Testing round-up

First to Spain, where Williams and Spyker are testing on their own. Nico Rosberg led the way in his Williams, fitting in 105 laps around the track and recording a best time of 1:21.624. Rosberg was testing a new aerodynamic package and is seems to be doing the trick. Following him was Alex Wurz in his FW29 with the second fastest time of the day. Spyker put 4 drivers out on the track, with Albers coming in third, closely followed by Sutil. Test drivers Fauzy and van der Garde came in fifth and sixth respectively.

Meanwhile, there was plenty of action with the rest of the teams in Bahrain. Ralf Schumacher was out on track on his 37th lap when he span and bounced hard over a kerb. Although not badly injured, he did aggravate a muscle, and as a prevautionary measure, sat out the rest of the session and let his test driver Frank Montagny take to the track instead. Ralf is expected back in action today or tomorrow.

Ralf was not the only driver to crash; Kovalainen also spun on a kerb as he exited turn 7.  He struck one of the barriers, destroying his R27 in the process. Luckily, he was able to walk away from the wreckage unharmed, and was seen laughing and chatting with track staff. An ambulance arrived on the scene promptly as the crash was so severe. At this time, Renault are unclear as to why the car span. Kovalainen was also forced to sit out the rest of the test session whilst repairs are carried out on his car.

Contrary to his original schedule, Fernando Alonso has decided to stay in Bahrain for the last two days of the pre-season test session having seen how fast Ferrari’s pace currently is. Alonso manage to outpace Felipe Massa by nearly six tenths of a second on the first day, although Kimi Raikkonen put in some storming laps to beat the McLaren driver’s times. Ferrari have come to Bahrain with a new bodywork package and a spokesperson for Ferrari have said that Raikkonen and Massa are testing the final Australia-specced car.

Kimi fits in better

FerrariJean Todt believed that Kimi Raikkonen would fit in better than Alonso, therefore Ferrari did not pursue the world champion it has emerged. In an interview with Auto Motor und Sport, Todt said, “Ferrari never spoke with Alonso. He and Kimi are as drivers on the same level, but I thought that Kimi fit in better with Ferrari and with me.”

“I like Kimi, I find him modest and not at all arrogant, but I do not yet know him really  well,” Todt continued. Raikkonen has had a mixed start to his time at Ferrari with some blistering times, and some reliability issues.

Todt also went on to comment on Raikkonen and Massa’s relationship at Ferrari. “They respect each other and are equally ambitious. Michael and Felipe were friends but Kimi and Felipe do not yet know each other as well. The most important thing is that they mutually cooperate, and they are doing this well.”

Four F1 names nominated for Laureus

Four Formula 1 names have had their names shortlisted for the prestigious Laureus World Sports Awards. Current holder tennis ace Roger Federer is favourite to retain the title, however there will also be strong competition from Tiger Woods.

Fernando Alonso is also in the running, alongside recently retired Michael Schumacher. Alonso’s teammater Lewis Hamilton is up for the Breakthrough of the Year prize, and Renault are hoping to hang onto the team prize for a second year in a row.

The nominees for the prize are chosen by more than 120 journalists from well-known publications around the world along. 43 legendary sportspeople (such as former Formula One champion Emerson Fittipaldi) are the jury who pick the winners from the list of nominess. The awards are set to be given out and televised in April.

Greener rules delayed

After the launch of Honda’s new car, which promotes environmental issues, the FIA has announced that they introduction of environmentally-friendly rules has been delayed by a year. Technology to re-use a Formula One car’s waste heat was meant to become mandatory in 2010 but will now accompany the likely introduction of smaller turbo-charged engines a year later in 2011.

Honda’s Green Car criticised

HondaHonda’s green car has been the major talking point in F1 since it’s launch yesterday. Many critics have said that the sentiment is good, however the RA107 will still pump huge quanitities of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere because it is still burning fossil fuels in the form of petrol. An F1 car emits nearly nine times more carbon dioxide per kilometre than a standard road car.

However, Honda have syayed that “If just 1% of F1 viewers turned their computer off at the plug overnight, this would save 45,000 tonnes of CO2., (which is) more than  three and a half times the annual carbon emissions of the entire Honda Racing F1 Team.”

London newspaper The Telegraph made a pertinent point, staing that “They should have more pressing matters on their mind than embracing an ethos. Such as winning more races.”

Team boss Nick Fry was quick to counter the criticism, stating that the new paint job was categorically not a publicity stunt. “We knew from research that 94% of people thought it was a good idea, there are always going to be the remaining cynics but we have no time for that,” Fry explained. “The case for climate change is well proven. One individual or nation will not solve the problem and this call to action is for everyone to make a positive move rather than waiting for the inevitable.”

Button and Barrichello have also pledged to follow their team’s lead and try to lead a more environmetally friendly life – to start, both now driver fuel-efficient Honda hybrid cars when they are away from the track. Speaking in London, Button said “Now I make a point of doing little things to help the environment.  I always switch off my television rather than leave it on stand-by.”

Meanwhile, there is still a lot of work to be done before it will be a winning car. Nick Fry has already said to fans, “please don’t expect us to win in Melbourne as we probably won’t.” The RA107 has yet to impress in testing, usually finishing over a second off the top runners.

In an interview with website sportnetwork.net, Fry talked about what to expect in the coming season. “This car is actually technologically very different. We’ve taken a bigger step in the longer runs that will give us more potential for improvements, but in the shorter runs it’s a bit more difficult to set up. Where we are is we’re aiming to start get quicker, start to put the new aero bits on the car in Bahrain. In terms of last week, one lap times were a big problem, but long run times you’re probably right, we’re probably half a second at least from where we should be.

