Ten days have passed since the 100 days mark, it is time for another 2010 season countdown post. Here is a summary where F1 stands with 90 days to go.
The final 2010 Formula 1 calendar has been published – see here. The only yet to be finalized race is the inaugural Korean GP that is still subject to the circuit homologation. The season opener will move from Melbourne to Bahrain, the finale will remain at Abu Dhabi after the late reshuffle of 2010 season ending races.
Sebastian Vettel extended his contract with Red Bull
With F1 back from the summer hiatus we also have some fresh news, rumours and speculations coming out of the paddock. Here is a summary of today’s F1 news, tweets and speculations.
Sebastian Vettel extended his contract with Red Bull until the end of 2011 season. Red Bull Racing also has an option for Vettel’s services for 2012 season. This is a fact.
Yesterday McLaren made it clear that Heikki Kovalainen has to up his game if he wants to keep his seat beyond this season. Martin Whitmarsh very much confirmed it today. But while doing so he also said something interesting about Fernando Alonso and Ferrari:
Only a day after the news from Lola we have another team considering F1 entry next year – Prodrive (Aston Martin). Dave Richards:
“The initial signs coming out from the FIA and FOM are very attractive and represent the basis for a real revolution in the sport.”
“Assuming that the new rules are commercially viable and there is the potential to be fully competitive, then we are ready to press the go button.”
Richards also revealed that they are in talks with Cosworth as well as with one current F1 engine supplier about possible engine deal.
The letter from Max Mosley to teams (as revelead by Autosport yesterday) suggests that FIA plans to grant three new teams a place on the 2010 grid. That would mean increasing the maximum number of cars to 26 (from current limit 24). Autosport article also claims that as many as 8 different parties planning a move to F1 are in talks with Cosworth.
Williams would never choose to leave Formula One
We can’t say this off season is boring although last week started a bit quietly. Toro Rosso announced on Monday that the Honda refugee Takuma Sato will get another chance to prove himself in Jerez.
Around the same time both German F1 circuits came out saying that they may ot have money to hold the Formula One races in the future.
Then on Thursday FOTA met in London to discuss the cost cuts and spicing up the qualifying. The teams came up with a plan to propose a new low-cost engine for 2011 and other substantial cost-cutting measures for the next two years include drastically reducing the current 30,000km testing limit by half. The new engine is to be 1.8-litre turbocharged unit featuring energy recovery systems and consuming 30% less than current F1 engines.
While FOTA members talked the media started to be full of reports of something big brewing in Honda offices.
Only about a week ago an annoucement finally came from Super Aguri. The
unofficial Honda B-team has been acquired by the Magma group. No details have been made public yet but the news emerged that major staff reshuffle and change of the name for the team is planned shortly.
Today Dietrich Mateschitz confirmed what newspapers have been speculating about for months – the Scuderia Toro Rosso, the Red Bull’s junior team is up for sale.
“It is not a big secret that we have put Toro Rosso on the market. For the start of 2010 there will be a rule change and there will be no more synergy regarding design and construction of cars between Red Bull Racing and Scuderia Toro Rosso. There I see the necessity that we continue with one team only. We will not sell Toro Rosso during the 2008 season, but it will be before 2010.”
Other than saying that he would sell only to a quality buyer he did not reveal much. In the past the team was linked to A1 chairman Tony Teixeira and even Michael Schumacher . The sightings of Roustam Tariko and Gerhard Berger in Melbourne sparked rumours the Russian businessman may be the one looking to buy.
This along with the Prodrive fiasco means the end of customer cars and the B-teams era in Formula 1 is near.
With Prodrive expected to enter the F1 from coming season, it looked that finally F1 can have a full grid of 12 teams and 24 cars. The last time F1 was close to having 12 teams was in 2002, the year when Toyota entered. However Prost went out of business during the winter and Arrows cars were last seen in Germany 2002. With 5 races to go in 2002, the grid that promised to have 24 cars has shrunk to 20.
Now Max Mosley is not convinced there will still be 11 teams in Formula 1 by the end of the 2008 season. When asked whether Super Aguri will appear on the start of Australian GP in Melbourne in little over 6 weeks, he said:
“I wouldn’t like to stake my life on that. I think so, but you can’t be certain.”
But when asked if he is confident that all eleven teams will contest the entire 2008 F1 championship, he allegedly said to PA Sport:
The team in question is no doubt Super Aguri.
Friday, April 28, 2006 – FIA president Max Mosley:
“Prodrive have the best combination of financial backing, technical capability and motorsport experience. The team are well known to the FIA through their participation in the World Rally Championship and Richards has experience as a Formula One team principal.”
Fast forward to January 10, 2008 – Dave Richards:
“F1′s new commercial agreement means that Prodrive will not enter the sport in the near future.”
