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F1 2011 Launch Catch Up – McLaren, Mercedes, Red Bull, Sauber, Toro Rosso, Renault…

Catching up on the launches in one mega post.  Here in you’ll find quick interviews with senior members of the team and photos from the Red Bull, Sauber, Renault Lotus, Toro Rosso, Mercedes and McLaren launches.

Apologies for being somewhat late, the whole blog isn’t running at full power until the season starts again.

Red Bull RB7

The world champions launched their new car, named the RB7.  A clear advancement on the hugely successful RB6, hopes are high that this machine can deliver once again.

“This year is no different to any other,” said Christian Horner, team principal of Red Bull.

“I think if we had not have won either championship last year there would have been that expectation and obviously the pressure that comes with that. We’ve achieved that and achieved that in a short space of time and I think it is like winning your first grand prix.

“Out of that comes confidence but not arrogance, but the team goes into this year very, very motivated and very committed but you have to remember we are still an independent team with a customer engine that achieved some remarkable things last year and that is our target again, again, obviously this year.”


Sauber C30

The independent Swiss team pulled the covers of their new car, the C30 marking the second incarnation of the team in its modern era.  The new car is backed heavily by Mexican giants Telmex and will be raced by Kamui Kobayashi and Sergio Perez.

Former Force India but now Sauber technical director James Key said: “Our aim in the development of the Sauber C30-Ferrari has been to build on the strengths of the C29 and to eliminate its weak points.

“In addition, it is also important for us to go into winter testing with a car we understand, and we have worked hard on ensuring the characteristics of the car are heading in a direction we believe in. There will be much to learn about the new Pirelli tyres and in this respect we want to ensure there are no surprises with the way the car is handling.”

“My rookie season was a very challenging, very exciting period,” Kamui Kobayashi commented at the launch as he enters his second full season of racing.

“Now it’s still exciting but it’s a different role. It’s more the experienced driver in the team. I am thinking how I can bring a good level to the team.

“I have to be ready to lead the team. That’s why Peter Sauber and the team chose me for this year. This is definitely my challenge and let’s say I am ready to be the leader for the team.”


Renault Lotus R31

Newly backed by Group Lotus, Renault pulled the covers off their new car – the R31 – to a mass of media wondering what the final paint scheme would look like, and wondering how the Lotus name debate would go on.  The debate on the name may still be rumbling, but there is no debate over how fabulous the car looks in classic JPS brown and gold.

Featuring front blown exhausts, it looks fast and could be a title contender.  And with Bruno Senna as a spare driver, it harks back wonderful memories seeing the yellow helmet inside a JPS liveried Lotus.

“I’m happy that we had some creative designs on the car. We clearly back our team and definitely our technical team because we want to be fast, we want to be at the front.” said team principal Eric Boullier

“We know it takes time. You have to be creative. You have to find different ways of creating downforce or performance points. We have been taking this path because we believed, quite early in 2010, that we could find more gains going this way.

“In the wind tunnel, or on paper shall we say, the car already has more performance than 12 months ago. If it’s on the car it’s because we believe it works. But we will see on the track.”

Meanwhile Robert Kubica, the number 1 driver was somewhat cautious on their chances “I think realistically speaking is far too early to say what will be possible to achieve this year,”

“Last season was quite disappointing and let’s hope this year will be different. I think definitely we are more prepared this year, because of the more stable situation in the team than last winter, when I joined the team.

“The winter of 2009 and 2010 was very difficult for Renault and I think this year the engineers and designers had a much easier time and much more time to design the car and I think they have done a really good job.”


Scuderia Toro Rosso STR6

Toro Rosso, always in their senior brothers shadow has brought a new design to the table and hopes it will deliver them more success this season in the capable hands of Jaime Alguersuari and Sebastien Buemi.

The pairing are aiming for 6th place in the Ferrari powered beast.

“My expectations are to do a decent year and we have to have the target to be eighth and as I said, we are good to be ninth but we have to do better. And at the end of the year we have to bring back an eighth place,” said Giorgio Ascanelli.

“Last year we didn’t have a wind-tunnel, the CFD was not mature in order to define the car,” he added. “Therefore, we did not change very much apart from those elements linked to the change of regulation between 2009 and 2010.

“This year the tools which design the car in its performance aspect, which are again the wind tunnel and CFD, are more mature, which means that although we are still learning how to make the best of them I think we have started using them properly.

