It was a busy fortnight for Formula One, with several teams launching their new cars and the first official test of the year at Spain’s Jerez circuit. We saw Ferrari looking good with their F2008, McLaren looking promising and Nick Heidfeld driving his BMW F1.08 inside. Away from the circuit we also heard of some changes to rules and a possible budget cap for 2009. Finally, ITV received some bad news from their sponsor just two months before 2008 kicks off.
Raikkonen, Alonso & Glock Share The Honours
Day one at Jerez saw complete dominance from Ferrari, Kimi Raikkonen and Felipe Massa locking out the top of the tables in their new car. And although former driver Michael Schumacher has been given the role of developing the Scuderia’s cars, the German wasn’t driving this week as the test was all about the two current racers. Ferrari did have a couple of minor incidents, but all in all it was a positive test for red machines.
Fernando Alonso graced the damp track on the second day, weaving his Renault around the circuit and posting the fastest lap. The Spaniard also sported a new helmet design, reverting to his previous colours, although with a slight twist to the look. Williams and Scuderia Toro Rosso looked lean during the three days as well, Nico Rosberg doing well in the 2007 car and both STR drivers racking up the laps in their similarly outdated machine.
The final day saw Red Bull launch in the morning and David Coulthard complete a shakedown in the new chassis. But the spoils went to Timo Glock who managed to lead the field with a quick time. The lap times should all be taken with a grain of salt though as fuel levels were largely unknown and the drivers were mixed between old and new cars.
Engines & Budget Caps For 2008 & Possibly 2009
Due to a unanimous decision by the team principals, the engine regulations have been slightly modified and will come into effect for the start of the 2008 season. Previously, all engines had to last two races and if a unit was replaced during the practice sessions or qualifying, the driver would be docked ten places on the grid. Failure during the race or between races resulted in a ten grid slot penalty for the next event. However, at the team principals meeting in Paris, it was decided the first engine failure would go without penalty, allowing each driver one change per season.
It was agreed that each team could have one engine failure per car without penalty during the 2008 season. This would be the first engine failure suffered by each car. FIA Letter.
For 2009, the FIA are seriously looking at budget caps again following Nick Fry and Ross Brawn from Honda voicing their support for the idea. Since then BMW have got behind the proposal with Mario Thiessen saying it is a better way of controlling costs than the proposed wind tunnel limitations. The plans were discussed at the aforementioned team principals meeting and Max Mosley will hold further talks at the end of the month.
Currently it is suggested that some elements of a Formula One team should not be included in the budget due to their complexity, team principals salaries for example. Marketing and promotion would also be exempt from the total expenditure limits. But in typical FIA fashion, while they try to limit the teams costs they inevitably end up increasing their own, and this announcement comes with the news of a new group being established within the governing body, the Financial Working Group. It is hoped that this group will be able to finalise details before June of this year.
If the Financial Working Group are unable to devise a satisfactory method of checking expenditure or if a majority of the competing teams do not agree the proposals by 30 June 2008, the cost reduction measures voted by the World Motor Sport Council on 7 December 2007 will be adopted for 2009 in their entirety. Max Mosley.
And returning to engines briefly, the five-year engine freeze is due to be up in 2013 and no development work is allowed on the current 2.4 litre V8s until this time. However, it was announced that work on the engines replacement would commence within the next twelve months. It is hoped these details can be finalised before January 1st 2009.
Honda Leave ITV
ITV currently own the rights to broadcast Formula One in the UK and their commentary by Martin Brundle and James Allen is sent to various other English-speaking countries. The channel is commercial and thus needs sponsorship in order to fund the costs of producing such a programme, and it has been announced that their current funding partner, Honda, has left.
Honda have been sponsoring the show for the last couple of years and have seen their promotional clips surround the advert breaks as well as the start and end of the show. It was thought they ploughed £2.5m into the show, but ITV are looking to increase their budget to £4m. But with only two months to go before the start of the 2008 season, time is short for ITV.