All the Formula One news


Kubica crashes twice during Rally San Martino di Castrozza

By Berthold Bouman

Former Renault and Lotus Formula One driver Robert Kubica crashed twice during the Rally San Martino di Castrozza in Italy this weekend. The 27-year old Pole and his co-pilot Jakub Gerber were unhurt, but after the second crash his Subaru Impreza was too damaged to continue the rally.

Rober Kubica’s Subaru Impreza after the second crash

Kubica recently won the Ronde Gomitolo di Landa rally also at the wheel of a Subaru Impreza, but this weekend already lost control during a shakedown test and ended up in a ditch. After the car was recovered Kubica himself drove it to the Subaru service point.

The second more violent crash occurred during a special stage, Kubica lost control but this time ended up in the trees, and he and his co-pilot were lucky to escape without injuries.

It is the second rally appearance for Kubica this year, after his near-fatal accident in February 2011 when he during the Ronde di Andora rally crashed, his car was impaled by a guard rail, which partially severed Kubica’s arm and hand. As a result, Kubica now has limited control of his right arm and hand, but is still hoping for a Formula One return, next year or in 2014.

First crash during shake down

Second crash during special stage

Kubica still a winner and eying Formula One return in 2014

By Berthold Bouman

Robert Kubica is back after his horrific rally accident in February last year, the Polish driver returned at the wheel of a Subaru Impreza WRC car and with his Italian co-driver Giuliano Manfredi won the Ronde Gomitolo di Lana Rally in Italy last weekend. Kubica won all four stages of the rally and finished almost one minute ahead of Omar Bergo in a WRC Mini.

Robert Kubica, Canada 2010

On Italian TV Kubica stressed the rally was actually a part of his recovery programme, “In the end it’s a matter of re-establishing the way of driving and helping the arm to recover better. Having been a driver for 20 years, my body is accustomed to certain things, and I can feel these things only while I drive, so we’ll see.”

But the 27-year old driver is still aiming for a Formula One return, “Being here is already a good step, but I would have preferred to be somewhere else. I still have a long road to travel and will probably never be at the same physical level as before but I don’t intend to give up.”

Just last week Lotus Team Principal Eric Boullier told the World of F1 blog Kubica had stopped his contact with Lotus himself. “He stopped contact with us months ago. I cannot make any assumptions about anything because I am not in contact with him anymore.” And he added, “I have contact with his management but nothing else. I’ve not been updated about his current state for a long time.”

Kubica’s manager Daniel Morelli has kept the Pole out of the publicity since his accident, he never gave any real interviews and there were no recent pictures of him available. That has changed now, as the former Lotus driver and winner of the 2008 Canadian Grand Prix, spoke freely with the Italian press, and for the first time the injuries to his right hand and arm were clearly visible, and it appears he still can not use his right hand and arm properly. Kubica spent months to recover from his accident as he refuses to give up his dream: Formula One.

“The aim remains to return to Formula One and the next few months will tell me whether I can do it next year already or will have to wait until 2014,” he said. “Of course, I am doing my best to be fully fit next year. During the coming months I will be able to decide what I will do in the future.

“I have tested rally cars on circuits lately and in the next months I will decide on what I will do in the future and what will give me maximum pleasure. I will also be able to say if a return to Formula 1 is possible or not. I am happy to be here. Sometimes in your life you have to be happy with where you are, however one would like to be somewhere else.”

Video of Kubica at the Ronde Gomitolo di Lana Rally – Video by Głuchy Domofon

Pirelli: The Italian Grand Prix from a tyre point of view

By Berthold Bouman

Pirelli has allocated the Medium (white marked) and Hard (silver marked) rubber compounds for round 12 of the FIA Formula One World Championship, the Italian Grand Prix at the Autodromo Nazionale di Monza, one of the oldest European Grand Prix circuits.

Medium and Hard rubber compounds for Monza

Monza is a high-speed circuit with long straights and the famous Curva Grande and the Curva Parabolica, the latter is the seemingly never ending turn ahead of the start-finish straight. According to Pirelli, there are three sections that are very demanding for the tyres, the first chicane (Variante Rettifilo), the last chicane (Variante Ascari), and the mighty Curva Parabolica.

Cars can reach top speeds of 340kph, on the 5.793 metres long circuit, which means tyre temperatures can go up to 130 degrees Celsius, in other words: Monza is very hard on the tyres and drivers have to be careful not to overheat the Pirellis. But Monza is also hard on the brakes, at the Variante Rettifilo cars decelerate from 340kph to 80kph in just 150 metres.

The Italian Grand Prix is of course Pirelli’s home race, and Pirelli’s Motorsport Director Paul Hembery commented, “Monza is probably the most important race of the year for us, as it is our chance to come home and showcase our tyres and specialised technology in front of so many of our people and the passionate Italian fans. There is a really special atmosphere to this race that is unique to Italy.”

