Formula One: On and off track - week 17

Formula One: On and off track - week 17

The revival of Stefan GP, The quest for tyres, F1 back to the US, no dream start for Michael Schumacher The revival of Stefan GP, The Serbian Stefan GP F1 team led by Zoran Stefanovic has again big plans to become the 13th team in Formula One...

The revival of Stefan GP, The quest for tyres, F1 back to the US, no dream start for Michael Schumacher

The revival of Stefan GP,

The Serbian Stefan GP F1 team led by Zoran Stefanovic has again big plans to become the 13th team in Formula One next year. Earlier this year they tried to force their way into F1 by publishing an avalanche of press releases, stating they were ready for the first race at Bahrain, and they were apparently so optimistic they already had shipped their gear to Bahrain. The Serbian outfit had a contract with Toyota to use the 2010 car and engines and had hired ex-McLaren designer Mike Coughlan as technical director. But Stevanovic's application was turned down, after the demise of the US F1 team he tried his luck again, but to no avail, the FIA decided to re-open a complete new selection process for 2011.

New selection procedure for 13th F1 team in 2011.
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Stefanovic has re-opened his website and in one of his news items he announces he and his AMCO Corporation have signed a contract to build the Stefan Technology Park, including a F1 track, near the city of Stara Pazova, 25 km south of Serbia's capital Belgrade. He has published pictures of a press conference where he poses together with Goran Jovi?, the mayor of Stara Pazova, after signing the contract. He also stated on his website: "I still believe that F1 would be a much more interesting competition with SGP, and my team and I feel like the battle is just starting. We want to be a part of F1 for both the long and short term future, and I hope that we will finally have the success we deserve."

However, on the website there is no word about the Toyota contract, which has been ended earlier this year, nor is there anything to find about financial backing, technical partners, drivers, or the car and engine they will race. To impress the fans SGP also published a list of drivers they talked to for the 2010 season, which includes the names of Jacques Villeneuve, Kazuki Nakajima, Ralf Schumacher, Takuma Sato, Narain Karthikeyan and Sebastien Loeb. It is also unknown whether SGP actually has officially entered the FIA selection process for 2011. Stevanovic is still optimistic to say the least, and has started an action in which he asks his fans to make a photo of the slogan "We want SGP" written on the "craziest places possible" and email them to the team. The best photo will be rewarded with a free trip to the first SGP F1 race, including a visit to the SGP pit box...

The quest for tyres

F1 still hasn't found a future tyre supplier after Japanese tyre manufacturer Bridgestone earlier this year announced they are no longer interested in F1. Tyre companies Avon-Cooper, Pirelli and Michelin have expressed their interest, Michelin only wants to return if they get paid, while Avon-Cooper and Pirelli are willing to supply tyres for free. Michelin also wants to reintroduce the element of competition, and don't want to be the sole tyre supplier.

Michelin and Pirelli are also pushing for the introduction of 18 inch rims, instead of the 13 inch rims which are now in use. The reason is simple: they want to supply 'road relevant' tyres, which would also be cheaper and 'greener' to produce. They could also use the technology developed for F1 in the construction of their road tyres, and in their marketing strategy they want to re-introduce the affinity between F1 and normal road tyres.

But the smaller teams don't want to pay for tyres, and are not in favor of changing the rim size, because that means they have to design a new suspension system. The FOTA seems to be in favor of the return of Michelin, but it has emerged there could be another solution. Ecclestone, who is backed by the smaller teams, wants to use non-branded cheaper tyres, and the rumors are that Avon could supply those tyres, using the current 13 inch rim diameter. It is also understood that Ecclestone was given a carte blanche by the F1 Commission to negotiate a contract with a new tyre supplier, and it seems the idea of having multiple tyre suppliers has now been abandoned. Which is a pity, from a racing point of view, different suppliers also means different tyres with different characteristics, and that could also contribute to more competition and more action on track.

F1 back to the US?

