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  These are long hard months. Cold damp winter up North, well actually damned cold with bucket loads of snow. Blazing hot down South, apart from those areas in Australia and Brazil that have been washed away by some of the largest floods in may a year. And nary the faintest hint of an 18,000 RPM V8 wailing away in the distance to be latched onto in desperate hope. The loudest noise in F1 land is the clicking of keyboards on a designer’s computer, the whooshing of a wind tunnel, the hum of an autoclave baking the latest monocoque and the thump of steel on carbon fibre as said monocoque passes its mandatory crash test.



  True, this is when the tech boys, such as Adrian Newey et al, really earn their crust. And the chaps that build all those fiddly little bits are putting in seven day a week shifts to gain that last 0.010 of a second in lap time.

 But that’s OK. They mostly live in Europe anyway and couldn’t have gone anywhere if they wanted to. They were all snowed in. Happy White Christmas guys. Digging through four or five feet of freezing, icy white stuff to get to a car that probably won’t start sure takes the romance out of that scenario. 

  But for the rest of us, it’s just a long bloody silence with only rumour, hot air and innuendo to keep the drug flowing. Coke snorting dopers have no idea what real withdrawals are like. Not even Charlie Sheen can know what it’s like for a F1 fan. No desire to quit but forced into three months cold turkey. Aaaaggghhh….. 

  It wasn’t always like this though. Just five years ago we would have had the “launch season” which in reality was a moving yawn where every team manager would tell us how they were going to win this coming season. But at least there was some colour, some pizzazz, plenty of free booze and some pictures for the magazines. There was also some testing going on. Even in January you could find someone pounding around Jerez or Catalunya.


 And ten years ago, before this era of stringent financial responsibility, there would be teams with new drivers and interim cars making hay while the winter sun shined through from November to February. Many running hugely under-weight and smashing lap records in the hope of conning some sponsor silly enough to believe the times. The fun thing was however, that no-one really knew if the times were bogus or not. They often were, but there was always hope that one of the minnows had got it right.




  Then of course were the really “good old days” Opening round of the World Championship in the searing heat of Buenos Aires in early January. Heaven. True, most teams showed up with the previous year’s cars but they now had different paint jobs and different fellows sitting inside them. The new cars usually didn’t arrive until the start of the “European” season in April or May.

 And before that? In the sixties the top teams would bundle everything off to New Zealand and Australia for the eight race Tasman Series. A winter world championship, so to speak, which was won by the likes of McLaren, Clark, Stewart and Amon. Would that we could enjoy that utopia nowadays.

   But we can’t, so stop whining. Tomorrow though, our cold sweats and DTs will end as the first test of the year gets underway at the Ricardo Tormo circuit near Valencia. The majority of teams will have the initial version of their new cars on hand, but some, like McLaren, will be running interim cars so they can squeeze out that last week of computer time.

  At the big end of town there are no real changes. Red Bull still have Vettel and Webber, McLaren have Hamilton and Button, Ferrari, Alonso and Massa, Mercedes, Rosberg and the unter-ubermensch and Renault keep Kubica and Petrov. In fact the only real change here is that Group Lotus have bought into the Renault team and it is planned that they will run in a black and gold livery that doesn’t remind anyone at all of the old John Player Special sponsored cars of a bygone era. Not in the slightest. Much. Nice though. 

  One problem may be that Canada has laws that forbid any advertising/sponsorship that even remotely looks like an old fag packet. Makes me wonder just what Ferrari will do in Canada also. Surely the fact that the Scuderia is still sponsored by Marlboro can have nothing at all to do with the “flag” on the engine cover that bears a startling resemblance to half a packet of the Marlboro chevron. How long before that goes the way of the barcode?




   In the lower half of the field is where all of the changes have been made. Williams has dumped the talented Nico Hulkenberg in favour of Pastor Maldonado and the mega bucks from Venezuela while retaining Barrichello who will start his nineteenth season in the top grade. Force India have dropped “Luckless” Liuzzi and promoted the talented Scot, Paul di Resta. Hulkenberg takes over di Resta’s spot as their test driver which should keep the pressure on both Paul and Adrian Sutil.