And he added, “Monza is one of the most demanding circuits that we visit all year due to the high speed and significant lateral loads on the tyres. After Spa, it is the second-highest set of forces that our tyres will experience all year.”

Pirelli test driver Brazilian Lucas di Grassi explains the challenges of Monza, “It’s quite difficult to drive as the cars run with such low downforce that they are not always easy to control. So it’s all about the right compromise between downforce and handling. You have to be assertive under braking but all the straights and corners also mean that there are lots of good opportunities to overtake.”

According to di Grassi, taking care of the tyres is very important at Monza, “It’s important to look after the tyres in terms of traction, as the traction areas put a lot of stress on them and if you don’t get a good drive out of the corners onto the straights then it really affects your lap time.”

Monza 3D Track Experience – Video by Pirelli

Spa-Francorchamps crash wake-up call for Formula One

By Berthold Bouman

Fernando Alonso was incredibly lucky yesterday when the cars of Romain Grosjean and Lewis Hamilton flew over the cockpit of his Ferrari, just a few inches closer and the outcome would have been a true disaster for the Spanish driver.

Fernando Alonso escaped serious injuries at Spa

Something similar happened with Michael Schumacher during the 2010 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix when Vitantonio Liuzzi torpedoed Schumacher’s car and also missed his head by inches when his car landed on top of the Mercedes. A similar crash yesterday now means these kind of accidents are no longer a coincidence but something that can occur again in the future, perhaps even with lethal consequences.

After Felipe Massa’s accident in Hungary in 2009, engineers have been talking about a jetfighter-style closed canopy, the FIA has tested such a canopy and also a forward roll-hoop (see videos) after the death of Henry Surtees, son of former Formula One driver and 1964 World Champion John Surtees, who was killed by a flying wheel during a Formula Two race at Brands Hatch just one week before Massa’s accident.

Yesterday, Ferrari’s Team Principal Stefano Domenicali was relieved to hear his driver who visited the medical centre for a thorough check-up, was okay. “Having a car flying almost over his head could have been really dangerous,” he said. Technical Director Pat Fry agreed, “It was a very risky situation and seeing one car fly over his, a few centimetres above his helmet, left us with our hearts in our mouths for a few tenths of a second.”

McLaren Team Principal Martin Whitmarsh was also shocked. “It looked scary, didn’t it?” he told Reuters. “It just reminds us … we become slightly nonchalant. We see so many big enormous shunts and we are just used to the driver hopping out. Fortunately on this occasion he did.”

He said this accident was a wake-up call for Formula One, “You realise that they come inches away from not hopping out of the car on those incidents so … fortunate for him and the sport that we got away with a big accident.”

The accident yesterday re-ignited the discussion about cockpit safety, since the death of Ayrton Senna in 1994 there have not been any fatal accidents in Formula One, but in motorsport disaster is always lurking around the corner.

Many are not a fan of a closed cockpit, while it can protect drivers from flying debris, there are also plenty of scenarios thinkable in which a closed cockpit could actually make things worse.

Domenicali commented, “We are working with the Federation [FIA] to try to work on the right system of protection. With what we have tested or are working on there are also some problems that you may have. We need to be very careful on all these devices. We are still working with the federation to find a possible solution … we are working very hard.”

Whitmarsh agreed and said, “I think people underestimate what a [closed] cockpit would have to be and how it could make the situation worse. You put this glass bubble over the driver, but you can’t assume that they’re safer. There’s all sorts of other incidents with cars overturning or fires in the cockpit [that could make it worse].”

In the US IndyCar series the new 2012 cars have a rear ‘bumper’ right behind the rear wheels which should on paper prevent that cars are catapulted into the air when they run into the back of another car. This happened last year with IndyCar driver Dan Wheldon who was tragically killed during a multiple car pile-up during the last race of the season at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The rear bumper so far did its job, but there is of course no guarantee it will stop every car in any situation from taking off into the air.

Nothing is easy in Formula One, adapting a similar concept for Formula One would mean a complete overhaul of the technical regulations as without a doubt clever engineers would find a way to use the bumper as an aerodynamic device to reduce drag or to generate more downforce.

But something has to be done, also the nose of a modern Formula One car is way too high up in the air and is also a reason why cars tend to get airborne when hitting the back of another car, something Mark Webber found out after he hit the (then) Lotus of Heikki Kovalainen during the 2010 European Grand Prix at Valencia.

The pointy nose is almost a guillotine and cuts though tyres and bodywork with ease, a rear bumper could solve a lot of problems. The canopy poses a lot of other problems that have to be solved first, there is no point in installing a canopy on all cars and then later find out it makes the problem even worse.

