Archives for posts with tag: Formula 1

SLS 63 AMG, Safety Car (C197) © Mercedes Benz

Safety cars, delta times, when to pit, who gets a penalty, who doesn’t get a penalty, when should we race, when should we slow… it’s all getting a bit silly, isn’t it?

The thing is, it’s actually a very easy problem to solve. Which probably means that the solution Formula 1 eventually comes up with will be even more convoluted than the original regulation it was intended to clarify. But it needn’t be.

Here’s my idea to solve the problem. And it really is simple…

As soon as the “safety car deployed” message is shown on the race control screen, the pitlane will be closed to all cars, other than those carrying substantial damage which risks either the car in question or poses a potential danger to others on track. With refuelling no longer an issue in Formula 1, there is no longer the prospect of anyone running out of fuel and thus there is no longer a requirement for the pitlane to be kept open under the safety car. This was the only reason that closing the pitlane for safety reasons under the safety car had been rethought in the first place.

Once the safety car has been deployed, the track will go under full course yellow and all cars will be limited to running at a maximum speed of 200kph. This can be easily monitored at race control, could easily be stuck to with a pitlane speed limiter style button on the steering wheel, and will take out the need for the confusing and overly complicated delta time scenario.

When the safety car leaves the pits, it will wait by the side of the track or circulate slowly until it picks up the race leader. All cars will drive straight past, without waiting to be waved through until the leader is picked up. They will know when to pass and when to stay behind the car with a simple system of lights – let’s say for the sake of argument a blue light will flash to indicate to the drivers that they should pass, changing to the orange/yellow light as and when the race leader pulls into view. Failing that, the safety car will simply wait to leave the pits until the lead car is entering the final corner.

And that’s pretty much that.

It’s not rocket science. It’s just common sense. Pure, simple and uncomplicated. Race order is maintained, nobody gets an advantage, so nobody should be able to complain and Charlie can concentrate on race incidents rather than having to waste his time sorting out safety car transgressions which needn’t be and shouldn’t be as big an arse ache as they currently are.

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The Durango 95 purred away real horrorshow...

Just when you thought you’d seen the last of bizarrely far-fetched F1 bids, this week’s news that Durango has applied for the vacant 13th grid slot for 2011 should have you spitting out your cornflakes.

For all of you fellow Stanley Kubrick fans, I’m afraid to inform you that the Durango of which we speak is not the Durango of “A Clockwork Orange” fame. The Durango 95 car stolen by Alex and his droogs in the movie was, in fact, an M-505 Adams Brothers Probe 16, of which only three were ever made.

No, the Durango of which we speak is the Italian former GP2, F3000 and Endurance team which has, in its past, achieved a relative level of success.

Why then, should I consider this bid to be somewhat fanciful? After all, isn’t GP2 supposed to provide the future of F1? Well yes, it is… only, Durango is no longer a part of GP2 having been forced out of the championship when it ran out of cash.

Durango’s fall from grace last year hit its peak on September 5th, when Il Gazzettino reported that Durango was being investigated for criminal tax evasion and fraud, and that it had been using a system of companies which constantly changed their names to issue bills with inflated figures in order to reduce costs and lower the payable tax. Indeed, it was claimed in Il Gazzettino that the system put in place at Durango had seen unreported revenue of more than €12 million, false invoicing amounting to €11 million, unpaid tax of €3 million and a reduction of base tax to the tune of €16 million. All of this came, so the article said, at the end of a one year investigation.

Durango’s time in GP2 was not short of controversy. From as early as Imola 2006 the team was in hot water for contravening regulations by manufacturing their own parts rather than using Dallara’s spec equipment. In Imola it was only the car’s skirts that were the issue, but when Lucas di Grassi’s rear wing fell off at Silverstone later that same season, Durango was excluded from the weekend and sent packing from the paddock after it was discovered the team had sought to cut corners by conducting a botch repair job on structural parts of the car, rather than returning those parts to Dallara for an official repair.

Talk of Durango’s corner cutting came to the fore once again just last season when Stefano Coletti was involved in a huge shunt at Spa, when his GP2/08 went straight on at Eau Rouge. A paddock insider that weekend whispered to me that Coletti’s steering column had “snapped like a piece of balsa wood,” although I could find no evidence to substantiate this claim from anyone at GP2 or Dallara.

