Kovalainen – tyre switch is ‘difficult’

Renault driver Heikki Kovalainen has admitted that the new tyres have been difficult to adjust to. At this week’s testing, Kovalainen has not been near the top runners. Kovalainen has stated that his R26 lacks balance making it difficult to put in a good lap time.”With these tyres you cannot drive aggressively,” he explained. “I am braking much more carefully and I am trying not to spin the wheels out of the corners. It is my belief that these tyres will change the style of driving a lot.”

Kovalainen has also said he believes that Alonso has a chance to win the driver’s championship next season if McLaren provide him with a good car, however he thinks that the favourite is Kimi Räikkönen.

Thursday test for Hakkinen

McLaren have confirmed that former F1 driver Mika Hakkinen will be testing for them in Barcelona on Thursday.

Retiring from the sport after the Japanese GP in 2001, this will be the first time the Finn will return to the cockpit of an F1. In the last few weeks, speculation was mounting that the 38 year-old would back be in the frame of an F1 car.

“I’m really excited about driving a Team McLaren-Mercedes Formula 1 car again and to be re-engaging with the team,” said Hakkinen. “I have followed F1 closely since my retirement at the end of the 2001 season, but it was when I was at this year’s Brazilian GP as a guest of the team that I really felt I would like to get a chance to drive a Formula 1 car again.”

It has been reported that Hakkinen requested a test after using the Woking based team’s simulator for a number of hours since the end of the 06 season. Although it is not yet known that Hakkinen will continue testing for McLaren, the Woking based team will be given the chance to get important data from tyres, downforce and engine that have been changed from the era of Hakkinen’s racing days.

“I have recently spent some time in the simulator in Woking and to get the possibility to drive the MP4-21 is something I’m really looking forward to,” added Hakkinen. “I would like to thank Ron (Dennis) and Norbert (Haug) for making this happen. This test is a chance for me to see how much F1 cars have advanced and experience first hand what they are like to drive today as well as providing the team with some feedback on various aspects of the car’s performance.”

Hakkinen will succeed Pedro de le Rosa for the test and work alongside McLaren’s new signing Lewis Hamilton. “We are delighted to provide Mika with the opportunity to drive a Formula 1 car again,” said McLaren team principal Ron Dennis. “A driver of Mika’s calibre and experience can only bring added value to our testing programme and his feedback after Thursday’s running will be valuable to the team in our preparations for the 2007 season.”

Mika will be driving in the DTM under McLaren-Mercedes so Hakkinen might be able to do both.

Vice President of McLaren-Mercedes Motorsport Norbert Haug has put a question mark on the future of Hakkinen’s role with McLaren.

“Everybody in the team is happy to see him at the wheel of our Formula 1 car again and we look forward to some interesting comments,” he said. “However nobody should draw the conclusion that Mika will switch back to Formula 1 after this test.”

Barcelona tests begin

Formula 1 testing resumed today with most of the teams making an appearance at the Circuit de Catalunya in Barcelona, the first of three major test sessions at the track this year.

Ten of the eleven teams are expected to test this week, all on Bridgestone tyres. For those who have just swapped to Bridgestone, it is expected they will focus on adapting the cars’ setup to the new tyres.

However, neither Alonso nor Raikkonen are expected to test. Renault and McLaren have contracts with them until the end of 2006 and unless they are released early from these, they will have to wait until the 1st January before turning a wheel in the 2007 spec cars.

Jenson Button will also be missing from this week’s tests – as reported here, Button cracked two ribs in a recent karting accident and will be out until the New Year.

Honda will be running with their new-look car – fully liveried in black. With tobacco advertising banned from 2007, it is expected that many of the other teams will also be running with new graphics.

Spyker’s low expectations

Michiel Mol, the Director of Formula 1 racing for Spyker, has said that they are anticipating a better future now that the team is under the ownership of Alex Shnaider. However, he is keeping his expectations low for the first few seasons. He has stated that Spyker are aiming for a podium position within the next three seasons, with a win coming in the next 5 years.

He is also quoted as saying that although they have secured Mike Gascoyne’s services, achieving much more in the 2007 season was unlikely. “Everyone know that we do not expect much out of 2007,” he explained. “But in 2008 we must make a couple of considerable steps forward so that we are taken seriously.”

Monteiro backs new F1 circuit

Portuguese F1 driver Tiago Monteiro returned to his home country this weekend to take part in local rally event “Rallye Casinos do Algarve”. Monteiro drove the safety car which follows the rally cars through the Monchique circuit. However, Monteiro was unable to complete all his duties due to the poor weather.

