Karun Chandhok is back!

This morning I woke up to Team Lotus hinting at some exciting news for the weekend. But I had to go to university, so I headed to the bus. Meanwhile, the team made a big announcement. For once I wasn’t checking my Twitter while I was on the bus, so I missed it! But now, of course, you all know – Jarno Trulli won’t be driving this weekend for Team Lotus. Instead, Karun Chandhok will be. It was at this stage last season that Karun stopped driving for HRT, having participated in the first 10 races (Bahrain to Silverstone), so this will be his first German Grand Prix as a Formula One driver.
Not that he hasn’t driven at the track before. Like all the other drivers, his last outing there was in 2009, when he was partnering Alvaro Parente in the GP2 support races. So he knows the track as well as every other driver, if not better. Karun, after all, is a bit of a stats geek so he knows all about the Nurburgring. Good luck to Karun!

F1 Birthday: 13/7/2011

In 1997, a young Italian driver made his way into Formula One for the first time. Back then he drove for Minardi – a long-standing team with limited success. Later, he moved to Prost – the renamed Ligier team. Today, he drives for a young, up-and-coming team – or an old team that took a break before returing to F1 with new ownership. It’s Jarno Trulli‘s 37th birthday today!
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Wirth loses his Virginity

Williams have managed a great comeback after their initial disappointing start to the season. Virgin, however, haven’t managed to come out from their position between Team Lotus and Hispania. They have therefore departed company with Nick Wirth their technical director. Pat Symonds, former Renault engineering director, can’t work in F1 just yet, but he is consulting for the team and helping them for the future.
They will be dumping their all-CFD approach for the near future, and are also expected to be looking at establishing their own technical base. There are also reports that they are looking at working with McLaren or Mercedes, which would mean dumping the Cosworth engines. A similar partnership helped Force India out in the past.
The developments that have already been developed with Wirth Research will go on the car, but they are going to be beginning to focus on their 2012 car. This should hopefully be much better. Unfortunately, CFD hasn’t yet developed to the point where it renders wind tunnels unnecessary, though it is getting better all the time.

Lotus Cars looks set to lose up to 99 members of staff from its Norfolk base following money problems. The company has been struggling ever since Dany Bahar became CEO and began an agressive plan to launch five new models in the middle of the recession. They have also lost a lot of money over the Lotus v Lotus court case. Dany has massive ambitions for Group Lotus, but unfortunately they do not seem to work with everyone else. His position of power has caused a lot of pain and destruction in relations within the company, and between Group Lotus and Team Lotus. Proton and the higher-ups at Group Lotus and Renault F1 back Bahar. Everyone else seems to be pissed off.

We’re all winners here

I have read through the entire judgement by Mr Justice Peter Smith on the Group Lotus vs Team Lotus case. It is fairly easy to see why both parties believe they have won:

1 – Group Lotus won because their allegations of the breach of the agreement were upheld. In truth, I am rather shocked that the 1 Malaysia Racing Team people were breaching the clause on merchandise so quickly after the agreement had been signed. GL had a viable interest in maintaining the quality of their goods, and the 1MRT people did not at all go along with this clause.
As the judge points out, the two sides both quickly realised they wanted out of the agreement. In reality, they ought to have come to an amicable separation, rather than having to go to court.

2 – Team Lotus won because their right to use the Team Lotus name and roundel was upheld. Group Lotus have no right to this. GL do have the right to race as a sponsor of an F1 team but not using the word ‘Team’ with the word ‘Lotus’. Therefore they could not be part of the Lotus Renault F1 Team, for example. The judge ruled that there was no real confusion or similarity between TL and GL, and fans would be able to tell them apart. He notes that GL are a sponsor of Renault, and not in fact a manufacturer, which invalidated a lot of the arguments against TL. He also notes that fans can cope with Red Bull and Toro Rosso, so would have no trouble with the two Lotus teams.

Recently, GL stuck a bunch of Lotus roundels on the Renaults. I don’t know whether we will continue to see these, though as a sponsor they have the right. However, this does lead me to wonder whether Renault are struggling for sponsors.
Both parties have acted rather idiotically in this. Perhaps they will learn their lesson. 1MRT/Team Lotus at least do not have a licensing agreement to restrict their production of mercandise anymore (in fact, they opened their online shop after the resolution was announced), but I am slightly concerned about the quality having read the part of the judgement relating to the 1MRT breach of the licensing agreement.

I will still continue to support Team Lotus, though I have cooled a little after reading how they breached the license agreement. At least they admitted it. They’re a proud young team. They do own the goodwill of the original Team Lotus. Hopefully they will progress, and will one day in the next few years see the first Team Lotus winner since Ayrton Senna at Monaco in 1987.
It remains to be seen whether or not Team Lotus will be allowed to keep the ‘lotus’ chassis name. As ‘lotus’ as a chassis has been inextricably linked with Team Lotus throughout history, I suspect that they will. But this is for the FIA to rule.

