Caterham does some rebranding

From next season, Caterham Team AirAsia will be renamed Caterham Racing, to match the name change of the F1 team. The two racing teams, the car company and other car-related ventures will come under the Caterham Group banner.

With Kimi Raikkonen definitely not going to Williams next season, Barrichello’s seat looks set to be taken by GP3 champion Valtteri Bottas, or maybe someone else. Meanwhile, Renault are not just looking at their current lineup but also at drivers from other teams to possibly take over in place of Robert Kubica.

The details of the BBC/Sky television deal have begun to emerge over the last few days, with Martin Brundle signed up with Sky to commentate. He will not, however, be the lead commentator. The BBC will be doing ten races, with Sky doing all twenty. Sky, however, have the exclusive broadcasting rights for Bahrain and the US Grand Prix. Both of these races are under threat.
BBC Radio 5 Live will continue to provide live coverage of every practice session, qualifying and the race, so even if you cannot afford Sky then you can still enjoy F1. When I didn’t have a television, this was how I enjoyed F1. I would watch half of the races at my aunties’ house, and listen to the other half at home.
The ten BBC live races are: China, Spain, Monaco, Valencia, Britain, Belgium, Singapore, Korea, Abu Dhabi, Brazil.

Oh yeah, and it was qualifying yesterday and Sebastian Vettel took pole. It looks wet for the race today, so we could be in for a treat.

Kubica will not make the start of 2012

Sadly, Renault have confirmed today what we all suspected: Robert Kubica will not be returning to F1 for the start of the 2012 season. The Pole, who has kept out of the media spotlight since his accident, made an announcement via the team’s website to say that he would be unable to be drive-ready on time. Though he has 100% mobility in his hand and the rest of his body, getting back to race fitness and getting used to driving a race car again is hard work. It will take a long time to get there. Hopefully, Robert will be ready to return mid-season.
However, this does leave the future Lotus GP in a bit of a conundrum, with three drivers to fill two spaces. Romain Grosjean, the GP2 champion, is likely to take one of those seats. The remainder will be fought over by Petrov and Senna. Though Petrov has a contract for next year, Senna also brings good sponsorship and is in negotiations with the team. Having a Senna in a black and gold Lotus is obviously a very attractive option.

Meanwhile, F2 driver Alex Brundle will be taking part in the 24 Hours of Le Mans next season along with his father Martin. The endurance race does not fall on an F1 weekend this year, meaning that whether or not Brundle Sr is working for Sky or the BBC, he will still be able to race that weekend.

The GP3 teams have been testing in Valencia today. At midday of day one, Daniel Abt was fastest followed by Niederhauser, Guerin, Daly, Laine, Stockinger, Ellinas, Stevens, Zimin and Blomqvist.

F1/BBC Birthdays: 1/6/2011

He’s been commentating on Formula One for so long, it’s hard to remember that he used to be a racing driver! Martin Brundle celebrates his 52nd birthday today.

Born in Norfolk, where he still lives,he began in BTCC before racing single seaters in 1979 aged 20 with Formula Ford. In 1982 he began racing in British Formula Three, coming 4th after 20 races with 2 wins, 6 poles and 7 podiums. The next year he came second in the championship, winning five of the 19 races for Eddie Jordan Racing. He finished on the podium for all but two races.

In 1984 he moved to Formula One, driving for Tyrell. He finished fifth in his first race, and on the podium in his second. His great season was cut short when he broke his legs at Dallas, then wiped from the record books when the team were disqualified from the 1984 championship for a technical infringement. Brundle of course can empathise with Sergio Perez, who scored points in his first race before being disqualified for a technical infringement. Brundle stuck with Tyrrel for the next two years, but the team struggled. He moved to a small team called Zakspeed in 1987, managing only two points which were the only ones the team scored in their history.
He took a year out of F1 in 1988 to compete in the World Sportscar Championship for Jaguar. He won the title with a record haul of points, and also won the Daytona 24 Hour race. In 1989 he returned to F1 to race for Brabham, then went back into sports car racing for 1990 and won Le Mans. In 1991 he again returned to Brabham. But the team hadn’t been doing as well as they once had been. Despite this, he did reall well and got Brabham points.
So in 1992 he moved to Benneton, up against teammate Michael Schumacher. It’s said that he came the closest of anyone to matching Schumacher before his retirement and comeback. Though he never won, he had several brilliant races.
In 1993, he began racing for Ligier, and pushed the car to its limits, even getting a podium and several points finishes. He finished seventh in the championship in a car that did not have active suspension – all the cars in front of him did. His impressive performance got him a move to McLaren, but the team were struggling with their Peugeot engines and didn’t manage to win anything. But he did manage to finish second in Monaco behind Schumacher.
In 1995, he was replaced by Nigel Mansell so he moved back to Ligier for a part season. And he took his last-ever F1 podium at Spa. In 1996 he moved to drive for Eddie Jordan again alongside Rubens Barrichello, his best finish being fourth.
In 158 Grand Prix starts, Brundle never won, got a pole position or a fastest lap. But he had 9 podiums and 98 championship points.

