News Wrap, Week 26
It’s good to be back with Formula One in full swing again. The Belgian Grand Prix, I feel, was in many ways representative of the season as a whole – thus far, at least. A mild amount of controversy in the race build up. Lots of lead changes. Different strategies at play. Loads of overtaking. Michael Schumacher being both disappointing and immensely impressive at the same time. And in the end, Sebastian Vettel still wins. The racing is always good, as it has been all season, but in the end everyone’s favourite Justin Bieber impersonator will inevitably take that top podium step. Oh well, at least the journey’s an entertaining one.
Also, just before we get into the news, I can announce that this week’s Brut Patrol, held during the Belgian Grand Prix, was won by Martin Kosters, who – somehow – correctly guessed the final score which was a comfortable 5 – 3 win to Brut over Greg Rust’s plugs for RPM. I suppose a congratulations is in order. Martin is our first winner of the year, though wins no prize because – much like our infamous Kolouring Kompetition – I had no idea anyone would take it seriously. Maybe I’ll set up some sort of Brut wall of fame. You can follow #BrutPatrol on Twitter through my own Twitter account, with some of the highlights retweeted via the Box Of Neutrals Twitter page.
Brut Patrol will return for the Italian Grand Prix next weekend.
Heidfeld vs Lotus (Renault Genii Lotus Capital Lada Renault Trololol) RESOLVED
Last week the world of Formula One learnt that Renault had sidelined Nick Heidfeld after he failed to meet management’s expectations as a team leader. In his place was to be Bruno Senna for the remained of the season, who went on to qualify a superb seventh, but made a rookie error going in to the first corner, subsequently earning him a drive through penalty which ruined his race. His pace throughout the Grand Prix, though, was quite consistent, so we’re all eagerly awaiting to see what he can do for the remainder of the season.
Nick Heidfeld, no longer an F1 driver
However, it was also revealed that Nick Heidfeld was in the midst of bringing legal action to Renault for standing him down midseason. A court had already sided with the faux-French team during the break, but Heidfeld had launched an appeal which was to be sorted before the Singapore Grand Prix.
All that amounts to nothing now, however, with both parties agreeing to a financial settlement that will see the two formally sever ties with each other. Heidfeld thus becomes a free agent, with a head start at looking for a spare seat for 2012. How likely it is that he’ll find one is another matter, since the German has had plenty of chances to prove himself in this top tier sport, and has failed to deliver.
However, were he able to find enough sponsors, gather together some serious financial backing, he might be a chance for the Williams seat it now seems likely that Rubens Barrichello will be forced to vacate. Williams need an experienced driver alongside rookie Pastor Maldonado, but can’t afford to keep Barrichello who brings minimal money to the team. It’s speculative, but could happen…
Ownership at STR
I will admit, Toro Rosso has never made a great deal of sense to me. It’s a team bankrolled, in much the same way as Red Bull, by Red Bull overlord Dietrich ‘The Shiz’ Mateschitz, but with the intention of being a ‘B’ team. It wasn’t as big a problem back when it was still legal for the two teams to share chassis packages, but since that was outlawed the junior team has been running under its own power, circulating as Red Bull’s backup team. The Shiz is more than entitled to burn his money on a team without championship ambitions – there are plenty of teams on the grid that won’t be having a look in at the ultimate prize any time soon – it still seems odd that this team should exist with a total lack of championship ambition.
I don’t get Toro Rosso
Does the model work, though? The point of STR, along with the Red Bull Driver Development Programme is to test young drivers, to give them race experience, then promote the good ones to the senior Red Bull team, while discarding the unfavourable drivers. The results? Count one world champion: Sebastian Vettel. That’s all well and good, but Red Bull mercilessly burnt through the likes of Christian Klien, Scott Speed, Sébastien Bourdais and, to a lesser extent, Tonio Liuzzi and Karun Chandhok. There have been a number of talented drivers who, by way of either their lack of F1 experience or by use of the less competitive STR machinery have fallen by the wayside over the years. One of them even ended up at HRT.
Now, however, it seems as if The Shiz might be looking at letting go of the junior team – or some part of it, anyway.
According to Joe Saward, the Spanish media have reported that STR has been sold to the International Petroleum Investment Company in the United Arab Emirates. There are also rumours that a new team headquarters facility is already under construction somewhere in the UAE, possibly near the Yas Marina circuit. Toro Rosso is currently based in Faenza, Italy.
Read more on this from Joe Saward here.
Formula One in 2012
The FIA has at last confirmed a calendar for 2012 after months of unhappiness from parties all across the board. With each of the circuit owners now satisfied with their places in the line up (with the exception of those in Turkey, whose circuit has been dropped), the teams now have to come to grips with a record 20-race year, many of which will be back-to-back rounds.
The season starts in mid-March with Australia regaining its slot as the curtain raised event. Bahrain has been reinstated as the year’s fourth round on 22 April, and is the final of the first set of flyaway races.
The most curious part is the second set of flyaway rounds, starting with Belgium and Italy, then Singapore, then Japan and Korea, India and Abu Dhabi, and finally America and Brazil. Three twinned races in the space of seven rounds presents an enormous logistical problem for the teams, especially as each round requires a great deal of international travel. Also twinned next year are Australia and Malaysia, China and Bahrain, ad Germany and Hungary – making 12 of the 20 races back-to-back.
Formula One on the BBC
Meanwhile, unrest continues to spread over the new BBC/Sky deal, announced about one month ago. One British MP feels strongly enough about it that he’ll be bringing up the issue in the next meeting of the House of Commons’ Culture, Media and Sport select committee for broader discussion.
‘I do not believe plans to share coverage between the BBC and Sky promote the best interests of license fee payers and motor racing fans.’
-Don Foster MP
Don Foster MP seems most concerned about the lack of clarity regarding how the deal came about, specifically the disparity between the BBC’s version of events and that of Bernie Ecclestone. The BBC says that the deal was brokered by Ecclestone, while Ecclestone says that, because the BBC had a contract until 2014, his hands were tied and thus had to accept the deal that the BBC itself had arranged.
Foster wrote a letter to the BBC’s director-general Mark Thompson about the issue, inviting him to explain the mechanics of the deal, and its origins. You can read the full letter here.
You can follow me on Twitter, if you have nothing better to do: @MichaelLamonato