Ralph Ellis tells us why the expected debut of Jaime Alguersuari, who will become the youngest-ever driver in F1 aged just 19, has riled the likes of Felipe Massa and Lewis Hamilton ahead of the Hungarian Grand Prix.
"The other drivers see it as less than funny, and not just out of jealousy that a rookie hasn’t had to do his time before getting a chance. Even some of the sport’s other “youngest ever” stars are appalled. That’s because for them, it’s a safety issue. An F1 track is a dangerous enough place to be without a learner driver among them."
At this time of year - and especially in a recession - it's tough for young kids leaving school or University. Interview after interview ends with the verdict: "Sorry, but we wanted somebody with more experience." Which ends with the obvious question: "If nobody will give me experience, how do I get some?"
Well welcome to the kid who's bucked that particular problem. Jaime Alguersuari will sit on the starting grid of a Grand Prix race in Hungary despite having never driven his Torro Rosso car in anything other than a straight line before.
The 19-year-old from Barcelona will become the youngest driver in Formula One history, assuming, of course, that everything goes OK in the next two days of practice and qualifying. Backed by big sponsorship from petroleum giant Repsol, he won the British Formula Three title last season but to step into an F1 seat brings a whole new meaning to the phrase 'fast-tracked'.
He tried to win over journalists by starting his press conference in Hungary explaining how to pronounce his name. "I know it's a little bit tough," he laughed. "My name is 'Heimi Al-gay-shuari'.
The other drivers see it as less than funny, and not just out of jealousy that a rookie hasn't had to do his time before getting a chance. Even some of the sport's other "youngest ever" stars are appalled. That's because for them, it's a safety issue. An F1 track is a dangerous enough place to be without a learner driver among them.
"It's wrong. He's too young," says Ferrari's Felipe Massa. "When I came into Formula One I was only 20. I was too inexperienced and made mistakes. But at least I had done a whole winter of testing. He's never driven an F1 car, or he has in a straight line or whatever, but it's not good for him and it's not good for everybody else."
And Lewis Hamilton put it into perspective. "In 2006 when Juan Pablo Montoya left McLaren I was going to replace him in China, Japan and Brazil. I'd done only straight line tests and it would have been the worst move of my career. It eventually took me eight days of strong, core testing before I felt comfortable in the car."
So that's enough advice not to back Alguersuari to win in Hungary, even at a mind boggling 870.0! The big issue is what influence his presence on the track could have on the top drivers.
The warm temperatures at the Hungaroring should give Jenson Button, who is 3.5 favourite, every chance of extending his 21 lead over Sebastien Vettel this weekend, especially with new innovations added to his Brawn car. But with a twist of the unknown added every time one of the top drivers moves to overtake a learner, I'm more inclined to lay that.
Five things you might not know about Jaime Alguersuari
1. Born in Barcelona in March 1990, his dad is a Mr Fixit for Formula Three racing who helped set up the World Series.
2. As a teenager he spent a year at boarding school in Ipswich to improve his English - his dad's idea to prepare him for press conferences after winning races!
3.He started karting at the age of eight, and had four wins in four races to be Spanish junior karting champion at the age of 13
4. He's a decent golfer with a handicap of five
5. He's also a part time DJ, and together with friends helps organise an electronic music festival in Ibiza every year
The Corvettes are in hot pursuit with Saleen, Nissan and Ford challenging for those elusive points at the end of the 24-hours on Sunday afternoon.
GT2 provides the traditional battle between Ferrari and Porsche. Porsche is ahead coming into the Belgian race but with BMS Scuderia Italia competing with two Ferrari F430’s they will be up for the fight, especially after their podium finish at Le Mans.
The G2 and G3 classes feature a whole host of talented drivers including 1997 F1 World Champion Jacques Villeneuve in the Gravity Racing International Mosler MT900 competing in G2. Phoenix is racing an Audi R8 LM and is up against three Porsches from Jetalliance and PMB Motorsport.
Porsche have been dominant in G3 and Muhlner Motorsport is looking for a fifth win. Hoping to stop the Porsche winning ways will be Matech GT Racing with two Ford GT cars, Barwell Motorsport with an Aston Martin DBRS9 and two BMW Alpina B6 GT3 cars from Sport Garage.
Other championship racing at Spa this weekend will include; Cooper Tires British F3 International series, Lamborghini Blancpain Super Trofeo, GT4 European Cup but they are racing with the Dutch GT4 championship and the Formul’Academy Euro Series.
There were three qualifying sessions for the Total 24 Hours of Spa which apart from fifteen minutes at the start of the first session were run entirely in the wet.
Qualifying at Spa-Francorchamps was dominated by the Maserati’s who have one-two-three on the grid for the race. Alex Muller claimed his second pole in a row with Alessandro Pierguidi in second and Andrea Bertolini third.
