Unrest within FOTA
The unity of the Formula One Teams’ Association has come under threat after it was suggested that Red Bull Racing did not comply with the Resource Restriction Agreement last year.
Christian Horner has denied that the team did anything that conflicted with the RRA, pointing out that Red Bull was also accused of technical infringements but that FIA investigations came to nothing.
HRT has dropped out of FOTA, with team boss Colin Kolles claiming that the organisation focused on the interests of the larger outfits. There are conflicting reports as to how much the team had already paid towards the €100,000 FOTA membership fee charged in 2010.
Fighting Ferrari reveals team changes
Ferrari has shaken up its approach to race engineering in light of the strategy disaster in Abu Dhabi that cost it the 2010 drivers’ title.
Pat Fry, who joined from McLaren last year as deputy technical director, has added race engineering to his existing responsibilities. He in effect takes over the role of Australian Chris Dyer, who has been moved to a factory job.
Former McLaren and Red Bull man Neil Martin becomes
head of a new operations research department. Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo played down the scope of the changes.
“Believe me, I often still wake up at night thinking of the race in Abu Dhabi, so it goes without saying that we must look to the future,” he said at Marlboro’s traditional January PR event in Italy. “There has been no revolution within our organisation, just a few adjustments to improve the way the team is run.”
Montezemolo went on to insist that the team must come out fighting, having lost out last year because of its form in the early races: “We must make a good start, both in terms of reliability and, above all, on the performance front. Last year, we lost the championship in a first half that found us failing to live up to our expectations.”
Fernando Alonso said he expects to be more comfortable with the car than he was last season.
“When I arrived at the team in 2010 the car was already prepared, whereas this year, thanks to the reciprocal relationship between me and the engineers, we’ve been able to try to introduce everything that can be influenced by the driver.
“That includes the cockpit, the controls, the behaviour of the car based on driving style – that will be much more adapted to me compared with last year.”
Valentino Rossi attended the Wrooom PR event in his new role as a Ducati rider. Alonso didn’t rule out some kind of PR stunt involving the two World Champions: “I can’t say anything certain but perhaps at the end of the season, in December, there could be a surprise. On two wheels, four wheels or however many wheels people would like…”
Drivers with backing take
Commercial considerations played an ever-increasing role in the 2011 driver market, as those without cash behind them were left out in the cold.
Following on from the signings of Sergio Perez by Sauber and of Pastor Maldonado by Williams, the rebranded Lotus Renault GP team confirmed that Vitaly Petrov has kept his seat for 2011. The Russian showed erratic form in his rookie season, although there were flashes of potential.
Nevertheless his funding played a key role, with the build-up to the first Russian GP in 2014 making the sport even more attractive to sponsors from that country.
Jerome d’Ambrosio has replaced Lucas di Grassi at Virgin, having driven in Friday practice for the team in four of the last five GPs in 2010. He becomes the first Belgian to appear in Fl since Bertrand Gachot — who also used French nationality — drove for Pacific in 1995.
Narain Karthikeyan, 34, returns to Fl with Hispania after an absence of five years. The Indian drove for Jordan under its first year of Midland ownership in 2005. Since then he has appeared in Al GP, Superleague, sports cars and even NASCAR trucks. Karthikeyan is backed by the mighty Tata Group, which clearly wants a presence at the first Indian GP this year.
Alesi to be first ‘Lotus ambassador’
Former Grand Prix driver Jean Alesi will play a pivotal role in the new Lotus T125 million-dollar track day car.
Lotus Motorsport has signed the 46-year-old Frenchman as an ambassador for the coming season. He will be involved in the development of the T125, which Lotus wants to offer F1 levels of performance, and will tutor drivers who purchase one of the 25 cars scheduled to be built.
“My job is to use my experience to help make this car driveable for the customers,” said Alesi, who is likely to be one of a number of F1 names involved in the T125 or Exos programme. Lotus Motorsport director Claudio Berro said he had a gentleman’s agreement with Nigel Mansell to renew his ties with a brand for which he drove in Formula 1 in 1980-84, and admitted he was in talks with another former Lotus F1 driver, Johnny Herbert.
Lotus took the wraps off its ambitious 2011 motor sport programme in January. James Rossiter has been announced as a test and development driver in a deal that could encompass race outings in the IndyCar Series with the Lotus-backed KV Racing squad. Austria’s Jetalliance team will field a pair of Dallara-developed Evora GT Endurance cars in this year’s Le Mans Series and, subject to obtaining entries, in the Le Mans 24 Hours itself. See Events of the Month (p21) and Lotus feature (p60)
Bernie puts a damper on Rome GP
Plans to run a Grand Prix on the streets of Rome from 2013 suffered a blow when F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone told the city’s mayor Gianni Alemanno that he wants to restrict countries to one race per year.
Ecclestone has apparently suggested that Rome alternates with Monza. But it’s not clear how such a plan will go down with the sporting authorities in Italy, and even Alemanno has said Monza should have priority. Ferrari has stated that it is not keen on the Rome event.
The Rome GP promoter Maurizio Flammini remains optimistic, however, that a compromise can be agreed.
Two Audis for 2011 grid
Audi will return to the British Touring Car Championship after a 12-year absence with a car developed by key personnel from its successful campaigns of the late ’90s.
Rob Austin Racing plans to field two A4s built to Next Generation Touring Car rules by GPR Motorsport. Roger King, tech boss of the Buckingham engineering firm, engineered Frank Biela to the ’96 BTCC title at the factory Audi Sport UK squad.
The private programme was described by Rob Austin as a “fantastic challenge”. Drivers have yet to be named.