31 January 2011

Team Lotus is back!

Team Lotus have just launched the T128; the car which the team hope will take them to no less than 7th in the constructors championship in the 2011 season. I was going to write a feature on the Ferrari F150 launched a few days ago, however was disappointed to see it looking basically the same as the F10 from last year. The T128 however is RADICALLY different!

You may recall me writing an article last week talking about how I disagreed with team owner Tony Fernandes bringing back the ‘Team Lotus’ name, when he could never live up to the legacy of radical innovation that it became known for throughout the 70’s and 80’s. I said that in this day and age of Formula One, teams could not innovate to the levels that Colin Chapman and his team did back in the day and that Mr. Fernandes would ruin this once classic image. Well... I may just have to eat my words!

The T128 features front and rear suspension which appears to be missing its’ uprights. Forget Red Bull’s pullrod system; Lotus have gone for the full no-rod! The wishbones are wafer thin and how the track rods (used to turn the wheels) are enclosed in them I have no idea! Definitely some serious innovation going on there. If this suspension system actually works, then expect the rest of the teams to feature it on their 2012 cars because aerodynamically at least, it would present a significant performance gain.

As for the rest of the car, the team have opted for the ‘fin’ roll hoop pioneered by Mercedes last year and the car now also features (as very much opposed to the T127) very beautifully sculpted sidepods. Whilst the front and rear wings look pretty much the same as those run on their debut car from 2010, expect them to change dramatically as the first race in Bahrain draws closer. The nose of the car is also much more attractive; now wider and more proportionate to the rest of the car.

The only thing I don’t like about the car (at least in the launch photos) is the paint work. Not so much the livery, as I think it looks quite smart, but the detailing seems to be quite ‘dodgy’. Along the top of the monocoque and down toward the nose, it appears as though two different colour greens were used. The lines separating the different colours are so obvious that it almost looks as though an under-performing high school manual arts student has done it! I also don’t like how the yellow and white stripe down the middle is interrupted so often with sponsor decals; it kind of takes away from its’ effect. Instead of being a stripe, it has become a series of yellow rectangles placed randomly along the car.

Aside from that however, the car looks very very good indeed and I can now take a massive sigh of relief, knowing that the Team Lotus legacy appears to be in very good hands. Nice work Mr. Gascoyne!

27 January 2011

Di Resta confirmed alongside Sutil at Force India

It was confirmed earlier today that reigning German touring car champion Paul Di Resta will partner Adrian Sutil at the Vijay Mallya owned outfit, with Williams outcast Nico Hulkenberg signing up as third driver. Di Resta piloted theVJM-03 in 2010 on 8 occasions in Friday’s first free practice session and more often than not showed impressive speed in comparison to his teammates; whether his pace was fuel related is unknown but the fact he’s got a 2011 race drive with the team would indicate not.

What baffles me about the signing however is why teams such as Williams, Virgin, Sauber, Hispania (most likely) and now Force India are taking the risk to sign rookie drivers in this day and age of no in season testing. We saw in 2010 how long it took Hulkenberg and Petrov to get up to speed in relation to their teammates, having finished first and second respectively in the 2009 GP2 season; and we saw in 2009 the struggles Alguersuari and Grosjean went through after jumping in a car mid season for the first time. Yet 2011 see’s almost half the teams again taking the risk with a rookie driver. Why?

When Nick Heidfeld, a formula one veteran of over 170 grands prix jumped into the Sauber C29 last year having had no experience whatsoever on the new spec Bridgestone rubber or indeed with the 2010 cars, he went onto to score points in 2 of his 5 races. Christian Klien jumped into the second Hispania seat in Singapore, Brazil and Abu Dhabi and despite some bad luck in the races, comfortably outpaced Bruno Senna in almost all of the other sessions. Goes to show what a little bit of experience does…

This is why it blows me away that Nico Hulkenberg is left without a race drive in 2011. He has served his F1 apprenticeship and even took his first pole position in some of the trickiest conditions to drive in, yet he’s resigned to a third driver role for the 2011 season. Ridiculous! Drivers just aren’t being given enough time to develop and the team’s need to understand that it takes time, with the current testing restrictions, to get onto the pace of the more experienced drivers. Hulkenberg matched and bettered Barrichello on many occasions in the second half of the season and was developing very quickly into a star of the future. He had won championships in Formula BMW, Formula 3, A1GP and GP2 and an F1 championship wasn’t too far out of reach. Yet as seems to be the trend in F1, good drivers are being shafted for ‘the next big thing’ before they get a chance to show what they’re truly made of.

