After 12 Years, F1 Returns to the BBC

For the 2009 season, televised coverage of Formula One will return to the BBC for the first time in twelve years. ITV, who have held the rights to screen F1 since the start of the 1997 season, cited commercial reasons for not wishing to extend their contract. The undisclosed five year deal which ends in 2013, masterminded by F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone, will also include online and radio coverage.

A “delighted” Bernie Ecclestone stated that although he was happy with the existing relationship with ITV, he felt the BBC would be able to devote more time to the racing series.

“It’s not that we are unhappy with ITV but I think maybe they will have their hands full with other things and maybe the BBC can service us a bit better. I think they will be able to service us an awful lot better, a little bit more time. I think it will be good, a fresh face.”

“I’m not complaining about ITV, I’m not saying they did a bad job or anything like that. But with all the other things they are loaded up with – and who knows they will get some more stuff – maybe it will be a bit more difficult to spend as much time on us. I think the BBC will do that,” he continued.

Speaking on behalf of the BBC, Director of Sports Rights, Dominic Coles, added “The biggest Motorsport event in the world is returning home after 12 years. We were delighted when Bernie Ecclestone approached us about the return of F1 to the BBC. F1 is a crown jewel of sports broadcasting, so to bring the rights back to their traditional home from 2009 is tremendously exciting. Fans will be able to enjoy uninterrupted, state of the art and innovative coverage from BBC Sport, across all of our TV, radio and new media platforms, for the first time since 1996.”

In a press statement by ITV, the broadcaster promised to continue to cover events in the fashion to which fans were accustomed for the remainder of the 2008 season.

“ITV plc today confirmed that it has decided to exit Formula One at the end of this season. This was a straightforward commercial decision for ITV and we are pleased that F1 will continue to be broadcast free-to-air. ITV will continue to broadcast live coverage of every race this season as Lewis Hamilton attempts to win his first world championship.”

Fans must now wait to see whether the BBC will retain some of the existing ITV team (of which Brundle is a clear favourite to stay), or instead wheel Murray Walker out of retirement along with their iconic theme music by Fleetwood Mac. It is also unclear whether the Beeb will opt to show live coverage of testing, and races in full High Definition format (HD) – but one if for sure, live coverage will no longer be interrupted by commercial breaks!

Alonso is a “Clown”

Outspoken Former F1 Driver Eddie Irvine has launched a scathing attack on the Double World Champion Fernando Alonso by calling the Spaniard a “Clown”.

Alonso, who finished 4th at Australia on his debut return to Renault, believes that Renault and himself can go from strength to strength starting at this weekend’s Malaysian GP.

But Irvine, who retired in 2002 with 4 wins to his name, hopes Alonso gets what he deserves after the sour partnership with McLaren team-mate Lewis Hamilton last year.

“He is really going to regret what he did last year and he deserves every bit of bad luck and misery he can get. There has been talk of the Lewis v Alonso situation being even more intense this year but he s not even on Lewis radar any more except for when Lewis comes up to lap him. And maybe he will try and mess about with the leaders because after last year I think Alonso is capable of anything.”

Although Irvine admits that he is a good driver, there’s nothing else to say.

“The guy is a clown and I don t know anyone who has any respect for him. He s a good driver and that s it. Full stop!”

New Spy Evidence Related to Alonso?

New evidence from the Spy saga that has come to the attention of the FIA could involve current World Champion Fernando Alonso.

The FIA announced that the board will reconvene on Sept 13th to question McLaren further, and the squad has already of being found guilty without charge being in breach of Article 151c of the international sporting code, for possession of documents that belonged to Ferrari back in July.

Sources say that this new evidence could be linked to the Spaniard and McLaren test driver Pedro de la Rosa. An e-mail conversation between the pair contained Ferrari’s F2007 set-up that pre-dates the document incident that has ignited the scandal.

The FIA got a tip-off to the nature of this e-mail and sent out papers to McLaren and the rest of the F1 teams, to remind them that any evidence they have kept within themselves that the FIA must know immediately. Alonso and de la Rosa have thought to be given “amnesty” from any censure in return their full cooperation.

However, the meeting next Thursday won’t be the last of this scandal, as McLaren are to be sure of lodging an appeal if any sentence is handed down to them.

Ferrari Back On Track

Ferrari have rejuventated their season by topping the time sheets with a one-two in second Friday practice for what is to be the last French GP at Magny Cours.

Under performing Kimi Rakkonen was fastest in the morning session but his teammate Felipe Massa led the way in the final session by the smallest of margins. Just 0.035s seperated the pair and the heated battle will almost certainly set to continue throughout the weekend.  Pushing each other all the way, Rakkonen had a slip up searching for that extra tenth.

Double race winner Lewis Hamilton, had a rough start to the day with some engine difficultes. It didnt effect him in the second session and put in a 4th fastest time, three tenths behind the Scarlet Ferraris. Fernando Alonso was lagging behind his teammate being three tenths off the Rookie and languishing down in 8th. Stress from the US GP has maybe still lingered with the Spaniard and showed with a ragged attempt in the first corner that led to an off track excursion.

The story of the session has been the perfromance from the Red Bull squad and their sister team Scuderia Toro Rosso. David Coulthard broke through the 1:15 minute barrier to record the 6th fastest time. The STR boys stole the limelight though with an eye-catching 3rd and 5th from Speed and Liuzzi respectfully, with both teams using the Adrian Newey design to full effect. Mark Webber can’t catch a break, with his car halting on the side of the track with a problem, and was all the way back in 16th position.