“Realistically, where I believe we are is that we’ll be in a position to score points in Melbourne, but we’re trying to win the war and not individual battles. We want to be winning races certainly, and I think we’ll be winning races in the second half of the season, but what I’ll say to your readers is “please don’t expect us to win in Melbourne as we probably won’t.

“We tried before Christmas six different rear suspension configurations and decided on one with the geometry that’s in front of you now,” Fry explained. “The front also has been through a number of iterations. One thing which has been very positive about this car is that in terms of not only setting up the suspension but also setting up the aerodynamics, it’s got a lot of flexibility, so we can move the aerodynamic pressures around the car and it’s proven very good in that respect, but on the other hand giving yourself a lot of options does mean you’ve got more potential, but it does also mean you’ve got more potential to get it wrong.

“You’ve got more things to experiment with and we really didn’t find the balance in the car until the final Friday in Europe before we came to Bahrain. In that respect we started to say that’s the balance direction we wanted to go in, hence the developments this week in Bahrain and also next week.”

New Dubai based series fronted by Alesi

Former F1 driver Jean Alesi is to front a new stock car championship based in Asia and the Middle East. Alesi has recently left the DTM series and it has been stated that he is ‘the first of many big name drivers’ who will race in the new ‘Speedcar’ series.

The series will feature bespoke cars which will have about 600bhp each. The first race is set to kick off in November 2007 and the season will feature 9 races. The series is supported by Formula 1’s Bernie Ecclestone, so is almost certain to be a huge success.

Testing resumes at two venues

Formula 1 teams are back in action today. Williams and Spyker are heading to the Circuit de Catalunya in Spain, with the rest of the field heading to Sakhir in Bahrain.

Many people, including tyre manufacturer Bridgestone, have questioned the sense in Spyker and Williams running solo, however Bridgestone have stressed that all shareable data will be given to all teams, regardless of where they are testing. With the new season less than three weeks away, it is surprising that the two teams did not want to run alongside the rest of the competition.

BMW are not favourites – Heidfeld

BMW driver Nick Heidfeld has played down claims that he and teammate Robert Kubica are outside bets to win the 2007 F1 title. The BMW’s speed has impressed in testing so far, although is not the most reliable so far. Massa and Berger have both insisted they believe that BMW could be a match for Ferrari and McLaren.

However Heidfeld insisted, “What people say changes nothing for us. We must concentrate on our work and not be distracted. Just because a few people think we look in testing does not make us the favoutie. At the moment, I see Ferrari right at the front.”

Honda goes green and charitable

HondaHonda’s new RA107 car has just been launched. Featuring a huge image of the Earth as it’s livery in place of the normal advertising and sponsor logos, Honda is aiming to promote the awareness of environmental issues currently facing the planet and aims to showcase Honda’s commitment to addressing environmental issues the world over.

The first brands to partner Honda in this new venture are Universal music, the largest music company in the world, and Gatorade. Existing partners have all shown their enthusiasm for the new scheme and all have remained involved with the team for the 2007 season. Fila, IBM, Instron, Oliver Sweeney, Perkin Elmer, Showa Denko, TUV and GF Agie Charmilles are all also joining the partners and suppliers to the Honda F1 racing team.

The CEO of Honda, Nick Fry, said “Climate change is probably the single biggest issue facing the global community and F1 is not immune from it. On the contrary we believe that F1 with its huge global profile and cutting edge technology can play an
important role in not only highlighting the issues but also playing our part in developing solutions. In addition, the FIA recognises the opportunity for F1 to showcase innovative technologies for the benefit of society for the long term. For example, by 2009, devices for energy recovery will be in place on the cars.

“So we at Honda F1 are proud to dedicate our car to the environmental challenge. We believe that practical solutions can stem directly from engineers working on our F1 programme. They are working harder than ever to achieve our dreams and win the World Championship while embracing and underscoring Honda’s environmental ethos.

“First and foremost, we are a race team and F1 is very much a team sport. We achieve our racing objectives only by working together and parallels can be drawn with the way that we must all join together to address the environmental challenge. We hope that in raising awareness and highlighting the issues we will encourage members of the public to come together and help take on the challenge of climate change.”

Jenson Button is fully supportive of the car-manufacturer’s stance. In an interview with Sky News, he said “The people who work in F1 and the F1 viewers are probably the most difficult people to turn around into making a difference, so this campaign is important. It looks very different – no sponsors on the car. The idea is to raise awareness of global issues that we have and hopefully it’s going to make a difference.

“At the moment, F1 is carbon neutral, but that’s not where we want to be – it should be carbon positive. But maybe in the future it will get there. Actually we have an extra 11 sponsors this year compared to last year, and that’s because they want to get involved in this idea and raise awareness.”

On top of this new green plan, Honda Racing F1 is also flexing it’s charitable arm. They are asking people to make a donation to an environmental charity and then appear on an F1 car. The concept is labelled as “our car is your car.” Each donation buys a tiny individual pixel which helps build the image of the earth on the race-car. Every donator will have their name added to a list on the website (or by use of a microscope on the car itself). Donations can be made here: www.myearthdream.com

Super Aguri’s crash test this week

Super AguriSuper Aguri is hoping that their new 2007 car will pass the compulsory FIA crash tests later on this week so that they can launch their new SA07 before the Australian Grand Prix. Super Aguri failed the rear impact test the first time around in January. If the car passes, the car will be unveiled in Tokyo on 12th March.

The SA07 is believed to have had modifications to the cockpit sides and the rear structure of the car in the hope it will be strong enough to pass the test this time around. If the car fails, Super Aguri may use their interim car which is nearly identical in appearance to the 2006 Honda RA106 car. It is possible that even if the SA07 passes the FIA test, Super Aguri may choose to run their interim car in Australia anyway because of the ‘customer car’ row, otherwise they risk not being able to race.