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Category Archives: Motorsport

Michael Schumacher's HelmetFormula 1 fans the world-over got quite the Christmas present this year. 7-time World Champion Michael Schumacher confirmed yesterday that he will return to the sport from retirement to drive for Mercedes-Benz GP in 2010, signing a three-year deal. Speculation in the media was running strong over the past weeks with many attributing rumors about the champion and his then alleged deal with Mercedes-Benz GP. Fortunately, Schumacher’s return will make anticipation for the 2010 F1 season strong which begins in March with the Grand Prix of Bahrain.

Next season will have to be one the most exciting, with no less than four World Champions appearing on the grid. Lewis Hamilton (2008 World Champion) and Jenson Button (2009 World Champion) are teamed together at McLaren, forming the first team with two World Champions since 1989, which had Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost teamed-up together (also at McLaren). Fernando Alonso (2005 and 2006 World Champion) is filling a seat that was previously filled at Ferrari by Michael Schumacher. Alonso was the most recent driver to win a championship against Schumacher (in 2006). It is also rumored that 1997 World Champion Jacques Villeneuve may make a return to F1 as well, possibly with the brand new USF1 team.

Also, several other very strong drivers will be looking for a first World Championship. Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber ran both of their strongest campaigns to date in 2009, driving in arguably the best car on the grid, which is the Adrian Newey-designed Red Bull (they’ll be returning in 2010 with that same team). Felipe Massa is returning from injury as teammate to Fernando Alonso with Ferrari. Nico Rosberg will be Michael Schumacher’s teammate at Mercedes-Benz GP, after several tough seasons with Williams. Rubens Barrichello filled the vacancy left by Rosberg’s departure at Williams, he’ll be looking to run as strongly as he did in 2009.

Another important note is that Formula 1 will introduce four new teams to the grid next year, creating the largest F1 field since the 1990s. Next year’s season will also be the longest season, with 19 grands prix (the 2009 season was two grands prix shorter at 17 races).

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Britain’s newspaper The Mirror has rumored that Michael Schumacher is going to participate in a top-secret test session in the Middle East, possibly at either the Yas Marina Circuit or the Dubai Autodrome. Schumacher is allegedly testing in a GP2 car, since there is a ban on testing with Formula 1 cars. The test is being taken to finalize if Schumacher is fit enough for a Formula 1 comeback in 2010 with Mercedes Benz GP.

Luca di Montezemolo, the chairman of Ferrari, has stated that the contract that Michael Schumacher has with Scuderia Ferrari is not binding.

It is suspected by the German media that Mercedes-Benz will announce Schumacher as a driver for Mercedes-Benz GP later this week (!).

It is rumored that Michael Schumacher has made a verbal agreement to drive for the Mercedes-Benz Formula 1 team for 2010. Although Schumacher has recently signed a 3-year deal as supervisor for Scuderia Ferrari, it looks like he is trying to find a way to end that agreement.
If Schumacher was to end that contract and join Mercedes-Benz GP, he will find himself partnered with their technical director Ross Brawn, a person that he had worked with for ten years at Ferrari (a time in which they were extremely successful). Not forgetting to mention that Mercedes-Benz GP won the 2009 Drivers’ and Constructors’ World Championships (as BrawnGP). Schumacher would be Nico Rosberg’s teammate at Mercedes-Benz GP.

Schumacher was initially tipped for a comeback during the 2009 season, to replace an injured Felipe Massa at Ferrari. Unfortunately, the 40-year-old Schumacher wasn’t physically strong enough to make the comeback (because of an injury sustained in a motorcycle accident).

Nick Heidfeld has also been tipped as a driver for Mercedes-Benz GP.

After two years with virtually no lineup changes in Formula 1, the 09-10 off-season has been hot with new deals… Here are the noteworthy deals for 2010.

-To begin with, two-time World Champion Fernando Alonso is leaving Renault (who arguably had the worst car on the grid in ’09) to move to Ferrari, the most prestigious team in Formula 1. This will give the team an undeniably strong driver lineup with Felipe Massa (coming back from his injury).

