Valencia testing round-up

Overnight rain and cool temperatures meant that the start to Valencia testing was slow and limited with many teams waiting for the track to dry. The circuit dried out by late afternoon and many drivers and teams were seen on the track.

After a couple of runs, David Coulthard has stated he is ‘disappointed’ with the revised circuit layout. He stated that officials had missed out on an opportunity to talk to drivers before they made up the slower section on the Circuit de Catalunya. The ‘Europcar’ corner has been changed from a fast right hander towards the end of the lap, to a tighter bend which then leads into a slow 90 degree bend left. Although he supports safety improvements, Coulthard has said that he was ‘disappointed’ that most of the drivers did not know the changes were happening. He also said that noone had thought that the new layout was an improvement or a good solution.

Meanwhile, Briatore has stated that although he thinks Alonso is good, he isn’t as good as most people think.  He has a lot of hopes pinned on their rookie driver, Heikki Kovalainen and has said he is their ‘investment for the future’.

Perhaps Briatore is regretting those words after Alonso put in some storming times on the Valencia circuit, and finished the day with the fastest time of the day by nearly a second. He completed 96 laps with a benchmark time of a minute 12.538 seconds. Running on wets in the morning, and then switching to dry tyres in the afternoon, Alonso had to end his day slightly prematurely when his car sprung an oil leak. However, he is still over a second ahead of fellow title contender, Kimi Raikkonen, who was driving in the new Ferrari for the first time.

Behind Raikkonen, Nelson Piquet Jnr was out in the Renault and was just 0.017 seconds behind. Piquet was unable to complete all planned tests due to the poor weather and has had to extend his testing run on Friday to compensate.

The Toyota pair of Montagny and Trulli put in some good times to finish less than a tenth of a second apart in fourth and fifth, with Heidfeld coming in sixth for BMW-Sauber, although he also was troubled by technical problems throughout the day.

Testing times for the first day of testing were:

1. Fernando Alonso McLaren-Mercedes 1min 12.538secs 96 laps
2. Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari-Ferrari 1min 13.533secs 48 laps
3. Nelson Piquet Jr Renault-Renault 1min 13.550secs 31 laps
4. Franck Montagny Toyota-Toyota 1min 13.672secs 38 laps
5. Jarno Trulli Toyota-Toyota 1min 13.752secs 54 laps
6. Nick Heidfeld BMW Sauber-BMW 1min 13.863secs 56 laps
7. Giancarlo Fisichella Renault-Renault 1min 13.871secs 37 laps
8. Rubens Barrichello Honda-Honda 1min 14.018secs 35 laps
9. Sebastien Vettel BMW Sauber-BMW 1min 14.047secs 81 laps
10. Kazuki Nakajima Williams-Toyota 1min 14.527secs 79 laps
11. James Rossiter Honda-Honda 1min 14.638secs 43 laps
12. Takuma Sato Super Aguri-Honda 1min 15.684secs 31 laps
13. Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault 1min 15.729secs 32 laps
14. Luca Badoer Ferrari-Ferrari 1min 20.030secs 47 laps

Bahrain’s new long-term deal

Bahrain has signed a new long-term deal to host Formula 1 races into the next decade and beyond.

Bernie Ecclestone said, “Bahrain has built foundations for the current growth of interet and investment in Formula 1 across the Middle East.” The circuit itself was built specifically with Formula 1 in mind and cost in excess of $150 million.

Doornbos rules himself out

Robert Doornbos has ruled himself out of the running for a race seat with Toro Rosso in 2007. Doornbos was meant to be in contention for one of the main race seats however he has signed a contract to be a ‘reserve’ and test driver for Red Bull Racing for the 2007 season instead.

Doornbos has stated that he will be racing in America, although he has not confirmed whether this will be with Forsythe or Minardi.

Williams joins Spyker in customer car row

Frank Williams has joined the Spyker F1 team and announced that he is also prepared to challenge the legality of the Toro Rosso and Super Aguri cars, should they go ahead and use cars based on the RB3 from Red Bull, and the RA106 from Honda. Williams has stated that he will be launching arbitration proceedings at the International Chamber of Commerce in Lausanne soon.

“I am adamantly opposed to chassis sharing,” Frank Williams stated. “We at Williams do not believe it is legal under the current rules. We are what you might call a traditionalist racing team which believes that we are out there competing for two world championships – one for the best driver in the world and one for the constructor who builds the best car in the world. As far as I’m concerned it is absolutely in the regulations in black and white that every team must make its own chassis.”

Although Spyker and Williams are the only two teams publicly against the ‘customer car’ issue, there is growing unease within many of the Formula 1 teams with most regarding is as an issue. Recently, Bernie Ecclestone tried to reach a compromise with the teams, however his attempts to find some middle ground failed. This has lead to fears that marshals at the season opener in Melbourne may be forced to declare the Super Aguri and Toro Rosso cars illegal.

Toro Rosso and super Aguri both believe that they are not breaking any rules. The official Formula 1 rules say that the cars can be built by a third party – and this loophole is perfectly legal according to FIA president Max Mosley.

Toro Rosso launch date postponed

Toro RossoToro Rosso have confirmed their new car will not be ready until mid to late February. Despite being powered by a Ferrari engine and sharing similarities with the new Red Bull car, the STR2 has faced some production delays which have meant they have had to push their launch date back by a fortnight.

Rumours are circulating that it was the engine which caused the engineers the most problems – the Ferrari engine has different dimensions and mounting points to the Renault engines and it is believed there was some difficulty in adapting the car to the new engine.

Toro Rosso are also still to announce their 2007 driver line-up. It is expected that confirmation will be given later on this week.

