Australian Grand Prix Review

Mar. 29, 2010 - 05696278 date 28 03 2010 Copyright imago HochZwei Motorsports Formula 1 World Championship 2010 GP of Australia 01 Jenson Button GBR Vodafone McLaren Mercedes xHOCHxZWEIx motor aviation men Formula 1 F1 F World Cup GP Australia Melbourne Award Ceremony Single Vdig xsk 2010 horizontal Highlight premiumd motor aviation Engine Formula 1 Formula One F1 F 1 one Grand Prix grand Prize Australia Australia cheering Celebration Mood mood pleased Look forward happiness jubilant cheering positive Winner Champion happiness Joy Award Ceremony Podium Medal Ceremony Ceremony Honour Human Beings Celebrates rejoicing Winner won partner02.

2 weeks after the Bahrain Grand Prix there have been 14 days full of negative press and debate about how to fix Formula 1. Round 2 in Melbourne turned those comments well and truelly on their head.  In an action packed and thrilling race in which there were more overtaking manoeuvres than can be remembered, Jenson Button came out on top to win a vital race for the 2009 as he seeks to settle in to his new team.

Race day dawned damp and overcast, the expected rain  hit the track as the cars were on the grid 5 minutes before the start of the race.  The wet conditions meant that all the drivers had to start on the intermediate tyres. As the cars lined up on the grid, the race the emphasis was how the cars were going to get off the line on cold intermediates and get through the first couple of corners without any incidents or casualties.  Michael Schumacher was told as to make sure he positioned his car perfectly between the white lines to avoid the chance of wheel spin, but and as the 5 lights went out, Championship leader Fernando Alonso could have done with similar information as he was swamped by the pack from his 4th place grid slot.  With Vettle getting away well and leading in to turn 1, it was a amazing start from Massa that took him from 5th to 2nd, Webber 3rd and then a 3 way battle for for 4th place between the slow starting Alonso, Button and Schumacher and as they turned in to turn 1, the inevitable happened.

With Alonso in a sandwich between Schumacher on his left and Button on his right, when Alonso turned in, Button who had the inside line for the corner could not help but tap the Ferrari in to a spin, with the Ferrari collecting the Mercedes of Schumacher in the process.  As the Ferrari spun across the track the rest of the field took avoiding action.  Hamilton who had made a good start, took to the grass and by turn 3 he was up to 8th from 11th place.  Schumacher who had held on to his car also went through the grass and doing so damaged his front wing.  Alonso was stranded in the middle of the track and had to wait for everyone to filter past him before he could spin turn his car back round and rejoin the race.  He was way down in 22nd place and he then started a sensational drive from the back of the grid.

There was one more major incident on the first lap.  At turn 6 the front nose of the Sauber of Kobayashi collapsed underneath the front of his car rendering his car without any form of steering, sending the Japanese driver hurtling towards the wall.  As he deflected off of the wall he rebounded back in to the field smashing in to Nico Hulkenburg and Sebastien Buemi eliminating all 3 and leaving them all lucky not to be injured in the process.

With 3 cars in the gravel and debris all over the track the Safety Car was inevitable and came out before the end of the first lap, giving Michael Schumacher the chance to pit for a new nose.  The Safety Car was out for 3 laps, coming in at the end of lap 4.

With the cars starting lap 5 Vettle led from Massa, Webber, Kubica, Rosberg, Button and Hamilton. It was Kubica in the Renault that attacked Mark Webber for 3rd straight away and indicated that the Renault would have real pace today. Further down the field we were treated to a bizzare situation with Schumacher trying to overtake Di Grassi in the Virgin only to be re-passed at the very next corner. Something the Brazilian will remember for a while.

Hamilton then managed to pass Button for 6th at turn 3 on lap 6 and set of to attack the Mercedes of Rosberg.  Two corners later a mistake from Massa in second on the slippery track let Webber through to create a Redbull 1-2. Massa was then quickly under attack from Kubica, and as Massa slowed up to defended his position a 6 car train formed – Massa, Kubica, Rosberg, Hamilton, Button and Liuzzi.

