Formula One - On and Off track week 3

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Formula One - On and Off track week 3

Formula One's new tyre supplier Pirelli has indicated they want two or three pit stops during a race this season. The Italian tyre company is willing to produce tyres that degrade faster than last year's Bridgestone tyres, and thus would force a...


Pirelli wants two pit stops, Fairuz Fauzi joins the other Lotus team, Black but not gold, Late McLaren launch leads to speculations.

Pirelli wants two pit stops

Formula One's new tyre supplier Pirelli has indicated they want two or three pit stops during a race this season. The Italian tyre company is willing to produce tyres that degrade faster than last year's Bridgestone tyres, and thus would force a multiple-pit stop strategy. Pedro de la Rosa, who is the official Pirelli test driver, has said after a four-day test session in Abu Dhabi the Pirellis are completely different compared to the Bridgestones, and he expects the new tyres will contribute to more interesting races this year. "The races will be more interesting, because they have designed a tyre for the show -- especially the super soft which is very fast but also has a very big degradation," the Spaniard said.

pirelli expects two pit stops.
Photo by xpb.cc.

Pirelli has finished an unique testing program in Abu Dhabi, the tyres were tested on an artificially-watered track, and during the night. De la Rosa has spent four days behind the wheel of the Toyota test car, for two days he tested all four dry-weather compounds, and during two nights he tested the wet and intermediate tyres. To replicate wet conditions, tankers had watered the track with a total of 140,000 liters of water. With the spotlights on, during the first night de la Rosa completed 13 runs and 119 laps, covering a total of around 370 kilometers.

The second night Pirelli tested the intermediates, to find out where the cross-over point is: the point when a driver should change from intermediate to full wet tyres and vice versa. De la Rosa also tested the slick tyre compounds, ranging from super-soft to hard. According to Pirelli, they have now accumulated around 20,000 test kilometers since they first tested the tyres in Mugello in August last year, and it is therefore no surprise de la Rosa thinks Pirelli is now ready for the first race of the season, the Bahrain Grand Prix on March 13.

"In my opinion, Pirelli is ready now for Formula One. The dry tyre test went very well, and confirmed everything we had learned in Bahrain the week before," he said. He was also happy with the unique night testing, "But the most original part of the test was when we were running at night on the wet tyres, which was as new an experience for me as it was for everyone else. The most important thing was that the water levels were consistent, which allowed us to have some accurate results from the test. At the end of it, we've come up with two tyres -- wet and intermediate -- which I believe are both competitive and stable."

Pirelli's motor sport director Paul Hembery was also satisfied with the results of the four-day test: "It's been an extremely positive test session here in Abu Dhabi, thanks to the fantastic facilities we've had available to us and the usual hard work from Pedro and the rest of our team." Hembery commented about the unprecedented night-time wet-weather test, "We're very proud to have been part of creating a little bit of history by running a Formula One car at night for the first time on wet tyres: we very much believe that Pirelli will be able to contribute to the spectacle of Formula One in the future and seeing the car kicking up huge plumes of spray under the floodlights has certainly been an amazing sight that we will all remember for a long time."

But he is also aware Pirelli still has a lot to learn, "While we are well aware that we are new to Formula One and still have plenty to learn, I'm confident that we can approach the start of this year's official testing next month with a strong package." The tests provided Pirelli with vital information to help them to develop the final tyre 'formula', which will as said also provide more action on track.

Pirelli will provide, like Bridgestone did previously, super-soft, soft, medium and hard tyres, and full wet and intermediate tyres. According to Pirelli, the soft compounds will be suitable for tight and twisty circuits, while the harder compounds will be used at circuits where durability is a priority. According to de la Rosa, the soft compounds will be very fast, but will also degrade fast, the hard compounds will last longer, but will not be as fast as the soft tyres.

Pirelli will also join the pre-season testing in February and provide equal technical assistance to all teams. During races, each team will have it's own highly qualified Pirelli engineer, who will be working with the team and drivers to get the best out of the Pirelli tyres, and will advise the team about the best possible pit stop strategy.

Fairuz Fauzi joins the other Lotus team

Ex-Lotus Racing test driver Malaysian Fairuz Fauzy has landed a test and reserve driver role at the rival Lotus Renault team. Renault announced the 28-year old driver will also participate in the supporting GP2 series for the Super Nova team, Super Nova will be supported by Group Lotus and Malaysian car manufacturer Proton this year. "It's a real honor to be part of a top team that has achieved so much in the sport," Fauzy said.

Lotus Renault test and reserve driver Fauzy.
Photo by Hazrin Yeob Men Shah.

About his move to the rival Lotus Renault team -- both teams are locked into a dispute about the Lotus name -- Fauzy was short on his comments. "It feels especially exciting to join Renault because of their new partnership with Lotus, and I'm very proud to be here at the start of a new era for the team." The legal battle between the Lotus teams doesn't seem to be a problem for Fauzy, he is only interested in Formula One, and not in name issues. "It's also a great opportunity for me to improve as a driver and learn as much as I can about Formula One so that, hopefully one day, I can be on the grid myself," he said in a statement.

