Formula One: On and off track - week 3

Formula One: On and off track - week 3

Shortcuts, Nico's number, rally and testing woes, and 5 million dollar race seats No shortcuts for Bernie Ecclestone, he always likes to say what he thinks, and last week he surprised the Formula One world with yet another great idea to save the...


Shortcuts, Nico's number, rally and testing woes, and 5 million dollar race seats

No shortcuts for Bernie Ecclestone, he always likes to say what he thinks, and last week he surprised the Formula One world with yet another great idea to save the sport: shortcuts. Ecclestone seems to think, and I honestly don't know where he got that idea, that Formula One is still boring, and wants to see more overtaking during a race. Ecclestone wants to legalize cutting corners, a driver can take a shortcut five times to overtake whoever is in front of him, so races will become interesting again. Mr. Ecclestone's ideas seem to become wilder and wilder as he becomes older and older, and by now we are getting very bored by Ecclestone saying Formula One is still boring. To please Mr. Ecclestone, I came up with an even wilder idea that will solve the alleged overtaking problem for once and for all.

Bernie Ecclestone.
Photo by xpb.cc.

If a driver gets stuck behind another driver for more than 4 laps, the FIA will display a mobile phone number at the bottom of the TV screen, and viewers can send a text message to the FIA, something like "Hamilton On" and "Schumacher Off". After five minutes the cell phone ballot is closed and when the FIA has received more messages from viewers who want to see Hamilton overtake Schumacher instead of staying behind him, the FIA will radio a message to the pit crew of both teams, giving them instructions to let Hamilton overtake the unlucky Schumacher, the loser of the cell phone ballot. How's that for audience participation? After all those years Ecclestone doesn't seem to understand that Formula One is a sport, and not an arcade game.

Enough about that. This week we could read in the media that Michael Schumacher wanted Nico's number. His phone number? To call him and give him some advice for the 2010 season? Or did he already hear about my "text message overtaking" proposal? No, no, Schumacher wants the car number the FIA has allocated to Rosberg, start number three. Schumacher is superstitious, he won all his championships in cars with an odd number, and perhaps believes that driving a car with the odd number three on it, will help him to score yet another championship.

Many people criticized Schumacher for this, but last year Rubens Barrichello (12) swapped car numbers with Jenson Button (11) because eleven is his lucky number, the number of the kart in which he won his first race ever. Button didn't mind giving his number eleven to his teammate, and nobody complained about Barrichello's request, and superstitious or not, Button won the championship and Barrichello did not. Maybe Formula One drivers are superstitious, but the FIA is also superstitious, they have never issued the number thirteen in Formula One since the normalization of the numbers system in the middle of the 1970s.

Sebastian Vettel always names his car after a girl, and always climbs out of the car at the right hand side. Nico Hulkenberg and Mark Webber always get into the car from the left side, Alexander Wurz used to wear two different colored shoes, Nico Rosberg won the GP2 championship wearing the same shoes all season, and Fernando Alonso always does his voodoo victory dance on the nose of his car, but always in a different style.

Many habits were seen as a form of superstition, Ayrton Senna always wore his gloves inside out, not because he was superstitious, but because you don't hurt your fingers on the seams when you wear your gloves inside out. Nowadays almost all racing gloves are made with the seams on the outside, and no driver will ever have to wear his gloves inside out anymore, and yes, you probably already guessed it, Wurz later admitted his two different colored race shoes were just a joke.

It seems the World Rally Championship is an irresistible attraction for Formula One drivers. After Kimi Raikkonen, who left Formula One and has now joined the WRC for Citroen, Renault driver Robert Kubica again tried his luck with a rally car, and participated in this year's edition of the prestigious Monte Carlo rally driving a Renault Clio R3. He probably wasn't wearing his lucky gloves, because unfortunately for him, the engine of his car developed a problem during the prologue on the very first day and could not be fixed, and he wasn't even able to take part in the opening leg of the rally. Last year Raikkonen crashed out of the rally of Finland, hopefully he will do better this year.

Another F1 returnee: Pero de la Rosa.
Photo by Daniel James Smith.

Pedro de la Rosa, now 38 years old and one of the older drivers on the grid, has signed a contract with Sauber, and also brings sponsor Banco Santander to the team, de la Rosa will team-up with Japanese driver Kamui Kobayashi. There are now four seats left for this season, Renault and rookie team Campos Meta haven't announced their second driver yet, and the new US F1 team hasn't decided about any of the two race seats there are still available at the Charlotte based team. Many names have been mentioned, but it seems highly unlikely they will keep their promise to hire two American drivers for their all American team. The latest rumors are that Argentine Jos? Maria Lopez and Briton James Rossiter will drive for the US F1 team.

Dutchman Robert Doornbos also negotiated with the new teams about a race seat for 2010, but said that all four rookie teams wanted to see $5 million, and stated he would be better off to invest $5 million in the IndyCar series and get a good car for 2010, rather than to spend it on a place at the back of the Formula One grid.

Official 2010 testing will start at February 1 at the circuit of Valencia in Spain, but sofar there has been one test that drew the attention of all Formula One fans, Michael Schumacher's GP2 test. With a car borrowed from the Supernova team he tested 3 days at the Jerez circuit, the first two days the conditions were not optimal, but on the final day he was able to test in dry conditions on slicks. And with a time of 1:24.621 on his final run, he was four tenths of a second slower than Kamui Kobayashi's GP2 lap record at Jerez.

Schumacher was adamant his neck problems were over, and stated: "I am very happy with the way testing went here: we worked well, times and consistency went well, we could do everything we had scheduled to do. I feel fit, I felt comfortable immediately back in the car - hey, let's go for it!" So, if Schumacher has no neck problems anymore, it could well be he will become a pain in the neck for other drivers who want to win the championship as well this year.

And speaking of "hey, let's go for it", there are a few teams who already announced they will definitely not "go for it" during the first rounds of testing in Spain. We can only presume that their cars are not ready for testing yet, and not only all the new teams, Virgin, Lotus, Campos and US F1, the latter is going to test in the US, will skip the first test, but also Red Bull Racing and Force India will skip the first test and McLaren will join testing on Februari 3, the last day of the first test at Valencia, Spain.

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

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About this article
Series General , Formula 1
Drivers Jenson Button , Pedro de la Rosa , Michael Schumacher , Mark Webber , Kimi Raikkonen , Fernando Alonso , Alexander Wurz , Ayrton Senna , Robert Doornbos , Nico Rosberg , James Smith , James Rossiter , Robert Kubica , Sebastian Vettel , Kamui Kobayashi , Nico Hulkenberg , Bernie Ecclestone
Teams Red Bull Racing , Sauber , Force India , Citroën World Rally Team