McLaren pit reshuffle angers fans

MP-23Despite finishing last in the constructors championship in 2007 having been disqualified, McLaren were meant to occupy the last set of pit garages during each race of the 2008 season. However, a deal was negotiated whereby they could occupy the fifth pit garages and therefore have access to the top facilities at each circuit.

However, this decision appears to have been rescinded and at next weekend s Formula One race in Bahrain, the McLaren team will occupy the last set of garages in the pit lane. The decision has left some fans angry as circuit organisers have confirmed that despite many fans deliberately buying tickets so that they can sit opposite the McLaren pit garage, they will not be moved following the pit lane shuffle and are therefore now not sitting opposite their preferred team s pits.

Bahrain organisers have apologised to fans and said that they were fully expecting McLaren to take up the fifth set of pit garages, but a late decision by Formula One Management has forced them to change their plans.

“In Bahrain, we do our utmost to ensure that fans of each team get to sit opposite their favourite team s pit garages to see the action unfold,” Sheikh Salman bin Isa Al Khalifa, the circuit s COO explained. “Sadly on this occasion, we must apologise to McLaren fans and accept that this is a force majeure.”

No pay drivers on the grid

For the first time in a long time, there are no pay drivers on the F1 grid German magazine Auto Motor und Sport has claimed.

It is thought that this season there are no drivers on the grid who have forgone team retainers and provided their teams with personal sponsorship funds. Kazuki Nakajima and Adrian Sutil are thought to be the lowest paid drivers on the F1 grid, each looking at a pay deal of around $1 million a season The biggest disparity between earnings at a team is probably at Renault with rookie driver Nelson Piquet rumoured to be earning around $1.5 million a season whilst his more experienced team-mate takes home around $28 million.

Singapore tests new lighting system

Last Sunday, Singapore trialled the lighting for Formula One s first ever night race later this season. Part of the street circuit was lit up with sixteen light projectors along a 64 metre stretch of road.

The lights have a 3,000 lux illuminations rating standard street lights in Singapore are around 100 lux, with sunlight measured at around 50,000 lux. On race day itself, 1,500 lights will be in operation around the circuit to illuminate Singapore s Marina Bay area.

The lighting test will continue until the end of next week with the lights being switched on every night from 7pm.

Josh Hill debuts at Brands Hatch

Josh Hill, son of Damon, finished 8th and 13th for the opening two rounds of the Ginetta Junior Championship at Brands Hatch this weekend.

The Junior series for young drivers is running as a support series to the British Touring Car Championship this year.

Josh qualified his Tollbar Racing car on the third row of the grid in sixth place before going on to finish 8th in the first round, 11.054 seconds behind race winner Dino Zamparelli.

In the second race the 17-year-old dropped back to 13th place finishing a couple of tenths behind Race 1 winner Zamparelli and 12 seconds behind the Race 2 victor George Richardson.

Damon Hill has been open about his son’s desire to follow in his footsteps and insists the desire to race comes firmly from within Josh himself.

"From what I have seen of him in karting, I think he has some talent, and like any young teenager, he wants to find something exciting to do," the 1996 world champion told Motorsport News.

"This whole idea has been driven by Josh – he is very much leading me in this, and I think it’s great that there is something that he is so enthusiastic about," he added.

But the former Williams Renault driver has expressed concerns about exposing his son to the dangers of motorsport.

"We all love to protect our children from the risks in life but then we also deprive them of the enjoyment," he told The Times last year.

"I will reluctantly throw myself at the mercy of the fates or whatever is out there."

FIA amend qualifying format

The FIA have confirmed that they will change the qualifying format following last week’s scenes of slowing drivers on the racing line blocking competitors on their hot-lap.

McLaren’s Heikki Kovalainen and Lewis Hamilton were demoted five places on the grid after holding up Nick Heidfeld and Fernando Alonso in qualifying.

The FIA will put in place a minimum lap time to prevent excessively low speeds as drivers seek to conserve fuel.

"Our clarification to the teams and drivers will be that cars returning to the pits having completed their flying lap or laps will be required to do so within a time that we will set," an FIA spokesman told Reuters.

"This could be approximately 120 percent of the normal time as we do to prevent drivers going very slowly on the grid (on the pre-race formation lap) to save fuel"

In Malaysia, the McLaren drivers had completed their flying lap and were driving very slowly to save fuel – an upshot of the loss of the ’fuel-burning’ element in Q3 – when Nick Heidfeld and Fernando Alonso stormed up behind them on the racing line at speeds of 200kph.

Egg in the face of Trulli critics

Trulli FourthItalian veteran snubs critics with searing one-lap pace on race-day.