Take for example Pastor Maldonado, 2010 GP2 champion; what’s different between he and Hulkenberg? 1 year of F1 experience that’s what! Maldonado won the GP2 championship in his 4th attempt whereas Hulkenberg won in his first off the back of F3 Euroseries success the year before. CEO of Williams Adam Parr said he was ‘repulsed’ by comments by the media saying that he was a pay driver; saying it was purely for his talent that he was signed. Rubbish…

Wasn’t it convenient that within a few weeks of his signing, the team lands a big sponsorship deal with a big Venezuelan oil company? While the money doesn’t come from Pastor’s hip pocket, it’s quite clear Williams knew money from ‘somewhere’ would come if they signed him up alongside his fellow South American. And they say they’re not in need of money… If they weren’t, they would have kept Hulkenberg; full stop.

Now what about Force India? Di Resta has enjoyed a close relationship with Mercedes Benz dating back to 2005 when he competed in Formula 3 and with the Indian outfit running Mercedes engines, I have no doubt that pressure came from Germany to put him in the second seat. Otherwise surely they’d want to snap up Hulkenberg who had been floating around for months…

It is sad that so much talent; Heidfeld, Hulkenberg, Bourdais and Pantano; just to name a few, are being left to languish on the sidelines because of the ridiculous politics associated with F1. Just imagine if all these drivers were Russian, would they be in F1 then? Probably… F1 should be about having the best drivers in the best cars, not the ones with the most money or those who just happen to have met the right people.

Like I said before, with the current testing restrictions, teams need to give drivers more than just 1 season to show what they’re made of. It makes me sad that so much talent or the prospect of so many awesome world championship battles are being thrown away for a few extra dollars. When will it change…

24 January 2011

Stupid rear wing boosty thingy... (oh, and KERS!)

What a ridiculously complicated system! As we should all know by now, the 2011 technical regulations will permit drivers to adjust the angle of their rear wings whilst on track for a straight line boost when within 1 second of the car in front, to assist in overtaking. They will do this by mechanically increasing the gap between the top plane and main plane of the rear wing from 10mm to 50mm, which will as a result stall the wing and significantly reduce drag. While this seems pretty straightforward, when drivers will actually be able to use it is still relatively unknown.

One thing is clear however and that is that no one will be able to use the system on the first two laps of the race or two laps after a safety car restart. From there it gets very complicated... Drivers will have the system activated (signalled by a light on their dash) when FIA-monitored GPS technology tells them that they are within 1 second of the car in front. The system will also only be permitted for use on one section of the track, which may not even be the start finish straight! Meaning we are likely to see a lot of passes on one particular corner. Drivers will then have a separate button for their KERS systems, meaning that they will have one thumb/finger holding down the KERS button for as long they want and the other thumb/finger hovering over the rear wing button waiting for the green light to come on. All this while travelling along at over 200 miles an hour!

Now the idea of being able to stall the rear wing for a straight line boost is nothing new; with the idea coming about after the implementation of McLaren’s radical F-duct system in 2010 (which went on to be copied by almost every other team). However concerns over driver safety were raised when many drivers had to completely remove one hand from the steering wheel in order to operate the system. As such, the system was quickly banned (as are most innovations in F1) and here we are with another less innovative, more complicated system. Not to mention more dangerous! We're going have drivers flying along at 200 miles an hour, looking down at their steering wheel for a little green light to come on... What if a disgruntled fan runs onto the track in this moment? Or a stray wheel bounces across the track? At least with one hand on the wheel the drivers attention is still focussed on what's going on around him!

But why does it need to be this complicated or dangerous? There is a much simpler way of using the same system but in a way that is much easier to understand and far more exciting from a fans point of view (and much safer). All we need to do is give the drivers 30 opportunities to press the aero-boost button at any point during the race after which the system will deactivate. From the moment they press the button to when they either press it again or hit the brake pedal, the rear wing will be stalled. This system would employ a much greater use of strategy from the drivers, who will need to save it for the most important points in the race. For example, they may use it to carve their way through the field in the opening laps after a bad qualifying performance; they might use it before or after a pit stop to leapfrog other drivers on a different strategy; they might use it all in the last 5 laps to close in and pass the leader. All these options have their positive and negative points but the point I’m trying to make is, is that it will be up to the driver when he decides to use it.

