up being the key to the championship. The wins I collected combined with regular podiums is what made the difference.

WB: How much did your experience of the car from the year before help?

AP: It was the same chassis and car just with a restrictor plate, so I think that helped a lot. But I missed out on quite a lot of testing. When I finished the season in 2009 I didn’t step back into the car until March, while all my rivals had been testing every week through the winter. It took me a while at the first round stepping back in. I took two fifths though, and by the next round at Silverstone I made the jump and took pole. The season just rolled from there. It was a great year.

WB: You’ve come to a championship very fast. It was only three years ago that you made your car racing debut in the Ginetta Junior series. Why did you decide to begin your life outside karting in Ginettas rather than Formula Ford or Formula BMW?

AP: It was to learn the circuits mainly. It was on the TOCA package and I went to one of the TOCA rounds in 2007 and I saw what it was about and how much pressure you get, how the TV coverage made up part of the package… and the crowds too, there were loads of people there so that got us excited. So in 2008 I did Ginetta Juniors and I got to learn the tracks, but the step up to Formula Renault in 2008 was huge. I was still 15 so I couldn’t test over the winter and I had a short amount of running before the testing ban came into effect. The biggest lesson was learning about using slicks and wings, jumping from treaded tyres to slicks and trusting how much grip the cars had and how much downforce you have was a big challenge.

But Ginettas are great fun and I managed to do five rounds this year alongside my Formula Renault championship.

WB: 2009 saw you alongside some pretty strong opposition like Dean Stoneman, Lewis Williamson and Dean Smith, guys who have gone on to some good things this year. But they’re all about five years older than you… how did you find it, stepping into Formula Renault, aged 15, getting used to slicks and wings and being that much younger than all your male rivals?

AP: It was tough but I was very lucky to have Dean Smith as my team-mate. It was his third year in Formula Renault and he’d done a year in Formula BMW so I learnt a lot from him. I learnt so much that year from a racing perspective, and I was studying for my GCSEs too, so it was pretty hectic. Racing against those guys though was a great school and we got some great press from getting some good results.

WB: And being with Manor too must have been a big boost – they’re a team that have done it all in Formula Renault and Formula 3 and now of course they have a GP3 and Formula 1 team, too. How much did their experience help you?

AP: They’re a great team and their help was fantastic both in my rookie season in Formula Renault UK and of course this year in Formula Renault BARC. My engineer Sarah and I get on brilliantly and I learn something new from her every single weekend. She’s done Formula Renault since I don’t even know how long and Formula Vauxhall before that so she knows the ins and outs of the car and she’s worked with some great drivers and she was pleased with my performances this year.

WB: So it was only your second season in single seaters, you missed most of pre-season testing and didn’t even know you’d be racing. Could you even have hoped to have been fighting for the title at the start of the year?

AP: In January I wasn’t even thinking about winning a championship. I just wanted to get out and race in whatever I could. When we got the money together and I looked at the competition I thought, ‘Well, these guys have done a hell of a lot of testing so it’s going to be a tough year.’ But once I got the first win under my belt at Silverstone it all turned around. I was second in the championship, 25 points behind, and it sort of stayed like that for most of the season with me chipping away. We got to the final round and I was 16 points behind and I really just got my head down, stayed consistent, kept a cool head and it all paid off.

No, boys don't take getting beaten by a girl at all badly c/o Alice Powell

WB: This is bound to be a question you’re asked a million times, but as a girl in a predominantly male world, how do you find you are treated? When you beat the boys are they a little bit more upset than if a boy had beaten them? When the helmet goes on are you just another racing driver or is there some kind of novelty in the fact you’re a girl?

AP: When I started karting at the age of eight and a half I think I was the only girl in the championship I was in and I remember being very conscious of that. It felt strange. For the first four years of karting I remember still feeling that, much more than I ever have done since switching to cars. Now… now that I’ve won a championship, and even before that, it simply doesn’t play on my mind. I just get on with it… I don’t want to say I’m one of the lads, but you know what I mean. I’m a racing driver. And I’m a champion, so after this year I hope their questions, if they had any, have been answered.

