Night Racing – the latest

Officials in Australia have again denied reports that they are preparing for the Australian Grand Prix to be held at night. Bernie Ecclestone has recently warned that Albert Park should install flood-lighting otherwise they risk losing their F1 contract when it expires in 2010.

The state government has set aside an extra $16.6 million for tourism for 2007-08, however tourism minister Tim Holding has denied that the increase in budget is anything to do with F1. “This has got absolutely nothing to do with a night grand prix,” he said.

Meanwhile, the FIA are contemplating testing night racing in junior formulas before they are held in F1. Max Mosely is believed to want GP2 or the Renault World Series to hold a couple of night races before the transition to F1 is made.

“My suspicion is that we would want to see how it goes with another category before we committed to it for the world championship,” Mosley explained. “We will not sanction night racing if it does not fulfil all of the safety conditions.”

Mosley: Carmakers could quit

Manufacturers might quit Formula 1 – that is the stark warning issued by Max Mosely in an interview with newspaper Welt am Sonntag. His warning comes as he attempted to justify the FIA’s proposals for the future of Formula 1 including controversial ideas such as limiting the rev range on the engines, and allowing turbo-chargers.

Many believe that the 2011 proposals go against the FIA’s drive to cut costs because a lot of money would need to be spent in developing the new engines. The last car manufacturer to pull out of Formula 1 was Ford in 2004. Mosely has insisted that, “we must continue to cut the costs. My experience is that if one manufacturer decides it has become too expensive, another one could also say goodbye very quickly. We have to remember that the people sitting on these companies’ executive boards are not necessarily Formula 1 fans.”

Mosely then admitted that the current regulations, which were introduced to try and save money, haven’t worked as intended. “Only two of them have actually reduced their budgets,” Mosley admitted. “Instead of enjoying the cost savings, they have continued to spend exactly the same sums to develop maybe three or four more horse power – and that’s crazy!”

The FIA are also trying to introduce new technology to the sport which could eventually benefit road cars and they are also trying to make the sport more environmentally friendly. Mosley has denied reports that he is attempting to introduce a ‘standard car’ for all teams, however he has admitted that the chassis rules will probably be changed.

“Do you know how much carbon dioxide is blown into the air when top teams run two wind-tunnels 24 hours a day, day after day?” he asked. “We are talking about thousands of tonnes, and then at the end of the day, the races are boring.

“And cars use 75 litres of fuel to go 100 km are not longer acceptable. If we do not acr, the very existence of Formula 1 will be under threat. We do not live on another planet so we have to face reality.”

Tomita to be Fuji Speedway’s new Chairman

Current Panasonic Toyota Racing Chairman and Team Principal Tsutomu Tomita, who has recently announced he is standing down from both of these roles at the end of June 2007, is to become the new Chairman of the Fuji Speedway. Fuji will host a Formula 1 Grand Prix this season for the first time since 1977.

Talking to journalists, Tomita said, “I am looking foward to taking up my new role at Fuji Speedway. I would like to thank everyone at Toyota Motorsport, and of course our partners, for their encouragement and support during my time with the team in Formula 1.

“I am moving on to a new challenge with Fuji Speedway so I will continue to be involved in Formula 1. The Japanese Grand Prix is returning to Fuji Speedway after 30 years and I am sure we will host a successful event. I particularly hope to see the Toyota team achieve great things at Fuji Speedway.”

Team Orders: McLaren cleared

McLarenThe FIA have cleared McLaren of any improper conduct during the Monaco Grand Prix last weekend. After the race, there were question marks over whether McLaren had breached F1’s sporting regulations which ban team orders. Having looked at the evidence, the FIA have announced that McLaren’s actions over the weekend were “entirely legitimate.”

After the race, Ron Dennis admitted that he had told his drivers to ease off to protect the team’s strong position and ensure they didn’t risk retirement. Many saw these comments by Dennis as an admission that Hamilton had essentially been told not to challenge Alonso’s position at the head of the race.

However, the FIA disagree. In a statement just released, the FIA have said, “Having studied the radio traffic between Vodafone McLaren Mercedes and its drivers together with the FIA observer’s report and data from the team, it is clear that McLaren’s actions during the 2007 Monaco Grand Prix were entirely legitimate and no further action is necessary.

