Narain Karthikeyan has made a surprise return to Formula One after being announced as one of Hispania HRT’s drivers for the 2011 season.
The Indian driver was unveiled as the first racer to be working with the Spanish based squad, who look likely to enter into a second season of racing despite on-going financial concerns. Karthikeyan first raced in Formula One with Jordan in 2005, before spending a brief time as a Williams test driver. He has also raced in Superleague and in Audi sportscars.
Team principal Colin Kolles said: “It is a great pleasure for us to have signed Narain Karthikeyan as our race driver for the 2011 Formula 1 World Championship.
“I have known Narain for a long time and he can revert to the experiences he gained when he was competing for Jordan Grand Prix and being test and reserve driver for Williams F1. Narain has also been driving in other racing series and running in one of the legendary Audi sportscars in the Le Mans Series.
“I am sure that his experience and speed will be very useful for the team during the season. We are welcoming Narain to our team and we look forward to working closely with him this year.”
HRT have yet to announce their second driver, but it will not be Karun Chandhok. He claims he declined the chance to race for the team. Sources also suggest that Bruno Senna will not be returning as he cannot find enough sponsorship capital. Nico Hulkenberg and Tonio Liuzzi are both linked to the seat with the minnows.
Williams CEO Adam Parr has rubbished rumours that Pastor Maldonado is simply racing for the Williams team as a “pay driver”.
Maldonado has joined the British based team alongside Rubens Barrichello, ousting popular German rookie Nico Hulkenberg. Speculation in the press had been that Maldonado could raise more sponsorship capital for the team and Hulkenberg, something Williams desperately needs as many of their main sponsorship deals come to an end in 2011.
“The guy just won the GP2 with a rookie team with more victories than anyone. The mere fact that we have to talk about it is absurd. It’s a shame, really,” Parr told motor21.com
Parr also had good words to say about former man Hulkenberg;
“I would like to see him at Williams again,” Parr explained.
“He has the dedication and the passion to be a great driver and I was so impressed with his maturity and professionalism.
“I hope he finds a position somewhere else but on the other hand I would like to maintain a relationship with him,” he added.
Williams have confirmed that Pastor Maldonado will be racing for the team next season alongside veteran Rubens Barrichello.
Maldonado, the current GP2 champion takes the race seat of recently released Nico Hulkenberg, the man who delivered the team its first pole position for 6 years at Brazil.
It will mark the first time in over 30 years that a Venezuelan has taken the wheel of a Formula One car.
“I feel very privileged that Williams has selected me as one of their race drivers,” Maldonado said. “It is a great way to end what has already been an amazing year for me.
“I tested with the team in Abu Dhabi, but can’t wait to start working with everyone properly to be in the best possible shape going into next year. I will be doing my best over the winter to prepare myself, and I know the team will be working hard to ensure a successful season.
“2011 will be the first time in nearly 30 years that a Venezuelan has driven a Formula 1 car so I will be looking to get some good results in return for the support my country has given me to help get me to this position today.”
Sir Frank Williams, team owner added:
“Pastor first caught my eye in 2007 when he drove a masterful race at Monaco,” Williams said. “Since then, he has regularly reminded us of his unquestionable talent with some skilful wins, particularly during this year’s GP2 championship, taking an unsurpassed record of six successive victories.
“Of course, we already know Pastor from the time he spent with the team at the Abu Dhabi test, but we are very much looking forward to developing his talent over
the winter and a fruitful season with him next year.”
Various drivers had the opportunity to test the new Pirelli tyres today in the first test at Abu Dhabi. While only driving their 2010 machines, it will give them the chance to evaluate the new rubber from the Italian manufacturer.
Here’s what a variety of the drivers thought about the tyres following the test.
Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull Racing):
“Given the short amount of time Pirelli had, I think they did a good job,” said world champion Sebastian Vettel, who set the second-fastest time of the day. “It’s a good start and it was good to be back in the car.
“You need to give the car a bit of time to adapt to the tyres. We need to work on the set-up, but I think it’s a common view that the tyres have behaved pretty well and probably better than a lot of people expected.”