It was Button that dropped out of this group at the end of the 6th lap as he made his way sensationally in to the pits to change from intermediates to slicks.  On a slippery and wet track it was a gamble that could have ruined his race. A slow 7.7 second stop saw him rejoin to mass condemnation by BBC commentators Martin Brundle and David Coulthard.  Then as Button slide off the track at turn 3, skating across the gravel trap, it seemed that the wisdom in Button pitting was ill founded.  However, Button rejoined the track and got it together instantly, banging in the fasted 2nd & 3rd sector time.

It was obvious that slicks were they tyre to be on and the majority of the field then followed Button in to the pits to cover off Button’s move to slicks. Massa, Kubica, Rosberg, Hamilton and Schumacher all pitted leaving Vettle, Webber and Sutil out front.  As they all raced back on to the track,  it was clear that Massa and Hamilton had been compromised in their stops, both being delayed on their exit from their box by oncoming cars.  Kubica now the benchmark from the front runners rejoined just in front of Button, who despite his off had managed to jump in front of 3 cars and was clearly the fastest man on track and disposed of Kubica in clinical style while the Pole was still getting his tyres up to working temperature.

On Lap 10 Button put in the fastest lap of the race and was nearly 5 seconds a lap faster that the drivers on intermediates, and it was no surprise that Vettle and Sutil pitted, leaving Webber to lead, however he was the only front runner out on the intermediates.  The Australian pit at the end of the lap and put him out in front of Massa, but a mistake at turn one on cold tyres let Massa through and put Barrichello and the recovering Hamilton right on his tail and the Aussie down in 6th.

The order on Lap 12 saw Vettle leading from Button, Kubica, Rosberg, Massa, Webber, Hamilton, Barrichello, De La Rosa and Alonso sensationally in 10th after being dead last on lap one.

The next couple of laps saw Vettle start to pull away from Button at about 3/4 of a second per lap and saw him starting to put a bit of day light between the Mclaren.  Mark Webber made up from his earlier mistake and passed Massa at turn 1.  As he did so Hamilton pounced on Massa who was forced off line and as they made their way to turn 3 on Lap 16, Hamilton pulled alongside Webber and ahead, but Webber wasn’t having any of it and tried to brake later that Hamilton, but it didn’t work.  The Redbull driver headed off in to the gravel letting Massa have back the two places he had lost 3 corners earlier. All this allowed Alonso to join in the fun in 8th place. It had been an utterly breathless start to a race and a complete contrast to the snooze-fest in Bahrain.

Hamilton was able to get past Massa on lap 22 at turn 3 and was then quickly on to the tail of Nico Rosberg in 4th place. The Briton looking the fastest and most aggressive driver on track and an outside threat to Vettle for the win if he could maintain this blistering pace.  On lap 26 Hamilton passed Rosberg in an amazing move round the outside at the fast turn 11-12 chicane. Rosberg looked to get Hamilton at the next corner but was confronted with waved yellow flags and had to fall back in line.

Amazingly the yellow flags were for the race leader Vettle. The German facing the wrong way and sunk deep in the gravel trap at turn 13 had lost what seemed to be a stuck on race victory for the second race running.  The replays showed the Redbull locking its brakes and heading straight off.  A problem with a front wheel leaving Vettle with no brakes was to blame and left the team cursing its reliability for losing yet another win.

This put Button in the lead from Kubica running a great race in the Renault, Hamilton 3rd, Rosberg 4th, Massa 5th and Webber in 6th.  Hamilton was breathing heavily behind the Renault and looked like if he could pass the Renault, we could be treated to a battle for the win between the two team mates, but all this was about to change.

Mark Webber was in the pits on lap 33 changing his tyres from to the harder compound, and as he rejoined Mclaren decided to cover off Webber by pulling Hamilton in to the pits.  The wisdom of this can be argued in hindsight, but this ended Hamilton’s chances of race victory because, none of the other cars in front of him came in to pit.  To make the matters worse, Button had just posted one to the fastest laps of the race.  What was clear here was it was a decision by the team to pull Hamilton in, and as this slowly dawned on Hamilton his frustration became clear.

The shake out left Hamilton and Webber chasing down Alonso in 4rd place, and enjoying a tyre advantage the pair was able to recover the gap by lap 50.   This was tough on Hamilton who had worked his socks off in the early part of the race and now had to slog out quick laps to regain the ground lost, but do it he did.

