Sepang Test: Day One

BMW Sauber’s Robert Kubica topped the timesheets during the first day of testing at this weeks pre-race test at the Sepang circuit in Malaysia. The Polishman, who retired from the season-opener following a gearbox problem, beat the Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen by just over a tenth of a second, completing 92 laps.

Raikkonen continues to shine at Ferrari, and completed 54 laps on a day when the FIA announced that the F2007 was legal, in regard to both its aerodynamics and floor. However, it has emerged that Ferrari will examine the engine Raikkonen used in Melbourne prior to the Malaysian Grand Prix. The Italian team believe that a water leak the Finn experienced during the closing laps in Australia may have damaged the engine, potentially presenting the 27 year old a grid penalty should an engine change be necessary.

The Williams of Alex Wurz was third, testing the Bridgestone markings for the ‘softer’ tyres, described by red dots on the sidewalls and a white line on the bottom of the outside groove. The Honda of Rubens Barrichello was next, with Pedro de la Rosa completing the top-five.

1. Kubica, BMW-Sauber (B), 1:36.187, 92 laps
2. Raikkonen, Ferrari (B), 1:36.302, 54
3. Wurz, Williams-Toyota (B), 1:36.334, 89
4. Barrichello, Honda (B), 1:36.826, 82
5. De la Rosa, McLaren-Mercedes (B), 1:37.106, 60
6. Montagny, Toyota (B), 1:37.267, 73
7. Sato, Super Aguri-Honda (B), 1:37.389, 72
8. Coulthard, Red Bull-Renault (B), 1:37.609, 82
9. Piquet, Renault (B), 1:38.199, 32
10. Speed, Toro Rosso-Ferrari (B), 1:38.503, 69

Webber to Drive Singapore Night Circuit

This weekend Mark Webber will drive the proposed night circuit for the Singapore Grand Prix. The Red Bull driver will drive a Porsche 911 GT3 around the city, although he’ll have to obey local speed limits and laws.

Red Bull’s Brand Manager, Jyn Wee, said “we didn’t have enough time to get the clearance for a high-speed run.”

If Bernie Ecclestone gets his way, F1 cars will be racing around the floodlit streets of Singapore one night next year.

Whiting Seeks Changes Ahead of Malaysian GP

The Sepang circuit, which is to hold the Malaysian Grand Prix, has been ordered to make urgent repairs prior to the race in less than two weeks time.

During an inspection before the start of testing this week, the FIA’s safety delegate, Charlie Whiting, called for improvements to guard rails and tyre barriers.

Local newspaper ‘New Strait Times’ quoted him as saying, “I have asked them do some minor works for the race.”

All this follows recent resurfacing work between turns 3 and 4 of the circuit, after the previous surface experienced inconsistant surface texture and grip.

The changes aren’t thought to affect this weeks test.

Ex-F1 Driver Heinz Schiller Dies Aged 77

Swiss driver Heinz Schiller has died. Schiller, who started only one championship race during the 1962 season, died aged 77.

Heinz debuted in a privately entered Lotus-BRM at the old Nurburgring circuit. The driver completed only three laps of the Nordschleife, before retiring with oil pressure problems.

Nurburgring Honour Schumacher

A corner at Nurburgring will be named ‘Schumacher S’ in honour of Michael Schumacher, who was victorious at the Nurburgring circuit a total of five times. The track itself will host the 2007 German GP later in the summer.

 ‘I am very proud of this honour which they have given me,’ said Schumacher, who retired after the 2006 season. ‘It was imperative we did something prestigious to honour him,’ said Walter Kaffitz, director of the race track. ‘Schumacher is the greatest driver in the history of German motorsport.’

Schumacher will do a lap of honour before the start of the German GP on 22 July, the first driver to do so. 

Viewing Figures Slump along with Schumacher’s Career

Michael Schumacher’s retirement has led to a slump in viewing figures in Germany. With the German’s retirement, official viewing figures from RTL have shown a fall of four-fifths of a million viewers, dropping from 2.23 million last year to 1.41 million this year.

But the German viewers need not look far to catch a glimpse of the most decorated driver in motorsport history. Schumacher not only fronts the latest advertising for the Fiat Scudo van, but also leads a campaign by the Swiss Farmer’s Federation, on a poster with a caption translated as “Swiss farmers go flat out”.

Schumacher Not Regretting Retirement

A spokeswoman for Michael Schumacher has quashed suggestions that the seven-time world champion is already questioning his decision to retire from competitive motorsport.

Reports started to fly last weekend, after the 38 year old phoned to congratulate his successor, Kimi Raikkonen, on the podium in Melbourne following his victory. However, Sabine Kehm, writer of ‘Michael Schumacher: Driving Force’ and his spokeswoman, issued a clear statement that the German was ‘not regretting anything’.

Meanwhile Willi Weber suggested that Schumacher could still have made an impact in Formula One in 2007, and wasn’t over the hill just yet, “the fact is that Ferrari does not at this moment have serious competitors. Clearly, Michael could have become champion again.”