During the rally, it was announced that the region is planning to build a Formula 1 venue – the Autodromo Internacional do Algarve. However some local residents are set against the plan and it is still currently under public discussion. It has been in the planning stages for a couple of years now.

Monteiro is in favour of the project and has promised to ‘give a helping hand’ to the project if it gets the go-ahead.

Portugal have hosted Formula 1 race weekends in the past – Estoril hosted events up until 1996 when it was decided the circuit was unsafe and it was removed from the calendar.

Pit stops

Pit stops are incredible feats of choreography and timing and is a real team effort. A pit stop can mean the difference between winning and losing a race. Pit stops are a crucial part of Formula 1 racing strategy.

When a driver comes into the pit lane, a lollipop man will be standing by his pit garage, directing the driver in. The driver will bring the car to a stop in a precise lcoation. If a tyre change is needed, the car will be jacked up at the front and rear. Three mechanics are assigned to each wheel – one to remove and refit the central nut with a high speed airgun, one to remove the old wheel and one to fit the new wheel. Two mechanics are needed for the fuelling rig. Other mechanics may also be present to make minor changes to the car, for example altering the angles of the front and rear wings or increasing/decreasing downforce levels. Other tasks such as changing nose cones require more time even though they are designed for quick replacement, and this will extend the time needed for the pit stop.

You will also often see mechanics removing rubbish and debris from the car intakes to make sure that the radiator performs to maximum efficiency. There will also be one mechanic standing by the rear of the car with an engine-starter in case the driver stalls the engine.

After each mechanic has completed their respective jobs, they will raise their hand. The lollipop man will wait until all his mechanics hands are raised and then release the car back into the pit lane. It it the lollipop man’s job to make sure that there are no other cars passing the pit lane before he releases his driver.

Routine pit stops take around 7 seconds. Longer pit stops are usually due to more fuel being put into the car. A team will practise pit stops hundreds of times to ensure that they are performing perfectly on the day to give their car the best chance of winning.

Button Cracks Ribs

Jenson Button has sustained hairline cracks in his ribs following a karting accident. The Englishman was karting as part of his winter preparation when the crash occurred. Button, although unphased by the incident, will be unable to test again this year to allow his ribs time to heal.

Rubens Barrichello will replace Button during testing, with fellow test drivers Christian Klien and James Rossiter. At this stage it is unclear whether another driver was involved in the incident, or whether Button may have lost control following a late morning health shake binging session!

Schumacher made honorary citizen

Maranello, the town in Northern Italy famous for being the home of the Prancing Horse factory and F1 team, has made Michael Schumacher an honorary citizen. Although Schumacher was born in the Kerpen, Germany and is currently a Swiss resident, the mayor of Maranello, Lucia Bursi, has granted Schumacher the honour because of his career and contribution to Ferrari.

“With his fantastic sporting career, Schumacher was part of a very important section of Maranello’s history. With this gesture, we would like to say ‘thank you’ to him.”

Let battle (of the words) commence

Lewis Hamilton, newly announced as the second-seat driver for McLaren, has said he is ready to take on Fernando Alonso at McLaren. He knows there is a lot of pressure on him but he is taking racing in the same team as Alonso as a positive – he reckons he can learn a lot, and as noone is expecting him to beat Alonso at the start, some of the pressure is reduced.

Meanwhile, Anthony Davidson has said he can’t wait to start battling with Jenson Button in next season’s championship. Button and Davidson have raced against each other on and off in the past, starting at age 8 in karting, although they have not been in direct competition for the past nine years. Davidson is looking forward to the battle, and stating he thinks it’s great that there are so many British drivers on the grid.

Also in the news, Nelson Piquet Senior, triple world champion in the 1980s, has warned Giancarlo Fisichella that his racing seat in the Renault team could be under threat by his son who is currently the test driver for Renault. “Nelsinho is going to have an apprenticeship year, but in his first test, he was already quicker than Kovalainen,” Piquet Senior told journalists. “This is really the issue. If Kovalainen is faster than Fisichella, then the possibility of Nelsinho racing from Renault is much bigger, even for 2007, even during next season.”

Alonso gets hitched

Formula 1’s World Champion, Fernando Alonso, has reportedly married his fiancee Raquel del Rosario, a singer from Spain, at a secret ceremony in the Maldives.

The pair met about a year ago and they selected the secluded island location after a recent holiday there. The ceremony was attended by about 50 friends and family.

To view the latest forum discussion on the marriage, click here