Team principal Eric Boullier about Fauzy's chances to land a race seat in the future, "We will focus on Fairuz's progress and evaluate his capabilities to be a race driver for us." Fauzy has raced in GP2 in 2005 for the French Dams team, in 2006 for the Super Nova team, and will return again to GP2 this season. He also competed in the A1 Grand Prix series from 2005 to 2008 for the A1 Team Malaysia. He won the Sprint Race of the Dutch A1GP in 2008.

Lotus Renault has also announced they will be racing under a British license in the future, as according to Boullier, Lotus is a British manufacturer. "It means that if we win, we will play the British national anthem. And that is important for everybody inside the team. We are re-branding everything inside the company now," Boullier stated during the Autosport International Show (AIS) at Birmingham. Although the name Lotus Renault GP is now circulating in the media, the FIA still has to approve the name change, on the official 2011 entry list which was published in December last year, the team is still listed as the "Renault F1 Team'. The FIA has to this day not given any comments on the fact two team could use the name Lotus this year, neither have they given their opinion whether this is acceptable or not.

Meanwhile, the row about the Lotus name has taken another turn. Group Lotus has applied for an initial hearing with a summary judgment which is set for Monday January 24. A summary judgment is generally applied for by parties involved in a legal dispute to avoid a full trial and the inevitable usually very high legal costs involved in such a full trial. On Monday Group Lotus CEO Dany Bahar admitted the case is still 'on' and Lotus Renault and Team Lotus have appointed lawyers to represent them next Monday.

But Bahar remains optimistic and has also hinted the matter could still be settled out of court, but he also made it clear Group Lotus will go all the way if necessary. "I don't think it [the dispute] will be a matter solved by English courts. I think it will be solved before that. But if we have to go the legal way, we will, and our shareholders will support that," he said. But Team Lotus CEO Riad Asmat has revealed he has heard nothing from Bahar or Group Lotus. "We haven't heard anything from them - we haven't talked to them recently," Asmat said.

Black, but not gold?

The new Lotus Renault black and gold livery which was introduced during the AIS has also attracted the attention of Canadian authorities. The black and gold livery which was the livery of tobacco sponsor John Player Special (JPS) could break Canadian laws, as promotion of tobacco is prohibited according to the 1997 Canadian Tobacco Act.

The black and gold livery of the Lotus Renault.
Photo by Max Davies.

In December 2010 the Canadian Department of Justice published a definition of the word 'promoting' regarding the Tobacco Act (1997, c. 13): "18. (1) In this Part, "promotion" means a representation about a product or service by any means, whether directly or indirectly, including any communication of information about a product or service and its price and distribution, that is likely to influence and shape attitudes, beliefs and behaviours about the product or service." In contrary to popular believe, the brand name JPS still exists today, it doesn't have the black and gold livery anymore, but one can still find it in the local tobacco shop.

The late Colin Chapman made fame and fortune with the black and gold livery, in fact it was so popular with the fans they even today still refer to the Lotus Formula One cars of the 70's and 80's as the JPS Lotuses. Unfortunately for Renault, tobacco laws around the world prohibit any form of sponsoring or endorsement of tobacco products, the popularity of the JPS livery could backfire, and Renault will have a hard time proving the black and gold color scheme is not a reminder of the JPS brand, even without the presence of the JPS name the link is all too obvious. Last year Ferrari were accused of 'subliminal advertising', because they still carried the typical barcode of a package of Marlboro cigarettes on their car, and hastily decided to remove it.

Late McLaren launch leads to speculations

McLaren's decision to join the first testing days at Jerez on February 1-3 with an interim car and not with the new McLaren MP4-26A, has led to interesting speculations in the media. There are speculations McLaren has designed a radical a new device which makes their car very fast, and doesn't want the other teams to see it before the season really kicks off. Those speculations are of course fuelled by the 'secret' F-Duct McLaren introduced last year, a wing stalling device which gave additional speed on the straights. And there was of course the Red Bull trick, the exhaust fumes were guided along the diffuser, and during pre-season testing Red Bull had even put stickers of a fake exhaust on the RB5 to mislead 'voyeurs' from other teams.

No secrets this year according to Mclaren.
Photo by xpb.cc.

In an interview with the UK Mail online, team principal Martin Whitmarsh has denied the rumors. Whitmarsh about the decision to postpone the launch of the new car, "We took that decision some time ago. We have chosen to give our aerodynamicists and engineers an extra 10 days -- which doesn't sound much but in Formula One terms that's a long period of time -- to find more performance." And added, "So it was always our intention [to launch late], regardless of how people interpret it, and at the end of the day it doesn't matter."

Instead, Whitmarsh is concerned perhaps McLaren has missed something other teams did not. "In this sport we're working extra hard to be ultra competitive, we think we're doing a good job, but there may be a eureka moment from one of the teams that we've all missed," he said. "But there is always that fear, that anticipation in the back of your mind that someone -- and it could be the smallest team -- finds a breakthrough none of us do and suddenly we're embarrassed."

Join us again next week for another episode of "Formula One: On and off track"


See also: Formula One - On and Off track week 2

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Series GENERAL , F1