‘Brawn Racing’ to be announced this week

The team formerly known as Honda is expected to be launched under its new name ‘Brawn Racing’ later this week. Although details are unclear, the Brackley-based team is thought to have taken the new name from the leader of the reported management buy-out, team principal Ross Brawn. Fan website RealhondaF1.com reports that despite the name ‘Brawn Sport’ being the bookies’ favourite, it understands Brawn Racing will be the preferred choice.

The name will distance itself from its erstwhile parent company Honda, who announced their withdrawal from the sport in December. The team is expected to carry new colours and sponsors, and plans are afoot to shake down the new car, previously known as the RA109, at Silverstone in the near future.

As reported on this website, many employees are to take significant pay cuts in the new spirit of thrift at the team. This includes star driver Jenson Button, who may be partnered by

Fisichella: I still love this job

pictureItalian veteran Giancarlo Fisichella says he is still as motivated as ever as he gears up for his second season with Force India.

The 36-year-old Roman, who made his Formula One debut with Minardi and Jordan over a decade ago, is under no allusions that he is entering the twilight of his career, but with the real prospect of scoring points this year courtesy of Force India’s new technical partnership with McLaren-Mercedes, Fisichella is in good spirits ahead of the new season.

“I still love this job, I like driving F1 cars and I am passionate about motorsport,” he said at the launch of Force India’s new VJM02 before giving the new car its first formal outing at the Jerez test circuit in Spain.

“I am very confident in this new car and with the new partnership with McLaren and Mercedes,” he added. “It is a very exciting opportunity for the team, and that in itself is enough to keep me motivated.”

“Our car is ready quite late relative to the others, and I am looking forward to getting my hands on it. I want to drive the car as soon as possible.”

Force India had to delay the design of their new car to accommodate new engine suppliers Mercedes-Benz as well as a new gearbox and KERS unit from McLaren.

Fisichella acknowledges that this has been a setback to the team given that Force India’s rivals have already put substantial mileage on their new cars at the pre-season tests in Portugal and Spain.

“It is a disadvantage as it’s important to drive as much as you can before the start of the year to get a feeling with the car and try and establish a good set-up,” he said.

“It’s not easy in just four days, especially with the new rules coming in this year. We are just going to have to try and get as much as we can from these eight days before the season.”

However, Fisichella is adamant that the delay was necessary to get the most of the new partnership with McLaren-Mercedes and he is confident that the new car will enable him to challenge further up the grid this year.

“With Ferrari last year we had a good partnership, they were very professional and the engine was very good, but with McLaren and Mercedes we have a fantastic opportunity to integrate the whole engine, gearbox, hydraulics and KERS system,” he said.

The Italian driver is also looking forward to the challenge of the new regulation changes such as using the additional 60-80bhp afforded by the controversial Kinetic Energy Recovery Systems (KERS) and racing on slick tyres – though in the latter case he rules out having any advantage as a result of his experience with slick tyres in 1996-7.

“I think this year is maybe the biggest change for many years, with KERS, slick tyres, downforce and new aero rules, so it’s very exciting. It would be good to see all the teams mixed up and to be able to fight for points. If the car is good, why not even for the podium?”

He added, dismissing his advantage on slick tyres: “I drove with [slick tyres] back in 1997 and they were completely different compounds used with completely different cars and engines.”

“In the 12 years since then the cars and the tyres have evolved so much you can’t really compare the two periods. I don’t think there will be much of an advantage having driven on them before.”

Webber buoyed by private RBR test

84702601 10Mark Webber is satisfied that Red Bull Racing are heading in the right direction after the team completed a private four-day test at Valencia this week.

The test was only Webber’s second outing behind the wheel of the new RB5 after he broke his leg in a cycling accident at the end of last year, but the Aussie reported that he has making a good recovery.

“I’d say the car development is coming on well and so is the Mark Webber Leg Development programme,” he quipped.

“This was the first time I’ve driven for two days in a row and that went well and there were no ill effects afterwards.

“The leg is getting more and more normal with every passing day and hopefully, by the time we get to Melbourne, I should have the equivalent of six or seven grand prix distances under my belt.”

Red Bull Racing launched their car later than the front-running teams to allow Adrian Newey to finalise the new design before testing the car and the four-day test has allowed the team to catch-up on their rivals in terms of mileage.

