Formula One - On and Off track week 33

Formula One - On and Off track week 33

Pirelli begins tyre testing, Donington Park reopens, more circuit news, Spa expecting financial problems Pirelli begins tyre testing Italian tyre manufacturer Pirelli, who won the contract to supply tyres for the FIA Formula One World ...


Pirelli begins tyre testing, Donington Park reopens, more circuit news, Spa expecting financial problems

Pirelli begins tyre testing

Italian tyre manufacturer Pirelli, who won the contract to supply tyres for the FIA Formula One World Championship from 2011 onwards, has begun testing with German Mercedes reserve driver Nick Heidfeld behind the wheel of the 2009 Toyota TF 109. Pirelli started testing today at the circuit of Mugello in Italy. Toyota is not just supplying the car for the test team, but will also provide technical and logistical assistance, and will process and analyze the data from the car before it is relayed to Pirelli, however, they will not be involved in the tyre development program itself. Pirelli chose to work with Toyota after a recommendation from the FOTA (Formula One Teams' Association), the TF 109 is currently the only available car with contemporary technology for testing, and more important, Toyota has no current interests in Formula One anymore.

Nick Heidfeld will be testing the Pirelli tyres this week.
Photo by xpb.cc.

Mercedes GP confirmed they have released Heidfeld from his contract, Ross Brawn about Heidfeld, "Nick is an extremely experienced driver and we are confident that his racing knowledge and technical feedback will prove extremely useful to Pirelli and therefore of benefit to the sport as a whole." Heidfeld, who on Monday became the proud father of newborn son Justus, about his test role, "It's a great privilege for me to join Pirelli in order to carry out this vital work and I am very grateful to Mercedes GP for releasing me from my contract to take on this role. Through the experience I have built up over the years, I'm confident that I will be able to provide Pirelli with some important feedback regarding the development of next year's tyres."

Pirelli's Motorsport Director Paul Hembery about Heidfeld's role, "The role of test driver is a crucial one, so we were looking for a driver who had plenty of recent Formula One experience, the speed to push our new tyres as hard as possible, and the consistency to provide reliable simulations, as well as the analytical skills to relay information accurately to our engineers." And added, "Nick fits the bill in every respect and we're very pleased to have secured his services." Heidfeld has ten years of experience in Formula One, started in 167 Grands Prix and scored 219 points, 12 podium places, and he is the current chairman of the GPDA (Grand Prix Drivers' Association).

Pirelli will stage a number of test sessions on several European circuits, Mugello, Paul Ricard and Valencia. After the last race in November in Abu Dhabi all current teams will get the chance to test the new Pirelli tyres. Pirelli will continue the policy of producing four tyre compounds and will allocate two compounds for each race like Bridgestone did, and a Pirelli statement said: "Pirelli's new tyres will be carefully designed to cater not only for the needs of the teams, ensuring a stable and consistent product, but also for the wishes of the fans to see exciting and close racing."

Donington Park reopens

Good news for British race fans: after the Formula one debacle, the Leicestershire Donington Park circuit will reopen its doors again. Parts of the circuit had already been demolished to accommodate a new Formula One circuit, but after the plans failed, the circuit that as been part of British motor racing for 80 years, faced an uncertain future. The owner of the circuit, the Wheatcroft family, had signed a new lease with the Worcestershire based Adroit Group. In July Androit's David Broome commented, "It is a big task and nobody is under any illusions about that. We intend to bring the site back up to a world class standard. The entire site needs attention whilst much of it will require a total overhaul from the track itself to the medical centre, hospitality suites, phone, radio and PA systems, IT systems, CCTV and general ground work."

Donington Park in 2008.
Photo by xpb.cc.

The new owners have achieved the impossible, the totally renewed circuit will be the stage of the Classic Racing Motorsport Club's revival meeting this weekend and on September 3-4-5 it will stage the Masters Historic Festival. A special feature will be an "Into Dusk" endurance race on Saturday evening. The circuit promises a packed race progamme and there will be demonstrations of bikes and race cars of the Wheatcroft Collection. Wheatcroft, "We are delighted with the first stage of improvements. We are now looking at further improvements through the winter and close-season as part of a four year schedule of works to provide improved and enhanced facilities and the Wheatcroft's look forward to welcoming fans back to this historic circuit."

