News Wrap, Week 17

It’s been a relatively interesting week in Formula One when you consider how relatively uninteresting the race itself was. The Valencia Street Circuit yet again provided us with some fairly standard racing, made worse by the now-predictable result of Sebastian Vettel pointing at us come the end of the last lap.
However, it’s worth noting that, compared to previous races around the docklands circuit, the 2011 edition was more exciting. The DRS (albeit limited in its effectiveness) and Pirelli combination once again went some way to spicing up the race – though to a lesser extent than we’ve seen so far this year.
We’ve been spoilt – that’s the problem. Of the seven races so far this season, each has been better than the last, culminating in the dramatic race in Canada. It’s difficult to know whether or not such exciting and complicated races were really envisioned at the beginning of the year, but we’ve certainly been enjoying them while we have them.
This year’s race at Valencia has seen renewed calls for its removal from the calendar, perhaps as it had the unfortunate slot of following on from Montreal, and was subsequently compared to it. Joe Saward made a point on his blog that when the sport is becoming increasingly concerned about its exposure (consider the battle to keep the sport on free to air, rising ticket prices, Concorde agreements dictating money divisions), it seems paradoxically unwilling to compromise on the races themselves. The races are ultimately what the sport is about, yet Bernie seems so keen to extend the contracts of those most dull. Abu Dhabi, Bahrain, Valencia – all have shown they are incapable of providing exciting racing, yet all maintain their places on the calendar. Most worryingly, they maintain their places at the expense of other, more exciting venues. You can read Joe Saward’s article here.
In the meanwhile, let’s just look forward to Great Britain. It’s an exciting track with an exciting atmosphere, plus some rule changes are on their way to either shake up the field or cause mass disappointment when they have minimal effect. Let’s wait and see…
 
Daniel Ricciardo
Read the full story here.
Ah! A second Australian in Formula One! There was a small explosion at the sport office for the Herald Sun on Thursday night as news came to light that Daniel Ricciardo would be racing next weekend. Finally, the next generation Australian F1 driver has arrived. And he’s driving for HRT! Wait… oh…

Ricciardo excited for F1 debut

Okay, so the news was tempered slightly by the team he’ll be racing for. But let’s not forget that it’s only a loan deal – The Shiz would have to be stupid to let Vettel MkII escape from Red Bull that easily. It does mean, however, that his first races in Formula One will be decidedly… unspectacular. What we’ll really be looking out for is Ricciardo’s pace in comparison to that of Liuzzi. He’s had the measure of his two former teammates Buemi and Alguersuari so far this season on Friday mornings, though he’s now stepping into an unfamiliar car – one’s that’s considerably less a complete package than even the STR.
It’s good news, even if Rob has some motherly misgivings about it. Even Red Bull are happy about it. Not only will their driver gain some valuable race experience (and they’ll get to watch and analyse his progress), but it certainly alleviates the pressure on STR to make a decision on which of their drivers will make way for him. With both Alguersuari and Buemi tied on points, and both performing reasonably well, the team will now have the rest of the season to make a decision.
It’s good news for everyone except the now (almost) jobless Narain Karthikeyan, who’ll have his Formula One swansong at the Indian Grand Prix where HRT will use him rather ruthlessly for publicity. Beyond that sole Grand Prix weekend, it’s all Ricciardo.
All eyes will be keenly trained on the Perth-born rising star. Some have marked him as a Vettel beater – it’s certainly a nice title to have, but let’s not put too much pressure on him just yet. He’s still a rookie to Formula One, and we need to give him a little time to acclimatise.
 
Also at HRT…
Colin Kolles, the dentist turned team principal, is set to step aside as the troubled team looks to shuffle its management structure. This comes as team owner Jose Ramon Carabante looks to take more control in the team, and there are rumours that he’ll install his son, also Jose (uncreative, no?) as Kolles’ successor.

Colin Kolles to step aside

It’s a complicated structure as it is, and Kolles will need to be heavily involved with any changes. The way HRT work is that their licence is owned by Carabante – he stepped in on the eve of the 2010 season to save Adrian Campos’ newly-approved Campos Meta 1 team from falling into bankruptcy. However, that’s all he owns – the rest of the gear, including the team, the car and the manufacturing works – are all owned by Kolles. Carabante, in effect, is renting HRT. He runs some of the PR stuff from Spain, but the actual serious work is done from Kolles’ base in Germany.
With Carabante wanting to run his team from Spain, the only workable solution would be for Kolles to sell everything he owns to the Carabante family, and then – assuming he still wants to be involved in F1 – buy a stake or find a job with another team. It’s either that, or they need to work together. If the latter persists, HRT will – like many rental houses – slowly fall to bits as neither the tenant or owner realises just how damaged the property is.
 
America says ‘yes we can’ to Formula One
So any readers I haven’t lost after that pun may be interested to read that the council responsible for the area in which Formula One is set to return to America in Texas have voted six-to-two to spend the US$25 million to bring the world’s biggest circus to the States. It seems as if the potential court action is off, for now.
Curiously, the state is still opposed to the date of the race itself – currently scheduled for 17 June next year – as it coincides with one of Austin’s ‘Ozone Action Days’ – days during a period of intense sun that provide conditions for gasses and whatnot to accumulate in the ozone layer and break it down. The way it works is that the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality tells the citizens of the state only a day in advance which day will see these conditions and then encourage people not to drive their cars and to generally lower the CO2 emissions – so you can understand why it’s a little problematic for them. The state’s fairly serious about this and are hoping to have their spot in the calendar moved – though they accept the calendar is a complex beast as it is and mightn’t be able to get what they want.
 
Engine Mapping
Valencia saw the banning of engine mapping changes between qualifying and the race. The result was overwhelmingly underwhelming. While we saw a little more fight towards the front of the grid in qualifying, Sebastian Vettel disproved the theory that Red Bull would be worst hit by the new regulations.
It’s ominous for next week’s British Grand Prix, during which the idea of ‘aggressive’ engine mapping itself will be disallowed. Some speculate that Red Bull will again(?) be most affected, though some have contended that the Milton Keynes-based outfit are actually doing very little ‘hot blowing’ to begin with as it caused too much heat damage to their car. Renault, on the other hand, are known to use some seriously aggressive hot blowing techniques (stop sniggering, Rob), and have themselves admitted that they’re not looking forward to the regulations coming into force.
 
French Grand Prix
Talks of the French government setting up a commission to investigate ways to return Formula One to France has coincided with the dramatically dull European Grand Prix in Valencia, Spain.

Peter McGinley in front of a French car

To be honest, there isn’t much news on the matter, but to me it just makes overwhelming sense for us to switch venues from Valencia to, possibly, Paul RIccard – even if it’s under the banner of European Grand Prix.
First of all, we really don’t need two races in Spain. We’re there to try to capitalise on Fernando Alonso’s popularity, and the effect it had in turning the country into a bunch of F1-lovers, but it’s time to move on. Alonso’ time with Ferrari is sure to keep their support alive and if it isn’t, I still don’t think it’s justification enough to give them two races. Not when France – the centre of the FIA and original home of Formula One racing – goes on without one. It just makes no sense whatsoever.
Formula One was born in France, it’s about time it returns to it. 
 

 You can follow me on twitter, if you have nothing better to do: @MichaelLamonato
 

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