There are also people who are concerned about the aesthetic aspects of such devices, but as the FIA said in a publication about cockpit safety, “A radical aesthetic change would be a price well worth paying to save drivers’ lives and achieve a game-changing safety breakthrough.”

F1 Roll-Hoop Test (Video FIA Institute)

As part of the FIA Institute’s latest investigation into cockpit protection in open-wheel race cars, its research team tested the safety benefits of a forward roll-hoop.

Jet Fighter Canopy Test  (Video FIA Institute)

FIA Institute researchers recently tested the protective powers of a jet-fighter canopy for potential application in open-cockpit racing cars.

Pirelli: The Belgian Grand Prix from a tyre point of view

By Berthold Bouman

Pirelli has allocated the medium (Prime, white marked) and the Hard (Option, silver marked) tyre compounds for one of the most demanding circuits on the 2012 calendar: Spa-Francorchamps. Also a lap of 7.004km is the longest lap on any circuit, while the quickly changing weather conditions in the Ardennes can also play a role during this weekend’s Belgian Grand Prix.

Pirelli tyres

Pirelli opted for the two hardest compounds, as Spa with its high speeds, fast long and sweeping corners is very demanding for the tyres, and the most fearsome corner of all: Eau Rouge, a corner that according to Pirelli, gives drivers the ‘ultimate roller coaster ride’.

He is not a driver, but Pirelli’s Motorsport Director Paul Hembery is nevertheless a fan of the Belgian circuit, and he remarked, “I recently visited the 24-hour race there: the configuration of the track and the variety of the weather always seems to produce some great racing.”

About Pirelli’s tyre choice he said, “From a tyre perspective, it’s certainly one of the most demanding circuits that we face all year, because of the high speeds and extreme forces involved, which are often acting on the tyres in more than one dimension. The nomination of the hard and the medium tyres will allow drivers to push hard from start to finish, which is what Spa was designed for!”

Hembery also enjoyed a well-deserved vacation, but he is also looking forward to the second half of the season. “The first half of the season began with the most close and competitive start to a year ever seen in Formula One’s history, so I am looking forward to seeing how the rest of 2012 pans out, and which teams have made which steps forward over the summer break.”

He didn’t want to make any prediction about the battle for the 2012 championship, “Currently the grid is so closely matched — particularly in the midfield — that it’s impossible to predict.”

Spa 3D Track Experience:

Technical parameters that influence tyres’ behaviour:

Belgian GP: Ferrari’s Luca Marmorini about engines and horsepower

By Berthold Bouman

After a 33-day summer break, it is also back to business as usual for Ferrari . The next two Grands Prix are at Spa-Francorchamps and Monza, both typical high-speed circuits and thus require some extra careful engine treatment. The man at Ferrari who knows everything about engines, is Luca Marmorini, and he explains why engines will play an important role during the next two races.

Spa and Monza are all about  engines and horsepower

“Monza for example is the circuit where drivers use full throttle for a greater percentage of the lap than at any other track. Spa-Francorchamps also throws up some specific problems, such as the fact the circuit is at quite high altitude, the weather is very changeable and often wet, but these are elements that affect the whole car package, not just the engine management,” said Marmorini.

Ferrari is always looking at ways to improve their engine, one problem the Maranello-based team is addressing is the drop in engine performance, explains Marmorini. “We are always trying to reduce the inevitable performance drop that can affect engines as they are used, because some engines having to complete two or three races, therefore it’s important to try and maintain the same performance level throughout.

“If you consider that an engine can lose 5 horsepower per race, then by the third race it can have lost a total of 15 horsepower, which is a significant figure. With our partner Shell, we work on development on new fuels and oils that can aid performance”

With nine rounds of the FIA Formula One World Championship remaining, Marmorini was asked to give a verdict on the engine front, “Even if we can say that so far, in terms of performance and reliability of the engine, electronics and KERS, we are on target, we still want to do even better in the second half of the season when the championship will be decided, as well as meeting our major objective of getting through right to the end without the car ever breaking down on track.”

Teams are free to develop the engine electronics and KERS system during the season, and this is an area where Ferrari expects to find some improvements. “We have not revolutionised our work in this area,” said Marmorini. “Instead, we have concentrated on making the components better suited to the new car, lighter and less bulky, while improving efficiency. But we have been conscious of keeping the cost down on KERS to enable us to provide a competitive and economic package to our customer teams,” said the Italian engine technician.

Currently Ferrari are fourth in the Constructors’ Championship with 189 points, Fernando Alonso is leading the Drivers’ Championship with 164 points, while Felipe Mass is 14th with 25 points.

In the video below, Marmorini explains more about Formula One engines, and engineer Andrea Beneventi, explains the 29 functions on the 2012 single-seater’s wheel. In the section of the Formula 1 alphabet the Scuderia Ferrari explain HANS, qualifying, understeering and oversteering as well as uniball.

