Category Archives: News
WILLIAMS first Grand Prix victory since 2004 was overshadowed yesterday by a terrifying fire that destroyed their pit garage after the Spanish Grand Prix. Luckily, there were no serious injuries although 31 people had to be treated for smoke inhalation. Seven mechanics remained in hospital overnight, bringing down a dark spell on the first European race of the season.
The fire began in the back of the garage and spread feriously, with black smoke billowing out of the front, sending panic across the faces of team personnel and the worldwide media. It happened around 90 minutes after the race yesterday, with the team basking in the glory of Pastor Maldonado’s amazing win in Barcelona.
A Williams spokesperson said afterwards; “Four team personnel were injured in the incident and subsequently taken to the medical centre. Three are now receiving treatment at local hospitals for their injuries, while the fourth has been released. The team will monitor their condition and ensure they receive the best possible care. The team, the fire services and the police are working together to determine the root cause of the fire.”
The team have confirmed that the blaze started in the fuel area. Spanish police and the fire service are still trying to establish the cause today. This is possibly through an explosion from a KERS unit as fuel leaked out of Bruno Senna’s car that was being dismantled following his early exit from the race on lap 14. The fuel ignited and within seconds, the whole garage was alight. Maldonado’s car was still in parc ferme at the time, having its scruitneering check but Senna’s car was gutted.
At the time, the Williams team had just been having a group photo to celebrate Maldonado’s victory with Sir Frank Williams giving a speech to the team’s joyous mechanics. That joy turned to shock and although the fire was extinguished within 20 minutes, it is very fortunate that there wasn’t anything more serious that occured. Sir Frank was taken to safety quickly, as confirmed by Williams third driver, Valteri Bottas who told BBC Sport; “I was there when Frank Williams was giving his speech to everyone, I felt an explosion from behind, somewhere from the fuel area, and everyone ran out quickly.”
Sky Sports F1 pitlane reporter Ted Kravitz was at the scene when the fire started. Reporting live on the channel, he said “I saw the fire take hold and it just absolutely erupted. We were talking to Alex Wurz at the time and we were just having a look [into the garage] and suddenly I saw this wall of flame erupt from behind the Williams garage divider. It looked to be in the area where they store things like fuel and oil and gearboxes and computers and there will be an immense amount of damage to a lot of equipment.”
The Formula One fraternity came together with rapid help from the nearby Caterham, Toro Rosso, Force India and HRT teams to bring the blaze under control. Some Caterham and Force India members had to have treatment also for smoke inhalation afterwards. The Caterham garage also took damage in the inferno. Teams have already announced that they will give Williams some spare parts should it be required for the Monaco Grand Prix in a fortnight’s time.
In a statement on the team’s website, Caterham said; “Caterham F1 Team was involved in a fire that started in the Williams F1 Team’s garage after the end of the Spanish Grand Prix. All the team’s employees have been accounted for and four people have been taken to the circuit medical centre for examination; one with a minor hand injury and three with respiratory issues.”
This is the second time there has been a fire in the paddock this season, as Lotus hospitality suite was destroyed in Malaysia following a refrigrator fire, which lost a significant amount of Kimi Raikkonen’s race equipment for the weekend. There is likely to be a health and safety investigation into garage procedures and also, there will be question marks about the future of KERS in the sport, especially after an incident like this.
It is a sad and sorry end but fortunately not a tragic one to what had been an amazing result for the Williams Formula One team. F1 today can breath a sigh of relief at one of the biggest escapes of recent times.
FA CUP finalists Chelsea and the Sauber Formula One team have announced a surprising link-up between the two parties. The result of Monday’s news will see both organisations carry each other’s logos around their places of sporting events. Chelsea showed off the partnership with advertising hoardings backing the Sauber team during their 2-0 Premiership loss to Newcastle United last night.
Sauber have carried some messages on their car at the Bahrain Grand Prix saying “True Blue” which might have given away an indication of the potential deal. It will be big for the Swiss team, that is now in its 20th season of competing in Grand Prix racing as their car has been missing sponsors on a regular basis since BMW’s withdrawal from the sport at the end of 2009. Sergio Perez’s stunning second place finish in Malaysia will surely have played a part in the West London club agreeing this deal with Sauber.
Sauber’s CEO Monisha Kaltenborn said on the Sauber website; “A partnership like this between Formula One and Football has never existed before in this form, yet there are numerous commonalities and possible synergies. The Sauber F1 Team and Chelsea FC are dealing with many of the same sporting and commercial topics and we want to strengthen each other in these areas. We are looking forward to exploiting these opportunities, and we congratulate Chelsea on making it to the final of the Champions League.”
