July 29, 2009

BMW Out, Slappy In! And Other News (UPDATED)

Busy day in the F1 world!

BMW announced that they would be withdrawing from Formula 1 racing effective at the end of the current season.  The company restructured their entire motorsports division, citing a desire to "dedicate more resources to developing new, sustainable road car technologies." 

The German manufacturer took over the Sauber-Petronas team in 2006, and in 2008 finished second in the Constructor's Championship, behind Ferrari (McLaren were excluded, otherwise they would have finished 2nd).  The team's shining moment would have been the 2008 Canadian Grand Prix, when they got their first victory behind Robert Kubica, with Grizzly Nick Heidfeld finishing second.  2009 has been a horror story for them, however, earning only eight points to date.

At the moment, it is unknown what BMW is going to do with the team's infrastructure: sell it off, much like SuperAguri did, or attempt to spin it away in one piece, like Honda did with their team (now BrawnGP).  This all came as a surprise to Grizzly Nick, who said on his website "BMW's decision no longer to compete in Formula One was totally unexpected.  I feel very sorry for the members of the team with whom it has been my privilege to work over the years. I would like to thank all of them for their tremendous support and for everything we have achieved together."

Unless another BrawnGP-like resurrection occurs, expect Kubica and Heidfeld to be in quite a bit of demand during the "silly season".  After all, Manor Motorsports needs drivers...

In the other bit of surprising news, god help us all, Michael "Slappy" Schumacher is back.


The birth of "Slappy"
With Ferrari making the intelligent decision to keep the injured Felipe Massa out of the cockpit for the rest of the season, the team needed a replacement driver for the second half of the season.  The team's test drivers, Luca Badoer and Marc Gene, would have to be called merely serviceable: both have driven in F1, though not since 2004 (Gene) and 1999 (Badoer).  And there's that little thing about seven world championships. 

I find it ironic that I may have brought this upon us.  Just a few days ago, in a post dealing with the FIA SuperLicense, I mentioned that if the FIA votes unanimously to give a driver a license, he can be given one without meeting any of the requirements, then added "
if Slappy Schumacher was hired to drive a F1 car again, that's how he'd qualify, I'm sure."  When will I learn?

Anyway, Slappy will be undergoing a special training program to prepare for his first race back, at Valencia in a month.  Not that he's out of shape, particularly for a 40-year-old, but he hasn't driven a F1 car in anger since he retired in 2006.  If nothing else, his neck muscles have to be built up in a hurry to deal with the g-forces.  He has never driven Ferrari's current car, and with the testing ban in place, he won't get to until Friday practice for Valencia.  Still, there's that little thing about seven world championships...

...and at least the Official First Reader of The Pond, Mallory, will be happy.

Finally, it's pretty safe to say that while Renault may not be on-track due to their penalty in Hungary, Nelson Piquet Unemployed will not be.  Team boss Flavio Briatore said after the Hungarian Grand Prix that "...when a driver lacks results, he opens the book of excuses and begins: the fault is the weather's, a spectator's sunglasses, a spin on the straight, this and that... I expected more from Nelson."

Piquet's response was somewhat... um... energetic:  "Flavio is a business man, but he doesn't understand sh*t about F1."  Now, we're not saying that Piquet is wrong, but that's never a good thing to say about your boss... particularly when it's true.

Romain Grosjean, please pick up the white courtesy phone. 

UPDATE: Felipe Massa was able to answer questions in three different languages (English, Portugese, and Italian) today.  He also took his first steps since the accident, and will be transferred out of Intensive Care within the day.  Docs are saying that he'll likely be discharged within two weeks.  How cool is that?

Posted by: Wonderduck at 06:32 PM | Comments (6) | Add Comment
Post contains 708 words, total size 5 kb.

1

Ferrari should just put Schumacher in the car and let him practice in it anyway, and dare F1 to slap them down.  F1 would huff and puff, but there's no way they'll actually turn down such a lollipop as The Return Of Michael Schumacher.

 

Posted by: mparker762 at July 29, 2009 06:53 PM (arWhA)

2 Keeping Massa off the track for the rest of the season is unquestionably the right decision. Still, the medical news about him is very encouraging. Here's hoping for a complete recovery and a return to racing next year.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at July 29, 2009 07:19 PM (+rSRq)

3 You know, it never really occurred to me that the drivers would need physical conditioning, but I guess it should have been obvious. I bet it takes a lot of hand and arm strength to really steer one of those, too.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at July 30, 2009 07:07 PM (+rSRq)

4 You've gotta have a strong neck to deal with the g-forces pulling at your head (and helmet).  Five Gs for a few seconds is bad enough, but five Gs for a few seconds three or four times a lap, times sixty laps...

And that's just the head.  You've also got to be able to steer the car, control the gas pedal, make adjustments on the steering wheel, talk coherently to the crew on the pit wall, AND deal with 19 other cars, too.

Yeah, F1 drivers are usually in excellent physical shape.  David Coulthard's Chin, in his 15 years as a driver, supposedly completed over 31000 hours of physical training, and that doesn't include wrist exercises for his autograph hand.  That's nearly six hours a day, every day.


Posted by: Wonderduck at July 30, 2009 10:43 PM (ZpwKm)

5 There used to be times when Mansell had to be supported when he climbed out of the car, but I think he was the last champion who did not do much for physical conditioning. As the car performance continued to climb, so grew the fitness demands. With 5G sideways loads, it's pretty intense. Maybe not quite like Vegeta training in enhanced gravity chamber, but it goes there.

Posted by: Pete Zaitcev at July 30, 2009 10:47 PM (/ppBw)

6

You bet...Mallory is VERY HAPPY that Schumacher will be back for a little while.  :-)

It's wonderful that Massa is making such remarkable progress! 

 

Posted by: Mallory at August 02, 2009 09:39 AM (WJ2qy)

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