Archive for the ‘ Sporting ’ Category

Going ga-ga for a poker face

McLaren’s driver line-up came under intense scrutiny today from students of body language the world over. Every physical twitch and vocal tic, every utterance by Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton has been scrutinised for potential evidence of mutual loathing.

Clearly there’s an appetite among fans and media for a replay of the rancour that beset McLaren in 2007 – and, judging by the periodically stiff performance by Lewis Hamilton today, an equal and opposite desire on the team’s part to show absolutely no sign of any such thing (which may or may not have caused a slight case of overbriefing).

There’s plenty to read on this subject elsewhere in the blogosphere. Gridwalk Talk has an interesting view of Lewis, Joe Saward cocks a Chaplinesque snook at the whole performance, and James Allen takes a more charitable view. Fill your boots!

The new tyre war

Formula 1 personnel are incorrigible competitors, so now that pit stops have been freed from the shackles of refuelling it’s not surprising to see teams attacking the length of the tyre change. Williams announced on Twitter last week that their pit crew have beaten the three-second barrier.

This intelligence coincided with me joining Red Bull Racing’s mechanics for a two-day team building exercise. The full story will appear in the Red Bulletin at the beginning of March but you can see a news snippet (and pictures) on the RBR site here.

Red Bull’s target time is aggressive, but they’re confident of achieving it by improving the crew’s physical conditioning and doing a number of bespoke exercises to improve on co-ordination. No doubt other teams are trying to achieve the same result through subtly different means.

Who will win out? It’s an interesting counterpoint to the technical battle that’s played out every year.

Petronas to be Mercedes GP title sponsor

Mercedes GP announced this morning that Petronas, the Malaysian oil giant, will take title sponsorship of the team from 2010 onwards.

Team principal Ross Brawn said:

Everyone at Mercedes GP is delighted to confirm our long-term agreement with Petronas and we look forward to working closely with our new partner in the future. The collaboration of the premium automotive brand Mercedes-Benz and a company as prestigious as Petronas gives our team a fantastic base from which to achieve our ambitions of competing at the top level of Formula One and building on the success of 2009 which saw the team achieve the Constructors’ and Drivers’ Championships. Our plans for the new season are progressing well, as is the development of our 2010 challenger, and we look forward to seeing the car run in the new Silver Arrows and Petronas livery at the Valencia test in February.

There had been much speculation in recent weeks that Mobil 1 would either leave McLaren or split its involvement between the two, but it appears that Mercedes were looking for more than just a technical partner. Mobil 1′s financial input into McLaren is relatively modest but the arrangement has been mutually beneficial, so it saw no need to spend more on a title sponsorship. Neither did it wish to transfer its allegiance from a team with which it has enjoyed considerable success.

When synthetic oil was introduced to the market in the 1970s, in the wake of the first oil shock, it was viewed with suspicion by many customers. Mobil 1 conquered this and established itself as a market leader by getting involved in motor sports and demonstrating its product there. It has been involved in over 100 Formula 1 wins, over half of which have come through its relationship with McLaren.

In recent years oil has become an increasingly important development path. The freeze on R&D, and the move to multi-race engines, has increased the demands on the lubricant in two ways: it must protect the engine over a longer duty cycle, but it can also liberate more power if blended to exactly the right viscocity.

It will be interesting to see what effect the move has on Mobil 1′s relationship with Mercedes-Benz High Performance Engines in Brixworth.

F1′s single launch is dead

During a convivial lunch yesterday, conversation turned to the matter of January’s single launch for all the F1 teams. It was going to save the teams a packet because the local government was going to underwrite the whole shindig, reckoning on a big payday for the local facilities.

But there were several problems, not least of which was that some of the teams won’t have cars ready in time. Others – well, pretty much everyone except Ferrari, Mercedes and McLaren – were unhappy that they would be swept off the news agenda. There was no PR value in it for the smaller teams.

Since they couldn’t even agree on a single catering supplier to dish out the bacon sarnies, it’s hardly surprising that the single launch has now been cancelled. Expect an official announcement in the Friday evening graveyard slot.