F1 Off-Season News #1

Team Lotus
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The Lotus Feud and The New Renault

This feud has been very public for quite some time now, and it’s a real shame that they couldn’t come to some better arrangement. While it does excite me to see the Lotus Renault livery of black and gold for next year, it is upsetting that we’ll have two Lotus teams on the grid, causing confusion especially for the casual fan of F1. I now understand why Tony Fernandes went after and bought the Team Lotus naming rights. It was because he wanted to protect his investment as he knew that if his team finished 10th in the championship, which they did, and was forced to change the team name he would lose the prize money and have to re-enter as effectively another new team. It seems like Group Lotus wanted a short cut to instant success by getting on board with Renault, a team looking to be on the rise back to where they were several seasons ago. Rather than be patient and support Lotus Racing over 5 seasons while they build up to being a contenting team, as they originally agreed to. It’s not that I dislike Group Lotus, but it would be fantastic to see Team Lotus make a huge step forward next year that will see them able to compete and possibly beat the renamed Lotus Renault GP team. It’s very unlikely but you never know in F1. Who would have thought that the perennially useless Honda would build a championship winning car for the renamed team the following year after all?

Nico Hulkenburg’s Williams Exit

I don’t know whether it was Nico’s decision to leave or the team’s but it’s put him in a very difficult position with regards to staying in F1 next year. From what I read on, Hulkenburg was offered a multi-year deal. However, this deal would have placed him with HRT for at least the first of those years. Nico refused and is now struggling to get any drive for 2011. It may also be true that the Williams team decided to release him in favour of a heavily backed Pastor Maldonado despite his fairly strong rookie season. Regardless of what actually happened, it just goes to prove how cut-throat the F1 business is especially now as money talks more than ever and often takes precedence over talent.

I hope he gets his race seat at a team such as HRT next year, although we know there are many other talented drivers including Pedro De La Rosa, Nick Heidfeld, Bruno Senna, Karun Chandhok, Lucas Di Grassi and others including Daniel Ricciardo are also looking for positions there as well as at teams like Force India and Virgin, where the drivers haven’t been formerly announced. The Lotus Renault team appear to have retained Petrov if what we’re hearing this morning about a press conference in Russia are to be believed. Toro Rosso also haven’t announced either driver for 2011 despite Buemi and Alguersuari both having contracts for at least the first half of the 2011 season.

Team Orders Ban Abolished

I suppose this was an inevitable rule change after Ferrari made a mockery of it’s existence last year by getting away with blatant team orders while only receiving a fine which to them is relative pocket change. I just hope we don’t see these team orders unless absolutely necessary unlike last season. Although I suppose it did turn out to be necessary from Ferrari’s perspective as even with the team order they missed out on the championship. All you can hope is that the teams and drivers that have gone for the correct moral approach, such as Red Bull and Jenson Button stick to their principals, and win the championship while doing so.

HRT up for sale

What a story it would have been if HRT had been able to complete that deal with Toyota at the beginning of the year and miraculously pulled a Brawn, to surprise everyone with a competitive car in the early season. Even if they had got the deal done in time for next season, you would think that even an unmodified TF101 car would have moved them up the grid considerably from where they were.

Now it looks like they won’t have enough time to make enough of an improvement to their 2010 car designed by Dallara. If they do get to the first race and have the money for a second full season, you would assume they’ll be even more strongly planted to the back of the grid than they were in their debut season. If so then they’re really going to be existing in racing terms to give younger drivers a stepping stone into the sport. This brings me on to Ferrari bringing up the subject of wanting to run 3 cars per team if possible in the future. This will increase the number of competitive cars on the grid, and the number of seats available for the talented drivers out there in the market.

What it could also do is make team orders even more potent, especially if any of the contending teams are not running 3 cars. You would also be running the risk of the sport ending up turning into series like WRC and WTCC where only a very small number of manufacturers take part and all of the cars look nearly identical. I think motorsport is at its healthiest when there are as many teams and manufacturers involved as possible so if the FIA does allow this change at some point, they have to enforce it in a smart way to make it fair for all and keep a large number of teams interested.