Meanwhile Schmacher managed to pass the Torro Rosso of Jamie Alguersuari for 13th place, after having struggled to over take him for some 15 laps. It certainly wasn’t where the German expected to be scrapping when he decided to make his comeback.

With 3 laps to go, and Lewis swarming all over the rear of Fernando, the Britain made a move on the Ferrari in an attempt to steal 4th place, as the pair squirmed under breaking, Hamilton had to let Alonso have the turn, but as he turned in Webber failed to anticipate Hamilton’s switchback and ploughed straight in to the right rear wheel of Hamilton and spun both drivers out in to the gravel. Luckily both drivers were able to get themselves back on track, however it was the Redbull that had a damaged front wing and needed to head to the pits, Hamilton was able to recover but was now behind Rosberg.

While all the fireworks were going on Jenson Button had managed to pull out a comfortable lead to Kubica and came through to take victory, his first for his new team Mclaren. Kubica was second to raise the morale of the Renault team, and Massa took the final place on the podium after hold off his faster team mate Alonso.  On the final lap Schumacher was able to snatch 10 place from De La Rosa to earn him a single point.

This was an action packed Australian Grand Prix, that had thrills and spills all the way through.  Helped by changing weather condition and drivers on different tyre strategies, this was the best way to respond to the critics who say F1 is boring.  Next up is Malaysia in 7 days and if the race is only half as good as the race in Melbourne, then we are in for a real treat.

1.  Button        McLaren-Mercedes           1h33:36.531
 2.  Kubica        Renault                    +    12.034
 3.  Massa         Ferrari                    +    14.488
 4.  Alonso        Ferrari                    +    16.304
 5.  Rosberg       Mercedes                   +    16.683
 6.  Hamilton      McLaren-Mercedes           +    29.898
 7.  Liuzzi        Force India-Mercedes       +    59.847
 8.  Barrichello   Williams-Cosworth          +  1:00.536
 9.  Webber        Red Bull-Renault           +  1:07.319
10.  Schumacher    Mercedes                   +  1:09.391
11.  Alguersuari   Toro Rosso-Ferrari         +  1:11.301
12.  De la Rosa    Sauber-Ferrari             +  1:14.084
13.  Kovalainen    Lotus-Cosworth             +    2 laps
14.  Chandhok      HRT-Cosworth               +    4 laps

Fastest lap: Webber 1:28.358

Bahrain Grand Prix Report

Fernando Alonso (ESP) Ferrari F10 passes team mate Felipe Massa (BRA) Ferrari F10 at the start of the race.Formula One World Championship, Rd 1, Bahrain Grand Prix, Race Day, Bahrain International Circuit.

The start saw Vettle lead away from the lights from both Ferrari’s of Massa and Alonso, as the pack headed in to turn’s 1 & 2, Alonso was able to get the inside line for turn two and thus overtake his team-mate Massa.   Mark Webber’s Redbull then blew a large thick cloud of smoke, most probably due to an overfilled oil tank, which caused the chasing pack to be momentarily blinded.  Victims of this were Renault’s Robert Kubica and Force India’s Adrian Sutil, who touched as they went through Webber’s smoke at turn two, resulting in both drivers spinning across the track as the field ploughed they way through.

Lewis Hamilton was on the move as the pack reached turn 4 and was trying to go round the outside of Massa for 3rd place.  However the Briton left his breaking too late and Massa was able to defend him off, and which also allowed Rosberg in the Mercedes to snatch 4th place.

Despite not knowing anything about the cloud of smoke that his Redbull had created, Webber was down to eight having been jumped by Button at turn 2. However the Aussie was able to reclaim his 7th place when Jenson got out of shape midway through the new section of the lap.

So the order at the end of the first lap was: Vettle – Alonso – Massa – Rosberg – Hamilton – Schumacher – Webber – Button – Liuzzi – Barrichello. Unfortunately that was pretty much how the top of the pack stayed until the pitstops for tyres.

First retirement of the season went to Karun Chandhok who crashed on lap two, after spinning on a bump.  While the team would be disappointed to see the Indian driver lose vital running time, considering the amount of time the driver had on the track, it was perhaps inevitable that could happen.

