Flavio Briatore spoke with Gazzetta dello Sport. Quite a bit of the talk was about the current state of Formula 1. But he also said this:
“The problem is that us, Renault, have stuck to the letter of the current regulations on frozen engines, and we’ve been buggered: others didn’t do that and are far ahead, while we suffer. It’s not fair.”
Is he suggesting the others are cheating ? Or is he admitting that Renault engine guys simply haven’t bothered to exploit all the loopholes in the engine freeze rules ?
Does he know something we don’t or is he simply being pathetic ?
To make it even more difficult to keep the engine statistics up-to-date Red Bull team has decided to keep David Coulthard on the same Renault engine for the third race in a row in Hungary this weekend. Well on paper it is third race in a row but his British GP barely lasted a lap . Here are the reasons behind the unusual decision – Fabrice Lom, Renault, in charge of Red Bull engine supply:
“This is the first time we have taken this decision. First of all his V8 has not done too much running. Plus, having our two drivers out of synch on the engine cycle means that we won’t be putting all our eggs in the same basket. This decision will also help us in the second half of the season in terms of the logistical challenge. And finally, it means that David will not have to use the same engine in Spa and Monza, which are two of the toughest challenges on the calendar.”
In the early days of two race rule there were worries the teams may choose deliberately not to finish the race to be able to run with fresh engine in next one. It actually happened in 2005 when BAR retired both cars (Button and Sato) on the final lap of Australian GP and again in Australia in 2006 when Button stopped his smoking car meters from the finish line. Now we have a team choosing to use the same engine for third time .
Photo: Red Bull/GEPA
It is obvious now that Adrian Newey has started a trend to follow. First it was the Red Bull during the Barcelona test back in February. In April, again in Barcelona, Renault came up with their version of finned engine cover and Toro Rosso introduced the Red Bull clone.
Force India were next to follow. Hoping to close the gap to the midfield they tested several aero updates 2 weeks ago at Silverstone. The fin was one of them. And yesterday we could see the first “finned” McLaren in action at the Hockenheim test… Half the grid has the fin now.
I am not sure how much advantage this thingy actually brings. But all the teams that have tested the weird looking engine cover went on racing with it. None of the teams has dropped it since. It looks like the shark fin is here to stay, at least till the end of the 2008 season.
Who will try it next ?
The “shark fin gallery” inside the post.
I am not sure if the team has been distracted by Flavio Briatore’s wedding or his pictures (may be disturbing to some people) or what, but it looks to me like they are loosing their direction. If I were in Renault’s current position I would have two basic (and very interconnected) things on my mind:
1) 2008 or 2009 ?
2) Fernando Alonso – will he stay or will he go ?
It has been an open secret since the moment he re-joined Renault that this team may be just a stopover for him. Neither the team nor Alonso are hiding the fact that there is some sort of car performance related escape clause in Alonso’s contract. Alonso himself (at least publicly) has accepted the reality. He was well aware even before the season has started that the Renault car will be no match for the top this year. The reality is perhaps worse than he has expected but he keeps on doing the job. It is probably fair to say that he gets the car to the places it does not really belong to – front row start in Barcelona, very competive race pace in Canada (as long as it lasted). It is also fair to say that Renault are should be benefiting from having Alonso with them. Although I have never been a huge fan of Alonso, it looks to me to be the only one in Renault talking some sense these days …
All we need is 2 weeks break between races and the rumour floodgates open. Let’s have a look what’s new since the second edition.
Robert Kubica has been doing well and so it comes as no surprise his future has been talked about quite a bit. Few innocent remarks to Italian paper La Stampa created two contradictory rumours. First linking Rosberg with BMW Sauber (as Kubica’s team mate) and then linking Kubica with a move to Ferrari. Sounds interesting but whom would Kubica replace ? Massa is under contract till 2010 and doing well right now (after shaky start to the season). There has been lots of talking about Raikkonen’s retirement but if I am not wrong that is part of the post 2009 future. All I can say about Kubica and Ferrari is that Kubica’s helmet matches the Ferrari colour scheme quite well as the picture above shows .