When the championship arrived at Monza for the next race however, Durango only had one car at its disposal and there were two contrasting reasons given for this, depending on who you spoke to: namely that Durango didn’t have the money to repair the car, or that the car was so littered with botch repairs that Dallara had impounded it as being too unsafe to use. Again, I found it impossible to find an “on the record” response as to which of these was the accurate version of events but rumours that it was the latter refused to disappear.

The team was ultimately forced out of that weekend and did not race at all.

Stefano Coletti - Spa 2009 © GP2 Media Service

Durango missed the final two rounds of the 2009 Main Series, missed the entirety of the 2009/2010 GP2 Asia series and will not compete in the 2010 Main GP2 Series. They have, however, found the funds to launch an F1 team… or so Durango’s boss Ivone Pinton told the team’s website.

“After the mishaps of last season we went into action full force to seek new partners for our racing activities. It did not take long to realize that the interest could be raised only when there was talk of Formula 1, therefore we have pushed in this direction and today I can say that, enter the maximum formula, we have the support of two large international groups. So while remaining with their feet on the ground, because for now it is only a serious attempt, I would say that after working many years to train future champions, now is the time to work hard to push to the top as the Durango team. ”

While I understand that it might be easier to drum up support for an F1 effort than a GP2 effort owing to the much higher levels of exposure in F1, what I do not understand is how a team which could not make a go of GP2 could even consider that they have what it takes to make a go of F1. After the USF1 debacle, and the StefanGP mess, the FIA will likely be wary of any and all 2011 proposals, and the due diligence on Durango is likely to be even more extensive than on most, given the very public financial issues which affected the squad so recently. Plus I’m pretty sure that if the team has found some money, then the first knock on their door is going to come from GP2 for unpaid bills and the serious fines that they will be contractually obliged to pay for two missed races and two entire missed championships.

Formula 1 cannot afford any more embarrassment from new teams falling by the wayside. That Campos / Hispania made it to the grid is nothing short of a miracle, and the aforementioned USF1 / StefanGP balls up did little for the sport’s image. As such, I wonder how seriously Durango’s bid will be taken.

When we have seen the likes of Prodrive, Lola and Epsilon passed over in favour of unknown entities which failed to make the grade, you can see why Durango would chance their arm. What have they got to lose?

But in all honesty you’d have to say that, regardless of the financial partners they might have got on board, so incredible does a Durango bid for F1 seem that it almost makes StefanGP look like a serious operation.

One of the great privileges of my job is that I am occasionally sent books to read and review. My office has, over the years, started to resemble a rather ramshackle motorsport library more than it does a working space conducive to intelligent thought and I am delighted to report that at the start of this week, the library grew once again.

The tome which arrived at my door is truly a book that all self respecting motorsport fans should consider purchasing, because to my mind it ticks all the boxes a book can tick. Beautifully written, gloriously illustrated, and printed to an exceptional level of quality, “Art of the Formula 1 Race Car” has instantly placed itself among my favourite motorsport books.

Its 208 pages are filled with some of the most stunning images of racing cars you will ever see, as the story of Formula 1’s history is told through its most beautiful cars. And that’s one of the things I like the most about this book – it’s not necessarily about the most successful cars, just the ones whose aching beauty has set them apart from the competition. The quality of the photography at the hand of James Mann also gives us a detailed look at the engineering excellence of these creations, all of which are the real deal, the proper racers and not museum replicas. Indeed, the very first car profiled, the Alfa 158 is THE car driven by Guiseppe Farina to victory at the very first Formula 1 Grand Prix in May 1950.

From there, we are taken on a beauty-driven ride through F1’s past, stopping to gaze at the Maserati 250F, the Mercedez-Benz W196 streamliner, Lancia D50, BRM P57, Brabham BT20, Lotus 49B, Lotus 72, Tyrrell 003, Tyrrell P34, Ferrari 312T3, Williams FW07, McLaren MP4/4, Leyton House CG901, Jordan 191, Williams FW14, Ferrari F1-2000 and finally the McLaren MP4-23. Some list, I’m sure you’ll agree.

What marks this book out from your regular coffee table F1 photo album however, is Stuart Codling’s wonderfully written commentary. Stuart perfectly captures not only the stories behind the concept, design and realisation of these magnificent cars, but also manages to provide a history of their racing careers whilst also reflecting the heartstring-pulling passion which their sumptuous lines evoke. And with expert analysis from design legend Gordon Murray, you’re pretty much in F1 heaven.

