From Russia, with love…

Will the Russian bear roar in 2010?

Russia: The world s largest country.

For years Formula One has tried, but failed to make an impact in this former-Soviet heartland. Not even in the formative years of today, when excessive commercialisation and globalisation is the norm.
Of course it not that Ecclestone hasn t tried. In the early 1980s he had almost reached an agreement to stage a Grand Prix near Moscow, only for talks to collapse and the then-FOCA president turned to the Hungarians to host the first race behind the Iron Curtain.

In 2008 hopes were once again resurrected when it emerged that Ecclestone had again been in negotiations with various bodies about hosting a race in the provincial town of Fedyukino. Although the track is said to have been designed by Herman Tilke, there has yet to be a deal to bring the sport to the country.

Therefore against this backdrop, it is even more remarkable that Vitaly Petrov has found his way onto the Formula One grid and made history in the process. The 25-year-old will be seen as a surprise choice for the Renault team, who will undoubtedly benefit from the income which he is speculated to be bringing. Some will ask why Nick Heidfeld, the experienced hand, wasn t given the drive. Certainly experience would be seen as crucial to Renault during its time of transition.

However that is not to say that Petrov is not deserving of a chance in the world s top motor racing series. On reflection the Russian has had a solid racing career, with his four GP2 race victories among the highlights. Petrov s career has also shown versatility with victories ranging from the rally world, the ice circuit and even in while competing in a VW Polo.

In 2009 Petrov was undoubtedly overshadowed by Romain Grosjean in the Barwa Addax team. Not only did the team set itself up for a French-Swiss victory, at sometimes it appeared that this was the case for the entire championship. However when Grosjean departed mid-season to go to Renault, Petrov did not let his team fade into the background. He carried on and took the fight to the eventual series winner, Nico Hulkenberg.

How fitting is it then that the Russian will take the place of the man who was once destined for F1 stardom?

Petrov is a fighter – having had to battle his way into the attention of the motor sport world – and there is nothing to say that this fighting spirit will dessert him once in Formula One.

At this point it is impossible to judge where Renault is in comparison with the rest of the field. Although the team continued work on the R30, the ominous threat to its future will surely have brought disruption to the Enstone-based team.

If reports are to be believed then the ban on refuelling may be an omen for Renault. It would appear that their engine is the most fuel efficient of all in Formula One and this will allow them to start the race considerably lighter than some of the other teams on the grid – most notably the Ferrari which rumoured to be the least efficient.

Last season Renault was handicapped from the onset, left behind by the double-diffuser. The team now claim that they have got on top of these issues and are ready to move back towards the front.

But will this be enough for Robert Kubica? Does he have the patience to play an instrumental part in Renault s revival or will he use it as a stepping stone at the end of his contract?

Under Eric Boullier the team have signalled its intent to move out from the shadows of Briatore era. With a new livery, new and ambitious owners and an exciting driver line-up the future may be bright for Renault.

Teams asked to pay for new GPS system

Stewards decisions over the course of a Grand Prix weekend will be given greater clarity this year with the introduction of an ultra-sensitive GPS system which will help track the position of each car to within one metre.

This latest technology will be of great assistance to the race stewards, who have repeatably come underfire for some of their rulings.  The new system will aim to assist in the policing of such offences as chicane cutting and ignoring flags.

However the system is thought to be costly, with Auto Motor und Sport reporting that the FIA has asked each of the thirteen teams to pay for its installation at a  rumoured total cost of €750,000.

The introduction of this new GPS system follows a thorough reform of the stewards’ office with former Grand Prix drivers being invited to join a smaller permanent group of stewards at each Grand Prix.

Sauber launch C29

BMW Sauber has became the third team to officially launch its 2010 challenger with the unveiling of the C29 at a low-key event at the Valencia circuit.

The car is the first from the Swiss squad since the return of Peter Sauber to the helm, after the German manufacturer left the sport at the end of last season.

“The last few months have been very intense for us,” said Sauber. “First we had to battle to secure the survival of the team and then we focused on putting a strong set-up in place for the future.

“The technical preparation of the 2010 car has continued uninterrupted and according to plan since the spring of 2009, despite all the turmoil. We have a long tradition of bringing together an up-and-coming youngster and an experienced campaigner as a driver combination – and it’s an approach that has brought us a lot of success.

