Bahrain GP date yet to be confirmed
F1 teams will start the season in Australia not knowing the final shape of the 2011 calendar after the FIA failed to find a new slot for Bahrain.
Bernie Ecclestone had said a decision would have to be made before the first race. But at the World Motor Sport Council meeting on March 8 the FIA put responsibility for developments into the hands of race organisers, saying that it had “asked the Bahrain Motor Federation to say by May 1 if the Bahrain GP can be organised in 2011”.
This announcement followed the protracted decision over the cancellation or postponement of the original March 13 slot.
After civil unrest erupted in the Kingdom there were mixed messages from Ecclestone and no word from the FIA. It was left to the Bahrainis to postpone the GP.
Many observers assumed they were forced to make the call to ensure their estimated $30 million sanctioning fee was paid. But Ecclestone said he wouldn’t keep the money unless the race went ahead. This was presumably to convince the teams to accept an unfavourable new date.
The only realistic way to squeeze in the race would be before or after Abu Dhabi. Either option would create a logistically challenging tripleheader, unless Brazil is moved to December 4 — the final day of the local soccer season.
Fast-wearing Pirellis to spice up The Show’
New F1 tyre supplier Pirelli is confident that it has got its sums right and that its tyres will contribute to entertaining races in Australia and beyond.
Pirelli agreed with the teams and the FIA to create tyres that provoked more than one pitstop, and the winter testing programme has suggested that three or even four changes could be the norm.
“We’re very happy with the progress we’ve made,” Pirelli motor sport director Paul Hembery told Motor Sport. “I think all that’s missing now is getting some feedback from a race environment — that will now come a couple of weeks later than we’d planned.”
Some drivers have been critical of tyre wear rates and the dramatic drop-off in lap times over a stint, but Hembery says that he is not worried about the potential for criticism.
“A real tyre drama is something like Indianapolis 2005 when tyres fall apart,” he said. “We’re just doing something different, which is what was asked of us by the teams. So drivers need to speak to their employers if they’re not happy! I think that Australia will be in the three-stop range, by the time we’ve seen the track evolve. But the teams are working on all sorts of strategies now.
“We’re also very open to learning. We’ve been humble in our approach. It’s very hard for us to try and create a product that actually forces changes. It’s far easier to do a tyre that lasts for the whole race. You’re working in a small window, because you don’t want any more than 30 laps with one set of tyres, otherwise you will be back to a one-stop strategy very quickly. We wanted to try and change the way that cars are running on the circuit, because we wanted cars that are running faster and slower.
“A repeat of Canada 2010 is what was asked of us, and clearly some drivers found that difficult. But at the end of the day there will be someone on the podium in Melbourne with champagne in hand, and they’ll be happy! The important thing to remember is that everybody has exactly the same product, and it’s exactly the same challenge.”
One of the big problems that Pirelli and the teams have faced is that the cancellation of the March 3-6 Bahrain test meant that all the 2011 testing was done in the cold Spanish winter.
“It hasn’t helped. In fact if we’d been going really well in winter conditions I’d be more concerned, because we shouldn’t be working in 10deg C. By and large it’s going to be between 25-35deg C for most of the year. We did get greater wear during the winter testing than we’d seen in our own testing, but from our data, that strongly related to the temperature.
“The thing we haven’t seen is that we were not having a track evolution — that’s the tyre compound being put down on the circuit, which improves the overall wear greatly. We believe it’s highly temperature-related.”
More tyres for Friday running
The FIA has attempted to ensure that the track stays busy on Grand Prix Fridays by authorising the use of extra tyres.
There had been fears that due to the short life of the 2011 Pirellis — and the need to conserve them for use later in the weekend — drivers would run minimal mileage on Fridays.
The FIA has now agreed to Pirelli’s request to give each driver two sets of a development or experimental tyre that is different from the primes and options chosen for use that weekend. These extra tyres can only be used on Friday.
The move also helps Pirelli, which at one stage even considered running its Toyota test car on Fridays in order to get some more development work done.
On weekends when Pirelli is unwilling or unable to supply development tyres, each driver will now get one extra set of the normal primes for that event for Friday use.
Art to boost F1 interest
A stunning ‘exploded’ Formula 1 car is the centrepiece of a new exhibition that has been opened at Mercedes-Benz World in Surrey.
The piece, called ‘View Suspended II’, was created by Dutch artist Paul Veroude for a show themed on ‘technology past and present’. The Mercedes GP car features over 3200 parts that have all been suspended by fine wires.
“The artwork took hundreds of hours to put together and attracted a huge amount of interest while it was being made,” said CEO of Mercedes GP Nick Fry, who was on hand to unveil the artwork on March 3.
“It really does show how intricate and complex an F1 car is,” he added. “We hope that showing an F1 car in this form will inspire young people to get interested in automotive engineering and Formula 1.”
Fry hopes the exhibition and sculpture, which is open to all visitors to the Brooklandsbased facility, will be “a catalyst to get people involved” in the motor racing industry.
“Formula 1 is something we are remarkably good at in the UK and the vast majority of the grid is made here. There are about 4500 companies that support F1 and highperformance engineering in general. Those companies turn over about £6 billion a year.”
For more information on the exhibition, log on to www2.mercedes-benz.co.uk.
Vettel re-signs for Red Bull
World Champion Sebastian Vettel has signed a new deal with Red Bull Racing that will keep him at the team until the end of 2014.
The German had been linked to possible moves to both Ferrari and Mercedes. But the agreement, which was announced well ahead of the Australian GP season opener, looks sure to rule out a big-money move.
Meanwhile, Italian Tonio Liuzzi claimed the final race seat on the 2011 grid when he was confirmed as teammate to Narain Karthikeyan at Hispania Racing just three weeks before the first race.