Two years ago there were 22 subjects bidding for the presence on Formula 1 grid. Eleven came from then existing Formula 1 teams, another eleven from F1 wannabies that included among others Prodrive, Direxiv, Eddie Jordan, Paul Stoddart, Carlin Motorsport, Craig Pollock. All the existing teams, including Super Aguri that was yet to make their own F1 debut were granted the entry to 2008 season. The only spot for a new team went to Prodrive.
There is no doubt that such an overwhelming interest in F1 entry was a result of new customer car rules advertised by FIA at that time. The new rules did not materialize, Prodrive had no plan B and so 2001 is still the last season we had full 12 teams / 24 cars F1 grid.
From time to time FIA comes with some super smart cost saving idea. One that they planned to sneak into the new Concorde Agreement were the customer cars. FIA sold this idea as a sure thing. It attracted 11 new Formula 1 wannabies. FIA selected Prodrive as the 12th Formula 1 team to join the current 11 from 2008 season. Here is a brief summary of what followed:
It looked like for the first time since the days of Prost and Arrows we may have full grid. Super Aguri and Toro Rosso seem to have also counted on the customer car era and did nothing to develop their own cars. Super Aguri team was not allowed to enter the F1 with an Honda clone in 2006, so they opted temporarily for the most modern eligible chassis available – four years old 2002 Arrows. In 2007 however they simply painted 2006 Honda car in Super Aguri colors and immediatelly jumped from the back of the grid to midfield.
With not much happening on the transfer market and no testing till next week it was team news and team rumours that made the headlines towards the end of last week and over the weekend.
The Alonso “no news” seems to be confirming my theory that nothing will happen until the Renault spy case is dealt with. We may still have few weeks before things start moving and drivers begin the final shuffle.
So, let’s get to Renault. With all the opinions being voiced there seems to be media pressure piling up for severe punishment for Renault. It looks like the only party that still says Renault should not be penalized is Flavio Briatore. There are warnings coming from all over the web that FIA and Mosley may face serious backlash should Renault get away lightly. It is widely expected that Renault will be at least fined and will have some or all points taken away (and as a result will become McLaren’s neighbours at the end of the pit lane next year). However as Renault already admitted to things that were never proven to McLaren in their case, some (like GrandPrix dot com) even suggest a possibilty of a ban.
What many, me included, have suspected for long time has been confirmed. Prodrive will not make it to the grid for 2008 season. The customer car row, the delays in agreeing on the new Concorde agreement are obvious reasons. This is what Dave Richards had to say to German Auto Moto und Sport magazine:
“There was a dispute about our eligibility. In addition, the new Concorde agreement has been repeatedly delayed. We asked the FIA to be able to start mid-way through the season: our request was rejected. So for 2008 there is not a realistic chance of there being a Prodrive formula one team.
Secondly, we must wait for the new Concorde. Only then can we fully assess our options. Our ambition is still to be in formula one. But there was the risk of legal procedures because we wanted to use a customer car. As a result, our entire business plan was put into doubt. So we have chosen to re-group instead of simply race ahead blindly.”
Well, that’s it then for 24 cars 2008 grid….
However the speculations started almost immediately about another way to F1 for Prodrive.
So after wenting my disapointment with the latest issue of the F1 racing magazine I actually flipped the pages and read some stuff. There is an article on the customer cars issue and it is quite surprising that not much of what is said in there surfaced on the web so far.
So what is it that F1 Racing has learnt ?
There has been a meeting among the team principals on Saturday morning of the Brazilian GP at which Bernie said the following:
“It suited us (Bernie, Max) two years ago to foster and develop the idea of customer cars. But we don’t like the idea any more so I don’t think it’s going to happen.”
The 2007 season is over, at least the on track action, and after some short relatively quiet period, the rumour mill is picking up the speed again.
As it has been the case since pretty much the Hungarian GP, Fernando Alonso is in center of everything. The Ferrari connection is pretty much over for a time being at least. If he plans to race next year there seem to be only 3 options left for him – remain at McLaren, return to Renault or grab a seat at Toyota. The McLaren option seems to be out of a question but who knows. Pedro de la Rosa has been giving some hints that this is exactly what may happen in the end. But still there are not too many people that would bet on Alonso to stay put. (But there were not too many people whou would a week ago bet on Kimi to win the title.) The widely expected return to Renault has been downplayed by Alonso himself. When asked by Spanish radio station Cadena Ser whether Renault would be his first choice if he were to leave McLaren, he replied – “Right now I’d say no”. This may be also be the reason for some weird words from Flavio Briatore. Looking around the paddock the only decent (not a top) team with seats and money is Toyota. Why would he want to go to a team where everyone else failed ? Challenge to be the first one to succeed ? Why not, Michael Schumacher also went to Ferrari at the time the team was nowhere near the top…