Author: Berthold Bouman
Racing with the Pirellis should be fun, Must the show go on, Bahrain Grand Prix could be cancelled,Indian Grand Prix on schedule.
Racing with the Pirellis should be fun
Many teams believe the new Pirellis are the key to success this season, and it will therefore be no surprise most of them have concentrated on evaluating the Pirellis during the second pre-season testing days a the Circuito de Jerez in Spain last week. They are in a race to get a better understanding of the new tyres, which have quite different characteristics than last year's Bridgestones. Especially the soft and super soft Pirellis drop off very fast, as much as 2 seconds during the first two or three laps, after that, the degradation becomes more steady, about 1.2 seconds over the next 12 laps, but it is clear they won't last much longer than 15 laps, depending on the ambient temperature.
What also has emerged during testing is that drivers who look after their tyres during the first three or four laps, can stay out considerably longer than drivers who don't. And that is of course good news for drivers like McLaren's Jenson Button, who has a typical tyre preserving driving style. Button thinks the difference between the harder and softer compounds is good for the sport, "It's going to be fun for racing, I think, and it's what everyone wanted. The TV viewers will certainly know the differences between the tyres." Overall he's happy with the new tyres, "I know the soft is changing considerably but the other tyres are staying pretty much the same. I think it's what everyone wanted: tyres that are very different with quite a big gap between all the tyres."
Pirelli Motorsport Director Paul Hembery would like to see more pit stops, "We believe that we're still on course to see two pit stops per race, which obviously might be one stop on some circuits and three stops on others, depending on the individual cars and track characteristics. A number of drivers have mentioned to me that our tyres are going to be great fun to race with, which is exactly what we are aiming for."
Not every is happy with the new tyres, veteran Williams driver Rubens Barrichello, "A fresh set of tyres no longer feels like a fresh set of tyres." And he warned about the changing grip levels, "In the fast corners the rear suddenly loses grip without notice if you overdo it. Suddenly you lose the rear." Ferrari's Fernando Alonso also has some reservations. "I think it will change the way races are run this year; there will be different strategies and more pit stops. I hope this is good for the show, but for the teams and the drivers it will be a little more stressful," the Spaniard said after the last test day at Jerez.
While most drivers were struggling with the soft tyres, Force India driver Adrian Sutil had problems with the medium compound. "The medium tyre we have here is different to before, and I was not so confident on that, not so happy. The tyre is very hard, quite a lot harder than what we had before. But it doesn't last longer for some reason," the German complained. "It's a big challenge to drive on the limit with these tyres. They are very oversteery, very low grip, so it is very easy to make mistakes. The difference you have between the compounds is very big, but in general I like them," he said about the new Pirellis.
Ahead of the last European pre-season test at the Circuito de Catalunya in Barcelona, Spain, Pirelli have announced as a response to the feedback of the teams, they will test a modified version of the softest tyres. Pirelli also announced the tyre allocations for the first four races of the season, the hard tyres will be allocated as the Prime tyre, and the soft compound as the Option tyre for Bahrain, Australia, Malaysia and China.
Must the show go on?
More and more people are wondering whether the 'overtaking aids' in Formula One are actually good for the sport. The new adjustable rear wing is such an overtaking aid, and right from the start there have been doubts whether it will work or not. The wing can be used during the last 600 meters of the straight, but Williams Technical Director Sam Michael has his doubts. "For it to be effective, you have to have it for the entire straight," he said. And added, "I don't think you'll ever get to the position where people just drive past; it's just not strong enough to do that."
Fernando Alonso also has his doubts, "If the car ahead of you runs only one tenth slower than you, then the moveable wing is not enough. Overtaking between front runners will be difficult in 2011 too." Current World Champion Sebastian Vettel also tested the rear wing, "It's quite tricky with the rear wing; it acts in a similar manner to the F-Duct last year, so naturally, as a driver, you want to use it as much as you can."
In an interview with the German magazine 'der Spiegel' Vettel also voiced his doubts on the increasing demand for more 'show'. "Formula One is becoming more radical, with more and more attention being put into the show. I wonder if this is necessary. There is a risk that the public thinks overtaking will now be too easy," the German said. "The drivers should be driving, not playing with all sorts of different buttons and systems. Last year there was the F-Duct, now its the rear wing and KERS. I'm not totally convinced that this is all a good thing," he commented when asked about all the new gadgets.