Video by Ferrari

Schumacher and Spa-Francorchamps – Back to where it all began

By Berthold Bouman

If there’s one modern Grand Prix driver who wrote history at the Belgian Spa-Francorchamps circuit, it must be Michael Schumacher. Eddie Jordan had a problem just ahead of the 1991 Belgian Grand Prix, as his driver Belgium Bertrand Gachot had been jailed after he had assaulted a London cab driver, and the Irishman decided to replace him with an at the time 22-year old German driver: Michael Schumacher, who became an ‘overnight sensation’ at Spa.

1991 – Michael Schumacher makes his F1 début at Spa

Little did Jordan know that his new driver would become a seven-times Formula One World Champion in the years to come, and would be regarded as one of the greatest Formula One driver of all times. Schumacher wrote history after he had qualified in seventh place in a relatively slow car, while his team mate for one race Italian Andrea de Cesaris, qualified in 11th place in the second Jordan.

But the race became a disappointment for young Schumacher, he was away quick at the start but just after the famous uphill Eau Rouge corner the clutch of his Jordan failed, and he had to retire from his first ever Formula One race. But Schumacher had made his name, the media and the fans loved him and so did the team bosses, who tried everything to contract the German for the next race, as Schumi as his nickname soon became, only had a contract for one race, a contract paid for by Mercedes — who paid $150,000 to get the German in the Jordan seat, at the time a huge sum of money for just one race.

Flavio Briatore, team boss of the Benetton team, immediately recognized the German’s talents and contracted him for the rest of the year. Jordan went to court to prevent Schumacher from racing for the Italian team owned by fashion tycoon Luciano Benetton, but he lost his case and the rest became history.

Schumacher’s first race was at Spa, and at the same legendary circuit he also scored his maiden win, exactly one year after he had made his Formula One début, Schumacher won the 1992 Belgian Grand Prix, and he finished over 36 seconds ahead of the number two, Nigel Mansell in the Williams.

On that day Schumacher also beat Riccardo Patrese (Williams), team colleague Martin Brundle (Benetton) and another Formula One legend: Ayrton Senna (McLaren). After the 1992 Belgian Grand Prix, Schumacher was on an incredible third place in the Drivers’ Championship, and he was together with Senna and Mansell one of the most popular Formula One drivers of the season.

Schumacher went on to win the Drivers’ Championship in 1994 and 1995, and also in 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003 and 2004. But in 1995, 1996 and 1997 Schumacher also won the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa. In 1998 Spa was the scene of the biggest crash in Formula One ever, after David Coulthard on a very wet track hit the wall after the La Source hairpin and spun across the track, in total 13 cars were involved and the race was red-flagged.

Schumacher, driving for Ferrari since 1996, was lucky as he and his car emerged from the crash unscathed, and was able to continue the race at the restart an hour later. After 20 laps Schumacher was leading the race in atrocious conditions — heavy rain and visibility was almost zero. By then he wanted to lap Coulthard who had spun after the restart and was in last position, he hit the McLaren from behind as the Scott had lifted to let Schumacher past at Pouhon.

Schumacher lost his right front wheel and the pair made their way to the pits. In fact, Schumacher was so fast on three wheels, that he had already climbed out of his Ferrari when Coulthard entered the garage. Schumacher was furious and made history by running to the McLaren garage, shaking his fist at a very surprised Coulthard shouting, “Are you trying to f*cking kill me?”

Next time we meet Schumacher and Spa again, but then in harmony, is in 2001. The German won the race once more, but the event became famous due the horrific crash of Luciano Burti, who got a small notch from Eddie Irvine in the Jaguar and the poor Brazilian in his Prost went straight into the tyre barrier at Blanchimont with 240km/h, a crash that almost killed him and was in fact the end of his Formula One career.

Schumacher however, broke another record at Spa on that day, this time he broke Alain Prost’s record of 51 Grand Prix victories. In 2002 Schumacher was on pole and won the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa for the sixth, but also last time.

Michael Schumacher, Mercedes

This weekend Schumacher will start his 300th Grand Prix, yet another milestone in his career, and something to celebrate. About his special relation with Spa the now 43-year old driver said, “Spa is like my living room; for me, it’s clearly the number one race track in the world. It’s uncanny how I always seem to have special moments there — my debut, my first win, a world championship victory and many great races.

“The fact that I will also take part in my 300th Grand Prix at Spa was somehow almost inevitable and we will have to celebrate it in the right way. I’m proud to be just the second driver in the history of the sport (Rubens Barrichello holds the record with 326 races) to reach this milestone and there’s no question that we are looking to have a particularly nice weekend. We delivered a good performance in Spa last year; I’ll be doing everything possible to drive a strong race.”