-Reigning drivers’ and constructors’ World Champions Brawn GP are to reveal a completely new driver lineup for 2010. Brawn GP has been bought by Daimler and Aabar Investments as of today, next year the team will be called Mercedes-Benz GP. The last time that Mercedes-Benz had a factory team in Formula 1 was in 1955. It is rumored that their driver lineup will feature two Germans, with the likes of Nico Rosberg and Nick Heidfeld.

-McLaren is retaining ’08 World Champion Lewis Hamilton. He will likely be partnered with ’09 World Champion Jenson Button. This would create a situation at McLaren with two world champions as drivers. The last time this was the case was in 1989 with Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost, which also took place at McLaren.

-Rubens Barrichello, who finished 3rd in the ’09 drivers’ standings, is leaving Brawn GP to drive for the famous Williams F1 team in 2010. His teammate will be Formula 1-rookie Nico Hulkenberg.

-There will also be four new teams in Formula 1 in 2010, this will undoubtedly bring new drivers in the sport. USGPE and Lotus have yet to announce their drivers. Although Campos has revealed that Bruno Senna will be one of their drivers. Senna is the nephew of the late-Ayrton Senna, three-time World Champion. The new Manor Grand Prix Team has also revealed that Timo Glock will be one of their drivers.

-Kimi Raikkonen has yet to sign a deal with any team for next year. This may see the ’07 World Champion opting for a sabbatical in 2010. His contract was terminated early at Ferrari, to allow for Fernando Alonso’s entrance. Raikkonen was rumored to make a return to McLaren, although it seems that Jenson Button will fill that vacancy. Raikkonen has a termination clause in his Ferrari contract which gives him around $15 million, a sum others teams are unlikely to compete with. Thus, it would be more lucrative for the Finn to take a year off.

-The underrated Robert Kubica will be driving for Renault F1 in 2010. He is leaving the defunct BMW-Sauber F1 team. It is rumored that Renault will pull the plug on their F1 efforts before next season, like BMW. Therefore, Kubica may yet be out for a drive next year.

FIA Senate President Nick Craw has revealed that Formula 1 may make a return to the United States in the near future. The last Formula 1 race in the United States was in 2007 at Indianapolis.
In a SpeedTV interview Craw said, “I think everybody from the commercial rights holders to the teams and sponsors see the absence of a US Grand Prix a huge liability.”
In 2009, there wasn’t even a race in North America, although the 2010 provisional Formula 1 calendar does have a date in Montreal, Canada in June.
Craw also commented that if the United States does get a Formula 1 race, it will most likely not take place in Indianapolis. “If you’ve seen some of the Taj Mahal’s being built for the F1 circuits these days I don’t see any budget for that in the United States so I think that it is more likely that we will see a temporary street circuit in or around a major metropolitan area and there are two or three right now looking at that possibility,” Craw said.
New York City has been rumored time and again for hosting a Formula 1 race, although personally I see that as a logistical impossibility. CART attempted to host a race in downtown Manhattan during the mid-1990s but were unsuccessful.
Street circuits, throughout United States grand prix history, have been the most common route for hosting races. There have been United States grands prix on the streets of Long Beach, Las Vegas, Detroit, Dallas, and most recently Phoenix in 1991.
I completely agree with Craw’s comments about the United States not being able to host a grand prix on a permanent circuit. None of US’s permanent circuits are of the caliber that Formula 1 would expect, the closest tracks to suit Formula 1’s needs are either Indianapolis (which has been ruled out as an option) or Laguna Seca (which hosts MotoGP races, but doesn’t have the infrastructure needed for Formula 1).
As we can see from a track like Yas Marina in Abu Dhabi (pictured below), which hosted its first Formula 1 race a few weeks ago, someone would have to shovel out some serious cash to build a track like this in the United States.Yas Marina Hotel
…I wonder if one of those “two or three” cities is Philadelphia…(doubtful).

No chance first of all at USF1 (or is it USGPE?) being competitive against the reigning World Champions. But what the headline is really about is that Ross Brawn has just recently slammed the new-to-F1 team for 2010. When Ross Brawn was asked what he thinks of the chances of USF1 appearing on the grid, he replied that the team has a 0% chance. The USF1 team has yet to begin crash testing components for their 2010 car, something that BrawnGP has been doing for the past two months. Another interesting point is that FOTA (the Formula One Teams Association) held a vote recently regarding teams selling their entries to the 2010 season to other teams that weren’t received entries to the championship. Every team voted against the motion, except for USF1… Are Peter Windsor and Ken Anderson getting cold feet? The two had just recently signed a sponsorship agreement between themselves and YouTube for next year.