Joining the Maserati on the second row in fourth was the no 8 Sangari Corvette Z06, the third row comprises of no 3 SRT Corvette and the no 40 VDS Racing Ford GT.
Gianmaria Bruni claimed pole in GT2 in the no 50 AF Corse Ferrari F430. This brought his impressive tally of poles to seven and put him ahead of the no 55 CRS Racing Ferrari F430 of Tim Mullen and the no 59 Trackspeed Porsche 911 of Jorg Bergmeister.
Phoenix Racing was fastest in G2 with their Audi R8 driven by Marcel Fassler. In G3 Matech GT Racing with Thomas Mutsch driving set the fastest time. by Melissa Warren www.girlracer.co.uk
For the first time ever for an Impreza, the STI incorporates a stability control system. Heresy? Not really. It boosts safety in extremis and you can still switch if off, or even to a half-way 'Traction' mode that delays its onset to increase driver feel. The steering is rather lighter than many performance cars but you always feel utterly confident that the STI will get you around bends. And there's a surprising amount of body roll for such a performance-orientated car, the result of some soft suspension settings that improve the ride quality over the previous STI. Overall noise is also a good deal more subdued now.
Economy and safety
You don't buy an Impreza STI if you're worried about fuel consumption as it's always been terrible. While there are no official figures yet, Subaru claims that the new STI will be fractionally more frugal than the last one but that was certainly no miser at 25.9mpg. As for safety, the four-wheel drive system certainly offers excellent grip, and finally the STI moves into the modern age with curtain airbags and stability control for the first time.
The MSN Cars verdict: 4/5
First, the good news: the all-new STI remains a titanically fast performance car with astonishing grip. Its design is also just aggressive enough to please existing enthusiasts, without being too over-the-top. And it's a good deal more practical, more refined and rides better. But the new STI doesn't represent the great leap forward we had hoped for. Despite all the driver aids, the STI remains a stubborn understeerer, while its straight-line braking is rather wayward. Regular performance hatches may not be as quick, but they've caught up with Subaru in terms of the fun factor. We'll have to wait and see if the larger-engined UK version, due in March 2008, can iron out the problems.
Ratings out of five: Subaru Impreza WRX STI
Ride & handling
MSN Cars verdict
Need to know
Petrol engines: 2.5-litre turbocharged
Power (bhp) : 296
Torque (lb/ft): 300
0-62 (secs) : 4.0 (est)
Top speed (mph) :160 (est)
Combined mpg: n/a
The current Civic is the best yet. It is the most powerful and the most fuel-efficient, and comes in a wide range of models. It is also the most radically designed Civic to date, inside and out. For small car shoppers looking for a used vehicle, the Civic is again a smart choice, as its long production run and wide range of models make it easy to find what you want.
The current Civic is available as a coupe or sedan. Both styles share five main trim levels: base DX, LX, EX, EX-L and Si. The sedan also features DX Value Package, LX-S, Hybrid and GX trim levels. All trims get a broad range of safety features, such as antilock brakes, front-seat side airbags and full-length side curtain airbags. In terms of premium features, the DX is pretty limited, and you'll have to jump up to the higher trims to get amenities such as air-conditioning and power accessories.
All trims but the Si are powered by a 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine, which makes 140 horsepower. A five-speed manual transmission is standard and a five-speed automatic is optional. Driving enthusiasts might want to take a look at the Civic Si. Offered in both coupe and sedan body styles, the Si is powered by a high-revving 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that pumps out 197 hp. It comes exclusively with a close-ratio six-speed manual transmission.
The Civic GX is powered by a 113-hp 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine that runs on clean-burning compressed natural gas. The Civic Hybrid features Honda's latest Integrated Motor Assist system, which consists of a 1.3-liter four-cylinder gas engine and a 20-hp electric motor. Total output is 110 hp. The Hybrid comes exclusively with a continuously variable transmission (CVT) and its EPA-estimated fuel economy is 40 mpg city and 45 mpg highway.
In reviews and road tests, our editors found the Honda Civic to be a well-rounded car. Inside, this Civic has a dramatic-looking interior that features a two-tier dashboard layout. A digital speedometer sits on top of the dash, while the tachometer sits underneath. Honda has tuned the coupe to feel sportier than the sedan. Both are fun to drive, with quick steering and impressive handling. The 1.8-liter engine won't overwhelm anyone, but it provides enough power for comfortable city driving. The Hybrid gets fantastic fuel mileage, and the GX is impressively clean, but both suffer from slow acceleration.
The current Honda Civic represents the eighth generation of this popular car, first introduced for the 2006 model year. All current body styles and trim combinations were available that year, except for the Si sedan, which debuted for '07. The following year saw a limited-edition Mugen Si model and the addition of a leather upholstery option. For '09, the LX-S and DX Value Package trims debuted along with a minor exterior refreshening.
