Formula One: On and off track - week 5

Formula One: On and off track - week 5

Loyalty, nasty questions, fan survey, thoroughbred bulls, and the Russians are coming Ferrari is still a bit uncomfortable about Michael Schumacher's switch to Mercedes. Although Mercedes and Ferrari operate in different segments of the car ...

Loyalty, nasty questions, fan survey, thoroughbred bulls, and the Russians are coming

Ferrari is still a bit uncomfortable about Michael Schumacher's switch to Mercedes. Although Mercedes and Ferrari operate in different segments of the car market, Ferrari still has mixed feelings when they are confronted with Schumacher posing in front of a red Mercedes SLC for a German TV commercial. "Schumacher", Montezemolo recently explained, "is driving for another team, and is now one of our opponents." During the Ferrari launch he showed it's still a very touchy subject, he gave reporters who asked him about Schumacher and Mercedes the 'looks', as if his pride was hurt, and as if he wanted to say: "I'd rather not talk about that."

Ferrari chairman Luca di Montezemolo.
Photo by Ferrari Media Center.

But then put on his bravest face and politely answered the question anyway: "We have been in Formula One for 61 years without interruption, and [we are based] in Italy. Mercedes as the German team has everything built in England. First they were a partner of McLaren, now they have purchased the former Honda team. But they have taken the courageous path of increasing the involvement in Formula One, and I very much welcome that."

Amazing to see how Montezemolo ridicules and then praises the German Mercedes team in just two sentences. Whether he likes it or not, Mercedes and Ferrari are the only two remaining real manufacturer teams in Formula One, and now that Schumacher has joined the all German team, Montezemolo knows Mercedes will be a formidable opponent this year. Hopefully they will continue their battle on track, instead of starting a cold war of words in the media.

A few days earlier Michael Schumacher had to defend himself after reporters asked him a few unexpected questions. During a media presentation of the Mercedes GP team, reporters asked him how it felt being in a team with Nico Rosberg, the son of Keke Rosberg, who said last year in Monaco that Formula One would be better off without Schumacher. He tried to ignore the question and answered: "Good." But when a reporter asked him if he also could win without using questionable tactics, a clearly agitated Schumacher replied: "91 victories, seven titles, you win only in a bad way. Absolutely. Yeah, you're right, I need to prove [myself] now."

And when the reporter explained it wasn't about how many races he won, but about how he had won those races, he said: "Yeah, I know. I did win all this in the manner in which you are trying to ask questions." Nasty question or not, because of his tactics many people say Schumacher is, statistically speaking, the greatest Formula One champion of all times. On the one hand, his tactics were of course questionable, but on the other hand, we tend to forget that other great champions did the same, in 1989 and 1990 Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost decided the championship in Japan by knocking each other deliberately off the track, but at the time I have never heard someone say Senna or Prost were 'statistically' speaking the greatest champion of all times.

The FOTA (Formula One Teams Association) had already revealed they are interested in the opinion of the Formula One fans, and now has launched a fan survey. The results will be used to determine the future shape of Formula One. Surf to to participate. The survey is available in 16 languages and everyone can participate. So, if you want to help the FOTA, this is a unique opportunity and it will take you about 20 minutes to answer all the questions.

Scuderia Toro Rosso is now officially a thoroughbred Formula One team. During the presentation last Monday of this years challenger, the STR5, team principal Franz Tost proudly announced that the team is now a full 'F1 Constructor', meaning the team has designed the chassis, the safety structures, the aerodynamic package and also the suspension, fuel and cooling systems themselves instead of buying those from sister team Red Bull Racing, like they did in the past. The FIA has banned the use of customer cars in Formula One, and Toro Rosso had to hire extra staff to design and build the new car.

Toro Rosso's technical director Giorgio Ascanelli explains: "We have acquired the former Red Bull Racing wind tunnel in Bicester, (UK), employed some rather good people to work there and we have expanded the staff to work on the CFD (Computational Fluid Dynamics) and calculation tools we have installed in the factory. We also have increased our manufacturing capacity by acquiring several new machining tools."

It is clear that the team had to spend many millions of dollars to meet the new FIA demands, which seems a little odd, because at the same time the FIA wants teams to spend less money. Toro Rosso decided to retain their 2009 driver line-up, Sebastien Buemi and Jaime Alguersuari, and they will now be competing in a FIA approved thoroughbred Toro Rosso.

More teams launched their car last Monday during the first day of testing at the Ricardo Tormo circuit (named after Spanish motorcycle legend Ricardo Tormo Blaya) near Valencia, apart from Toro Rosso, Mercedes, Sauber and Renault also launched their 2010 cars in Spain. Sauber will still be using the BMW name, and team boss Peter Sauber presented the Ferrari powered BMW- Sauber C29 and drivers Spaniard Pedro de la Rosa and Japanese hopeful Kamui Kobayashi to the press.

Robert Kubica, Renault F1 Team, Jerome D'Ambrosio, Test Driver, Renault F1 Team, Vitaly Petrov, Test Driver, Renault F1 Team, Ho-Pin Tung, Test Driver, Renault F1 Team and Eric Boullier, Team Principal, Renault F1 Team.
Photo by

Renault presented the yellow and black R30 machine, and announced Russian Vitaly Petrov, runner-up in last years GP2 championship, will join the team alongside Robert Kubica. Dutch born Chinese driver Ho-pin Tung will be the third driver, and Belgian Jerome d'Ambroisio will be Renault's reserve driver. Petrov denied he was hired for the sponsor money he will bring to the team and stated: "My father has given me the money to be here. It's just him, my manager and my father's friends. No one else."

True or not, it is certain that Russia is a big country, and has an enormous potential for Formula One, for promoters, sponsors and spectators alike. This will certainly please Bernie Ecclestone, who is always looking for opportunities to expand his Formula One empire, and this will probably fuel the rumors of a future Russian Grand Prix. And Formula One is indeed a World championship, so why not a race on the Red Square in Moscow?

The race is still on for the last available race seats this year. Campos Meta and US F1 both still have a vacancy, again many names are buzzing down the grapevine. Campos Meta has, according to rumors in Spanish newspapers, three options, Northern Ireland's Adam Carroll, current A1GP champion, who is backed by A1GP boss Tony Texeira, Spaniard Andy Soucek, winner of the 2009 F2 championship, and female Spanish driver Maria di Villota, daughter of former Formula One driver Emilio de Villota. US F1, who were also looking at the possibility to hire a female driver, Danica Patrick, have sofar confirmed Argentine Jose Maria Lopez as one of their drivers, but are still silent about the name of their second driver.

The Formula One season is on its way again, and with al the car launches and testing days ahead, it will certainly be a busy month for teams, drivers, reporters and fans.

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

See also: Formula One: On and off track - week 4

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About this article
Series General , Formula 1
Drivers Pedro de la Rosa , Michael Schumacher , Luca di Montezemolo , Alain Prost , Ayrton Senna , Keke Rosberg , Peter Sauber , Adam Carroll , Robert Kubica , Ho-Pin Tung , Jose Maria Lopez , Emilio de Villota , Sébastien Buemi , Vitaly Petrov , Andy Soucek , Bernie Ecclestone , Jaime Alguersuari , Danica Patrick
Teams Red Bull Racing , Sauber , Toro Rosso , Renault F1 Team