Belgian GP: Mark Webber talks about Spa-Francorchamps

By Berthold Bouman

Red Bull’s Mark Webber has enjoyed the summer break and is now ready to attack the second half of the season that starts this weekend in Belgium. Asked about the four-week break the Australian said, “The break has been good. It’s longer than it used to be, but it meant I managed to get to see the Olympics. I thought the coverage was awesome and it was great to see stories unfold and for athletes to achieve the results they wanted.”

Mark Webber, Red Bull

But he also can’t wait to get in the car again, “However I missed driving the car and I can’t wait to get back racing. It will be an intense end to the season, so it is important that the team is in good spirits.”

Webber explains why all drivers just love the magic of Spa-Francorchamps, “Spa is the best track to have after a break and it’s extremely rewarding for drivers at that venue. It’s obviously remained pretty much unchanged for some time and it has a lot of character.”

About the most famous corner in Grand Prix racing he said, “Eau Rouge is a very special part of the track, the spectators love going to watch the cars there and I would encourage anyone to see it live once in their lives — it’s mind blowing. It’s one of the classic tracks where you feel like a Formula One car belongs on the circuit. We’re looking forward to going there and challenging for the victory.”

Most fans remember his daring overtaking manoeuvre on Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso in 2010 at the uphill Eau Rouge corner, and Webber commented, “I have great memories of this corner from that pass,” he says. “It was a big moment for us in terms of pit stops. Therefore it was important for me to keep the momentum going. Luckily I managed to get the move done at the bottom of the hill.”

It will be a difficult second part of the season, but Webber is ready for it, “It will be an intense finish. There will be lots of travel and the flights are always draining. That is what is most tiring, rather than the driving itself. Everything will still be tight. Lotus has one of the best cars so they will win a race at some point, and then there is McLaren and ourselves. It will be a very busy period.”

Webber is currently second in the Drivers’ Championship with 124 points, 40 points behind leader Alonso, but he is closely followed by his team colleague Sebastian Vettel, who is third with 122 points.

Caterham F1 shows off new Leafield headquarters

By Berthold Bouman

Caterham F1 completed their move their new Leafield headquarters, and team owner and entrepreneur Tony Fernandes is happy the Leafield Technical Centre in Oxfordshire, as the official name of the complex is, has now been finished.

Caterham’s new Leafield Base

“Caterham Group is now the embodiment of all the ideas and dreams we had in 2009 and now, with Leafield open for business, we have put in place the next vital stage for the continuing development of all the Caterham Group businesses,” he said.

“More than 200 of the F1 team staff are making the move to Oxfordshire over the next few weeks and when we have finished the refurbishment, in late October 2012, we will have a facility that will put us on a par with the teams we are trying to catch in F1. Importantly, it will also give us the base we need to allow Caterham Group to achieve the impossible for many years to come. This is why I am so excited about what we have ahead of us, and this is why I am now dreaming of bigger, better and more ambitious plans than ever before.”

Watch the video of Catertham’s new home. Video by Caterham.

Come inside and take a look behind the scenes of our new factory in Leafield on our first day. See everything from the reception and the cafeteria to the design office and race bays of Caterham F1 Team’s new home.

Soundtrack is “Total Distorted Mayhem” by The Japanese Popstars, copyright Virgin Records/Gung Ho Recordings and EMI Music Publishing.

Maldonado lives up to his reputation and crashes in front of home crowd in Caracas

By Berthold Bouman

Unfortunately for Williams and Pastor Maldonado, the Venezuelan driver lived up to his reputation last weekend and managed to crash during a demonstration run at Caracas, Venezuela. After just one lap in front of 20,000 spectators, he crashed his Williams FW33 on a roadside curb and had to abandon his car, and the demo altogether, as there was too much damage to the rear suspension of his car.

Frank Williams and Pastor Maldonado

This time at least, he could not blame Lewis Hamilton, Romain Grosjean, Pedro de la Rosa or Sergio Perez, but the winner of this year’s Spanish Grand Prix at least showed he is a consistent driver, even when it comes to crashing.

Very embarrassing for the Williams team as they had travelled to Venezuela for a six-day visit to do some networking together with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez who is a huge fan of Maldonado, but more importantly, also happens to be one of the biggest Williams sponsors.

What should have been a hero’s welcome became a disappointment, ahead of the trip Maldonado said, “I’m a proud Venezuelan and I can’t wait to return home on the back of my win earlier this season at the Spanish Grand Prix. I’ve always received lots of support from my fellow countrymen and this trip is an opportunity to give something back to those in Venezuela who have helped me get to where I am today.”

