Launch Season: Toyota TF109

Toyota TF109

Today the 2009 Toyota F1 car was unveiled in a special ‘virtual launch’ online. This means the press have only seen what we’ve seen, they’ve not seen it ‘in the flesh’.

The car looks somewhat different to previous Toyota F1 cars, which always seemed a little bulkier than the competition. It has a higher and shorter nosecone section than both previous cars and those of other teams. I hope they’ve tested it and it won’t pierce sidepods of other cars in a crash.. It looks like a much improved car on the previous efforts, but we really can’t tell too much yet as Toyota have only released a small selection of photos.

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EDIT – here’s a pic:

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Motorsport.com and Autosport.com have the pics – although they are identical on all sites.

Unfortunately the recent trend among all teams is to ban photographers from these events in favour of a strictly controlled PR environment where they supply studio shots of the cars, where journalists are only allowed to ask banal questions and they only receive banal answers. This is the reason you will not find any team or driver quotes from the launches on this blog. There isn’t any point, you know what they are going to say before you read it. How things have changed since the late 90s! No dry ice and elaborate presentations these days.


Tomorrow sees the launch of the new McLaren, with Williams and Renault both launching on Monday, then BMW on Tuesday. This is followed immediately by the first ‘group test’ of the season, to be held at the new Portimao circuit in the Algarve, Portugal (although it seems BMW will be at Valencia). The F1 press will get some good photos next week. I really must investigate the rights and wrongs of posting other people’s photos here..

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Launch Season: Ferrari F60 (w/video)

Ferrari F60
Today saw the first official new car of the 2009 Launch Season, which in the current economy is a little muted compared to normal. Even so, this year has the excitement of the new rules changing the look of the cars, making it much more interesting than any January/February for several years!

The first car to be unveiled was the Ferrari F60, the team breaking with recent naming tradition to mark the occasion of their 60th season of competition within Formula One.

Interestingly the car looks much like the F2008 but with the aero devices chopped off, the ugly new wings fitted, and the whole thing generally shrinkwrapped a bit. I’m pleasantly surprised because I was expecting something as ugly as the BMW test hack that has been running around since autumn.

The new rules make for a much cleaner car along the chassis, and you can really see how tightly packaged the rear bodywork is. (insert joke about team PR girl here) Still, that doesn’t mean the extended front wings and compressed rear wings are any easier to look at.

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EDIT – here’s a pic from the official Ferrari website www.ferrariworld.com:


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Here is an onboard from today’s installation lap at Mugello:

YouTube link found on the DigitalSpy F1 Broadcasting forum (posted by Fergie1).

For official videos and photos go to: http://f60.ferrariworld.com/ Also check out the galleries at the usual suspects.

Other Cars
Expect the remaining teams to launch their cars in this order:

Jan 15 – Toyota
Jan 16 – McLaren
Jan 19 – Renault & Williams
Jan 20 – BMW Sauber
Feb 6 – Red Bull
March – Toro Rosso & Force India
Will they make it?? – The Team Formerly Known As Honda

Entry List
In other news, the FIA has released the official entry list as it presently stands:

1. L.Hamilton – Vodafone McLaren Mercedes
2. H.Kovalainen – Vodafone McLaren Mercedes
3. K.Raikkonen – Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro
4. F.Massa – Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro
5. R.Kubica – BMW Sauber F1 Team
6. N.Heidfeld – BMW Sauber F1 Team
7. F.Alonso – ING Renault F1 Team
8. N.Piquet – ING Renault F1 Team
9. J.Trulli – Panasonic Toyota Racing
10. T.Glock – Panasonic Toyota Racing
11. S.Buemi – Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari
12. ?? TBA ?? – Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari
14. M.Webber – Red Bull Racing Renault
15. S.Vettel – Red Bull Racing Renault
16. N.Rosberg – AT&T Williams Toyota
17. K.Nakajima – AT&T Williams Toyota
18. ?? TBA ?? – Honda Racing F1 *
19. ?? TBA ?? – Honda Racing F1 *
20. A.Sutil – Force India F1 Mercedes
21. G.Fisichella – Force India F1 Mercedes

* To quote the FIA:

The Honda Motor Company announced their withdrawal from Formula One on December 5th, 2008. The Honda Racing team has not withdrawn its entry from the 2009 Formula One World Championship. The FIA understands the team is now for sale.