The relationship is believed to promote sporting and business ventures together and the two will work on merchandising, sports science and sponsorship opportunities. Either way, the deal works very well for Sauber and continues their impressive start to 2012, especially if as it turns out, to have a link-up with the potential new Champions of Europe.
THE sport’s governing body the FIA confirmed in the early hours of the morning that next week’s Bahrain Grand Prix on the Sakhir circuit will take place as scheduled. FOM boss Bernie Ecclestone met the team principals from all 12 Formula One teams in Shanghai this morning where the Chinese Grand Prix takes place this weekend. No concerns were raised from the meeting and all agreed that the race should take place. The FIA insisted that assurances had been made about general security following regular disputes in the country over the past year during the Arab Uprisings. It is these protests that led to the cancellation of the 2011 race.
These are the key points in the statement released to the world by the sport’s governing body from the FIA website;
“The FIA is the governing body of motor sport and therefore of Formula One. As such, it sets the season’s calendars following the proposal of the Commercial Rights Holder (CRH) in accordance with the local national authorities in all matters relating to safety. Within that context, the FIA ensures that any event forming part of an FIA World Championship is organised in compliance with the FIA Statutes and the relevant Sporting and Technical Regulations and that the safety of the public, officials, drivers and teams is secured at all times during an event. The FIA must make rational decisions based on the information provided to us by the Bahraini authorities and by the Commercial Rights Holder. In addition we have endeavoured to assess the ongoing situation in Bahrain. Based on the current information the FIA has at this stage, it is satisfied that all the proper security measures are in place for the running of a Formula One World Championship event in Bahrain. Therefore, the FIA confirms that the 2012 Gulf Air F1 Grand Prix of Bahrain will go ahead as scheduled.”
The drivers haven’t said much in recent weeks, but some have expressed their views over the weekend in China. In his official column he does with BBC Formula One, Red Bull’s Mark Webber said; “If we have a choice…I want to race, and I would like to go there and do that. But you cannot ignore the fact there are a lot of good people in our sport and all of them have in the back of their minds that we want it to go down smoothly and we don’t want to be involved with the situation that’s out there.”
Earlier in the week, Sir Jackie Stewart had insisted the sport should visit the Gulf State, which before last year had held an annual event since 2004. 1996 world champion and Sky Sports F1 pundit Damon Hill disagreed, raising severe safety concerns over the region. Since the protests began on the government last year, upto 50 protestors have died and although not on the scale of the uprisings in Egypt, Libya and more recently Syria, the trouble has not left the Manama region.
Bernie Ecclestone has been under severe pressure all week from media outlets and this afternoon, he sat down for an exclusive interview with BBC F1 anchor Jake Humphrey. Ecclestone insisted that he was confident there would be no trouble at the event next week. The interview can be seen below;
The decision has been made and it will have driven various opinion from many sources. However the race does go ahead now and let’s hope it proceeds without any serious implications for the sport, the drivers, spectators going to Sakhir and of course the Bahrani people.
THE Lotus Formula One team has had a protest about Mercedes GP’s innovative rear wing thrown out by stewards at the Chinese Grand Prix. Murmurings from rival teams including world champions Red Bull Racing relate to a system which combines the front wing with the rear wing DRS overtaking device.
Before the protest was made by Lotus today, the boss of Mercedes GP spoke out and protested the legality of the system. Ross Brawn told BBC Sport; “It’s a very simple, cheap system, but not so easy to implement if you haven’t integrated it into your car. This is at the heart of some of the frustration of some of our opponents. If someone could put it on their car easily, I promise you we wouldn’t be having these discussions. But they can’t do it very easily which is why they’re getting so vexed about it.”
Some teams claim the system gives Mercedes GP half a second advantage and it might play a role in the team’s improved qualifying performances. However the DRS system is only allowed to be used in one zone during a race and with just one point from two events so far, there don’t seem to be a great deal of benefits to the system. It certainly doesn’t carry the similar benefits the double diffuser did in 2009, which Brawn innovated and gave his team a massive early and legal advantage over the chasing pack.
With this latest protest having been rejected, Lotus need to focus on their own efforts of moving their cars up the grid rather than complain bitterly about a system that barring a sudden u-turn from technical delegates at the FIA, is legal.