It would be a pretty cool TV graphic to see who’s used their aero-boost the most and how they’ve used it. You could have a green flashing light graphic with the number of boosts left in the middle, alongside which you have an orange bar showing how and when the drivers are using their KERS button. KERS is a brilliant innovation, but the problem I’ve always had with it is that there’s no strategy element to it. The driver in front can defend with it, while the driver behind tries to attack with it. The end result being that the positions stay the same. Having the aero-boost button available for just 30 times during the race will mean drivers who have used the system wisely will ultimately finish higher in the final classification.

Let me finish by painting a picture for you. Imagine Alonso crashed in qualifying and starts down in 24th. By using his aero-boost button 25 times in the first 10 laps, he climbs into an incredible 5th place, but he’s only got another 5 opportunities to use it for the next 50 laps. Meanwhile Webber, who qualified on pole hasn’t used his at all in the first 10 laps and slipped to 6th, behind Alonso. As the race wears on, Alonso employs mega defensive tactics to try and hold the boost-riddled Webber behind. A mega battle unfolds with big lunges and epic outside moves until finally Webber finds a way past. On lap 34, with Alonso in 6th and Webber in 5th, Petrov crashes his Renault and brings out the safety car. Webber is sitting pretty with 25 boosts left to Alonso’s 3. Those ahead of Webber have got no more than 10 boosts left. By using his 25 boosts in the final laps, Webber pulls off some epic passing moves to move into the lead while those he passes desperately try and defend. Meanwhile Alonso is also desperately trying to defend against those behind who have more boosts up their sleeves. The fans look on in awe as drivers from 1st to 24th places pass each other left right and centre; all because some drivers used their boost button differently. Wouldn’t that be amazing to watch?

The main criticism that a lot of people have of the new wing stalling rule is that it will make overtaking artificial. In other words, a driver will try and be second on the final lap and then slingshot past on the final straight to take that win. I believe that this will absolutely be the case and that overtaking will no longer be an art but predictable and boring. We'll be watching the gap between the drivers and as soon as it gets to 1 second we'll say, 'Oh yep, he's past him now.' Before he even gets past! Predictable and boring that is! But wouldn't giving the drivers a set number of opportunities to use the system fix this? Well, it would not only fix this, but it would make the racing bloody exciting! Who’s with me?!

22 January 2011

The greatest sport in the world!

After Formula One Management announced recently that F1 viewing figures had increased in 2010 to 527 million viewers after one of the best seasons in recent memory, it occurred to me that after every season we seem to say that it was the best ever. ‘It won’t get any better than that!’ we say to ourselves; and yet it always does!

The unpredictability of motor racing combined with the technology, glamour, professionalism and sheer speed and grip that is F1 creates what I believe to be the best sport in the world! It’s what I like to call the ‘what happens next’ factor that keeps us on the edge of our seat throughout the year. The immense rate of development in F1 see’s teams see-sawing between being the pacesetter and mere point’s getters. The immense level of talent we have in the field: Vettel, Alonso, Webber, Hamilton, Button, Kubica, Massa; plus entertainers like Kobayashi and Petrov (the latter for impressing us with the endless ways he seems to be able to crash his car) mean we never truly know what’s going to happen.

With the Australian Open tennis championship happening at the moment here in Australia; I’m finding it to be rather boring! When Federer or Nadal come out on court against an un-seeded 18 year old, we pretty much know what’s going to happen; we pretty much know ‘what is going to happen next’. Anyone who says they know what is going to happen next in F1 need only be referred to Webber’s crash in Korea or Vettel’s massive engine blow up with 10 laps to go in the same race.  Tiny mistakes by either team or driver can see them go from merely cruising to the championship to battling down in seventh watching it slip further and further away with each lap. What other sport has that level of unpredictability? If Federer, the greatest tennis player of the modern era, is 2 sets and a break up in the third set into a game, it’s a pretty safe bet to say he’ll win. But when Alonso, Vettel, Webber, Hamilton and co, some of the greatest drivers of the modern era, are leading a Grand Prix by 20 seconds; there are simply too many variables to say they are a shoe in for the win. Think of backmarkers, safety cars, pit stops, changes in the weather, mechanical failure, the slightest of driver errors; the list goes on!

