Sad day

The FIA issued this statement earlier:

The world of motor sport is in mourning today, after the tragic passing of Jules Bianchi overnight. The sport has lost one of the most talented drivers of this generation, from a family that has such a strong presence in the history of the sport.

Jules Bianchi was a popular personality all in F1, possessing the best of both human and sporting qualities. The FIA ​​recognises the courage with which he conducted his last fight, in the company of his loving family.

Jean Todt, FIA President, expressed his deepest condolences to Jules’ family and recognised the great pain being felt by the Bianchi family and those close to them.

The motor sport community offers their most sincere support through this terrible ordeal.

London Formula E race gets green light




Following a decision by Wandsworth Council, the London race of the all-electric FIA Formula E Championship has received planning approval to be held within the grounds of Battersea Park.

The London ePrix will also encompass two separate races – Rounds 10 and 11 – on Saturday 27 and Sunday 28 June, increasing the inaugural calendar by one additional race.

In addition to the Formula E action, spectators will also get to enjoy the championship’s support race – the FE School Series – which sees children from 10 local schools compete in self-assembled electric kit cars around the full-size race track. Organised by UK charity Greenpower, the series aims to inspire young people to develop careers in engineering and sustainability.

Round 5 Miami ePrix, USA, 14 March 2015
Round 6 Long Beach ePrix, US, 4 April 2015
Round 7 Monaco ePrix, Monaco, 9 May 2015
Round 8 Berlin ePrix, Germany, 23 May 2015
Round 9 Moscow ePrix, Russia, 6 June 2015*
Round 10 London ePrix, UK 27 June 2015*
Round 11 London ePrix, UK 28 June 2015*

* Circuit layout remains subject to FIA approval and track homologation.

Formula One in the Middle East (Part 1)

Just a few years ago Formula One – and motorsport in general – did not have any presence in the Middle East. Now the region wants to be associated with what Formula One represents – technological excellence, innovation, the future.

Bahrain has not only built a venue that is among the very best in the world and deservedly won acclaim for its Grand Prix, but it has also built foundations for the current growth of interest and investment in Formula One across the Middle East.

Bahrain International Circuit

The Bahrain International Circuit (BIC) staged its first Formula One event in April 2004, winning the FIA promoters’ trophy for that season. Commented the sport’s dealmaker extraordinaire, Formula One Management CEO Bernie Ecclestone at the time:

“It was a real pleasure to bring Formula One to the Kingdom of Bahrain, and I’m pleased to confirm that this relationship will continue into the future.”

Since its inaugural race, the Bahrain event has drawn widespread acclaim for its facilities and its impressive programme of pre-race events. In 2006, it was honoured with hosting the season opener when Melbourne, the traditional first-race venue, was busy with the Commonwealth Games. Said BIC Chairman, Talal Al Zain:

“The success of the Grand Prix has however reached even further than we dared hope when we embarked on this great adventure, and we are delighted to see both interest and involvement in the sport from fans, sponsors and other ventures around the region has blossomed from our achievements. Our new agreement with Mr Ecclestone ensures that Formula One will retain its home in the Middle East long into the next decade, and that the Kingdom will continue to host the world’s biggest sporting series.”

The news that Abu Dhabi would host a Grand Prix in 2009 on a new racing circuit on Yas Island was also greeted with much fanfare. Said Bernie Ecclestone:

“We are delighted to bring Formula One to Abu Dhabi. It was a mutual decision to have a second race in this economically fast-growing region and I have no doubts that Bahrain and Abu Dhabi can co-exist perfectly. There are five countries waiting at the moment to have a race and we have decided to come here – this should speak for itself.”

The Abu Dhabi government said it had invested $40 billion in the Yas Island development, so the cost of an annual Formula One race is relatively low by comparison given that the aim is to build up a huge tourist industry on the island. Abu Dhabi is also able to attract more local spectators to the event as it is the highest per capita city in the world, unlike Bahrain where wealth is much more restricted.

The development is all part of the plan to wean the economy off its dependence on oil. Abu Dhabi started its own airline, Etihad Airways, in 2003 in an effort to emulate its neighbour and rival Dubai as a tourist destination and spent a huge amount of money expanding the Abu Dhabi International Airport.

For Ecclestone such projects are a gift as he looks for ways to expand Formula One’s revenues in the future with a new generation of high-paying races to follow in the footsteps of Bahrain and Shanghai. These will probably replace some of the first generation events outside Europe which have not yet lived up to local expectations.