Di Grassi was next to join him in exiting the race, having to pull off with suspected hydraulic failure.  Moments before the Brazilian pulling off the track, new boy Nico Hulkenburg had an embarrassing moment when he lost control of the rear of his car while under pressure from Buemi.

Back on track, and Vettle seemed to have perfect control of the race.  Perhaps enjoying a lighter fuel load that the two Ferrari’s behind him because of the fuel-efficient Renault, he was able to pull out a lead of around 5 seconds.

It was Mclaren & Mercedes who were first of the big guns to stop, bringing in Lewis Hamilton & Schumacher respectively on lap 16.  Rosberg moved to cover this next lap round, however lost out to Hamilton when his exit from the pit box was delayed slightly by Webber who was coming in to the pits at the same time as the German was exiting.  Button who also pitted at the same time as Rosberg and Webber was able to leapfrog the Redbull driver when the Aussie was delayed slightly with a sticking wheel during his pit stop.

Alonso was the first to stop of the first 3 to stop on lap 17, which then triggered Vettle to cover the Ferrari. This defensive style a seeming legacy of the new pitstop regulations, in which drivers are not wanting to allow their chasing rival to have too much time on new rubber.

Timo Glock brought the curtain down on the Virgin team’s first race on lap 18 with dreaded hydraulic problems that hampered them all through winter testing.  Bruno Senna was next to fall on the following lap with a Cosworth engine going up in smoke.

The second stint of the race started with Alonso managing to draw in Vettle, bringing down the lead to around 1 second. Massa still in 3rd was a further 2 seconds back behind Alonso. Midway through the race and we heard radio reports from the Ferrari team to both Alonso and Massa asking their drivers not to follow too closely or directly behind the car in front because they were suffering from high engine temperatures.

Then at the star of lap 34 the Redbull of Vettle crossed the line sounding very sick, and with Alonso right on his tail.  The team reporting back to Vettle that a suspected exhaust was causing a dramatic lost in top speed.  The poor Vettle was able to hold of Alonso for best part of a lap, until he had to reliquish the lead to Alonso at the last corner, and by the time the German had reach turn 1 of lap 35 he was 3rd with Massa gliding past on the straight.

It was bitter luck for Vettle who had driven a faultless race up to that point to have a seemingly assured 25 points in his pocket taken away from him by yet another mechanical problem.  However it was a question of if he would be caught by Hamilton, but whether the Redbull would finish in the points at all.

Vettle did a great job of bringing the car home, sticking it out, despite losing a podium position to Hamilton on lap 38 he was able to hold of Nico Rosberg to keep 4th place.

As the chequered flag dropped Alonso brought the Ferrari home to score his 22 victory and to claim victory at his first race for Ferrari, equalling Kimi Raikkonen and Nigel Mansell who also achieved the feat in the modern era. Massa completed a superb come back drive, taking 2nd place and Lewis Hamilton come home an impressive 3rd considering the problems with the cars handling that were mounting up over the course of the weekend.  Rosberg took first blood to his team-mate Schumacher to 5th place. Schumacher who had an un-eventful race came in 6th. Button took 7th on a day that indicate just how much work he and his new team need to do in order for the 2009 World Champion to mount a solid defence of his crown.

Credit also goes to Liuzz and Barrichello who took the final two points places, and Kubica will be disappointed  with 11th, but he did well to recover after being last at the end of lap 1.

Lotus took the plaudits for the new teams, in being able to get both cars to the finish, but Sauber will be disappointed in their form after being tipped as dark horses.

So it is on to Melbourne, Australia next for the 2nd round, Redbull will be looking to strike back after their disappointment  in Bahrain, Mclaren will need to improve the downforce on its new car and Mercedes and Schumacher will want to be nearer the sharp end of the field.

This was a poor spectacle of a F1 race, with very little overtaking or action, here’s hoping it was a one-off because otherwise this could be a slow old season.

