Schumacher excited about 2009 shake-up

Michael Schumacher12009 drivers’ title an “open question” says seven-times champ.

Michael Schumacher is looking forward to what will be a new era of Formula One next year as sweeping new regulations including mould-breaking aerodynamic changes and the use of energy recovery systems and slick tyres are introduced as a package for the first time.

What’s new?

The new regulations, designed to enhance the racing spectacle and improve overtaking opportunities, will see the 2009 specification cars run with around 50% less downforce compared to 2008 with higher and shorter rear wings, and lower and wider front wings. The reintroduction of slick tyres will help compensate the loss in downforce by increasing the mechanical grip and traction in and out of corners.

Despite several teams experiencing teething problems Kinetic Energy Recovery Systems (KERS), which are designed to store and re-use energy lost as heat through braking and other episodes, will be introduced, against the wishes of some teams, giving drivers an opportunity to store energy over the course of a lap and use it as a boost to overtake.

Title up for grabs…

Joining the paddock consensus that the shake-up will help level the playing field seven-times world champion Michael Schumacher reckons that the 2009 championship is an “open question” as far as the front-runners are concerned, though he admits that the top teams will retain their edge over the rest of the field.

“It will be a completely open championship,” he said. The top teams stay the top teams, but some of them may have an advantage. This is an open question for everybody.”

“Not everybody, but, what I said, the top teams will remain the top teams, but we have four teams and that will be very close together than last year and you don’t know what will happen in the winter. I mean, we can have some surprises.”

Kubica still has regrets about 2008

Kubica2Robert Kubica may have established himself as a grand prix winner and future world champion, but 2008 is still proving a bitter pill to swallow for the Polish star after BMW’s second-half slump…

While the focus for BMW Sauber is fixed firmly on the 2009 season in which sweeping new regulations could provide a winning context for the Hinwil and Munich based outfit Robert Kubica, who at one point found himself leading the championship in 2008, is still at odds with the way the team “let it go” in the second half of the season.

The Pole found himself unexpectedly leading the world championship at the mid-point of the season with a plethora of podiums to his name and a stunning charge to victory in Canada.

But despite continuing to challenge the front-runners in the second half of the season, BMW Sauber failed to provide the machinery needed to steal race wins from Ferrari and McLaren.

Nonetheless, Kubica still managed to stay in contention for the tile right up until the penultimate grand prix in China where a torrid qualifying assault pulled the trigger on his championship and left him to linger home to sixth place. He eventually finished fourth in the championship race after failing to finish in the points at the season finale in Brazil.

Kubica made no attempt to hide his frustration with BMW Sauber’s objectives in the latter half of the season, particularly the team’s efforts to counter Nick Heidfeld’s tyre problems in qualifying, as well as their broader focus on developing next year’s car.

With winter testing for the 2009 season well underway and the launch of BMW’s F1.09 scheduled for 20 January in Valencia, Kubica has renewed his criticism citing a major mismatch between his and the team’s goals in 2009.

“It is no secret where we let it go,” the 23-year-old told Dutch website Formule 1 Race Report. “We didn’t develop the car as well as expected. Even Toro Rosso came close to us in the last races.

“It was not to do with money or manpower. Renault is not the richest team, yet it became a two-time world champion.

“This year we gave the maximum and had such a beautiful chance, but we let it go. In the last two or three months, I had the feeling that the team and I were no longer pursuing the same goal.”

Fisichella confident of 2009 race seat

Giancarlo Fisichella is adamant that Force India’s recently confirmed technical partnership with McLaren-Mercedes will not affect his contract to race for the team next year.

Force India entered into a five-year partnership with McLaren last month which will see the team benefit from Mercedes-Benz horsepower as well as the team’s KERS technology.

The deal triggered speculation about the future of Adrian Sutil and Giancarlo Fisichella with McLaren’s test driver Pedro de la Rosa testing for Force India at Barcelona.

However, Fisichella is confident that he will race for the team next year having signed a refreshed contract when the McLaren deal was confirmed.

“The line-up has been announced in China in October by Vijay, and I trust people who trust me,” Fisichella told the official F1 website.

“I originally signed a two-year contract which was reviewed in September to incorporate the McLaren deal. In a few words, the team offered me a better car and a different package.

“I accepted their proposal and both sides signed the new document between Singapore and China. This is why Dr Mallya made the announcement in Shanghai.”

Fisichella added that Pedro de la Rosa’s test did not come as a surprise. “The only thing I know is that in September we were told that Pedro could test and we could not say before it was made official so I was not at all surprised,” he said.

