On Bahrain, Infiniti, things called F150, Merc and Williams

Posted: February 28, 2011 in Formula 1
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

As surely as spring follows winter and Christmas falls in December, so it is written that at this time every year, the tall Hartlepudlian blogger shall disappear for 10 days and fail to mention some things which may go on to be quite important.

Anyone else feel a quick catch-up coming on?

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The 2011 Formula 1 season will open in Melbourne on 27th March.  Crown Prince Salman confirmed last week that the ongoing political unrest in Bahrain has quite correctly left ‘staging a motor race’ fairly low on his list of priorities for the time being.  Had the race been left to go ahead, the odds of any major team turning up, leaving themselves open to accusations of condoning the bloodshed, would have been somewhat lengthy.

The race organisers will not be charged Bernie Ecclestone’s $40 million sanctioning fee and are keen to get back on the F1 calendar as quickly as possible.  They’ve spoken of staging a race later this year but, leaving aside the political aspects for now, there are few gaps in the calendar big enough to slot one in.  The one outside chance, in early November after the first Indian Grand Prix, is out because without a year’s experience of getting team personnel and equipment through Customs, those in charge are reluctant to organise another race a week after visiting a new venue.  It would also leave teams facing an India-Bahrain-Abu Dhabi triple header without any scope for a breather between races, which is a no-go for reasons of common sense as well as practicality.

Failing that, the only options available involve persuading the Indian authorities to give up their date and have an extra 12 months to prepare or shunting the season finale in Brazil back a week to free up space in the calendar.  The championship would then conclude no earlier than 4th December, though there’s no precedent for such a late finish in modern times.

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Tomorrow is expected to see the announcement of a tie-up between Red Bull Racing and Infiniti, the luxury arm of Japanese carmaker Nissan.  The exact nature of this link isn’t yet clear, though as Red Bull’s engine supplier Renault have a 44% stake in Nissan, the likelihood is that the team’s engines will carry the Infiniti badge.

The Infiniti name spent a largely unsuccessful spell in the Indy Racing League a decade ago and the company have recently launched the first model in their Infiniti Performance Line of luxury cars.  The brand is primarily used in the North American market, with occasional forays into Asia, but a push into Europe is expected this year.  It’s likely that Renault’s CEO Carlos Ghosn views F1, more specifically Red Bull’s F1 team, as a marketing tool to build brand awareness and help to shed the safe, middle-of-the-road image Infiniti has acquired.

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You’ll recall that a little earlier this year, we were introduced to Ferrari’s 2011 challenger, the F150.  You may also know that the best-selling car in the world is Ford’s F-150 pick-up truck.  You might quite reasonably draw the conclusion that these two facts have nothing to do with each other.

If that’s the case, you probably don’t work for Ford.  The American carmaker threatened to sue Ferrari for attempting to infringe upon copyright and benefit from the goodwill built up by the F-150 brand name.  The net result, notwithstanding the Scuderia’s perfectly sensible assertion that their F150 wasn’t going to be sold commercially now or at any other time, is that it’s now the Ferrari F150th Italia.

Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo is busying himself with becoming a major player in Italian politics, aligning himself as an opponent of Silvio Berlusconi, so it could be embarrassing to have a grand gesture (F150’s name was selected to honour the 150th anniversary of Italy’s unification, with the car featuring the Tricolore on its rear wing) shot down in a blaze of illegality.  Presumably that’s why Ferrari are inviting us to believe that the car was always called F150th Italia, with F150 being used as a shorthand form.  It wasn’t and it wasn’t, Luca…

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Daimler and their partner Aabar Investments now wholly own the Mercedes GP team, having bought the 24.9% share in the outfit owned by team management including technical chief Ross Brawn.  No organisational changes are expected, with the design and engineering team responsible for the championship-winning Brawn GP car of 2009 remaining intact.

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Williams have unveiled the definitive livery for their FW33, an apparent homage to the Rothmans colours the team sported in the mid 1990s:

Time to confess to a little personal bias, a bias which the hardened regulars will already be aware of.  I began watching Formula 1 during an era of Williams dominance featuring major British drivers – Mansell, Hill, Coulthard.  They were destined to be my team from the start and have remained so ever since.  Their current lead driver, Rubens Barrichello, is a man I’ve always wanted to see succeed.

If a Williams returns to the winner’s circle in 2011 and does so with Rubinho at the wheel, my write-up of the race in question will be late.  It will be late because I will have exploded with joy.

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Comments
  1. […] way the Formula 1 circus could consider visiting Bahrain.  By the end of the month, those in power came out and said so.  On Friday, the FIA World Council confirmed that the 2011 Bahrain Grand Prix would take place on […]

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