The Iceman Cometh (But not where we expected him)

After the rumblings in the Paddock over the weekend that talks between Williams and Raikkonen had broken down we wern’t really expecting to see a return of the 2007 world champion. However this morning Lotus Renault GP have announced they have signed a 2 year deal with the Finn and have released pictures of him in team gear.

We do expect Vitaly Petrov to race alongside him in 2012 but the team could still opt for Bruno Senna (whos put in a real decent showing in the later half of 2011 despite the cars pace) or GP2 Champ Romain Grosjean. Petrov started the season well with a podium in the first round, however his stock has been damaged by the qualifying performance of Bruno Senna coming in halfway through the season. Bruno has been looking at getting a good budget together to race and that surname of his is surely doing no damage to achieving this. Furthermore with Rubuens looking like hes finished and Massa in massive decline he could get a few big name Brazilian sponsors to come along.

Additionally the second seat will now be very sought after as you get to go up against a world champion who hasn’t driven F1 machinery in 2 years. If Kimi isn’t as strong you’ll do well to match him.

 

This now leaves seats at Williams, Force India and HRT up for grabs for next year as well as the driver queue at Toro Rosso. Silly season has arrived late this year!!

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2011 Season Review

The dust may only be settling at Interlagos but in Constructors order here is my take on the 2011 season. Let me know what you think.

Red Bull – Renault – 1st Place (Drivers 1st & 3rd)
Complete domination from the Newey car this year taking more poles in a season in the hands of a single driver than any other (Sebastian Vettel – 15) and overall was on pole position 18 out of 19 races in 2011. But the races proved a slightly hard challenge which Vettel took in his stride and bossed the field while Webber struggled with race pace and getting his tires to last. Webbers win at the last race will be some comfort for a poor season.

McLaren – Mercedes – 2nd Place (Drivers 2nd & 5th)
After a disaster in pre-season testing the likes of which is rarely seen the team managed to pull it around winning in poor conditions in the hands of Button. Button in the second half of the season really came alive challenging Vettel race after race and taking his first ever dry win at McLaren. Lewis on the other hand has had a tough season finishing 5th in the standings but still he has taken 3 wins. It is worth noting that this is the first time Hamilton has been beaten by a team mate.

Ferrari – 3rd Place (Drivers 4th & 6th)
The Scuderia really struggled with the blown diffuser this year and took its only in during the brief rule change during the British Grand Prix which banned the controversial use of exhaust gasses to generate downforce. Heads have rolled again at Marenello with Costa being shown the door (and then shown the welcome door at Mercedes) and McLaren man Pat Fry brought in to lead up the car design.  Fernando has been mixing it in the top 5 but Massa ends the season as the first full time Ferrari driver in 20 years not to gain a podium in a season. Time is surely ticking for the Brazilian.

Mercedes – 4th Place (Drivers 7th & 8th)
Troubled by Renault at the start of the year the team quickly gained momentum and spent the rest of the year inter-team batteling as they were faster than the mid-field but not troubling the big boys. A better year from both drivers who are looking fiesty, it would be fantastic to see this team up to speed next year to see what the drivers can do. With no less than 4 technical directors at the team next year theres definatley the depth and experience to do just that

Renault – 5th Place (Drivers 10th, 11th & 18th)
Despite the loss of Kubica pre-season the team recovered well and started with two podiums for Petrov and Heidfeld (2 of only 7 drivers to stand on the steps this year) but after that it all tailed away. The front facing exhausts were a bold concept that ultimatly failed in lower speed corners and proved a headache to develop. The team fell out with Nick Heidfeld mid-sesaon and replaced him with Bruno Senna who has shown glimmers of real speed and possibly damaged Petrov’s stock. Far too many unknown quantaties wanting a seat here next year.

Force India – Mercedes – 6th Place (Drivers 9th & 13th)
A stellar year from Force India who take the prize as the top truely independant team with a great season from both Adrian Sutil and rookie of the year Paul Di Resta. The team have built a great formula for developing drivers in the era of the testing ban and running Paul last year in free practices has paid dividends this year. The car had no block-buster performances like in previous years but proved competitive all over. However this is another team with a driver headache as Sutil has put the hammer down in the second half of the season and shown how fast he can be.

