Sebastian Vettel conquers Berlin, No changes at Ferrari, FIA announces 2011 entries
Sebastian Vettel conquers Berlin
Freshly-crowned Formula One champion Sebastian Vettel continued his championship celebrations in his home country Germany this weekend. After his title winning race in Abu Dhabi the 23-year old Vettel has been celebrating his title, he visited Austria, the Red Bull factory in Milton Keynes, UK, and during a visit to his hometown Heppenheim, he was cheered on by some 20,000 spectators, not bad for a small town of just over 25,000 inhabitants. Last weekend Vettel saw one of his dreams come true when he gave a demonstration run in his Red Bull Formula One car in the streets of Berlin, the capital of Germany.
The authorities had constructed a temporary street circuit, the Fan Mile, around the Brandenburg Gate, a former city gate, which has become the main German symbol of freedom after the fall of the Berlin Wall in December 1989. On Saturday Vettel gave a spectacular show in front of his home crowd, no less than 85,000 people showed up to see 'Baby Schumi' perform donuts and burn-outs with the Brandenburg Gate in the background. Despite the cold weather, there was even some snow, Vettel made history when he skillfully rushed his winning Red Bull RB6 through the streets of Berlin.
"It was a dream come true for me today and it was great that so many people were here, even in the cold weather. It's something very special to drive in front of the Brandenburg Gate and to leave a signature of rubber written by my slicks! You don't get such a chance very often in life it was a great day," the German wrote on his blog. And added, "I just want to thank all my fans at home in Germany for their support and give them the opportunity to experience the RB6 up close and to celebrate the title with me."
Later that Saturday he was off to Dusseldorf for the Race of Champions (ROC), an indoor race festival. The youngest-ever Formula One champion teamed up with another German icon, seven-times World Champion Michael Schumacher, and together they won the ROC Nations' Cup for Team Germany. Vettel was again cheered on by thousands of German fans. "The moment I went out on to the track everyone stood up and went crazy. It was a really cool night for all the fans, as well as for Schumacher and myself to get so much support," he said.
On Saturday evening he give an demonstration in his Red Bull car, and again fans went crazy when they saw their hero slide through the narrow corners of the indoor circuit. On Sunday he fought with Schumacher during one of the quarter-finals, a fight he won. But Vettel didn't make it to the final after he was beaten by Portuguese Filipe Albuquerque, who won the Drivers' Cup on Sunday. Vettel about his defeat, "That's how it goes, Albuquerque drove a good race. With races coming so fast and just one race for the quarter and semi-finals, sometimes it works for you and sometimes it doesn't."
No changes at Ferrari
Ferrari suffered a big blow during the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, the team deployed the wrong race strategy, which in the end deprived Fernando Alonso from scoring a third World Championship title. Ever since that weekend in Abu Dhabi, the Italian media have been speculating about whose head was going to roll, because that was inevitable according to the Italian media. Until now Ferrari President Luca di Montezemolo has denied there will be major chances at the Reds in the future, and even praised his Maranello-based team for the commitment and determination they have showed this season.
"Right from Sunday night in Abu Dhabi I immediately tried to console our guys who were crying in the garage, spurring them to immediately look to the future," the Italian said during Ferrari's end-of-the-year Mondiali event at the Ricardo Tormo circuit last weekend. Montezemolo hinted there will be no major changes within the team. When asked about possible team chances he replied, "Changes within the team? That is not our philosophy, because for years now we have adopted a policy based on dynamic stability. A few minor adjustments are possible, but no major upheaval."
He indicated he was happy with the role of team principal Stefano Domenicali. "I am very happy with the work with which Stefano Domenicali is moving us forward, with great ability, spirit and a sense of balance." He also made it clear Fernando Alonso is the right driver for Ferrari. "Alonso was amazing, both on and off the track, determined and full of self-belief, a real driving force," the Ferrari boss said. He was, again, a bit more cautious about Felipe Massa's position within the team, "I expect a lot from Felipe next year: I am sure he will return to being the man we saw in 2008." Sounds familiar doesn't it?
Another important man in the Ferrari team, technical director Aldo Costa, gave some insight on Ferrari's position in an interview with the Italian La Repubblica. "I'm not for the automatic 'error-guilt-punishment' approach. I prefer a more rational response, where we understand what happened and what went wrong, and then we act." Costa also believes racing is a team effort, and blaming one person for all the problems would be the wrong approach. "We must make sure that certain decisions are shared, with responsibility not resting on one set of shoulders," he said.
Apart from Domenicali and Costa, other key figures within the team are Luca Marmorini, engine and electronics director; Nikolas Tombazis, chief designer; and Australian Chris Dyer, who is Ferrari's chief engineer and in charge of race strategies. The latter has been under fire after the disastrous Abu Dhabi weekend, but as Costa said, it would not be fair to blame him, as others also have been involved in the decisions that were made in Abu Dhabi. And perhaps Costa came to the only right conclusion when he said: "Let's be clear, we didn't lose the championship because of our strategy in Abu Dhabi, but because our car was too slow."