Ferrari confirm Abu Dhabi appearance

Ferrari have confirmed that their race drivers Raikkonen and Massa will both take part in the F1 Festival at Abu Dhabi on February 3rd 2007. The event will be the largest ever gathering of Formula 1 cars and drivers ever, outside of an actual Grand Prix weekend.

The chairman of the Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority, Sheikh Sultan bin Tahnoon Al Nayhan said, “We are absolutely delighted that Suderia Ferrari Malboro will be brining both of their drivers and their cars to race through the streets of Abu Dha – in what is now a matter of days. Ferrari enjoys a unique relationship with its fans around the world and the UAE is no exception. This will be a rare opportunity for fans to see their heroes up close.”

The F1 Festival will see the Ferrari F1 car with Mubadala sponsorship on it for the first time. The Festival is free for spectators; the street circuit has been designed specially to ensure that the maximum amount of spectators will be able to view the cars. Confirmed drivers who will be present include Fernando Alonso, Scott Speed, Ralk Schumacher, Rubens Barrichello, Christijan Albers, Michael Ammermuller, and now Kimi Raikkonen and Felipe Massa.

Hamilton’s mum might not make it to Melbourne

Lewis Hamilton’s mother, Carmen Hamilton, has revealed that she is currently so short of cash she may not be able to see her son make his Formula 1 debut. She has stated she really wants to go to Melbourne in March to see Hamilton race, and has entered competitions in order to try and win tickets.

Carmen, who has been separated from Lewis’s father Anthony since Lewis was two years old, has said she doesn’t believe he will be distracted from his driving by the Formula 1 girls because he is devoted to his girlfriend of two years, Jodia.

Anthony Hamilton, who is now Lewis’s manager and who brought Lewis up, worked hard to ensure that his son got the best possible start in the sport, often holding down three jobs at a time to ensure he had the funds to support his son’s racing talent.

Carmen added,  “Lewis has a racing life with his dad and his normal life when he comes over to my house. We go out for a meal or go bowling. I am his biggest fan. I am so proud of him.”

Switzerland turns off F1

According to reports in yesterday’s Blick newspaper, Switzerland’s Federal Parliment has scrapped coverage of Formula One races. The move, which will see the government run broadcaster ‘SRG SSR idée suisse’ ceasing transmission of the feed in 2008, is thought to be due to an increase of 6.5% for the rights to broadcast the race live. Armin Walpen, of SRG, told the newspaper than the broadcaster “cannot spend money it doesn’t have” – SRG is a non-profit organisation, where 70% of revenue comes from licence fees.

Switzerland imposed a ban on all Motorsport following a fatal crash during the nineteen fifties.

Launch of Red Bull Racing’s RB3

Red BullThis morning Red Bull Racing unveiled their new Renault powered RB3 at Barcelona. The car, designed by Adrian Newey, and overseen by Technical Director Mark Smith, is thought to have many similarities with technology produced by their former teams, McLaren and Renault.

Speaking at the launch Newey said, “The car will run to a set of regulations which are now in their third year as, surprisingly, the change from V10 to V8 did not have a fundamental effect on the packaging of the cars. As far as the aerodynamic regulations are concerned, the last big change came ahead of the 2005 season. As such, the car is an evolution of ideas that have been seen before, but aggressively packaged in a car that we hope will have a lot of development potential.”

“Another factor to bear in mind is that, in common with all the other teams that ran Michelin tires in 2006, we have to design a car that will run on Bridgestone tires that we are not yet familiar with. Of course we ve done our research, but we ve also designed a bit of flexibility in the car to deal with this. Undoubtedly some aspects of RB3 are ‘McLarenesque and are, to some extent, a development of the work I was doing when I was there.”

“In other areas, there are derivatives of what has been done here at Red Bull and, of course, there are some completely fresh ideas. The design cycle has been very compressed, which has brought its own pressures on both the engineers and the shop floor, but the response by everybody to that pressure has been truly extraordinary and one which we should be very proud of.”

The 48-year old went on to describe how the design process this season has been more complicated, despite the use of a wind tunnel at an ex-military base in Bedford.

“One example that illustrates how much more complicated F1 cars have become over the last decade is shown by the fact that I joined McLaren in 1997 on August 1, and we had a brand-new car out in February 1998. In contrast, I joined Red Bull in January 2006 and we are only just getting the new car out on time in 2007. This reflects the greater level of research that now goes on in F1 compared to nine or 10 years ago.”

“With the RB3, we didn t get the model of the car into the wind tunnel until June 2006, which was a lot later than we would really have wanted. That made for a very busy time prior to hitting the key release dates for fundamentals like the monocoque and the gearbox. This had nothing to do with the uncertainty over what engine we were going to run this year. In terms of engine choice, most of the current V8s are broadly similar in terms of installation, so there isn t a big difference in design philosophy depending on which engine you choose”, he said. “The timing was influenced by the fact that what the team is trying to do for 2007 is a bit different to what s been done in the past. That brought with it its own lead times, also influenced by the need to commission a new wind tunnel in Bedford. All the development of the new car has been done at the Bedford facility, but its commissioning was only completed as we began with the new car. We ran the old car in Bedford just to do a systems check on the tunnel immediately prior to putting the new car model in.”

Newey then spoke of his experience working with Renault again on the RS26 engine.

“There are a surprisingly large number of familiar faces from the last time we were together! It s great to be back working with Renault. I was always very impressed with their methodology back in the Williams days. They are very good and very pragmatic and can get the best out of a package. Past experience has also shown me they are completely professional when supplying two teams. Their reason for supplying a second team is not for financial gain, but rather to have more units out in the field to learn from in both the performance and reliability areas, which gives a fundamentally different cornerstone to the relationship.”