Who would have thought the off-season could be just as busy as the season itself? Well, perhaps not quite as busy, but a lot has been happening in the past couple of weeks; Schumacher returned to test the Ferrari, Ross Brawn jumped ship, Glock was signed to Toyota and Fernando Alonso still hasn’t officially decided on his future. That’s just a few of the stories that have made the headlines recently.
Schumacher’s Still Got It
Although the seven-times World Champion hadn’t driven a Formula One car (with any kind of anger) in about a year, Michael Schumacher returned to the cockpit last week to test an unaided Ferrari F2007. With traction control being outlawed for next year, the Scuderia wanted a someone with expert knowledge on how cars handle without electronic aids to run a machine around Circuit de Catalunya. Schumacher then set about embarrassing the rest of the drivers present by showing he can still put in some competitive laps, even though he reckons he can no longer keep up with the young-guns. Of course, only Ferrari know what kind of fuel he had on board, so comparing the times to others is perhaps a little wrong, but the German certainly raised some eye-brows around the Barcelona paddock. Going fastest on the first two days, I imagine the test was very productive for Ferrari. Although McLaren ran their experienced test driver Pedro De La Rosa, there really is no comparison to running a driver who has knowledge of racing a car without electronic help. Even David Coulthard offered some praise the German’s way.
I think there is a guy called Michael. It looks as though he’s got a talent. He will make his way to F1. For those who doubted Michael’s quality even for a moment, he has lost nothing. It shows that age does not matter – if he was back in formula one, he would be at the front. David Coulthard.
Is Coulthard getting worried about the Alonso-to-Red-Bull rumours…?
Timo Glock Finally Gets A Proper Shot At F1
Although the German driver has raced previously with Jordan, competing four Grands Prix and even scoring on his debut, Timo Glock hasn’t really had the chance to prove himself in a semi-decent car. That was until Ralf Schumacher left the Toyota team after the Brazilian Grand Prix last month and they needed a replacement. However, although the Japanese manufacturer wanted Glock, he wasn’t necessarily available due to his BMW contract. So the issue went to the Contracts Recognition Board to sort out, and the decision fell in Toyota’s favour. As for Glock’s team mate? Well Jarno Trulli does have a contract with the team, and in my opinion is deserving of the drive, but Toyota refuse to 100% confirm the seat until Fernando Alonso has made his mind up. Out of all the teams, Toyota probably have the most money to throw around, and Alonso would undoubtedly help the ailing team, but in all honesty, I don’t think Alonso would want to drive for them. The reason for this comes down to some comments made by Ralf Schumacher when asked about the departure of Ross Brawn from Ferrari, mentioned below in the next story.
Ross Brawn Snubbed By Toyota?
Technical expert, arguably bordering on genius, and masterful tactician Ross Brawn has left Ferrari after ten years at the pinnacle of Formula One. Ross helped to engineer Ferrari into the dominating force that they were in the late nineties to mid-2000s. But after all his hard work and success, the Englishman has decided to take up a fresh challenge and was announced as the Team Principal at Honda last week. Toyota departee Ralf Schumacher went on record to say why he thought the keen gardener didn’t move to the well-funded Cologne team.
I know that Toyota is the only team that didn’t even want to talk with Brawn. A contact was offered but there was no reaction to it – not a single meeting took place. If they continue to follow their corporate philosophy I don’t think they’ve got a hope in hell [of succeeding in Formula One]. The structure of the team is clearly the result of what they call the ‘Toyota Way’. That is why someone like Ross Brawn cannot go there. Ralf Schumacher.
Perhaps that is a little bit of sour grapes from Ralf, but I find it hard to disagree with him. Talking of Ralf, does anybody have any idea as to who he will be driving for next year? The ex-Williams and Toyota driver seemed pretty confident during the season that he would have a drive for 2008, but it has all gone eerily quiet.
Toyota Reveal Launch Date And Announce Test Driver
Toyota have announced tat their new car, presumably the TF108, will be launched on January 10th at the team’s headquarters in Cologne, Germany. In 2007 the highly-funded squad only managed a paltry 13 points, despite having oodles of cash and running two race winners in the cockpits. The team are obviously hoping that 2008 is an improvement over the 2007 form, but as of yet, I’m not going to hold my breath.
Toyota have also announced their replacement for the departed Franck Montagny in the test driver role: Kamui Kobayashi. The Formula 3 driver will start his duties at the Jerez test in December, and is expected to combine his testing role with a GP2 campaign in 2008.
Fernando’s Uncertainty Leaves Giancarlo Guessing
There’s still no confirmation from the Alonso camp, but Renault boss Flavio Briatore reckons there’s a 60% chance of a return to Team Reggie for the Spaniard. Talking on an Italian radio show, the flamboyant boss said that talks were in progress and he hopes to have a decision by tomorrow. The world waits…
…As does current Renault driver Giancarlo Fisichella. The experienced pilot has served Renault well over the years, even before the manufacturer bought the then Benetton team. But Briatore also said in his interview that the team would be having new drivers for next year. This, I find, is an interesting phrase to use, as it implies there will be two new drivers – Flavio used the plural. These words were also uttered before Alonso has decided, supposedly. So even if the Spaniard says “no”, will both Kovalainen and Fisichella still be shown the exit from the Enstone facility? Waiting in the wings and apparently promised a race seat for ’08, Nelson Piquet Jr is eager to get racing, particularly after he has spent a fair amount of time testing for the squad.
Musical Racing Seats, Anyone?
With Prodrive looking uncertain to be competing next year, it seems there are too many drivers wanting to compete and not enough teams. Fisichella and Schumacher Jr could be going into a forced retirement to free up some spaces for the young-guns, but judging Michael Schumacher and David Coulthard’s pace, the F1 elders don’t look too shabby. Although Schumacher Snr has ruled out a return, the fact that he can still pop in in quick laps is interesting. And although David Coulthard is slowly pushing on for forty, the Scot is still racey in the Red Bull. Even Rubens Barrichello – the most experienced driver on the grid – looks set to be continuing next year, as predicted by BlogF1 earlier in the month. Brawn seems to be keen on working with the Brazilian again, saying that the drivers won’t be the reason if the team doesn’t succeed.
I’ve always admired Jenson from a distance, and I’m really very keen to start work with him and see how it all goes. Rubens I know very well – he’s a driver who’s won many races [and] could have won the world championship several times. I think in both cases we’ve got drivers who won’t be the reason why we don’t succeed. Ross Brawn.
So where does that leave the youngens? GP2? Testing? Or will some of the other elders, like Jarno Trulli and Mark Webber be forced to sit on the bench. I think there will be more tears before the season gets underway next March…