Feb 18, 2010

Sato in IndyCar

Former F1 driver Takuma Sato has signed with KV Racing Technology to race in the IZOD IndyCar Series.

No terms of the deal were announced, but it is thought drivers need to bring about $3 million to the table for an Indy Car ride.

“This is a very exciting time for me and all my supporters,” Sato said in a release.

“I have really missed racing last year and can’t wait to get started in this new challenge with such a great team.”

Sato raced in F1 for seven seasons, With Jordan, British American Racing (BAR), and Super Aguri. Sato’s stint in F1 ended abruptly in 2008 when Super Aguri folded after four races.

The 33-year-old driver from Tokyo’s best F1 season was in 2004 when he placed eighth in the championship with 34 points. A year earlier, he famously replaced 1997 world champion Jacques Villeneuve at the Japanese Grand Prix, ending the Canadian’s tumultuous five years at BAR.

But Sato’s high point was a 2007 Canadian Grand Prix duel with Fernando Alonso of McLaren, when he defeated the double world champion in a battle for sixth place driving what was essentially a year-old Honda grand prix car. Earlier in the season, Sato also took an eighth-place finish at the Spanish Grand Prix to give Super Aguri its maiden F1 point.

It is thought KV will have a three-car operation in 201, with Sato joining EJ Viso and Mario Moraes.

In a related note, Canada’s James Hinchcliffe, 23, announced a deal to compete for Indianapolis-based Team Moore Racing in the Firestone Indy Lights Series.

IndyCar’s official feeder series opens its season on Sunday 28 March as the 13-race championship gets underway on the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida.

Feb 16, 2010

Pssst, wanna buy an F1 race shop

It looks like things aren't going well at USF1.

First, the race shop in North Carolina was put on the market, signaling that something is amiss.

Now, reports emerged that YouTube founder and CEO Chad Hurley is about to jump ship to fellow F1 newcomer Campos Meta.

All evidence points to USF1 folding even before they start and obviously not running in the 2010 Formula 1 World Championship.

Nothing yet from USF1 on these rumours.

Should USF1 fold, Berbie Ecclestone supported Stefan GP continues to say it will be happy to join the 2010 grid.

Feb 10, 2010

Todt's remarks on teams missing races are "clarified"

Apparently, the idea that teams can miss three races of the Formula One season are not sitting well with the Federation Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA).

F1's governing body released a clarification following remarks by its president Jean Todt that appeared in the Italian Gazzetta dello Sport.

The statement puts the quash on the idea teams can join the championship after missing a few races, which F1 commercial boss Bernie Ecclestone suggested earlier in the week and Todt apparently confirmed with his remarks in the Italian newspaper.

Not so said the FIA, which released a pointed statement about participation in events counting towards the F1 world championship.

"Following recent reports on the interpretation of clauses in the Concorde Agreement concerning the concept of a Team's ‘participation’ in the FIA Formula One World Championship, the FIA wishes to make the following clarification:

From a sporting and regulatory point of view, each Team that has registered for the Championship is obliged to take part in every event of the season. Any failure to take part, even for just one Championship event, would constitute an infringement both of the Concorde Agreement and the FIA Regulations."

More on USF1

I spoke to former Toro Rosso F1 driver Scott Speed a while ago about the rumours that NASCAR driver Kyle Busch was in the plans of the USF1 team.

At the time, Speed, now with the Red Bull NASCAR outfit, laughed when it was suggested Busch might leave NASCAR to race in F1. Not because he thought Busch didn't have the right stuff for F1, but because Speed had doubts whether the USF1 team would actually be able to make it to the starting grid in 2010.

He then suggested there was little real activity going on at USF1's US headquarters.

At Daytona, Speed was again asked about USF1.

"I think they have a very ambitious plan to run a Formula One team out of America," he said.

"That’s quite ambitious and I honestly wish them success because it would be great to have an American team in there."

