Renault’s R28 car launched

Renault s 2008 car, the R28The Renault F1 team have officially launched their 2008 car, the R28, in Paris earlier today.

The R28 Formula One car made it s debut at Valencia last week, driven by former world champion Fernando Alonso. Outwardly, the car looks little different to the R27 with ING still being the main sponsor of the team.

Having had two years of success, 2007 was a poor season for the team, achieving a solitary podium place and managing just third in the constructors championship. The Renault team are hoping that their R28, along with the return of Alonso to the team, will help them challenge at the front of the field again.

“We expect to see the team back in its normal place, fighting at the front of the field,” F1 Team president Bernand Rey explained. “This is the target the team has set for the new car.

“On the technical side, everybody has worked hard to overcome the problems encountered last year. “On the driver front, Fernando Alonso’s return was an important boost. There is optimism inside the team and within Renault.”

Technical Director Bob Bell concurred with Rey and explained how the new F1 car differed from their previous year s offering. “2007 was a very poor year by our standards,” Bell said.

“For 2008, there are high expectations inside and outside the team, and it is down to us to give the drivers a competitive car. We have put the problems from 2007 behind us and in terms of the car design, we have looked at the problem afresh.

“The team pushed very hard in all areas, and particularly on the aerodynamics. The front end of the car has come in for special attention with a brand new front wing and the front suspension. The rear end has also been heavily reworked, and we haven’t neglected the basics.

“The car ran reliably in its first test, and we made encouraging progress on performance development last week. We are confident that the advances we have seen in the wind tunnel will be reflected on track.”

FIA confirms F1 race weekend timings

The FIA have confirmed that practice and qualifying for the night race at Singapore will also be taking place during the night.

Singapore will be hosting Formula 1 s first ever night race this season the rationale being that it may attract more European viewers as the race will be taking place at 1pm CET.

The timing for F1 practice seesions, qualifying and races is as follows:

Friday [1]
10:00 – 11:30 Practice Session 1 [2]
14:00 – 15:30 Practice Session 2 [3]

Saturday
11:00 – 12:00 Practice Session 3 [4]
14:00 – 15:00 Qualifying Session [5]

Sunday
14:00 Race [6]

[1] Friday Practice sessions at Monaco will take place on Thursday
[2] Except for Singapore (16:00)
[3] Except for Singapore (20:00)
[4] Except for Canada (10:00), Great Britain (10:00) and Singapore (17:00)
[5] Except for Canada (13:00), Great Britain (13:00) and Singapore (20:00)
[6] Except for Australia (15:30), Malaysia (15:00), Bahrain (14:30), Turkey(15:00), Canada (13:00), Great Britain (13:00), Singapore (20:00), Japan (13:30) and China (15:00). Brazil TBC.

You can review the full 2008 Formula One calendar here.
Yuo can review the official 2008 entry list here.

Can Red Bull deliver on their ambitious 2008 target?

Red Bull Racing have set their sights on the much coveted ‘best of the rest accolade in 2008. But the launch of the RB4 and its early testing performances suggest that the Milton Keynes based team still have a lot of work to do before Melbourne.

It s a crunch year for Red Bull. In 2007, when it was clear that Newey s hunt for quick performance wins had resulted in a flawed design the RB3 was quick but incredibly fragile and unreliable resources were pumped into developing the RB4. The team went on an ambitious expansion programme increasing staffing levels to 540, opening a new construction facility and reinstating their wind tunnel.

In short, 2007 was all about 2008, though that should not detract from some impressive performances from David Coulthard and Mark Webber amidst a series of reliability nightmares. A lot of pressure is on Team Principal Christian Horner to deliver this year. Speaking at the launch of the RB4 at Jerez, Horner went on record with the team s ambitious target of what can be interpreted as third in the Constructors Championship:

“Our target is to build on the progress we saw at the end of last year. In the final three races, in a tight group we were theoretically the fourth fastest team and we ll be looking to build on that.”

The launch itself was by all accounts a lacklustre affair; almost an inconvenience to the team as it ceased testing duties momentarily to pose for a few photographers. There was little to offer world s media. Legendary F1 photographer Keith Sutton of Sutton Motorsport Images elected not to attend and later described the event as “appalling”:

“It looked a great launch didn t it, probably the cheapest launch of the year. Just roll it out of the garage,” he joked on FormulaPod.com. “No actual thought about the background. No actual thought about what time […] It was just appalling,” he added. The event was a far cry from the razzmatazz that has come to be expected of the Red Bull brand.