Jarno Trulli, one of F1 s most formidable one-lap specialists, is often criticised for failing to deliver the goods on race day. But in a combative charge to fourth place in last week s Malaysian Grand Prix – Toyota s first major points haul in over a year – the Italian veteran demonstrated why his qualifying skills are a decisive force in the race as well.

Toyota s massive step forward in performance was confirmed on-track last week as Jarno Trulli powered his way to fourth place after planting his TF108 on the fourth row of the grid in qualifying, a mere tenth of a second behind the McLaren duo.

Key to Trulli s triumph was a string of blindingly fast laps at the end of the race as Hamilton, hampered earlier in the race by a bodged pit-stop, stormed up to the Toyota s gearbox in pursuit of fourth.

The 33-year-old one-lap guru, who scored Toyota s first podium in Sepang three years ago, was not about to relinquish his position and staunchly fought off the Briton with some aggressive driving and lap-times on a par to his hunter.

Ironically for his critics, it was his searing one-lap pace on low fuel that enabled him to keep Hamilton at bay. Trulli later revealed that the last stint was more like a qualifying run:

“In the final laps it was Lewis Hamilton s turn to give me a hard time but I just kept fighting and the last 13 laps were more like a qualifying run, with no breathing space at all,” exclaimed an ecstatic Trulli.

“I was just pushing and pushing. I was on the prime tyre at the end and we were having a tougher time on hard tyres; with the option tyre we performed better.

“I was really trying, I gave everything and fought to the end and made it by a couple of laps maybe. Hamilton had caught me on the last lap or two but getting past is a different thing.”

The demanding characteristics of the Sepang International Circuit with its complex mix of long straight and tight corners mean that a car that performs well should be well suited to the rest of the tracks on the calendar.

This bodes well for Trulli who is adamant that Toyota can challenge for the points in the forthcoming races.

“We have to continuously improve our car performance if we are to challenge the top teams but I think we can fight for the top six again.

“The top cars are a little bit out of reach but we showed in Malaysia that we have the potential to get a really good result when we get everything right with the car and the team does a perfect job.”

Raikkonen: We have to improve qualifying

KR_CarReigning world champion Kimi Raikkonen admits he could be even stronger on race day if he can improve his qualifying performance.

The Finnish sensation stormed to victory in last week’s Malaysian Grand Prix after qualifying almost half a second adrift of his team-mate Felipe Massa.

Despite the dominant showing from his Ferrari F2008 in the race, Raikkonen admits that there is still room for improvement in Saturday’s all-important grid decider.

“We have to get the qualifying in a better shape,” he asserted on his website column.

“When the qualifying performance is there, it helps a lot also for the race.”

The 28-year-old spent most of the opening laps tucked up behind the gearbox his Brazilian counter-part before nailing the Sao-Paulo hero at the pit-stops with a blisteringly fast in-lap almost a second quicker than anybody else.

“The race was run exactly according to our plan,” confirmed Raikkonen

“While we don’t have any problems, the speed is there. No doubt about that. Our car is strong enough to take and keep the first place.”

Despite recognising the need for improvement in qualifying Raikkonen is adamant that ultimately it is the race that matters.

“The qualifying could have been better. But like I always say, it does not matter afterwards. Only the result counts.”

Indeed, analysis carried out by reveals just how much quicker Raikkonen can be on race-day.

In 2007 Massa scored twice as many pole positions than Raikkonen (6-3) and started from the front-row eleven times compared to Raikkonen’s five. On average Massa out-qualified his rival by almost a full grid position per race.

Compare race-results and the story is flipped on its head. Raikkonen scored twice as many wins as his Brazilian team-mate (6-3) and had a podium strike-rate of 70% compared to Massa’s 58%. And of course, it was Raikkonen who went on to clinch the world championship.

Raikkonen traditionally elects to run a heavier fuel-load than his team-mate and is happy to sit behind the gearbox of Massa before pouncing at the pit-stops in clean-air.

The Sepang result was almost an exact replica of the French Grand Prix in 2007 when Raikkonen leap-frogged Massa at the pit-stops with a blistering in-lap.

Track surface to blame for Glock accident, say Toyota.

GlockToyota have blamed the track surface at Albert Park for Timo Glock’s horrific crash at Melbourne a week ago.

Timo Glock’s race was brought to an abrupt end when he careered of the track at the high-speed left-right chicane bringing out the safety car for the third time. The German ran wide on the exit of Turn 12 and on attempting to rejoin the track, hit a bump and launched his TF108 into the air and eventually the advertising hoardings.

Following an investigation Toyota have attributed the cause of the accident to the run-off area at Turn 12 citing an uneven track surface.

“Timo (Glock)’s car was damaged in Australia due to the height gap between the gravel runoff area and the grass,” explained Noritoshi Arai, Toyota’s director of technical co-ordination.