Sauber – Ferrari – 7th Place (Drivers 12th & 16th)
Winners of the closest foght battle in the constructors table Sauber edged STR by just 3 points to take 7th. Another building year after the exit of BMW for 2010, the team had the best tire wear of the grid and used interesting tactics to tortise away points from hare’s. However with two exciting drivers muted by this method we hope for a faster car next year (especially considering they didn’t have the blown diffuser this year at all!) that Kamui and Sergio can take the fight up the field

Scuderia Toro Rosso – Ferrari – 8th Place (Drivers 14th & 15th)
A quiet year for the Red Bull junior team book-ended by some real speed and a tight fight with Sauber. It will be interesting to see what happens to the other Italian team as there are rumours of Arab money buying the team. In the short term Alguersuari has had a much better points haul than the more experienced Buemi but it remains to be seen if either will be in the car next year with Ricciardo and Vergne waiting in the wings.

Williams – Cosworth – 9th Place (Drivers 17th & 19th)
Oh dear, signs were bad when Williams dumped Nico Hulkenberg for GP2 runner-up Pastor Maldonado and the pay-cheque from PVDSA. However no-one really expected it to be this bad, Williams have recorded their worst ever season in their 36 year history. Its a sad state of affairs to see one of the 3 grand old teams of F1 languashing down here. Next year there will be new blood in the design team as Sam Michael has gone and Patrick Head is stepping back from racing operations. Also we’re likely to see driver changes although rumblings of Kimi returning have been killed off.

Team Lotus – Renault – 10th Place (Drivers 21st & 22nd)
Meh, on one hand Team Lotus set out what they needed to do this year but are still to nick a point. The latter half of the season has seen them close up on the back of the established teams and next year with KERS power could be a real force to be reckoned with in Q2.

HRT – Cosworth – 11th Place (Drivers 23d, 26th & 27th)
Experience may have counted for the homeless team in F1 this year with Luizzi securing the team 11th for the second year in the row. After another shambolic start the team has got moving and brought some developments, sold the team to secure its future. I think they’d be wise to try and keep Riccardo as he brings some fizzy drinks money and is fast however Pedro De La Rosa returns again to the grid at 40 years old to drive for the team next year and if they can afford it Pedro and Luizzi could be a really great team next year. Also promising news in the shape of continued Williams gear boxes and KERS for next season.

Virgin – Cosworth – 12th Place (Drivers 24th & 25th)
Oh dear, it has to be a bad sign when you can’t beat HRT two years running. But the car this year went nowhere from last year but hey at least the fuel tank was big enough. Simply put the Nick Wirth experiment has failed and the team have got a wind tunnel and some old faces to design next years car. With a rename to Marussia the team looks secure but has once again opted to dump its promising rookie for another one with cash for their seat. Timo Glock however has been looking very discontent recently with the team and could well move on at the end of 2012 if things dont pick up. Furthermore they are set to be the only team on the grid next year without KERS.

Done and dusted- Yeah Mate!

So Aussie Grit finally prevailed and Mark Webber takes that elusive win and 3rd place in the championship ahead of 2011 Champion Vettel (who nursed a gearbox home) and second place man Jenson Button. Adrian Sutil had a blinder to finish 6th in surely the drive of the day getting him up to 9th in the championship.

Sauber managed to managed to hold onto 7th in the championship ahead of Toro Rosso while Force India ran Renault close but ultimatley fell short of getting into 5th position.

 

I’ll get writing my review of the season very soon and get it posted it up.

P.S. Charles Pic has been confirmed for Marussia next year!

Fighting Talk from Peter Sauber

It is usual at this time of year that teams start posturing about how good their car will be next year in the hope of attracting some funding (and geuine excitement), but one team haven’t just been blowing hot air.

Peter Sauber is looking forward to next year despite being in a titanic battle with Torro Rosso, but one interesting point is that the team hasn’t run a blown diffuser this year. With that being banned from next year we expect the teams to lose serious amounts of rear downforce. However the Sauber car will be at least that fast next year with their performance being purely aerodynamic rather than any exhaust gasses tricks. Furthermore they are the team with the best tyre wear on the whole grid and have managed to use different strategys all year to gain points.

The team had a bit of a mid-season slump and are now in a titantic battle with Torro Rosso for 7th place in the constructors.

With continuity of drivers and the rules that they have used this year it is already looking like Sauber sit in a strong position for next year.

 

Super Sub De La Rosa Signs Up as Suzuki Sign Off

The man with surely the most test miles in recent years has signed for HRT, giving the team their desired national driver. There was some horror stories of who the new owners were thinking of placing in the team for next season (we assume alongside Luizzi).