In some ways I wish it weren’t as predictable and that Webber (my favourite driver) would win every race. But if it were like that, it would be boring and it wouldn’t attract 527 million viewers from 187 countries and it certainly wouldn’t attract me to watch it!

With the conclusion of every championship grows the unbridled anticipation and excitement for the next season to begin. The days grow slower as the time for the lights to go out in the season opener draws nearer. The 2011 season looks set to be another cracker! Realistically we have Red Bull, McLaren, Ferrari, Renault and Mercedes capable of race victories. Teams like Williams, Sauber and Force India will show their nose at the front at various stages throughout the year and newbies Lotus and Virgin (and Hispania) are looking good to challenge the midfield teams at times as well. Webber will be aiming to show why he’s nobody’s number 2; Button will be aiming to show why he deserved his 2009 championship; Massa will be aiming to show Alonso who’s boss; Kubica will be aiming to show why he’s the best driver in the world; Rosberg will be aiming to show Schumacher how it’s done and Schumacher will be aiming to prove his critics wrong. Add into this at least 3 rookie drivers proving their mettle, the rest of the drivers putting their best foot forward to show the world why they deserve to be in F1, tweaks to the aero regulations, push to pass buttons, new tyres and new tracks, it’s fair to say that I’m bloody excited! I've even got a little Christian Horner foot twitch happening as I write this!

The fact that there are as many possible outcomes for the year ahead as there were TV viewers last year and that no one, despite their best efforts at times, can predict what is going to happen, truly make Formula One the greatest sport in the world! Bring it on!

20 January 2011

Tony Fernandes reads The GrandPrix Blog!

After posting my passionate article yesterday regarding the whole Lotus shemozzle, it would appear as though Team Lotus owner Tony Fernandes read the article! I say this based on his twitter updates throughout the day which you can read on the Latest F1 Updates page. Pretty cool for a blog that’s not even a week old! However I think I need to clear a few things up as I may have gotten lost in the moment last night.

Tony Fernandes has done a bloody fantastic job with whatever his team was/is/might be called. With my own personal interest in the business world, I see good businessmen as those who can see the value in having the right team of people around them to get the job done; as opposed to just flinging money around to get try and get the job done. Mr. Fernandes has inspired me to do the same in my own life as an aspiring world leader and businessman. It appears as though he has invested very wisely in developing this team of people, which I have no doubt will see his team steadily move up the grid. Like I said yesterday, he should be commended for all that he’s done so far with the team.

I cannot for the life of me however, see why he felt so strongly the need to bring back firstly the Lotus name and now the Team Lotus name to the sport. I italicize name because I don’t see the same legacy that was once Team Lotus, being conveyed through the new Team Lotus. At the moment all I see is the name. Now I’ll kindly eat my words if the 2011/12/13 car is ‘Colin Chapman’ brilliant but like I said, the rules are so tight these days that ‘significant’ innovations are almost impossible (please please please prove me wrong Mr. Gascoyne!).

It bugs me because I really like the team and I love the way it’s being run. They could develop their own unique legacy so easily; I just can’t see why Mr. Fernandes felt he needed to continue someone else’s instead. Why? If you’re reading this Tony, can you please find an avenue of explaining this properly so that I can understand a bit better? I will be one of your biggest fans if you can explain that point effectively to me. I’ll be at the Australian Grand Prix in March and I will come and say G’day and buy you a drink (or 12)! We can sit down and have a chat about it. It would be awesome!

Now Tony, mate, I know you were trying to do the right thing in bringing the name back to F1 and I know a lot of fans appreciate it. And maybe it’s just my understanding of what Team Lotus used to be that is clouding my judgment of the situation. I don’t know. But the vibe I get is just not the vibe I want to be getting; at the moment anyway. But I certainly admire what you’re doing a lot more than what the other Lotus people are doing…

19 January 2011

The Lotus shemozzle (part 1 of 548)

Ex- Team Lotus (formerly Lotus Racing) test driver Fairuz Fauzy confirmed yesterday that he would join the ‘other’ Lotus team for the 2011 season as its’ official test and reserve driver. The 28 year old Malaysian driver decided to part ways with the debutant team to ‘pursue other opportunities’ at the end of last year and was given the teams blessing on the way out; funny how that one worked out for them! His deflection to the ‘Lotus Renault GP’ outfit, as it will be branded from 2011 onwards, has only added fuel onto what is an already raging fire of confusion regarding everything Lotus!