For those who want to understand more about the complex Mercedes GP rear wing, watch this video from Sky Sports F1 pitlane reporter Ted Kravitz during The F1 Show last week;
LEWIS Hamilton will not be starting Sunday’s Chinese Grand Prix from pole position. The 27-year old Brit confirmed to Sky Sports News this morning that his McLaren team have to change his gearbox following an issue was discovered by the team after the race in Malaysia three weeks ago.
Hamilton revealed to Sky Sports F1 reporter Natalie Pinkham that the team will change the gearbox on Saturday morning. It means he will have a fresh gearbox for the race on Sunday, but at a cost of starting no higher than sixth for the race. Current regulations in Formula One mean a driver has to have a gearbox that lasts for four successive races as part of bduget restrictions. A free gearbox without grid penalty is only allowed if a driver failed to finish the last race, so that could apply to both Kamui Kobayashi and Romain Grosjean here as they recoreded DNF’s in Sepang.
Hamilton had been on pole position for the first two races of 2012 but has only managed to convert them into two podium finishes so far. With a significant upgrade brought by McLaren to Shanghai this weekend, he will be hoping for one of his famous charges to the top step of the rostrum on Sunday.
TV PUNDIT and former Grand Prix team boss Eddie Jordan has been made a honorary OBE by the Queen. Jordan, who has just celebrated his 64th birthday said to his employers, the BBC; “When it’s not something you’re expecting you dismiss it. It came as a big shock, but I’m thrilled.”
Born in Dublin in 1948, Jordan has had a colourful involvement in the sport ever since 1991, when his team made their debut. It took eight years for victory success, when Damon Hill led Ralf Schumacher home to a famous 1-2 finish at the Belgian Grand Prix. After 250 events, he sold his struggling team to Midland F1 in 2005, which is now known as Sahara Force India. He has been part of the BBC F1 presenting team since they regained UK TV rights of the sport in 2009. He has received the honour due to his services for motor racing and also, his fantastic charity work. Jordan is a patron of the child cancer charity CLIC Sargent.
Having been absent from the BBC F1’s team in Malaysia, it is belived that EJ will be back for the corporation first live event of the season in Shanghai on April 14-15.
PIRELLI have announced their driver line-up today in the role of testing the latest tyre developments. Former Virgin driver Lucas di Grassi will be joined by axed Toro Rosso star Jaime Alguersuari. The Spaniard, who turned 22 years old last week, will return to the F1 cockpit for the first time since his former employers decided to replace him with Jean-Eric Vergne just before Christmas. This season, Alguersuari is going to combine his role with a job being an expert analyst for the commentary team on BBC Radio Five Live.
Alguersuari was delighted when the news was confirmed today, telling Planet F1; “A week ago it was my birthday, when I turned 22, and now Pirelli has given me the best possible present. I can’t wait to get started with this very important and challenging job of developing the new tyres for the future, which I’m looking forward to a lot. I have a huge desire to get behind the wheel of a Formula 1 car again and return to competition, so this is a brilliant chance for me.”
Pirelli have upgraded their test car to a 2010 Renault chassis, having ran a 2009 Toyota for the past two seasons. Pedro de la Rosa, Nick Heidfeld and Romain Grosjean have previously used the role as a parachute into getting back into F1 competition. Now, with this move, Alguersuari has every chance of following in their paths.
LESS than 24 hours after Bruno Senna’s stirring drive to sixth place in the Malaysian Grand Prix, the restructuring of the Williams Formula One team continues. The chairman of Williams, Adam Parr has resigned. Reaction to this news has been seen as a surprise, many believing that Parr was the figurehead of the team to ultimately replace Sir Frank Williams.
Parr will leave his position on Friday, having been at the helm since 2010. He has been with the team in some form of capacity since 2006. This follows Sir Frank Williams decision to resign from the board last month and Sam Michael’s defection to McLaren at the back end of last season. In a statement on the team’s website, Sir Frank had nothing but thanks for Parr; “Over five years, Adam’s achievements have surpassed my expectations and I must thank him for his service. Not least for the decisive role he played in the technical changes made last year which are beginning to show through in the team’s improved competitiveness this season, and for leading this company to a successful IPO. Adam leaves us on good terms to pursue a better balance in his life for which I wish him and his family well. He has left us in good shape and I have every confidence that the Board and senior management team at Williams will continue to drive the business forward into a promising future.”
