KERS, confusion and GP2

F1
Team Lotus and Red Bull, Virgin and McLaren, HRT and Williams. Each of the three ‘baby teams’ has a collaboration with one of the more experienced teams on track. HRT have renewed their deal with Williams for 2012, which includes the use of Williams KERS. Now that the British outfit have had a year to work on their KERS, it should be much more reliable. Hopefully it will help the Spanish outfit to boost their performance next year. Virgin/Marussia might have more trouble than the other two teams, as unlike Team Lotus/Caterham and HRT it does not share the same engine supplier as its partner. They will have to get KERS from somewhere if they are to be competitive, otherwise they will once again finish 12th overall.
Speaking of ‘Finnish’, Williams are rumoured to be announcing at Abu Dhabi that they have signed Kimi Raikkonen for 2012. The Finn quit F1 after 2009 in order to pursue rallying. He has also had a go at NASCAR. At the start of this year, it seemed unlikely he would ever return. Now, however, the Iceman could be back. A great racer, he will be an additional boost for the struggling team. It could provide a good challenge for him in a less competitive car.
After a meeting of the Formula One Committee today, it has been confirmed that from 2012 Team Lotus will be known as ‘Caterham’, Renault will be known as ‘Lotus’, and Virgin will become ‘Marussia’. It remains to be seen what team names they will adopt.

GP2
Meanwhile, Stefano Coletti returns to racing in Abu Dhabi alongside Kevin Ceccon at Scuderia Coloni for the GP2 final. Afterwards, he will be taking part in the F1 young driver test for Toro Rosso. Stefano injured his back in the Spa-Francorchamps GP2 feature race. He won two races this season – the Turkey and Hungary sprints – despite being a rookie. He has a lot of potential, and should do well.
Another driver taking part is, unsurprisingly, Alexander Rossi. The young American will be driving for Team AirAsia, as well as taking part in the young drivers’ test for Team Lotus.

Narain’s in, but is Karun?

HRT confirmed their driver lineup for the Indian Grand Prix today. Narain Karthikeyan will be partnered by Daniel Ricciardo, the driver who replaced him from Silverstone. Tonio Liuzzi, therefore, will be on the sidelines.

There is no word yet from Team Lotus on whether their Indian reserve driver, Karun Chandhok, will be replacing Jarno Trulli for the race. If this happens, this will be the first race since the 2005 US Grand Prix that no Italians have taken part. Before that race (which was in exceptional circumstances), we need to go back to the 1996 Japanese Grand Prix (for which Giovanni Lavaggi – the only Italian entrant – failed to qualify) to find a race where no Italians took part.

The Indian Grand Prix will be Felipe Massa’s 150th Grand Prix. If Jarno Trulli takes part, it will be his 250th. Several drivers have anniversaries coming up at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, including Mark Webber (175th) and Bruno Senna (25th).

Summer day 11 – Liuzzi, Trulli, De La Rosa, Barrichello

Sorry for the delay. My laptop wanted to get friendly with some water but the relationship didn’t work out.

Tonio Liuzzi – 20
Throughout the winter, Tonio Liuzzi was sure that despite Paul di Resta winning the DTM championship, he had a safe seat at Force India. But Mercedes – who provide Force India’s engines – backed Paul, and with Nico Hulkenberg taking the reserve seat Tonio was left teamless. Pretty swiftly, however, the Italian driver was snapped up by Hispania Racing. Despite being unable to provide any funding, he was able to provide them with help in developing the car.
The start of the season was dismal. Neither HRT driver qualified in Australia after getting hardly any time on track, and coming nowhere near the pace in the qualifying session. But Malaysia was an improvement as both HRTs squeaked under the 107% time along with the Virgins. As the car has improved, Tonio has been able to scrap for position with the Virgins in qualifying, and even started 20th in Istanbul.
But his greatest race came in Canada. The wet/dry conditions somehow played into HRT’s hands, and while nobody was paying attention he finished ahead of his teammate, both Virgins, and the sole remaining Lotus of Jarno Trulli. His thirteenth-place finish has allowed him to slot in behind Trulli in the championship, and brought his team back to 11th where they finished the championship last year. HRT have had a lot of luck to be ahead of Virgin in 2010 and 2011, but in this game luck is a big part of it. And when your next rivals have an incredibly unreliable car, you can see why HRT have hopes of getting that elusive 12th-place finish that will get them 10th in the championship.