More circuit news

According to the US Statesman Online, works for the Austin GP will start soon. The German designer of the track, Tilke GMBH, has send a delegation of architects, engineers, geologists and environmental experts to the site in Austin to survey the area and make detailed plans. Tilke executive Christian Epp, who is in charge of the development said, "There is land, there is money, there is a Formula One contract. We are now ready to enter the final stage of the ambitious project." The German about the complexity of the project, "We have to figure how many buildings and access roads are needed, how in detail to manage the water supply, drainage and power. It's like planning and building a complete new city."

The total costs are estimated at $200 million, and the project should be finished by the summer of 2012. The new venue should attract 100,000 spectators, and 2,000 workers will be involved in the building of the circuit, while 1,200 temporarily jobs will be available during a Grand Prix weekend. The promoter of the event, Full Throttle Production, also expects an estimated $300 million will be spend during the Formula One race, which will be a significant economic boost for the city of Austin.

The rumors the circuit for the Korean Grand Prix will not be ready before October 24 are still persistent. German sources are adamant the 5.6 km long Korean International Circuit will not be ready for Formula One in time. The circuit management claims there have been delays due to 'bad weather' and the opening of the circuit, which was originally scheduled for August, has been postponed until September 5, when the circuit will open its doors for the Asian Festival of Speed. Motorsport Asia's chief executive David Sonenscher admitted there was a delay, "This delay has caused many rumors about whether the event will ever take place. I have personally visited the site several times and I feel very sorry for them that despite all their hard work, they missed the deadline by only a couple of weeks."

But like Bernie Ecclestone, he is adamant the race will go on, meanwhile circuits who have been named to replace the Korean event, the Spanish Motorland Aragon circuit and the French Magny Cours circuit, have denied they have been approached by the FOM or FIA. Motorland Aragon even indicated the by the media mentioned race fee of 22 million Euro was way too high for them anyway.

Spa expecting financial problems

The Belgium circuit of Spa-Francorchamps is expecting more financial problems this year. The circuit already had its share of financial, environmental and local licensing problems in the past, and as a result the event didn't take place in 2003 and 2006. Andre Maes, director of the Belgian Grand Prix told Belgium newspaper De Morgen the circuit needs at least 65,000 spectators to be profitable, but so far only 40,000 tickets have been sold for this year's Grand Prix. The circuit booked a 5 million Euro loss last year, and Maes fears the venue will lose its place on the calendar after 2012, when the current Concorde Agreement expires. A problem is also the growing competition of other circuits, especially in Asia and the Middle East, who offer greater financial rewards for FOM and FIA. Maes therefore has pinned his hope on a 25-race calendar, which is one of Ecclestone's wishes for the new Concorde Agreement.

Spa-Francorchamps and Eau Rouge.
Photo by xpb.cc.

The historic Ardennes circuit was designed in 1920, had a triangular shape and used the public roads between the towns of Malmedy and Stavelot and was originally 15 km long. The circuit hosted their first Grand Prix in 1925. It was a very fast high speed circuit with fast corners. Like the old Nurburgring it became notorious for its fatal accidents, during the 1960 Grand Prix Stirling Moss was seriously injured, and his compatriots Alan Stacey and Chris Bristow died during the race. The circuit was boycotted in 1969, drivers demanded changes and in 1970 ARMCO's were placed around the circuit. However, drivers were still not satisfied about the safety standards and Formula One would not return to the circuit until 1983, when the modern track was opened.

The modern circuit is well-known for its unpredictable weather conditions, but the track lay-out and the beauty of the Ardennes surrounding the circuit have always been the main attraction for drivers and spectators alike. Especially the uphill combination of corners of Eau Rouge have always been a challenge for drivers, and many of them consider this section as the most exciting and most beautiful corner of all Formula One circuits. In 1999 Jacques Villeneuve crashed in Eau Rouge after a bet with his team mate Ricardo Zonta - the bet was who dared to take Eau Rouge flat out - a bet he lost, and although it was a very violent crash, Villeneuve described it as 'my best crash ever.' Zonta didn't win the bet either, he crashed in exactly the same way as Villeneuve only a few laps later. In ten days time the Formula One circus will again be present at Spa-Francorchamps, let's hope it will not be the last time.

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


See also: Formula One - On and Off track week 32

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About this article
Series General , Formula 1
Drivers Jacques Villeneuve , Nick Heidfeld , Ricardo Zonta , Ross Brawn , Stirling Moss , Bernie Ecclestone