Formula One - On and Off track week 52


Formula One 2011 testing dates, Alonso optimistic ahead of 2011, HRT still not in a hurry.

Formula One 2011 testing dates

With only two days to go before this year officially comes to an end, it is time to open the 2011 agenda and write down the new appointments for January and February. As usual, all Formula One teams will be present at the official pre-season testing days, which will take place in Spain and Bahrain in 2011. After months of designing and building, it will be the first chance for teams to test the new cars under race conditions, an exciting time, as they also will see for the first time what their competitors have designed, and how fast they exactly are.

Alsonso last year at Valencia.
Photo by xpb.cc.

Red Bull Racing's designer Adrian Newey believes it is too early to predict whether the new RB7 will be just as fast as the RB6 was this year. The UK Milton Keynes-based team is the favorite for 2011, but Newey thinks with the recent rule changes in mind, any team can come up with a super fast design. Newey also admitted his RB7 design is an evolution of the RB6, and not a complete new design.

"It [the 2011 RB7] is a further evolution of the current series. The DNA of the car is the same," said Newey to an Austrian online sports magazine. Asked whether he expects there will be protests again about the legality of the new design like there were this season he replied: "I hope so! Because that would mean we have done a good job again. If you're out the front in Formula One, everyone always thinks you are cheating."

The double diffuser and F-Duct will be banned next year, a new moveable rear wing will be introduced, and the Kinetic Energy Recovery System (KERS) will be re-introduced. The use of the system will not be mandatory, and earlier this month Team Lotus technical director Mike Gascoyne said his team will not use the system at the start of the season, "We will have the adjustable rear wing but not KERS for the start of the season - it's in development - really because of engineering resource."

Gascoyne doesn't think KERS will be a major step forward for the team, "Over one lap, it's still not a big plus for its effort, involvement and negatives. At the start of the year, KERS is not going to be the thing that gives us the step up. It's all the other things, and we've taken the choice to concentrate on all those because if we don't get them right, KERS isn't going to make a difference." Although they haven't made any official comments about it yet, it is believed HRT and Marussia Virgin Racing will not race with the KERS system either next year.

It is expected most teams will launch their car just days before the official testing commences on February 1, 2011. The Sauber F1 Team will launch their new Sauber C30-Ferrari on January 31, and Toro Rosso's STR6 will be launched on February 1. These are the dates of the official testing days:

Formula One pre-season testing days
February 1-3Valencia, SpainRicardo Tormo Circuit
February 10-13Jerez, SpainCircuito de Jerez
February 18-21Barcelona, SpainCircuito de Catalunya
March 3-6Sakhir, BahrainBahrain International Circuit

Meanwhile, new tyre supplier Pirelli has concluded its last tests of the year at Bahrain last week, with Spaniard Pedro de la Rosa and French-Swiss driver Romain Grosjean behind the wheel of the 2009 Toyota. Pirelli motor sport director Paul Hembery was happy with the results, "We ran two drivers in order to compare two different sets of feedback, and the fact that they were both saying the same positive things at the end of the test only underlines the progress that we have made." And added, "There's still some work to do, but we can head into 2011 with confidence."

Pirelli tester Grosjean about his experience with the Pirellis, "The programmed was quite diverse, including sequences of short and long runs, to understand the behavior of the compound. I immediately felt an improvement over the tyres that I had used at Monza." The Italian tyre company has two other test days on the agenda in 2011:

Pirelli Formula One tyre testing days
January 9-10Sakhir, BahrainBahrain International Circuit
January 15-18Abu Dhabi, United Arab EmiratesYas Marina Circuit

Pirelli will continue to test with the Formula One teams during the first testing days in Valencia, Spain, on February 1-3.

Alonso optimistic ahead of 2011

Fernando Alonso was elected Driver of the Year by the Formula One team principals earlier this month, he was followed by Vettel, Lewis Hamilton, Webber and Robert Kubica. Of course Alonso was proud to have finished in first place, "I am delighted to know that most of the team directors chose me as the driver of the year, although it need hardly be said that I would have preferred to receive the honor in the form of the world title."

Alosno is no afraid of Vettel.
Photo by FIA.

"It offers yet another reason to rate this as a magnificent season, despite the disappointment at the final obstacle. The team and I never gave up, even when it all looked like a lost cause: we will be taking considerable steps forward for next year and striving to do things better. My memory of 2010 is that of a wonderful year," he commented on his website. But although he lost the battle for the title this year, he remains optimistic about his chances next year. "Every Ferrari driver has to be in there fighting for the title. You start with that as your hope, but we all know how challenging a goal it is," he said. "We have to get down to work. We now have a few months to get the new car ready. We will have to work hard with the designers, the engineers and try to find something that the other teams don't have."

Alonso is adamant he will have a faster car in 2011, "Everything is always open to improvement, and a team like Ferrari is always pushing the envelope. Next year we will have a much better car than this time around. We hope that will be enough, and that the other teams will not be able to improve so much." He was clear about the 2011 rule changes, "The ones who adapt best will have a slight advantage. The changes are substantial and I think that this year there will finally be more opportunities to overtake, and hopefully that will make for more spectacular races for those sitting at home watching."

More and more rumors have surfaced that suggest Vettel could become Alsonso's team colleague one day, Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo hinted Vettel will join Ferrari 'sooner or later', while Vettel has always expressed his interest in Ferrari, and has recently said driving for the Maranello-based team is 'a desire and goal.' What does Alonso think about these rumors? "I'm not worried about someone coming [to Ferrari] or not. I don't have much more to say on the matter. The truth is that it wouldn't be a problem whether Vettel or anyone else comes."

As he has always done, Alonso hinted he has had no problems keeping up with his team colleagues in the past, and he is confident it will not happen in the future either, "I'm not afraid to face any team-mate, because I've never feared them. None of my team-mates have ever done a single point more than I have, so I don't see why I should be afraid of anyone."

HRT still not in a hurry

The Hispania racing Team have yet to announce their 2011 line-up, HRT stated they are not in a rush to announce their drivers, because they are now fully concentrating on the development of the new 2011 car. HRT owner Jose Ramon Carabante insists HRT will be on the grid next year. "We have been working on it [the new car] for some time and it will be in Bahrain for sure. This year was much more difficult This time we will be in the winter tests." he said.

Geoff Willis designed the new HRT.
Photo by xpb.cc.

But the Spanish El Mundo Deportivo newspaper claims HRT will run the Dallara-designed and built 2010 car during the first testing days, and not the new car. Carabante has revealed the new car is a design of Geoff Willis, and HRT will be working with several suppliers. The car will be built party in England and partly in Germany. After Dallara severed all ties with HRT earlier this year, HRT turned to Toyota for their new car, but that deal fell through, and although Toyota issued a statement that HRT had not met certain financial deadlines, Carabante claims the Cosworth engine was the real problem. "The Cosworth did not fit in the Toyota and we couldn't break the agreement with Cosworth because the clause was that they had to have been one of the least reliable, and they were not."

A very remarkable explanation to say the least, and on top of that Carabante has also ventilated his frustrations about attracting new sponsors. "You go to large companies in this country [Spain] and tell them that with their support you can have the car of Toyota, the use of their facilities and be in the top eight from time to time but they don't support you. We have a Spanish team which would be even more Spanish with a driver like de la Rosa, but the companies did not come in."

The story a Spanish website published earlier this week that HRT was partially sold to Banco Santander and de la Rosa would be the number one driver, was a in fact a hoax, and HRT is still looking for drivers and sponsors.

Happy New Year and join us again next week for another episode of "Formula One: On and off track"


See also: Formula One - On and Off track week 51