Stuart’s one of the best writers in the business, and his first book has been a long time coming. I would advise any and all F1 fans to check out his blog, and to invest their hard-earned on his rather brilliant book.

However, if you’d rather not pay for one at all, then you’ll be very pleased to hear that I was accidentally sent two copies, and Stuart has agreed that I can give one away to the readers of my blog. Hurrah!

If you’d like to win a copy of the book, simply reply to this post and let me know your opinion on the single most beautiful F1 car ever designed. It can be one of the ones from the book, or one which you think has been a staggering omission from the list. Let me know your reasons on why you love it so much and find it so beautiful, I’ll narrow the list down to my top five and get Stuart to pick his favourite from that list. Et voila, we’ll have a winner.

Shall we say all entries to be in by chequered flag at the Chinese Grand Prix?

Lovely.

Eh, eh, eh! Calm Down, Calm Down!

The Australian Grand Prix provided us with a few pretty major graphic illustrations. It wasn’t only that opening an F1 season at the appallingly redesigned Bahrain International Circuit is a shocking idea, because for my money what today displayed in no uncertain terms is that Lewis Hamilton ‘aint going to find 2010 quite as easy as he thought he was going to.

His post race strop pretty much summed it all up.

“I think I probably had one of the drives of my life and unfortunately, due to the strategy, I was put further back and then I got taken out by Mark Webber,” he told the BBC.

OK Lewis, calm down. Because, if we’re being honest, you kind of made your own bed on this one.

Before this season had even begun, the removal of refuelling had already been picked up within the F1 community as a facet of the new era of Formula 1 which could work against Lewis. Notoriously hard on his tyres, the 2008 world champion’s driving style does not naturally lend itself to having to preserve one’s rubber for as long as possible. On the flip side, his new team-mate and 2009 world champ Jenson Button is renowned for his smooth, almost effortless driving style which would, so we presumed, give itself more easily to the new regs.

JB won today’s race because of two major factors: Firstly, it was Jenson and Jenson alone who took the gamble to pit when he did for slicks. Second, it was Jenson and Jenson alone who pushed when he knew he could on his tyres, and yet still held enough in reserve to make them last until the end of the race.

So when we heard Lewis on the radio to the team in the middle of the race, cursing them for making him pit for a second set of slick tyres, and then slamming that very second set when he’d knackered them, we’re left with a very easy comparison. Because if his team-mate had managed to make them last the distance, why couldn’t Lewis?

Lewis Hamilton - Australian GP 2010
© http://www.sutton-images.com

“I’m happy with the job that I did. I think I honestly drove my heart out today and I think I deserved better than what I ended up with, but I’ll keep fighting to the next race.

“All I know is the guys do, always, a fantastic job, but the strategy was not right,” he said after the race. “Everyone else in front of me did one stop and for some reason I did two.”

Lewis always likes to talk up his role as a team-player at McLaren, but his post race sentiments reflect the dented ego of a man who has had his feathers very much ruffled by a driver whom he had perhaps failed to size up accurately. Most people expected Lewis to completely batter Jenson this season and maybe Lewis expected as much himself, so seeing Button take McLaren’s first win of the season will hit Lewis where it hurts. It will hurt even more as today’s race was won not only through Jenson’s superiority in the smooth driving stakes, but also through Jenson’s experience and confidence in making the right call at the perfect time.

Lewis has been criticised in the past for relying too heavily on the team to make decisions for him, and last season’s whole fall-out from the Australian Grand Prix came about because, as Hamilton himself has gone on the record to state… he did what the team told him to do.

When Lewis was asked who had been responsible for the call to stop a second time, he replied: “I don’t know, we’ll find out.”

The fact that the call came at all, and that Lewis either didn’t feel confident enough or have the wherewithal to overrule McLaren if he truly felt confident enough on his original set of rubber, shows us that Lewis either still lacks the experience to make his own calls or that he may have to look back on this race and admit that the team was right to make the call because he’d knackered his tyres.

Either way, slamming the team isn’t going to help matters. It just smacks of sour grapes on a day when the newboy to the team got one over on him.

The public face may be one of all smiles at McLaren, but I guarantee it will not be long before the cracks start to appear if Jenson’s confidence, maturity and smooth driving style keep reaping the rewards that they did today.

