Australian Grand Prix 2010: Saturday News Round-Up

Radical Rule Changes to be discussed; Bridgestone slam negative tyre talk; Sydney hope to snatch Aussie GP away from Melbourne; Branson sticking by Virgin.

Martin Whitmarsh has revealed that a number of radical rule changes will be discussed by all twelve teams next weekend in Malaysia.

The rules proposed include reverse-order grids, the introduction of ballast for the leaders and the idea of a ‘knockout draw’ whereby drivers would go head-to-head in qualifying to battle through into a final shoot out.

Although these changes may not be implemented Whitmarsh, in his role as McLaren team principal and FOTA president, believes that change must happen, even if the quality of racing in Sunday’s Australian Grand Prix is high.

“The problem is that after one race, the frame of mind is that if you feel you are competitive, you start thinking you can win the championship and say, ‘I don’t want any changes’,” said Whitmarsh in an interview with the Daily Telegraph.

“I am personally worried by the prospect of the racing at the moment but I respect others who say ‘Hang on, there has only been one race’. Hopefully we have a stunning race this weekend. If, we do, then the likelihood of pushing through changes is reduced.

”But if we have a less than stunning race then the likelihood of pushing through changes is enhanced. Personally I want a stunning race and changes.”

Staying on the issue of improving racing and Bridgestone has told teams that it will not change the tyre compounds that it brings to each Grand Prix, despite calls from many within the sport.

“We just want to provide the best tyres for each grand prix,” Bridgestone’s director of motorsport tyre development Hirohide Hamashima told Autosport. “This is our mission.

“Of course we can change the [compound] allocation. However it is not so proper – because even if we provide a very big degradation of one spec and a consistent one as the other one, if the teams choose the same strategy then nothing changes. That is our logic.”

“Bahrain is very, very gentle for tyres so it is difficult to make a different performance of specifications.

“Maybe the drivers could have used the tyres a little bit harder both with the supersoft and the medium. The remaining tyre performance was certainly enough.

“I think here will be a different picture. This weekend, I believe the car performance difference may be bigger and tyre performance may also be getting a little bit bigger. That should mix things up.”

In other news, Sydney has emerged as a contender to take the Australian Grand Prix away from Melbourne, after the Albert Park circuit’s contract expires in 2014.

According to Australia’s Daily Telegraph, the state government of New South Wales (NSW) is already in advanced planning for making a bid, with suggestions that the event could be moved to a location near Avalon Airport.

“There are a few hurdles we will need to overcome, but I am confident we can work through these challenges.” said Major Events Minister Ian Macdonald in an interview with the paper.

“Sydney is better placed to be able to generate greater international interest in this event than Melbourne, because of its high international standing.”

MacDonald’s comments have sparked a furious response from the organisers of the Albert Park race, with Australian Grand Prix chairman Ron Walker attacking the NSW Government.

“The NSW Government does not have the focus, passion or drive to seek major events like we do in Victoria,” he said.

“The NSW Government has been in hibernation since the Olympics – they’ve done nothing since then.”

It is believed that the current location of the Australian Grand Prix generates an annual $40 million loss, and this may be a factor behind the proposed bid.

Meanwhile Richard Branson has stated that he remains committed to Virgin Racing, despite revelations that the team does not have a big enough fuel tank to last a Grand Prix distance.

“I think all of us around this table know that he [Nick Wirth] has managed to get a car that is the fastest of the new cars, but there is an issue here that is going to take a few races to fix,” Autosport reports Branson saying in Australia.

“It will actually give the car some time to have some practice time because the new cars were given so little practice time. Over the next five races we will learn more and more about the car.

“It also hasn’t cost us anything. I read one or two articles saying it had cost us a lot of money, but it is not going to cost us a thing. It will be the supplier whose issue it is who has agreed to redesign it, so it won’t cost the team anything.

“Obviously, we would rather it hadn’t happened, but these things happen and it is F1. It is the birth of a new team and even the most experienced teams have issues, even the most experienced car companies have issues.”

Branson also rubbished suggestions that the issue would damage the Virgin brand. Adding: “The Virgin name is synonymous with experimentation and trying things.”

“People, when we first tried to cross the Atlantic in a boat, people said that if the boat sinks then it will reflect badly on the Virgin companies. Well the boat did sink, and we came back and were successful the next time.

“I think the Virgin brand has been a challenging underdog brand throughout its history and it will continue to do so. In the end we will get it right, but there are going to be teething problems on the way.”

Renault has announced that it will not follow the paths taken by McLaren and Sauber and introduce an F-Duct system on its R30. In an interview with Autosport team principal Eric Boullier stated that the costs of designing and implementing such a system would outweigh the performance advantage gain.

“We don’t want to be disturbed by copying something that we don’t think is so dramatically faster. We will keep our strategy and keep our head down.” he said.