411: From Albert Park to Sepang

Ah, it’s great to be back isn’t it? The rumour mill is up to speed and the usual PR spin is tumbling out of the paddock, teams defend poor results, drivers justify track positions and ‘flexi’ wings are challenged. As far as season starts go this has been a notably interesting, but on the other hand it feels like the 2010 season simply went on hiatus. Sebastian Vettel charged off into the distance and everyone else lined up behind. So hard hats at the ready…

The Key to DSQ:

When a team or driver is handed a disqualification notice the next move is to dust off the ‘Blame Game’, crack open the box and choose who gets to be the top hat. When Sauber’s technical director James Key said, “We have since found that there was an error in the checking process for the relevant dimension on this component,” it was moments before his name was the sole focus for the 3mm mistake.

Obviously an investigation was carried out and the reports that Key was about to lose his job were proved to be idle gossip, the results found it to be a manufacturing error. Peter Sauber made sure the press knew that James Key would remain at the team, “I will send a clear message: There will be no layoffs,” he told Blick.

Technical Director James Key (photo credit: Sauber)

This may be true but what remains to be seen is the long term effects of the loss of the points they lost, the team had to hand back 10 points which could represent millions lost from the FIA. Rookie Sergio Perez, who had commented before the judgement to the BBC that he would never forget this day, he still will remember but for the wrong reason.

His smooth and temperate driving style matched the needs of the delicate Pirelli tyres, and if Sauber can provide a steady stream of upgrades it shouldn’t be long until we see him score again. This may prove to be true, but as the owner simply stated, “The wounds are definitely far from being healed.”

You’ve made a Massa-ive mistake Button:

As you may remember, Jenson Button had a few choice words to say about Felipe Massa’s tactics around Albert Park. Unable to pass the Brazilian during 10 laps behind him, Button cut a chicane which unfolded a cascade of frustration and ‘confusion’. As McLaren waited for word from the stewards, Button put in a crafty radio call saying he was ahead, when it was clear he wasn’t.

Massa has been blogging on the Ferrari website and had this to say about Button’s decision, “The rules are clear … and Jenson is experienced enough to know that without having to wait for the team to tell him what to do.” Despite airing his opinions about the McLaren driver, Massa was honest about Ferrari’s performance over the weekend, “…we were not as competitive as we had thought we would be, based on the winter performance.”

Talking about performance…:

Adrian Newey is always seen and rarely heard, but he managed both as he picked up the Segrave Trophy, given to those whose achievements match the 1920 land and sea speed record holder, Henry Segrave.  The former McLaren designer is bemused that his previous employer has copied his exhaust system, It’s a form of flattery but it’s a bit of a pain if they then beat you with it.”

This comes after McLaren struggled throughout the whole of the winter testing season, after launching the MP4-26 late. Their performance in Melbourne suggests that the radical ‘octopus’ system was seriously flawed, and the acquisition of the Red Bull approach certainly goes some way to confirm that notion.

…and you’d think they would be grateful:

McLaren are currently in a rather precarious position, they’ve got two world champions and nothing to show for it for the last two year. Lewis Hamilton has discounted the viability of a long term Red Bull presence (and a possibile seat at the team) by calling them a ‘fizzy drinks company’, something Mark Webber took exception to in the Australian press conference.

Lewis Hamilton must also be missing the 2010 season as he has also dredged up the ‘flexi’ wing issue again. Just like last year, he believes Red Bull’s front wing has more flex than is legally allowed. Vettel’s supremacy over the weekend triggered a flashback for the team, and it seems they want to nip it in the bud before they run away with another title for their vending machine.

The FIA race director, Charlie Whiting, has assured the McLaren ace that it is within the guidelines, and testing has been stiffened for the current season. Either way, it’s a story that will run and run and run. Unless McLaren start winning.

Ever so slightly delusional?:

Can they qualify? (photo credit: Action Images)

Hispania are ignoring the critics and have adopted a surprisingly positive attitude to their chances at their home race. Their attempt at participating in Formula One has been derided, met with disbelief and ridicule which hasn’t been helped with a worse start than last year. The team’s owner José Ramón Carabante believes that they will be ahead of Virgin and Lotus by the time they touch down in Spain.

Keeping their head in the game:

Safety in paramount in Formula One now, and we are thankfully beyond the days of accidents having a fatal conclusion. Helmets are making another leap forward in the safety stakes, and in part has Felipe Massa to thank for it. His accident in 2009 could have been a career-ender, but the luck of where the spring struck him and the composition of his helmet saved him.

Helmets are customised to each individual driver, inside and out, constructed from combination of carbon fibre, resin and aramide amongst other materials. Weighing in at just over 1kg, it is set up to avoid being a distraction, keeping heads cool and vision unobstructed.

Turning the safety up (photo credit: gadgets.co.uk)

This year the drivers and advertisers have been given a boost, the addition of a Zylon strip across the top of the visor. Zylon has strengths beyond carbon fibre in this application, although it’s added around “…70 grams to the visor, [and] doubled its impact performance.” Which is something I’m certain no one will argue about.

Next stop…Sepang, Malaysia.

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