Previous to the current model was the seventh-generation Honda Civic, which was sold from 2001-'05. There were coupe and sedan body styles as well as a two-door hatchback. Honda offered its typical mainstream trims -- DX, LX and EX -- plus a few specialty trims such as VP, HX, SE and Hybrid. The hatchback came only in the Si trim. Most models had a 1.7-liter engine good for 117 hp or 127 hp (EX). The Civic Hybrid mated an 85-hp 1.3-liter four-cylinder gas engine to a 13-hp electric motor and offered the best fuel economy of the lineup. The Civic Si produced 160 hp from its 2.0-liter engine. At the time, we commented favorably about the car's fuel-efficient engines, roomy interior and top safety scores but were disappointed by the limited availability of antilock brakes.
Sold from 1996-2000, the sixth-generation Civic was in many ways a refinement of the style and technology found on the previous generation. Coupe, sedan and hatchback body styles were available. Sedans were offered in DX, LX and EX trim levels. Engine choices were a 1.6-liter good for 106 hp in the DX and LX or 127 hp in the VTEC-equipped EX. There was also a higher-fuel-economy coupe, the 115-hp HX. Honda didn't release an Si trim until 1999. Based on the coupe body style, the Si was powered by a high-performance 1.6-liter engine tuned to put out 160 hp.
Honda's VTEC technology first appeared in the fifth-generation Civic, which was sold from 1992-'95. The Civic VX featured a fuel-efficient 92-hp 1.5-liter four-cylinder with VTEC-E. More powerful was the 125-hp 1.6-liter four-cylinder VTEC engine found in the Civic Si and EX sedan trims. First sold only in hatchback and sedan body styles, the fifth-gen Honda Civic got two coupe trims in 1993, the DX and EX. The lower CX and DX trims each had a 70-hp 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine.
After reviewing more than 3500 applications, NASA has selected nine men and women for the 2009 astronaut candidate class. They will begin training at NASA’s Johnson Space Center, Houston, in August.
“This is a very talented and diverse group we've selected,” said Bill Gerstenmaier, NASA associate administrator for Space Operations. “They will join our current astronauts and play very important roles for NASA in the future. In addition to flying in space, astronauts participate in every aspect of human spaceflight, sharing their expertise with engineers and managers across the country. We look forward to working with them as we transcend from the shuttle to our future exploration of space, and continue the important engineering and scientific discoveries aboard the International Space Station."
The new astronaut candidates:
Serena M. Aunon, 33, of League City, Texas; University of Texas Medical Branch-Wyle flight surgeon for NASA’s Space Shuttle, International Space Station and Constellation Programs; born in Indianapolis, Ind. Aunon holds degrees from The George Washington University, University of Texas Health Sciences Center in Houston, and UTMB.
Jeanette J. Epps, 38, of Fairfax, Va.; technical intelligence officer with the Central Intelligence Agency; born in Syracuse, N.Y. Epps holds degrees from LeMoyne College and the University of Maryland.
Jack D. Fischer, Major U.S. Air Force, 35, of Reston, Va.; test pilot; U.S. Air Force Strategic Policy intern (Joint Chiefs of Staff) at the Pentagon; born in Boulder, Colo., but considers Louisville his hometown. Fischer is a graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy and Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Michael S. Hopkins, Lt. Colonel U.S. Air Force, 40, of Alexandria, Va.; special assistant to the Vice Chairman (Joint Chiefs of Staff) at the Pentagon; born in Lebanon, Mo. Hopkins holds degrees from the University of Illinois and Stanford University.
Kjell N. Lindgren, 36, of League City, Texas; University of Texas Medical Branch-Wyle flight surgeon for NASA’s Space Shuttle, International Space Station and Constellation Programs; born in Taipei, Taiwan. Lindgren has degrees from the U.S. Air Force Academy, Colorado State University, University of Colorado, the University of Minnesota, and UTMB.
Kathleen (Kate) Rubins, 30, of Cambridge, Mass.; born in Farmington, Conn.; principal investigator and fellow, Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research at MIT and conducts research trips to the Congo. Rubins has degrees from the University of California-San Diego and Stanford University.
Scott D. Tingle, Commander U.S. Navy, 43, of Hollywood, Md.; born in Attleboro, Mass.; test pilot and Assistant Program Manager-Systems Engineering at Naval Air Station Patuxent River. Tingle holds degrees from Southeastern Massachusetts University (now University of Massachusetts Dartmouth) and Purdue University.
Mark T. Vande Hei, Lt. Colonel U.S. Army, 42, of El Lago, Texas; born in Falls Church, Va.; flight controller for the International Space Station at NASA’s Johnson Space Center, as part of U.S. Army NASA Detachment. Vande Hei is a graduate of Saint John’s University and Stanford University.
Gregory R. (Reid) Wiseman, Lt. Commander U.S. Navy, 33, of Virginia Beach, Va.; born in Baltimore; test pilot; Department Head, Strike Fighter Squadron 103, USS Dwight D. Eisenhower, based out of Oceana Virginia. Wiseman is a graduate of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and Johns Hopkins University.