Bahrain may not originally have been a success in financial terms, with very small crowds, but the publicity generated has been good for the country. Bahrain’s plans to be a holiday destination have long lagged behind Dubai, and Abu Dhabi is now embarked on an aggressive programme to catch up and rival both.

Dear, oh dear, oh dear!

A press release from the FIA just out this evening:

“The USF1 Team have indicated that they will not be in a position to participate in the 2010 FIA Formula One World Championship. Having considered the various options, the FIA confirms that it is not possible for a replacement team to be entered for the Championship at this late stage.”

So, that’s USF1 and Stefan GP of the supposed ‘new entries’ out for the coming season. is claiming an exclusive with USF1 boss Ken Anderson about what went wrong.

“In the coming days the FIA will announce details of a new selection process to identify candidates to fill any vacancies existing at the start of the 2011 season.”

What a mess. Why weren’t these ‘new entries’ vetted properly in the first place? There are major safety issues, as well as Formula One’s reputation on the world stage at stake here. Won’t someone get a grip – please!

Virgin Racing and Lotus are in of course. So is Campos Meta which has been renamed Hispania Racing Team, or HRT (no jokes please, they’ve been cracked already). Sauber will be known still as BMW Sauber.

HRT's new owner Jose Ramos Carabante

Formula One – new regs for 2010

You may not have realised it, but there are big changes afoot for the coming F1 season. Some good, some odd. Here’s a summary:


For the first time since 1993, refueling will be banned, although drivers will still need to come into the pits to make a compulsory tyre change. The cars will be sporting a larger fuel tank of around 250 litres (70-95 litres was a typical fuel fill in 2009). This has led to a wider and longer chassis design to accommodate it. Coupled with a change to a smaller front tyre (reduced to 245mm width from 270mm), the cars will therefore run a different weight distribution.

Verdict: Never mind about saving money, removing refueling takes away some of the spectacle. Pit stops will be much quicker, with teams estimating between 3-4 seconds. The drivers and their engineers will have to carefully manage their tyres and brakes on heavy fuel loads.

New teams

It was 1995 when Formula One last had 26 cars taking part in a race, but with 13 teams entered for the 2010 season the grid will be larger than usual. To comply with a new Resource Restriction Agreement the number of trackside team personnel teams can have has been restricted. For Saturday’s qualifying session, eight drivers will be knocked out of both Q1 and Q2, leaving 10 drivers to fight for pole position in Q3.

Verdict: The more the merrier. Should add enormously to the racing and we might even get some overtaking. Imagine that! However, let’s see how many of these ‘new’ teams actually make it to the grid.

Points system

To take into account the increased numbers of cars, the points system has been amended. The previous system (10, 8, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1) will change dramatically in 2010 with the race winner being awarded 25 points and the top ten drivers awarded points (25, 18, 15, 12, 10, 8, 6, 4, 2, 1).

Verdict: I suppose the logic here is to encourage drivers to fight more for position. Going for the win, rather than, say, settling for second. Let’s see what happens in the first race.


The minimum weight of the car in 2010 will be 620kg compared to 605kg in 2009. This was introduced to offset the disadvantage faced by taller, heavier drivers in KERS-equipped cars. However, by mutual agreement, KERS will not be used in 2010.

Verdict: Shame KERS won’t be around. I thought it was a good thing. Anything that helps overtaking is fine with me. Of course the cars will be heavier because they’ll be carrying fuel for the full race distance. Tyre wear will therefore become an even bigger factor.


Only four pre-season winter tests were permitted with the ban on in-season testing remaining in place. The winter tests took place at Valencia (1 – 3 February), Jerez (10 – 13 February; 17 – 20 February), and Barcelona (25 – 28 February). One day of testing will be permitted by the FIA if a new driver is required to drive for a team during the season. To qualify, the driver should not have participated in an F1 race in the previous two years and the test will take place on an FIA-approved track not used for a Grand Prix.

Verdict: I’ve never understood why track testing was dropped. To me, it’s not just about the wealthier teams improving their performance, more about safety. After all, we don’t want bits coming off cars because they haven’t been tested in real-life conditions as thoroughly as they might have been, now do we? There’s a limit to how much you can achieve using CFD analysis and wind tunnel. Whatever data a team has they only find out how good their car is when they run it on a track. One day’s testing for a new driver is also not enough, by a long way. But, then again, what do I know?

Overtaking in Formula One (Part 2)

I see that Formula One’s governing body – the FIA – was discussing the much debated subject of overtaking on Wednesday.

Among those present were circuit designers Hermann Tilke and Clive Bowen. Bearing in mind what I said on Tuesday, I’d love to have been a fly on the wall in that meeting!

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