Vettel released to Toro Rosso

The BMW-Sauber team have announced they have released test driver SebastienVettel to Scuderia Toro Rosso. Vettel had been linked to Toro Rosso after Scott Speed publicly slated his team bosses. There were questions over whether Speed would race for Toro Rosso again however he was in action at the Mugello test last week and Tost has said they had no plans to replace the American driver.

However, the Toro Rosso team have yet to announce their plans for the next race in Hungary and with the news that Vettel has been released by BMW, questions remain over who will be in the race-seats this weekend.

“As our test driver, Sebastien carried out sterling work for us,” BMW boss Mario Theissen said. “When he stood in for Robert Kubica in the USA Grand Prix, he made history by becoming the youngest debutant to earn a world championship point. However, the current testing rules mean that he barely gets a chance to drive for us.

“Now he has been offered the opportunity to get inside a Toro Rosso cockpit. We have sponsored and coached Sebastien over a number of years to place obstacles in his career path now would go against our concept of talent promotion.

“BMW and Red Bull have a longstanding partnership in supporting Sebastien. Toro Rosso is the sister team of Red Bull Racing and in that context, it makes sense for us to release him for the testing. In a sponsoring partnership, the main thing is to use the best opportunities that present themselves to a young driver at any given time.”

Marko defends Red Bull’s junior development programme

Red Bull s Helmut Marko has defended his team s junior driver development programme amidst criticism that is failing to produce the talent that was expected. With very public tensions between Scott Speed and his team, and rumours in the paddock about the future driver line-up, Marko whose job is to liase with the Red Bull drivers has insisted that the programme has many up and coming stars and that it is fully justifiable.

“We have some very good people,” Marko explained. “One of them is Sebastien Buemi who is in F3 and recently did a very good Formula 1 test.” He then singled out drivers Brendon Hartley and Filipe Albuquerque before saying, “So we have a multiplicity of good drivers who are very successful in junior categories. If you make your judgment about Red Bull s junior programme only on the basis of Speed and Liuzzi, then I don t think that is fair.”

Renault’s new CFD facility

Renault F1Formula 1 champions Renault have announced a $50 million long-term investment in technology after a poor season by their standards which has seen them slip a long way behind the two main 2007 title rivals.

Renault have said the investment would help build a new computational fluid dynamics (CFD) facility at their factory in Enstone. CFD is a method of researching and developing cutting-edge designs. This is especially important in Formula 1 where aerodynamics are one of the most important areas of design.

“This programme of technology investment in the team sends out a strong signal about our commitment to a competitive future in Formula 1,” team boss Flavio Briatore explained.

“While other teams have invested in costly second wind tunnels, we believe that CFD is a technology of the future that will be integral to the design and development of more efficient vehicles,” technical director Bob Bell added.

The new CFD facility will provide Renault with ten times more capacity than they currently have. The construction will meet stringent environmental requirements too, with the centre itself being built below ground and powered by renewable energy sources.

Piquet loses license

According to reports, three-time Formula 1 champion Nelson Piquet and his wife have lost their driving licenses after racking up one too many traffic violations. Piquet is thought to have had his license revoked thanks to speeding and parking tickets, and his wife, Viviane, is thought to have had hers taken away for bad driving.

Both will be attending a mandatory driver awareness course lasting 30 hours spread across eight days. At the end of the course, they will be required to pass an exam before they get their licenses back.

Piquet is fairly laid-back about the problem. “I think we have to pay for our mistakes,” he remarked. “It s not even just a speeding problem I got tickets for all kinds of reasons, for things like parking where I shouldn t.”

Briatore Baffled

Flavio Briatore has spoken out over the FIA s decision not to penalize McLaren over the espionage saga despite finding them guilty of being in possession of confidential Ferrari documents.

“I don t understand what happened,” Briatore said. “To begin with, you would only gather the World Council if you had proof. Otherwise if you don t have proof, you avoid such a meeting. So I don t understand what happened if the FIA admits to have established possession of Ferrari material by McLaren then why is there no retribution? The verdict reminds me of Pontius Pilate.”