On 23 October, 2009 Jean Todt became the new president of the FIA (Federation l’Internationale de l’Automobile). He was elected into office to take the place of Max Mosley who had been serving as president since 1993. Ari Vatanen was competing against Todt in the election for the presidency.
Despite the controversies that plagued Mosley’s tenure as president time and again (namely the 2008 sex scandal and the 2005 United States Grand Prix), Mosley was by and large a formidable leader. His contributions to motorsport and road safety must be recognized. He was also a major role player in bringing F1 to its current heights (with much help from former-colleague at March, Bernie Ecclestone).
What makes Jean Todt’s new position is the conflict of interest that his presidency implies…let’s begin with a quick background check…
Todt’s managerial career began in the 1980s heading the Peugeot works effort in the World Rally Championship. While managing, the rally team proved to be very successful, winning world titles in 1985 and 1986. The manufacturer battle during these years, between Peugeot and Lancia, developed cars that reached speeds that would make the FIA (then headed by Jean-Marie Balestre) ban them prior to the 1987 championship season. Todt was also heavily involved in Peugeot’s successful Paris-Dakar and Le Mans teams during the late 1980s and early 1990s.
In 1993, Todt was hired by Ferrari to be the general manager of their fledgling F1 team. Ferrari had just finished their worst championship campaign and were looking to bring their team back to the top of the F1 pecking order. Todt proved to be what the team needed; he hired key members that were pivotal in developing Ferrari to what they would become in the 2000s. Ross Brawn was hired as race strategist, Rory Byrne as chief aerodynamicist, and the then two-time world champion Michael Schumacher was hired as their driver. The successes that followed (no less than seven manufacturers’ titles and six drivers’ titles) would return Ferrari as a major power in Formula 1. The marque accrued enough power to threaten their withdrawal from the sport twice in the 2000s, resulting in a high stakes poker game over television advertisement revenues between the FIA and the major car manufacturers that had huge sums of money tied into the sport. The leverage that Ferrari was able to find against the FIA made some believe that if there was no Ferrari, there would be no F1. The fans would go wherever Ferrari went (Ferrari threatened to try their hands in American open-wheel racing, good think that they didn’t…). Think something along the lines of if the Yankees left MLB, what would that do to the sport? To put F1 on par with baseball again… How would baseball fans feel if George Steinbrenner became the commissioner of MLB?
The FIA has already showed a strong amount of favoritism towards Ferrari, especially in the “spygate” scandal of 2007 where a former Ferrari employee passed confidential information from Ferrari to the McLaren F1 team. When this case resolved in England’s High Court of Justice, McLaren was banned from the 2007 world championship standings and was fined $100 million… The FIA presidential term is four-years in length, it’ll be interesting if Ferrari receives any more favoritism over the next years.

Rossi's 9th World Title
He’s a freak.

Rossi appeared on the world championship circuit for motorcycles (MotoGP) in 1996 at 17 years old. The Italian has since won nine World Championships: one world championship on 125cc’s, another on 250cc’s, and then seven at the MotoGP level (the pinnacle for motorcycle riders). He has raced a mere 226 races, in those races he has finished on the podium 163 times, 103 of those times on the top step. He, in 2002 alone finished on the podium in every race, including 11 race victories.

He’s only 30 years old now, how many World Championships can this guy get?