Now as I check all the F1 news sites hourly, I’m only a little confused by the whole matter (unlike most others); however it is the damage being done to the famous Team Lotus brand that spanned 5 decades from 1958 to 1994 that bothers me.

The legendary team owner Colin Chapman was a renowned innovator; being the first to run a monocoque chassis, the first to run ground effect aerodynamics and was only just beaten (by McLaren’s MP4/1) to being the first team to run an all carbon fibre chassis. In 1982 Chapman had just embarked on an intensive active suspension development program when he tragically died from a heart attack at age 54. Another innovation which was once again well ahead of its’ time.

This image of innovation and their desire to continually push the boundaries of engineering is an image that I not only associate strongly with the Team Lotus name; but I believe is Team Lotus. In this day and age of Formula 1, teams don’t have the flexibility in the rules to be able to innovate to the levels that Mr. Chapman and his crew were able to. Nowadays the biggest performance driven innovations you’ll see are a double diffuser or abnormally flexing front wings; things insignificant to the average Joe. So why is Tony Fernandes and his crew ruining this famous image?!

Wasn’t it enough to just be called ‘Lotus’? Noooooo... It had to be ‘Team Lotus’! Which is bloody ridiculous as far as I’m concerned because the fans and commentators are still going to call the cars bloody Lotus’ anyway! When are you going to hear Martin Brundle say, ‘Oh there you’ve got a Team Lotus car in the wall at turn 5.’ No! It’ll be, ‘Oh we’ve got a Lotus off!’ or ‘Kovalainen’s binned the Lotus!’ Now don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love what Tony has tried to achieve and for that he should be commended. He has got a good technical director in Mark Gascoyne onboard and a very solid driver line- up. He quite comprehensively dominated the other new teams in 2010 and had one of the best team images or feels in the paddock in my opinion. He’s a very smart businessman.

But Tony... you’re only going to weaken the once iconic image. The new generation of F1 fans are going to remember Team Lotus in the years to come as ‘just another team’, whether you are ultimately successful or unsuccessful. This shouldn’t be the case! I think you’d be much better off making famous your own red and white livery under the banner of Team AirAsia than trying to be something that you quite clearly are not. Team Lotus grew to be more than a name. It grew into a way of thinking. So my advice? Develop your own team legacy mate! You can’t just fling your chequebook around and buy one!

Now as I turn my attention to you Lotus Renault GP (yes fella’s, you can’t avoid my wrath), I see the way in which you have shamelessly copied the famous JPS livery as... well... shameful! You attention seeking twats! Stealing something someone else made famous for your own gain! No it’s not just paint, it’s what it means. How dare you try and associate yourselves with such icons of our sport as Fittipaldi, Andretti and the greatest of them all Ayrton Senna. Again I say, create your own damn legacy! Don’t copy someone else’s! Wouldn’t it be far greater an achievement to have teams 35 years on from now copying the livery ‘you’ made famous in 2011? Wouldn’t it feel better to be sitting on your rocking chair watching F1 in 2046 saying, ‘I designed that.’ Or are you happy looking back and saying, ‘I copied that from someone else’?

Now the fact that the Lotus Group (Lotus cars owner) bought a stake in the Renault F1 team (owned by GENII Capital) to promote their road cars is a fair call in my opinion. I mean, it’s just a marketing opportunity; a chance to ‘sell more cars’. So I reckon that’s pretty well justified. I’ve got no issues with the their name choice. But they should keep their greedy hands off the image of the former greats!

Actually... I’m even bewildered as to why the Lotus Group felt they even needed to sponsor/co-own a team to promote their cars! Why not form a productive partnership with Tony Fernandes’ outfit? Whether the team is called Lotus and is owned or not owned by the actual car manufacturer, the viewers don’t care. All they see and hear is, ‘LOTUS’. They think, ‘Oh yeah the Elise, Exige, Evora...’ But if they feel the need to spend hundreds of millions of dollars of their own money doing that then they can go right ahead.