The case has become like a multicar pileup at the speedway; you can’t take your eyes off it.
The increasingly salacious elements of the story and the stigma of the drug commonly referred to as crystal meth have dominated the news and taken the focus away from Nascar’s program, which many specialists in the field of drug testing have derided as less than ideal.
While applauding the intent, they say the plan lacks a full and specific list of disallowed drugs, fails to establish precise penalties, does not have a formal medical exception standard and is without a clearly established appeals or arbitration process.
Many of those elements are playing out in the Mayfield case.
Known in Nascar circles more for his outspokenness than racing success, Mayfield, 40, sued the organization in May after he was suspended for failing a drug test. Nascar, which by practice does not disclose the exact drug detected, countersued. Mayfield sought a temporary injunction to restore his driving privileges, his lawyers arguing in court that he never used recreational drugs.
On July 1, a judge determined that the chance of a false positive was “quite substantial” and ruled in Mayfield’s favor, lifting the suspension. That day, Nascar confirmed published reports that Mayfield had tested positive for methamphetamine.
The case became messier last week when Nascar said that Mayfield, who had offered to be retested, had failed a second test for meth. Among the new result and other papers filed by Nascar to persuade the court to lift the injunction was testimony from Mayfield’s stepmother that she had observed him ingesting the drug some 30 times over seven years.
In an interview with ESPN, Mayfield cast his stepmother as the person who “shot and killed my dad.” (His father’s shooting death in 2007 was ruled by a medical examiner as self-inflicted.)
Mayfield and his lawyers contend that the two positive tests may have been caused not by meth but by his use of Adderall for attention deficit disorder and Claritin-D for allergies. He said about a half-dozen of his urine samples had been evaluated by an independent lab and showed no traces of meth.
Nascar stands by its open-ended suspension of Mayfield.
“What we’ve been told is methamphetamine is America’s No. 1 drug problem,” said Ramsey Poston, a Nascar spokesman. “It’s highly addictive and dangerous.”
Nascar was founded 52 years ago by Bill France Sr., and the France family has operated the business unilaterally ever since. No drivers’ union exists to negotiate through collective bargaining drug detection methods and penalties.
For two decades, while other pro sports leagues as well as the N.C.A.A. and the United States Olympic Committee were developing and fine-tuning testing programs, Nascar simply declared that the misuse and abuse of any drug constituted a violation. Testing was initiated only by “reasonable suspicion.” The approach was sufficient to ensnare some drivers.
But after Aaron Fike of the truck series was arrested in July 2007 with heroin and then disclosed to ESPN the Magazine in April 2008 that he had taken the drug before a race, Nascar adopted testing measures more in line with other sports, with a few exceptions. Last year, it announced that all drivers, crew members and officials would submit to preseason baseline tests, followed by random screenings throughout the race schedule. According to Poston, all drivers will be tested three to five times a year.
“It’s a broad, sweeping policy that makes it the best policy in sports,” Poston said in a telephone interview.
Yet several drug testing experts interviewed for this article found fault with various aspects of the program. Nascar provides its teams with a minimal list of banned substances largely by categories — amphetamines, barbiturates — instead of identifying each prohibited drug. Some experts have urged Nascar to spell out more exacting penalties for violations, which so far have been open-ended and indefinite in length, and to more formally accommodate exceptions on drugs for therapy.
According to Don Catlin, the founder of the U.C.L.A. Olympic Analytical Lab, Nascar should recognize that “there are drugs that go both ways — for nefarious purposes and for a therapeutic use.”
Poston says waivers for forbidden drugs are granted for necessary medicinal purposes. David Black, a forensic toxicologist, administers Nascar’s testing program through his lab, Aegis in Nashville. “They just need to be in touch with Dr. Black and they work it out,” Poston said.
Gary Wadler of the New York University School of Medicine, who helped compile the roster of prohibited drugs for the World Anti-Doping Agency, said he considered Nascar’s program “woefully adequate.” He said Major League Baseball and the N.F.L. “are light years ahead of where I believe Nascar is.”
Not having a defined list of banned substances renders the program “inherently unfair,” said Charles Yesalis, a Penn State professor of health policy and a longtime adviser on drug policy to sports organizations.
Because sports leagues have a financial incentive not to sideline stars, Yesalis said third-party administering of testing provided more integrity to the process.
Mayfield’s lawyer Bill Diehl accused Nascar of singling out his client, a midlevel driver on the Sprint Cup circuit who has not won a race since 2005. “It’s all contrived, made up,” Diehl said.
In a motion filed Monday in United States District Court in Charlotte, N.C., Mayfield’s lawyers contended Judge Graham Mullen properly ruled when he granted the injunction July 1.
Even if the court allows Mayfield to continue racing, the legal victory may prove Pyrrhic. The driving team that he owned has collapsed, sponsorship money has dried up and his career is in shambles.