1. Alonso Ferrari 1h39:20.396

 2.  Massa         Ferrari                    +    16.099
 3.  Hamilton      McLaren-Mercedes           +    23.182
 4.  Vettel        Red Bull-Renault           +    38.713
 5.  Rosberg       Mercedes                   +    40.263
 6.  Schumacher    Mercedes                   +    44.180
 7.  Button        McLaren-Mercedes           +    45.260
 8.  Webber        Red Bull-Renault           +    46.308
 9.  Liuzzi        Force India-Mercedes       +    53.089
10.  Barrichello   Williams-Cosworth          +  1:02.400
11.  Kubica        Renault                    +  1:09.093
12.  Sutil         Force India-Mercedes       +  1:22.958
13.  Alguersuari   Toro Rosso-Ferrari         +  1:32.656
14.  Hulkenberg    Williams-Cosworth          +     1 lap
15.  Kovalainen    Lotus-Cosworth             +     1 lap
16.  Buemi         Toro Rosso-Ferrari         +    3 laps
17.  Trulli        Lotus-Cosworth             +    3 laps
Retirements                                Lap
De la Rosa    Sauber-Ferrari               30
Senna         HRT-Cosworth                 18
Glock         Virgin-Cosworth              17
Petrov        Renault                      14
Kobayashi     Sauber-Ferrari               12
Di Grassi     Virgin-Cosworth              3
Chandhok      HRT-Cosworth                 2

Mclaren’s controversial rear wing

Just like the opening round of the 2009 season with the Brawn’s double diffusers, the F1 paddock is abuzz with the subject of the new McLaren rear wing, which seems to go against some teams interpretations of the rules.

In simple terms, the Mclaren drivers can control the the amount of air follow to the rear win through a small vent in the cockpit.  The driver does this by covering the vent with his knee.  When the driver does this it, the amount of down force is reduced and the car can go faster, giving them, some estimate, as much as 6 kph down the straight.

Mclaren have had the wing approved by the FIA in scrutineering, after constant dialogue with FIA technical delegate Charlie Whiting throughout the winter.  However RedBull and Renault are very angry with this decision, not just because they feel that a rear wing should not be able perform this feature know as “Stalling”.  and it is expected that at least one team will protest should the Mclaren team do well this weekend.

If the FIA uphold the ruling that the Mclaren wing is legal then all the other teams will have to go back to the drawing board and re-design their rear wing set ups, and with the first rounds of the season all far away races, it might be hard for some teams to get a similar design on their cars for a month or so.

One thing is for sure, that despite the tight rules and regulation, Mclaren have been innovative and aggressive in their design of the rear wing and have stolen an advantage on it’s rivals for now anyway.

No engine equalisation for 2010

James Allen reported this weekend that the FIA will not be allowing the different engine performance to be equalised before the start of the 2010 season. You may or may not know but the engines in F1 cars are fixed in terms of performance for the whole season, the manufacturers cannot improve or put better parts on the engine that will give it an advantage over the competition.

In order to stop the engine manufactures spending millions of pounds per year on developing their engine designs in the hope to find tenths of a second advantage over the rivals, the FIA put the restrictions in place at the start of the 2008 season, however a process of re-equalisation happened just before the 2009 season primarily to help the Renault F1 team who claimed their engine had fallen behind in performance.

This is not very good news for teams that do not use the Mercedes engine, because it is paddock opinion that the Mercedes engine is not just the most powerful engine but also the most fuel efficient, and with the rules changing banning in race refuelling, fuel efficency is going to be important as they will have to carry more fuel at the start of each race so teams not using the German powerplant are going to have to find advantage through their chassis design which will take hours of design time and a hefty cost.

James Allen points out that despite the poor reputation of the Renault engine, the power plant was able to provide victories in the Redbull chassis, so perhaps the poor car that the official Renault F1 team have produced the last couple of season has projected a negative perception over the French manufacturers engine performance.

Autosport International 2010

For the last 20 years many UK motorsport fans look forward to the now traditional Autosport International show held in mid January at the NEC in Birmingham.  After a particularly excellent motorsport season for Britains best drivers the show was almost guaranteed a large number of fans, particulary with 2009 Formula One World Champion Jenson Button in attendance.

I have been going on and off since 1992, I would say that while I have not been a regular through the last decade, I still feel there is a place for motorsport shows such as Autosport International for the “fan” in the street to get a chance to see some of the years important cars and see of of the sports personalities in the flesh.

Before I set of this year I was aware of critisim towards the even, mainly focusing around a couple of key points. Some of the questions poised by bloggers were asking 1. Is the show is relevant any more as business/marketing  activity in todays ecommerce and internet age.  2. Is the tried and tested format the Autosport have stuck to over the years boring and uninspiring?  3. Is the cost of attending too expensive? 4. Should the event be carbon neutral considering the amount of energy used to set up and travel to the event by it’s organisers and public?  The list goes on….