Williams driver Nico Rosberg performed nicely with a solid 7th, proving that the test at Silverstone in midweek has giving them an upper hand this weekend over the midfield teams. Anthony Davidson gave Super Aguri 9th spot while an under pressure Ralf Schumacher rounded off the top ten.

Suprisingly the Renault team have gone backwards from their encouraging performances in North America with Fischella 11th and Kovalainen 17th. The returning Robert Kubica got a feel once again with the BMW car with 12th spot ahead of the second Williams of Alex Wurz and the Toyota of Jarno Trulli. 

The eagrly anticpated new Honda RA107 was rather dissaponting leaving a disheartened Jenson Button in 15th and his teammate Rubens Barrichello a lowly 16th.

Nick Heidfeld had a niggling back strain and it showed, posting a time to leave him 19th. Takuma Sato was 20th and Adrian Sutil once again outperforming his more experienced teammate Christjian Albers to leave the Dutchman at the back of the pack.

Montoya Has First Win

Former F1 favourite Juan Pablo Montoya proved the F1 world why his move to NASCAR was the right thing as he won his first Nextel Cup race at the road course in California. With 17 races under his belt he finally crossed the line to go with his first Busch Cup race win back in March.

Despite qualifying down in the 32nd spot, Montoya used his skill from F1 to navigate the 12 corner track and come through the field to hold on for the win. It wasn’t all plain sailing though, a scare emerged that he was a lap short of fuel but Montoya managed the fuel crisis to take the Sunoma victory.

David Coulthard Demoted

F1 veteran David Coulthard will start 13th on the grid following a penalty by the race stewards that deemed the Scot “blocked” the onrushing Renault of Heikki Kovalainen.

Coulthard had qualified his Red Bull in tenth, putting him into Q3, but his times were promptly deleted. As a result, Jenson Button was awarded to take part in the Pole Position Shootout, the first time the Briton made it through this season along with his team-mate.

The Red Bull driver felt the lack of communication between himself and team led to his demise.

“I communicate with the team so I know what’s going on with the traffic and apparently there was a misunderstanding and I didn’t get the correct info. But what’s quite clear is that I wasn’t trying to screw his lap, I understand the system around here, it was just a lack of communication.”

His team-mate, Mark Webber, put the Red Bull into an impressive 6th spot and a rueful Coulthard was left wondering what could have been.

“It’s obviously very disappointing because I was progressing well through each of those sessions and was very confident I could get the maximum out of the car.”

Kovalainen was unable to produce a hot lap after the incident and will take his place in 15th alongside the Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen on row eight.

Heidfeld Wants Contract Talks

Nick Heidfeld is hoping for a new contract from BMW-Sauber and would rather it be resolved as soon as possible. The German, who finished 4th in Australia and Malaysia, wishes contract talks to be discussed.

“The earlier (a contract is agreed) the better and I think I am in a good position.

“I would like to have it sorted out earlier than later. I like it very much here – so far it could not have been better.”

The newly renamed team has made leaps and bounds so far but Heidfeld desires more.

“Our goal is to be World Champions and we have to be prepared for a setback but in the long term I still hope we can fight for the title in a few years.”

Nurburgring Honour Schumacher

A corner at Nurburgring will be named ‘Schumacher S’ in honour of Michael Schumacher, who was victorious at the Nurburgring circuit a total of five times. The track itself will host the 2007 German GP later in the summer.

 ‘I am very proud of this honour which they have given me,’ said Schumacher, who retired after the 2006 season. ‘It was imperative we did something prestigious to honour him,’ said Walter Kaffitz, director of the race track. ‘Schumacher is the greatest driver in the history of German motorsport.’

Schumacher will do a lap of honour before the start of the German GP on 22 July, the first driver to do so. 

Speed Retains Seat

American Scott Speed has retained his STR seat for the up and coming season and will team up with Viantonio Liuzzi once again. The future surrounding the 24-year-old through Winter testing was seriously in doubt with canditates lining up for the seat, including former Spyker driver Tiago Monteiro, Champ Car Champion Sébastien Bourdais and even Mika Hakkinen, who won the Drivers title back in 1998 and 1999.  

With Liuzzi confirmed with the Italian side at the launch of their 2007 car, it was becoming clear that Speed was not going to line up on the grid. STR came out and stressed that there was still “contractual issues” to sort out with Speed. However, today an agreement was struck and they confirmed that Speed has been re-signed for the season.

Speed took to the Bahrain track with his new STR2 and completed 60 laps but finished bottom of the the time sheets with McLaren leading the way at the top.

Test Driver To Race In A1GP

Narain Karthikeyan, test driver for the Williams team, will represent his country in A1GP for the NZ races this weekend. Karthikeyan, who turned 30 on Sunday, is said to be honoured to drive for A1 Team India.

“I’m very proud to drive for my country in A1GP,” said the former Jordan driver. 

“I’ve been following the team’s fortunes since the start of the Series. Frank has kindly agreed for me to race, but my Formula 1 testing duties for Williams will always be my number 1 priority.”

“I am very thankful for Sir Frank’s support and feel very privileged to be in Formula 1, but like all racing drivers I want to race fast cars. In recent months, I have had several offers to drive in America and Japan, but I chose A1GP because the race schedule does not clash with my Formula 1 commitments.”

“I know that I’m joining the Series part way through the second season and many teams have been working with experienced drivers since the start.”If I can accelerate the learning curve for the team and we can make progress, possibly scoring some points, I’ll be very pleased.”