"Subscribers will receive the entire novel over a series of SMSes spaced over a period of 30 days. Every day, the subscriber will get to read the novel through three SMSes," said Krishna Durbha, Head, Reliance Communications.
The book will also be launched as an adult audio mobile book. The audio book, which will be available in English, has 60 minutes of audio content. The digital rights of the literary content will be owned by the author.
Meanwhile, Reliance has signed deal with a U.K. based mobile marketing company 3rd Space Services to launch advertising funded videos on its mobile platform.
3rd Space will supply mobile video content to RCom. The content will include 'Who Wants To Be A Millionaire', Bollywood songs and films along with the other content on every data-enabled handset in the Reliance network.
RCom customers will be able to access free content online in return of watching an advertisement embedded within the video. The concentration will be on bringing in Indian and International advertisers.
"Our tie-up with 3rd Space will not only increase the viewership but will also enhance the revenue of both the companies. Our initiative will act as a launch pad for ad-funded videos in India," said Durbha.
Value Added Services (VAS) is a growing segment and comprises up to seven percent of the total telecom revenue of the Indian operators. The revenue sharing arrangement is dominated by the operators, as 70 percent goes to the operator; the aggregator gets 25 percent while the content owner receives the rest.
The handset-based novel is part of RCom's strategy to increase VAS revenues opportunities in metro and Section A and B cities. The target is 20 percent revenue from VAS and data services. Here, F1 Racing will be launched live on R-World, talks with publishers and authors are in progress of increasing VAS based on literary content.
"We want to grow the VAS market beyond Bollywood and are looking to launch poetic works like shayari through audio books," said Durbha.
Petrolheads get a rare chance to see the beasts of Formula One up close in Moscow this weekend.
While Russia lacks a presence on the F1 circuit, the Bavaria Moscow City Racing event transforms the streets around the Kremlin into a Muscovite Monte-Carlo, with three top teams - McLaren, Williams and Red Bull - sending cars and drivers to race around a 4.5 km route lapping the Kremlin walls.
And with experienced F1 drivers David Coulthard, Heikki Kovalainen and Kazuki Nakajima taking the controls, there's every prospect of some top race action.
Coulthard, who amassed 535 points from his 247 races in his pro career, appeared in Moscow last year and is looking forward to coming back.
"I'm delighted to be bringing a Formula One car here, especially since in Russia there is no F1 race at the moment," he said. "It's a great chance to show the audience what these cars can do. I'm looking forward to making a lot of noise and putting on a big show."
Russia, of course, has a proud autosport tradition of its own, and that will be represented at this festival of speed as well.
The "KAMAZ-master" rally team, which has enjoyed eight Paris-Dakar rally triumphs, is sending top drivers Vladimir Chagin, Sergei Savostin and Eduard Nikolayev.
Shagin added: "Rally and Formula One may have little in common but we share the most important thing - a love of motoring.
"A show on this scale is a big celebration for all the drivers and show off our skills to a Russian audience. We'll do everything possible to entertain the crowds."
The F1 racing runs from 2 pm to 5 pm, with the cars on a route along Kremlinskaya and Moskvoretskaya embankments, Ulitsa Mokhovaya and Manezhnaya Ploshchad.
Spectators can gather around the course free of charge, though tickets for the grandstands at the finish line need to be pre-ordered.
Nuerburgring, Germany: Red Bull's Mark Webber won his first Formula One race on Sunday after overcoming a penalty to take the German Grand Prix.
The Australian beat teammate Sebastian Vettel by 9.2 seconds despite a drive-through penalty for bumping Brawn GP's Rubens Barrichello out of the start while defending his pole position.
Webber's euphoric screams were heard over the team radio after he crossed the finish line in his 132nd race.
"It's an incredible day for me. I wanted to win so badly," Webber said.
It was the second straight 1-2 for the Austrian team and third overall after nine races.
Felipe Massa gave Ferrari its first podium finish of the season by coming third ahead of Nico Rosberg of Williams.
F1 leader Jenson Button of Brawn GP finished fifth to take his overall total to 68 points, while Vettel moved into second with 47 points and Webber is third with 45.5 points. Barrichello has 44 points after finishing sixth.
Webber's victory continued a momentum shift toward Red Bull after Button had looked set to run away with the title following its sixth wins in the first seven races. It was the first time this season that Brawn GP failed to finish on the podium.
It was an orderly start except for Webber's attempt to keep Barrichello from speeding up the inside toward the first corner.
With the front-runners tangled up, reigning F1 champion Lewis Hamilton reached the turn first but ran wide and subsequently dropped into last with a damaged rear tire. The McLaren driver would finish 18th.
After the completion of the first pit stops and Webber had performed his penalty, Barrichello led by nearly three seconds.
Button, who had been held up trying to pass Massa for a number of laps, was nearly 10 seconds behind Webber in third while holding the same advantage over Vettel.