Despite the negativity toward what is at the end of the day just a show to me I set of with camera to hopefully get an injection of motorsport that I have being missing since the season came to a close in November.

One the whole I was not disapointed and had a thoroughly good day and here are some of my show highlights using some of my own photos.

Alan McNish

The ex Toyota F1 driver was on the Autosport stage as I arrive and was giving a talk his plans for 2010 and for LeMans.  He then can out and signed autographs for fans just off the stage.

Martin Brundle

F1 pundit for BBC and previously ITV brought his 19 year old son Alex Brundle along presumably to get the young lad some experience up in front of a large motorsport audience and also perhaps to drum up some interest in his career which hopefully will take him to GP3 if he can find the budget.  Brundle was superb, always candid in his comments and he was happy to answer lots of questions from the audience.  I got the impression Martin understands the importance of events such as the Autosport show in it’s ability to let the public get close to drivers and cars and Martin gave plenty of time to autograph hunters after his talk.

Jenson Button

The current F1 World Champion was undoubtably the shows biggest draw and was on the main stage a couple of times throughout the day to give fans a good chance to see him, he was also on the F1 racing stand signing autographs and he finally made an appearance in the live show at the end of the day.  Jenson was as smooth as ever with the public, commenting of how his successful 2009 campaign had gone and most importantly why he was moving the Mclaren in 2010.  While I still am not sure about his move to Mclaren personally, the show gave him a chance to try and convince some of the public why he had moved from the Mercedes/Brawn team.  I get the impression the more he says his reason he hopes we will buy in to it.  Jenson did however make a fitting tribute to Rubens Barrichello, whom he said was a great team mate and friend.

There was a mixture of new and old cars on display, thankfully there was the winning Brawn car from this years F1 championship on display. Also from 2009 was the Mclaren, Redbull and Force India. There was representation from Renault, Williams and Ferrari – however the seem to have sent chassis made up of a collection of parts that might have been laying around in their factory. In fact I have no idea what car the Renault team had sent – It was orange, that’s all I can say. Historical cars on display of interest to me was the JPS Lotus 79, a ground breaking car that dominated the 1978 season through Colin Chapman’s pioneering of the Ground Effect car.

A car more relevant to my time as a F1 fan was the Williams FW14B that took Mansell to his only F1 drivers championship in 1992.  This car like the Lotus 79 stole a march on it’s competitors by mastering a previously undeveloped area of design – Active Suspension. The Adrian Newey designed car still looks relevant today with it’s raised nose.

I was also pleased to see the Lotus 102 as driven by Martin Donnelly in 1990, a car which he suffered a horrific accident at the Spanish Grand Prix at Jerez in 1990.  The Camel Lotus is certainly a very odd looking car and it was no supprise when it failed to perform out on the track some 20 years ago.

A beautiful car at the show was the Maserati 250F driven by Fangio and Moss in 1954.

The Beatrice THL-1, the car Alan Jones tried in vain to mastermind a comeback in to the sport in 1985/1986 was sat amongst a 1995 Benetton B195 which was for sale and an interesting Dallara BMS – 192 from 1992

I also spotted the burnt helmet of Jos Verstappen from his incident in the 1994 German Grand Prix, when a pit stop for fuel went wrong and ended up with a flash fire while Jos was still sat in the cockpit. These images serve to remind how dangerous fuel stops could be and how the move to ban them in 2010 is a positive decision in my book.

Now I come to the biggest let down of the show the Live Action Arena.  This years line up was particularly uninspiring and whether I was luck or unlucky I found myself in the front row.  Not only did the poor line up of cars get to me, but the fumes and the lack of light, meaning I could hardly see the cars as they made there way around what seemed to be a multistory car park.  I left with about 10 mins to go as it was I found it quite teadious as I couldn’t see or take pictures either. Although I did see the Lancia Stratos which kind of made up for it.  I wonder if they could try and get the event to be outside next year, so at least the fans can see and breath.

