17 Jan – My British Friend

Well, hello everybody in F1 land. I hope you all had enjoyable holidays and such. I had a very nice Xmas, partied down for the new year, and now I am patiently waiting for the 2012 season to get underway. As has been my M.O. I blog or post only when I feel the contribution is meaningful or will provide an insight from my (American) point of view, hopefully that comes through despite the jokes, one-liner’s and the plagiarizing of Dave Chapelle’s favorite word “bitches.” And if you want some real F1 news, look for the links to the right under “F1 Sites”, they are the real bloggers.

As you could imagine, its sometimes difficult for me to find people to ‘talk F1’ here in the States. Whenever I do meet someone from abroad, admittedly I ask if they follow F1 before I even get to what they do for a living or anything else about them. Sometimes a barely detectable accent is all that is needed to get me going! I was fortunate enough to meet a British friend at work last year, once F1 came up it was full on man-love!

I got an email from this British friend, Jonathan Le Billion, the other day and I thought it was funny and insightful, so I am turning this post over to him as a guest editor.  Here is his email, un-edited. I hope you enjoy it.

-So, it’s mid January, two months away from the start of – what has the suggestions of being – an exciting season of Formula One. The 2012 season.

With a few cars penciled to be unveiled within the next few weeks, and a few seats still to be picked up, where are we at?

Bruno Senna has (just) been named as the 2nd driver at Williams. Why did it take so long? Well, the official websites will say: because both parties had to fully scrutinize each other, meticulously checking nano data, so they could be as safe as possible in their knowledge that their potential, respective, new partner had all the aspects in place – and the hunger, oh let’s not forget the hunger – to take them into the bright new era of success.  They have to say this of course. It’s professional. It’s a business. It’s what shareholders need to hear.

We, of course, know it’s bollocks.

Williams wanted Sutil. They’ve wanted him since 2008. Why? He had financial backing, experience and a track record of beating his team mate (except, arguably, Fisichella in ’09) Unfortunately (and something I’d forgotten) Adrian Sutil had a case of Assault and of ‘causing grievous bodily harm’ waiting to go through the courts.

On Jan 13th, he was told he would stand trial.

On Jan 17th, 4 days later, Senna was named the new driver at Williams.

Williams were NOT waiting months, nit-picking through Senna’s track record. They were waiting for a German court to decide if Adrian Sutil would stand trial and potentially go to prison for a year. Executive Shareholders are not keen on criminals representing their brands. (Even if it was a Champagne glass that he broke to drag across Lux’s neck for calling him a fairy.)

I feel massively sorry for Sutil. F1 drivers live their lives and their, usually hugely, embarrassing mistakes in front of the world’s media. Lewis Hamilton – who has gone through most of his formative years in front of the British press – it seems doesn’t know who else to turn to, when he wants to talk about the fact he’s “a bit sad cos he finished with his girlfriend.” But 500 million people tune into F1. It’s very, very big business. It will take a big management/PR drive (from someone) to ever see him (Sutil) back in an F1 car.

Though, in truth, you can’t stab someone in the neck and expect to get away with it.

So Williams was not waiting. Teams WANT to get their drivers secured, so they can start building the car. The driver is the thing it’s built around. The only other reason teams would wait around would be for money, which brings me too:

HRT

So, look at that. Petrov and Alguersuari, get dumped (Lotus, BTW have made a brilliant start to the season, with: a controversial/genius conceptual ride height braking system, an exciting, experienced young driver thus keeping the flow of new talent into the sport, and bringing in Kimi Raikkonen – who I also think will do better as he’s older and will not be being shafted by the insatiable Italian F1 press every week) and HRT, accidentally keep their 2nd seat open. Possibly even their 1st seat open! Sorry, Vitantonio! Even Caterham’s Jarno Trulli (like Luizzi) has hilariously/sadly discovered his contract might have more holes in it than a 2009 Brawn F1 diffuser. When there are well-backed drivers in the marketplace, why have an average driver when you can have an average drivers who’s loaded with cash? And there is STILL the possibility of a return of Rubens Barrichello, who has stated he will become a ‘paid driver’ to continue in the sport. Ironic, that a man who contentedly took paychecks from Ferrari every week… for six years… to be nothing more than be a number #2 driver… and keep his private jet in the air… is now having to find the funds to stay in the sport that he loves so much.

So I’ll wrap this up as I did NOT plan on writing something this long.

Alguersuari has rejected HRT. A brave decision though perhaps lacking a little ambition, hoping for a test role at Mercedes – following in the illustrious footsteps of Pedro De La Rosa… erm…

However, IF he gets it and IF there is more ‘in season testing’ and IF he can out perform Gary Paffett, he may get some great experience and contacts – and he’s still very, very young.

Petrov, I think, will have his pick of the lower teams. I feel he slipped up a bit with the press and did show a little potential. The obvious choice seems to be Caterham if they can politely promote Trulli sideways.

Barrichello I STILL think would be a GREAT choice for HRT, for reasons previously stated.

and the rest? Well, they’re all good, but in F1, ‘good’ is ‘average’.

And for the teams:

Williams: are behind, have no main sponsor but have money to survive. Better than last year but still average mid pack.

Have shown a little ambition with their gearbox and engine choices.

McLaren: Fingers crossed.

Red Bull: Talking themselves down as usual. Probably going to produce another amazing package and can afford to develop.

Ferrari: Massively disappointed that they failed their crash tests. They are, on paper, behind Caterham – a team which technically didn’t exist last season. However, they have a lot of money. (A lot of money). And have pinched a lot of new staff members. Could be a important year for Stefano Domenicali

Merc.: Fingers crossed. I want my German cousins to succeed. And I like Ross Brawn. He’s the only man who’s consistently beaten Adrian Newey. And he’s a bit like a teddy bear.

Lotus: Excited as I can be about a team that isn’t really a team but more of a financial institute’s advertising play-thing.

F.India: Lots more money this year. Inexperienced. Want to see good stuff.

Sauber: Average. Occasionally exciting. Needs sponsorship. And P.R. They’re boring.

Toro Rosso: Average. Occasionally exciting. Doesn’t need sponsorship. Or P.R. They’re exciting! They fired their two drivers!

HRT: Will do well if they listen to back-seat nobodies like me!

Caterham: Like everyone on the pit lane, I like Mark Gascoyne. I think he can do well. Watch for the driver shuffle. If they get Petrov, they could be the fastest of slowest for sure and perhaps even mid table-rs. They are my ‘dark horse’ bet for the opening few races of the season. (After that, as usual, who knows.)

Marussia: who?-

I love my day’s off!

Thanks Jonathan for the rundown and I hope to have you contribute again when you feel like giving us Americans the scoop from a British point of view. Now, my only question is, how does one say “Bitches!” in British?

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