WB: Now, sponsorship and money are crucial in this world. Does the fact you’re a female racer help you at all?

AP: It is definitely a help as some of the companies we speak to will ask how many other girls are in my championship and right now I can tell them I am the only one. It’s a great USP and it can attract them. So from that perspective yes being a girl is something that can help, but it all comes down to results and I’ve got to do the job on track.

WB: Let’s go back to basics then… what got you into motorsport?

AP: Ever since I was young my Grandad used to go to F1 races, and I remember looking out for him in the grandstands. I think that’s when I caught the bug. I used to drive around the garden on my bike pretending I was Michael Schumacher. I’ve always enjoyed it and I guess my family might say the biggest mistake they ever made was taking me to a kart track for the first time. It started as a hobby but now its my life.

WB: So who were your heroes?

AP: When I was younger it was Michael Schumacher. I had a little set of red overalls I’d wear on my bike and a red helmet. I was a huge Schumacher fan.

Alice races for the Virgin F1 affiliated Manor Competition

WB: Now looking to the future, you have a championship under your belt. What is the next step?

AP: Given that there was a new Formula Renault car in 2010 and they’re making some developments on it for 2011, allied to the fact it is on the Touring Car package and has good fan attendance and TV coverage, Formula Renault UK is the aim for the budget I have. After that I would love to move up to GP3, then hopefully GP2.

WB: And that Manor link could be crucial. I mean so many young drivers now depend on teams or backers to pull them through. Sebastian Vettel for example has been nurtured by Red Bull for his entire career. Are you hoping to stick with Manor because there is a link all the way to F1?

AP: I think it is important and I’m sure a lot of people would automatically point at staying with Manor because of the Virgin F1 link, but that’s not the reason. The thing is that Manor are a great team. They are always there for me, be it on track or off track. They give me advice and try to help and they’re always on the end of the phone. Sure the F1 link is great, but the reason that I love racing for Manor is that I feel a part of a family, and it is a family that knows how to win. Again though, you need results above everything else, and with Manor I know I can get results.

WB: So I guess the absolute objective is Formula 1?

AP: Definitely. It sounds, sitting here right now, a long way away but you have got to be positive about it and take it step by step.

WB: And you’re still so young. This year in F1 we saw the youngest ever F1 champion crowned and I was just wondering how much pressure there is on young drivers these days to rise through the ranks so quickly?

AP: I think that young drivers of course aspire to be like Lewis Hamilton or Sebastian Vettel, Fernando Alonso, but you’ve got to remember how hard they work. It’s not just going to happen for you because you’re young. You have got to work hard in the gym, in debrief working on data… it doesn’t just fall into your lap. But there is a lot of pressure because champions are getting younger. But I do think that is a good thing because it could get more people into the sport. But seeing Jenson Button win the title last year in his late 20s and the fact that after so many years in GP2 Pastor Maldonado has made it to F1 is also really positive. It’s a good time for Formula 1, and hopefully in a few years time I’ll be there too.

F1 bound? Alice Powell is one to watch.

The Man Who Formula 1 Forgot

“When I arrived in go karts at the top level, racing in World and European championships, he was winning all of them. I thought that the guy was a really incredible talent.”

Fernando Alonso is not a man who hands out plaudits to rivals on a whim. A double F1 world champion and one of the hardest racers of his era, only a truly special driver could merit such words from a man recently voted as the best driver in the sport by his fellow drivers. But the man he’s speaking about is not a Hamilton, a Raikkonen nor even a Schumacher.

The man who Fernando Alonso once referred to as “invincible,” is Giorgio Pantano.

Want to find out why Giorgio Pantano is, to many people in Formula 1, the greatest lost talent of his generation? Then get yourself down to the newsagent! Giorgio’s story is one of the most heartbreaking in modern motorsport and the only place you can read it, and find out why so many people rate him so highly, is in my article in the January 2011 issue of F1 Racing magazine, which is out today!

Brave the snow and get thee to a newsagent!

When is a Lotus a Lotus?

Confusion reigns over which Lotus is Lotus.
A Buxton photoshop job

So it is official. Lotus will return to Formula 1 next year.