“Pedro has been working at the highest level technically for many years and for a top team, and we can benefit as a team from this experience. Young Kamui also has a lot to offer us, and last year he impressed me particularly in Abu Dhabi.”

This season will see the highly-rated Kamui Kobayashi partner the experienced Pedro de la Rosa  and both drivers are committed to bringing success to the Hinwil-based team after a troubled few months.

“At last I can feel like a proper racing driver again,” said De la Rosa, who spent seven years as McLaren’s test driver prior to his return to the grid. “I’ve really missed the competition out on the track. At the same time, though, I’ve learned a lot technically and on the systems side, and now I want to bring that knowledge to the team.”

Kobayashi, who took the Formula One by storm after two stunning drivers at the end of last year for Toyota, added: “I’m very proud that Peter Sauber has shown so much faith in me and I’m determined not to disappoint him. My aim is that he will end up being proud of me as well.”

Although the car is devoid of any major sponsorship, the team’s future does appear to be in place after announcing a number of deals in the lead up to the launch.

As well as featuring a a shark fin similar to the one found on McLaren’s MP4-25, the C29 sports a number of detailed aerodynamic pieces including a striking “tusked” front wing.

“The development of the BMW Sauber C29 has seen the team build on the experience gained last year and the improvement in performance over the final third of the season,” said technical director

“However, the new regulations banning refuelling during the race and stipulating a reduced width for the front tyres have required significant changes to the car’s design.”

This year’s challenger will be use a Ferrari engine and gearbox.

Renault Launch: Q&A with Robert Kubica

2010 and a new chapter in the career of Robert Kubica. The highly-rated Pole moves to Renault after a disappointing year with the BMW Sauber team. Following the German Manufacturer s decision to exit the sport at the end of 2009, Kubica was duly snapped up by the Renault team who gave him his first F1 test in 2005.

Here Kubica looks ahead to a new season and a new challenge with Renault.

Interview conducted and provided by the Renault Press Office:

Q. Robert, you ve had a long association with Renault throughout your career and now you re racing for Renault in F1. How does it feel?

I m very happy to be here and, as you say, I do have a long history with Renault. In fact my singleseater career started in a Formula Renault in 2001 and then in 2005 I won the World Series by Renault. That gave me the chance to test for the Renault F1 Team and started my journey in Formula One. Although my career took a different direction with BMW, it s great to be back with Renault where I have a lot of good memories. I already know a lot of the people here and over the winter I have seen how motivated everybody is to improve our competitiveness and start winning races again.

Q. You ve followed the progress of the new car, the R30, closely over the winter. What are your first impressions?

Obviously the R30 is bigger than the R29 because the refuelling ban means we need a bigger fuel cell, which has had an impact on the design of the car. Last year Renault s car was not that competitive so I m being realistic because I know that we need to make up a lot of ground if we want to fight at the front. But the team have been concentrating on the 2010 car for a long time and I m convinced that we are moving in the right direction. Even if we start the season in the midfield, I m sure we can catch the other teams during the year.

Q. Renault is only your second Formula One Team so you must be excited by a fresh challenge…
Absolutely! I m still relatively new to Formula One and I m looking forward to meeting new people and learning how a different team operates. As I ve already said, I feel that I have a special connection with this team and I like the attitude that Renault takes towards racing. The atmosphere here is very friendly and open, and the team knows what it takes to win so I feel very comfortable in this environment.

Q. Will the refuelling ban and introduction of narrower front tyres have a big impact on the racing?

I don t think it will have a major impact on the racing, but it will certainly change the behaviour of the car. For example, we can expect to see a huge difference between qualifying lap times and the lap times at the start of the race. When the car is full of fuel it will probably add 150 kgs of weight and that will have a huge effect on driving style especially for braking points. With the narrower tyres we will have to be careful not to wear them out too quickly and we will need to adapt the set-up and weight distribution to cope with this.

Q. Although you ve yet to drive the R30, what personal objectives do you have in mind for 2010?
It s a difficult question to answer. Based on my experience from the previous years, you never really know what to expect until the season starts because things can change so quickly, especially during the winter. When I was with Sauber in 2008, I remember the car did not meet our expectations at the start of the year, but within a month we had turned things around and I took pole position in Bahrain. So things can change very quickly, which is why it s hard to say what my objectives are. My only hope is that the car is easy to drive because the new rules will favour cars that are not too sensitive -we need a car that behaves consistently in a wide range of conditions.

