How has the Mercedes team improved so much suddenly?

Aldo Costa with Ross Brawn

Many may be inclined to believe that it is the arrival of Lewis Hamilton, Niki Lauda and Toto Wolff to the Mercedes squad that has brought about the upsurge in the quality of times being set by the silver arrows cars. But the direction a Formula 1 team and car take are not charted in such short periods of time. The W04, that is seeming to be competitive based on preseason form, was on the design board before the exit of Norbert Haug, Michael Schumacher and before the entry of Lewis Hamilton, Niki Lauda or Toto Wolff.

The team that has been put together by Ross Brawn and Norbert Haug in consultation with Michael Schumacher, includes technical geniuses like Bob Bell, Aldo Costa and Geoff Willis. These technical gurus have a combined experience spanning numerous championships, won with teams like Williams, Red Bull Racing, Ferrari, McLaren Mercedes and Benneton / Renault.

Geoff Willis

Michael Schumacher was reported saying, “I see it more to do with the background. With the engineers and with the infrastructure of the team itself. And these steps were taken some time ago.”

Another very experienced former Formula 1 driver, Gerhard Berger agreed to the APA news agency saying that, “I don’t think those two (Lauda and Wolff) have had any influence on the performance of the car. Why? Because this car predates their time. But we must not underestimate the power of fresh wind.”

The 1996 world champion, Damon Hill, believes that the improvement in the pace of the car comes from the fact that they have had a lot more time designing it than the other front running teams have had. He was reported by the Sun as saying, “I think Ross Brawn had decided ‘Listen this year (2012) is a write off.’

“By the looks of things they’d been focusing on 2013 (during 2012) and pretty much shelved 2012. They’d looked worse than they are.” (GMM)


Schumacher back for Valencia test

Schumacher’s crash in 2009

Michael Schumacher has secretly gotten back to testing at the Valencia circuit, but this time around it is a revisit to his two wheeled passion of racing motorcycles. This is the second time he has taken to two wheels after retiring from Formula 1.

He was involved in a massive crash on a similar bike in 2009 and suffered severe neck and head injuries which prevented his from filling in for Felipe Massa after the Brazilians horrific Hungaroring qualifying crash.

The former seven time world champion was testing at the Cartagena circuit for the German Superbike team Holzhauer Racing when he fell from the 1000cc Honda Fireblade at 195 kmph.

This time around the DPA news agency has reported the Schumacher was definitely at full speed on a 220 bhp Honda again with the Holzhauer team. The German had vowed never to return to racing on two wheels again after the huge accident and his manager Sabine Kehm clarified, “Yes, he rides motorcycles again, but will not race anymore.”

Schumacher who will be watching the Australian Grand Prix from his home in the Swiss alps, was only four seconds slower than the best time of the day set by much more experienced bikers.

Webber reaffirms Red Bull’s pace to manager Flavio Briatore

Red Bull has always been a team that does not show its hand in preseason testing and this year as well, we haven’t seen any eye catching times from the energy drinks team. Red Bull seemed to be struggling with the upgrades in the final test and finding a good setup with their 2013 challenger.

Flavio Briatore, flamboyant Italian, former team boss for Benetton and Renault, and manager to Mark Webber has made an interesting comment to Italy’s La Gazzetta dello Sport, “Webber tells me he will start very strongly. He said the tests have been fruitful and that the machine is very good, “

Briatore was banned from Formula 1 indefinitely after he disputed allegations of the crash-gate saga of 2008 where he and technical director Pat Symonds instructed Piquet Jr. to crash his Renault near the Marina Bay stand in Singapore just after Alonso, his team mate, exits the pits. This was so that Fernando Alonso could gain an advantage and he went on to win that race.

The indefinite ban was the harshest punishment accorded to anyone by the governing body of the sport but was later overturned by a French court.

Kobayashi confirmed for Ferrari WEC drive

Picture courtesy Scuderia Ferrari

Kamui Kobayashi has been confirmed to take part in the World Endurance Championship behind the wheel of an AF Corse run 458 Italia. The move was predicted by F1 Asphalt in our post last month when Kobayashi and former Indian F1 driver Karun Chandok both tested for the team at Aragon in Spain, and this news confirms that the former Japanese Formula 1 driver will be driving the 458 Italia for the Ferrari factory team.

Kobayashi will be joining other Ferrari factory GT drivers including Giancarlo Fisichella, Gianmaria Bruni and Toni Vilander. The Japanese, who has driven for Sauber and Toyota in Formula 1, will be the first asian to be part of the Ferrari family and drive for the factory team.

AF Corse 458 

The 26 year old said, “It’s an honour for me to become part of the Ferrari family. It will be the first time that I compete in endurance races in a championship featuring GT cars. I will work hard and give my all in this new chapter of my career, knowing I can count on the support of all my fans. I can’t wait to start working with AF Corse and really hope I can aim for the title along with my team-mates.”

It has not yet been confirmed who will be Kobayashi’s co-driver, but the Finn Vilander, who is already one of Ferrari’s drivers, is among the candidates. Fisichella and Bruni led the driver line-up and took the teams title and Ferrari to the manufacturer’s crown last year and they are expected to remain together for this year as well.

Hamilton can now keep his trophies and helmets

Helmets on display at McLaren

One of the sticking points in Lewis Hamilton’s contract with McLaren was that the team would keep all his trophies and helmets. This has always been the policy of the McLaren team, one that is mentioned in the drivers contracts. The trophies from wins or podium finishes along with helmets of all the winning drivers are on display at the McLaren Technology centre.

Many pundits of course are of the opinion that the financials of the deal were better for Hamilton at Mercedes, but he has insisted that this was also a very strong reason in him making the decision to leave his first home in Formula 1. In a recent interview to the Express newspaper he jokes saying, “The question is do we get trophies in 2013. Great I get to keep my trophies, oh shoot, I don’t have any.”

Trophies on display at McLaren

“It was a small thing, but small things matter, like helmets. It has my sweat, blood and tears in it so that is why I want to keep that. Now I keep them, and my trophies are my trophies.”

“I have come from a place with a lot of control, a really controlled environment where you are restricted to do and say what you are told. By the end of 2012, once I had made my decision to leave McLaren I was able to loosen up and put on the performances I put on.” (GMM)

Raikkonen’s mother says Kimi is enjoying F1 more after sabbatical

The Ice’mama’ has spoken and she believes that Kimi is enjoying his return to Formula 1 after his break from the sport in 2010 and 2011. Kimi is always in the news but this is the first time we hear from the flying Finn’s mother. Raikkonen took part in various rallying events including the WRC in 2010 and 2011 and also tried his hand at the Camping World Truck series in America.

Paula Raikkonen in a quote to MTV3 says, “I had heard rumours of his talks with Williams, so I asked him about it. He said he would prefer to go to Lotus, because it was a better option for him. It was a surprise.”

She went on to add, “His friends had told me that he stopped Formula 1 because he was tired of it, and then he went back. I think the little break was a good thin, because now he seems to be enjoying the racing again.” (GMM)

Kimi Raikkonen has returned to the sport and has found a huge number added to his ardent fans who love his candid approach to the sport. He was let off by Ferrari in 2009 when they wanted to sign the Spaniard, Alonso in place of him, even though Kimi had a valid contract for 2010. Ferrari boss Luca di Montezemolo was not very happy with Kimi and his attitude, and below is a little example in Malaysia 2009 when the race was stopped due to rain, Kimi gets out of the car, showers and gets himself an ice cream and a coke. All the while his engineer is requesting him to go back out. Timo Glock sitting on the grid finds Kimi’s reaction quite amusing.