What do you mean aren’t they already in F1? Haven’t you been paying attention?

It’s all just such a mess, isn’t it? Even working within the sport it is testing my patience and confusing the hell out of me so goodness knows how this situation is supposed to translate to the wider world outside the gated confines of the F1 paddock. I guess like most things F1, it will appear to be a big squabble over relatively little by a bunch of rich people who really should know better.

The fact is that as things stand we’re set to have two teams in F1 next season known as Lotus Renault.

One of them is the team who entered Formula 1 in 2010 as Lotus Racing but who will next season become known as Team Lotus and will use Renault engines.

The other is a team which started its life in 1981 as Toleman, became Benetton, then Renault and is now still Renault although Renault no longer owns the team which is now instead owned in the most part by Genii Capital and in a minority by Group Lotus. Group Lotus will become the team’s title sponsor in 2011 thus creating Lotus Renault.

It seems pretty simple but it has led to much confusion, especially as both teams are expected to run the same livery next season. The announcement of Renault (Genii)’s link up with Group Lotus was made with an image of how their car will look next season, paying homage to the classic JPS Lotus livery of the 1970s and 1980s. And here came the first stink… because Lotus Racing / Team Lotus had already said they’d be switching to the Black and Gold colour scheme next year and has now apparently been beaten to the punch.

I’ve been a big fan of Lotus Racing / Team Lotus from the outset and so I immediately thought this was a bit of a petty move by Group Lotus. However it is worth noting that on November 6th, respected French journalist Jean-Louis Moncet reported on his blog that: “I add today, 6 November, at 15h42, a story that will change the hearts of lovers of beautiful Formula 1. One of my very good friends called me and said: “Jean-Louis, everything you say about Renault, Genii Capital, of Renault in 2011, and Lotus is true, but one thing … What? “You’ve got the wrong color, it will not be green, but black and gold. -To recall JPS? “Of course.” What emotion!”

Lotus Racing then announced on November 11th that it would be switching from Green and Yellow to Black and Gold in 2011. So you’ve got to ask the question, who was trying to out-do who?

But let’s say, for the sake of argument, that Lotus Racing wasn’t aware of Moncet’s blog or Renault and Group Lotus’ plans to switch to Black and Gold… it would have made sense for Lotus Racing to switch to the Black and Gold as Lotus Group in its sponsorship of Takuma Sato in Indycar, and in its proposed livery for ART in GP2 and GP3 used the Green and Yellow utilised by Lotus Racing in F1 in 2010. Why, then, would Group Lotus choose anything other than the Green and Yellow for F1? A switch to Black and Gold by Lotus Racing, as another classic Lotus livery, would have been a way to keep everyone happy. Now we have two teams due to run the same livery.

Another classic Lotus livery

Frankly I wouldn’t be surprised if Lotus Racing / Team Lotus keeps its Green and Yellow, but then that’ll just confuse everyone who watches GP2 and GP3 as they’ll think the ART cars are Team Lotus when in fact they’re Group Lotus. Of course it does mean that DAMS, who this year ran the Renault F1 livery, can keep the Renault F1 livery and then we’ll have two Lotus liveries in GP2 – ART in Green and Yellow and DAMS in Black and Gold. Add in the fact that Team Lotus boss Tony Fernandes will be running his Air Asia team in GP2 next season, and I reckon he should field a Yellow and Blue livery reminiscent of the old Camel Lotus, and then we’ll have three Lotus liveries in GP2! Huzzah! He could even field Bruno Senna and Kazuki Nakajima if he wanted to bring the Camel Lotus and 1987 line-up back.

Back to F1 though… and here’s where it all gets a bit confusing.

Lotus Renault, as in Lotus Racing / Team Lotus, will continue to have its cars classified as Lotus in Formula 1 results. Lotus Renault, as in Group Lotus, will continue to have its cars classified as Renault in Formula 1 results.

Group Lotus has said that it has formed its alliance with Genii Capital and Renault because it wants to be successful in Formula 1 to help sell cars on the road, and that it does not see the point in making the expense of struggling from the back of the grid to the front. It wants immediate success.