Nothing has changed

And the result of Group Lotus vs Team Lotus is that the status quo has been maintained. Ha ha. Both sides have claimed victory.

Group Lotus are allowed to use the ‘Lotus’ name by itself in Formula One. Team Lotus are allowed to use ‘Team Lotus’, but apparently not ‘Lotus’ by itself, although they will keep the chassis name according to Tony Fernandes. I have changed all the ‘lotus’ tags on this site to ‘Team Lotus’ just to clarify things.
Group Lotus are still allowed to have the black and gold cars on the track through their sponsorship of Renault. Team Lotus are still allowed to have the green and yellow cars, and use the iconic Team Lotus symbol. The only real ruling that was made was that Group’s decision to end the license agreement with 1 Malaysia F1 Team was legitimate.
Each company has released a statement about the judgement: Group Lotus, Team Lotus.
Tony Fernandes seems happiest about the result, with Group Lotus intending to appeal as they don’t think the Team Lotus name should be allowed to be used at all by Tony’s team. They say this is to ‘avoid confusion’. I’m not confused. The most confused I get in F1 is when I get a Toro Rosso or a Red Bull mixed up. I think they’re forgetting that Renault aren’t actually their team, but they’re just a sponsor! Probably the happiest people are the lawyers, who have made lots of money to keep things the way they are.

GP2
Oliver Turvey has been handed a 30-second penalty from the feature race for failing to take a drive through penalty for jumping the start. This has demoted him to 15th, losing him his two points and promoting Charles Pic to the reverse grid pole. Sam Bird has been penalised five grid places for the race tomorrow after causing the collision between himself and his teammate in the race. Max Chilton is now 16th in the championship, while Turvey is second-last as all drivers except Mikhail Aleshin have at least one race finish better than fifteenth. It does not affect the team standings.

It’s interesting to note that I am doing all this from my home and have never been to an F1 or GP2 race. I love the Internet. I was watching the race today through an online stream that was fantastic quality, using a cable to connect the video to my TV screen while having the live timing on my laptop.
For all the events going on tomorrow, check the front page of my blog.

F1 Qualifying Spain 2011

That was one of the best qualifyings of 2011 so far. With Heidfeld not making it to Q1 and Barrichello having car problems, Heikki Kovalainen squeaked into Q2. He managed to set a lap on soft tyres when the Force Indias were on hards, and so qualified P15. In Q3, it all shifted again. Mark Webber beat Vettel to pole position for the first time, breaking the German’s run and making everyone very happy (well, except Vettel). With Mitch Evans’ pole for MW Arden earlier in GP3, he’s having a good day. Alonso managed to split the McLarens, qualifying P4 behind Hamilton but ahead of Alonso.
For Jerome D’Ambrosio it was disappointing to qualify behind both Hispanias, and he will be P23. Heidfeld should be allowed to race and will be P24, while Barrichello is P19 behind Trulli in P18.
So what will happen tomorrow? Who knows. But it should be a great day. Rosberg, Alonso, Kovalainen and Liuzzi have outperformed their teammates on every qualifying so far. Next up: GP2 race.

FIA Bans Blown Diffusers

The FIA has issued a ban on blown diffusers as of the next Grand Prix. This is not good news, and especially for Williams. The struggling British team were hoping to introduce a blown diffuser in Spain, but that will not be allowed. They were hoping it would be part of their big improvement package. Blown diffusers work separately to double diffusers, which were banned at the end of last year.
Red Bull pride themselves on their blown diffuser, which is part of the key to their success, and Renault were pinning their 2011 hopes on their exhaust concept. It was the Red Bulls who introduced the component, and most of the teams had managed to implement some version of it by the end of 2010 – though McLaren weren’t pleased with it and dropped it for a while. The young teams had been hoping to introduce a blown diffuser at the next Grand Prix as well, with Virgin having begun work on one at the Turkish GP. Fortunately, they had only been trying that out on one car, and are probably in a better shape than the frontrunners to stick with a non-blown concept.

To be honest, it’s only Hispania, Virgin and Lotus who are going to survive the blown diffuser ban without any problems. Ted Kravitz did a feature on it with Mike Gascoyne for the BBC last year, since the Lotus did not have one to copy. You can check the video out here. Mike claimed that it could add 0.5s to lap time. At the moment, going by Red Bull’s qualifying time this is about their gap on the other teams. But with everyone being hit to varying degrees, this will probably leave Vettel still ahead – depending on how quickly Adrian Newey and the other technical people can respond and get a more conventional exhaust working.

Anyway, Spain will tell. I think we might get to see some of the back midfield running with the backmarkers on Sunday because of this change, and more importantly we don’t know who might get pole. I’m going to predict Q2 for at least one Lotus.