F1 News, Views and Reviews

Driver Change Rumours

Karthikeyan Makes Surprise F1 Return With HRT

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.

 


Petrov Secures Seat For 2011 and 2012 at Lotus Backed Renault Team

Russian driver Vitaly Petrov, who had an up-and-down season with Renault in 2010 has cleared up all speculation about his future following an announcement that he has secured a two yar race seat deal with the Lotus Renault team.

He raced with Renault last season, and will continue alongside popular Polish driver Robert Kubica as we approach the new year.  Renault has been undergoing some changes recently, announcing a partnership with the Lotus Cars group meaning the team is now known as Lotus Renault.  They will be running in classic John Player Special style liveries next year.

“We are very pleased to confirm that Vitaly will be staying with us for 2011 and 2012, in order that both he and the team can build on a promising 2010 campaign,” Team Principal Eric Boullier said.

“The entire team has been working flat-out over the past months to improve our competitiveness, and a stable driver line-up is essential to achieving our targets.

“Robert Kubica provides a remarkable benchmark for both speed and consistency, and we are certain that Vitaly will move closer to this level of performance next year.”

Team chairman Gerard Lopez said:

“Last season, he showed on several occasions that he clearly has the potential to deliver,” Lopez said. “It was just a matter of putting everything together during the same weekend, race after race, and this will be his target for 2011.”

Kimi Raikkonen and Adrian Sutil  had been linked with the Renault seat.


D’Ambrosio Confirmed As Marussia Virgin Driver For 2011

Jerome D’Ambrosio has been confirmed as the second driver at the Marussia Virgin Racing team for the 2011 season.

The Belgian driver, who tested with both Virgin and Renault at the recent rookie tests in Abu Dhabi, will take over the race seat from ousted 2010 driver Lucas di Grassi.  D’Ambrosio clearly did enough to impress the team during the test and as expected takes the race seat.

Timo Glock will race alongside Jerome at the team, which is now receiving backing from Marussia a Russian sportscar manufacturer.

Speaking about the deal, D’Ambrosio said: “I’m thrilled to have achieved my goal of a Formula 1 race seat with Marussia Virgin Racing.

“When I came to the team in September this year it was everything I could hope for. I had a tough test to complete because there was a lot of competition for this seat, but at the same time I got on well with the team and felt that I had found my home.

“I feel very comfortable with them – they are extremely professional and ambitious people and it is exciting to think that I can be a part of shaping the team’s future.”

 


Maldonado Confirmed At Williams For 2011

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.”

 


De La Rosa Must Find €10million To Secure HRT Seat

Pedro de la Rosa must secure sponsorship and financial backing of at least €10million to gain a race seat with the Hispania HRT team for 2011 it has been revealed.

The Spanish minnow team have been struggling financially throughout the last season, changing drivers repeatedly in order to maximise sponsorship potential.  However, following a deal being cancelled with Toyota last week due to a lack of bill payment for technical information and assistance the future of the team looked bleak.

Owner Jose Ramon Carabante says that the team is safe and will continue with its partnership with Williams.  However, he said that as much as he wants Spaniard De la Rosa to drive with the team, he must bring appropriate funding.

“Pedro wants to drive for the team, but he has to bring the sponsorship” Carabante told radio station Cadena Ser

“Without the money, sadly, we can’t find a place for him in the team.  We cannot afford such a luxury.  He must contribute at least €10million

“Someone like Pedro would be great for the team, because he could really develop the car and give us direction into 2012” he added

 


Aleshin Confident Of 2011 Race Seat

Mikhail Aleshin has told Autosport Magazine that he is certain and confident of securing a Formula One race seat for the 2011 season.

The Russian driver has been testing for Renault in the current two day young driver tests and was 6th yesterday, with a lot of his running being hampered with a hydraulic problem.

“We are aiming for a race seat next year,” he said

“I’m quite confident on this.

“We’re working on it for next year because it is very important for me. I had a good year in World Series, which is a very competitive series this year especially. Most people see it and understand how difficult it was to win this championship.”

Where he will drive is somewhat unknown.  Speculation links him to a drive alongside Timo Glock at Virgin, with the Richard Branson backed outfit now securing significant funding (and a controlling stake) from Russian sports car manufacturer Marussia.  Otherwise, who knows – there seem to be more drivers claiming race seats than there are available for 2011!


Williams Retain Barrichello For 2011 But Hulkenberg Leaves

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.

 


Sutil Happy To Stay At Force India

Adrian Sutil has said he is on the verge of a deal to stay at Force India for the 2011 season.

The highly rated German driver had been linked with a variety of seats away from the independent Silverstone based team, to partner Robert Kubica at Renault or even possibly to join the Mercedes Benz team.

However Sutil, who has raced with Force India since they joined the sport in 2008, says he will be happy to stay with Vijay Mallya’s team for next season.

“I am close to Force India and although there is nothing signed yet, the direction is towards Force India at the moment,” Sutil told Autosport ahead of the Brazilian Grand Prix.

“It looks good at the moment. I said already many times that I am happy to stay here another year, and I cannot say more at the moment. There is nothing signed at the moment but the direction is Force India.”

“I feel good here. I was born here, let’s say. It’s my first team and I still feel good in this one.

“For sure there is a certain time where you think you may need another challenge or to change teams, but I still feel good here and I still feel we can improve our performance. We can do better next year and thinking about that I have to continue another relationship and another partnership.”

 


Bruno Senna “Likely” To Replace Trulli At Lotus Next Season

Reports from Brazil are suggesting that Bruno Senna is “likely” to be replacing Italian driver Jarno Trulli at Lotus for next season.

Senna, who is the nephew of the late three time world champion Ayrton, has had a difficult rookie season in F1 racing with the Hispania team.  He has talent, but needs a car to show it in – and the Lotus would certainly give him the backing to do so.

According to Globo Esporte talks between Senna and Lotus are “advanced”.  He would be partnering former McLaren driver Heikki Kovalainen at the Malaysian backed team.

Jarno Trulli is a stalwart of the F1 paddock, having been in the sport since 1997.  He has raced for Minardi, Prost, Renault, Jordan, Toyota and most recently Lotus.


Is Felipe Massa Ready To Leave Ferrari?

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!