Car numbers are assigned by Driver’s Champion and team-mate first, followed by teams in Constructors’ Championship order, excluding #13 because these guys are superstitious!

Blog Note: I’ve ditched my planned entry about the FIA / FOTA goings on of last week because I got bored of it, as well as the entry about the Autosport International summary because you can find all that on Autosport.com. I should be back on Thursday for the Toyota launch!

Work under way at Donington Park

Planning permission was granted to Donington Park on Thursday evening for the upgrades required for the 2010 British Grand Prix. Work had already started in December on the first stage: a new access tunnel to the infield. A slice was taken out of the track, a tunnel dug, and it’s about to be covered over to allow racing to resume when the 2009 season starts in a couple of months.

The tunnel will be used by construction traffic so the track itself won’t be disturbed while the new pit/paddock buildings are being constructed. The other changes to the racing surface, including realignment of the back straight and hooking up to the new loop to the existing track all won’t take place until the 2009 racing season is in the books.

That means the MotoGP, British Touring, and whatever other events they may choose to hold will all continue to take place in 2009 with only minor disruption. This also means that by watching those races we can keep up with developments without having to remember to check the websites for updates!

Simon Gillett, the owner of DP, was at the Autosport International Show this week. Keith the F1 Fanatic was there and has a great piece on what was said – here are a few quotes:

“We’ve already started – we began about two weeks ago on the expectation that we would get planning permission. We have the tunnels bored through so there’s a big hole in the circuit at the moment. That will be completed by February 20th so we can re-open the track. And we start work on the pits and paddock on Monday morning.”

“From Redgate corner to McLeans is being left untouched – we’re not even re-surfacing that part of the track. It’s wide enough, the run-offs are big enough and it’s fantastically good so I’m not going to touch it. One of the main elements of Donington Park’s character is that from Hollywood all the way down to Schwanz you’ve got a grass bank for spectators, which is staying. It’s where I go to watch the racing from.”

“Why is it that you turn up at an event and the first person you see is someone who doesn’t want you to get in? It’s ridiculous. Look at what Asda have done introducing greeters at the front of their stores. It’s not ‘I don’t want you in’, it’s ‘I want you in – with the right ticket’. For food – gone are the polystyrene tubs with the polystyrene burgers in them. People still want burgers, but what’s wrong with a ciabatta with a 100% beef burger in it? And the toilets. There will be no blue plastic toilets. We’re putting in eight permanent toilet blocks and more under the suites. You have to get the basics right and allow people to get in and out easily.”

Gillett also talks about the debenture scheme, the logistics of a racetrack being sited at the end of a runway of a growing airport, and asks how the 90,000 people who go to Wembley and Twickenham aren’t allowed to drive there and why DP shouldn’t be different, and there’s lots more too.

Check out the full story!
F1Fanatic has a lot more quotes from Gillett than most of the other sites out there and what I’ve posted is only a fraction.

So, Donington will become everything Silverstone isn’t! Silverstone has a bit of a reputation for focussing their attention on the ‘champagne and cucumber sandwiches’ crowd who get helicoptered in. I’d like to attend the race this year to see how true that is, and I’d like to go to Donington next year to see how they do it.
I tell you what, now I’ve seen their plans and heard their approach I really like what they are doing. I’ve been to Donington several times despite it being bloody miles away, and it is a great place to watch a race. Okay so the facilities as exist right now fall considerably short of Silverstone, but I really do see that changing.

The question then becomes…. what will happen to Silverstone?

In the comments of F1Fanatic, someone provided a link to the BBC local TV news who have a short piece on the development. You can see it here although it may only work for UK viewers (others should try it anyway).

On Marco Andretti

This week the Word Butchers ask:

Does Marco Andretti improve or hurt his teammates at Andretti Green Racing?