Fernando Alonso has dismissed the rumours about him signing for Ferrari, so now it is time to link him to BMW Sauber, now also a race winning car. It may help that Robert Kubica does not seem to mind having Alonso as a team mate. The question for me however is if Alonso would be OK with Kubica in the other car. At the moment all that is sure about Alonso’s future is that he has not made any decision on it, at least that is what he says.
Renault have admitted they are facing a dilema whether to keep improving this year’s car or shift the focus to development for next season. Pat Symonds:
“It is always difficult and the level of difficulty depends on two major factors – one is where you are sitting in the current championship, how threatened you are and what you can achieve. If you are in a solid third place and unlikely to get second but unlikely to drop to fourth, more or less as we were last year, you can think about turning your attention to the following year. If you are fighting, like we are doing this year, then you have got to keep the development.
There is nothing wrong with keeping the development going if it is all applicable to next year’s car, unfortunately this time there is very little that is applicable to next year’s car. Next year’s car is a very, very different animal, completely different aerodynamic rules, the KERS system, slick tyres – lot of things that will make it a very different car. So it is all the more important that we start early on it.
The day 2 in Barcelona felt a bit like deja vu. First either Adrian Newey did some freelancing for Renault, or Red Bull showed some aero love to their engine supplier, or Renault simply copied what they have seen in the next garage. Well, I though that the Renault car can’t get any more ugly that it already was. I was wrong apparently .
It looks like in Honda they not only decided not to do much upgrading this year. They took it one step further, they are going retro . The Dumbo ears back almost exactly a year after their premiere in Barcelona in 2007. Honda never used them in a race, but at least we had some Dumbo jokes …
The only other obvious new develpment I spotted on Tuesday was what looks like a new front wing for Ferrari.
Let’s see what today will bring besides Michael Schumacher … Toro Rosso are to test their new car so we may see yet another ugly fin covering the F1 engine …
For an in-depth report on all that has been tested in Barcelona so far I recommend checking out the comment from Kotenok below the previous post.
Just for the record, below are the times from day 2 of Barcelona tests. But as teams are testing very different packages, the times are of no significance. But it has been a while since Barrichello and Fisichella were on top of the timesheets.
The ING Renault team enters the 2008 season with a brand new line up. OK, not exactly brand new. None of the 2007 Renault drivers has survived Flavio’s winter clean up. However one of the new drivers is recycled, repackaged and more expensive Fernando Alonso.
Fernando Alonso – Spain
Born: 29 July 1981
In F1 since 2001 – 2001 Minardi, 2002 Jaguar and Renault testing, 2003 – 2006 Renault, 2007 McLaren
Best Result: 2005 and 2006 Formula 1 Champion
Career wins: 19
Pole positions: 17
Podium Finishes: 49
Fernando Alonso is the highest ranked active Formula 1 driver when it comes to race wins (19, ahead of Kimi with 15) and pole positions (17, ahead of Kimi with 14). Considering the expected relative strength of Ferrari and Renault in 2008, this may not be so by the end of the season.
The speculation about Alonso’s possible return to Renault began way before his exit from McLaren has been announced. Briatore went public not that long ago, that first discussions about this happened already in Melbourne 2007. Now he is back, the question is for how long. His long term commitment to Renault has been questioned with rumours about future move to Ferrari adding extra fuel to the fire. Recently Keke Rosberg specualted that Alonso may also be eyeing BMW Sauber … The fact is that he is now in Renault and he would need to give the team more than his famed 6 tenths if he is to add to his race wins and pole positions tally. Fight for the title may be out of his reach this season but I would not bet against him scoring some unlikely race win this year. Renault does not look that much worse than their maiden win seeking BMW Sauber. And with no offense intended towards Heidfeld and Kubica, none of these 2 guys is Alonso. Alonso will also likely be able to count on support from Renault’s nuber 2 – Nelson Piquet.