But its concept is flawed, because as of right now and despite its 25% stake in the team, the results will show as Renault results, not Lotus. Lotus, at the Enstone-based team, is a title sponsor. It is not a constructor. The right, in F1 terms at least, to represent the Lotus name rests with Tony Fernandes’ team, and in Fernandes’ team sits the ultimate philosophy of Colin Chapman that success comes from hard graft. There remains a nagging cynicism towards the Group Lotus method of ponying off the results of an already successful team and expecting the world to believe it is anything other than what it is.

Group Lotus has admitted that its link up with Renault is the first part of a greater involvement in the sport, but it is when Group Lotus wishes to have the team into which it has invested show up as Lotus that we are going to have the biggest mess of all. It can’t switch its name from Renault without unanimous approval from the other teams under the current Concorde Agreement, and for as long as Tony Fernandes is present in Formula 1 that unanimous vote needed for the team to switch its name from Renault to Lotus simply isn’t going to happen. Perhaps that’s what Fernandes is counting on, either from the perspective of keeping his team name and forcing Dany Bahar and Group Lotus back out of the sport, or in succeeding in where some voices within the sport believe his intentions have laid from the start – namely to force Group Lotus into either selling to him, or into paying him over the odds for claiming back the Lotus name in F1.

Bahar and Group Lotus have also insisted that their link up with the Renault F1 team is proof that their view of Formula 1 is one of progression and of the future. But to that I simply ask this? Why then all this silliness with a retro livery? If you want to look to the future, then why dwell in the past?

And cynics will ask why the Union flag? It is Renault, a French team, which has been bought out in the majority by a Luxembourg company and in the minority by a Malaysian company…

However I feel that Union flag is justified, for if there is one sure thing in all of this it is in the capabilities of the team we used to call Renault. The team based at Enstone. The team which started its life as Toleman.

What the boys at Enstone have proved year on year is that it really doesn’t matter what they’re called, they’ve always done the job. As Toleman, Senna took the team to some remarkable highs. As Benetton they won championships. As Renault they won championships. Now whatever they are called, there seems little doubt they will be successful.

Perhaps the team should be called Genii. Perhaps it should be called, as was suggested to me today, Scuderia Enstone. I like that idea, to be honest with you. Because it is the boys and girls at Enstone that have stuck with it all through thick and thin. They are the constant and this deal has secured much needed funding and a growing and vital commitment for the team’s future. It is the staff at Enstone who make the team and they will be the ones to take the team back to the top, regardless of the name above the door.

Senna Movie gets January 2011 US Premiere

Not too long ago I received messages from loads of you in the States asking when the new Senna movie would see the light of day over the pond. Indeed there were many of you who wondered if it would happen at all.

Worry no longer, my friends. With the release of the listings for the 2011 Sundance Film Festival came the outstanding news that “Senna” has been shortlisted in the World Cinema Documentary Competition. From almost 800 entries, “Senna” was picked as one of the 12 movies to be shown in the contest, and will thus receive its US debut in January.

The great news with this is that it will open it up to the US audience, and most importantly that it is already being taken on its artistic merits, which could allow it a far wider appeal than simply being viewed as a racing flick.

Success at Sundance would naturally lead to greater things in the States, but I could envisage the bible belt getting behind the movie. I’m not too sure of how it works in America, but I understand that there’s a Christian Film Council or suchlike. Senna’s belief in God and the many references he makes to being at one with, and at times being in the presence of, the almighty may well have resonance with such an influential group in America, and could help the film gain a wider release.

For those of you who haven’t yet seen the International trailer, here’s something to whet your whistle…

How 2500 year old philosophy helped Red Bull win in 2010

Sun Tzu - the Godfather of strategic thinking

You can tell its winter and not a lot is happening when I start writing stuff like this. But here we go…

In recent weeks a lot has been made of the final race of the 2010 Formula 1 World Championship and in the tactical errors made by Ferrari which ultimately saw Fernando Alonso miss out on a third title. There’s been talk that heads will roll at Maranello for the blunder in Abu Dhabi, an over reaction of epic proportions if ever I heard one. Formula 1 may be big business, but it is still ultimately a sport and as a sport there is no such thing as a certainty. It is a big, glamorous game and as with every game if one is to succeed one must take risks, make snap decisions and ride out the consequences. Ferrari gambled, and it didn’t pay off. That’s life.