Rubens Barrichello (Williams):
“I’ve been positively impressed,” said Barrichello. “The track is a little bit different because I think they polished the asphalt because of the Bridgestone rubber.
“I don’t think it’s time to make comparisons, but I thought it was positive. I did 42 laps in the morning and it was okay. They are different to Bridgestones and we need to keep learning. We could not expect a completely different tyre to work the same way. I quite like the challenge.”
Felipe Massa (Ferrari):
“The harder compound has a lot of degradation and it’s not as quick as I expected,” Massa said.
“As for the softer tyre, I was very happy with it. It’s quick, degradation is very good. I did long runs with both and the one I did with the softer tyre was very good, possibly better than what I had last Sunday in the race.
“Of course, again, they’ll have to work to improve the harder compound they brought here, but that’s what this test was all about. Pirelli saw what happened, listened to our suggestions and understood the situation.”
Robert Kubica (Renault):
“It’s difficult to compare because we had a race five days ago and the track has changed quite a lot due to the testing and the rubber that was laid down,” said Kubica. “I’m sure that the track grip is much better than it was in the race.
“This makes it difficult to compare them – there’s no point really in comparing them. There’s quite a big difference. It is always pretty interesting when you change tyres to feel the difference and make some set-up changes and stuff like this.
“It’s just to get an idea for next year’s car which characteristics will work best. We will never get track conditions with so much rubber on the race weekends, so actually I don’t think it’s so significant, this test. A lot of the young drivers had many sets of new tyres! Although the track was washed yesterday, I didn’t recognise it. It was like a different track.”
Nico Rosberg (Mercedes Benz):
“They’re at least similar [to Bridgestone's] or perhaps for worse for us at the moment”
“…In the big picture, they are pretty similar in the end to the Bridgestones, but if you are then looking for the fine tuning to extract the performance there is some way to go on adapting the set-up.
“At the moment, we have done the small things that you can do at the track but there are the bigger things that you need to take care of with the car development. That’s going to be one of the areas that are very important for success for next year.”
Williams have announced that Rubens Barrichello will race for the team once again next season, but talented rookie Nico Hulkenberg will be leaving the Grove based team.
Barrichello, who is the most experienced F1 driver of all time, had a relatively successful season with the British team headed up by Sir Frank Williams.
“We recruited Rubens knowing he would bring technical expertise, experience and passion,” said Williams. “He has delivered everything we could have hoped for this season and we are delighted to confirm that he will drive for us again in 2011.”
Meanwhile, Nico Hulkenberg has told reporters he will be leaving the team. The young German, who gave Williams their first pole position since 2005, said he was disappointed to be leaving.
“I heavily regret that,” Hulkenberg said in a statement. “I would have been happy to stay with Williams.
“I want to thank the team for a great time and I wish Williams all the best for the future.”
Hulkenberg’s manager, Wili Weber says that Nico will have a race seat next season.
“I am negotiating with other teams,” Weber said. “Nico will have his seat in F1 in 2011.”
He has only a limited number of options for next season, so it will be interesting to see where he ends up racing.
Nico Hulkenberg took a surprise pole position for Sunday’s Brazilian Grand Prix, the German rookie’s first ever pole.
His Williams team were delighted with the performance, which marks their first pole position since 2005. Their last win came at this circuit in 2004, with Colombian driver Juan Pablo Montoya at the wheel.
Hulkenberg used the changing conditions to his advantage, slipping through into Q3 then using the slick bridgestone tyres to set a flawless lap time that was over 1 second faster than the nearest opponent.
Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber will start 2nd and 3rd respectively, while the other two title contenders Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso will start 4th and 5th.
Michael Schumacher will start only 8th, the German driver showed good pace at Interlagos today getting into Q3 unlike his team mate Nico Rosberg who will start only 13th tomorrow.
Rosberg isn’t the only big name to be low on the time screen’s today. Jenson Button, the 2009 World Champion starts only 11th and Adrian Sutil is down in 18th.