P.S. Apologies that I haven’t posted in a while… but my Daughter Sophie said hello to the world last Thursday morning. She is gorgeous, and she and her Mum are both doing fantastically. My attention has, naturally, been with them.

The first GP2 car is taken for its shake down run by Franck Montagny. 20 July 2004

This weekend saw the motorsport world bid a fond farewell to a car which has formed the bedrock of the careers of half the current F1 grid, as the original GP2 Series car completed its final race.

The GP2/05, designed by Dallara, powered by a 4l V8 Renault engine assembled and maintained by Mecachrome and run on Bridgestone Potenza tyres (grooved for its first season in 2005) made its track debut in July 2004 at Circuit Paul Ricard when Frank Montagny gave it its initial shakedown. Over the next few months, he and Allan McNish conducted the development work on the car which would race in the very first season of the GP2 Series when it was launched in 2005.

Despite some very public problems in its debut weekend at the San Marino Grand Prix (namely the electronics going haywire in practice and the brakes wearing out in the first race), the racing was exciting and the competition fierce. Brembo had heard rumours of the inadequacies of the initial brake supplier and had brought enough brake pads and discs for the entire field to Imola, storing them in a truck in a nearby carpark. When the problems arose in the first race, a Brembo representative asked the series organisers if they fancied switching supplier. They did. With reliability issues pretty much resolved with Mecachrome a few races into the season, GP2 established itself as unmissable racing.

Nico Rosberg was crowned the first champion in 2005, beating Heikki Kovalainen and Scott Speed to the crown and all three were promoted to Formula 1, starting a trend which has seen 17 drivers promoted to an active F1 seat since the championship began.

For the record, they are: Nico Rosberg, Heikki Kovalainen, Scott Speed, Alexandre Premat (F1 Practice Session), Nelson Piquet, Ernesto Viso (F1 Practice Session), Lewis Hamilton, Timo Glock, Lucas di Grassi, Vitaly Petrov, Kazuki Nakajima, Bruno Senna, Karun Chandhok, Sebastien Buemi, Romain Grosjean, Kamui Kobayashi and Nico Hulkenberg.

Of those 17, 11 remain in Formula 1 in 2010.

It would also be remiss to forget the tens of drivers who have received positions as test drivers at F1 teams, be it on a season-long contract or simply a one-off test, as a result of their results in GP2.

And all of them, without exception, have raced the GP2/05. For while the original car raced in the main series for three years, creating champions out of Rosberg, Hamilton and Glock, the car was then shipped off to Asia to compete in the GP2 Asia Series between 2008 and 2010. There simply isn’t a driver to have been promoted from GP2 to Formula 1 who has not competed in a field of GP2/05s.

The car, which was designed around a concept of ground effect rather than over reliance on body aerodynamics, was created not only with the specific intention of training the future drivers of F1, but to provide overtaking and an exciting show. Even today it remains fast and relevant. Despite racing with a detuned engine in the Asia series, its laptimes on its final weekend weren’t far off those being set by the new teams in F1… not bad for a six year old racer.

With its Main Series replacement, the GP2/08, due to be used in Asia for the 2010/2011 championship when its own replacement (GP2/11) is unveiled for the 2011 Main Series, Sunday was thus the last time we’ll see the 05 race. It has given us six seasons of racing which I and many colleagues will never forget. It has also stood the test of time, providing a safe racing environment throughout its life.

But, alas, after 94 races, six champions and some of the best racing I’ve ever seen, the GP2/05 will race no more. Whether they are to become museum pieces or sit in the teams’ factories is, as yet, unclear. But if anyone’s thinking of holding a track day with one, please let me know… I’d move heaven and earth to get into one, even if it was for just the one lap.

I hope that wherever they end up, they take pride of place. Because without them, today’s F1 grid wouldn’t contain half the talent it does.

The GP2/05 Champions

Nico Rosberg - 2005 Champion

Lewis Hamilton - 2006 Champion

Timo Glock - 2007 Champion

Romain Grosjean - 2008 Asia Champion

Kamui Kobayashi - 2008/2009 Asia Champion

Davide Valsecchi - 2009/2010 Asia Champion

Following yesterday’s announcement, I’ve had some lovely messages from you guys and quite a few messages asking what my plans are with regard to the gigs I’ve had over the past few seasons. So I thought I’d just write a quick piece to fill you all in on my plans for the year ahead.