Speed said that with the amount of time he needed to focus on his Red Bull duties in NASCAR and the gruelling 36-race schedule, he doesn't really have much free time to concern himself with the USF1 team or follow their progress.

"But I wish them the best and I pray it works out for them because, as I said, it’s a pretty ambitious plan," he added.

"If they do it, they definitely will have done something that nobody has and also have done what no one else even had the courage to try."

Feb 9, 2010

What are the odds?

Upon hearing that a newspaper had written his obituary, Mark Twain quipped that the reports of his death had been greatly exaggerated.

That may also be true of new F1 teams USF1 and Campos Meta 1, but it's difficult not to think something is going on.

Rumours of problems at the two teams continue to swirl, with many F1 insiders wondering if either will make the grid in Bahrain at the first race of the 2010 season next month.

That wasn't helped by Federation Internationale de l'Automobile president Jean Todt's confirmation that the Concorde Agreement signed last summer allows teams to skip three races.

After that, action may be taken, Todt said.

"If one of them doesn't make it, it doesn't mean another team comes in," he told the Italian Gazzetta dello Sport. "It's up to the FIA to decide if they have the credentials."

US F1 and Campos haven't named their two drivers, launched their 2010 cars or attended either of the first two pre-season tests. US F1 already asked the sport to test its car in Alabama sometime in February before heading to Europe to join the rest of the teams in pre-season tests.

F1 commercial boss Bernie Ecclestone continues to talk up Stefan Grand Prix, as an alternate to any of the outfits that fail to live up to their obligations. It is owned funded Serbian businessman Zoran Stefanovich.

Todt's confirmation follows comments a few days ago from Ecclestone who said the teams can miss races under the new Concorde Agreement and its likely more than one will take advantage of this option.

"I think we won't see Campos and I don't think we will see the Americans," he told the Express. "They are going to ask to miss three races."

Jacques Villeneuve

Vitaly Petrov seemingly not having the €15 million in financial backing he promised to fund his Renault seat for 2010 may have thrown an Formula One lifeline to 1997 world champion Jacques Villeneuve.

Chinese GP2 racer Ho-Pin Tung and former Jaguar and Red Bull F1 driver Christian Klien are also in the frame.

Feb 8, 2010

Full Speed ahead

My latest story from Red Bull on Scott Speed's Daytona qualifying effort:

Scott Speed left us in no doubt that he’s ready to go in the 2010 NASCAR Sprint Cup after locking up a spot in the Daytona 500 field with a superb performance in qualifying on Saturday.

The No 82 Red Bull Toyota driver arrived in Florida without a guaranteed starting spot in Sunday's Great American Race, but he quickly ended the uncertainty with a sizzling run in qualifying that locked him into the field for this year’s Daytona 500.

His speed of 189.958mph (305.642kph) in 47.429s around the 2.5mi (4km) tri-oval Daytona International Speedway was just 1.230mph (1.979kph) and 0.305s behind the pole winner Mark Martin.

More at: Red Bull International

Feb 4, 2010

Smoke and mirrors with F1 points

The Formula One Commission agreed this week to change the points system for the sport.

The commission asserted in its release that the new system would "further encourage the race to win," but a closer examination shows that the change is more cosmetic than revolutionary.

The new system will award points to first through 10th place by the following scale:


It seems like a big change, but really it is not so huge at all. Take the points and divide by 2.5 to reach the former scale where 10 points was awarded for a win.

The result is a scale that looks like this with the old points scale which gave points to the top-8 finishers added next to the new in brackets:

10      (10)
7.2     (8)
6     (6)
4.8     (5)
4     (4)
3.2     (3)
2.4     (2)
1     (1)
0.5     (-)
0.25     (-)

So, instead of real change we get the illusion of new thinking from F1. Really, the difference will actually be that it will be harder for fans to figure out the system and the performance required from their favourite driver to close a gap.

