The Virgin that won’t go all the way!

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 27: Lucas Di Grassi of Brazil and Virgin GP drives during qualifying for the Australian Formula One Grand Prix at the Albert Park Circuit on March 27, 2010 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images)

Astonishingly the BBC is going with rumours that had originally surfaced pre-season that the Virgin F1 car does not have a big enough fuel tank to get it to the end of the race.  Apparently commentator Jonathan Legard has heard about this astonishing blunder.

If this is true it is an amazing mistake that cannot be easily fixed.  Firstly because in race refuelling has been banned, and secondly to change a F1 chassis after it has been approved by the FIA will take weeks to implement.

The Virgin team is yet to make a formal announcement, and I wonder if they ever would admit to such a mistake, as it would make it impossible for them to get a result for the next 2-3 races which would be damaging to title sponsor Richard Brandson.

One hopes this is not true, but a memo has gone round the teams from the FIA that Virgin needs to make adjustments to its car, and this only serves to add to the mounting rumours.

During the first practice session the BBC commented that various parts of the cars designed were outsourced and we can only assume that something has been miscalculated or communicated.

The Virgin car is the first F1 car to be designed completely by computer by Nick Wirth’s team.  Whether he has any responsibility over the design of the tank is as yet unknow.

Australian Grand Prix Preview

The F1 circus makes its way from the low key desert of Bahrain to the hustle and bustle of the F1 crazy city of Melbourne, Australia.  For some this is the natural starting place for the F1 calender and we will see if many of the questions that were raised after the first round of the season can be answered.

The Circuit

The race is held on public roads that form the perimeter access roads to one of the city’s most enjoyed points of interest: Albert Park.   Set around the lake, the tree lined 5.3km track is a curious track that offers just a few natural places to pass, but often produces interesting and surprising races.  Most of the tracks pits complex are temporary and what is permanent is a sports hall  used as a basket ball / indoor football facility.

The track winds its way past parking lots, a cricket and soccer ground, a sailing club house and also runs parrallel to the cities busiest roads that link the bustle of the city centre to the relaxing and vibrant St. Kilda area.

Questions from Bahrain

The most obvious and most over debated subject from Bahrain is the question over F1’s excitement factor.

  • Can F1 cars pass each other?
  • Do the new tyre rules create a stalemate over strategy?

Unfortunately with Albert park not being a “typical” F1 track, it is had to say if we will be able to come to any better conclusions this weekend.

Questions marks over drivers

Michael Schumacher will be going in to this weekends race feeling a bit of pressure.  He was beaten handsomely by his younger team mate Nico Rosberg in Bahrain, and Michael will need to put him in his place if he is to avoid being asked questions all the time about if he has lost it and if he was right to return to the sport.  Of course, this is doing Rosberg no harm at all and his stock will continue to rise while he is seen to out perform the 7 times world champion.

Jenson Button, like Schumacher will want to correct the balance of power between him and his team mate.  7th place compared to Hamilton’s 3rd, highlights the 2009 Champion has some catching up to do.  Jenson will be hoping the team can find him some more downforce at the front of the car, and he will also be pushing for more flexibility on the tyre strategy after having the rug pulled from beneath him last time out in Bahrain.

Mark Webber is on home ground this weekend and while this usually brings added pressure, the Aussie will be looking for a more consistent qualifying and practice to give him a better chance of fighting at the front on Sunday.

The teams under pressure

Mclaren carries a fairly large question mark at this time over the cars ability to generate enough down force as compared to their rivals.  Both drivers struggled in the race last time out, but the team have said that they lost their way slightly in Bahrain buy not putting enough wing on both drivers cars. With their car enjoying the highest top speed down the straights, the team will be hoping that a simple set up fix will bring them closer to Redbull and Ferrari.

Will Ferrari’s engines that seemed to get a little hot under the collar in Bahrain manage to see out another race.  While the temperature levels will be nowhere near as high as Bahrain, Ferrari might have to limit revs during practice and the race to see them through to the end.

Vettle will be hoping that Redbull have confidently fixed the engine problem that the car suffered in Bahrain in the closing laps that robbed the German of 25 points.  They won’t have to use the same engine here but it will put a lot of pressure on the team should reliability strike them down again.

A word for the new guys, Virgin will be looking to get to the bottom of their dreaded hydraulic problems that dogged both drivers in Bahrain, and HRT will be looking to get Karun Chandhok out for first practice on Friday morning.

Ones to look out for

My tips this weekend are for Mark Webber and Lewis Hamilton.  Webber now with the confidence of winning races in 2009 he should have the best ever chance for a home win on Sunday.  Lewis Hamilton goes really well on this track. Even last year when he was driving a pig of a car was he able to get the car up in to the top points positions (less said about the lie-gate post race the better) I just feel even without a truly competitive car the Briton can deliver a result here.