Senna’s sixth place result yesterday means that the team has already collected more points than it did in the the whole of 2011. Team-mate Pastor Maldonado crashed out from the same position in Australia last weekend. Following the promising signs of competitiveness Williams has shown in the first two races of 2012, this news shows no-one can rest on their laurels in F1. Nick Rose will take over next week, appointed as non-executive chairman. No reason has been given for Parr’s sudden departure.
Here is a sneak peak at what I will be doing in the build-up to and every weekend of the 2012 Grand Prix season;
– A charted history of every country that is hosting a Grand Prix this season ,with archive footage through YouTube.
– Biographies of drivers in the sport from the last 25 years (1987 onwards) both legends and those who weren’t so good. There will be two of these every weekend and this feature will begin at next week’s Malaysian Grand Prix.
– Detailed reports from Friday practice, the Saturday qualifying session and of course, the Grand Prix.
– Selected driver quotes from the race weekend.
– A driver rating tracker after the race, analysing the performances of all 24 competitors during the weekend and scoring them to see who is my no.1 at the end of the season.
– Plus, some other special features during the season.
This weekend, due to a family occasion, my race report won’t go online until Monday evening and qualifying report is unlikely – but my aim is to keep you up-to-date with the latest news throughout.
Also, you can follow me at @Siwri88 on Twitter.
I look forward to blogging during the 2012 season; FORMULA ONE IS BACK!!
F1 SUPREMO Bernie Ecclestone has hinted that from the 2013 championship, there will only be one race in Spain per season. Currently, the country holds two races per campaign, with the Spanish event in Barcelona and the Valencia Street Circuit staging the European Grand Prix.
In an interview with a Spanish radio station on Friday; Ecclestone said; “Barcelona and Valencia have agreed that the best thing is to alternate and now, we are trying to decide on the dates.”
Although the president of the Circuit de Catalunya, Vicente Aguilera has come out and denied a certain agreement, it is believed that negotiations are ongoing. It would be seen as a radical solution, considering Valencia’s general unpopularity with F1 drivers, fans and journalists alike, along with the growing economic crisis that is engulfing Europe.
If the agreement goes ahead, it could see Barcelona not hosting an event on a yearly basis for the first time since 1990. It has often been recognised as the European season opener, since Imola was dropped from the calendar six years ago. They wouldn’t be the first country to alternate in track venues. Germany has the same policy with the Nurburgring and Hockenheim, visiting the latter in 2012.
Currently, the F1 schedule stands at 20 races, with a brand new race in the United States in November and the return of the Bahrain Grand Prix. Ecclestone is keen to extend the season to 25 races, although this is likely to face stiff competition from the remaining members of FOTA.
THE Williams Formula One team announced today that team founder and owner, Sir Frank Williams will step down from the board at the end of the month. Frank’s daughter Claire will join the board on April 1, as director of marketing and communications. However, Sir Frank will remain as team principal of Williams for the time being.
In a statement on the Williams website, Sir Frank said; “This is an opportune moment, also, for me to consider my own role in the team. I turn 70 in April and I have decided to signal the next stage in the gradual but inevitable process of handing over the reins to the next generation by stepping down from the board at the end of this month. This is not as dramatic a move as it may appear: I shall continue to work full-time as team principal and I shall continue to attend all board meetings as observer. I also remain the majority shareholder of Williams Grand Prix Holdings PLC.”
Williams are going through a changing period, which is seeing many of the established guard stepping down or moving on. Sam Michael left last September to become sporting director at McLaren, Rubens Barrichello has moved on to the US racing scene, having accepted a drive in IndyCars next season and Patrick Head stepped down just before Christmas from his position as Director of Engineering. Recently, Bruno Senna and Pastor Maldonado were confirmed as drivers, Adam Parr was appointed chairman and Mike Coughlan, formerly of Arrows and McLaren has taken Michael’s job as technical director.
Although Sir Frank Williams will remain a senior figure within the Williams Formula One team, his role has been reduced in recent years and this is another step towards the exit door. Ultimately, off the back of their worst season since 1977, evolution is what Williams have needed for some time.
See below for an interview Sir Frank did last year with the BBC’s Jake Humphrey about his life in Formula One.
MARUSSIA Racing have been forced to delay running their new 2012 car after failing an FIA crash test. The team, formerly known as Virgin Racing, is understood to have failed the 18th and final part of the vigorous safety tests, to ensure that any car passing the crash regulations. The MR01 had been due to make its bow in this week’s Barcelona pre-season test, which begins on Thursday.