“As for the rest – I am not really interested in F1 gossip!”

“A competitive package, that’s all I want and what I have been promised. And that is a very good reason to drive for the team in 2009.”

Mark Webber targets February test return

Mark Webber is hoping to recover from his bike accident in time for the first shake-down of Red Bull Racing’s new car in February.

The Australian suffered a broken leg last weekend when he hit a car while taking part in his own charity bike event in Tasmania. He underwent surgery and had metal rods inserted in his leg to repair the bone damage.

Webber is hoping to be fit and ready for Red Bull’s first test in February.

“I’m aiming to drive the car at the first test,” Webber told the BBC. “Whether that’s possible, I don’t know, but if I have to wait another week or 10 days for the sake of the whole season, then I will.”

“I will make sure I’m in the best shape I can be for the first race,” he added. “Both [lower leg] bones are broken but the compound fracture was of the tibia and the bone was exposed.

“That complicates things a bit more but I am just learning to get up and about on crutches now.

“In terms of me driving the car, it is impossible for me to say how I will feel when the car comes out for the first time.

“We’ll look at how much driving I’ll do early on. If I have three decent tests going into Melbourne then I am totally focused on not letting the team down in final qualifying and on Sunday in Melbourne.

“That’s a long way away – it’s the last week in March. That’s when it counts for me.”

“In a funny sort of way I’m looking forward to seeing the progress. I’ve never been in this position before in my life. I’ve got good people around me. The team have been amazing. I’ll make sure we work very hard together to make sure it’s seamless.”

Ecclestone wants medal system for 2009

fia-logoFormula One supremo unveils radical new medal system to spice up the action

Bernie Ecclestone is confident that his controversial medal system to decide the Formula One world drivers’ championship in which points are replaced by medals for the top three finishers will be given the green light by the FIA at the next World Motorsport Council meeting in December.

“It’s going to happen,” said Ecclestone, speaking at the launch of a technology partnership between Formula One and electronics giant LG.

“All the teams are happy. The whole reason for this was that I was fed up with people talking about no overtaking.”

“The reason there’s no overtaking is nothing to do with the circuit or the people involved, it’s to do with the drivers not needing to overtake.”

“If you are in the lead and I’m second, I’m not going to take a chance and risk falling off the road or doing something silly to get two more points.”

“If I need to do it to win a gold medal, because the most medals win the world championship, I’m going to do that. I will overtake you.”

Ecclestone pointed to this year’s title battle between Lewis Hamilton and Felipe Massa as an example where a reluctance to overtake hindered the racing spectacle.

“This year, we saw on a number of occasions Lewis not overtaking Massa for that reason,” he said. “If he’d driven for me, tried it and made a mistake, I would have complained. It’s just not on that someone can win the world championship without winning a race.”

Controversy

Former team boss and recently confirmed BBC pundit Eddie Jordan dismissed the new system as “nonsense”, saying that it would damage teams who lack the resources to challenge the front-runners.

“I think it’s a nonsense,” he told BBC Radio Five Live. “The focus of everyone in Formula One at the moment must be on the current situation with costs and cost cutting, and nothing else. The rest is just dressing it up.

“The points are necessary. I was one of the team principals in the team principals’ meetings who advocated that the points should go down to eighth place, because one point to a team down there is as important as a win is to the likes of McLaren and Ferrari, and we must never forget that.

“I can promise you, having been in that position, two points against no points is a huge difference.”

“Drivers like (Felipe) Massa, who started at the very bottom and worked his way up, know how important those points are at the back of the field.

“Everybody that’s involved in the financial side knows how important it is, and the extraordinary excitement that there is for getting a point at the back.

“McLaren and Ferrari are working on a budget of perhaps 250 million, and then you have other teams like Force India and Toro Rosso, who to everyone’s surprise won a race this year, who would have maybe ten or eight times less budget to play with, and inferior drivers because they’re learning their trade and they will come and be world champions in years to come.

“But they have to find their feet somewhere, and that place has to be in the smaller teams because they’re the people who take the risks.”

Red Bull buys out Berger’s Toro Rosso stake

Red Bull have taken complete control of Toro Rosso with the company’s billionaire owner Dietrich Mateschitz buying back the 50 per cent stake owned by ex-F1 driver Gerhard berger.

The announcement comes as something of a surprise given that Mateschitz announced that he was keen to sell his stake in the team earlier in the year.

“I am very grateful to Gerhard for his huge input,” said Mateschitz confirming the buy-out.

“Together we turned Toro Rosso into a team that qualified on a regular basis in the top 10 and collected world championship points.”