F1 2010 Season Preview – Team News

In Part 2 of our Preview of the new season, we now look at the 12 teams  in this years championship.

The main news is that Brawn GP, the drivers and constructors champions of 2009 are no more, they have now been brought out by Mercedes, giving the team that nearly folded this time last year a much-needed stable financial grounding. One of the most depressing stories of 2009 was the constant threat of withdrawal from the sport of some F1’s teams and Manufacturers. In the end, BMW and Toyota have decided to the sport behind and Renault, who stay in F1 in name have been brought out by a new investor.   However, with a new year brings positive news and new additions to the grid.  Firstly the BMW team have been saved by former team manger Peter Sauber, and will be known as Sauber going forward, and there are 3 brand new teams that will be joining the big boys on the grid on Sunday.

The historic Lotus name returns after its last race in 1994. Despite the team being based in Norfolk like the original Lotus team, this carries very few ties with the dominant team Colin Chapman built up through the 60’s and 70’s. Backed by Malaysian investment, Mike Gascoyne is the experienced figure-head that has helped formalised and design the car, and will be vital for the teams development.

Despite being a sponsor to the Brawn team last year, The Virgin name returns for 2010 with its own team.  Richard Branson has paid for the naming rights of the team which was formerly Manor Motorsport. The most important factor about this team is that the car will be the first ever F1 car to have been designed completely on computer and without using a wind tunnel to aid and improve the car’s aerodynamics performance.  Through using just CFD (Computation fluid dynamics) the team aims to compete competitively while reducing costs needed to have their own wind tunnel.

The third and final team coming to F1 this year is the HRT team (Hispania Racing Team).  This is a Spanish based team that looked like it was not even going to make the start of the season.  It was going to be called Campos however funding for the team never arrived and it was saved at the last moment.  The car and team are completely untried has not even turned a wheel in testing. Friday morning in Bahrain will be the first time the team, car and drivers would have all been in the same place at the same time and will surely be the tailenders for the first park of the season at least.

Another legendary name also returns, Cosworth will provide engines to the 3 new teams and Williams this year.

F1 2010 Season Preview – Driver News

This weekend marks the long awaited return of the FIA Formula One World Championship.  When the red lights go out on Sunday it will mark the start of the 61st Championship.  The new season is eagerly anticipated for many reasons and the winter has seen an unprecedented amount of news.  Here is a preview of how the start of the 2010 season will look a lot different to the end of 2009.

Firstly Jenson Button moves from his old team to join fellow Brit Lewis Hamilton at Mclaren. Jenson’s motives for leaving Brawn have been much debated, and whatever the reason, he will face a terribly tough time up against Hamilton who has pretty much built the Mclaren team around him. How Button settles in to his new team and performs against Hamilton will be one of the season long plots that will add constant pressure to the team despite who is performing best.

2 times World Champion Fernando Alonso leaves Renault, where he endured a horrible 2 years that was dogged with terrible cars and controversy, to join Ferrari to try and resurrect the Italian teams chances of returning to the front of the pack. He will join Felipe Massa who returns to the cockpit after suffering serious head injuries during the Hungarian Grand Prix and having to miss the second half of the season. Will the Brazilian be able to return to his good form or will the edge have been taken off the 2008 runner up, remains to be seen, but testing seems to indicate he will be fine.

The biggest headline since the chequered flag fell in Abu Dhabi in November is that 7 times World Champion Michael Schumacher makes his return to the sport.  He joins the team that helped win last years World Championships and which was Brawn but is now called Mercedes.  In fact Michael joins pretty much an all out German team, with Nico Rosberg taking Rubens Barrichello’s seat.

Despite the driver changes at Mercedes, Mclaren and Ferrari, Red Bull have kept Mark Webber, and Sebastian Vettle, who will be hoping that consistency along with the Adrian Newey’s new car design will help them kick off the new season on the front foot, as they seem to be the team to beat during the second half of the 2009.

2010 will see one of the most competitive fields in decades.  There will be 4 different former World Champions on the grid, sharing 11 different championships between them.  However there are easily 8 drivers with a realistic chance of winning this years championship.  We have lost 2007 Champion Kimi Raikkonen, who left Ferrari to drive rally cars this year, which is a shame to lose a talent but it seemed his heart just isn’t in it at the moment.

Other noticeable driver moves sees Rubens Barrichello move to Williams, where his team mate will be promising young German Nico Hulkenberg.  Timo Glock move to Virgin, ex Mclaren driver Heikki Kovalainen move to the new Lotus team with F1 journeyman Jarno Trulli.

The legendary name of Senna returns to F1 this year, with his nephew Bruno Senna.  It will be an emotional and evocative image seeing the yellow helmet in racing again, but we will have to get used to seeing it at the back of the field for a while at least until Bruno is given a better car as his HRT Cosworth has a lot of catching up to do.