Formula One - On and Off Track week 13

Formula One - On and Off Track week 13

By: Berthold Bouman, F1 Correspondent

Story Highlights

  • Sauber will not appeal disqualification
  • Senna says Prost is his rival and not Mansell
  • More Melbourne misery for HRT
  • More misery from the Spanish home front

Sauber will not appeal disqualification

The Sauber team was disqualified from the Australian Grand Prix after the FIA scrutineers discovered the upper element of the C30 rear wing did not comply to the 2011 regulations. A shock for the whole team, and certainly for rookie Sergio Perez who made an impressive Formula One debut and finished in seventh position, ahead of his team colleague Kamui Kobayashi.

The Sauber C30 rear wing
The Sauber C30 rear wing

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Technical Director James Key was very disappointed to say the least, “This is a very surprising and disappointing result. It appears that there is a question over the top surface of the uppermost rear wing element, this area is not the working surface of the component and therefore relatively unimportant to its function.”

He also denied the illegal rear wing helped the performance of the C30. “Certainly this has not led to any performance advantage. We are checking the design of the parts now to better understand the situation and we intend to appeal the decision made by the stewards,” Key said on Sunday. But after a thorough investigation Sauber today stated they would drop the appeal.

“We have since found that there was an error in the checking process for the relevant dimension on this component. We have already put measures in place to ensure that nothing of this kind occurs again in the future,” Key said.

Both Sergio and Kamui put in a tremendous performance on Sunday

Peter Sauber

Team owner Peter Sauber was also disappointed and apologized for the fact both drivers were robbed of their championship points. “Both Sergio and Kamui put in a tremendous performance on Sunday. They gained no advantage from the inaccurate rear wing. They both fought hard to secure their finishing places and had really earned their points,” The Swiss said.

The C30 certainly has a lot of potential, it was quick during the pre-season testing days, and both drivers were quick again last weekend. Therefore Sauber remains upbeat ahead of the Malaysian Grand Prix. “Notwithstanding the disappointment, we have shown that we have a fast car and two highly talented drivers. It makes me optimistic for this season,” team owner Sauber said.

Senna says Prost is his rival, and not Mansell

Has Scotty from starship Enterprise beamed us back to the 1980s, one might think after reading this headline. But not, these are more or less the words of 2008 champion Lewis Hamilton, who apparently has regained his confidence in the McLaren MP4-26 again, and although he didn’t say it directly, is now cocky enough to compare himself with the greatest Formula One driver of all times: Ayrton Senna.

Three of the ‘fab four’ Alain Prost, Ayrton Senna and Nigel Mansell
Three of the ‘fab four’ Alain Prost, Ayrton Senna and Nigel Mansell

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In an interview with the UK Guardian, Hamilton compared the situation with his archrivals Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel with the 1980s, when Senna and Alain Prost stretched the word ‘archrival’ to the absolute limit. The animosity between the two became legendary when they both drove for McLaren during the 1988 and 1989 season.

In 2007 Alonso and Hamilton already had a difficult relationship, which ended in tears during the Hungarian Grand Prix, when Alonso deliberately stayed 10 seconds longer in the McLaren pit, just long enough to prevent Hamilton, who was parked behind him in the pit waiting for his turn to change to new tyres, from putting a last-minute super fast lap on the clock.

With that in mind, Hamilton commented Alonso is his archrival, and not Vettel, “I will always think that my nemesis and my closest rival will always be Fernando.” And continued, “Just because of my history, when I started out. I see him as my Prost, if we were Prost and Senna. If you were to say 'choose a driver' I would clearly choose Ayrton. And maybe I would put him [Alonso] as Prost.”

Not that I would rate him like I do Mansell!

Lewis Hamilton

Asked why Vettel wasn’t his direct nemesis, he replied: “If he continues to have a car like he does now then, maybe, but I think when we get equal pace then we will see some serious racing. Maybe he is the new Mansell? Not that I would rate him like I do Mansell!”

One of the names of the ‘fab’ four of the 1980s is still missing, Nelson Piquet, who won three World Championships and was therefore more successful than Mansell, who only won the championship once in 1992. If Hamilton insists on comparing today’s situation with the early 1980s, Jenson Button could be Mansell, Hamilton could be Piquet, Alonso could be Prost and … Vettel could perhaps become another Senna.

But it is silly to compare anyone with the ‘fab four’ of the 1980s: Senna, Prost, Piquet and Mansell. Certainly no driver on the 2011 grid can be compared with Senna, who unfortunately never had the chance to score his fourth or perhaps even fifth title as he tragically lost his life during that black weekend in Imola in 1994, when Hamilton was only nine years old!

More Melbourne misery for HRT

Not just a miserable weekend for Mercedes and Williams, but also for the Hispania Racing Team, or HRT for short. Ahead of the race, Dr. Colin Kolles, HRT Team Principal was positive about the new car, the F111, “We will run our new car for the first time on Friday, and hopefully there won’t be too many surprises. We are confident that our package is better, quicker and more reliable than last year’s. We have definitely taken a step forward.”

Despite his optimism the team arrived on Thursday with an incomplete car, and although the mechanics worked hard to get the car ready, Liuzzi only managed to do one lap at the end of the second practice session on Friday. On Saturday both cars were on the track for a few laps, but during qualifying they failed to meet the 107 percent rule and were not allowed to start the race on Sunday.