“For this year, we have to aim for eighth place, because that is our target and I didn’t think that was possible if we had gone with some sort of conventional car.”


Mercedes Benz WO2

Mercedes Benz will be hoping that their second modern F1 car can deliver them some more success than last season.  With Michael Schumacher and Nico Rosberg behind the wheel they have plenty of potential.  A well sponsor backed car now features the light green of Petronas merging into the brushes silver paintwork.  Ross Brawn, the technical mastertmind behind multiple drivers world championship wins will be eager to deliver the German squad some success.

“It is always a thrill to see a new car ready to take the track for the first time and this year is no exception,” said Brawn. “After our first year as the Mercedes-Benz works team, we are now seeing the benefits of our chassis and engine groups working well together.

“With a good technical structure and a strengthened race engineering organisation, both at the factory and the race track, I am confident that we have done and will continue to do a better job this year in all key areas.

“We want to be setting the standard right from the start but if we are not, we will respond very strongly to get ourselves into the game. Everyone is excitedly waiting to see what the new season will reveal.”

Meanwhile top driver Michael Schumacher was upbeat on the chances of the car delivering him a record breaking 8th world championship.

“I very much look forward to the new season. We have said it several times already but again, we are really to building up something big together. I am very confident that this season we will be standing on the podium much more regularly; ideally in the middle!”


McLaren MP4-26

McLaren launched their radical new car in Berlin in a ceremony hosted by lead sponsors Vodafone.  The car will be raced by two former world champions, Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton.

The new car features L-Shaped sidepods, and a two tier floor amongst other technical advancements.  The squad are already looking at incorporating a front blown exhaust similar to the Renault Lotus’ design.

Lewis Hamilton was very happy with the machine on launch day.

“I hope the car proves just as innovative once we take to the track next week,” said Hamilton. “I head into 2011 in a relaxed but determined frame of mind.

“I’ve spared nothing during my winter fitness preparations and, in many ways, I feel as fit, focused and refreshed as I did ahead of my first season in Formula 1 in 2007.

“Having spent the past few weeks talking with our designers and engineers, I feel extremely happy that we’ve created a car that will once again allow us to fight at the front.”





Why Michael Schumacher Could Win The 2011 World Championship

Michael Schumacher’s 2010 comeback was somewhat abortive.  The results, the driving standard and the overtakes were well below par for the former champion.  He even let his team mate beat him for the first time in his career.  So why can Schumacher, the fallen Ferrari hero, win the world championship for an 8th time?

It’s still the same Michael Schumacher

Indeed, we saw glimpses of it last season.  The passion, and the desire to do well.  He was racing on the ragged edge, braking as late – if not later – than anyone else.  The trouble was, he didn’t have the car underneath him to be able to win.  It took him a while to get reacquainted, but in truth it would take anyone a while to get used to be these new cars.

The 2011 car will be built around him

Sorry Rosberg fans, the fact is – Schumacher & Brawn will be running the show at Mercedes Benz.  Let’s not forget, they are paying Michael an arm and a leg to race for them.  He will design the car around him, something he didn’t get chance to do last season.  He also has an entire year of racing with the wide nosed, tall winged cars so has plenty of data and ideas to call upon when constructing the new vehicle.  An insider has already said that downforce and grip levels on the simulator are exceeding expectations.  Not a bad start?

Pirelli Tyres

Yep, the great big unknown means it’s all a level playing field this season.  No-one knows much about Pirelli just yet, so it’s a fair and even start for all the drivers.  It’s about adaptability, and we know deep down inside the 42 year old he can adapt.  He also looked quick in the 2010 car on 2011 rubber.

Less expectation than last year

At the start of 2010, we all expected the Schumacher from 2006 to jump behind the wheel and immediately win.  Let’s not forget here, 2005 and 2006 were barren seasons for Schumacher – he walked away with nothing.  He was in decline, so why did we expect him to be immediately brilliant?  I was and still am a Schumacher fan, but I knew he was not as good as he used to be.  This year he will have less expectation than before.  We’re all used to him driving and Germany has a new world champion to thrust under the spotlight at every opportunity in Sebastian Vettel.