Working for SPEED is a tremendous honour and its a job I can’t wait to sink my teeth into. The guys over in the States have been very understanding about the fact I’m about to become a father, and they’ve given me the first few races off to be with my wife and new baby. As such, I’m due to make my debut on SPEED in Shanghai.

I want to make sure that I give 100% to my new role, and as such I have handed in my notice at GPWeek. I have had the most amazing two years at GPWeek and have taken enormous pride in watching it grow from a concept to a popular and well-read weekly magazine receiving 10 million page hits at its peak in 2009. I want to thank Keith, Chris and all the guys at the magazine for the best couple of seasons and to wish them well for the future, and I hope I’ll still be able to write bits and bobs for them over the season.

I will, however, continue in my role as commentator for FOM on the world feed of the GP2 Asia and GP2 Main Series in 2010. It’s a job which combines well with my new role at SPEED, and I can’t wait to see how the F1 feeder series plays out in 2010 in what will be its sixth season of competition. Should be a thriller!

I’ll be continuing with my blog, and updating it as often as I can… I know it’s not as regularly updated as some of the others, but quite frankly I don’t think you need my opinion on every miniscule happening in this sport. I’ll just give you my views on the stuff that interests me and the stuff I’ve delved into to try and find the real story.

Combined with that, I’m still a freelance journo so I hope to pick up bits and bobs throughout the year, such as the two features in the March issue of F1 Racing mag on Massa and Senna which I hope you all enjoy reading as much as I enjoyed writing them.

Thanks to you all for your continued support, and to all of you in the States who are avid SPEED viewers, don’t hesitate to let me know what you love about this sport and what you want to see from me in paddock and I will do my best to search it out for you and bring you the side of the sport that you want to see.

Overall, I’m really looking forward to the year… as this lovely Q&A conducted by SPEED will hopefully explain…

SPEED: Joining a well-established broadcast team, what do you hope to bring to the table to establish chemistry with Bob Varsha, David Hobbs and Steve Matchett?

Buxton: First up, I’ve got to admit that I’m just massively excited about the whole thing. It’s a huge honor to be joining the SPEED team, and in particular to be doing so at the start of what could be an incredible era in the history of Formula 1. I’ve been a fan of this sport my whole life and have been lucky enough to work within it for the better part of the past decade. I’d like to think that the passion and enthusiasm I have for F1 has come across in what I’ve done in the past and that those traits will define what I bring to the SPEED team both this year and into the future. Working with Bob, David, Steve and all the guys behind the scenes at SPEED is the sort of opportunity you just don’t get every day. And with F1 back in North America at Montreal, a lot of talk about the return of a US Grand Prix and so many young talented American drivers coming through the ranks, it’s a really great time to be joining SPEED.

SPEED: As the literal “eyes and ears” on the ground at each event for SPEED, what type of storylines attract your attention?

Buxton: F1 is a bit of a soap opera at times. As a journalist it’s what makes the sport such a joy to report on. There’s always something going on in the background, and I won’t shy away from doing my best to get to the heart of every issue. That said, I don’t think that my job at SPEED is simply to report the news. Far from it. As one of the lucky few who can actually get into the F1 paddock, I think that probably my biggest responsibility is to open it all up to the American fans: to invite them in, sit them down, introduce them to a few people and show them what’s going on. It’s the fans that make this sport, so my job is to give them the access they deserve.

SPEED: Are you doing anything specific to prepare for this new role?

Buxton: I am very aware of the size of the shoes I’m stepping into, but it’s a challenge I can’t wait to take on. I’ve watched Peter at work for many years, and over the past few months have gone back over much of what he produced at SPEED. But I’m not Peter, and I think the only way that I can approach this epic opportunity is to just be myself and bring SPEED’s viewers the side of the sport that I see and that I love. When you look at the majority of driver line-ups on the grid, it’s clear that there’s a new generation sweeping through Formula 1. There’s a vibrancy brought about by a set of people I’ve worked with both in junior formulas and in F1 for many years and with whom I believe I share much in common. It’s a new sport, with a bunch of young drivers who aren’t afraid to speak their minds and tell it like it is. We’re due for an insane season and the start of an incredible new era of competition. I’m really looking forward to being a part of it all on SPEED.