I’d say probably both in a way, although he’s still improving year on year. His raw talent and speed isn’t in doubt but he seems to find himself in accidents maybe a little more often than maybe he ought to. Accidents cause a loss of track time (obviously), and that’s not what you need especially in a series as close as IndyCar where you need to be on top of conditions at all times.

With four drivers AGR can split the race weekend set-up workload and get results more quickly than other teams can – in theory, anyway. If you take out a chunk of time caused by crashes, his part of that is lost to the whole team. I’m including the races here, even then you lose valuable learning time. Even the most experienced drivers need that time because the cars, engines, tyres and circuits are always evolving even in a largely spec formula.

He’ll sort it out soon – I’m tipping him to do just that this year. He showed signs of it in ’08, it’ll come.

He’s showing an apparent change of attitude since the last part of the ’08 IRL season. The willingness to go to A1GP when he really didn’t need to take an unpaid drive in what is still a fairly obscure series, on his earnings and with his secure ride, I think it says a lot about how he’s willing to broaden his experience base and technical ability. I’m not sure how true that was before. I mean I don’t know if he genuinely wanted to be in the ALMS car, or if he was just parachuted in to help.. Those of you who watch those races may be able to answer that.

So yeah, in summary… If he keeps ending up in the wall or other cars, it hinders his teammates. Sometimes he shows a level of arrogance I don’t like, maybe that hinders things too, although in his defence perhaps that’s the only way to get anything in that team with Princess around.
On the other hand, his ever growing experience with these cars and his experience with another powerful single-seater will give him another reference point to work with. He’ll now approach the Dallara with a completely different mindset. This will help him and his teammates, particularly Mutoh who is still new to this stuff, and may also take some of the set-up pressure off of TK, which in turn will allow Tony to fight for the title… although I’m sure Marco is thinking of an assault on that himself.

Weekend Preview: 11-Jan-08

Weekend Preview: 10th & 11th January 2009

Dakar Rally
The competitors reach the halfway stage of the famous endurance test over the weekend. Sensation today as a leading car entrant was disqualified for skipping part of the route! So that’s about all I know of the how the ’09 event is progressing. I’m backing Carlos Sainz to win! Mentally, not with an actual bet.. Info at www.dakar.com. TV on Eurosport, Versus, etc.

Toya Tires Dubai 24 Hours
Dubai Autodrome, Dubai, United Arab Emirates
The circuit racing season kicks off with the first 24 Hour race of the year, featuring GT and Touring Car teams and drivers from Europe and Asia. It looks like most of them are running Porsche 997s of some description. Actually the only thing of note about this race is that one of the teams is running the new Audi R8 GT car.
This event takes place on Friday and ends on Saturday due to local customs regarding when they have their weekend.
I can’t find details of live TV coverage, although I’m not convinced you’d want them. MotorsTV usually has a half hour highlights package on extensive re-air in the weeks after the race, although that might only have been because they entered two cars last year. I watched it last year, pretty damned boring. I mean who wants to watch a 24 hour race on sandy roads through a desert? You have no bearings or reference points. Imagine the ALMS race at Utah but without the prototypes or people. If you’re as confused as I am about which brand-new Middle East venue is which, this is the one GP2 Asia visits and not F1 (Bahrain) or MotoGP (Qatar). In Dubai’s defence, lots of buildings are springing up nearby so it probably looks completely different now….
The official website is www.24hdubai.com although the Dubai Autodrome website is a far superior source of information.

New Zealand V8 Supercar
4 of 7 – Timaru, New Zealand
I’ve never heard of Timaru, I don’t know who’s racing, I have nothing to add.

Trophee Andros
4 of 7 – Lans-en-Vercors, France
Sideways ice racing at it’s best! Multiple F1 champion Alain Prost is racing again, I expect touring car man Yvan Muller is too. I have no clue where/when you can see this so check listings.