Other drivers still fear him

When the red baron’s helmet is filling your wing mirrors, surely it must make your heart beat twice as fast.  Fernando Alonso has already said he fears Schumacher the most for 2011

“There will be five world champions on the track and the most dangerous champion for me is always Michael.  Now in January if I have to choose one name I have to say Michael. He is seven-time champion, he has nothing to prove. He had a difficult season but he is still a champion. N He is still super class and if the car is right he will be a contender,”


Its not all going in Schumacher’s favour.   Michael is a lot older than any of the other title contenders now, and that could be his downfall.  Not suggesting he isn’t fit, he is probably more athletic now than he was before – but age is still a factor.  Red Bull are not suddenly going to be slow, they just aren’t.  Not with Vettel and Newey onboard.  Ferrari and Alonso will be desperate for the title.  McLaren have two world champions driving for them.  Oh and there’s the small matter of the fact Nico Rosberg was better than Michael last season.

Nevertheless, as an outside bet – you could do a lot worse than Michael.

Schumacher Says First Test Will Be Key To 2011 Hopes

Michael Schumacher has declared that he will know from the first time he drives Mercedes Benz’s 2011 car if it is to be competitive or not.

The former 7 time world champion made a comeback this season with the German based outfit following three years on the sidelines, and says that the initial testing will be key to future development, race wins and importantly whether the team will be able to compete for the titles.

Schumacher added that he knew from the first test with the 2010 car that it was not competitive enough.

“What we want to see is we have a feeling with the car, especially with what I know from now,” he said of his hopes for the first test next year.

“I could jump into the car and get a reasonable feeling, although the rules will change and not be 100 per cent precise, but you do get an input.

“At the [first] test this year, even though I had not driven for three years, I got a warning that was later confirmed.

“I hope we have no warnings, that we have a competitive car, one we can develop, and very importantly it will be what you see towards the end of the tests to the first race [that counts].

“That’s my main focus, so when I drive it I hope I get a good read of it.”

Meanwhile, looking back at his somewhat disappointing 2010 season, Michael said he was satisifed.

“Looking back at certain events there are reasons to be happy with certain things,” he said.

“Looking at the development over the year, particularly with what I take out of it, the team, Mercedes, asked me to come back because of who and what I am, and what contribution I can make.

“From all these factors we are happy to keep on working together, and most importantly I am happy to keep on working together because I have fun.”



I’m Fine And Looking Forward To 2011 – Schumacher

Michael Schumacher reassured fans that he was totally fine following a horrific accident at yesterday’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

The former 7 time world champion was lucky to escape serious injury following an incident with Force India driver Vitantonio Liuzzi.  Schumacher spun early on into the first lap of the Grand Prix, and Liuzzi came flying around the corner to be greeted with Schumacher stranded in the middle of the circuit.  The Italian drivers car bounced up onto the Mercedes Benz narrowly missing Schumacher’s helmet.  The German was helpless inside the cockpit.

Both drivers emerged unscathed, and shook hands on their way back to the pitlane.

Schumacher said: “I went off the line, spun and because of the dirt there, the back of the car just came around.

“I had to go to the medical centre just for a precautionary check, but I am totally fine and was not hit by anything in the incident.”

It was a sad end to a poor come back year for Schumacher.  He had shown good pace towards the end of the season, and said he was looking forward to competing again next year with his German backed Mercedes Benz outfit.

“What happened is a shame as obviously I would have liked to have finished the season with a more positive ending,” he added.

“But I am already looking forward to fighting again next year.”



Schumi Hoping For Good Japanese Result

Michael Schumacher has said he is hoping to have a good result at one of his favourite circuits, Suzuka, next time out as the Formula One season begins to draw to a close.

Schumacher, 41, has had a miserable return season in F1 with Mercedes Benz.  Last time out in Singapore he only managed to finish in 13th place.  However with good omens from the past at this track, the German is hoping for a good result.

“Suzuka was always one of my favourite circuits of the year as driving the track is simply sensational in parts. Suzuka is technically demanding and has interesting corner combinations so it was a really good feeling when you got it together,” Schumacher said.

“I am heading to Japan with some good memories in mind as the track in Suzuka was the scene of some great races for me. Obviously I hope that we can add more and I am definitely up for the challenge. I am sure we will try to get the maximum out of our weekend.”

Rumour had been hotting up that Michael would retire at the end of the current season once and for all, but these rumours have been denied by his agent.

Mercedes To Launch Investigation Into Hungarian GP Pit Mistake

Mercedes Benz team principal Ross Brawn has said he will be launching a full investigation into the mistake in the pitlane at the Hungarian Grand Prix, which led to the rear tyre of Nico Rosberg’s car becoming detatched.