Just before he left for Caracas, Maldonado had said in an interview that ‘crashing was normal’ and he was still learning to improve his performance. “This is racing, you know. I made a couple of mistakes, that’s it. I will try to do my best as always,” he said.

Also present at the demonstration were Sir Frank Williams himself and Toto Wolff, and dozens of VIP’s including President Chavez, who saw the 12-lap demonstration run on the Fuerte Tiunas military parade arena cut short by another silly error of the Venezuelan driver, who simply braked too late, spun, and slid backwards onto the curb.

His compatriot GP2 driver Rodolfo Gonzalez however, saved the day and performed a flawless eight-lap demonstration in his Caterham GP2 car.

Ron Howards’ Formula One movie Rush to be released in September 2013

By Berthold Bouman

Oscar-winning movie director Ron Howard is currently working on the movie Rush, a Formula One film about the rivalry between James Hunt and Niki Lauda in the 1970’s. The movie highlights the 1976 championship-deciding Japanese Grand Prix at a rainy and foggy Fuji circuit, and of course the fiery accident of Lauda in 1976 at the Nurburgring, which almost claimed his life.

Chris Hemsworth (James Hunt) and Daniel Brühl (Niki Lauda) star in the movie Rush

According to the official Rush website the movie is, “set against the sexy and glamorous golden age of Formula One racing, Rush portrays the exhilarating true story of two of the greatest rivals the world has ever witnessed — handsome English playboy Hunt and his methodical, brilliant opponent, Lauda.

“Taking us into their personal lives on and off the track, Rush follows the two drivers as they push themselves to the breaking point of physical and psychological endurance, where there is no shortcut to victory and no margin for error. If you make one mistake, you die.”

Chris Hemsworth (The Avengers) plays the role of Hunt, while Daniel Brühl (Inglourious Basterds) stars as Lauda. Contrary to popular belief, Lauda and Hunt were friends off-track — they even shared hotel rooms — but on track they were enemies and the pair fought many battles. The cast also includes Olivia Wilde, Natalie Dormer, Alexandra Maria Lara and Christian McKay.

The $65 million movie was shot on several locations, but to shoot the race scenes Howard and his crew travelled to Cadwell Park and Donington Park in the UK and of course the famous Lauda crash was re-enacted at the German Nurburgring at the exact same location the Austrian crashed (see second video). Howard also used many of the original 1970s Formula One cars, and even managed to get the original famous six-wheeled Tyrrell P34 on the set.

American Howard, who became famous playing teenager Richie Cunningham in the 1970s sitcom Happy Days, also produced Hollywood blockbusters like Splash, Cocoon, Apollo 13, A Beautiful Mind, Frost/Nixon and The Da Vinci Code.

It is certainly not going to be a documentary like the 2010 Senna movie directed by Asif Kapadia. In 2011 Howard said to the official Formula One website about the film, “It’s going to be a motion picture. It will be fascinating, sizzling, sexy and entertaining in the mould of Apollo 13, Frost/Nixon and A Beautiful Mind.”

Asked why he chose Formula One he said, “There are two reasons. Firstly, I am a huge fan of sports — almost any kind of sport — not just motor racing. Secondly, I am always in search of a good story with great characters.

“Peter Morgan, who did the script for Frost/Nixon, has known Niki Lauda for quite some time and started digging for information about 1976, when Niki had his accident and then literally rose again like a phoenix to fight James Hunt for the title. Peter has written a mesmerizing script — not only for Formula One fans, but also for everybody hooked on sports and drawn to extraordinary characters.”

The movie is currently in post-production and Universal Pictures will release the movie in September 2013. Until then, enjoy the behind-the-scenes video!

Lauda’s accident at the Nurburgring re-enacted, video by

Is Giorgio Ascanelli heading for Maranello?

By Berthold Bouman

Toro Rosso Technical Director Giorgio Ascanelli was notably absent during the German and Hungarian Grands Prix. Team Principal Franz Tost did not want to discuss the matter publicly when he was asked about Ascanelli’s absence during a press conference at the Hockenheimring. “I can only tell you that Giorgio Ascanelli is on holiday and there’s confidentiality between the two parties. That’s all that I can say to this,” said the Austrian.

Is Giorgio Ascanelli heading for Maranello?

With his reply Tost of course fuelled the suspicions Ascanelli isn’t happy at Toro Rosso anymore and is in fact on garden leave, and many believe the Italian will not return to the Faenza-based squad, but instead will join Ferrari, where he could join the technical team led by his old pal Pat Fry with whom he worked at Benetton and McLaren.

Initially the season started well for Toro Rosso, but with 11 races now behind the belt they are ninth in the Constructors’ Championship with only six points, 40 points behind Force India, and this probably means they will end up ninth at the end of the season as the points deficit is almost unbridgeable, even with still nine races to go, as Force India are not going to rest on their laurels, and will keep scoring points to secure their position in the championship.