The whole thing is a total bloody mess! It looks to me as a very childish game between grownups who should and do know better. I would hope so anyway! I’ve probably rambled on far too much here but it’s something I’m very passionate about. Much of my relaxation time is spent watching the iconic black and gold Team Lotus’ on YouTube and seeking to learn more about them and then greedy, selfish and disrespectful billionaires come in and try and claim it as their own. It infuriates me!

I hope that in 2 months time when the lights go out in Bahrain, we see some spunky red and white AirAsia cars cruising around with the Williams’ and Sauber’s, while the sexy blue and yellow Lotus Renault’s set off from the second row. Now that would make my day; it would make my bloody year!

18 January 2011

Mirrors cost Alonso 2010 title

Mirrors you say? Yes, mirrors! In 2006 Ferrari pioneered the radical and largely infamous outboard mirror concept on their F248, a design feature that in the following years would see almost every team copy. The feature was aimed at reducing drag (by sitting in the wake of the front wheels) and improve airflow to the rear wing, however it was often the cause of many otherwise preventable crashes; think the start of Germany ’09 or turn 1 at last year’s Australian GP.

Now you’ll recall Alonso being turned around in the latter (after turning in on eventual race winner Button), causing him to drop right to the back of the field. Thankfully for him he was able to recover to a highly credible 4th place by the time the chequered flag had fallen, but it wasn’t this that cost him the championship...

Fast forward to the Malaysian Grand Prix a week later and it was Mark Webber who made the most of his risky tyre choice in wet conditions in Q3 to grab pole, with Mercedes’ Rosberg and Vettel ‘s Red Bull sister car not far behind. When the 5 red lights went out the following afternoon it was Vettel who got the better of the front row sitters and shot to the inside of the track. While Webber was still in P1 as he approached his braking mark, the complete lack of visibility his outboard mirrors offered meant he was totally unaware of Vettel being positioned for an easy pass up the inside. As such, Vettel made that pass and cruised to an easy victory ahead of the Australian. Had Webber had mirrors that were actually half useful on his car, then no doubt he would have covered the inside line and seen himself cruise to an easy win. A fact the young German even admitted after the race.

Now while it may seem totally irrelevant with regard to Fernando Alonso’s championship bid, had Mark won the Malaysian Grand Prix with Sebastian coming home in second then the final championship positions would have been as follows:

1st – Fernando Alonso – 252
2nd – Mark Webber – 249
3rd – Sebastian Vettel – 249

Now think back to December 2005 when Joe Italian was chilling out in Maranello, with his feet up on the desk, a pen and paper in hand, having just been entrusted by with the job of designing the mirrors for the following years F1 car. I’m sure he never thought his ‘good’ idea would cost the team a championship now did he...?

With 2011 being the first full season in which outboard mirrors will be banned, Fernando should be feeling pretty confident. Then again, maybe not!

17 January 2011

Nelson Piquet Jnr. involved in another disaster

As a proud Australian and long time Brisbane resident, I have had the discomfort of witnessing firsthand the devastating effects the recent floods have had on the communities around me. A tragedy that has so far seen 18 deaths with many more still unaccounted for, it is to be remembered as one of the worst natural disasters to ever hit the area. As the clean up now begins, it makes me proud to see the way in which the people of Brisbane and Australia have united to help each other out, seeing to date $85 million dollars raised and many hours of physical labour volunteered to help clean up the mess and set the victims on the road to recovery. While the media here in Australia was covering the story brilliantly, with rarely any other story rating half a mention, a far greater tragedy was taking place over on the other side of the world.
On Wednesday last week Brazilian municipality Rio de Janeiro, home to over 14 million was hit with a month’s rain fall in just 8 hours. Caused by the La Nina phenomenon, it has seen havoc created across much of the region including huge floods and catastrophic mud slides. Latest reports confirmed over 600 dead with those on the ground expecting to find hundreds more as the clean up continues.
The main concerns now for municipal officials is the growing risk of epidemics breaking out as bodies decompose in the tropical heat and water continues to run off. With food, water and supplies struggling to get into the area with many roads having collapsed during the disaster, grave fears are held for many of the survivors.
Former Brazilian F1 driver Nelson Piquet Jnr. has set up a relief fund to help those affected and I urge you to donate if possible or to at least keep those affected in your thoughts and prayers. Nelson will be matching dollar for dollar any donation that you put forward. Donations can be made through PayPal via the following address:
Stay tuned to the Latest F1 Updates page for more information from Nelson and fellow Brazilian Rubens Barrichello as the clean up continues.