It suggests one of two things. Either Newey has designed a dog of a car and the team genuinely don t want or need the press coverage. Or, Red Bull are sitting pretty on an absolute gem and are simply reluctant to give anything away to the outside world. We won t know until Melbourne. That said, there have been a couple of indicators from testing which may allow some people armed with a crystal ball to better judge Red Bull s actual position.

Starting with the positives, there have been no signs of any gearbox and transmission related problems throughout the three winter test sessions at Barcelona, Jerez and Valencia. Transmission was Red Bull s Achilles heel in 2007 contributing to many of the team s thirteen retirements. Reliability on this front will be essential if the team are to progress especially given the new requirements for gearbox units to last four races.

Secondly, there have been several reports of a buoyed Mark Webber striding around the test circuit paddocks. Talking about the RB4 at Valencia, he said: “It seems to be a big step forward from last year in terms of reliability and speed, which is great.”

Any other driver and such comments could be dismissed as a PR exercise but not Webber, arguably one of the most outspoken drivers on the grid. He would be first to criticise the team over lack of progress so his comments should be taken at face value. Less encouraging for Red Bull fans should be the amount of similarity between the RB4 and its predecessor.

Despite adopting some of the popular features of 2007 most notably the bridged front wing and sculpted rear exhaust unit the RB4 has been criticised for showing a lack of innovation. This view has been reinforced on the test track with the Toro Rosso cars posting faster times than their sister Red Bull team at both Valencia and Jerez. And on the second day of testing at Jerez, Mark Webber, driving the old RB3, actually went a few tenths quicker than David Coulthard in the RB4. However, Adrian Newey maintains that he has not had to sacrifice performance over reliability in designing the 2008 car.

“The [2007] reliability problems didn t come as a result of chasing performance,” he said at the team s launch. “They came through detailed design, manufacturing and operations faults and the reliability systems couldn’t cope.”

“We haven’t had to make any compromises in that respect, it is just a matter of understanding why things were failing and what was breaking down in the system to cause them.”

So the early signs from testing have been mixed. Part of the pre-season excitement is the fact that no one really has a clue about performance until the cars are run in anger at the season opener. That said, my instinct says that Red Bull will struggle to compete with the likes of BMW and Renault in 2008.

Christopher Hayes

Honda’s RA108 launched

RA108The Honda Racing F1 team official launched their 2008 car, the RA108, at their headquarters in Brackley this morning.

The RA108 was first seen shaking down at Valencia last week, although it was sporting a white interim livery. The car will be driven for the third season by Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello and the team are hoping that this continuity will help them achieve better results this season.

The new livery sees the introduction of the team s earthdreams programme, a concept launched in 2007 which sees the Honda team helping provide support and investment for good causes through an unusual marketing initiative. $1.2 million has already been committed to the project, with $700,000 already allocated. Donations from the website totalled over $196,000 and an independent Advisory Board has split these donations between two international causes the Marine Stewardship Council and the Forest Stewardship Council.

Honda s RA108 is significantly different from the 2007 car and Ross Brawn is hoping that it will be a lot more successful than it s predecessor. “The RA108 is a wholly different concept to its predecessors in terms of its aerodynamic layout and mechanical structure,” Brawn explained.

“The focus has been on attaining a high level of aerodynamic efficiency with stability and this is reflected in the way that the chassis has been revised to interact with the different aerodynamic features and the suspension. This approach should allow more potential for further development to take place, the first of which will be for Melbourne when we will introduce a substantially revised aerodynamic package compared with the car we have launched today.”

CEO Nick Fry is also positive about the team s future. “Following a year where we failed to live up to our own expectations, the team has made a number of key appointments in the second half of 2007 to strengthen our existing resource as well as bringing on board new knowledge and different experience,” he explained. “In particular, the arrival of Ross in the position of Team Principal has brought new impetus and confidence to the whole organisation.

“This time last year saw the beginning of a downward curve for us and there is a determined sense that this year we are back on track We have done everything possible to honestly address the issues, which we have to view as valuable experiences which have helped to put us in better shaped for this year and for the years ahead. Every area, from technical and aerodynamics to marketing, has been strengthened with world class resource. The disappointments of 2007 power out desire to do well in 2008.”

Formula One – A Modern Pursuit?

The idea of watching teams race around a track on a Sunday afternoon is not as modern as motorsport pundits would have us believe. For centuries, people have been drawn to the pursuit of speed, danger and celebrity. The excitement felt by every F1 supporter was an emotion understood and shared by our ancestors two thousand years ago.

Drawing a comparison with popular entertainment of Roman Times – Chariot Races are strikingly similar to today’s Grand Prix. Chariot Racing (ludi circences) was the most popular spectator sport in Rome, having been invented by the Ancient Greeks. Races would be held around a hippodrome, the layout of which would include a large oblong track with turning points at each end. Such venues, such as the Circus Maximus in Rome, were 550m (over 1800 ft) long and 180m (almost 600ft) wide and would hold up to 250,000 spectators.