Pedro raced for Sauber last season after many years of being the test and reserve driver for McLaren, after being replaced at Sauber at the end of the season he moved to Pirelli and got really good early mileage on the tires before returning to McLaren. He once again lived up to his “super-sub” reputation (he has sat in multiple times for McLaren over the years, most noteably in 2006) by stepping in for the race in Montreal in place of the unwell/injured Sergio Perez.

Im surprised that HRT haven’t attempted to get Red Bull to stump up money again to run super kid Daniel Ricciardo as he has put in a good showing this year. But two experienced drivers could be a sensible move if the team have the cash to develop the car this year.

Furthermore it has been reported that Virgin Marussia will run Charles Pic in the car next year, once again cashing in on the value of the second seat. (The team admitted they replaced Di Grassi due to sponsorship reasons).

 

In Moto GP the Suzuki team have decided not run any bikes next year and are withdrawing from the premier class of motorbike racing. They follow Aprilla, Kawasaki and Team Roberts in exiting the sport over the last 10 years. Underlining the improtance of the new CRT rules to allow concessions to independant manufactuers.

Hedging your bets

Team Gresini have announced that in addition to running their Honda 213CV for Alvaro Bautista (in place of the late Marco) they will run an additional bike. However this will not be a more standard Honda like it was this year for Aoyama, it will be a CRT bike from British manufacturer FTR, using a Honda engine.

It is an interesting move as the lower Customer teams are really looking hard at whether to run with the expensive customer bikes or the cheaper CRT bikes which they will be able to develop. Being a Customer team relegates you to buying a lesser machine from the Factory teams, so it looks as though Gresini will evaluate running a CRT bike. I suppose the hope is that someone comes along and designs a prototype engine that can just be bought for racing and these teams will have Moto GP experience and the numbers will swell. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Mapfire Aspar running a CRT bike next season.

It will however surely increse the costs for the factory teams if they are unable to sell their bikes to the smaller teams. I’d expect to see Tech III remain as they’ve been promised I believe near factory spec machinery for the next two years (IE all the developments but they will go onto the Factory bikes first if there is a shortage).

Rumblings are that Suzuki will not run next year which would explain why Bautista has high tailed it to Gresini in a shock move (literally hours before the first 1000CC test of the close season).

 

In other news the Young Drivers Test in Abu Dhabi is going on at the moment for F1, nothing of note really. I will post up a summary at some point for all you guys!

Racing Never Sleeps

With the 2011 Moto GP season finished testing has begun in ernest for next season which will see the premier class move to 1000cc 4-stroke prototypes and the introduction of CRT bikes which will be allowed to run modified road engines in prototype chassis.

There have been some more grid developments this year, heres what we know / think we know so far:

  1. Repsol Honda Team (Factory)
    • Casey Stoner
    • Dani Pedrosa
  2. Yamaha Factory Racing (Factory)
    • Jorge Lorenzo
    • Ben Spies
  3. Ducati Team (Factory)
    • Valentino Rossi
    • Nicky Hayden
  4. Rizla Suzuki (Factory) – It is unknown how many bikes Suzuki will field and whether they will start the season with 1000 or 800CC machinery. Although rumours today state Suzuki have run out of time and will not compete!
    • ? Randy De Puniet and Johnny Hopkins have been testing / scheduled to test
  5. Yamaha Tech III (Customer)
    • Cal Crutchlow
    • Andrea Dovizioso
  6. San Carlo Honda Greseni (Customer)
    • Alvaro Bautista
    • ?? – Unfilled spot left by the dearly departed Marco 😦
  7. Pramac Racing Team – Ducati (Customer – 1 bike)
    • Hector Barbera
  8. Cardion AB Motoracing – Ducati (Customer – 1 bike)
    • Karel Abraham
  9. LCR Honda (Customer – 1 Bike)
    • ?
  10. Mapfire Aspar Team – Unknown, as the team have split from Ducati
    • ??
  11. BQR – Blusenes – Unknown (CRT)
    • ?
  12. Forward Racing – Suter-BMW (CRT)
    • Colin Edwards
  13. Kiefer Racing – Unknown (CRT)
    • ?
  14. Marc VDS – Unknown (CRT)
    • ?
  15. Paddock GP Racing – Unknown (CRT)
    • ?
  16. Paul Bird Motorsports – TBA-Aprilla (CRT)
    • James Ellison
  17. Speed Master – Unknown (CRT)
    • Anthony West