“It is clear from FIA measurements taken after qualifying that McLaren fuelled Hamilton for five more laps than Alonso. This allowed Hamilton the option of a one-stop strategy should the safety car come out during his first stint.”

The FIA felt McLaren’s decision to pit Hamilton earlier than expected was justified as it would ensure that the Briton would not get caught behind a safety car.

“With no safety car during Alonso’s first stint, there was a small but finite risk that it would come out during the five laps before Hamilton had to refuel,” the statement continued. “This would have put him behind the field and at a significant disadvantage to any car on a full (as opposed to optional) one-stop strategy.

“For similar reasons, Hamilton was called in early for his second pit stop, thus assuring his second place, with or without a safety car.”

The FIA’s statement also points out that McLaren dominated the front of the field, allowing them to use a more conservative pit strategy than they might otherwise have done, and that it was the sensible option to take.

“Had the car in front of Hamilton not been his team-mate, McLaren might (probably would) have decided to risk the safeyu car and let Hamilton run for as long as hs fuel load allowed in the hope that he would come out of the pits in the lead after one of his pit stops. There is, however, no obligation on them to take this risk in order to overtake their own car. Indeed, it would be foolish to do so.”

In closing, the FIA stated that McLaren were within their rights to ask both drivers to curb their pace to ensure that they both made it to the finish line and did not overstress their cars.

“It is standard procedure for a team to tell its drivers to slow down when they have a substantial lead. This is in order to minimise the risk of technical or other problems. It is also standard practice – and entirely reasonable – to ask the drivers not to put each other at risk.

“McLaren were able to pursue an optimum team stategy because they had a substantial advantage over all other cars. They did nothing which could be described as interfering with the race result.”

Ecclestone wants McLaren punishment

F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone has said he is 100% behind the investigation over McLaren team orders at the Monaco Grand Prix. Ecclestone has gone on record as saying that he doesn’t believe a fine would hurt McLaren enough.

The controvesy stems from the rumour that Ron Dennis requested that his rookie driver Lewis Hamilton not take any risks during the race, and that he should let Alonso win the race. Many in the F1 paddock believe that Hamilton had the skill to win the race and that team orders have prevented him from taking his maiden F1 victory. However, Ron Dennis does not believe his team have done anything wrong.

“Team strategy is what you bring to bear to win a Grand Prix,” Dennis explained. “Team orders is what you bring to bear to manipulate a Grand Prix. And we do not, and have not, manipulated the Grand Prix.”

Bernie Ecclestone believes that if McLaren did hand out team orders, they should have a severe punishment. “I don’t know what the team orders are or were,” Ecclestone began. “One this is for sure, if there were team orders which relate to the position of the two drivers – if somebody is told to move over or hold their position – it is against all the sporting regulations we have. If there were orders, they would be getting off lightly if they get the same sort of fine as Ferrari. They could be excluded from the championship or they could have points deducted.

“A fine for McLaren, with it’s money, would not have the same effect as docking points.”

The FIA has spent the last couple of days reviewing evidence, including radio transmissions between the cars and the mechanics. It is expected that they will announce their conclusions on Wednesday afternoon.

Ralf to go?

John Howett, president of Toyota F1, has admitted that the team are considering replacing Ralf Schumacher at the end of the 2007 season. Schumacher has had a poor season so far, coming to a head in Monaco where he qualified 20th, behind the Spyker of Adrian Sutil.

Many people have speculated about Schumacher’s future in the sport, with common knowledge that his multi-million dollar contract being up at the end of the season. However, Toyota have always backed the German driver so Howett’s admission has come as a slight surprise.

Jarno Trulli will be staying with the team, his contract ending in 2008. Even if they are on the lookout, Howett has insisted that they are working with Schumacher to help him overcome his poor form. “Of course it is frustrating,” Howett said. “But to say that he is completely alone would be wrong. We must give him a better car.”

Ralf himself has great self belief and has said many times this season that he has no doubts he will still be in F1 next year. Other drivers aren’t so sure. It is rumoured that BMW team-mates Kubica and Heidfeld have been discussing Schumacher’s poor form. Heidfeld reportedly asked Kubica whether he felt Schumacher would still be on the grid next season, to which Kubica replied, “I don’t know. But the kind of money he makes at the moment will not be there for him any more.”