Ascanelli was born in Ferrara, Italy and is one of the most experienced Formula One engineers, but he is also a great strategist, and if anyone has seen it all in Formula One, it must be Ascanelli. He started his career in 1985 with Ferrari where he worked as a calculation engineer. He soon moved up the ladder and became Gerhard Berger’s race engineer, when Berger left Ferrari Ascanelli moved to Benetton and became Nelson Piquet’s race engineer.

At the request of Berger he then moved to McLaren and later became a legend working with Ayrton Senna, who was a good friend of Berger. When Senna left McLaren Ascanelli moved back to Ferrari in 1995, but when he was sidelined after Ross Brawn joined Ferrari, he left Formula One in 1998 and moved to another legendary Italian sportscar marque, Maserati, where he set up a very successful sportscar racing programme.

Again at the request of Berger who was the co-owner of Toro Rosso at the time, Ascanelli was appointed Technical Director in 2007. Ascanelli of course also worked with now two-times World Champion Sebastian Vettel, and he even compared him with Senna.

“I am very lucky. Twice in my life I have experienced perfection; once with Senna, again with Vettel. In one respect Michael [Schumacher] was different because he had to work harder for his success than did Senna and Vettel. With those two it was something else,” Ascanelli said in 2011.

A return to Ferrari would make sense, Ascanelli is an Italian, has worked for Ferrari before and knows the team inside-out, is a very talented engineer and is a good friend of Pat Fry. Ferrari need all the help they can get to maintain Fernando Alonso’s advantage in the Drivers’ Championship, and it could well be Ascanelli will turn up in the Ferrari garage at Spa-Francorchamps next month.

Rumours say Ascanelli could be replaced by James Key, who unexpectedly lost his job as Technical Director of the Sauber team just before the start of the season this year.

Below a video of Ascanelli at the launch of the 2012 Toro Rosso, explaining the technical developments on the STR7 and sharing his thoughts on seeing the new car on track. Video by Toro Rosso.

Scuderia Ferrari Racing News #13

Video by Ferrari

With the F1 Circus entering the summer break, Pat Fry, the Scuderia Ferrari’s Technical Director, talks about the season so far. With Diego Ioverno, Scuderia Ferrari’s Race Operation Manager, we’re discovering the procedures and secrets regarding the pit stops, followed by the Formula 1 alphabet.

Red Bull controversies: Pushing the limit, or over the limit?

By Berthold Bouman

It hasn’t gone unnoticed: Red Bull Racing’s designer Adrian Newey is a very creative man, and is known for pushing the limits when it come to interpreting Formula One’s technical regulations. But is Newey pushing the limits, or is he going over the limits, the latter is obviously illegal. Already in 2010 Red Bull was accused of having some sort of ride-height system which would allow the Austrian team to make illegal suspension tweaks after qualifying.

Adrian Newey, Red Bull Racing designer

In 2011 the same rumours surfaced, after photos appeared in the media showing the Red Bull car with a very low ride-height during qualifying, and a normal ride-height during the race, which is odd as the car is then fully topped off with fuel, adding some 180 kg extra weight to the car, and without any changes, the floor of the car should actually hit the ground.

Also in 2011 there was the row about the flexing front wing, the flexing could clearly be seen on onboard footage of the RB07. Other teams tried to achieve the same but the FIA hit back and tightened the regulations concerning flexibility of aerodynamic parts, and Red Bull was even forced to change the floor of the car, as it was also flexing.

At the time there was also a discussion whether the Red Bull car should have been declared illegal, as it had won the Italian Grand Prix at Monza with a flexing floor, and many reckoned Red Bull should lose the points they had earned at Monza.

This year Red Bull was forced to re-position the exhaust outlets as they were trying to replicate the exhaust-blown diffuser effect. Red Bull themselves fuelled the suspicions as they carefully placed screens around their car to prevent photographers from making detailled pictures of the RB8 during testing at the Circuit de Catalunya in March (see video).

Not much later Team Principal Christian Horner said the ‘exhaust gases aerodynamic advantage’ is still a ‘grey area’ and jokingly added he would be disappointed if other teams would not lodge any protests. “Exhausts are still an immature area in terms of development and therefore there’s a lot of focus gone into them with the regulations this year,” said Horner at the time.

But the joking soon stopped and Red Bull was forced to remove the holes they had made in the back of the floor of the car. Ahead of the Canadian Grand Prix the FIA had deemed that the floor with the holes was illegal, surprisingly the other teams opted not to protest Mark Webber’s victory in Monaco, which he scored with that same illegal floor. The team was also forced to change the wheel-hub design, as they had made extra holes in the hubs to provide additional cooling for the brakes.