All of this talk about strategy and tactics however got me thinking back to my years at University studying political science, and in particular to two pretty hectic modules I took entitled Strategic Studies. Now some of the teachings were pretty mind numbing, but there were a few which have stuck with me not only because they made sense and intrigued me, but because they have direct relevance to not only the world in which I find myself employed, but the world in which we live our everyday lives.

In his work “On War” the man often credited as the father of modern strategic thinking and my usual starting point for strategic thinking, General Carl Von Clausewitz, describes strategy as being a phenomenon based primarily in art… a concept which, as my rusty cogs turned over the past week, led me directly to the man widely held as the godfather of strategic thinking, Sun Tzu, a 5th Century BC philosopher and military general who wrote the bible of strategy – “The Art of War.”

So, you ask, what in the hell has some ancient Chinese bloke got to do with Formula 1 and Red Bull’s championship challenge in 2010? Interestingly, quite a bit, as Red Bull’s strategy this season, under the leadership of Christian Horner almost perfectly reflects the teachings of the godfather of military thinking…

Fernando Alonso - Abu Dhabi 2010. http://www.sutton-images.com

With Ferrari showing its hand early on that it was putting all of its weight behind Alonso, Red Bull and Christian Horner had a choice to make, and it falls into one of Sun Tzu’s most basic lessons – namely that victory is more likely to be assured the more numerous one’s army.

“It is the rule in war, if our forces are ten to the enemy’s one, to surround him; if five to one, to attack him; if twice as numerous, to divide our army into two. If equally matched, we can (only) offer battle.”

Thus by realising that by supporting both drivers he had two points of attack and twice as numerous an attacking force, Horner retook the strategic advantage from Ferrari.

“Victory lies in the knowledge of five points

1. He will win who knows when to fight and when not to fight
2. He will win who knows how to handle both superior and inferior forces
3. He will win whose army is animated by the same spirit throughout all ranks
4. He will win who, prepared himself, waits to take the enemy unprepared
5. He will win who has military capacity and is not interfered with by the sovereign

Hence the saying: If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles.”

It is in this section of “The Art of War,” that I believe Horner and Red Bull got things really right. The team, throughout the season, seemed the best prepared and in every race seemed to know when to hold position and when to push. There was never really a case of them pushing beyond their limitations. Sure Vettel got a bit wild at points, but the team’s strategy itself was calm. The fifth point is also one of which we must make reference. For while Luca di Montezemolo is an enormous figure in the Ferrari team and whose scorn nobody wishes to bring down upon them, so conversely at Red Bull do we have Dietrich Mateschitz who just sort of let Christian Horner run things however he wanted to, and said to the very last race that they would do things right and allow the drivers to race, even if it meant losing out on the drivers’ championship.

“Whoever is first in the field and awaits the coming of the enemy will be fresh for the fight; whoever is second in the field and has to hasten to the battle, will arrive exhausted.”

Of course, much of Red Bull’s advantage came from having the fastest car from the very first race of the season. Being first to the fight meant everyone was trying to catch them, and any upgrades they made would only extend that trend. t is what led to so much discord and discontent within the season as everyone believed the team was cheating. The team, of course, only saw this as a backhanded compliment that their car was so good that it had got everyone else running scared.

Christian Horner - http://www.sutton-images.com

“The general who advances without coveting fame and retreats without fearing disgrace, whose only thought is to protect his country and do good service for his sovereign, is the jewel of the kingdom.”

This phrase could have been written about Christian Horner. Level headed, calm, almost shy at times, he proved himself in 2010 to be the perfect General. And just as the Sovereign left his General to direct his armies in the manner he saw fit, so was he able to do so due to the skills of the General in question.

