News Wrap, Week 35

Hello there Box Of Neutrals friends. I hope this communiqué finds you well. I, meanwhile, have a case of hay fever – so all you Europeans, as you descend into the delightfully benign autumn and winter months, spare a thought for your suffering Australian friend, perpetually under attack from nature. Kind of like how nature defeats the aliens in that remade War Of The Worlds film, only with less Tom Cruise.
This aside, as the season continues to wind down and a greater number of people lose interest, I’ve found for you a few news headlines that may warrant your attention and keep you even vaguely engaged with Formula One this Abu Dhabi GP weekend.
HRT aims high
If you’ll cast your mind back to the start of the season for me, I’d like to remind you of the plight HRT faced arriving in Australia. The backmarker and perpetual joke of the sport, Hispania arrived in Melbourne having done no testing whatsoever. To its credit, the team intended to – but a mysterious glitch in Spanish customs meant that they were without some suspension parts in Barcelona. So, HRT arrived in Melbourne, hoping to God that the car would, well… work.

Hormone Replacement Therapy

They failed to do so on Friday – though this had most to do with the fact that car remained largely disassembled on the garage floor at this point. But the team’s struggles seemed set to pay off on Saturday , with Narain Kerthikeyan getting the opportunity to jump into the one complete car and manage a lap or two around Albert Park – albeit some 17 seconds off the pace. The team, needless to say, subsequently failed to qualify for Sunday’s race, and packed up early.
However, the team from Spain/Germany is looking to make amends for 2012, promising to be ready for the first test of 2012. Big claims, though team employee Saul Ruiz failed to specify whether it would be the 2011 or 2012 car making an appearance.
Either way, it looks like HRT maybe approaching a turning point in its Formula One fortunes. With an extended deal with Williams under its belt, and team migrating from Munich to new office space in Valencia, things are looking decidedly less bleak than they did over the 2010/11 off-season.
Touch wood.
Ah, rekkamies…
Something a little interesting happened on Thursday in the lead up to the Abu Dhabi weekend. Talk of Barrichello these days is, of course, about his future in the sport. While he has openly admitted that he won’t be around in 2014, he has been hoping to stick around until the end of 2013. It seemed virtually assured at the start of the year – Williams, having significant trouble developing its car to be something close to decent – needed his experience head to lead them through it, to give the engineers usable feedback. However, the side effect of poor performance has been sponsorship money flowing less readily into team coffers.

I don’t care that I overuse this photo

Williams now has three choices: ride out the storm with Barrichello and hope for greener pastures next year, drop Barrichello in favour of a wealthy young driver, or drop Barrichello and pay for a driver who will attract new sponsors. Even the odds are against poor Rubens.
It’s now been made official from both sides that Williams and Raikkonen are trying to deal for 2012, and Williams has said that a decision will be made before the Brazilian Grand Prix in two weeks time.
However, Motor racing correspondent for The Time UK, Kevin Eason – who I will henceforth refer to as the master of suspense – tweeted on Thursday: ‘And so farewell Rubens. Could Brazil, his home race, be his last? He doesn’t think so, but then he doesn’t own a team’. He said nothing more on the matter. Hmm…
It’s widely expected that Raikkonen is on his way to Williams now, especially after the team revealed its latest long-term sponsorship deal in Qatar. But does Eason know something we don’t?
Teams blowing their own diffusers

Diffuser row over

The push by the FIA to ban off-throttle blowing throughout the season (listen to our interview with Craig Scarborough for more) may have finally come to a close, with three teams blocking a move from the rest of FOTA to allow the practice for one more year.
The ban, which was enforced briefly at Silverstone, then postponed until 2012, will see the use of aggressive engine maps to blow exhaust air onto the diffuser when the driver lifts off from the throttle outlawed.
However, teams including McLaren and Red Bull have been protesting even the 2012 ban, arguing that the FIA decided on the rule too late in the year, with designs for 2012 challengers already well underway. Thus, their preparation would be affected.
All was silent for a while, but now Ferrari, Sauber and HRT have stood up against their peers, refusing to support another exception to the regulations – mostly because none of these three teams could nut out just how to get the best of the blown diffuser concept.
The only way the rule could’ve been changed was to have unanimous approval from all teams. With HRT a risk to protest against the rule even this year, it always seemed unlikely – and it’s suspected that a number of other teams that struggled with the concept won’t be too upset to see the back of it, either.

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


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