This past weekend saw the crowning of a new Formula 1 World Driver’s Champion. Briton Jenson Button clinched the world title at the Grand Prix of Brazil at the Autodromo Jose Carlos Pace in Sao Paulo. Challenging for the world championship was Button’s teammate at Brawn GP, Rubens Barrichello. Barrichello grabbed the pole position for the grand prix in an often-interrupted (for on-track incidents and inclement weather), wet, qualifying session.
At the beginning of Sunday’s grand prix, it appeared as if Barrichello would keep the title fight going on into the final round of the championship which takes place in two-weeks time in the United Arab Emirates. Barrichello was off like a scolded cat at the start of the race, tallying up five consecutive fastest laps during the first stint of the race. Chasing him hard though was Red Bull’s Mark Webber, who was driving nearly on par with Barrichello in a heavier-fueled car. Webber, looking to end his strongest championship campaign to date with an exclamation point, had to minimize Barrichello’s lead if he wanted to overtake the leader (Barrichello) during the first set of pit-stops (which he would, going on to win his second grand prix of the season).
Disappointingly for the home-race hero, Barrichello, during the final stint of the race suffered a slow-puncture on one of his tires (due to contact with 2008 World Champion Lewis Hamilton) and had no choice but to take an extra pit-stop, thus ending his chances to grab a podium finish and bringing the championship battle to an extra round at Abu Dhabi.
Barrichello is F1’s eldest current driver, seeing him and NASCAR’s eldest driver Mark Martin both challenge for championships late in their careers has been an interesting and ironic element to the 2009 motorsport season. The trend as of late has seen successful drivers becoming younger and younger.
Martin was recently the number one seed heading into the Sprint Cup chase, and his performances ahead of the chase gave many the right to believe that he would be a favorite for the championship. But, having watched last weekend’s Sprint Cup race, it looks as if he will likely fail to take the championship, not unlike F1’s Barrichello. At this most recent Sprint Cup race, Martin’s teammate Jimmie Johnson tightened his stranglehold on NASCAR’s playoff format. His performance this past weekend at Charlotte (pole position, most laps led, and race win), combined with his back-to-back-to-back Sprint Cup championships, makes it look like NASCAR should just hand him his trophy now.
A recent yahoo.com article raised questions regarding NASCAR’s faltering television ratings (also, having watched the Charlotte race, tickets sales may be down as well since the turn 3-4 grandstands were drearily empty). A major factor to this current rating drop is no doubt Johnson’s current reign. Formula 1, during the 2000s witnessed something much similar. Michael Schumacher, Formula 1’s most successful driver of all-time grabbed five world titles in as many years and an additional 56 grand prix victories in seven years. His time on top of the sport gave him an amazing 46% winning average. To curb Schumacher’s record breaking onslaught, F1 officials tossed several rule changes into Schumacher’s foray… They changed the way that points were distributed to the finishing drivers, handed-out draconic penalties to petty sporting crimes, and one year they even banned the changing of tires during races (the worst rule change modern F1 racing has seen, watching drivers skate around the course on burnt tires near the end of the race was, simply put, laughable).
Suggesting that NASCAR should implement rule changes to curb Johnson’s winning ways would most likely be a quick and undesirable decision. One must remember that NASCAR only recently introduced the “Car of Tomorrow,” which are the loose-handling, boxy, ugly bastard sons of General Motors, Ford, Dodge, and Toyota. A simpler way to increase the competition, suggested by NASCAR.com contributor Dave Caraviello, would be to “Jimmie-proof” the chase. He suggests that the chiefs at NASCAR should introduce tracks to the chase that aren’t traditionally dominated by Hendrick cars. Martinsville, Phoenix, California, Texas, Charlotte, and Dover are all present on the chase schedule and they are all tracks Johnson is incredibly successful at. What if NASCAR exchanged the race at Martinsville for a race at Bristol? Bristol is already one of NASCAR’s most well-attended venues, and although similar in length, it is about as different-as-you-can-get in terms of driving. Texas for Watkins Glen? Both are high-speed tracks, but Watkins Glen would throw a literal right-hand turn at Johnson’s campaign for a fourth consecutive Sprint Cup Championship (topping the record Cale Yarborough set, Winston Cup champion in ’76, ’77, and ’78). And lastly, what if NASCAR decided to end the championship at Darlington rather than Homestead-Miami? Sure, Homestead-Miami has three-tier banking on its corners which allow for exciting three-wide racing… But wouldn’t it be more exciting and gratifying if we could watch NASCAR’s contemporary greats let it all hang-out at the track “too tough to tame” for the championship at NASCAR’s oldest speedway? Expect some changes if NASCAR wants to continue challenging the NFL as America’s most-watched sport…