Briatore echoed Ecclestone s words by saying he felt the whole saga had damaged the sport, and he also added that he empathized with Ferrari s fury over the decision. “There weeks, we have all heard and read what happened and surely this story has been very damaging for the business of Formula 1, also considering the great media exposure it has had,” Briatore said.

“If someone had some advantage from the possession of the material, it would have been fair for him to pay the consequences. Besides, I too would have liked to know Ferrari s weight distribution! I spoke on the phone with Jean Todt and he sounds very bitter. I also understand di Montezemolo s anger.”

Massa’s thoughts and Todt’s Diatribe

In the continuing battle of words, many people have spoken out about the decision of the FIA, who found McLaren guilty of being in possession of Ferrari documents, but chose not to punish the team due to insufficient evidence that McLaren used the information.

Felipe Massa
Massa isn t happy at the verdict but has declined to comment too much on the outcome. Instead, he says the drivers must do the talking on the track, pushing hard to beat the McLarens. “It s certainly not a nice moment for this sport,” Massa explained. “It s not up to us drivers to judge but we can have our opinions. I think president Montezemolo and Jean Todt will be able to react.

“Us drivers will have to do it on the track by working and driving at the best of our abilities. The gaps are not too big and we are competitive I would have won at the Nurburgring if it wasn t for the problem in the rain at the end with the tyres.”

Massa has also spoken out about the incident involving him and Alonso after the European Grand Prix. “Something happened I wish it won t happen again,” Massa remarked. “But I don t regret what I did as in the end, I had a normal reaction. We are there fighting for positions, fighting for the championship and sometimes you cannot just control your nerves so easily.”

Jean Todt
Jean Todt is definitely unhappy with the FIA s decision and has launched a scathing attack on McLaren. Todt has also hinted that his team would be taking further legal action against McLaren. “I am bitter about it,” Todt began. “What happened yesterday is serious. On the one hand, a verdict of guilt was handed down, and on the other, no sanctions imposed. I cannot understand it.

“During yesterday s meeting, the McLaren bosses with no exceptions admitted that their chief designer had obtained since back in March, prior to the Australian Grand Prix, documents from Nigel Stepney. Some of this data was used to prepare a clarification request submitted to the FIA, aimed clearly at us, given that throughout the Melbourne weekend, the McLaren team principal and his closest colleagues made statements in which they threw doubt over some cars .

“Therefore, such information was, in fact, used to obtain an advantage over us not through an improvements in their performance, but instead through limiting ours. It is important to underline that the information used to try and damage Ferrari through the FIA might be only part of the information received by McLaren. In an attempt to justify it s actions, McLaren has tried to claim the immunity normally accorded to a whistleblower in some legal systems.

“But it should be noted that usually, an informant or whistleblower goes to the competent authority to denounce something, whereas in this case, he went to Ferrari s main rival who, and it is not use who this but the FIA, took great care not to mention that the information was obtained in this way.

“Let us move on. McLaren has confirmed that it has had to install a firewall to prevent further information from Stepney reaching the team in the form of documents. Furthermore, Coughlan has been asked to tell the very same Stepney to stop sending him information. It is a shame that before this, Coughlan asked for information on our brake balance system, then went to lunch with him in Spain, before calmly returning home with 780 pages of designs, diagrams, data and a whole lot more as state by the FIA release with which to design, develop, run and race a 2007 Ferrari Formula 1 car.

“As confirmed in that decision yesterday, the violation was already there in the simple possession of the information, which in itself constitutes an enormous advantage in a sport like Formula 1. In Ferrari s opinion, it is like playing a hand of poker with a rival who already knows what cards you are holding.

“It remains incomprehensible that, apart from possession, one must also demonstrate the effective and visible use of this information on the McLaren car. Actually, this very same fact on the basis of available information which the FIA used to find McLaren guilty, shows that the offence lies in the possession without the need to prove anything else.