Glock sustained minor wrist injuries as a result of the accident but was cleared by the FIA’s medical team to take part in the Malaysian Grand Prix using the T-car.

In a testament to the rigorous safety tests that modern Formula One cars undergo, Toyota discovered that the damage inflicted on Glock’s Toyota wasn’t as bad as the dramatic television pictures portrayed. The Cologne-based outfit were even considering using the car in Sepang.

“The damage wasn’t as bad as it first appeared, and we even considered using the car as is,” confessed Arai, “but we found some minor damage in the smaller components around the brackets and suspension connections.

“Accordingly, we made the decision to use our T-car from the Australian GP, just to be safe.”

Unfortunately, Tim Glock’s Malaysian hopes were dashed even quicker than they were in Melbourne after the F1 returnee and reigning GP2 champ was punted out of the race on the opening lap by Nico Rosberg.

Alonso: Things won t get better

9787Don’t expect us to spring any surprises this year warns the double world champ.

Fernando Alonso has fuelled further speculation that he is set to leave Renault at the end of the year after admitting that he does not see the French team improving on its so far disappointing mid-field pace.

The double world champion had a torrid time in last week’s Malaysian Grand Prix, barely scraping into the last qualifying session and spending most of the race languishing down in eighth place behind Renault customers Red Bull. The result was a far cry from his dominant victory in Kuala Lumpur a year ago with Mclaren.

After the race the 26-year-old told his official website that he did not believe things would get much better for the Enstone-based outfit.

“The race was more or less as I expected,” he confirmed.

“Being among the first eight I knew it was difficult and if Massa did not retire we would not score. That is the situation and there were not surprises.

“The car will maintain its performance more or less the same during the whole year.”

Unlike the season-opening grand prix in Melbourne where Alonso was able to carve his way through the chaos to a superb fourth place, in Malaysia the Spaniard was thwarted by a resilient Mark Webber and slipped back to eighth after starting seventh.

“When the car doesn’t go you feel powerless,” rued Alonso hinting at a less than adequate straight line-speed from his R28.

“Either in Australia or in here where we had to fight closely, we lack of final speed, you approach to the car you have ahead but in any straight you will neither overtake nor reaching so you remain behind waiting for the failure but nothing more.”

Alonso’s concern over straight-line speed comes at inconvenient time for his engineers with a five-year freeze on engine development now in force.

While the team are focussing instead on aerodynamic improvements for Alonso’s home race in Barcelona, the Spanish hero does not believe it will be enough to surpass his competitors.

“In Barcelona there will be some improvement,” explained Alonso, but he warned: “it will be the same for all teams, so the same way will be for the championship.

“It happened past year and happens every year. We are not going to see great surprises the rest of the year. Step ahead and improve two or three tenths is our aim”.

Elsewhere Alonso has refused to deny rumours that link him with a Ferrari drive in 2009.

“It’s early to talk about moves and rumours, but Massa has had two bad races with mistakes and that has kicked off speculation. It’s logical, but as I said, it’s too early,” he told Spanish sports newspaper Diario As earlier in the week.

“I always try to be in the best car. I’m at Renault now because I wanted to go back to winning, like in 2005 and 2006. If not this year, then next year.

"But I have an option to leave so I can still be in the best possible car, and it is clear that Ferrari’s is one of the best."

The comments follow Alonso’s admission after the Malaysian Grand Prix that he has a get-out clause in his Renault contract.

Jean-Marie Balestre dies

Former FIA president and founding member of the FIA Jean-Marie Balestre has died aged 86.

Current FIA president Max Mosley paid tribute to Balestre. “It is with immense sadness that we have learnt of the passing of Jean-Marie,” Mosley began. “His contribution to motor sport in France and indeed throughout the world has been unique. All those involved in our sport will miss him greatly and will join with me in extending our sincere condolences to his family and his friends at this very difficult time.”

Born 9 April 1921, Balestre was the president of the FISA the precursor to the FIA between 1979 and 1991, and of the FIA from 1986 to 1993. He was also a founding member of the Federation Francaise du Sport Automobile, a French motor sport organization, before becoming the first president of the International Karting Commission of the FIA.

In 1973, Balestre was elected as president of the FFSA, and in 1978, became the president of the FIA s International Sporting Commission.

Balestre has done much for motor sport he is credited with establishing specific crash testing for F1 cars, helping to massively improvement safety within the sport. He was also instrumental in the decision to switch to normally aspirated Formula One cars in 1989, a move which was made mainly thanks to safety concerns.

His life within motor sport has not been without controversy in 1989, he was accused of abusing his power when after a collision between Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost at Suzuka, he disqualified Senna after the Brazilian won the race, fined him and suspended him, meaning that the championship was eventually handed to Prost.