Mateschitz bought the former Minardi outfit back in 2006 and re-badged it as Toro Rosso, before selling the stake to Gerhard Berger.

Since then the Italian minnow has consistently punched above its weight with Sebastian Vettel taking the team’s first victory in Monza this year.

Toro Rosso’s 2009 driver line-up has yet to be confirmed but recent speculation suggests that Switzerland’s Sebastien Buemi is likely to be in the frame.

Today’s announcement is also positive news for Sebastien Bourdais who said that his hopes of racing for the team next year depended on sound financial backing.

BBC welcomes Coulthard and Jordan as full F1 team is unveiled

After much rumour and speculation the BBC has revealed its full commentary line-up for the 2009 Formula One season, with David Coulthard and Eddie Jordan joining Martin Brundle as the British broadcaster takes over coverage of the sport after over a decade on ITV.

Six-time Royal Television Sports Award winner Martin Brundle confirmed his switch to the Beeb last week and today the British broadcaster announced that he will be supported by studio analysis from David Coulthard and former team boss Eddie Jordan, with Radio Five Live commentator Jonathan Legard leading the actual race commentary with Brundle.

“After 15 seasons competing in F1, my passion for the sport is still very much alive,” Coulthard told the BBC.

“Therefore I was delighted to be given the opportunity to share my views and experiences through the BBC coverage of F1.

“Many of the BBC team are known to me already and, for those members new to F1, I look forward to building on the established audience of F1 fans in the UK.”

The pre-race show will be presented by CBBC and Football Focus presenter Jake Humphrey, alongside Coulthard and Jordan.

Ted Kravitz will continue his ITV role as pit-lane reporter alongside new addition Lee McKenzie, the daughter of Daily Express F1 correspondent Bob McKenzie.

Murray Walker will also be part of the BBC’s coverage via the BBC Sport website where he will offer “expert insight” and “passionate perspective” on the sport, as well as interacting with F1 fans online.

The BBC has obtained the rights to broadcast Formula One from ITV until the end of 2013 with exclusive rights to TV, radio, broadband and mobile.

“We have put a fantastic team together and are delighted to be able to offer a comprehensive and engaging Formula 1 experience,” said BBC head of F1 Niall Sloane. “This is an exciting sport, and we are very much looking forward to next year.”

Coulthard becomes a father

610xDavid Coulthard has become a father after his fiancée Karen Minier gave birth to a healthy baby boy on Friday.

The 37-year-old Scot retired at the end this year having competed in 247 grand prix, though he said that the decision was not based on his impeding fatherhood.

“That wasn’t the deciding factor because plenty of drivers have children and continue with their careers,” he said in his ITV column earlier in the year.

The Scottish veteran also joked that he had high aspirations for the new addition to the Coulthard family.

“He’ll be signed up for Ferrari in 2028!”

It is the first child for David and girlfriend Karen. The name of the child is not known yet.

New qualifying rules for 2009?

fia-logoNew qualifying rules could be implemented next year after the Formula One Teams’ Association (FOTA)announced that it will discuss a new format for the session when it meets next month.

The current qualifying system has already undergone major revisions over the last few years with the latest format proving popular with two knock-out sessions and a top ten shoot-out.

According to autosport.com FOTA is looking at ways to spice up the action further. The new idea being explored involves all the cars going onto the track at the same time, with the same fuel levels, with the slowest driver being eliminated after each lap.

The six fastest drivers would then fight for pole position and, unlike the current rules which often sees the lightest car on pole, they would use the same amount of fuel.

FOTA will next meet on December 4 and if the new format is agreed upon by the teams it is likely to be submitted to the FIA for approval.

Ecclestone: French GP return unlikely before 2011

jordan-2001-06-30-frentzen-magny-coursFormula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone does not believe the French Grand Prix will return to the calendar before 2011.

The event was axed from the 2009 calendar after the French motorsport federation withdrew its support of the race at Magny-Cours due to lack of funds.

And last week Euro Disney and the Lagardere Sports group withdrew their joint bid to host the race at the Val d’Europe circuit in Paris, severing hopes of finding an alternative venue.

Bernie Ecclestone does not think France will be able to host a grand prix before 2010 but says it important that the country finds the right venue.

“I’ve always thought it was the right spot for us, that it was the new location that suited the French Grand Prix,” Ecclestone told L’Equipe.

“I think it is quite sure (that there will be no race in 2010). We went to Magny-Cours for the wrong reasons, for political reasons.

“Let’s try and avoid a repeat. What we want is to find for sure the right spot because the French GP has to be long-lasting.”