There are also safety concerns about the adjustable rear wing, drivers fear it might take too long before it snaps back into its original position before braking and entering the corner. Team Lotus driver Jarno Trulli admitted he experienced a 'five meters no-mans land' before the braking area, however McLaren's Jenson Button said he was impressed by the reaction time of the wing. "Actually I was quite surprised how quickly it [the wing] reacts to the pressing of a button," the Briton said. Whether the rear wing will work or not, will be known after the Bahrain Grand Prix on March 13, however...
Bahrain Grand Prix could be cancelled
Not so good news emerged from Bahrain recently: citizens of the tiny Gulf state have threatened to disrupt the race to seek attention for their quest to more democracy. Spurred on by the success of the protesters in Egypt, some 10,000 Bahrain citizens have gathered in the capitol Manama for a peaceful protest, but a representative of a civil rights group has warned things could take a turn for the worse. Nabeel Rajab, vice president of Bahrain Center for Human Rights, "For sure F1 is not going to be peaceful this time. There'll be lots of journalists, a lot of people looking and [the police] will react in a stupid manner as they did today and yesterday. And that will be bloody, but will be more publicized."
"This will not stop, especially now when people have died. I don't think it's going to stop easily," he commented, referring to the fact two people have been killed in clashes with the security forces this week.
Although the FIA is confident the conflict will 'be resolved amicably', the situation is closely monitored. Safety is priority, and FOM CEO Bernie Ecclestone is also watching the developments in Bahrain, "It's a great shame because Bahrain have worked very hard to get their Grand Prix, but we have to be aware of what is going on there. We will be watching every day so that we can inform the teams as soon as possible when we know whether it is safe to go ahead."
Asked by the UK Telegraph whether the race could be cancelled he said: "I have no idea. It's hard to establish exactly what is going on. As I say, I'm speaking with the Crown Prince [Salman ibn Hamad ibn Isa Al Khalifa] later on. We're watching events closely. We'll rely on what they think the right thing to do is."
This weekend a GP2 Asia race will take place at Bahrain, but the organizers do not think the situation is alarming. Bahrain International Circuit chief executive Shaikh Salman bin Isa Al Khalifa, "We are monitoring the situation very closely indeed in association with the relevant authorities, and will respond appropriately to any further developments." A number of teams have meanwhile arrived in Bahrain and have reported nothing special is going on and they expect the race is on this weekend.
Indian Grand Prix on schedule
After bad news, there's good news, FIA Race Director Charlie Whiting has carried out an inspection on the Indian Grand Prix circuit last Sunday. The circuit is also know as the Jaypee International Race Circuit, and is located in the Greater Noida area of the Indian capital Delhi. Whiting was pleased with the progress that had been made since the last time he visited the site. According to the Times of India the circuit will incorporate at the request of Whiting tighter apexes at three of its sixteen corners to improve the overtaking opportunities.
The 5.14 km long track has been designed by German track designer Hermann Tilke, and constructed by Jaypee Sports International (JSPI), it was designed to be one of the fastest and most exiting circuits in the world. The track is a combination of straights, corners and elevation changes, which should make it an ideal circuit for overtaking. With its wide run-off areas and state-of-the-art medical facilities it should also become one of the safest circuits of the world.
Vicky Chandhok, of the Federation of Motorsports Clubs of India (FMSCI) about Whiting's visit, "The track is well ahead of schedule. He was very pleased. He liked the track and was impressed by the progress made so far. He suggested some changes which will be incorporated to encourage overtaking."
Sameer Gaur, Managing Director of JPSI was also happy with Whiting's visit, "The progress since Charlie's last visit has been fairly rapid and all of us including Mr. Whiting are very pleased with the way things stand at the moment and we are looking forward to the first Indian Grand Prix. The Formula One track will be complete ahead of schedule."
In the next months Whiting will make several visits to the circuit to monitor the progress. It is expected the service roads which give access to the circuit will be finished ahead of the next inspection. The first layer of tarmac will be laid on March 15 and a final inspection will be carried out on June 30, four months ahead of the inaugural Indian Grand Prix which is set for October 30.
Join us again next week for another episode of "Formula One: On and off track"