Me, very happy with the announcement of my new job at SPEED.
Photo c/o Drew Gibson

Someone’s got a new job… Me! (Oh, and if you can’t tell from the press release, I’m really looking forward to it!)

Here’s the press release:

The familiar faces of Bob Varsha, David Hobbs and Steve Matchett once again will lead the SPEED/FOX Sports Formula One broadcast team as SPEED rolls into its 15th year as the exclusive U.S. cable broadcaster of the FIA Formula One World Championship, beginning with live coverage of the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix on March 14 at 7:30 a.m. ET. One face, however, will be new to the U.S. viewing audience.

Will Buxton, the 29-year-old founding editor of GPWeek magazine, will report from the grid, replacing Peter Windsor, whose efforts remain focused on his start-up US F1 project.

“First up, I’ve got to admit that I’m just massively excited about the whole thing,” said Buxton, who will join the team shortly after he and wife Emma welcome their first child. “It’s a huge honor to be joining the SPEED team, and in particular to be doing so at the start of what could be an incredible era in the history of Formula 1.

“F1 is a bit of a soap opera at times,” Buxton added. “As a journalist it’s what makes the sport such a joy to report on. There’s always something going on in the background, and I won’t shy away from doing my best to get to the heart of every issue. That said, I don’t think that my job at SPEED is simply to report the news. Far from it. As one of the lucky few who can actually get into the F1 paddock, I think that probably my biggest responsibility is to open it all up to the American fans: to invite them in, sit them down, introduce them to a few people and show them what’s going on. It’s the fans that make this sport, so my job is to give them the access they deserve.”

According to Varsha, the SPEED team is welcoming its newest member with open arms.

“It’s always a good sign when a job interview turns into a ‘bench racing’ session that goes beyond the appointed time,” Varsha said. “That’s what we shared with Will when he visited our SPEED studios. Despite being the youngest member of our lineup, he’s a veteran of television and print with experience of both Formula One and GP2. I look forward to working with him on what should be another thrilling and unpredictable grand prix season.”

Buxton, from Great Britain, served as the GP2 press officer from 2004 to the end of the 2007 season, and was sole communications/media representative for 2006 and 2007 He has been covering single-seater racing (F1, GP2, F2 and F3) since 2002.

Westbury Gillett will fill in for Buxton for the first few races of the season.

In 2010, SPEEDtv.com will increase its Formula One offerings, highlighted by a new fantasy game — SPEED Fantasy Racing: GP Edition — and a selection of video clips from practice, qualifying and race coverage. In addition SPEEDtv.com will introduce an enhanced stats package and continue with RaceCast timing and scoring from all sessions, as well as providing Matchett’s popular post-event “Chalk Talk” wrap-ups.

SPEED will air 15 races live, complete with practice and qualifying coverage, and for the fourth year, FOX will air four consecutive events, beginning with the Canadian Grand Prix, using the same on-air team. Practice and qualifying for those four events will be live on SPEED.

For the full release and TV times click here.

Bruno and Buxton c/o Luca Bassani

Want to know what I got up to in January?

Well, apart from preparing for the imminent birth of my first child, F1 Racing was good enough to send me over to Brazil to spend a bit of time with my good mate Bruno Senna, and then flung me off to Barcelona to catch up with the Fuscia Man himself, Mr Felipe Massa.

To be honest the trip to Brazil was a dream. I grew up idolising Ayrton Senna, and to be invited by Bruno and Bianca to Ayrton’s old farm estate to link up with Bruno and to not only dig through my hero’s old stuff, but to chat with my friend about what the future holds was an honour I doubt I will be able to ever repeat. It was, quite simply, one of those moments in your life that will stay with you forever. Bruno is a talented racer, a bloody good chap and, above all, a tremendously good friend and I wish him every hope and success for 2010.

A matter of days after returning from Brazil, F1 Racing’s editor Hans called me up and asked me to ship off to Barcelona to go and have a chat with Mr Massa. I couldn’t refuse, especially as, and as those of you who are GPWeek fans will know, I interviewed Felipe 48 hours before his monster shunt in Hungary. So to be able to chat with him once again, and to draw a line under his accident and look to the future was a huge joy.

You can read all about my meetings with Bruno and Felipe in this month’s very special, and may I say very excellent edition of F1 Racing magazine. It’s out in all good newsagents now, so get down there and buy yourself the best damn F1 season preview available.