It was the Michelin tyre debacle during the 2005 Indianapolis GP that led to the end of the only American F1 race on the calendar. On the Friday before the race, it became apparent that the Michelin tyres were not capable to withstand the forces of Turn 13, there were several tyre failures, and Ralf Schumacher was one of the victims when his Toyota smashed into the wall of Turn 13 after a left-rear tyre failure. Michelin advised the seven teams they supplied not to race, and the 2005 Indianapolis GP became one of the most controversial races in F1. All ten teams appeared at the start, but after the parade lap the 14 cars on Michelin tyres pulled into the pit lane, and only 6 cars actually started. The public was outraged, and angry fans threw beer cans, water bottles and rubbish on the track.

Fourtheen cars abandoned the 2005 Indianapolis GP.
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Although Michelin compensated the fans by giving them a free ticket for the race in 2006, the damage was done, and after the race in 2007 Indianapolis boss Tony George did not renew his contract with the FOM. Ferrari, Mercedes and BMW were not happy when Bernie Ecclestone apparently wasn't interested in getting the US GP back on the calendar, and they, together with the FOTA, have been pleading for the return of a race on American soil. And they are lucky, now ex-Indianapolis Speedway and IRL boss Tony George is interested in organizing a US GP again. And it is no secret Bernie Ecclestone wants a GP in New York, not just to please the teams or the American fans, he is of course also aware of the enormous financial potential of the American market.

George was Ecclestone's guest during the Chinese GP, and the big question is of course where the new US Grand Prix will take place. Because Ecclestone last week said that F1 should 'get ready for 25 races' in one season, George even suggested there could be two races, one at Indianapolis and one in New York. But don't get too excited yet, Ecclestone and George are exploring the possibilities, and if there would be an American race, it will probably not be before the 2013 season.

No dream start for Michael Schumacher

The 2005 Indianapolis GP was won by seven-times World Champion Michael Schumacher, who's 2010 return to F1 has been plagued by many setbacks. During the first four races of the season he was outpaced by his team mate Nico Rosberg, and it seems Schumacher has problems adapting to the new generation of F1 cars. Many have already written off Schumacher, and others still believe the German will be competitive when F1 returns to Europe for the race in Spain. Mercedes bosses Norbert Haug and Ross Brawn still believe in Schumacher, and they think it is simply a matter of time before he will be successful again.

Michael Schumacher at the start grid of the Chinese GP.
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F1 was different in the heydays of Schumacher. There were no limits to engine, gearbox and tyre usage and in-season testing was still allowed. Ferrari had special test teams, who endlessly tested tyres, engines and aerodynamic parts at Fiorano, and Ferrari introduced an improved aerodynamic package before almost every race. When Schumacher arrived at the circuit, he had all the information he needed to set up his car and knew which tyres he should use. Bridgestone supplied tyres which were tailor-made for Ferrari -- Dutchman Kees van de Grint was his personal tyre guru -- while other teams got 'standard' tyres.

Many of those privileges have now gone, only eight engines per season, no more special tyres and no more in-season testing. Schumacher has to test new parts himself during free practice on Friday and Saturday. He is as usual in a tip-top physical shape, so far the bad results haven't influenced his morale, and Schumacher seems, despite of his problems, happy with his Mercedes Silever Arrows team. So, what happened, did Schumacher lose his magic touch, is he too old, was his F1 return a big mistake? No of course not, someone who won seven world titles doesn't lose his magic, he didn't all of a sudden forget how to drive a F1 car, he simply has problems adapting to the new circumstances. And the setbacks he experienced in the first four races, will only make him more determined to become competitive again.

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

See also: Formula One: On and off track - week 16

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About this article
Series General , Formula 1
Drivers Takuma Sato , Ralf Schumacher , Michael Schumacher , Ross Brawn , Norbert Haug , Sébastien Loeb , Nico Rosberg , Tony George , Kazuki Nakajima , Bernie Ecclestone