Had the F1 commission spoken to IRL or NASCAR fans, they'd know how difficult it can be to make sense of the higher point totals and more scoring by finishers.

Prior to this change, it was fairly easy for fans to see what was needed for their driver to move up in the standings. Now it's not so simply.

Responding to fans' wishes for more excitement does not translate into forcing them to buy slide rules. Well, in my book anyway.

Troubled reign ended with a whimper

My latest column in the Globe and Mail on Tony George's time leading the IRL:

Love him or hate him, Tony George certainly made things interesting.

A controversial and divisive figure who will probably be remembered as the man who destroyed open-wheel racing, George closed his Vision Racing outfit last week, effectively severing his final link to the IndyCar Series.

It was the last chapter in George's Pyrrhic victory in North America racing's open-wheel war, which weakened the sport and allowed NASCAR to dominate the landscape.

More at Globe Drive

Feb 3, 2010

Alonso fastest in Ferrari

The first pre-season test is in the books and New Ferrari driver Fernando Alonso came out on top.

the two-time world champion topped the time sheets for the three-day test with an effort of 1 minute 11.470 seconds, just under three-tenths quicker than teammate Felipe Massa.

The pair of Ferrari drivers were the only two drivers to dip below the 1 minute 12 second mark.

Whether this is the scarlet car's true pace is unknown as much cat and mouse goes on in testing.

But it is important to note that Ferrari abandoned upgrades to their car in mid-2009 to concentrate on the 2010 challenger, something that might give them an advantage out of the box.

Combined lap times are below:

1.  Alonso  Ferrari  1:11.470  127 laps  
2.  Massa  Ferrari  1:11.722 226 laps  
3.  Kobayashi  Sauber  1:12.056  96 laps
4.  de la Rosa  Sauber  1:12.094  154 laps
5.  Hamilton  McLaren  1:12.256  108 laps
6.  Kubica  Renault  1:12.426  188 laps
7.  M.Schumacher  Mercedes  1:12.438  122 laps
8.   Alguersuari  Toro Rosso  1:12.576  97 laps
9.  Rosberg  Mercedes  1:12.899  158 laps
10.  Button  McLaren  1:12.951  82 laps
11.  Petrov  Renault  1:13.097  75 laps
12.  Barrichello  Williams  1:13.377  177 laps
13.  Hulkenberg  Williams  1:13.669  126 laps
14.  Buemi  Toro Rosso  1:13.823  125 laps
15.  Paffett  McLaren  1:13.846 86 laps

Feb 1, 2010

Massa tops on first day in Valencia

Ferrari's Felipe Massa showed little after effects of the frightening accident at the Hungarian Grand Prix that almost ended his career last season by putting up the best time on Formula One's first day of pre-season testing at Valencia in Spain.

Massa was struck in the helmet by a spring that fell off Rubens Barrichello's Brawn in qualifying and narrowly missed being killed. He needed the rest of 2009 tyo recover from the incident.

His time of 1 minute 12.574 seconds was two-tenths better than veteran Pedro de la Rosa who returns to a race seat with Sauber after serving as a test and reserve driver from McLaren for several years.

Michael Schumacher didn't take long to shake off the rust, finishing the day with the thrid best time, about four-tenths back of Massa. Significantly, Schumacher was almost six-tenths quicker than new teammate Nico Rosberg.

Times below:

1.   Massa   Ferrari   1:12.574   102 laps

2.   de la Rosa   Sauber   1:12.784   +0.210   74 laps

3.   Schumacher   Mercedes   1:12.947    +0.373   40 laps

4.   Rosberg   Mercedes   1:13.543    +0.969   39 laps

5.   Paffett   McLaren-Mercedes   1:13.846    +1.272   86 laps

6.   Barrichello   Williams   1:14.449    +1.875   75 laps

7.   Buemi   Toro Rosso   1:14.762    +2.188    18 laps

8.   Kubica   Renault   1:15.000    +2.426    69 laps