Next up, though, is one of Sun Tzu’s most interesting philosophies and one which, when we think about it, might well have been employed by Red Bull in 2010…

“All warfare is based on deception. Hence, when able to attack, we must seem unable; when using our forces, we must seem inactive; when we are near, we must make the enemy believe that we are away; when far away we must make him believe we are near. Hold out baits to entice the enemy. Feign disorder, and crush him. Pretend to grow weak, that he may grow arrogant.”

Vettel versus Webber was the story of 2010… but could this have been a tactic to create an unfounded level of confidence in their rivals? Webber was the driver that the team seemed to be putting down at Silverstone, and yet he sailed to victory. In Brazil the team seemed divided and at one of its weakest points. The drivers finished 1-2 in the race. By dividing his drivers Horner had already increased the team’s odds of success in the drivers’ championship over those of Ferrari because they had two drivers able to take the crown. By creating a supposed tension between the drivers, had he also created a diversion for Ferrari? Had Red Bull created the impression of discord to, as Sun Tzu suggests, hold out bait to the enemy that he might grow arrogant?

Frankly I doubt it as the animosity between Webber and Vettel really did seem very real at points in 2010. But it is an interesting thought when you compare it to the harmony between the two McLaren drivers.

Vettel Vs Webber... discontent or clever strategy?

And thus it all came down to Abu Dhabi and that final race. In keeping two lines of attack, Horner and Red Bull were in the perfect position because Ferrari had to choose which driver to cover – Vettel or Webber…

“To secure ourselves against defeat lies in our own hands, but the opportunity of defeating the enemy is provided by the enemy himself.”

And so it was that by Ferrari limiting itself to one line of attack, it had to fight a war on two fronts in the final race. As Sun Tzu wrote, the opportunity of defeating the enemy had been provided by the enemy itself. In keeping two drivers in the hunt, Horner and red Bull had fulfilled another of Sun Tzu’s philosphies…

“The general is skilful in attack whose opponent does not know what to defend; and he is skilful in defence whose opponent does not know what to attack.”

And so it was that Ferrari covered Webber, Alonso lost the crown, and Red Bull pulled off the perfect season with both championships and Sebastian Vettel became the youngest F1 world champion in history.

Now I’m not claiming that any of Sun Tzu’s teachings actually played on Christian Horner’s mind in 2010… it’s just me being a little bit geeky I guess. “The Art of War” remains an incredible piece of work and something well worth a read.

No doubt if Christian Horner has read it, though, he’ll be aiming to go one better in 2011 and fulfil Sun Tzu’s most basic principle…

“Making no mistakes is what establishes the certainty of victory, for it means conquering an enemy that is already defeated.”

Lotus, Lotus, the Beatles and a solution!

I had a lovely relaxing weekend not really thinking much about Formula 1, but instead weeping over the crucifixion of many classic Beatles songs on X Factor on Saturday night. The greatest, most influential band on earth were paid a “tribute” by the supposed up and coming musical talent of the UK which seemed, to me, more like a slap in the face to the genius of Lennon and McCartney.

Of course, the very fact we had a “Beatles week” on X Factor at all was thanks to a marketing campaign around the news that after decades of arguments, it would appear that Apple (the makers of computers, phones and mp3 players) and Apple (a record company established by The Beatles in the 1960s) have finally buried the hatchet as for the first time in history one can now download Beatles songs from itunes. Hoorah!

And it got me thinking, and thus I tweeted: If Apple and Apple have kissed and made up, there’s hope yet for Lotus and Lotus. All you need is love!

And so my mind flipped back to Formula 1… and Lotus.

Autosport.com yesterday carried a fantastic interview with Mike Gascoyne, in which he described himself to be “perplexed” by the entire Team Lotus Vs Group Lotus mess. I, for one, couldn’t agree more.

Gascoyne makes many salient points in the interview, which I heavily suggest you read, but perhaps the one with which I agree the most is the following: “They seem to have announced that they’re going to join every racing series around the world, and the only question is who’s going to pay for it?”

“Because they seem to want to do every racing series that there is, and for a loss-making car company, that seems to be slightly perplexing. But if that’s what they want to do, good luck to them.”