In 1997, he was offered a seat at Sauber but decided against it. He moved back to Le Mans racing, and also began commentating on F1 for ITV, who had the broadcasting rights in those days for the UK. He’d previously had a similar role to Karun Chandhok, being part of the commentary team when his Ligier teammate was racing in 1995. He was immediately very popular. His grid walks in particular have been a great source of entertainment for fans.
He was initially alongside Murray Walker, then James Allen, and moved to BBC to commentate alongside Jonathan Legard. Brundle was promoted this year to lead commentator, and has David Coulthard alongside him. With his 14 previous years of experience, it’s a fairly easy decision to make.

Brundle is also in driver management, being David Coulthard’s manager amongst others. His son Alex drives in Formula Two, and after Alex’s first worrying weekend in Silverstone he had a much better time at Magny-Cours, taking a pair of podium finishes. He is currently fifth in the championship.

Formula One 1996…

In 1996, Michael Schumacher was a two-time world champion with a bundle of potential. But the F1 world was still hurting from the loss of Ayrton Senna less than two years previously. This is reflected well in the 1996 pre-season guide to Formula One published by Parragon and written by David Tremayne (still Grand Prix reporter for The Independent).
The book is filled with all sorts of information that a Formula One fan might have required back then. This was in the days before the Internet, and incredibly each team has its contact information listed alongside a short article about it. Practically every driver was being compared with Senna, especially Schumacher and Barrichello. But what’s most interesting is seeing what has changed since those days 15 years ago. One of those is the cars.
Well, Martin Brundle, Eddie Jordan and David Coulthard are no longer involved directly in the sport, but still can be found at the track, although their appearance hasn’t changed much. Eddie still has a terrible taste in clothes, as well.
The one rookie who has really progressed since the 1996 season – Giancarlo Fisichella – ironically wasn’t mentioned in the book. Luca Badoer was. He was driving for Forti Grand Prix, a desperate Italian team for whom this was their last season. In fact, of the 11 teams who started the 1996 season, only four exist under the same names today: Ferrari, Williams, McLaren and Sauber. Ferrari, who had just hired 1995 champion Schumacher, were sure that this was their year, but that honour went to Williams and Damon Hill. McLaren had just signed Coulthard alongside Mika Hakkinen, and Jordan were running a youthful (and single) Rubens Barrichello alongside Martin Brundle.
I was surprised to learn that Sauber were sponsored by Red Bull in 1996. The surprise was more that Red Bull even existed back then! They ran in Red Bull colours, although of course the car looked very different, and they were going more along the can design. They were a baby team back then, going into their fourth season.
The list of Grands Prix also looks very different today. It was Australia’s first race in Melbourne, which means this year’s GP will be the sixteenth race there. Back then, Brazil was the second rather than the final race of the season, and I definitely prefer where it is now. The Senna S had not yet been named, but the Senna Chicane at the Nurburgring had. The Germans had two GPs, as did the Italians, though now the San Marino Grand Prix has gone from our calendar and the German ones trade places each year. There is no longer an Argentinian GP, a French GP or a Portuguese GP.
In 1996, Charlie Whiting was not yet the race director – that was to come next year. But it’s incredible to see how many of the higher-ups like Frank Williams, Bernie and Luca di Montezemolo are still out there.
Finally, there was a fascinating short article about the cost of sponsorship and how much teams spend. £50m pounds is a lot, but it’s nothing compared to what teams these days spend. I wonder what those figures are like now?