Renault Launch: Q&A with Bob Bell

Following the departure of Flavio Briatore after the “Spy-gate” scandal Renault turned to Bob Bell to fill the vacant position of Team Principal for the remainder of the 2009. Now the Northern Irishman moves to the position as Managing Director within the Enstone-based team. Here Bell looks ahead to 2010 and a new challenge for Renault.

Interview conducted and provided by the Renault Press Office:

Q. Bob, as the team looks forward to a fresh challenge, can you tell us about your new role in the organisation?
I m taking on a Managing Director role where I will focus on the day-to-day management of the Enstone operation. Indeed, we look forward to a great new challenge for this year and beyond, and I m confident that the way the team has been structured will give us every opportunity to convert this into success.

Q. What areas has the team focussed on to improve competitiveness?
The issues we had with the R29 were fundamentally aerodynamic as we lacked overall down force compared with our competitors. To address this we ve just completed an upgrade to the wind tunnel and we re continuing to make good progress with our CFD tools. We re well aware that we need to make up the deficit that we had to our competitors at the end of last year, but so far we ve been hitting, and often exceeding, our targets in the wind tunnel. I m optimistic therefore that the R30 can be quick out of the box so that we won t have to spend another year playing catch up.

Q. What more can you tell us about the changes to the wind tunnel?
The old rolling road was well overdue an upgrade and so we chose to replace it with a metal belt road, which brings us in line with what most other teams are already operating. This means we can now start running 60% scale models instead of half scale models, as well as running at higher speeds of up to 50 metres per second. The new belt will be much more reliable and will give us more accurate results so that we maximise the time in the tunnel. Although we had to shut down the wind tunnel for the upgrade, we managed to get the work done in four weeks instead of the scheduled six, which was a remarkable effort. We also ramped up our CFD resources to full capacity to minimise the impact of the downtime of the tunnel.

Q. What are your thoughts on Robert Kubica and what he brings to the team?
Having Robert brings a dynamism to the team as we begin a new era. He s a guy who is on the way up, is hungry for success, and that fresh impetus is a real positive that will help drive us forward. I remember when Fernando first came on the scene it was immediately clear just how good he was, and I feel the same way about Robert, especially considering what he has already achieved. He s not a world champion yet, but I ve no doubt that he has the potential to follow in Fernando s footsteps and become a champion, hopefully with Renault.

Q. Where do you see Renault in the pecking order as the season begins?
We definitely have a better feel for where our competitors are performance-wise compared with the start of 2009 when everyone was starting with a clean sheet of paper. So in that sense it s easier to set targets and we believe that we should be aiming to compete in the upper midfield when the season begins. We know we have the resources for a strong development capability during the year and the upgrades to the wind tunnel should help us find rapid gains. If all that comes together, we can be hopeful of ending the season challenging for podiums and ready to stage a championship challenge in 2011.

Renault Launch: Q&A with James Allison

2009 was a disappointing year for Renault. Caught out by the loophole of the double-decker diffusers, the team struggled to get back on terms with the front runners and could only managed eighth in the constructors championship.

This year the team will hope for rocket back to the front of the grid with the newly designed R30.

Interview conducted and provided by the Renault Press Office:

Q. James, how different is the R30 compared with last year s car, the R29?
It s very different and even my Mum could tell the exterior differences! The R30 is a considerably more svelte and attractive car than its predecessor. These changes are not made for aesthetic appeal however; they are the result of the intensive aerodynamic development that the R30 has benefited from. Under the skin too the changes are considerable. The largest differences are the result of accommodating the much larger fuel tank for the 2010 rules and re-optimising the car without KERS, but there are hundreds of other improvements across the whole of the vehicle.

Q. What were the main challenges the technical team faced over the winter?

Although this is the second season with the current aero regulations, adapting to the refuelling ban in 2010 has required a completely different architecture to the car. Furthermore, the rear of the car has been considerably reworked to allow the car to make the most of the double- decker diffusers that were first seen last year.

Q. What more can you tell us about the aero package? Is it a case of evolution or revolution?
As with any year of stable aero regulations, the aero development is a mixture of both of these. The wind tunnel always offers a certain amount of reward for painstaking iterative development, but the bigger steps emerge from introducing new concepts. The R30 has been no different in this regard.