Montezemolo has recently invited the world's media for a meeting at December 16 at Fiorano, and there are now speculations he might even announce his own retirement from Formula One racing. The 63-year old Montezemolo has never made it a secret he has political ambitions, and with the by Silvio Berlusconi led Italian government now on the brink of collapse, this might be the right time for Montezemolo to make his first appearance in politics.
However, the step from racing to politics is a huge one, the only successful politician with a clear Formula One background is Argentine Carlos Reutemann. After his 10-year Formula One racing career -- he participated in 142 races which included 12 victories and 45 podium places -- he served two terms as the Governor of Santa Fe. He later refused to run for governor again, and during the 2003 elections, 'Lole', as his nickname was, won a seat in the Argentine National Senate, which he until this day still occupies.
FIA announces 2011 entries
Yesterday, Formula One's governing body the FIA, published the list of 2011 contenders. Although Bernie Ecclestone predicted the 2011 season will start with just 10 teams, 12 teams are on the official FIA 2011 entry list. There are no surprises concerning the big four teams, Red Bull Racing -- who will next year run with the number one and two on their car -- McLaren, Ferrari and Mercedes will have the same driver line-up as this year. Two other teams, the Sauber F1 Team and Team Lotus are listed with a complete 2011 driver line-up, Lotus are listed with Heikki Kovalainen and Jarno Trulli, and Sauber with Kamui Kobayashi and Sergio Perez.
The list confirms the current BMW-Sauber-Ferrari team will race under the new Sauber F1 Team flag next year, while Lotus will race under the name Team Lotus in 2011. Lotus seems to be optimistic about the name dispute they have with Malaysian car manufacturer Proton and Group Lotus. A Lotus spokesman has confirmed the FIA list is correct and team owner Tony Fernandes said about the name change on Twitter: "We made the call after tremendous support from [the] public. Team Lotus it is." But he also hinted the name dispute is not quite over yet, "Sure there will be many battles ahead but Hingham [the team's headquarters] is pumped."
Lotus has asked for the help of their supporters on their official website, and have asked them to design the livery of the 2011 car, which Team Lotus themselves envision as the traditional black and gold livery from the seventies and eighties. The Colin Chapman owned Lotus team became legendary with the black and gold livery of their John Player Special tobacco sponsor, a livery that has become a classic in Formula One and still lives on in the memories of many Formula One fans.
Interesting is the fact Renault is listed as "Renault F1 Team", as the Proton-owned Group Lotus had recently announced they will be working close together with Renault, and it was expected the name would be changed into Lotus-Renault. However, the game about the Lotus name is not over, at the beginning of next year, a London court will decide who is the rightful owner of the name Team Lotus: Fernandes or Proton.
Virgin Racing is now officially listed as "Marussia Virgin Racing", which indicates Virgin boss Sir Richard Branson has finalized the long expected deal with the Russian Marussia Motors car manufacturer, who were already sponsoring the team this year. The carbon fiber Marussia B1 and B2 super cars are equipped with Cosworth engines, and the company also produces the F2 SUV. Marussia is looking to expand their business in Europe, and have plans to open showrooms in London and Monaco, and there are also plans to open factories in Germany and Belgium to increase the production capacity as they also have plans to launch a range of normal production cars in 2011.
The list also shows there are still nine of the 24 available race seats vacant, as Force India, Toro Rosso, HRT and Marussia Virgin Racing have not announced the names of their drivers. Williams have today announced Pastor Maldonado will be their second driver in 2011, Renault have not announced the name of their second driver yet. The big surprise are the two vacancies at Toro Rosso, neither Jaime Alguersuari nor Sebastien Buemi have been confirmed, despite the fact both the team and drivers had recently indicated the pair would stay at Toro Rosso.
A race seat at Force India seems to be in hot demand, Italian Vitantonio Liuzzi wants to stay with the team, while his colleague Adrian Sutil hasn't made a decision yet. Sutil has only one other option left, the vacancy at Renault, but unfortunately for him, about a dozen other drivers are also in a race for the seat at Renault. Nico Hulkenberg is mentioned as a second driver at Renault or Force India, while another dozen of rookies are looking for an opportunity to enter Formula One.
Current Marussia Virgin drivers Timo Glock and Lucas di Grassi, and HRT drivers Sakon Yamamoto, Christian Klien and Bruno Senna want to stay, but with so many candidates, and some of them have promised to bring a big bag of money, their future is very uncertain. Marussia Virgin might want to hire a Russian driver, and the financially struggling HRT team seems only to be interested in drivers who are backed by a big sponsor.
A pity, because talent is the most important asset a Formula One driver has, and not the money of his sponsor. Unfortunately, not all teams share this opinion, or their financial position has forced them to hire a paying driver, and Glock, di Grassi, Hulkenberg, Klien, Senna, Sutil, Nick Heidfled and Pedro de la Rosa have recently complained about how difficult it is to land a race seat in Formula One these days. There will be a lot of negotiating going on behind the scenes this winter, not to mention the speculations about who's going to drive where, it will be a long silly season this season.
Join us again next week for the weekly "Formula One: On and off track"
See also: Formula One - On and Off track week 47