Formula One: On and off track - week 11

Formula One: On and off track - week 11

Champions' reunion at Bahrain, FIA Stewards, McLaren's diffuser, Andretti and Lotus Champions' reunion at Bahrain This year Formula One celebrates its 60th birthday, and the Bahrain International Circuit had invited all living Formula One ...

Champions' reunion at Bahrain, FIA Stewards, McLaren's diffuser, Andretti and Lotus

Champions' reunion at Bahrain

This year Formula One celebrates its 60th birthday, and the Bahrain International Circuit had invited all living Formula One champions for a reunion. There are still 20 living champions, and all except Kimi Raikkonen and Nelson Piquet were present at this once-in-a-lifetime event. A truly unique assembly of gentleman racers, who represent a part of the Formula One legacy, and they visibly enjoyed their stay in Bahrain. Those champions are also part of the reason why Formula One still is so immensely popular today, the names of John Surtees, Jackie Stewart, Jack Brabham, Emerson Fittipaldi, Niki Lauda, Jody Scheckter, Mario Andretti and all the other champions are still in the hearts and minds of all Formula One fans.

Sir Jackie Stewart, 1969, 1971, 1973 F1 World Champion drives the 1973 Tyrrell-Ford 006.
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Cars representing 60 years of Grand Prix racing were at display as well, and when possible, the cars on the circuit were driven by the original world champion. Sir Jackie Stewart was reunited with his 1973 Tyrrell 006, Mario Andretti with his 1978 Lotus 79, Emerson Fittipaldi drove his 1972 Lotus 72D, Jody Scheckter his 1979 Ferrari 312T4, Keke Rosberg his 1982 Williams FW08 and Damon Hill his 1996 Williams-Renault FW18. And Joshua Hill, son of Damon Hill, drove the 1968 Lotus 49B in which his grandfather Graham Hill scored his second and last championship title.

Jody Scheckter said about his outing in his 1979 Ferrari (he owns the car and normally parks it in a barn on his farm in South Africa): "I've only driven the car twice in the past ten years, once for a Nelson Mandela charity event and once for Ferrari's 60th anniversary. It's really good to see so many of these guys here at one time. I came to the race here in Bahrain two years ago, it's really impressive and the facilities are state-of-the-art. I'm glad to come back and enjoy the occasion."

If you are interested in more pictures of this unique event, a link to Motorsport's photo pages of the 60th Anniversary of the F1 World Championship can be found below.

More pictures of Formula One's 60th Anniversary event at Bahrain

FIA Stewards

The reunion was also a good opportunity for the FIA to see whether some of those champions were prepared to take part in the FIA F1 Stewards panel. In an effort to improve the consistency and credibility of the rule-enforcing process, which has been heavily criticized during the last few years, the FIA decided to appoint an experienced former Formula One driver to join the three permanent stewards of the panel, the new panel will be present during all Formula One races this year. Each driver will join the panel for two races, and they have full voting power. Last weekend at Bahrain, four-time world champion Frenchman Alain Prost assisted the FIA stewards.

In the past the FIA Stewards panel had three FIA stewards and one steward representing the national sporting authority of the hosting country, and a non-voting chairman. This year there will be no non-voting chairman, and instead each group of stewards will elect their own chairman amongst themselves for every Grand Prix. FIA President Jean Todt expects Prost and other drivers will make a strong contribution to the Stewards panel. They will be representing the drivers. Damon Hill, Johnny Herbert, Alexander Wurz and Heinz-Harald Frentzen have also agreed to take part in the Stewarts panel.

Nigel Mansell told the BBC he had a chat with the FIA, but hasn't made a decision yet. Mansell about the changes: "I think it is a marvelous idea what they [FIA] are doing, because if there is a coming together they [the fourth steward] can give their input. Obviously, then the other stewards can interpret the rules and deem what the final penalty will be but I just think it's very smart to give it more credibility. Past World Champions are in a position to do that, and all credit to the FIA and everybody thinking about it."

McLaren's diffuser

The FIA ruled in Bahrain that Mclaren's updated rear diffuser is illegal. McLaren has used the hole for the external engine starter as a sort of extra diffuser by making the hole much larger than it needs to be. It seems the FIA doesn't want another diffuser controversy like in 2009, and because they suspect other teams will soon follow McLaren, the FIA has announced they will make the necessary changes to the regulations and specify the maximum opening for the external starter. The FIA has given McLaren no options at all, the diffuser has to be changed before the race in Melbourne.

Even Bernie Ecclestone couldn't resist the temptation and took a closer look at the McLaren.
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The inlet system McLaren has introduced, which didn't really help them to gain more straight-line speed at Bahrain, was approved by the FIA, but the last word hasn't been said about it. The clever but controversial air inlet system, which is located on the top of the nose in front of the cockpit, allows air to travel through the inlet towards the rear wing.

Renault's managing director Bob Bell: "It's fundamentally clear that the McLaren inlet and wing design is totally illegal. I think that it's ridiculous in this era, when we are all trying to save money. Now we have just opened up another arms race which will cost us all a lot of money, it's just a nonsense. I think the governing body needs to be more responsible when making decisions like this." Lotus' technical director Mike Gascoyne is also not happy with the decision, but was a bit more diplomatic when asked about the McLaren air inlet: "Everyone is going to do it, no one will have an advantage, we will go and spend loads of money -- and for what?"

Mario Andretti and Lotus

Lotus has asked 70-year old former Formula One world champion Mario Andretti to play a role in the present Malaysian Lotus team. What his role exactly will be is not clear yet. Andretti was impressed with the progress the new Lotus team has made: "Mike Gascoyne has done a phenomenal job to bring it [the team] here and this is for real. In the first few races, they obviously won't be on the pace, but I think, by mid-season, you will probably see quite a surprising improvement there, where the team will be a force to be reckoned with." the 1978 Italian-American champion added.

Andretti is convinced the late Colin Chapman, the legendary owner and designer of the original Lotus team, would have been proud of the Malaysian Lotus team. Finland's Heikki Kovalainen and Italian Jarno Trulli ended on fifteenth and seventeenth place last weekend, while other newcomers Virgin Racing and HRT F1 had to retire from the race. And with that achievement, the Malaysian Lotus team has brought a little piece of the Formula One heritage back to present day Grand Prix racing.

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

See also: Formula One: On and off track - week 10

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About this article
Series General , Formula 1
Drivers Jarno Trulli , Johnny Herbert , Heinz-Harald Frentzen , Kimi Raikkonen , Nigel Mansell , Jackie Stewart , Mario Andretti , Niki Lauda , Alain Prost , Damon Hill , Nelson Piquet , Keke Rosberg , Emerson Fittipaldi , Heikki Kovalainen , Jack Brabham , Mike Gascoyne , Jody Scheckter , John Surtees , Graham Hill , Jean Todt , Bernie Ecclestone , Colin Chapman
Teams Williams