Saturday, August 22, 2009

What you've missed in Formula One since the last race...

In recent years especially, F1 has become a very dynamic environment. With regulation changes, teams constantly threatening to quit, point systems increases and decreases - it can be a lot to follow. However, even more has changed since the last race a few weeks ago at the Hungaroring. Just to hit some of the highlights:

- Most importantly, after his severe accident during Qualifying 2, Felipe Massa has left Europe and returned to Brazil under the care of his own physicians. He's expected to make likely a full recovery and should regain sight in his left eye. However, it has yet to be determined when he will be fit enough to return to the cockpit of the Ferrari F60 - or if he will.

- Herr Michael Shuchmacher, yes the Michael Schumacher who won 7 World Driver's Championships during his time with the Benetton and Ferrari teams, came out of retirement to assume the duties and seat of Felipe Massa after his accident at the Hungaroring. Schumacher began training in last year's F50 Formula One car as a means of preparation to test both his fitness of driving and to get him ready to step into the F60. Ferrari attempted to have Schumacher put into the F60 for testing purposes but was to do so under the guise of a promotional event. After protests from other teams of mid-season testing, Shuchmacher was relegated back to the F50. Everyone got very excited to hear that he would debut once more at the Valencia circuit this coming weekend - possibly allowing everyone the opportunity to see if Schumi "still has it."

- And Schumacher retires from Formula One again...As soon as it started it was over. During some fitness evaluations around the Fiorano test circuit in Maranello, it was revealed that Schumi's neck was having a difficult time holding up to the tremendous g forces that an F1 driver is typically subjected to. After a neck injury sustained during a sport bike race in February, Schumacher had some small fractures at the base of his skull, injuries that could prove very, very traumatic if he was to continue to pushing the limits of his neck's abilities in the seat of an F1 car. Everyone was disappointed again. With a severe lack of options at hand, Ferrari promoted up Luca Badoer, their test driver, to the seat of Massa's F60. Badoer hasn't sat in a competitive F1 seat since 1999 and as a result, his lack of familiarity with the car showed with a qualifying time leaving him dead last on the grid.

- BMW quits Formula One. That's right, after what looked to be a very promising season that has ended in lukewarm results, BMW decided that less than four full seasons is adequate time to fully judge and evaluate a professional race team. So, BMW is pulling its funding leaving Sauber more or less without a backer. Mario Theissen, Director of BMW Motorsports and BMW Sauber team principal seems soured by the whole situation and it would not surprise me if he left the company entirely at the end of the season with him currently looking for buyer of the BMW Sauber team. In terms of drivers, rumor has it that Kubica could take the open spot at Renault when Fernando Alonso vacates the team that has been so good to him to take Kimi Raikkonen's position at Ferrari. Raikkonen plans to move onto the Fiat WRC team after his Ferrari contract is up to follow in a great heritage of Finnish drivers that dominate rallying.

- Oh, did we mention for the 500th time that Alonso is moving to Ferrari? Plenty of rumors have come out that he'll make such a move and he's kept it no secret that he would love nothing more than to end his career with the team of the Prancing Horse. It's likely to happen as Alonso has a bit of an open-ended contract with Renault and Raikkonen's interest in F1 has waned severely in recent months in addition to rumors he might buy out his remaining year of his contract with Scuderia Ferrari. Also, Alonso is the only logical choice of experienced racer to join Ferrari with the potential seat changes in the 2010 season.

- One pleasant surprise of the season has been Mark Webber's performance. Mark is currently just shy of 20 points behind the points leader Jenson Button. With Brawn GP's loss of pace over the last few races and with Webber and Red Bull nipping at their heels, Webber has an outside chance to win the world championship. Frankly, we're hoping to see Red Bull pull off the surprise of the season and win at least a Driver's Championship.

For those who want to watch the race live, mercifully coverage has been moved from Fox back to the Speed Channel so the race kicks off at 7:30AM tomorrow morning for the pre-race and race in the...interesting...Valencia Urban Circuit.

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