Enjoy.

Will

The future of the Campos Formula 1 team is set to be clarified by the end of the week, with sources close to the squad informing me that team founder Adrian Campos is set to part company with the squad after its takeover by former Jordan, Midland, Spyker and Force India boss Colin Kolles.

It is understood that Kolles has put up his own money to buy the team and to start to pay off the team’s debts to car designer Dallara, in order to get the team to the first race in Bahrain. As recent online rumours have stated Team Principal Jose Ramon Carabante will remain in place, although it remains to be seen whether Danielle Audetto will also stay at the squad as he and Kolles experienced something of a rocky relationship during Audetto’s time at Super Aguri when he and then Spyker-employed Kolles disagreed somewhat over the concept of customer cars.

All in all, it’s actually good news as far as the team is concerned as Kolles’ apparent investment and takeover may well have saved the jobs of a good group of people and assured one more new team’s place on the 2010 grid. A team name change so late in the day could prove difficult, although there are believed to be some pretty serious potential investors in the wings who might make the establishment sit up and take notice.

When Kolles’ name was first mentioned as a potential investor, it was done so alongside rumours of a Volkswagen takeover of Campos. Although Volkswagen denied the reports at the time, the company is not being so negative today, and is merely refusing to confirm or deny that they are in talks with the team. It may seem like a technicality, but it is actually a million miles away from their previous flat denial.

Volkswagen’s apparent and potential interest in F1 comes at a time when the majority of the motor manufacturers have pulled out of F1, and as such any new manufacturer entrant would be big, and hugely positive, news. Moreover, Volkswagen has a number of brands which could sit well within F1. From Volkswagen itself there is also SEAT at the cheaper end of the market. The company also owns the Audi brand and at the very top end, Volkswagen was of course involved in that most epic of cars, the Bugatti Veyron.

My colleague Joe Saward has today mused that SEAT would be a neat fit for a Spanish-based F1 team, and it is worth mentioning that Rally legend and absolute Spanish hero Carlos Sainz, who now races for Volkswagen in the Dakar, has been spotted at F1 testing checking out how things work.

To my mind however, it is Audi which would make the most sense for any potential Volkswagen involvement. Audi is a big brand and serves the car market from small city run-arounds to high powered supercars. From the A3 (read overpriced VW Golf), all the way up to the simply glorious R9, Audi is an aspirational auto brand, and one which would sit well in Formula 1.

Audi already races at Le Mans and in the DTM, and is a hugely successful marque in its own right. A transition to Formula 1 wouldn’t therefore be completely out of left field.

Now factor in these little nuggets… Colin Kolles runs Audi A4s in the DTM and Audi R10s at Le Mans and in the Le Mans Series.

Dallara designed the Audi R8, one of the most succesful racing cars in the marque’s history.

See where I’m going?

Oh… and wouldn’t it just look a bit special, too? Huge thanks to Kim Stapleton for letting me use his incredible mock-up of an Audi F1 car.

Ev-One 2009 Audi F1 Concept Livery
© Kim Stapleton

OK, I’m just speculating because there is, as yet, absolutely no confirmation that Volkswagen really is talking to the team… but there are enough links there to make you think that these rumours might actually have some substance to them.

Either way, I fully expect to see Colin Kolles confirmed as the new owner of the Campos F1 team by the end of the week. It’s hugely sad for Adrian Campos himself, who is a man I like very much. He had a dream to go racing in Formula 1, and if it is ultimately the case that his dream has had to end then I, for one, will be very sad that it has come to such a conclusion. He’s a racer, pure and simple, and similar to the guys at USF1 one feels that if the size of their hearts were only matched by the extent of their wallets then we’d have two mega little teams in F1 this year.

Kolles’ takeover may also have other ramifications. Bruno Senna was signed up to the original Campos team, but had to bring no money with him on the basis that the team could use his image and name to attract sponsors to the squad. They have failed in this regard, and given that Senna’s contract was with Adrian Campos and his team, one wonders how stable that deal will be with the team’s new owner. Frankly I think they’d be crazy to get rid of him. He’s fast, he’s young, he’s got bucket loads of potential and he’s also hugely marketable in the right hands.