Nelson Piquet Jr. – Brazil
Born: 25 July 1985
Rookie, F1 experience in testing only – 2004 Williams, 2005 BAR Honda, 2006-2007 Renault
Career highlight: 2nd in GP2 Championship 2006
Nelson Piquet Jr. is kind of unknown quality. He did win couple of A1 races for Brazil, he was runner up to Lewis Hamilton in GP2 in 2006, but I think that the fact that he is now in F1 has more to do with his name than with his qualities. I am not saying he is not a good driver or that he does not deserve his drive in F1. I am just saying that being Piquet helped him to get where he is now. Now it is on him to prove himself. He for sure does not lack the confidence. A year ago he set his sights on Fisichella’s seat and was open about that, he has got it. But for him to last in Renault beyond 2008 season he would have to find the right balance between his desire to race to win and not causing 2007 McLaren like situation. The sooner he and his father accept that in 2008 Renault is all about Alonso, the better for them. The best opportunities for Piquet to display his skill will be in qualifying. In races he will have to follow what the team says …
F1Wolf’s prediction for Renault drivers in 2008:
No. 1 – Fernando Alonso, with a shot at some lucky win during the season
No. 2 – Nelson Piquet Jr. – one of the few obvious number twos this year
2008 F1 Season – Team Mates – Ferrari
2008 F1 Season – Team Mates – McLaren
2008 F1 Season – Team Mates – BMW Sauber
Few things happened over the weekend, here is my attempt to sum them up.
Ron Dennis is back in the news. Last week the Marca story claimed he is being fired by McLaren. Both Mercedes and McLaren too their time before they very quietly rejected the claims. Now the Sunday Times report that according to their sources McLaren will announce exit of Ron Dennis later this week. I do not really care whether he goes or stays, but it would be nice if he himself either strongly denies these rumours or confirms them. The sooner the better, we have F1 racing to watch …
Few funny things came out of Williams. Frank Williams suggests that Lewis Hamilton is better driver than Kimi Raikkonen. He did not say that directly, but what else to make out of this:
“If the Ferrari is the better car this year, McLaren should be saying to themselves ‘Thank god he is not in a Ferrari, otherwise there would be no point going racing’. I don’t know Kimi well. He is a gifted driver, as good as anyone, but Kimi’s weakness is that he is not that interested. So if a man of equal skill, let’s say, turns up in an identical car, with one working harder than the other, it is more likely that that man would have the upper hand.”
Poor Massa …
Patrick Head spoke about Williams missing out on Lewis Hamilton back in their BMW days. Back in 2004 Hamilton and his father came to Grove saying ‘Ron Dennis has dropped us’. Frank Williams proposed to BMW to take Hamilton on, but BMW were not ready to provide any finances and Williams did not have much cash to spare … After the split with BMW Williams signed Nico Rosberg who then became a target for McLaren after 2007 season. Williams admitted they turned down majestic offer from McLaren and kept Rosberg for 2008 and to their surprise even managed to get Nico sign up for 2009 (and more cash).
And finally, Fernando Alonso does not seem to be impressed with the direction F1 is taking, and frankly, he is not alone….
“We are making F1 not the highest technology in the world. Everybody looking at F1 from the outside sees it as the maximum, but if GP2 keeps improving, and keeps their slick tyres, they will do our time laps very soon while we are going back to the past.”
“We are becoming a sort of GP2: same tyres, same engines. We don’t have the best technology anymore. And if you have a car that doesn’t go (quickly) in the winter, you have to put up with it for the whole season.”
The 2008 Formula 1 season is just around a corner, the gap between now and Australian GP is already smaller than the summer break between Hungarian and European Grands Prix.
I have been posting screensavers from 2007 Formula 1 season during the winter break and I just realized that 3 of them still did not make it. So as a final farewel to the last season here are all of the 2007 Formula 1 screensavers, including the missing ones – Red Bull, Toro Rosso and Toyota.
Kimi Raikkonen 2007 Screensaver – 2007 Ferrari Screensaver – 2007 McLaren Screensaver – 2007 BMW Sauber F1 Screensaver – 2007 Renault F1 Screensaver – 2007 Williams F1 Screensaver – 2007 Red Bull F1 Screensaver – 2007 Toyota F1 Screensaver – 2007 Honda F1 Screensaver – 2007 Super Aguri Screensaver – 2007 Toro Rosso F1 Screensaver – 2007 Spyker F1 Screensaver
Bring on the 2008 F1 season !
