Formula 1 Insight

Whitmarsh, McLaren and Barcelona

In a controversial statement, Martin Whitmarsh has called for the return of F1 to North America as soon as possible. What makes this controversial is that he is actually suggesting that Bernie Ecclestone be by-passed in the quest to put a US or Canadian GP back on the calendar. A clearer admission that Bernie's ridiculous demands of circuits are no longer acceptable could not be hoped for.

Robert Kubica
Robert Kubica in the BMW F1.09

Whitmarsh is calling for the teams to get involved; the North American market is too important to the manufacturers for Bernie to quibble about prices. In contrast to Ecclestone's constant demand for more money, consider the good sense and realism in this statement of Whitmarsh's:

We have got to have a new approach. Rather than who's going to give us the most money to rock up and race, it is to go there strategically, perhaps with FOTA offering to support the race, participate, send our drivers on a promotional tour one year before, six months before, to appear on shows and make investment.

I have said repeatedly that F1 should be prepared to give away GPs to American circuits, so important is it that the sport have a presence there. Now, at last, this has been recognized by someone who can do something about it. As long as Ecclestone is the sole arbiter of which circuits have GPs, the possibility of a North American race is remote indeed - no one will pay as much as he persists in asking for. But, if FOTA can assist with funding, it may be that Bernie could be sidelined; he does not care where the money comes from as long as it comes to him.

Hopefully, this will be just the first step in a process that sees reality invade the setting of the calendar. If F1 is truly to be a world championship, North America cannot be ignored; there should really be at least three GPs in that part of the world but I'll settle for one as a start.

Mention of Martin Whitmarsh turns one's thoughts to McLaren, of course. The saga of the MP4-24's lack of pace continues and Ron Dennis' evasive statement on the matter merely confirms Norbert Haug's more straightforward assessment. Although the two sound very different, they are saying the same thing in effect: McLaren will fix any problems that exist and be competitive when it matters. It would be a brave commentator who disagrees with that.

And so, to Barcelona for the last day of testing this week. The big news from the morning's session is that Barrichello is quick again, although Nico Rosberg grabbed the fastest time in the Williams. This is the day when the teams are supposed to put on a show with all-out qualifying simulations and so far it is living up to expectations, both Rubens and Nico breaking the 1'20 barrier.

Vettel, Massa, Kubica and Glock are not far behind but the McLaren continues to bring up the rear, nearly half a second behind the next man, Fernando Alonso. It all makes for a fascinating pre-season and I can hardly wait for the red lights to go off in Melbourne later this month.

Times for the final session will be posted when the test ends.

Final Session, Barcelona:

Rubens Barrichello, Brawn GP 00:01'18''926
Nico Rosberg, Williams 00:01'19''774
Timo Glock, Toyota 00:01'20''091
Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull 00:01'20''576
Fernando Alonso, Renault 00:01'20''664
Felipe Massa, Ferrari 00:01'20''677
Robert Kubica, BMW-Sauber 00:01'20''740
Lewis Hamilton, McLaren 00:01'20''869
Sebastian Buemi, Toro Rosso 00:01'21''013
Giancarlo Fisichella, Force India 00:01'21''045
Sebastian Bourdais, Toro Rosso 00:01'21''629


Keith Collantine
You just can't get enough of that BMW picture, can you? :-)

Really, this should have been one of the top things that came out of FOTA's announcement the other week. Lots of fans - and not just those in America - really want to see F1 back in the States, and Canada for that matter too.

Ecclestone simply has to make some movement on this issue. Surely CVC, with so much money vested in the sport, can understand the logic of making a few financial concessions to races in America in order to tap into the enormous potential fan base, to see nothing of the potential value to the manufacturers?
Date Added: 12/03/2009

Actually, this was one of those posts where I could put any photo up, so varied was the subject matter. I thought of Toyota but their site is giving me problems at the moment, I've had enough of Brawn GP pics for the moment, and then I suddenly thought, "We haven't had a BMW for a while!" I had completely forgotten the recent article on Nick's F1.09 from that superb angle.

