The three new teams made quite an impression on F1 this year. What do you think they brought to the sport? How would the year have been without them? Better or worse?
– Thursday Thoughts question of the week
The three new teams have done a remarkable job over the last 16 months or so, starting entirely from scratch to run just 3 to 4 seconds off the frontrunning pace when many predicted they’d struggle to get within 7 seconds or so (which was their testing pace). What’s more they maintained the gap to the front despite the intense development of the championship teams, admittedly they could do so without the minute detail of the top teams.
In competitive terms they’ve really added an extra dimension to the season, they were each fighting and scrapping hard to not be the slowest of the slow and it got desparate at times! It was a race within a race, and it didn’t matter that they were 3 laps down in most races – I did think they jumped for blue flags a little badly quite frequently, coming to a complete stop seemed very dangerous to me and in my opinion caused the Webber crash in Valencia. That was my only real criticism of them.
Without them the back of the field would’ve seen Force India vs Toro Rosso vs Sauber until they improved themselves. Might have been good, these teams all have their fans which is all well and good but we’d be judging them on past form, so I reckon all three would’ve looked very lame indeed. I think we’d have seen line-up changes at more than just Sauber.
* Lotus have progressed amazingly from nothing last summer, to fielding a car within 9 months, to becoming the fastest and (largely) most reliable of the trio although they’ve suffered from hydraulic and other issues. The switch to Renault engines and Red Bull back end should propel them into the realm of the ‘existing’ teams, the added year of car development from people as good as Gascoyne and his team will surely do nothing but help too. The open-ness of Fernandes, Gascoyne, Kovalainen and various other team members as well, has been truly remarkable and particularly on Twitter. I hope they remain Lotus but if they don’t I’ll still be a fan.
* Virgin too are doing very well. They don’t have the experienced F1 unit of Gascoyne’s ex-Toyota crew although I’m sure they’d have recruited several experienced people by now. To design and manufacture an F1 car entirely digitally and have it some vaguely near the pace is a great achievement, especially when you consider the Virgin deal came fairly late in the gestation period. They are convinced they’ll make a jump forwards in the second year, I’m sceptical but then almost everybody was sceptical of them making a car at all, so I’m looking forward to what appears in February/March and I hope they are right. They’ve also got a great and pro-active Twitter presence. The flair of Richard Branson combined with the no-nonsense attitude of John Booth ought to be a match made in heaven. They’ve had far more than their fair share of hydraulic failure and this has cost them very dearly in terms of results. Reliability should remain a focus.
* Hispania have had a bumpy birth but they’ve proven everybody wrong and not only started the year… of sorts.. but also finished it, and finished it without being last (on quality of results). While they were the slowest team all year I really do think the Dallara chassis was better than it looked, sure it had a lot of problems as identified by Geoff Willis with fundamental design flaws, but it wasn’t inherently slow, it was just rushed. Production was stopped for a crucial month while Campos was ousted by Carabante. The car was not developed at all after relations with Dallara broke down during the year – they even ran the same wing design at every race, even at Monaco and Monza. You have to assume this car properly set-up and tuned and developed will have run Virgin close if not beaten them. Will we see them back next year? We will if Colin Kolles has anything to do with it. Of the three, this is the team I am most worried about for 2011 – they seem to have no car for next year other than the ones they already own. They could still end up being very embarrassing.
USF1 did actually fail, and spectacularly so. Stefan GP never really got going.
All three surviving new teams are very welcome and I hope Hispania survive even if they become the new Minardi. I loved Minardi’s spirit in the days before they became Paul Stoddart’s political plaything, they always kept going in the hope of future investment, no matter what troubles faced them they found a way through.
They’ve brought added competition, potential for the future, employment for paid drivers (and pay drivers who in reality aren’t all bad compared to standards of the past and of elsewhere), a vastly more open culture and attitude toward fans and sponsors alike, and very expensive merchandise. Get faster cars and affordable merch and I’m happy, long may they stay.