As many as twenty-four races would take place in a single day, with up to twelve chariots from four different teams taking part. Colours, similar to present day racing car-advertising liveries, would identify different teams and their drivers. Each race was considerably shorter than those in modern-day F1, lasting for a mere seven laps.

Each lap was fraught with danger, with turns, like today, being the most dangerous part of the track, as chariots would jostle for the shortest route around the bend. The driver of the chariot would wrap the reins of the horses around him at the start of the race and would carry a knife to cut himself free should he be thrown from the chariot.

The term ‘horsepower’ took on a more literal sense to the Romans. Usually two or four horses pulled each chariot, but during special races up to six or eight horses were used. Unfortunately, the more horses pulling the chariot, the harder it was to control.

The Romans saw no need for pit stops, but they did have their own version of the paddock a set of stables and trainers. Fortunately the fans were an altogether different breed, with many violent riots recorded in history, especially following races with an unpopular result much like modern day football!

David Coulthard on Fitness in F1

While most of us were out shopping for presents and piling on the pounds over Christmas, David Coulthard was up in the hills around Monaco attempting to reduce his total body fat by another 2%!

Fitness is extremely important in Formula One as the driver’s body must be highly tuned and developed to withstand the stresses of driving for hours at a time in a cramped environment. Fatigue affects judgement and reflexes, so it’s not very helpful when racing a modern F1 car at speeds up to 200mph. David needs to be 100% focused for every inch he drives at every Grand Prix, and fitness is the key.

Drivers are much fitter today as they were ten years ago, now when a driver removes his helmet they have nothing but a few drops of sweat and crumpled hair to show for their exertion. This wasn’t always the case; in 1991 the great Ayrton Senna had to be helped from his car after winning the Brazilian Grand Prix for McLaren.

David learnt about fitness the hard way, “I had a problem with my back when I first started in F1” he admits. “After only my second race in 1994, I had such bad spasm and painful swelling in my left lower back that it ruptured the tissue around the muscle. Lying back that night after the race, I felt like I was lying on a bar of soap because it had swollen so much. Now we try to work hard on strengthening the lower back, the idea’s to do anything to keep it as supple as possible”.

At the start of the 1995 season, David still hadn’t learnt his lesson! “I didn’t start the season on a high. I’d cracked a rib at the Bercy end-of-season karting event in Paris and was unable to train for three weeks. Then things went from bad to worse with the tonsillitis. I just found I could do nothing after a race, and would take to my bed for a couple of days to recover”.

David believes that Michael Schumacher was the first driver to “take the fitness issue to new levels”. “A circuit like the Hungaroring is incredibly demanding and you can’t relax or you’ll spin off. I know because I’ve made my share of mistakes. Driving is a very uncomfortable job. I can’t think of any other sport to compare with F1. There’s just no rest in a Grand Prix car. For at least ninety minutes you’re at the wheel of a potentially lethal weapon and you cannot allow your concentration to waver for a second”.

DC also found the change from F3000 to F1 a shock, “Your upper body endurance must be strong enough to survive the stress of 5g, and when you brake at the end of a straight it feels like a sledgehammer has hit your back!”

This year the off-season was relatively short in comparison with recent years, but with a limit on the amount of testing the teams can do, David had more time to train. Just around the corner from his Monaco apartment lies an Olympic standard stadium, it is here that David uses the weight room in conjunction with an outdoor sports programme. David also uses the beautiful scenery around Monaco to do cycling, combining sprints with uphill climbs on the winding roads.

Other fitness activities include rock climbing, but to get there David has to trek while carrying his bike on his back! There is also basketball, which can help both balance and awareness, and bodyweight exercises on the beach that give DC a bit of variety in his training. This may all seem great fun, but it is just one part of a strict programme that aims for optimal physical fitness during the season.

The training also helps David to cope with jetlag and the tiredness experienced from back-to-back races and testing. There is also a psychological aspect of the training that increases David’s mental strength and character, this is done by completing the most rigorous training programme while overcoming the urge to stop.

Now David has started another season for McLaren he is fitter and stronger thanks to the training issued by his fitness trainer Jerry Powell, but what has it really done for him. “I feel a lot stronger. It may not be noticeable to those on the outside, but when you’re training you can see your body changing with muscle definition. We’re not out to be muscle men, but it’s good to work on a particular muscle, perhaps all the muscles in your shoulders and your back, see them develop and know they’re going to help when it comes to driving the car”.