But Webber led by more than 30 seconds over the Brawn GP cars after his final pit, holding on to be the seventh winner from pole this season with both Barrichello and Button on three-pit strategies.
Massa had started from eighth, while Rosberg used an extra long opening stint to make up ground after starting from 15th spot.
Fernando Alonso finished seventh for Renault and Heikki Kovalainen took eighth for McLaren, snapping a four-race streak out of the points to end its worse run in nearly two decades.
Force India failed to get its first point despite Adrian Sutil starting seventh as Kimi Raikkonen again acted as the German driver's bogeyman.
Sutil, who ended 15th, was forced to return to the pits immediately after exiting after tangling with the Ferrari driver, who would retire as a result of the bump. Raikkonen knocked Sutil out of Monaco last year with nine laps to go and a points finish beckoning.
Piquet was surrounded by rumours that he could be dropped after the German race, having failed to score the necessary points that would have contractually guaranteed his slot with the team.
But despite Piquet expressing confidence over the weekend about his future, Briatore declined to confirm the future of his Brazilian driver following the Nurburgring event.
"I don't know," he told AUTOSPORT when asked about if Piquet would be driving alongside Fernando Alonso at the Hungaroring. "Maybe I am in the car myself..."
Piquet wrote on his Twitter feed after the German race that he had been told by Renault that he would be given the same performance updates that Alonso had on his car in Germany for the Hungarian race - suggesting that he will remain on board,
"The team have promised that me and Fernando will have the same car for the next race," he wrote.
Renault's third driver Frenchman Romain Grosjean has been most strongly linked with a step-up to an F1 race seat if Piquet is dropped, although he has struggled for form in GP2 since his big accident at the Monaco Grand Prix support race.
Brazilian Lucas di Grassi has also been linked with the drive, but he made it clear on Tuesday that he was fully focused on winning the GP2 crown.
India's date with high-profile Formula One race is delayed by another year to 2011, Indian Olympic Association President Suresh Kalmadi said on Thursday but refused to give any reason for it.
"Formula One will be held in India in 2011. Berni (Ecclestone, Formula One supremo) and GP Group are working on this plan," he said.
Kalmadi, who had been saying that F1 race will be held in Greater Noida in 2010, however, did not give any reason for the delay.
"I don't know," he said parrying an answer to the queries regarding reasons for the delay.
This followed after President and CEO of Formula One Management Bernie Ecclestone said last month that the Indian Grand Prix will only be inserted in the 2011 season.
IOA signed a deal reportedly for 10 years in June 2007 to host F1 in Greater Noida and the site for the race track was surveyed by Hermann Tilke who has designed most new F1 tracks over the past decade including Sepang, Bahrain, Shanghai, Istanbul, Singapore.
Kalmadi expressed happiness that Olympic sports is on the rise in India after the Beijing Games and fine showing by the country in the Commonwealth Youth Games in Pune in October.
"We won the first individual gold, won bronze in boxing and wrestling in Beijing. It is not about only one or two disciplines. Our youth did well in the recent Commonwealth Youth Games by finishing on top. So, Olympic sports are beginning to do well," he said at a function to celebrate '700 Days to go for the 2010 Commonwealth Games'.
Cologne, 08.07.2009 -- At 9.25am on Friday 10th July, the great moment will arrive: Tamas Simon from Hungary will meet Nick Heidfeld in front of the BMW Sauber F1 Team Motorhome the Nurburgring where he will present him with the new helmet that the F1 driver will wear to compete in the German Grand Prix.
The 'Helmet Designer' competition for Nick's fans was organised by his official website (www.nickheidfeld.com) during the month of June, with entries being sent in online. Nick and his personal helmet designer Jens Munser chose Tamas Simon's idea from over 9,000 that had been submitted in this way.
"This helmet stood out from all the rest. In fact, as soon as I saw it, I thought that it was a likely winner," says Nick. "My immediate response was just 'Wow!'. I'm really looking forward to seeing this special design realised on my new helmet."
For his part, Tamas is excited about meeting up with Nick Heidfeld, not least because this will be his first ever visit to an F1 race. "It's a great honour to have designed this special helmet for Nick," he said. "It's difficult to sum up the feeling in words."
After Sunday's race, the helmet will be auctioned off in aid of the RTL charity 'Wir helfen Kindern' as part of this year's telemarathon fundraising event. Nick Heidfeld will launch the bidding on Friday 10th July at the Golf Grand Prix evening event to be held in the new Eifeldorf at the Nurburgring. Thereafter, bids can be submitted for the helmet by e-mail to email@example.com .
BMW Sauber’s fall from grace this season has been well documented. Having finished ‘best of the rest’ behind Ferrari and McLaren in 2008, the German-Swiss team were hoping to take another step forward in ’09 and fight for the title.