As always I picked up a few purchases, Lotus and Ferrari DVD’s and a copy of Sid Watkin’s book.  It never amazes me how expensive F1 merchandise is, with models pushing £40 and team clothing needlessly expensive.

After all that I was extremely tired and headed home.  Yes it is fair to say, it felt like any other of the Autosport shows from the last 20 years, but, there is a recession on and I am sure the organisers have struggled to get extra companies and teams to attend.

From a fans point of view I think it gives just enough. I was happy with the photo’s and racing drivers I met on the Saturday and yes it is sad that fans only get a 10 minute window to get Jenson Button’s autograph, and that Jenson was the only driver representing the current crop of F1 drivers at the show, but this I cannot deny that it does give the fans a early shot of motorsport hysteria that should tie them through until March.

De La Rosa rumours intensify

The web if full of gossip this week that the former BMW team, now back in the safe hands of Peter Sauber, is set to announce that current third driver at Mclaren, Pedro De La Rosa is to be their driver for the 2010 season alongside Kamui Kobyashi.

This seems an odd choice for me, Pedro has been out of F1 for 3 full years, in fact his last race was back in 2006 when he deputised for the sacked Juan Pablo Montoya at Mclaren

Despite competing in some 72 races the Spaniard’s best result is 2nd place behind Jenson Button in the 2006 Hungarian Grand Prix and has competed in just 9 races in 7 seasons.

He is by no means a ‘spring chicken’ and there are no indications in his previous form that he has the speed to lead the team towards top-level results, so why are the team interested in Pedro?

Firstly Pedro’s experience at Mclaren where he has spent the last 7 years as its official test driver, from which he would have gathered plenty of experience on how a top-level team operate – vital for Sauber.  He is also a mature head in that he has a strong presence on the GPDA and could be seen as a safe pair of hands on the track and not put added pressure on the team by crashing.

It is this experience and safe profile that I believe Sauber are attracted to in order to balance out the raw and potentially erratic nature displayed by the exciting prospect that is Kamui Kobyashi.

Hold on a minute though, Nick Heidfeld the driver previously employed by BMW and before then by Peter Sauber himself, is in limbo at the moment looking for a drive. He already fits all those criteria I previously mentioned but is able to boast continued experience of racing which De La Rosa cannot hold a torch to.

So what does this mean? Is Peter Sauber finally drawing the curtain on the nearly man Heidfeld? Are the team that has recently been saved tight on budget and unable to afford Heidfeld – This seems unlikely has one expects that Nick wouldn’t have been on superstar money, which leaves the only other possible option in that Nick is about to join Renault to complete his partnership with Robert Kubica.

With the car launches eminent and the first test under 3 weeks away it would be a worry for Sauber to have to rely upon Kobayashi who has zero experience in developing a car.

It will be interesting to see how this develops over the next week or so.

Renault name new boss but no news on second driver

Renault F1 have announced the full time replacement for Flavio Briatore as team principle.  Eric Boullier will assume responsibility of getting the team which has been dogged with scandal and dreadful results for the past 3 years, back to the front of the grid.

Boullier comes from his ties with Gravity Management who now owns a large stake in the F1 team having purchased it off of the French Manufacturer in December 2009.  Bob Bell will continue on the technical side.

Speculation will now turn to the drivers of the team for the new season.  Robert Kubica who signed for the team late last year has officially declared his intention to drive for the team despite the Manufacturer taking a less directive roll.  This will be good news for the team as it really needed to hold on to its star driver having lost Alonso to Ferrari.  The second driver is yet to be announced.

With Schumacher now taking the final seat a Mercedes for 2010 the Renault seat looks to be the best seat remaining on the market and drivers will be keen to try and get themselves in at Renault.  There are quite a few good drivers on the market, most noticeably old boys such as Nick Heidfeld and Giancarlo Fisichella.  But it remains to be seen if the team have the confidence to stick with youth by going with Roman Grosjean or another GP2 driver.  Results will be important for the team especially in building credibility and attracting sponsorship after losing its major partners on the back of the Crash-Gate scandal.

I think they should go with Fisichella, he knows the team and is clearly still fast despite what the F60 did to him in the final races of last year.  Heidfeld to me is just a journeyman and without winning a race, one wonders if he ever will stand on the top step of the podium.

With the first testing a month away the team has a couple of weeks to make this decision.