Worst qualifying: 23
Best qualifying: 20
Worst finish: 23 (Valencia)
Best finish: 13 (Canada)
Average difference: 2.3
Laps completed: 531/681 (78%)
Average race position: 10.82 (Best: 18.9 Canada; Worst: 22.9 China)

Jarno Trulli – 19
Having been hit by most of Team Lotus’s reliability problems in 2010, Jarno seems to have the more reliable car this year. Though to be honest, three is still a huge amount. Finishing 13th in the very first race of the season has sealed Jarno’s place at 19th in the championship, and he matched that finish in Monaco when he came in ahead of Kovalainen.
For the first half of the season, however, the Italian has been having trouble with the team’s power steering, which did not meet the sensitivity he required to be able to drive the way he prefers. This has been part of the reason why he has been half a second off his teammate in most sessions, as proven in Hungary when only a last-gasp effort got Kovalainen ahead on the grid.
We can expect much closer racing between the two Team Lotus drivers in the future, which will make life a lot more interesting for them. Let’s hope they can stay out of each others’ way and keep the retirements mechanical.

Worst qualifying: 21
Best qualifying: 18
Worst finish: 20 (Valencia)
Best finish: 13 (Australia, Monaco)
Average difference: 1
Laps completed: 490/611 (79%)
Average race position: 17.73 (Best: 15.9 Monaco; Worst: 20.4 Britain)

Pedro de la Rosa – 18
Stepping in for Sergio Perez at the Canadian Grand Prix, Pedro did a reasonable job considering he’d not been in the 2011 Sauber before. He finished on the leading lap thanks to the red flag and safety cars. Nothing else to say, really.

Qualifying: 17
Finish: 12
Average race position: 13.54

Rubens Barrichello – 17
After a good 2010, this season was looking even better for Rubens Barrichello. Winter testing showed promise, and the ‘tight rear end’ was the talk of the press. Then came Australia, and the first of two consecutive double DNFs for the team. Since then, Rubens has been pushing the team to improve. Already reluctantly putting aside this season, the Renault deal should make things better for 2012. But will the Brazilian be there? Rumours abound, questioning whether he will be replaced or remain. As the most experienced driver in F1, he can retire without shame, but he is still a good driver.
Despite not making it into Q3 at all, the high attrition in Monaco and Canada was enough for Rubens to snatch a couple of ninth-place finishes and four points. Aside from that, the Williams’ best finish was 12th at Valencia. Aside from the two DNFs at the start, Rubens’ FW33 has also had a problem in Germany. Bring on 2012.

Worst qualifying: 19
Best qualifying: 11
Worst finish: 17 (Spain)
Best finish: 9 (Monaco, Canada)
Average difference: -0.09
Laps completed: 585/681 (86%)
Average race position: 13.76 (Best: 10.2 Monaco; Worst: 22.0 Malaysia)

F1 Birthdays: 6/8/2011

Italian racing driver Vitantonio “Tonio” Liuzzi celebrates his 30th birthday today. Having formerly driven for Red Bull, Toro Rosso and Force India, he currently drives for Hispania racing. He also writes a column for ESPN.

He began karting aged nine, and in 1993 won the Italian Karting Championship. In 1995 he came second in the Karting World Championship, but only fifth in the European Championship. In 2001, aged 20, he won the Karting World Championship. He made a late move to German Formula Renault that year – most people start younger – and finished second, so he moved on the German Formula Three for 2002 when he finished 9th.
In 2003, he became a Red Bull driver and competed in International Formula 3000. He finished fourth. The next year he continued in the series, driving for Arden International. He won that year, taking seven wins in ten races, and all-but-one pole. The move to F1 was secure.
Red Bull took over Jaguar and brought in Christian Horner from Arden to manage the team. Christian Klien and David Coulthard were the main drivers, but Christian put Tonio in the car for a few races mid-season. Tonio finished 8th in his first race, scoring points on his debut.
The next year, he drove for the new Toro Rosso team and again scored a single point. The next year he picked up three points. But then he left the team, dropped in place of Sebastien Bourdais. So he became a Force India test driver for 2009, and meanwhile took part in a couple of A1GP races and the Speedcar Series in which he came third behind Johnny Herbert but ahead of Heinz-Harald Frentzen, Jean Alesi, Thomas Biagi, Jaques Villeneuve and others.
His 2009 season began with him as a Force India test driver. But after Felipe Massa’s accident at Hungary, main Force India driver Giancarlo Fisichella moved over to Ferrari and Tonio got another chance. He didn’t score any points at the end of that season.
In 2010, Tonio had his best F1 season so far. He finished 15th scoring 21 points. On the other hand, he wasn’t able to provide much of a challenge to teammate Adrian Sutil. With Paul di Resta’s DTM championship win, Tonio didn’t really stand a chance although he held on for as long as he could.
When the opportunity came up at Hispania, Tonio wasn’t going to say no. He has helped to develop the car, and his 13th-place finish in Canada means the team will probably finish 11th again. Plus he is only just behind Jarno Trulli in the championship. Recently, he’s gained Daniel Ricciardo as a teammate. This should hopefully provide him with a good challenge.
Also on the cards, Tonio will be taking part in the Australian V8 championship at their Surfers Paradise round where the regulars drive with international drivers. I don’t think a current F1 driver has ever done this before, although quite a few IndyCar drivers will be taking part.

