Formula One: On and off track - week 6

Formula One: On and off track - week 6

Compound gap, Valencia testing, new teams again, are the Russians leaving already? Japanese tyre manufacturer Bridgestone will supply Formula One with tyres for the last time this season, last year they confirmed they will no longer supply tyres...

Compound gap, Valencia testing, new teams again, are the Russians leaving already?

Japanese tyre manufacturer Bridgestone will supply Formula One with tyres for the last time this season, last year they confirmed they will no longer supply tyres after 2010. Bridgestone announced they will not change their policy regarding the allocation of the tyre compounds. For this year Bridgestone will use four dry tyre compounds, Hard, Medium, Soft and Super Soft. Technical Manager Tetsuro Kobayashi announced that, like last year, Bridgestone will maintain the one compound 'gap', which means there is always a compound gap between the two allocated tyres (Hard and Soft or Medium and Super Soft are the only two possible combinations), rather then to use two consecutive tyre compounds (Hard and Medium or Medium and Soft, or Soft and Super Soft).

Last year in Formula One for Bridgestone.
Photo by xpb.cc.

The problem with using two different compounds is of course that it is very difficult to find a car set-up that will make the most of both compounds, and with an additional gap between the two compounds, this becomes increasingly more difficult. Last year we saw a number of teams who had problems getting enough heat in the tyres, which is vital to get the maximum performance out of them.

The FIA also announced a few changes regarding the use of the tyres, the number of dry weather tyre sets allocated per driver has been reduced from 14 to 11. In addition, to encourage teams to run during the Friday practice sessions, one set has to be returned before the start of the second practice session, and two sets before the start of the third practice session. The FIA also confirmed that teams who qualified in the top 10 will have to use the same tyres they qualified on at the start of the race.

At the first three days of testing at the circuit of Valencia in Spain, Ferrari, Mercedes, McLaren, BMW-Sauber, Renault, Toro Rosso and Williams showed up with their 2010 cars. And looking at the designs, it seems the word 'diffuser' is again the magic word for this season. All cars have been designed around this diffuser (which will be permanently banned after this season), especially the aerodynamic package of the front of the car is important to create and direct the airflow to the all important diffuser. All car designs we have seen sofar, have a common feature, the nose of the car is high up in the air which must be very uncomfortable for the driver's legs.

And again the diffuser design is causing confusion again, in the Italian Gazetta dello Sport, Ferrari's Technical Director Aldo Costa complained that some teams have, in his opinion, stretched the diffuser design to, and sometimes over, the limit. Costa: "We were and still are convinced that the [last year's] double diffuser concept was illegal. We feel there may still be interpretation over this, as the rules leave the door open to many possibilities. It's up to the FIA to supervise, but we are rather worried."

Again speculation about the new teams, non of them showed up at Valencia last week. Time seems to be the biggest enemy for the new teams, and it is believed Campos-Meta is already in financial problems, before the season even has started. It is understood that Campos still has to pay their chassis builder Dallara EUR 4m, and already missed the deadline, but according to Dallara, Campos has been granted a few extra days to sort out their financial problems.

And right on cue, Bernie Ecclestone has revealed that Formula One teams are allowed to skip three races during the season. He believes Campos and US F1 will skip the first three races of the season at Bahrain, Australia and Malaysia. Ecclestone: "I think we won't see Campos and I don't think we will see the Americans, they are going to ask to miss three races."

And again right on cue, FIA president Jean Todt confirmed the Concorde Agreement states that teams can skip three races, but was much more confident that all 13 teams will be present at the start of the season at Bahrain. Referring to the fact that some new teams are having problems with finding sufficient financial funding he said: "Having less money may even be healthy, but in the meantime we'll have 13 teams in F1 this year."

Timo Glock, Lucas di Grassi and Alvaro Parente with the new Virgin Racing VR-01.
Photo by Virgin Racing.

The Virgin team was the first new team to unveil their car, but the by Virgin planned online digital launch was a complete failure, which led to many speculations, some even though the team didn't have a race worthy car. But last Thursday the Virgin VR01 was rolled out at the Silverstone circuit, and German Timo Glock gave the car its maiden run. Earlier that week, the VR-01 passed the FIA rear impact structure crash test, and is now officially fit to run.

Technical Director Nick Wirth: "We are delighted to have sailed through the sign-off of the VR-01's structural integrity in accordance with the FIA's crash testing requirements. The testing programme really gets underway with a full day of on-track evaluation for both Timo Glock and Lucas di Grassi."

Lotus will present their car to the media on February 12 at the Royal Horticultural Hall (which is also a conference centre) in London, and Lotus will join the pre-season testing during the third group test at Valencia. Lotus has already given its green and yellow car a shakedown test at Silverstone yesterday, and Technical Director Mike Gascoyne made it clear Lotus is ready to join the third test. Gascoyne about the shakedown: "We got a good number of laps on it and we did all the systems checks so we can run in anger in Jerez."

US F1 will test in the US, but after last month's announcement that Argentine Jose Maria Lopez has joined the team, there has been no news about the progress of the Charlotte based team.

According to rumors in the German media, freshly recruited Russian driver Vitaly Petrov could already lose its position at Renault. The 25-year old driver has signed a contract with Renault, and had to pay them EUR 15mil this season, the first payment is due before March 1, and the second payment is due in July. According to the German sources, Petrov has sofar failed to secure the necessary sponsor money to finance the career of the Russian, and therefore Petrov's father would take care of the first payment and borrow the money from his bank, but it now seems that Petrov's bank has second thoughts about paying the EUR 7.5mil to Renault.

According to Petrov's father the bank has extended its 'reflection period' on the credit. If Petrov fails to pay before March 1, his son's position at Renault is in jeopardy. But he also revealed that there was hope, and mentioned the name of Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who also happens to be the chairman of the Russian Automobile Federation (RAF), which in its turn is a member of the FIA organization. Whether Putin or the RAF can help Petrov to secure his Renault seat remains to be seen, meanwhile, Petrov's management claims it is a misunderstanding and says Petrov has a 'binding' contract for 2010.

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


See also: Formula One: On and off track - week 5

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About this article
Series General , Formula 1
Drivers Alvaro Parente , Timo Glock , Mike Gascoyne , Jose Maria Lopez , Lucas di Grassi , Jean Todt , Vitaly Petrov , Bernie Ecclestone
Teams Sauber , Toro Rosso , Williams , Virgin Racing