Now I’m not overly fussed over who is going to pay for Group Lotus’ foray into motorsport, but I agree with Gazza in that Group Lotus’ motorsport strategy seems to lack any semblance of structure or sense.

It is as if they’ve just looked at global motorsport and said, “Ooh that looks fun let’s do that. And that looks good too. And that. Yeah, and that too.”

A Lotus? No, that'll be an ART...

And so it is that we now have a bonkers situation in which Group Lotus is due to sponsor Renault in Formula 1 next season, ART in GP2 and GP3 and KV Racing in Indycar. But why? I mean seriously, think about it… what’s the point in all this?

Did anybody give Lotus any credit this year when Takuma Sato ran their colours in Indycar? Did the results show Takuma Sato in a Lotus? No, they showed Sato in a KV Racing car. Next season, when I commentate on GP2 and GP3 will I call the ART team Lotus? No I bloody won’t. Because I don’t call Addax, Barwa. I never called Racing Engineering Fat Burner. So why should I rename ART, with six glorious years of GP2 history and a double championship in GP3 anything other than ART? Why should I suddenly start naming them by their sponsor?

And in Formula 1… when have you ever heard McLaren referred to as Vodafone? Ferrari as Marlboro? Williams as AT&T? So why will anybody call Renault Lotus next year? Simple answer is, they won’t. Quite apart from the fact that the public good will in the paddock surrounding Lotus rests very firmly with Tony Fernandes, I have never known anybody name a team by their sponsor rather than the team name.

I first got an inkling that the Group Lotus strategy was messed up when they announced they’d be sponsoring ART in GP2 and then all the Renault F1 chat began. Because, if Dany Bahar had thought about it, if they went in and invested in Renault F1, they’d get the exposure of a GP2 team for peanuts because DAMS carries the Renault livery in GP2. So they’ve gone and wasted all that investment in ART when they could have had it for a fraction in DAMS. I mean, it is a small thing, but it just shows there’s been very little forethought in what Group Lotus is doing.

Group Lotus has been riding off the back of Team Lotus ever since the Malaysian’s and Proton bought the company and suddenly realised it didn’t include the motor racing arm of the Lotus brand. There’s an excellent website on the history of the subject here.

What I do not understand is why Group Lotus has come in all guns blazing, when it could quite simply and for a fraction of the cost and the hassle, formed an official alliance with Tony Fernandes, Mike Gascoyne and Team Lotus whereby the car building arm of Lotus could have benefitted from what the racing team was doing. What we have right now suits neither.

So are the Malaysians trying to force Fernandes into buying Proton and Group Lotus? Frankly Fernandes isn’t that stupid. He won’t get forced into something he doesn’t want to do. And if that is what they’re trying to do then I can just see Fernandes digging in his heels even harder. He’s a very clever man and a very passionate man, and I think he is going to fight this thing until the bitter end. And I hope he does. Because he’s got huge support. Factor in also that Fernandes has paid an as yet undisclosed sum to David Hunt for the right to use the Team Lotus name next season… money which could have been spent on R&D… money which for a small team is critical.

The history of Team Lotus is the story of innovation and excellence. It is a story of mavericks, of legends and heroes. It is not the story of short cuts or ponying off other people’s work. Simply calling a team Lotus does not make it so.

Lotus Racing showed in 2010 that it was serious about Formula 1, serious about motorsport and serious about the heritage and history of the name that it was proud to carry. It wanted to be appraised on its own merits and make its own way.

That it now stands to lose its name because of some stupid marketing ploy which doesn’t make any sense in the wider world and just makes Group Lotus look petty and bitter, is a huge shame. There are a lot of people in this sport who are more than a little disgusted with the manner in which Group Lotus has approached this entire subject.

But if Bahar and Group Lotus want to go down this path, I have an idea… all Fernandes and his team need to do is to bring in a title sponsor which has a name that is, by some huge coincidence, the same as the name they look set to lose.

Lotus Bakeries in the UK and Lotus sanitary products come instantly to mind. Both logos would look great in gold against a black background as per the JPS stylings the team has said they’ll be forced to adopt next year with Group taking the green and yellow to Enstone. Group Lotus could not claim a naming conflict as neither company is motorsport affiliated. The companies wouldn’t even have to bring any money – simply supply the team with biscuits for their coffees or toilet paper for their motorhome. Lotus gets to call itself Lotus and there’s nothing Group Lotus can do about it.

