Formula One - On and Off track week 23

Formula One - On and Off track week 23

Malaysia versus India, Ferrari's door is still open, the Mansell family goes to Le Mans, Red Bull saga continues Malaysia versus India It seems F1 is heading for yet another controversy, and it is already referred to as the latest spy-gate ...


Malaysia versus India, Ferrari's door is still open, the Mansell family goes to Le Mans, Red Bull saga continues

Malaysia versus India

It seems F1 is heading for yet another controversy, and it is already referred to as the latest spy-gate affair. Force India has accused Lotus, Mike Gascoyne and the Italian Aerolab-Fondtech company of using Force India data and components for the design of the Lotus. In a press release Force India stated: "Force India believes that Lotus Racing, via its use of Aerolab and Fondtech facilities and data, has utilized and benefited from the use of Force India F1 Team's intellectual property, including components and tyres exclusively licensed by Bridgestone to the Force India F1 Team, on its wind tunnel model design for the current Lotus T127 chassis without permission from the Force India F1 Team."

The Lotus T127 in the Aerolab-Fondtech windtunnel.
Photo by Lotus F1 Racing.

Force India got suspicious after Lotus last year published photos of wind tunnel tests of the Lotus T127, which showed the car had a similar front wing as the Force India car. Force India thinks Aerolab and Gascoyne have passed on Force India data to Lotus which was subsequently incorporated in the design of the T127. Gascoyne, Lotus and Aerolab-Fondtech fiercely deny the allegations. Gascoyne has worked for Force India in the past and also conducted wind tunnel tests for the team at the Aerolab facility. But Gascoyne's relation with Force India turned sour and at the end of 2008 he left the team.

Force India is of course far from happy and confirmed they will take legal action against Lotus and also stated their claim is "very serious" and would not take actions without having "supportive evidence". The controversy took another turn last week when Lotus announced they had recruited three former Force India employees, Mark Smith, Lewis Butler and Marianne Hinson. All three have worked with Gascoyne in the past for other teams, and it seems Gascoyne has done some head hunting to persuade the trio to move to Lotus Racing. It is almost like Gascoyne has some unfinished business with Force India, but in the announcement he said Force India's legal action was 'old news' and again denied the allegations.

It is rumored the whole thing is not about unfinished business or team rivalry, but about money. Aerolab claims Force India breached their contract in 2009 and still has to pay them about one million Euro. Force India confirmed the dispute with Aerolab, and now say the issue about the payment is currently being addressed by an Italian court. Again according to these rumors, Force India came up with these spy-gate allegations to avoid paying Aearolab. Whatever the outcome will be, any spy-, spank-, lie- or fix-gates are bad for the sport, and last but but not least, the 2007 spy-gate cost the McLaren team a whopping 100 million Euro fine.

Ferrari's door is still open

MotoGP star Valentino Rossi broke his leg after a very unfortunate accident during the last practice of his home race, the Italian GP at Mugello. The Italian title favorite had a violent high side, and underwent two and half hours of surgery to repair the exposed fracture of his right leg at the Careggi hospital in Florence. It is expected Rossi will leave the hospital in about ten days and after that his real rehabilitation will start. Scuderia Ferrari has reacted on his accident and Rossi's friend and fan Luca di Montezemolo has published a message on the Ferrari website saying Ferrari would be more than happy to do whatever is needed to help Rossi's recovery. In a personal message Di Montezemolo said, "Everyone at Ferrari is with you at this difficult time. If during your convalescence you feel you would like to do some training on four wheels, then remember that the door to Maranello is always open to you."

Valentino Rossi doing what he does best, whether it is on one, two or four wheels.
Photo by Yamaha Motor Racing.

Of course the door is always open for Rossi, because Ferrari still hasn't given up the dream of running a third car, preferably piloted by Rossi. In the past Rossi has been testing a Ferrari F1 car on numerous occasions, last winter he drove the Ferrari on the Circuit de Catalunya near Barcelona, and has made it no secret he would like to drive for Ferrari. Only a few days before his accident he told La Gazetta dello Sport he would "like to explore the possibility of a third car." Unfortunately the current regulations don't allow a third car, so Di Montezemolo uses this occasion to once again push for a change in the regulations. But Rossi has other things on his mind than F1 and Ferrari politics, he has to recover from his accident first before he can think about racing at all, whether it will be on two or four wheels.