With changeable conditions, and a surprise man on pole we are certainly set for an exciting Brazilian Grand Prix tomorrow!
Pos Driver Team Q1 Q2 Q3 1. Hulkenberg Williams-Cosworth 1:20.050 1:19.144 1:14.470 2. Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1:19.160 1:18.691 1:15.519 3. Webber Red Bull-Renault 1:19.025 1:18.516 1:15.637 4. Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1:19.931 1:18.921 1:15.747 5. Alonso Ferrari 1:18.987 1:19.010 1:15.989 6. Barrichello Williams-Cosworth 1:19.799 1:18.925 1:16.203 7. Kubica Renault 1:19.249 1:18.877 1:16.552 8. Schumacher Mercedes 1:19.879 1:18.923 1:16.925 9. Massa Ferrari 1:19.778 1:19.200 1:17.101 10. Petrov Renault 1:20.189 1:19.153 1:17.656 11. Button McLaren-Mercedes 1:19.905 1:19.288 12. Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari 1:19.741 1:19.385 13. Rosberg Mercedes 1:20.153 1:19.486 14. Alguersuari Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1:20.158 1:19.581 15. Buemi Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1:20.096 1:19.847 16. Heidfeld Sauber-Ferrari 1:20.174 1:19.899 17. Liuzzi Force India-Mercedes 1:20.592 1:20.357 18. Sutil Force India-Mercedes 1:20.830 19. Glock Virgin-Cosworth 1:22.130 20. Trulli Lotus-Cosworth 1:22.250 21. Kovalainen Lotus-Cosworth 1:22.378 22. di Grassi Virgin-Cosworth 1:22.810 23. Klien HRT-Cosworth 1:23.083 24. Senna HRT-Cosworth 1:23.796
As the Formula One “silly” season comes around again, and drivers are beginning to sign on the dotted line to new contracts one of the more overlooked rumours this weekend in Japan has been the possibility that Felipe Massa could be ready to leave Ferrari in search of being an out and out first driver.
The Brazilian was drafted into Ferrari and raced as Michael Schumacher’s understudy in 2006. In 2007, he was overshadowed by Kimi Raikkonen who went on to win the title. In 2008, he missed out on the championship by just a single point and 2009 was the infamous year where he was nearly killed. 2010 has been a difficult year for Massa. he had to move aside in Germany, so that Fernando Alonso could win the race in order to help his world championship challenge. It smelt like Schumacher/Barrichello from years before.
At the time Massa accepted the decision, but has become increasingly unhappy both on and off the track. His performances have slid, and he doesn’t look happy in the garage. On Thursday ahead of the Grand Prix, Massa told reporters that he “Didn’t want to be a 2nd driver, only the first driver. I don’t want to be another Rubens Barrichello”. Hastily, the boss of Ferrari Luca di Montezemolo said that he was still a number 1. But how can a team have two number ones? Especially when the other driver is Fernando Alonso. Lets not forget 2007, when Alonso was challenged at McLaren and he didn’t accept it.
Italian Press and the Suzuka paddock have been awash with rumour that he was ready to leave the team. The main teams he is being linked with are Renault, and believe it or not – Force India. The latter statement shows just how far the little team based in Silverstone has come, to attract a driver like Felipe. Word in the paddock is that now Raikkonen has declined Renault, Adrian Sutil will leave Force India and head across to Enstone to partner Robert Kubica. This leaves the Force India door wide open for Scotsman Paul di Resta to take over from Tonio Liuzzi, and Felipe Massa could slot in as the number 1 driver within the team.
So it looks like Felipe may hold the key to the driver market this season. If he leaves, it leaves a completely empty race seat with Ferrari – who could potentially be the drivers championship winning team. Both drivers at Red Bull and McLaren are secure for 2011, so it would be likely to be an outsider driver coming in to the team. They have a range of options. They could select a youngster, one of their young driver programme drivers, but this is highly risky for the team and they would have to be confident that the driver could perform at the highest level straight from the off.