A silly idea? No more silly and petty than what Group Lotus is doing, and I know which outfit would get the most support for its actions.

Whatever happens next year, I know which team I’ll be calling Lotus.

The Lotus situation in a nutshell

The latest word in Brazil is as follows.

Lotus ran this year as Lotus under a license from Lotus, but in Singapore Lotus announced that next year it would be changing its name from Lotus to Lotus. This news was immediately met with a statement from Lotus which said that it had the rights to use the Lotus name and that Lotus did not, so Lotus could not change its name from Lotus to Lotus.

Next season Lotus will not allow Lotus to call itself Lotus because Lotus wants to do a deal to take over Renault and call it Lotus so Lotus will have to call itself something else other than Lotus.

Lotus will also take a stake at ART in GP2 to create ART Lotus so the team set up by the guys running Lotus who won’t be able to call their teams Lotus next year will have to call their GP2 team Air Asia.

Takuma Sato ran a Lotus in Indycar this year which was actually a Honda powered Dallara but that was under a license from Lotus and had nothing to do with Lotus.

And that’s before we even get into the fact that Lotus has just signed to use Renault engines next season so if Renault is called Lotus but Lotus can’t be called Lotus but will be using Renault engines and Renault will be called Lotus and I’ve gone cross-eyed.

Basically.

Austin F1 site receives unanimous approval.

The site of the Austin F1 track c/o http://www.sutton-images.com

Some great news from Austin, Texas, just arrived in my inbox. The press release is pretty self explanatory, so I’ll let it speak for itself!

Austin Environmental Board Unanimously Approves The Formula 1 United States Grand Prix™ Site

Austin, TX – November 5, 2010 — Developers for the Formula 1 United States Grand Prix™ today announced that the Austin Environmental Board unanimously approved the site plans for the future Formula 1 United States Grand Prix venue, in a 6-0 vote, that is scheduled to host its first event in 2012. This week’s City Hall vote with the Austin Environmental Board (considered the most difficult of the permits) is one of the last few hearings the Formula 1 U.S. Grand Prix developers will need from city/county boards and commissions to begin construction of the world-class facility.

“This project is on track,” said Richard Suttle, an attorney for the F1 promoters. “In fact, the development plan is right on schedule. And, with the help from the city and county, we’ve been able to not only stay on track, but may even be ahead of schedule,” he continued.

“Meeting with city officials to ensure the future facility meets all environmental and zoning requirements is not only standard procedure to move this project forward, but also an opportunity for us to show that we are committed to partnering with city officials in the construction of this international venue,” said Suttle.

“We are pleased with the unanimous approval from the Austin Environmental Board and know that the site will continue to remain on schedule for the 2012 opening,” Formula 1 United States Grand Prix Chairman Tavo Hellmund said.

Rosberg to get new engineer

Nico Rosberg: Suzuka 2010 - © Sutton Images

Nico Rosberg is set to have a new (old) engineer in 2011.

The Mercedes driver commented in his media time yesterday afternoon that there would be some personnel changes at the team over the winter as the German manufacturer strives to move forwards and into a position to fight for race wins. When pressed on the matter, Rosberg defaulted to stating that he and the team had agreed not to discuss specifics at this time.

However, I understand that Nico will be reunited with his former Williams engineer Tony Ross next season, with the Englishman jumping ships from Williams to Mercedes.

Rosberg did say yesterday that “nobody is getting fired,” which has led myself and colleagues to speculate that his current engineer Jock Clear may move into a more general Director of Engineering style role next season.

A Mercedes spokesperson told me moments ago that the team would not be confirming names or changes in personnel for the moment but if my sources are correct, and I believe that they are, then it would appear that Rosberg is beginning to stamp his authority at the team and move it, or at the very least move his side of the garage, in a direction which better suits him.

Ross and Rosberg look set to be reunited in 2011 © Sutton Images