The all new Guadix Circuit

Formula 1 isn’t just about the races – there is plenty of hard work which goes into the cars all year round. One of the most important times in the development of a Formula 1 car is when it hits the track to test how good the design really is. Testing is important in all motorsports, so if you are at the top of your game, you might as well do it in style.

And that’s where the Guadix Circuit comes in. Situated in Spain near the Sierra Nevada mountains, the Guadix circuit provides a stunning backdrop for the R&D teams from some of the most successful teams in the history of motor racing.

Recently, the Guadix circuit has been redesigned and improved. Headed by Clive Greenhaigh, an ex-racer and championship winning race owner with 30 years experience, the circuit now boasts two different track layouts, each being around 30km long. Both has a mix of slow, fast and multiple corners and has the highest quality, medium-abrasion tarmac available along with FIA approved concrete curbs. Extended run-off areas ensure the utmost safety whilst bikes and cars sustain the minimum of damage should they come off the track.

Of course, it’s not just the track that counts. Hundreds of people may descend onto the track area during testing – from drivers to engineers and technicians. To enable them to work at their peak, much care and attention has been lavished on the facilities around the circuit. The Guadix Circuit now has 1-0 fully enclosed pits along with 15 outer pits complete with sunshielded, secure privacy and night-time use, should you want it. As the track is secluded, it means that the circuit sees the most top-secret cars out on track, and with no noise restrictions, testing can take place 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Legal Action Begins

It has been confirmed that Spyker boss Colin Kolles has made good on his threat and started the arbitration process over the row over ‘customer cars’. With Frank Williams also voicing his concerns publicly over the past few months, it will be interesting to see whether he follows Kolles’ lead and backs the arbitration process.

Officially, there is no news as to which teams are involved, although it is almost certain that Toro Rossi and Super Aguri will be two of the teams involved. There is also a question mark over Red Bull.

The teams in question will be sent papers before the case is sent to the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Lausanne. The teams will still be permitted to race during the extensive arbitration process as Spyker are seeking that the teams are ineligible for constructors’ points, rather than being totally excluded from the races.

It is still hoped that an ‘out of court’ settlement will be reached, despite the process already being underway.

Saving Silverstone – the Master Plan

The BRDC (British Racing Drivers’ Club) has held a presentation at the British circuit, outlining proposals for a Silverstone ‘Master Plan’. Attendees at the presentation included the Sports Minister, the Rt Hon Richard Caborn MP, and BRDC President Damon Hill along with selected heads of local county councils, planners, higher education authorities and regional development agencies.

With Bernie Ecclestone not guaranteeing Silverstone a spot on the Formula 1 calendar past 2009 – and hinting that that it should share thespot with France – the BRDC’s hope is that their plan will release value from the estate surrounding the track to ensure that the track is financially stable in the future.

The club has said they are prepared to take the plan through the entire planning process using their own resources, however they remain hopeful that the government will provide some funding for the project.

“Our objective,” Hill began, “is to continue with development and improvements to keep up with the incredible pace, not only of grand prix racing, but of development generall in the automotive business. I don’t think you can underestimate the effect the grand prix has on the environment and industries, employment and also on the country.

“We very much hope that, after today, we can move forward to make Silverstone a place we can be really proud of in this country, not just for the BRDC, but also for the UK to beam motorsport and our event around the world.”

The plan includes the development and improvement of the current circuit facilities. New grandstands, pit and paddock facilities, as demanded by Ecclestone, will be first on the list of things to do. The plan also includes the objective of regeneration around the circuit with a science park, manufacturer test centre, hotel and conference centre, and a small residential development all envisioned.

Plans have already been submitted for Porsche Cars GB to develop a facility to help train drivers at the east end of the track. The Silverstone Study Centre has already been open since September 2006.

“Seventy per cent of our business activity is directly attributable to events, of which 85 per cent is grand prix related,” circuit MD Richard Phillips explained. “To change this balance, we have to develop the estate and allow a wider diversification of business types to come to Silverstone.

“Beyond the development, however, it is very necessary for the core business to be allowed to grow and flourish. We must diversify our activities, raise our game with state-of-the-art facilities, excite new audiences to our venue and build a sustainable business in order to minimise the risks associated with the cost of grand prix racing. Only then will we able to afford it, and will UK PLCs benefit.”

The sports minister, Richard Caborn, voiced his views after the presentation. “Silverstone is a world leader in many ways and should not be underestimated,” he commented. “The Master Plan really builds on the Silverstone brand and shows a great deal of potential. It outlines the beginnings of a major centre of excellence that will rank up there with any in the world, helping to ensure the supply chain to this sector is maintained for years to come.

“The Master Plan is not only important to Silverstone and its continued hosting of the British Grand Prix, but also the development of the sport in this country. It gives a real opportunity to British motorsport to realise its ambitions in the not too distant future.”