However, they have been sorely disappointed and with few signs of imminent improvement currently languish near the foot of the table with eight points. Here’s the story of their campaign so far…
World championship points: 8
Best qualifying result: 4th (x1)
Best race result: 2nd (x1)
During pre-season testing the F1.09 had looked quick and reliable, with drivers Robert Kubica and Nick Heidfeld publically extolling its virtues. There were even mutters that the team were playing down their performance to take the frontrunners by surprise in Melbourne. As the season got underway, however, the car’s inadequacies became clear for all to see.
The best they could muster in Australia was tenth and 14th, while the Brawns and Toyotas stole the headlines. And aside from Heidfeld’s lucky podium in Malaysia, the team have clocked up just three other top-ten finishes. It’s all a far cry from where they were this time last year, when they had 74 points after eight races.
BMW Sauber have since admitted that they missed a trick by focusing on KERS (which they have now abandoned) over aerodynamics. They were slow coming up with their own version of the Brawn/Toyota/Williams double diffuser and were hit hard when the FIA declared the device legal. To their credit, the team have taken considerable steps to halt the decline, and BMW Motorsport director Mario Theissen has stridently refused to write-off their 2009 campaign.
At the recent Turkish Grand Prix, where they ran their first version of the two-tier diffuser, there were some signs of a change for the better, with Kubica scoring his first points of the season. But the intensive and ongoing development has so far failed to make enough of a difference. The drivers’ confidence in their steed has steadily waned and at the last race at Silverstone they both finished a lap down. Kubica and Heidfeld want more pace and they want it now.
Battle of the team mates - Robert Kubica v Nick Heidfeld
Qualifying: Kubica (6-2)
Race: Heidfeld (5-3) Kubica retired in Malaysia and Monaco
Points: Heidfeld 6, Kubica 2
Last year Nick Heidfeld and Robert Kubica were competing for points and podiums - in 2009 the duo has struggled to make it into the top ten. In light of his storming performance in 2008, many expected Kubica to upstage Heidfeld again. But the reality has played out very differently. Kubica’s larger frame left him at a disadvantage in a car designed around KERS and while he has enjoyed more qualifying success, it’s Heidfeld who has performed better on Sundays, clinching the team’s only podium and two further top-ten finishes to the Pole’s one. But with the car struggling so much, it is hard to determine who really holds the advantage. Rather than beating their team mate, by far the biggest challenge both face over the coming races will be to eek more out of the F1.09.
In summary - with a world of work left to make the F1.09 even half the car its predecessor was, should BMW Sauber shelve their 2009 campaign and focus on 2010?
The German Grand Prix at the Nurburgring should provide a true indication of the state of play as the Formula One season reaches its exact midpoint, provided that the weather does not intervene in the form of lower than normal temperatures or rain.
The signs are that it will be cool, with the ambient temperature failing to exceed 18 degrees Celsius (making it very similar to Silverstone’s), and showers likely at some time each day. In other words, conditions likely to favour the Red Bulls on Sebastian Vettel’s home ground.
“I'd say it's like a soccer match when you play on your home ground,” Vettel says. “You always give 100 percent, but in a home race you're even more motivated, because at home you feel comfortable.
"Not far from the Nurburgring, in Kerpen, I got a lot of kart experience which is why I have many friends in this region. During the 90 minutes of the race I do not think about which country I'm in, because I am concentrated on racing. But before and after, this is special because being at home is the best place to stay."
Brawn, however, have not been idle since their home turf defeat.
"We’re looking forward to returning to the race track and the Nurburgring should be a good circuit for our car and play to its strengths,” team principal Ross Brawn says. “We have several new aerodynamic parts from Silverstone which were not used in qualifying and the race due to the issues that we faced there, along with additional improvements scheduled for this race, which should position us well going into the weekend.
“Whilst coming away with third and sixth placed finishes from Silverstone was still a good outcome from our home Grand Prix, we would be the first to admit that the result did not meet our expectations. However, we have always said that we would have a fight on our hands to maintain our excellent run of results at the start of the season and everyone at the factory and at Mercedes-Benz High Performance Engines in Brixworth is looking forward to that challenge.
“As a team, we have a good history of going away from a race, thinking about the outcome, identifying where we need to make improvements and then coming back stronger. As the home Grand Prix for Mercedes-Benz, we will be hoping to come away from the weekend with a successful result."
Jenson Button would like nothing more than to resume his championship challenge by returning the favour and denying Vettel the chance of winning at home.
"The Nurburgring is a tricky circuit but there are two key characteristics which should be good for our car,” he says. “It is a relatively slow circuit with a lot of medium-speed corners which are one of the strengths of the BGP001. The Nurburgring is also one of the heaviest braking circuits on the calendar so you need a car which will be good through the four heavy braking zones.
“With the extra week's break, everyone at the factory and at Mercedes has been working extremely hard in preparation for the German Grand Prix to get the best package for the race and we're looking forward to showing what the car can do at the Nurburgring after a disappointing weekend by our standards at the British Grand Prix.