“The proof is there and this led to the FIA s decision. Therefore, I find it difficult to understand how the verdict makes sense. Furthermore, I have to say that the proof of effective use requested by the FIA is impossible for Ferrari to furnish because, of course, Ferrari does not have access to the McLaren car.

“A few weeks after the race in Melbourne, the McLaren team principal proposed that we should reach a sort of agreement to establish a better relationship between our two teams, thus avoiding any future denunciations to the sporting authority. I replied that I found it impossible to believe him because on several occasions we had seen that certain commitments had always been disregarded by McLaren. There was an exchange of views and, believing in their good faith, I agreed to sign this agreement on 9 June last.

“Since that time and even earlier, McLaren was perfectly aware not only of the emails sent by their informer within our company but also of the fact that their chief designer had stayed in contact with him and had received and continued to be in possession of a significant amount of technical information that belonged to us. So, on the one hand, they had come to say ‘let us trust one another’, and on the other they were hiding serious facts such as those just stated above, but making no effort to inform us as would have been in the spirit and to the letter of our agreement.

“Finally, it should be noted that yesterday’s meeting was not an appearance before a tribunal, but a meeting of the FIA World Council, at which only McLaren was asked to respond to accusations and in which we were present only as observers. Therefore there was no possibility to play an active role as we would have wished. I was only able to ask a few questions and reply to some but we were not able to present our case nor the documents to support it.

“This decision remains very disappointing and surprising. It is not acceptable to create a precedent in such an important case in which the guilty verdict for serious and persistent violation of the fundamental principle of sporting honesty does not automatically incur a penalty.

“For our part, we will press on with the legal actions currently taking place in Italy and in England – and we do not rule out taking further action.”

Provisional 2008 F1 Calendar

The FIA have released the provisional calendar for the 2008 F1 Season. Again, Melbourne will kick off the season with the Australian Grand Prix, whilst France retains its race from Magny Cours. 2008 also sees the introduction of the street race around Singapore, and the European Grand Prix from the new Valencia circuit – pending circuit approval by the FIA.

Provisional 2008 F1 Calendar:

16th March Australia
23rd March Malaysia
6th April Bahrain
27th April Spain
11th May Turkey
25th May Monaco
8th June Canada *
22nd June France
6th July Great Britain
20th July Germany
3rd August Hungary
24th August Europe **
7th September Italy
14th September Belgium
28th September Singapore **
12th October China
19th October Japan
2nd November Brazil

* Provisional
** Subject to Circuit Approval

McLaren – the decision was balanced and fair

McLaren have said the FIA s decision not to punish them over the Ferrari espionage saga was very balanced and fair . McLaren were found guilty of illegally being in possession of confidential Ferrari technical documents however there was no conclusive proof that McLaren had used the information to their advantage.

Ferrari are fuming at the decision saying it set a dangerous precedent however McLaren feel the decision is fair.

“Following an appearance by McLaren today at the FIA World Motor Sport Council in Paris, a unanimous decision has been taken by the FIA which in McLaren’s opinion is very balanced and fair,” a statement by the McLaren team read. “McLaren accepts the that the FIA World Motor Sport Council had no alternative other than to find that there was a purely technical breach by reason of the possession of certain information by one individual at his home, without McLaren’s knowledge or authority.

“McLaren is delighted that the World Motor Sport Council determined that this information was not used and accordingly imposed no sanction whatsoever on the team. McLaren looks forward to continuing its fight in what is the most exciting Drivers’ and Constructors’ World Championship in many years.”

McLaren team boss Ron Dennis also spoke out about the affair, stating he was pleased the matter had been resolved and that his team could now fully concentrate on winning this year s titles. “There is no doubt that the past 24 days have been challenging and the tremendous support we have received from our sponsor partners and the public has been much appreciated,” Dennis began. “Moving forward, McLaren wants to re-affirm our long-standing commitment to honesty and integrity and re-state that we believe we have acted correctly throughout. Now, we have Formula One World Championships to win. As a result we intend to move on, so as to maintain the focus and commitment required to do exactly that.”