Summer day 3 – Narain Karthikeyan

Narain Karthikeyan – 25
HRT surprised the entire world when they announced that Narain Karthikeyan would be driving for them in the 2011 season. Although considering the team’s track record with drivers, is it really that surprising? The team put Narain in the number 22 car and accepted his Tata funding which meant that they were able to put updates on their car for the first time.
Narain had been out of F1 for several years since the 2005 season with Jordan. Jordan had Bridgestone tyres, which proved to be of great benefit to them when despite their rocky performance they got a podium for Tiago Monteiro in the infamous US Grand Prix that year. In the meantime, the Indian had been driving in the A1 GP for Team India (and winning races) and in NASCAR Trucks. He was one of the most liked NASCAR trucks drivers. So naturally he struggled a bit when returning to the pace of F1 – even in an HRT.
He only had one retirement in his seven races, having been too slow to qualify in Melbourne. His best finish was in Canada, where the HRTs shone in the rain, but cutting the chicane to overtake saw him demoted to 17th. It’s a shame he didn’t just give the place back as he could have finished 15th. He also became the first ever driver to finish 24th in a race at the European Grand Prix.
Narain was replaced by Daniel Ricciardo from the Silverstone Grand Prix, but should return for India in October.

Worst qualifying: 24
Best qualifying: 22
Worst finish: 24 (Valencia)
Best finish: 17 (Monaco, Canada)
Average difference: 2.1
Laps completed: 381/499 (76%)
Average race position: 21.68 (Best: 19.2 Canada; Worst: 24.0 Valencia)

Summer day 2 – Daniel Ricciardo

Daniel Ricciardo – 26
At the end of 2010, Toro Rosso announced that Australian Daniel Ricciardo (pronounced ‘Ricardo’) would be driving for them in Friday practices, with the aim of evaluating him. At the end of the 2011 season – or more likely the middle – he would replace one of the current members of the team.
So he began taking to the track at every venue, alternating between Buemi’s and Alguersuari’s cars, until the Valencia Grand Prix. And then Red Bull did a deal with the Hispania racing team. The team got lots of money from Red Bull and a new driver who has replaced Narain Karthikeyan. It was rather a surprise, and I could not believe it at first. However, since then Daniel has driven at Silverstone, the Nurburgring and the Hungaroring. He qualified 24th in the first race, which immediately made people call for the return of Narain. He stayed at the back and finished last of the backmarkers. In Germany, Daniel qualified 24th but was promoted to 23rd after a 5-place grid penalty for Liuzzi, and 22nd after Buemi was excluded from qualifying. He again finished 19th, ahead of Karun Chandhok.
His best race so far has come in Hungary. Qualifying 22nd after a poor showing from D’Ambrosio and a penalty from Buemi, he finished 18th in the race ahead of Liuzzi and D’Ambrosio. His finishing ahead of Liuzzi has immediately shown him in a new light. Liuzzi was one of those who had switched to inters and had to switch back again.

Worst qualifying: 24
Best qualifying: 22
Worst finish: 19
Best finish: 18
Average difference: 4
Laps completed: 172/182 (94%)
Average race position: 20.54 (Best: 20.1 Germany; Worst: 21.0 Britain)

Toro Rojo? Hispania = Red Bull Three

Autosport and Red Bull confirm that Daniel Ricciardo will be driving for Hispania for the remainder of the season. Presumably this means that he won’t be driving a Toro Rosso in Friday Practice 1 any more. Meanwhile, Colin Kolles is stepping back from his current role at the Spanish team, and either team owner Jose Ramon Carabante or his son (also called Jose) are expecteed to become Team Principal.
Tonio Liuzzi is an ex-Red Bull, ex-Toro Rosso driver. So Hispania is basically a Red Bull team as well. I wonder if they’ll get any money from the deal? It probably helped them to say yes. I bet Alguesuari and Buemi are both glad they definitely won’t be replaced this season! But they will still have to drive well to make sure they’re not the ones being kicked out next year.
Team Lotus get their gearboxes from Red Bull. Hispania get their drivers. It will be interesting to see how the standings change with Red Bull’s own driver on the team. Maybe they’ll get that 12th place finish they dream of and beat Team Lotus. Maybe not. A driver can only make the car go so far. Team Lotuses are still much better than HRTs in normal conditions.