16 January 2011

Virgin looking good to penetrate midfield

Now heading into their second Formula 1 championship season, the Marussia Virgin Racing team can now officially say they have lost their Formula 1 virginity! In a debut season that featured mixed results at the hands of Timo Glock and debutant Lucas Di Grassi, technical director Nick Wirth expects big things from the year to come.

"We see gain upon gain coming," he said at the Autosport International Show. "The increased productivity and throughput is amazing - and the new car is a very big step forward from the 2010 car."

Now it's not uncommon for teams to talk up their chances ahead of upcoming seasons in a bid to attract sponsors and the like, but Virgin don't strike me as a team strapped for cash; certainly not in the way Hispania are for instance. Former team owner Paul Stoddart reported that they spent in the vicinity of $100 million in their first season! 4 times the budget of former minnows Minardi!

Nevertheless it was enjoyable to watch the entertaining battle that raged throughout the year between themselves and fellow newcomers Lotus Racing. While Lotus came out victorious in the end, courtesy of Kovalainen’s 12th place finish in Suzuka, it was often forgotten that the VR-01 was designed purely using CFD; the first car in history to have been designed in such a way! The fact that it was even close to the green and yellow cars was an achievement in itself!

The Virgin Group pride themselves on going against the grain in the markets they tap into yet when I heard Mr Branson was entering Formula 1 with his own team, or rather buying into Manor GP, I wondered what he was hoping to achieve. As the year played out I was left to wonder some more when their brand remained virtually invisible in the paddock. The Virgin trademarks that we’ve become accustomed to over the years; big parties, clever/ridiculous promotional stunts etc. were nowhere to be seen. Not even one semi-nude display from the famous entrepreneur! I was very surprised.

A year on, their reasoning has become clearer. In 2011 Virgin will be the first team ever to take their aerodynamic testing to the absolute legal limit, as mandated by the FIA, using only CFD. Wirth commented:

In 2011 we will be doing more CFD than any other team on the grid - and I can say that because I know that if we did one day of wind tunnel testing then we would be breaking the rules."

It appears as though Virgin merely wanted to test the waters in 2010 and were preparing much bigger things for the coming season. If their figures are correct and indeed the VR-02 is a ‘big step forward’, it’ll only be more impressive in relation to the competition with the ban on double diffusers coming into effect.

With the team having just installed new computer systems at their Banbury base to further enhance their CFD capabilities, expect their rate of development to be quicker than that of their rivals. It will enable them to bypass the time consuming model making/wind tunnel testing stages and jump straight into the manufacturing process when improvements are found; certainly keeping them in front of Lotus and Hispania and by years end will see them challenging the midfield teams on a regular basis.

The technology is without doubt the future of Formula 1 and the Marussia Virgin Racing team will have a head start on everyone! Exciting times ahead!


Hi there and welcome to The GrandPrix Blog! TGPB was originally conceptualized in early 2010 after I, Paul Grainger, a passionate F1 fan and amateur journalist, found it frustrating having to traverse the countless online F1 publications to find the stories free from jargon, waffling, bullshit, nonsense and time wasting rubbish that many have become known for. In others words, to find the ones I and others actually wanted to read! A year later TGPB has turned from a concept into a reality and now allows you the reader to keep up to date with the news that really matters; all in one place!

I’ve spent over half my life passionately following Formula 1. I check dozens of online publications every day and filter out the crap to pass it on to you here at TGPB in my own unique style. I’ve watched every F1 Grand Prix live for longer than I can remember, either trackside or on TV, and have been an avid subscriber to many F1 print publications for a similarly lengthy period of time. Having also competed in amateur motorsport myself for a number of years, I understand firsthand the stresses a modern day race car driver has to endure; to some extent anyway!

I have a no nonsense, no bullshit attitude towards F1 journalism and life in general, ensuring you get a quality, worthwhile and enjoyable read every time you log onto TGPB.com. I hope you enjoy what I have to say and I thank you for taking the time to log on. See you soon!