Unsurprisingly, the two McLaren drivers were also happy with the result of the meeting. Having only been part of McLaren for a few months I know how important today’s decision will be for everybody,” Alonso explained. “I am looking forward to an exciting second half of the season and to continue our battle for both World Championships.”

“Whilst it’s only my first season in Formula One with the team, I already know and appreciate the commitment and dedication of the people there,” Hamilton remarked. “As a result I am pleased with today’s decision and can’t wait for the rest of the season.”

However, the saga is not yet over with Ferrari continuing to pursue other avenues through the Italian justice system and the British civil courts.

Furious Ferrari

Ferrari are furious at the outcome of the meeting McLaren had with the FIA which saw McLaren escape with no penalties. The FIA felt that there was insufficient evidence to show that McLaren benefited from the data found at chief designer Mike Coughlan s home, however they did feel that McLaren were guilty of breaching article 151c of the International Sporting Code.

“Ferrari notes that Vodafone McLaren Mercedes have been found guilty by the FIA World Council,” a statement by Ferrari read. “It therefore finds it incomprehensible that violating the fundamental principle of sporting honest does not have, as logical and inevitable consequence, the application of a sanction. Today s decision legitimises dishonest behaviour in Formula 1 and sets a very serious precedent.

“In fact, the decision of the World Council signifies that possession, knowledge at the very highest level and use of highly confidential acquired in an illicit manner and the acquiring of confidential information over the course of several months, represent violations that do not carry any punishment. The fact Vodafone McLaren Mercedes was in possession of such information was discovered totally by accident and, but for this, the team would continue to have it. This is all the more serious as it has occurred in a sport like Formula 1 in which small details make all the difference.

“Ferrari feels this is highly prejudicial to the credibility of the sport. It will continue with the legal action already underway within the Italian criminal justice system and in the civil court in England.”

Testing, Day 3 Round-up

Yesterday, Ferrari and Toro Rosso finished their testing at the Mugello track in Italy. Felipe Massa was out on-track for Ferrari, focusing on testing some new mechanical parts. Scott Speed was out for Toro Rosso again however he was not at his best thanks to severe pains in his lower back Despite the pain, he managed to complete 74 laps of the track, working on some new aero components and evaluating several brake materials. Massa s best lap was a 1:20.194 with Speed over 3 seconds slower with a best time of 1:23.590.

Williams finished top of the timesheets in Jerez thanks to a storming few laps by Alex Wurz. Wurz was the only man on track who managed to put in a lap time of under 80 seconds with a best lap time of 1:19.962. This time was the second quickest of the week, just behind a time of 1:19.670, set by Lewis Hamilton s McLaren on the second day of testing.

A sunny track saw no great dramas. Robert Kubica finished the day less than a tenth of a second behind Wurz, with the McLaren of Pedro de la Rosa coming in in third. Barrichello had a better day, finishing fourth overall. Sebastien Buemi was at the wheel of the Red Bull again, completing 68 laps and finishing fifth, less than four tenths of a second slower than top-placed man Wurz.

Toyota s Jarno Trulli finished sixth, a good result considering he suffered from an oil leak in the morning and missed a substantial part of the early session. Heikki Kovalainen also had problems he suffered from some gearbox issues and then had to change his engine in the afternoon.

Unofficial times for testing at Jerez, Day 3

Pos  Driver        Team                    Time     Laps
 1.  Wurz          Williams-Toyota      1.19.962   86
 2.  Kubica        BMW-Sauber           1.20.004   92
 3.  de la Rosa    McLaren-Mercedes     1.20.220  111
 4.  Barrichello   Honda                1.20.250   86
 5.  Buemi         Red Bull-Renault     1.20.318   68
 6.  Trulli        Toyota               1.20.377   70
 7.  Kovalainen    Renault              1.20.828   64
 8.  Sato          Super Aguri-Honda    1.21.186  108