The Mansell family goes to Le Mans

Nigel Mansell, 1992 F1 World Champion and 1993 CART Champion will race a privately-entered Beechdean Mansell Motorsport Ginetta-Zytek Z09R car together with his two sons Leo and Greg during the 24 Hours of Le Mans this weekend. For the 56-year old Briton, who has many nicknames like 'Nige', 'Il Leone' and 'Red Five', it will be his first attempt at the classic 24- hour race, and it will be the first time in the history of Le Mans a father and two-son trio will participate in the race. They will be driving in the top LMP1 category and Mansell's modest team will compete with teams like Audi, Peugeot and Aston Martin. Although this will be their first attempt, they hope to continue the challenge in the future.

Nigel Mansell in an interview with the UK Sun, "The two biggest challenges are tiredness and reliability. I really hope the car gods look favorably on us and give us reliability for a very special race. The goal is to finish, become more competitive and attract a sponsor so we can continue our dream." His son Leo added, "We need to stay out of trouble by avoiding contact with other cars and punctures." And son Greg is also looking forward to the challenge, "It's the ultimate challenge as a driver and as a team. I'm looking forward to the physical and mental demands. It's going to be one hell of an experience." The Mansells will be the underdog and they don't expect to win the race in their first year, but if anyone could pull off a stunt like that, it must be Nigel Mansell.

Red Bull saga continues

Despite the kiss-and-make-up conference at the Red Bull headquarters earlier this week, media still keep speculating about the Red Bull collision in Turkey. Officially Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel have settled their differences, but unofficially they both still refuse to take the blame. The team isn't thinking in terms of guilty or not guilty, but doesn't want this to happen again. But they find themselves in an awkward position now that Webber is leading the championship, and not their star driver Vettel. Compared to last year Webber is this year a lot more successful, he won two races and scored four pole positions during seven races.

Niki Lauda and Gerhard Berger commented on the Red Bull disaster.
Photo by Red Bull GmbH und GEPA pictures GmbH.

Many experts, like Niki Lauda, Gerhard Berger and Max Mosley, say Webber was responsible for the crash, and think he should have let Vettel pass him. "Webber could have prevented the accident", Berger argued. "Had Vettel been in a McLaren, then Webber could have done what he did. In that case, he must not give way". There have been suggestions Red Bull favors Vettel and wants him to win the title, and not Webber. Red Bull and Vettel deny there is any favoritism in play and say both drivers have the same chances to win. At the moment of the race Vettel and Webber were sharing the lead in the championship, so from Webber's point of view there was no reason to wave Vettel past when he appeared in his mirrors.

This raises the question: what would Vettel have done in that same situation? Just let Webber pass him and hand over the victory on a silver platter? Probably not. So why would Webber? It's also still a mystery why Vettel didn't wait until the start-finish straight to overtake Webber, but instead chose for a risky overtaking attempt in the last very tight turn before the straight. Team principal Christian Horner admitted Webber had asked Vettel to back off just one lap prior to the accident, but the team was reluctant to do this, with the McLarens of Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button just a few seconds behind the Red Bull pair.

Horner insists the relation between both drivers is still good and said they are both professionals, "They are probably not going to be down the pub for a drink together, but they will continue to work professionally. They work for the team at the end of the day and they know what the rules are." But unfortunately he didn't mention what the rules are, and who makes them, and with Vettel and Webber being equally strong and equally determined to win the title, this situation could present itself once again during the twelve remaining races.

Join us again next week for the weekly "Formula One: On and off track".


See also: Formula One - On and Off track week 22

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About this article
Series General , Formula 1
Drivers Mark Webber , Gerhard Berger , Luca di Montezemolo , Nigel Mansell , Valentino Rossi , Lewis Hamilton , Niki Lauda , Mike Gascoyne , Sebastian Vettel
Teams Force India , Lotus F1 Team