If you expect this post to talk about Fernando Alonso’s views on the racism in F1 and the Lewis Hamilton abuse in Spain that made it to the media today, then you are wrong. I am going to talk about how Fernando Alonso sees the form of the teams ahead of the 2008 Formula 1 season .
Mark Gene, the Ferrari test driver, raised his suspicion few days ago, that Renault may be deliberately hiding their true performance. When reading what Alonso had to say, one either has to fully agree or fully disagree with Mark Gene… Make your pick:
“We are very far, very far. I think it’s looking like at the end of last year: two Ferraris, two McLarens and two BMWs, and if everything goes like that, you can almost only fight for seventh place. Thinking about the podium would be too optimistic right now, but then you arrive in the first grand prix, you start warming up in practice, your morale starts going up and you think you can be on the podium. But right now, thinking coldly, reaching the podium is a dream. In our current shape it will be hard to make it into Q3.”
He was also quoted saying:
“We are not in a position to do anything about McLaren, Ferrari or BMW. Ferrari are favourites but they’re not in a different world. We however belong more to the group including Williams and Red Bull.”
Another interesting observation for double world champ that I haven’t hear from anybody else yet refers to BMW Sauber:
“They are very fast with a lot of fuel. Sometimes you look at their times, and you see what they’ve done in stints of 25 or 30 laps. That is, with 60 or 70 kilos of fuel. They have surprised me the most in the last two or three tests.”
Now this needs some translation to fanspeak:
– Ferarri are the quickest but not as far ahead as it may seem
– McLaren and BMW Sauber are not far behind and it may actually be BMW Sauber sandbagging and not showing their true form yet.
– Alonso does not consider Williams to be the 3rd best as lots of fans do and many hope for.
– Renault, Red Bull and Williams form the strong midfield of six cars fighting for 4 spare places in Q3
– Without mentioning Honda and Toyota he sends them where most fans, bloggers and insiders send them too
– Toro Rosso, Force India and Super Aguri are not on his radar
I must say, that his predictions (translated by me) are almost identical to mine. Just it looks like I have more confidence in Renault than Fernando Alonso has . Or are the Renault guys really making these “we are very far” claims up ?
Fernando Alonso casted some fresh doubts over his long term commitment to Renault in an interview for Motorsport Aktuell. This is what he said when asked whether he can guarantee he will still be at the same seat next season:
“No. My decision will depend on a combination of three factors: the competitiveness of the car, the atmosphere and the financial element.”
So let’s look at these 3 factors:
a) Competitivness of the car
“The title is more a medium-term goal. It is going to be very difficult to fight with the fast ones; the objective is to fight for the podium.”
This is what Fernando Alonso said in the same interview. So, does he consider a car that fights for a podium but does not have much chance to get involved in a title fight to be competitive ?
b) The atmosphere
This one I can understand. Even myself I would not want to get in the same situation Alonso found himself in (or got himself into ? ) last year again. But when exactly atmosphere becomes unacceptable for Fernando Alonso ? When Piquet beats him ? Or when he outqualifies him ? Or when Flavio tells him off and refuses a card game in the motorhome because of a headache ? I bet the guys in Renault wish they knew …
c) The financial element.
OK, money talks… He would not be the first nor the last one to move where bigger buck is available. But as he showed this year, the quality of the car is more important for him than money. That’s why he moved to Renault and not to Toyota. So where would they be able to offer him more money and a better car ? As the things are right now only in McLaren , Ferrari or perhaps BMW Sauber. I am kind of sure, that if Ferrari came calling, Alonso would not hesitate for long ( and so would not any other driver).
So what does he think about Ferrari’s current form (also for Motorsport Aktuell):
“At the moment they have the best car and that is why everyone wants to be in the places of Kimi and Massa.”
Well, who would not… Even David Coulthard admitted (despite Red Bull topping the time sheets on last day in Barcelona) that Ferrari and McLaren “have an advantage, yes, a big advantage”.
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