Next was the controversy surrounding the engine mapping, during qualifying at the Hungaroring Red Bull had used quite a different engine mapping with less torque in the mid rpm range, according to FIA Technical Delegate Jo Bauer. But Red Bull was cleared to race and again the team escaped a penalty or perhaps even disqualification from the qualifying results. The FIA later changed the regulations and teams are now no longer allowed to change engine mappings from race to race.

But soon the next Red Bull gadget was found, this time the FIA had found that the third damper on the front axle was adjustable by hand, which again means the ride height can be changed when the car is in parc ferme after qualifying.

But Horner claims the team has never used the system, although it had been on the car since the Canadian Grand Prix, and they could have used it during the next three races as well. “We never changed the ride height in parc ferme or anything like that. It really is a non-issue. There are a lot of parts that are changed manually on the car, but a tool is used. The suspension has never been changed in parc ferme. Never,” said Horner.

Red Bull mechanics

But now especially German media are worried this bending of the rules might one day or another, be disastrous for the career of German star-driver and double World Champion Sebastian Vettel. The FIA could have disqualified Red Bull on three different occasions, but for unknown reasons they didn’t and instead chose to ‘clarify’ the rules.

Perhaps they wanted to avoid a public row, maybe they thought it would be bad for Formula One, but one thing is sure, Red Bull’s ‘win-at-any-price’ strategy will one day not pass the FIA scrutineering, and then Red Bull and Formula One are in big trouble. In other words: this strategy could hurt Vettel — and his reputation — rather than helping him.

So far Red Bull have been lucky, even with two infringements in Canada, the hand-adjustable third damper and the illegal holes in the wheel hubs, they were not disqualified or punished. The FIA will have to think about that, as being creative and pushing the limits is okay, but going over the limit and breaching the rules is certainly not okay and should therefore be penalized, no matter which way you look at it.

Sebastian Vettel and his Red Bull RB8 in final Formula One Winter Testing at the Circuit de Catalunya on 4th March 2012, video by Mark Haggan.

The Hungarian Grand Prix from a tyre point of view

By Berthold Bouman

Pirelli have allocated the Medium (Prime, white marked) and the Soft (Option, yellow marked) tyre compound for round 11 of the FIA Formula One World Championship. According to Pirelli this combination is to provide the best compromise between the grip and durability needed for the tight and twisty Hungaroring.

Pirelli tyres

The challenge for the Pirelli tyres is to get enough traction, and make sure the tyres don’t heat up too quickly under braking, and as the Hungarian circuit has a lot of braking areas, it is certainly is very demanding for the tyres.

Paul Hembery, Pirelli’s Director of Motorsport, explains the challenges of the Hungaroring. “Hungary will provide a very stark contrast to the circuits that we have just come from, being the slowest permanent track on the calendar. This does not make it any less demanding on the tyres though: in fact a twisty and slippery circuit will often put more heat through the tyre than a fast and flowing layout as the tyre is moving around more – particularly when the ambient temperatures are high,” he said.

But the weather also play a role according to Hembery, “Last year we saw some wet weather, so it’s important not to make any assumptions. Consequently, we are still lacking some information about the performance of our slick tyres under race conditions at the Hungaroring.”

Asked about how to keep the tyre degradation under control, he replied, “Balancing the demands of speed and durability will be key to getting the most out of the tyres in Hungary, in order to keep degradation under control.”

Pirelli’s Technical notes:

• The start-finish straight of just over 700 metres is the only real straight on the entire circuit, with the tyres constantly loaded in a sequence of 14 corners for the rest of the 4.381-kilometre lap. The cars are at full throttle for just 10 seconds or so during the lap.

• The cars ride the kerbing in the chicane between turns six and seven as part of the racing line. The resulting impact generates a force on the tyre equivalent to 800 kilogrammes.

• The cars run high downforce in Hungary to maximise grip and a soft suspension set-up to improve traction, just like Monaco. The cars also need accurate turn-in for all the rapid changes of direction, so they tend to run with a stiff front end to guarantee precise roadholding. However it’s important for the car set-up not to accentuate tyre wear, which is a vital factor in Hungary.

Pirelli Videos: F1 Tyre Behaviour, and Budapest 3D Track Experience

British Grand Prix Insights — The monocoque

Video: Allianz

The monocoque is the one indestructible part of a Formula One car. Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One Team driver Nico Rosberg tells you more about the huge benefits of this unique carbon safety cell.

European Grand Prix – Valencia: Track statistics

Valencia circuit, video by Alliance

Valencia from a tyre point of view, video by Pirelli

European Grand Prix Insights – The Safety Car

Video: Allianz

The Official Formula One Safety Car is one of the most crucial safety elements in the sport. Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One team driver Nico Rosberg tells you more about its huge benefits to the driver’s safety.