In fact David and other Formula One drivers alike are remarkable, their resting pulse is just a mere 40 beats per minute and during periods of intense exertion this figure can go up to 196 beats per minute before coming back down to 48 after just five minutes! They can also recover much more quickly than most people as they utilize more than 70% of their lung capacity compared with our feeble 50%!

NB. This article was republished with the kind permission of the webmaster of the now defunct site ‘DCSupporters.co.uk following requests from a number of our forum members for further articles on fitness in Formula One. The article was originally written in 2000-01, but we feel it is still relevant to modern day F1.

Superlicense cost increase confirmed

The FIA have confirmed the cost of a Formula 1 superlicense will be increasing significantly with the money raised being put towards greater safety in F1.

In 2007, a license was €1,725 plus €456 per point scored in the previous year s championship. In 2008, the basic license is now €10,000 plus an extra €2,000 for every point scored in the 2007 championship. This new scheme means that McLaren driver Lewis Hamilton will see his superlicense fees rise from €1,725 in 2007 to €228,000 for this season, with Ferrari having to shell out €428,000 for licenses for both of their drivers.

We spend a fortune on safety and most of it is for the benefit of the drivers,” Mosley explained. “A lot of the people who have been meeting the bill up to now said, ‘Hang on a minute, these drivers are all earning megabucks and we’re spending a fortune to try and make sure they are safe’ – hence the increase.”

Mosley: Teams unlikely to circumvent ECU

Some drivers have already spoken out over concerns that some teams may have found a way around the new standard ECUs and have fitted basic launch control to their cars. However FIA president Max Mosley is not convinced and believes that F1 teams are unlikely to find a way around the electronic limitations this season.

“They are going to find that very difficult,” Mosley said. “First of all you have got to circumvent the ECU and secondly you have got to somehow disable our spy in the cab that will tell us that is going on. One has to remember that what people run in private test sessions is entirely up to them and I think it is going to be extremely difficult to do it at a race.

“It is quite annoying that people say this when we originally stopped launch control and traction control and everyone was running around the paddock saying that the other teams had it. Then finally we gave in and said: since it was so now believed that everyone is cheating, we will free it up.

“And what happened? They all stalled – none of the launch control systems worked and we had to have a special practice at Monaco in case they all ran into each other on the grid. It showed they weren’t cheating, but the perception was that they were.”

Mosley convinced budget capping will work

FIA president Max Mosley has said he believes budget-capping is enforceable within F1 and has given an indication of the scale of the savings the FIA are hoping to achieve.

As of 2009, teams will have certain aspects of their expenditure capped although engines, marketing, promotion and salaries will not fall under the capping regulations. Most Formula 1 team bosses have expressed their support for the scheme believing it is a much better way forward than tightening technical regulations and limiting certain development. However, some are concerned that the budget capping scheme may be difficult to enforce and there is a lot of scope for fancy accounting and money re-routing to disguise where money is really being spent.

Mosley has explained that the FIA are looking at setting up a new department of around 30 people who will help to enforce the budget capping. They will also be looking at issues raised such as how benefits in kind between sister teams are taken into consideration.

“Ideally I want to bring budgets back to where they were in the early 1990s,” Mosley explained. “The total turnover of all the F1 teams is between two and three billion euros I will be disappointed if we can t halve that.”

Dave Richards of Prodrive is one of the detractors of the scheme and he believes that there should be better technical regulations to keep costs in check as it is doubtful as to whether budget capping is truly workable.

“I don’t believe it is going to work,” he told Autosport. “I don’t think it is a viable proposition. I have seen it in Australia where it has been abandoned. Maybe it plays to my strengths because I started life as an accountant, but I got out of accountancy to go into motor racing and I don’t want to go back there.

I think budget capping is an excuse for poor technical regulations. With proper technical controls, you should be able to manage the costs of F1. It is also about sporting regulations as well.

“It is a bit like a government trying to control a situation through measures that are inappropriate. At the end of the day, you should make sure in motor sport that there is a level playing field as best you can. But you cannot fight market forces and try and artificially influence that the best guys aren’t going to come to the front.”

Brabham honoured

Australian driver Sir Jack Brabham has been named an officer in the Order of Australia (AO) in the Australia Day honours for services to motor sport.

Brabham raced in Formula One between 1955 and 1970, winning the drivers championship three times in 1959, 1960 and 1966. It is not the first honour that he has collected in 1966, he was appointed as an Office of the Order of the British Empire; In 1979, he was knighted by the Queen.

This latest award recognises his services to motor sport as an ambassador, as a mentor to young drivers, in his pursuit of safety, and his support of charities.

After receiving the award Brabham said, “I wasn t expecting any more recognition it really is terrific,”