Hulkenberg makes way for Maldonado
Pastor Maldonado will join Rubens Barrichello at Williams next season, after the team dumped Nico Hulkenberg to make way for the Venezuelan.
The 25-year-old’s path into the team has been eased by the substantial funding he brings from his home country, and specifically the state-owned PDVSA petroleum concern.
Managed by Nicolas Todt, Maldonado (below) won the 2010 GP2 Series title, albeit in his fourth year in the category. However, he was overshadowed by rookie Hulkenberg the previous year when they were teammates at ART.
Nevertheless Maldonado is highly regarded, having gone some way to losing the wild-man reputation he had earlier in his career. He was once handed a ban for ignoring yellow flags and knocking down a marshal in a World Series by Renault event at Monaco.
Maldonado is the first Venezuelan to compete at the top level since Johnny Cecotto was Ayrton Senna’s first F1 team-mate at Toleman in 1984.
Team merger fans flames of Lotus war
The purchase by Group Lotus of a stake in Renault Fl has put the spotlight back on the battle over the use of the Lotus name, and left fans scratching their heads over what might happen next.
The team says it will henceforth be known as Lotus Renault GP The FIA has already issued an official 2011 entry list, however, which confirms that Lotus Racing has officially changed its name to Team Lotus, while its car is listed as a Lotus Renault.
Just to confuse matters further, the ‘Enstone car’ will still be known as a Renault, since a change of constructor name is not something that can be arranged this close to a new season.
Changing the team name on official entry lists is less complex. Lotus is in effect present as a title sponsor, having agreed to back the team until at least 2017.
The battle over the name remains in legal limbo. Team Lotus boss Tony Fernandes has confirmed that two separate legal actions are underway involving Group Lotus. One concerns the dispute over the name which he says is unlikely to be heard until the summer while the other relates to the termination of the licensing agreement the team had with Group Lotus, which was cancelled after one year by its CEO Dany Bahar.
“Nothing’s really changed for us,” Fernandes told Motor Sport. We have maintained that we are Team Lotus. It is sad that it’s reached this kind of position.
“Dany Bahar has said that he needs a team to win, but so do we. We’re not in Formula 1 to lose. He thinks that we won’t be able to do it, but I’m not sure how he can assess us after one year. In one year we have done a very good job I think no one in the paddock would doubt that, considering we started in September.
We have done exactly what we said we would do. The whole relationship with Proton soured with the arrival of Dany Bahar, and it was very clear that he had his own agenda, and that didn’t include us.”
In an additional twist, Lotus Renault intends to run a black and gold livery in 2011, in a deliberate echo of the JPS colours used by the original Team Lotus in 1972-78 and again in 1981-86.
Fernandes had already announced his Team Lotus would switch to black and gold, and invited members of the public to submit designs. He will now stay with green and yellow, however, saying it would be “silly” to have four black cars and adding that he wasn’t aware that JPS was still being sold…
Bahar said affer the announcement that he had no intention of claiming the Team Lotus name, and that he had no problem” should there be four Lotus-related entries on the grid. The tactic seems to be to make Fernandes’s insistence on promoting the Lotus brand at his team’s own expense look a little misguided.
Ironically, thanks to the constructor name remaining unchanged, Renault stands to gain valuable PR exposure in 2011 without having to make the sort of investment that has been required in the past.
Renault sold 75 per cent of the Fl team to Genii Capital in December 2009, before selling the remaining 25 per cent to the same company a year later. Group Lotus is in its turn buying its own “major” stake from Genii, rather than directly from Renault.
The massive expansion plans of Group Lotus continue to confound the sceptics, who struggle to understand how the company can fund the six new road car projects that it recently announced.
It will continue to back Takuma Sato’s Indycar programme and has moved into GP2 and GP3 in partnership with Nicolas Todt’s ART team, while GT and prototype projects are also in the works.
Group Lotus has justified the F1 involvement by saying that the road car side will benefit from developments in areas such as “hybrid technology, KERS, aero advancements and lightweight materials”.
Piquets win damages over ‘crash-gate’ claims
Nelson Piquet Sr and Jr have won “substantial” damages plus costs after a successful legal action against Renault F1 related to the Singapore GP “crash-gate” affair.
After the FIA had first begun to pursue the matter in September 2009, Renault issued a press statement which said that both the team and its then managing director Flavio Briatore had commenced their own proceedings against the Piquets, claiming that they had made “false allegations”.
In addition it was claimed that there was an “attempt to blackmail the team” regarding Piquet Jr’s efforts to hold on to his Renault seat for the rest of 2009. By the time the crashgate investigation had become public, he had been replaced by Romain Grosjean.
The Piquets took their own libel action in response. When the case reached the British High Court in December the Renault team apologised and accepted that the allegations were not false, and that there had been no blackmail attempt.
Intriguingly the Piquets’ family lawyer Dominic Crossley noted that “this marks the start rather than the end of the long journey they are both taking to correct many of the wrongs that took place during the scandal,” indicating that the matter is far from over.
F1 prepares for a new turbo era in 2013
The FIA has formally confirmed that a new 1.6-litre engine formula is coming for 2013, bringing turbos back to Formula 1 after a 25-year absence.
The move is part of the FIA’s ongoing bid to make F1 greener and encourage sustainability, traits that will make it easier for car makers to justify future investment in the sport.
Although the move has been in the pipeline for some time, there had been attempts to postpone its introduction, and the four existing manufacturers — Cosworth, Mercedes, Renault and Ferrari — now have just over two years until their new engines have to be on the grid. VW/Audi is also waiting on the sidelines, and the German manufacturer has been party to discussions.
The engines will run to a maximum 12,000rpm limit, and in the FIA’s words “will deliver a 35 per cent reduction in fuel consumption and feature extensive energy management and energy recovery systems, while maintaining current levels of performance.”
The World Motor Sport Council also announced that the team orders rule had been dropped, although teams can still be charged with bringing the sport into disrepute under Article 151c of the sporting code.
Webber injury shocks Red Bull
Mark Webber created a stir when he revealed that he competed in the last four races of the 2010 season with a shoulder injury, following a mountain bike crash in Australia shortly before the Japanese Grand Prix.
Webber did not tell anyone involved with the team of his problem, other than his physio, who gave him painkilling injections before he drove the Red Bull.
The story emerged in the Australian’s book about the 2010 season, Up Front, which thus far has only been published in his home country. Red Bull Racing team principal Christian Horner expressed surprise when quizzed by the media about the injury, and admitted he didn’t even know that Webber — who suffered a much more serious bike accident in Tasmania at the end of 2008 — had written a book.
Webber has since played down the effects of the injury, saying it did not cost him the title.