Thursday, May 14, 2009

Formula 1: Goodbye Ferrari in 2010?

Imagine F1 without Ferrari and Renault-- two of the biggest names voicing out their intent of pulling out of the most prestigious motorsports racing event in the world come 2010.

That is if the top honchos of the FIA, the governing body ruling motorsports, decides to pursue its goal of introducing two tier rules governing racing in Formula 1.

In an effort to invite more teams to join F1, a budget cap is introduced (approximately in the amount of 40 million pounds or roughly $60 M), excluding drivers' salaries in exchange for unlimited technology and no restrictions to in-season testing. This is actually advantageous to new teams wishing to make an entry into F1.

The other rule to be implemented is for teams with an unlimited budget, like Ferrari, restrictions to technology will be implemented and teams will have to adhere to designs and specifications imposed by the governing body.

If these two rules were to take effect, one may see twice the number of cars than what is running right now but with 2 different types of specs -- one technologically advanced and the other restricted; one running with movable wings, the other with rev limiters-- as aptly described by Ferrari driver and World Champion Kimi Raikkonen. For that, Ferrari and Renault are both supported by Toyota, Williams (engines supplied by Toyota), and Red Bull (running on Renault engines), which also owns Toro Rosso (running on Ferrari engines).

McLaren and BMW are expected to follow suit.

What would Formula 1 look like then? Aston Martin F1, Lola F1, perhaps a Chevrolet F1? These teams could bring in more revenue and audience share, particularly US audience, where an affinity to oval tracks continues to baffle this writer. But without the Prancing Horse around, I don't think it would be much more of an F1.

A ruling on the regulation will be released in a few weeks time.

For a nut such as myself, I go where the alpha male is even if Scuderia Ferrari decides to join Le Mans 24 Hours, IndyCar or (heavens forbid) NASCAR.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Formula 1: Button does it again but Ferrari is catching up

The Circuit de Catalunya, site of Formula 1’s testing grounds, today gave British driver and pole sitter Jenson Button of Brawn GP his 4th win of the season out of 5 races in the recently concluded Spanish Grand Prix in Montmelo, a few miles north of Barcelona.

Button was followed by teammate 36-year old Brazilian Rubens Barrichello, who initially showed brilliant driving when he overtook Button from P3 in the early stages of the race. But the Englishman’s strategy proved to be superior when the team decided to make 2 pitstops instead of 3. 3rd place went to Australian driver Mark Webber of Red Bull followed by teammate Sebastian Vettel in 5th. Home crowd favorite Spanish driver and double World Champion Fernando Alonso finished 5th just ahead of Ferrari driver Felipe Massa in 6th place. Nick Heidfeld of BMW and Nico Rosberg of Williams Toyota completed the championship points.

2008 Driver’s Champion Lewis Hamilton continued to battle McLaren woes as he finished 9th while Kimi Raikkonen of Ferrari did not finish the race. Interestingly, the record lap and pole for this 18-year old track belong to Raikkonen and Massa respectively in their Ferraris.

This year’s championship race has the table turned upside down as superior teams last year like Ferrari, McLaren, BMW and Renault now make up the back of the grid racing this 4.655-km stretch of track as Brawn (formerly Honda), Red Bull Renault and Toyota battle in front.

Ferrari, now showing flashes of brilliance when its F60s were installed with new aerodynamic designs and two-tier diffusers, seem to be the most improved of the group as Felipe Massa managed to move his car in the front grid for the first time this year in qualifying. Two or three races from now, expect the Prancing Horse to go neck and neck with frontrunners Brawn and Red Bull.

The race now moves on to the narrow streets of the small sovereign city-state of Monaco in South Western Europe, considered to be the “jewel of the Formula One crown”—the Grand Prix de Monaco.

Race day on May 24th.