This means that the team will be forced to sitout the final test, having ran a modified version of its 2011 car in Spain last week. Consequently, it won’t make a bow before Friday practice at the Australian Grand Prix. This is dreadful news for French rookie Charles Pic, who will arrive in Albert Park with no running of the new car and next to no running, with just two days track experience under his belt.
Marussia is a Russian sportscar marque and will be hoping to make a move away from the back of the grid that Virgin failed to do. 14th is the team’s best ever finish so far, as it enters its third season in the sport. Fellow backmarker team HRT has also had issues with crash tests, but is believed to have passed the last test at the weekend. The Spanish team hasn’t confirmed whether it will test this week yet.
Meanwhile, both Ferrari and Red Bull Racing have been forced to alter their testing plans. Both teams had plan to run at the Circuit de Catalunya between Friday – Monday, but it has broken article 22.4 of the FIA sporting regulations, which forbids testing the week before the first race. Instead, they will run like everyone else, between Thursday – Sunday, with Mark Webber, Sebastian Vettel, Felipe Massa and Fernando Alonso all taking it in turns to do final system runs before Australia.
THE Williams swinging door of arrivals and departures continues in the build-up to the Grand Prix season. Their former driver, Alexander Wurz, is returning to the Grove based team as a driver mentor.
Wurz, who turned 37 last Wednesday will help out Bruno Senna and Pastor Maldonado in the 2012 campaign, as the team attempt to recover from a diabolical 2011 season, which saw them pick up a meagre five points, Williams worst season since they became Williams Engineering back in 1978. Alex was Williams test driver in 2006 and raced for the team in 2007 – finished third in that season’s Canadian Grand Prix. Wurz also raced at Benetton for four seasons in the late 90s and was an established test driver for McLaren between 2001-2005.
The Austrian will combine the role alongside part-time roles as a pundit for Austria television, a new deal on Toyota’s return to sportscars and an occasional position as a driver steward for the FIA. His addition to the backroom staff will surely give Williams a much needed push in the right direction as the teams head to Barcelona for the second pre-season test, which begins tomorrow.
THERE will be no Italian drivers on the F1 grid in 2012 after Jarno Trulli was axed on Friday by the Caterham Formula One team. The veteran has been, as expected, replaced by Renault refugee Vitaly Petrov. With less than a month to go before the green light in Australia, the announcement still comes as a surprise, considering that Trulli had taken part in the first pre-season test at Jerez a fortnight ago.
Petrov, who scored his maiden F1 podium finish in Melbourne last season, finished tenth in the driver’s championship and is about to start his third full season in Grand Prix racing. The Russian’s form faded badly in the closing stages of 2011 and an extraordinary outburst in the press aimed at Renault after the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix sealed his demise from the Enstone team. Nevertheless, he has shown his capabilities at this level and will give Heikki Kovalainen more of a fight at the Caterham unit than Trulli ever did.
Speaking to JA on F1 from the Caterham headquarters on Friday, Petrov said; “I think they (Caterham) did a big improvement the last two years so now they have a new car, new factory from this summer, so they are moving on the right direction. I think this was the main target for them and also you can see these people want to achieve at least something in Formula 1, not to be just one of the teams. They want to achieve good results in the next (few) years so this is why it’s quite interesting to work with them.”
The move all but ends Trulli’s unspectacular Formula One career. The Italian made his F1 debut for Minardi in the 1997 Australian Grand Prix, but moved to Prost mid-season to replace the injured Olivier Panis. He then sensationally led the Austrian Grand Prix, but struggled to relive his early potential. Inconsistency dogged him throughout, with the tendency to qualify brilliantly, only to drift away on raceday. Trulli raced for Prost, Jordan, Renault and Toyota – winning just once, the 2004 Monaco Grand Prix. He joined Lotus (as formerly known) in 2010, but has struggled with the chassis in the last two years, consistenly outperformed by Kovalainen. 13th place in last year’s race at Monaco was his best finish for his last F1 team. Trulli’s relationship seemed to deteriorate because of his failure to cope with a power steering set-up. He was even replaced at the Nurburgring by Karun Chandok last season, which indicated that things weren’t all too well.
Tony Fernandes, the boss of Air Asia and Caterham did admit to BBC Sport that finances did have their part to play. “It was (a decision) one we made to ensure we give fresh impetus across the whole team and with a realistic eye on the global economic market.”
Trulli’s exit means there will be no Italian driver on the F1 grid for the first time since 1969.