Q. How important has the team s CFD facility been to the design of the new car?
CFD plays a bigger part in the development of the car every year. The Renault F1 CFD centre has had 12 months to bed in and is now really delivering results ranging from the detail of brake-cooling design to broad aerodynamic concepts for the layout of the car. We are evermore reliant on the CFD engineers to feed the wind tunnel with a stream of new
aerodynamic concepts.

Q. How big an impact do you expect the refuelling ban to have and how has the team reacted to this?
Accommodating a much larger fuel tank has the obvious effect of making the survival cell that houses the tank larger. The overall effect on both the design and operation of the car is much larger however. For example: Heavier fuel loads mean much more challenging conditions for the brakes. Also, running the car from absolutely full to absolutely empty gives a larger range of conditions that the suspension must be able to cope with. You also have to consider that without the opportunity to replenish the car with fresh fuel at the pit stops, the fuel in the tank has to endure the heating effect of the engine for much longer. Hot fuel reduces the performance of the car, and if it gets too hot it can vaporise in the tank preventing the pumps from feeding the engine correctly. No refuelling also changes completely the strategic priorities during the race from what we have been used to in recent years. Just one example of this is the different way that the car must be run behind a Safety Car. Under last year s rules all teams placed the cars into extreme fuel-saving mode as soon as the Safety Car emerged. Under 2010 rules we need to do exactly the opposite: we must adapt the car to burn off the excess fuel that would otherwise accumulate when running slowly in order to make sure we are not carrying excess fuel once the Safety Car goes back in.

Q. What do you feel are realistic objectives for the season ahead?
We aim to start the 2010 season in considerably better shape than we finished 2009. Time will tell how successful we have been in this regard. Whatever our initial level of competitiveness however, we have a very aggressive development programme planned for the car and we are confident that we will be returning to fight for podiums and race wins very soon.

Renault Launch: Q&A with Eric Boullier

The early months for the off-season were a worrying time for all of those associated with the F1 team. During this time, speculation was rife that the French manufacturer would follow BMW and Toyota and withdraw from the sport. In addition to the crippling world economic crisis, Renault was also disgraced by the “Spy-gate” scandal which damaged the team’s image and subsequently led to the loss of crucial sponsor ING.

However the Renault’s future was secured last December when the Luxembourg-based investment firm, Genii Capital, bought a considerable stake in the team. Following this Eric Boullier was installed as the team’s new team principal. With previous experience with the DAMS GP2 squad, Boullier hopes to lead Renault into the new decade and return Enstone-based squad back to the top of Formula One.

Interview conducted and provided by the Renault Press Office:

Q. Eric, you ve been Team Principal for just over a month. How have you settled into the team?
I ve received a very warm welcome from everybody. Of course, the last four weeks have been very busy for the entire team, but I ve been impressed with the motivation and work ethic of the factory. Now that the new season is approaching, we must keep focussed and push hard to deliver a strong performance from the first race. For me, the human side of the job is by far the most important.

Q. Has everything gone smoothly with the new car build?
On the whole the car build has gone to plan. Of course, there are always some issues to overcome during the winter, especially as the design office has taken some bold decisions with the design of the car. But, as I have said, everything has come together; we ve hit our deadlines; we re ready for the first test and we re all excited to see if the car performs as we think it will.

Q. The R30 features a classic yellow and black livery. Are you pleased to see the return of these iconic Renault colours?
For me it s definitely a good decision and I think the car looks stunning it s eye-catching and reminds people of Renault s heritage in the sport. It reminds me of when I was a kid, watching Arnoux, Prost… It also sends out a clear message about Renault s commitment to Formula One.

Q. Let s talk about Robert Kubica – how much are you looking forward to working with him?
We are delighted to have Robert on-board as he is clearly one of the best drivers on the grid. He s extremely quick, experienced, and is a real fighter who never gives up, which fits well with our attitude at Renault. Robert s approach will help push the team forward because he s just as hungry for success as we are.

Q. It s early days in the season, but what objectives do you have in mind for 2010?
We clearly want to be back at the front and capable of challenging for podiums as soon as possible. It would be too optimistic to say we want to be there from race one, but the progress and simulations wehave seen over the winter are encouraging. We also have the resources at Enstone to deliver good development steps during the season so that we continue to improve from race to race. The aim, then, is to fight regularly for the podium in the last part of the season.