Ah well, what can you expect from a Beemer fan?

As for American GPs, I think Bernie is afraid that, if he gives them concessions, all the other circuit owners will start expecting them too. I can understand his reluctance, given that he has to make enough money to keep CVC happy, but a better businessman would be able to work a compromise somehow.
Date Added: 12/03/2009

Steven Roy
Bernie will be ecstatic if the teams pay for a US GP. He gets the fee he wants and gets all the other income that he normally gets with none of the usual aggro.
Date Added: 12/03/2009

True, Steven. What he will lose, however, is his reputation as the impresario of F1. And that may be the first step in getting rid of him. After all, if FOTA can arrange races, who needs Bernie shoving his nose in?
Date Added: 12/03/2009

As long as CVC is there, Bernie will be too. If they want to get rid of Bernie, they'll have to propose a MUCH better replacement to CVC.
Date Added: 13/03/2009

It is basically bad business to withold from the biggest car owning/buying country in the worl the chance to see some of the best drivers in the world - and the biggest car manufacturers - a showcase in america.
You have to speculate to accummulate - its advertising? - time for the poison dwarf to move on and let others take charge - ps if you want a beemer - why not show one
Date Added: 13/03/2009

Interesting that Maclaren seem to be only a small way behind Ferrari and BMW in this test. It would also be nice to know when in the day these times were set as Fisichella has said that they would have been in the 1:20.5s if they had run later in the day when the track was much quicker. Still an amazing time set by Brawn GP. Even if they are running light etc it seems that their reliability is pretty good.
Date Added: 13/03/2009

Surely with less testing for the teams, there would be room to extend the calendar to 20 races and fit in the French, USA and Canadian GP without dropping any others? Instead of having more back to back races, why not just extend the length of the racing season a few weeks?
Date Added: 13/03/2009

Journeyer: Bernie will stay as long as he breathes, yes - but there may be ways of working around him.
Date Added: 13/03/2009

Alan: Bernie cares only for the money he can earn for CVC. I think Martin Whitmarsh is making a very good point when he says that the manufacturers should step in to ensure a race in North America. As you say, they are the ones who need such a GP most so it makes sense that they should contribute towards its funding.

As for the pics of Beemers, Keith was only joking. He knows I think the F1.09 looks great whereas most think it's ugly. If I keep putting up pics of it, sooner or later everyone will see the error of their ways! :D
Date Added: 13/03/2009

Lee: It does seem that the McLaren team made progress with the car over the 4-day test in Barcelona. It's later times were much closer to the opposition's, as you say. Presuming that this will continue in Jerez next week, McLaren will be competitive in Melbourne as expected.

The Brawn's reliability has been good during its first testing period and it has set quick times over long distances too. I really don't think it's a flash in the pan.
Date Added: 13/03/2009

Woffin: Twenty races per season is what Bernie is aiming at and the teams have grudgingly given their agreement to this. It is a limit, however, and Frank Williams has said that there is no way his team could do more than that.

With circuits dropping out as Bernie's charges prove too much, however, it is a bit optimistic to talk of twenty races. It seems that as fast as Bernie introduces new GPs, an older one folds up. That is the real problem, not the amount of time taken up by testing.
Date Added: 13/03/2009


I have it on good authority that the Brawn GP car has been in development with Honda for the last 2 years! Aparently Honda never planned on running a competitive car last season and just lumped for running a modified version of the 07/08 car. The engineers were a bit peeved to say the least at the irony of Honda pulling out when they had just produced a quick car. It may also explain why brawn has managed to get good backing, after all the car was known to be quick internally.
Date Added: 13/03/2009

I don't doubt it, Lee. There has been so much time and thought gone into the BGP 001 that we should not really be surprised at its performance straight out of the box.
Date Added: 13/03/2009

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