Alonso: Ferrari favourite for next 2 races

Monaco winner Fernando Alonso feels that Ferrari are the strong favourites for the next two races in Canada and America. Although the McLaren team totally dominated the Monaco Grand Prix, Alonso has pointed to Ferrari’s history at Indianapolis, believeing that they will continue their trend of doing well at the circuit.

“We hope it can be different this year,” Alonso began, “because we now all go there with the same tyres. But Ferrari usually win at Indianapolis and so I believe that they go there starting as the favourites – and the same for Canada.”

Ferrari have not won at Monaco since 2001, whereas they have won the United States Grand Prix for the last 5 years in a row. A one-two for Ferrari would certainly help their championship hopes as they currently lie 20 points behind McLaren in the constructor’s championship.

On the hunt for illegal F1 Fans

Around 700 people are believed to be living illegally in Bahrain after entering the country on Formula 1 visas. More than 9,000 visas were issued to visitors for the Bahrain Grand Prix in April and the majority of these people left the country, however about 700 are unaccounted for according to Cololnel Yousif Al Ghatam, the Assistant Under-Secretary for Ports of Entry and Investigation.

“We have found that about 700 of them have still not left Bahrain,” Al Ghatam explained. “They were granted only a two-week visa. Formula 1 visitors were granted a grace period of one month to stay in Bahrain without paying fines. We are happy that the majority of them have complied with Bahrain’s residency rules.”

When questioned over what action the authorities would take next, Al Ghatam replied, “We are contacting their sponsors. Those who arrived without sponsorship are being traced using the address in Bahrain they noted on the arrival form at the airport, which many of them have changed. However, we are confident we will and deport them.”

The authorities are now appealing for those illegally staying in Bahrain to leave immediately as the grace period ended on May 16th. Those who are found will be presented to the Public Prosecution before being deported. They are also appealing to hotels and apartment owners not to shelter any illegal residents.

Todt: Championship still wide open

FerrariJean Todt, team boss of Ferrari, believes that the 2007 championship is still wide open, despite Kimi Raikkonen being fifteen points behind McLaren drivers Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton.

“It’s still very open, very open,” Todt said. “If there were two races to go then a 15 point deficit would be impossible. But 15 points with 12 races to go, which is an average of 1.25 points per race, is not so much.”

Despite the lack of testing between Monaco and Montreal, the Ferrari team are still pushing hard. “We have a few modifications which we will have for the next race,” Todt continued. “You must always push harder. We respect our competitors very much. They are very good, they are strong. They have been more reliable than us at the beginning of the seasona. Some others are fighting hard behind us, so we have to push.

“Since the beginning of the seasons, two teams have been ahead of the others and I think it will be like that for a while. But as I said before, some others behing are working hard and I’m sure we can progress. We need to progress more than the others.”

Green Proposals: BMW looking for early decision

Mario Theissen, team boss of BMW-Sauber, is hoping that that green proposals put forward by the FIA concerning changes to the sport in 2011 will be agreed soon. The proposals are controversial, suggesting engines should be changed to 2.2 litre turbo-charged V6s running on biofuel and rev-limited, as the FIA strive to make Formula 1 a leader in envionmental issues.

“There was quite a lot going on behind the scenes at Monaco as discussions about the future of F1 regulations continued” Theissen explained. “The dialogue started two weeks ago at the Spanish Grand Prix in Barcelona. As a basis for discussion, the FIA introduced a consultation paper. On that basis, the manufacturers are invited to bring in their opinions and propositions. This will happen in the coming weeks.”

At a time when the FIA are trying to reduce the costs associated with Formula 1, for example the engine freeze regulation, many have questioned whether the consultation paper contradicts the attempt to reduce costs.

“From a technological point of view, the topics discussed are very interesting,” Theissen said. “We are talking about a completely new concept, which will also be relevant for series production. That’s why BMW basically supports this approach. What we have to avoid though is the sky rocketing of costs. It is important that we commit ourselves early, in order to stretch the development work over several years.”