Q. Talk us through the resources that will allow this aggressive development programme?
Most importantly we have just completed a considerable upgrade to the wind tunnel, which will play a major role in our aero development throughout the year. We also have a modern CFD facility, which complements the work done in the wind tunnel (and vice-versa). It s still a relatively new technology, but it s now starting to reach a level of maturity and is giving us the results we always expected from it. There s also the mechanical design team who have done an excellent job with the R30 and they will continue to feed upgrades to the car during the season.

Q. The first race in Bahrain is just over a month away. Are you looking forward to it?
Absolutely! It will be our first chance to see where we stand compared with our competitors in real racing conditions. We can go to Bahrain safe in the knowledge that the entire team has put in an enormous effort over the winter and determined to convert all that hard work into a strong performance on the racetrack. I would just like to take this opportunity to thank all the team members for their efforts over the last few months. I’m convinced that they’ll pay off on the racetrack.

Renault unveil R30

Renault hopes to get back on track with R30; Petrov becomes first Russian in Formula One

Renault has released its 2010 challenger ahead of the first day of pre-season testing which kicks off in Valencia tomorrow.

The R30 features a similar shark fin engine cover to that of the new cars from BMW Sauber and McLaren. In addition the car sports a startling black and white colour scheme which is reminiscent of the French manufacturer’s first entry into Formula One in 1978.

Following the similar line to most of the teams, the R30 said to be a mixture of “evolution and revolution” with the team making a considerable effort to rework the rear of the car to make the most of the double-decker diffusers.

Speaking at today’s launch Eric Boullier, the Renault F1 Team Principal, was full of praise for the work of his team, after a winter of great uncertainty which threatened the very survival of the Enstone-based operation.

“We ve been working flat-out during the winter to ensure that we begin the new season in the best shape possible.” he said, “The R30 should be a competitive, strong and reliable car, and we ve opted for an aggressive development strategy throughout the season.

“Now we re here ready for the first test and we re all excited to see if the car performs as we think it will.”

Today’s launch also saw the announcement of Vitaly Petrov as Robert Kubica’s team-mate for 2010. Last year’s GP2 series runner-up is expected to bring significant investment to the team and becomes the first Russian driver in Formula One history.

“This is a great opportunity for me and I m really looking forward to working with the team this season.” said the 25-year-old Russian, “I ve always dreamed of racing in Formula One and so to make my debut with a top team like Renault is very exciting.

“The first race is just over a month away so I will make sure I spend as much time as possible with the team over the next few weeks so that I am fully prepared in time for Bahrain.”

Robert Kubica is also looking forward to his first season with Renault after a disastrous year at BMW Sauber. The Pole believes that the upcoming pre-season tests will be vital for the team if it wants to discover the true potential of the R30.

“The team has been working on the new car for a long time and it s clear that we are moving in the right direction,” said the Pole. “Now we need to maximise the winter tests to keep up this momentum and continue improving the car.

“Our priority is to make the car easy to drive because the new rules favour cars that are not too sensitive we need a car that behaves consistently in a wide range of conditions.”

Pictures of R30 Renault):

Jenson: I don’t need to prove myself to anyone

Jenson Button today made very clear that he had nothing left to prove as a racing driver.

Speaking at the launch of his 2010 car, Button was asked if he had anything to prove, and he answered in the negative.

‘I don’t need to prove anything to anyone,’ stated the Somerset man. ‘As a person I’m a lot more confident because I’ve just won the world championship. I’m in the best position I could possibly be,’ he said.

Button also spoke of his excitement about the season ahead.

‘This could be possibly the most exciting F1 season ever,’ he said, referring to the fact that four world champions would be battling it out for honours. He went on to say that there would not be a one and a two at McLaren, amid strong rumours that there will be fireworks at McLaren between he and Lewis Hamilton.

‘I can’t see a one and a two role…we are just concentrating on learning from each other and at the end of the year we will see who did the best job,’ he promised.

For his part Hamilton said that the contrast with having Fernando Alonso as a team-mate in 2007 was a stark one. ‘In 2007 we didn’t really work together for the team,’ he said. Any problems that arose between he and Button could be resolved by ‘working more closely together.’