“My last stint at Silverstone showed that the pace of the car is really competitive so we're confident that we can turn it around at this race. I'm sure we will see a really intense fight with our closest competitors and hopefully a great race for the fans."
Ferrari, Williams and Renault all have high hopes of challenging for the podium, as have BMW Sauber and Toyota, both of whom will be racing on home ground (Toyota are based in Cologne). All of them also have aerodynamic upgrades.
McLaren, racing in Mercedes-Benz’s backyard, are realistic about their chances. “The last time we raced at the Nurburgring was in 2007, and I remember I had a tough afternoon battling through from the back of the field to finish just outside the points,” Lewis Hamilton recalls. “It’s a fantastic circuit; fast and flowing with some good spots for overtaking. And it’s in a fantastic part of the world too; deep in the forests of western Germany, where the fans seem to live and breathe Formula One. It’s always an amazing party atmosphere whenever we race in Germany.
“While we aren’t expecting any major upgrades for this weekend, I’m still looking forward to the race. It’s an honour to be part of the Silver Arrows and, while our results haven’t recently shown it, we’re still pushing incredibly hard and are all hopeful of moving closer to the front before the end of this difficult season.”
The ‘new’ Nurburgring circuit mixes high and low-speed corners with heavy braking areas. About 60 percent of the track is run under full throttle, placing heavy demands on the engine, and it also requires excellent aerodynamic efficiency. Characteristically the circuit is grippy, but promotes understeer so drivers and engineers often struggle to achieve the right aerodynamic balance between the sections where maximum speeds reach 300 km/h and the slow and medium-speed parts which require high downforce.
Bridgestone’s tyre choice might help Brawn in the low temperatures; as in Australia, China and Bahrain the Japanese company will bring their medium and super soft slicks, together with their intermediate and wet rubber.
The Nurburgring demands some of the highest downforce levels of the season, not only for the numerous high and medium-speed corners, but also to maintain good stability under heavy braking for the first corner and the slow chicane of Turns 13 and 14.
As Renault driver Fernando Alonso explains: "The left-right chicane of Turns 13 and 14 is probably the best overtaking opportunity as it's one of the biggest braking zones of the lap. If you are following another car closely, you can pick up a good slipstream on the approach and make a lunge down the inside. We take it at about 100 km/h in second gear and you need to be aggressive with the curbs to straight-line the chicane as much as possible and carry speed through the corner."
Corners such as Turns Five/Six, Eight/Nine and 10/11 in particular demand a neutral handling balance to avoid compromising the optimum line through the second corner in the sequence, and the engineers will often work through the weekend to dial out understeer in the medium-speed corners.
A quick, responsive change of direction is required in both the slow-speed section at the start of the lap, and through the quicker corners. Mechanical grip is particularly important through Turns One to Four, but cannot be achieved at the expense of aerodynamic performance around the rest of the lap.
Alonso explains: "The run through Turns One to Four is not very exciting for the drivers, but we spend a lot of time in them and that means that any mistake is likely to be very costly, especially in qualifying. We need to be precise with our braking and keep the car under control all the time as too much understeer, oversteer or a missed apex will put you out of shape for the following corners. The car balance is never perfect at such low speeds either, so we are always fighting understeer in the very slow corners, and a nervous rear end when we accelerate away."
Tyre performance will, as always, be a critical performance parameter for all teams this weekend with Bridgestone providing the super-soft and medium compounds from its 2009 range. Ambient conditions will play a role in determining which compound is the preferred tyre for the race as we often experience cool temperatures at the Nurburgring.
Wear on the brakes is not a major concern. None of the braking zones are particularly severe and there is no reason to think that wear levels on the discs and pads should be abnormally high as a result.
The Nurburgring is not a circuit that presents the engines with any extreme challenges, and its overall impact is further reduced by the fact that the circuit is situated at altitude, some 500m above sea level. This has the effect of reducing engine power by approximately five percent, while also reducing loads on certain engine components such as the pistons.
The engine is at full throttle for just over 64 percent of the lap - a value slightly above the season average of approximately 62 percent. The longest single period at full throttle barely exceeds ten seconds, so the main challenge for the engine team is ensuring strong performance from low revs so the engine launches well out of the slow corners, particularly Turn Seven which leads onto the uphill drag to Turn 10.
As Nelson Piquet explains: "We approach Turn Seven downhill in seventh gear at almost 300km/h before braking and downshifting to third for the hairpin. It's really important to stay online and hit the apex through this corner so that you can apply the throttle early on the exit to carry as much speed on the long drag back up the hill towards the high-speed chicane of Turns Eight and Nine."
The circuit includes a number of elevation changes, but none are sudden enough to cause the engine systems any concern. The only note of caution is finding the best line through some of the bumpier corners, and particularly the chicane, to avoid spending too much time on the rev limiter, which is potentially damaging for the engine.