Colin Kolles, Hispania Racing Team, Team Principal
Colin Kolles, Hispania Racing Team, Team Principal

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The team came with all kind of statements and excuses, but were not able to disguise the fact they were ill-prepared to say the least for the opening race in Melbourne. Getting information from HRT is -- very appropriate -- like pulling teeth, as the team remains silent about their current situation. Dodging questions seems to be HRT’s hallmark, and the man who leads the team, and in a previous life was indeed pulling teeth, has become a master in making something good out of something bad.

Kolles was perhaps a bit over enthusiastic when he on Saturday after qualifying in Melbourne commented: “We created a miracle again, but it wasn’t enough; we’ll be back in Malaysia stronger than ever. There we will have more time to test the car and show where the F111 really belongs.”

We created a miracle again, but it wasn’t enough; we’ll be back in Malaysia stronger than ever

Colin Kolles

Kolles about the problems the team encountered, “In the end it just couldn’t be, still I’m incredibly proud of my whole team. Our drivers produced the maximum in the least amount of time possible. We managed to get both cars ready in time for qualifying and proved that the car is capable of running a lot quicker than [earlier] today. The circumstances in which we arrived were not as desired.”

If the Bahrain Grand Prix had not been cancelled, HRT would probably not have had the F111 ready in time, for them the cancellation was a blessing. And although they probably knew or at least must have suspected they couldn’t get the car ready in time, they shipped their equipment to Melbourne for a very good reason. Current regulations state that all teams must participate in all venues, not showing up would have cost them a few hundred thousand Euros, something that would most certainly have had a disastrous impact on the team’s budget.

Vitantonio Liuzzi, Hispania Racing Team, HRT
Vitantonio Liuzzi, Hispania Racing Team, HRT

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Before he embarked on his new HRT adventure, driver Vitantonio Liuzzi said he had no plans to buy himself a seat at the HRT team, but Liuzzi received 2 million Euro compensation from his former employer Force India after his 2011 contract was cancelled, and it could very well be Liuzzi decided to use it to get the HRT seat. His team colleague Narain Karthikeyan certainly paid for his drive this year, and brought the sponsoring of the Indian Tata Group, who are seeking publicly ahead of the inaugural Indian Grand Prix on October 30.

But Liuzzi and Karthikeyan might regret their decision to spend their money on HRT, as their CV at the end of the season could become very embarrassing, with a lot DNQ’s behind their name in the official FIA records. If they make it to the end of the season that is, last year Karun Chandhok was replaced with better paying drivers Christian Klien and Sakon Yamamoto, who already worked with Kolles before.

Vitantonio Liuzzi, Hispania Racing Team, HRT
Vitantonio Liuzzi, Hispania Racing Team, HRT

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Today both drivers came with statements in which they stayed loyal to the team, but in the end failed to convince. Karthikeyan said in an interview with Reuters he is still confident the F111 will be up to the right pace in Malaysia. “I'm pretty sure I can adapt pretty quickly. I know the Malaysia circuit really well, I like it,” the Indian said. “If we get the new front wing … [note the big oops here!] I mean, not if, we are going to get it. We are reasonably confident that we will qualify and if all these things happen then we don't have any excuse not to qualify for Malaysia. When it all gets kicking off, I think we are going to surprise a few people.” Indeed, if they get the new front wing, hopefully the new parts will not get stuck at the Spanish or Malaysian customs department.

Why Karthikeyan last weekend said he knows the car is capable to qualify remains a mystery, as he has never done more than 10 laps in the F111. The Malaysian circuit with its long straights and fast high downfore corners will be even a bigger challenge, and it will be even more difficult to comply to the 107 percent rule.

But this must also be said: against all odds HRT is still alive, the mechanics and engineers work frantically around the clock to build a good car, the team spirit is good. They certainly try everything to keep racing in Formula One, but without more money the Spanish dream will come to an end, simply because miracles don’t exists in Formula One.

More misery from the Spanish home front

As if the weekend in Australia wasn’t miserable enough, Carlos Garcia, head of the Spanish motor racing federation on Monday made the misery complete by stating he was very disappointed in the Spanish HRT outfit, who became the first victim of the re-introduced 107 percent qualifying rule. “I am annoyed at their attitude. I wouldn't say disappointed, because you could see this coming,” Garcia told Radio Marca.

I wouldn't say disappointed, because you could see this coming

Carlos Garcia

And continued his rant, “I want a Spanish Formula One team that is serious and with the necessary budgets, not a team that is made a fool of. Hispania has not done its homework. You cannot be in Formula One in such precarious conditions.”

One of the FIA stewards, ex-Formula One driver Johnny Herbert admitted it had been a tough decision to oust the Spanish team from the race on Sunday. “I felt bad, but you cannot compete in Formula One on the cheap,” the Briton said. But he also hopes HRT will have learned a lesson in Australia, “Hopefully this setback will give the team the kick they need to get ready to compete properly in Malaysia with the right funding.”

Join us again next week for another episode of “Formula One: On and off track”

Formula One - On and Off Track week 12

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About this article
Series General , Formula 1
Drivers Jenson Button , Johnny Herbert , Fernando Alonso , Narain Karthikeyan , Nigel Mansell , Lewis Hamilton , Alain Prost , Ayrton Senna , Nelson Piquet , Peter Sauber , Karun Chandhok , Vitantonio Liuzzi , Christian Klien , Sebastian Vettel , Kamui Kobayashi , Sakon Yamamoto , Colin Kolles , Sergio Perez , Carlos Garcia
Teams Sauber , Force India , Williams
Tags hamilton, hrt, sauber, senna