The crowd was large and enthusiastic despite the gloomy and sometimes spritzy weather at Albert Park last Sunday for the 26th (modern) Formula One Grand Prix in Melbourne. There has been no more talk about the Australian Grand Prix moving to Avalon, but much chest-beating by local Victorian politicos saying while Sydney may want the AGP, it can’t and won’t have it. The current Melbourne contract runs through 2014 and already AGPC is seeking an extension.
The twilight racing concept will continue throughout the length of the FOM contract. The problem with either the sun’s glare or the impending darkness causing visual problems for the drivers is being addressed. Although there has not been official confirmation from AGPC, a local company which wishes to showcase its developing portable lighting technology, is in talks regarding the provision of its innovative new system free for the 2011 race. The idea is to show the world during the world-wide telecasts that there is an easier, less expensive and visually better way to light street circuits.
Originally MICHAEL SCHUMACHER/Mercedes was the only holdout driver who didn’t join the 2010 Grand Prix Drivers Association. His position, according to his spokesman, was that he “still supports the work of the GPDA, but he is not sure if he will join again. After all, he took the lead in this area for years. Now he really wants the others, who have taken over in the meantime, to continue.”
GPDA is now led by NICK HEIDFELD who replaced PEDRO de la ROSA, who stepped down after moving back up to a F1 ride with BMW Sauber – the team for whom Heidfeld drove last year. Heidfeld is now the reserve/test driver for McLaren…again.
After AGP, Schumacher has retracted his position and advised Heidfeld he is joining GPDA and wants to be an active participant. No doubt spurring on his new resolve was the AGP and being unable to pass Rookie JAIME ALGUERSUARI/Scuderia Toro Rosso for many laps. When Schumacher did, according to STR, it was because the young driver failed to maintain the concentration shown by the veteran Schumacher, and Alguersuari was passed, losing his chance at his first GP point. Instead Schumacher gained it, putting him eighth of 24 drivers in the F1 Drivers Championship.
Schumacher has two issues he wants GPDA to raise with FIA: blocking, which he brought up before AGP; and the inability of the current rear-view mirrors to do their job. The oldest driver on the grid feels that CHARLIE WHITING, FIA F1 Race Director and Safety Delegate, should take a stronger stand on defining blocking. Schumacher also feels that the existing rear view mirrors should be eliminated for failure to do a proper job. A mechanic on another team had told me prior to the race that everyone in the F1 garage knew the mirrors were too small and unstable to be effective. What the mirrors are is an effective aerodynamic device.
What happened to F1 drivers being chauffeured around during a race weekend? What has gotten into the F1 drivers – boys and their toys, or better put – Boys Behaving Badly. First LEWIS HAMILTON/McLaren got busted in his fancy Mercedes during the race weekend for doing burnouts and fishtails outside the circuit – in full view of the police. The arrest/car impound scenario was chronicled by an onlooker and posted to YouTube.
A second F1 driver has been caught on video, also now posted on YouTube. In these days of social networking, everyone thinks he/she is the next indie film producer with smart phone videos. Ferrari confirmed Tuesday that Sunday night, FERNANDO ALONSO was one of the two Ferrari’s seen street racing in downtown Melbourne. It was captured on an amateur’s video and immediately went viral. Now you don’t need to have SPEED TV, Sky TV or One Sports to see Mercedes and Ferrari street racing. Check out YouTube and watch it as many times as you wish.
You Tube, which was founded in 2005, was sold to Google a year later, netting co-founder CHAD HURLEY millions of dollars and lots of Google stock. Earlier this year Hurley was involved with the ill-fated USF1 team. When that fell through, it was thought Hurley would find another team with which to partner.
Hurley has been working behind the scenes with Virgin Racing and using his previous F1 contacts and considerable wealth to get the team the new fuel tanks it needs to run the full race distance. Recently the team announced it couldn’t run a full race if it wanted, as its fuel tanks were built to previous specs before the rules changed mid-stream. The team has received dispensation from FIA to install new, larger fuel tanks. Virgin’s plan was to have them in place by the Spanish Grand Prix in early May. So far the team has been what NASCAR calls Start and Park, running as long as it can, before falling out with ‘mechanical problems.’ This allows the team to get its sponsors out in front of the public eye as much as possible. The two Virgin drivers were the top two drivers in the AGP ‘Not Classified’ category, with TIMO GLOCK of Germany finishing 41 of 58 laps, and Brazilian LUCAS Di GRASSI completing 26.
Virgin, which started out as Manor Racing, is named after RICHARD BRANSON’s companies. However, Branson’s Virgin brand isn’t as much of a backer as it might seem, and VR is struggling financially, as well as otherwise.
Hurley is now using his USF1 contacts to acquire its fuel tanks, as well as putting money where his mouth is, so to speak. The plan is to get them sooner rather than later, i.e. by Shanghai in mid-April.
As he has a financial incentive via his stocks for YouTube to flourish, quick-thinking Hurley plans to capitalize on the recent mega-star escapades and viral technology to utilize it as part of an innovative marketing plan which he will unveil this weekend in Malaysia.