All this comes on the day that we are hearing that USF1’s base in Charlotte is up for sale. There is talk that a rift is starting to appear in the team between those pulling their weight and those who are not, and I understand that Peter Windsor is making his way over to Europe to try and find a solution to save his dream before all is lost. Peter’s worked his backside off trying to make this team happen, and I really hope it all works out, even if it’s not the 100% pure American squad which he’d hoped for.

Even the usually smug StefanGP’s not having a great time. Despite team owner Zoran Stefanovich saying he’s on the verge of announcing his drivers (he’d do well to get an F1 entry first), we’re hearing he hasn’t paid Toyota for their car yet and as such all of those goodies could be back up for sale soon as well.

Expect these stories to develop quickly, as with less than a month to go until Bahrain, there is very little time to get deals done.

Jean Todt and Bernie Ecclestone
c/o http://www.sutton-images.com

There are a lot of stories doing the rounds today about the futures of the Campos and USF1 teams, as questions continue to circulate as to whether either of them will be racing in Bahrain or, for that matter, whether we’ll see them at all in 2010. After FIA President Jean Todt admitted that the Concorde Agreement allowed for teams to miss three races before they would be kicked out of the championship, the FIA yesterday went on the offensive telling teams that there would be no excuses for missing even a single event.

Of course the sad thing in all this is that we really shouldn’t be terribly surprised to see the new teams struggle. The FIA’s failure to force through the 2010 budget cap under which it had accepted the new teams’ entries has undoubtedly shortened their prospects of not only success, but of their very survival. It seems to me to be pretty incredible for the FIA to allow no excuses for new teams to miss races in 2010, given that it was the FIA who promised a budget cap that failed to materialise. One would have thought that it would serve the FIA’s purposes to try and protect its new breed, rather than to grant them life and then leave them out in a blizzard to freeze.

One must now seriously question the due diligence process conducted on the FIA’s part of the prospective new teams, and how it was that of the numerous proposals put forwards, so many strong admissions were passed over in favour of teams which we can now quite clearly see did not have the funding in place to make a decent go of things. Because, and here’s the thing, we’re not even talking about big budgets here… we’re talking about that 40 million budget cap. As things stand, it would appear that neither USF1 nor Campos are even close to that magic number because even if the budget cap had come in, it now looks unlikely that the teams in question would have been able to make it.

That said, one must also say that these new teams have, perhaps, massively underestimated the challenge from both a sporting, technical and commercial perspective.

All of which must leave the likes of Prodrive and Lola, teams who know the challenge and could have risen to it, feeling pretty sick. Here we had two racing companies with a rich history, strong commercial and technical teams, and the funding to do things properly. Thanks to the manner in which the new teams were chosen however, both have now pulled their hats out of the ring and would likely be unable to fill the void should any new team fail to make it.

All we and the FIA are left with is StefanGP, an unknown quantity in racing and business terms, but an organisation which has filed a complaint against the FIA with the EC and employed Mike Coughlan, a man with an almighty black mark against his name in the FIA’s eyes, to work at the squad. Seems incredible the FIA would even give the team the time of day, doesn’t it? But what other option do they have?

The Lola MB01 in the windtunnel c/o Lola

Should any new team fail to make it and the FIA be able to admit another team into Formula 1, Lola would seem to be the best option. That said, I have it on pretty good authority that although the team stands by its mantra that they exist in “a state of readiness” to jump into F1 should the call arrive, it would actually take Lola the better part of six months to be fully prepared. Not only that, but without the budget cap I doubt very much that Lola would wish to become involved with F1 at all.

Having been turned down in the initial process, I understand that Lola even went as far as to contact USF1 at the tail end of last season to offer support with the design of their Type 1, given that Lola had a 2010 car fully designed and ready to rock. USF1, however, is understood to have turned down the offer. When I was over in Charlotte, NC, a few weeks ago, all that existed in the USF1 factory was a single tub. If rumours leaking out of FIA sources are correct, the team hasn’t even booked its crash tests, let alone passed them.

I believe that Lola still wants to be in Formula 1, but only if the price is right and should the timing be such that the team can join the sport without endangering its business and its reputation as it did back in 1997. For that reason, I can’t see Lola now selling the IP to its 2010 F1 car, even if USF1 did come knocking.

With the preparation the team put into its 2010 F1 programme, Lola is an even stronger business and racing team than it was 12 months ago and, ironically enough, could be in an even stronger position to make an F1 debut in 2011 should a space open up, than it would have been in 2010.