Rosberg came into the pits under the safety car, along with many others in a relatively standard move.  However the rear right hand side wheel change went totally wrong when the wheel nut flew off the car just before he was released.  While the rear gunner tried to scramble it back on, the lollipop man and rear jackman let Rosberg leave the pitbox, and the rear tyre subsequently became detatched and flow down the pitlane.

The loose tyre raced away, nearly knocking one Sauber mechanic over, before flying into the air after hitting a Williams mechanic who suffered cuts and bruises.  It was finally caught by a brave Sauber mechanic.

Mercedes were fined $50,000 for the incident.

“It appears that as the guy came off with the wheel gun, it spat the wheel nut but he didn’t see it disappear,” said Ross Brawn.

“He went back on, fired the gun and realised the nut was no longer there so came back out to grab the other gun and the rear jack guy thought he had finished, so he dropped the car and away he went.

“I think we understand what happened and we will clearly look at how we can prevent it happening again.”

He added: “When the gun went on to take the nut off, the gun hadn’t engaged properly so the nut was off the axle and it spat it out. The guns are so quick and powerful now you don’t see the nut travelling at the speed of light.”

Ecclestone Tips Schumacher For Retriement

Bernie Ecclestone has tipped former 7 time world champion Michael Schumacher for retirement at the end of the season, echoing claims by Sir Jackie Stewart that the German is to leave F1.

Schumacher only returned to racing this season following an absence since the end of 2006.  He joined up with the newly formed Mercedes Benz team, but so far his performances have been relatively lacklustre compared to the Schumacher of old.

Despite Michael, 41, claiming he will stay and see out his 3 year contract, Ecclestone believes he might call it a day.

“If Schumacher doesn’t perform I doubt whether he will want to stay,” Ecclestone told City AM

“He is obviously fit, motivated and talented but the car hasn’t been up to him,” he added

Brawn Warns Mercedes Off Supplying More Teams

Ross Brawn the team principal of the Mercedes Benz team has warned the German manufacturer about supplying any more teams with customer engine units following Red Bull Racing’s interest in using the marques V8’s from next year.

Brawn believes the team, who supply engines not only to their works outfit but to Force India and McLaren too, are already at full stretch and that adding another supplier would weaken the works teams charge to a title.

“In my opinion, as constructors, we at Mercedes would need to think long and hard before adding another customer to our list,” Brawn told Autosprint magazine.

“I think we are on the limit as far as supplies are concerned. We must make sure there is always a Cosworth able to sell its engines, it’s not the duty of a car manufacturer.

“As for the power, I don’t know. The truth is that there is no procedure that determines precisely the parameters. We would be fine with placing all the engines on the bench under the FIA’s supervision.

“But measuring the power is only a part of the problem. There’s the cooling, the driveability, the fuel consumption. And just recently the boss of Renault’s engine guys has said that their V8 may not be the most powerful, but it’s the best from many other aspects…”

Schumacher Happy With Safety Car Clarification Following Penalty

Michael Schumacher has declared himself satisfied with the explanation, and recent clarification of the rules regarding the safety car following his incident with Fernando Alonso at the end of the Monaco Grand Prix.

Schumacher overtook Alonso on the final corner at Monaco, in breach of rule 40.13 as he overtook the Spaniard while still technically under safety car conditions, despite the car pulling into the pits as it was the final lap.

The rules have been adjusted slightly to make this clearer after Schumacher told reporters he was told to race to the line.

“There is no point to get into past incidents,” said Schumacher in an interview with Sky Italia.

“But the point is that if I understand the situation correctly, the FIA has identified something that happened in Monaco and they want to improve the situation.

“That is something good for the sport and I am quite happy for this to happen.”

Alonso Not Surprised By Schu Move At Monaco

Fernando Alonso has told Spox.com that he was not surprised Michael Schumacher tried to pass him while under safety car conditions in Monaco.

The former rivals were in 6th and 7th place on the final lap when Schumacher pulled the contraversial overtake at the final corner.  Schumacher believed the safety car to have gone in so racing continued, but was in breach of rule 40.13 which states that if a safety car is out at any point on the final lap then no overtaking can take place.

Alonso made a small error into La Rascasse giving Schumacher the opportunity to pull the illegal move.

“The team told me over radio that we could not overtake,” Alonso said.

“I wanted to attack Lewis Hamilton, but I was forbidden by the team to do it. The fact that Michael went ahead to pass me did not surprise me.”

“I was calm and that was later confirmed by the stewards, who put things right,”