“We worked through some stuff that was a bit more specific to Melbourne, as the Valencia track is pretty good for this, being quite easy on rear tyres,” said Webber.

Webber’s teammate Sebastian Vettel, who took over testing duties on the final two days was cautious about making predictions before the start of the new season.

“We have done a lot of laps, but we must continue to work hard at the upcoming tests,” he said. “Really, it won’t be until we all run in Australia that we will see where we are compared to the others.”

Force India’s VJM02 hits the track

crash472656Force India’s 2009 challenger, the VJM02, will make its track debut today at the Jerez test circuit in Spain.

The Anglo-Indian outfit entered into a technical partnership with McLaren-Mercedes at the end of last year and the team’s new car, a direct product of this collaboration, will be powered by a Mercedes Benz engine unit and feature a McLaren gearbox and KERS unit.

Adrian Sutil completed a shakedown of the car at Silverstone earlier this week, but teammate Giancarlo Fisichella will be the first to push the new car over a race distance in testing today, before handing back to Sutil for the final two days of the test.

Fisichella concedes that delaying the introduction of the new car this late in the year is not ideal, but he remains confident the team can dial in the setup before the season opening Australian Grand Prix at the end of March.

“It is a disadvantage as it’s important to drive as much as you can before the start of the year to get a feeling with the car and try and establish a good set-up,” he said.

“It’s not easy in just four days, especially with the new rules coming in this year. We are just going to have to try and get as much as we can from these eight days before the season.”

Team Principal Vijay Mallya said he was confident that the team’s new partnership with McLaren will yield a strong improvement in performance this year and he expects nothing less than regular points finishes by the end of the year.

“To be brutally honest, I would not be happy if we didn’t show some much improved, and much needed, performance this season,” he said.

“What we really set out to do over the winter was to put in place structures, procedures and partnerships that would give improvement, but crucially, no excuses. By using the same drivetrain as another team, Force India now has a high-level benchmark of its own performance.”

“If performance relative to McLaren – the 2008 championship winning team – is low, there are only a reduced number of variables that need to be analyzed and understood.”

“I would like to see a strong start, rising to points mid-season and a definite improvement in qualifying. Regular points finishes should be the aim.”

Force India endured a trying debut season last year finishing at the bottom of the standings and failing to score a single point. That triggered a restructuring of the team’s back-room staff with both Mike Gascoyne and Colin Kolles being released by their contracts as Vijay Mally took on a more strategic role.

As a result of the these changes VJM02 has been designed by a tight-knit unit led by design director Mark Smith and technical director James Key, who have in turn been supported by a small team spear-headed by 2009 project leader Ian Hall.

In addition to the various challenges in interpreting a brand new set of technical regulations, the team has also condensed its development into just five months: the period between the McLaren deal being signed in November and the start of the season.

It’s been no mean feat to get everything ready, particularly with the team not turning a wheel between its last test in November and the debut of the new car – almost 100 days.

“When we confirmed the partnership on 10 November 2008 we had to adapt our plans fairly significantly,” explained design director Mark Smith.

“It’s not just a case of getting the new parts and installing them; when we changed the gearbox, it had slightly different suspension mountings and when we changed the rear suspension there was a necessary change on the front.”

“Normally you would have started in August, so we have had to compress everything into five months. Everyone has really worked hard to make it work and we’ve got a potentially better package, so the change has been a positive rather than a negative.”

Giancarlo Fisichella will complete testing duties today and 2nd March,
with Adrian Sutil getting his hands on the VJM02 for the two final days of the test.

BBC F1 chief quits role

The BBC’s head of Formula One has decided to quit his post only days after the British broadcasting company unveiled what it hopes will be superior coverage of the 2009 season.

Niall Sloane, who was also head of football, was widely believed to take on the Formula One portfolio with BBC North director Peter Salmon describing him as the “outstanding candidate for the job.”

However, the BBC have announced that the position has gone to Barbara Slater, who has been with the beeb since 1983 and has previously held the position of Head of General Sports.

Sloane meanwhile is being tipped to move to ITV to take on the vacant role as controller of sport.

“He is leaving to take on new challenges,” a BBC spokesman revealed to the Guardian. “He is very happy Barbara got the job and wishes her all the best for the future.”

Sloane will remain with the BBC for the first two races of the season before handing responsibility for the F1 coverage to Ben Gallop currently head of BBC interactive.