Autosport International
NEC, Birmingham, England
This isn’t a race, it is the annual racing ‘trade’ show at the NEC in Birmingham, being held from today until Sunday. Expect lots of transcripts of Q&As and comments appearing over at autosport.com from their featured guests on the main stage. If you get their RSS news feed that’ll be why it went crazy busy today! Last year they made several interviews available as audio clips, too (but I don’t think those will be in the feed). There are updates throughout the weekend on MotorsTV (Sky ch.413 and also available on Virgin Media).

Blog Note – Next week’s Preview may not appear due to the lack of racing. It’s January! What I will do over the weekend is summarise today’s FIA/FOTA releases as well as the highlights of what is coming out of Autosport International.

All-Racing Fantasy League

All-Racing Fantasy League
This is a reminder to check out Andy The SpeedGeek’s fantasy competition over at his blog. I mentioned it a few weeks back. This is a game where you pick 14 drivers across F1, IRL, NASCAR, ALMS and Grand-Am – but you are only allowed to commit 10 drivers on any given weekend… and that’s five road course and five oval drivers per weekend! A small number of drivers can be traded each week. It’ll be interesting to see how it all works in play.

The 2009 game gets under way in about ten days time with the pre-season draft, which needs to be done before the first event, the Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona. Sign up now to get a shot at the good drivers! If you read several racing blogs you’ll know Andy from the comments sections of many of them, as well as his own of course.

I’ll be back on Thursday with my UOWWB ‘question of the week’ reply, and Friday with the weekend preview. Or it might be the other way. I might even push the boat out and do two posts in one day! I know, crazy!

Weekend Preview: 04-Jan-09

Welcome to the first in a new series of posts previewing the coming weekend’s racing. Yes, I know it is Saturday and the weekend already – I only thought of this idea this morning!

As you know in 2008 I posted a series of F1 race previews. To save repeating the same stuff before each race (and to shamelessly find a way to create more content) I thought it would be good to expand to cover more races and to write some very short comments about each of them. We’ll see how long this lasts shall we? Hah. The format will probably develop as more races take place per weekend from April. Okay, let’s begin:

Weekend Preview: 3rd & 4th January 2009

Dakar Rally: Today is Stage 1 of the 2009 Dakar, which this year takes place in Argentina and Chile. As usual hundreds of bikes, cars and a few trucks will be tackling the 9500kms over the coming fortnight including some drivers from other disciplines, such as Carlos Sainz (ex-WRC), Robby Gordon (NASCAR) and Ukyo Katayama (ex-F1). Stage 1 runs from Buenos Aires to Santa Rosa de la Pampa.
You can follow rally updates at www.dakar.com including live stage results.
TV coverage is on Eurosport in Europe, on Versus in North America, on Fox Sports Latin America in Central and South America and on ESPN Star Sports across Asia. I’m not sure how much is live and how much is daily highlights, take a look and find out! Other coverage partners can be found here. Unfortunately I can’t get any of the channels it’s on and I don’t want to be downloading updates every day. I miss having Eurosport, I want it back!

Message to IRL IndyCar fans in US/Canada: NOW would be a great time to check if you have the Versus channel. Go and have a look, watch some of their Dakar coverage and report back to: a) me because I’m curious, b) your favourite IRL blogs, and c) the likes of Cavin and Miller. Are they taking an official Dakar feed or a Eurosport feed, or are they providing their own content, commentary, etc? Is it any good?
The Dakar Rally is organised by the same people behind the Tour de France which is probably how this coverage deal came about.

Africa Race: Since the Dakar has moved out of Africa, for the time being at least, an alternative has been set up. It’s about the scale of the early Dakar rallies so there aren’t a huge number of competitors and the TV deals aren’t great (I can’t find where it will be shown). In any case, if you’re interested you can follow it at www.africarace.com and www.africarace-live.com.

That’s about the size of it for this weekend. Thanks for reading and I hope I’ll be able to continue this feature throughout the year. Feel free to include anything I’ve missed in the comments.

If anyone can tell me how to fix the mis-alignment in the footer of my posts please let me know. I was dicking about with the settings and it went out of line, I returned it to what it was and it didn’t fix itself.

This post was written with the aid of a Lemsip as I hate colds – at least I have Mario Kart!