Their other option is to bring in someone experienced. Kimi Raikkonen rejected Renault for the team, as opposed to rejecting the prospect of Formula One. Could he make a sensational come back to F1 with Ferrari? Another possibility could be Michael Schumacher, the tainted son of the Italian team, has allegedly been offered an ultimatum by his Mercedes Benz bosses – perform or face the sack. Returning to Ferrari would guarantee him continued legend status, and almost certainly a competitive car. If Schumacher did leave Mercedes, then Nico Hulkenberg could go across to the all German team – his race seat at Williams is rumoured to be being offered to Pastor Maldonado, the GP2 World Champion.
It could make for an exciting winter season after all!
German Touring Car racer Gary Paffett was fastest on the second day of rookie testing at Jerez.
The Brit completed a fastest lap of 1.18.718 which was just under half a second faster than second placed man Nico Hulkenberg, who is a confirmed race driver with the Williams team for 2010.
In third was Daniel Ricciardo, the British F3 champion having a positive day. Paul di Resta was down in 4th, but still much faster than Force India test driver competitor JR Hildebrand who was 8th. Splitting those two were Esteban Gutierrez, Mike Conway and Marcus Ericsson.
Ferrari’s new signing Jules Bianchi was down in 9th, but put plenty of laps on the board ahead of Lucas di Grassi and Ho-Pin Tung.
Last was Mirko Bortolotti in the Toro Rosso who had a technical problem and caused the days only red flag when he accidentally pushed a button which shut down the gear change system.
Pos Driver Car Time Gap Laps 1. Paffett McLaren 1m18.718s 80 2. Hulkenberg Williams 1m19.184s + 0.466s 94 3. Ricciardo Red Bull 1m19.243s + 0.526s 93 4. Di Resta Force India 1m19.411s + 0.693s 58 5. Gutierrez Sauber 1m20.190s + 1.472s 68 6. Conway Brawn 1m20.222s + 1.504s 83 7. Ericsson Brawn 1m20.440s + 1.722s 37 8. Hildebrand Force India 1m20.517s + 1.799s 50 9. Bianchi Ferrari 1m20.585s + 1.868s 113 10. Di Grassi Renault 1m20.898s + 2.180s 55 11. Tung Renault 1m21.492s + 2.774s 67 12. Bortolotti Toro Rosso 1m21.761s + 3.043s 69
In other testing news Betrand Baguette the highly rated Belgian will get another taste of F1 tomorrow, this time with the Sauber team.
The 23 year old drove on the first day of testing with Renault, his prize for winning the 3.5 Renault World Series championship.
“I am very happy to be able to drive for Sauber,” Baguette told AUTOSPORT. “It will be a second day for me – and it’s always good to get two days of testing instead of one.
“It will be very interesting to compare the differences between the two teams and the two cars.”
Rubens Barrichello has visited the Williams F1 Team factory at Grove, Oxfordshire today to have a look around and to get to know some of the people who will help him fight for 2010 title better.
Barrichello took time out to see the factory and also walk the hallowed territory through the famous private museum. Both locations, I have visited (see: http://f1fanatics.wordpress.com/2009/07/23/my-day-at-the-williams-factory-thanks-to-philips/ ) and can vouch for their quality and brilliance.
“I am going to realise a dream, because ever since I saw F1 on TV for the first time, I have dreamed of driving for them,” Barrichello told O Globo the Brazilian TV channel this morning.
Rubens also revealed that he had contract talks with McLaren, and that he only had a contract for the first 4 races of the season with Brawn in 2009, with the rest of his contract being based on performances.
Meanwhile new team mate Nico Hulkenberg says he wants to match Rubens’ pace, and hopefully beat the veteran challenger on a few occassions.
The German GP2 Champion also pointed out he would be stupid to ignore the advice of a driver with so much experience.
“I hope that I’ll be on his pace right from the beginning and that I can match his speed and results – and maybe even beat him at some point!” 22-year-old Nico told reporters on Wednesday. “I just want to have the best team-mate I can get; one who’s quick, experienced and a good driver – and that’s what I see in him.”