   Sauber has secured major dollars from Telmex along with a couple of young Mexican drivers, Sergio Perez, who will race alongside Kamikaze Kobayashi, and Esteban Gutierrez who will be their test driver. Toro Rosso has added West Australian Daniel Ricciardo, but only as their Friday test driver to their current race line-up of Buemi and Alguersuari. For now. Team Lotus have swapped their Cosworth engines for a Renault power-plant and a Red Bull rear end but have retained both Trulli and Kovalainen.

    Hispania F1 have signed Narain Karthikeyan and, well, someone who they may or may not announce sooner or later. They have done a deal for a Williams gearbox but just what they will be putting that into is still a mystery, A new car? A 2010 Toyota, that is still a possibility now that they have some Indian cash to chuck about? Or a tinkered with Dallara?  Finally Virgin struck a sponsorship deal with Russian sports car maker Marussia and Timo Glock will be joined by promising Belgian Jerome D’Ambrosio. 

  So who will be quick? Well, the top half will probably still be the top half come season’s end although Williams might break back into that group. Many hope so. Last years bottom feeders will hope to break into the midfield, while the midfield will hope that they don’t. And as you can’t even run underweight in testing any more, the next few days should give us a glimpse of who has got it right. Or more rightly, it might give us a glimpse of just who has gotten it horribly wrong. 



Sam Snape      









  In a result reminiscent of the period John Smith won the Tasman Revival feature race driving the very same Lotus 49 that Graham Hill campaigned here in the 1969 Tasman Series. He led home Rob Hall in the ex-Chris Amon Ferrari 246T by just over one and a half seconds with the Brabham BT30 of Chris Farrell in third place. Unfortunately for the organisers and an enthusiastic crowd the rain then arrived spoiling the races for the Sports cars and the thundering Formula 5000s.





  Mind you, some injudicious driving in Saturday mornings Formula 5000 race had already thinned out the field but with the track conditions getting worse by the minute only five of the fourteen entrants gridded up and just four would make the finish of the 12 lap race. Bryan Sala took pole on Friday in the lovely Ansett Elfin MR8 but it was Stan Redmond in his Tropicana liveried Lola T332C that took home the Kevin Bartlett Trophy. Andrew Robson took out all three preliminary races in his Lola T332 but as with most of the field, he didn’t take the start of the final race.


   Fortunately the main Tasman Revival race was run in the dry although the first hints of rain were starting to fall as Smith took the flag in the beautiful Gold Leaf liveried Lotus 49. Smith had taken pole by over a second from John Bowe in a Brabham BT23B and Rob Hall in the Ferrari. Sadly Graham Adelman’s melodic V12 BRM P126 was not on the pace and only managed nineteenth on the grid. There was a certain consistency in the results as in all three preliminary races and the final, the top four were the same with Smith taking the flag from Hall, Farrell and Bowe.


   Once again the HSRCA put on a splendid event and managed to attract some stunning overseas entrants to add to the packed fields of locals. Some, like Peter Greenfields Scuderia Ferrari Alfa Romeo 8C-3800 had never been seen on these shores before while others, like Ernie Nagamatsu and his Old Yeller were popular returnees. Ernie also had a Shelby Cobra Le Mans on hand to play with but that had an engine failure on Saturday afternoon. At least Old Yeller finally finished a race at this meeting, having suffered all sorts of problems in the last two Revival meetings, so the ever friendly Californian could go home happy and will be looking forward to running both cars in New Zealand in January. Another American, Peter Giddings arrived with a superb Maserati 250F that had large crowds of fanciers gazing at it’s beautiful form.


  On the subject of beauty, there was also some drool-worthy equipment on hand for the post-Tasman era open wheel race which was won by Guido Belgiorno-Nettis in the ex-Stefan Johansson Ferrari 156/85 turbo F1 car. Guido had both of his 1985 Ferraris on hand with the Michele Alboreto car available as a spare if needed. Not a bad pair of toys to play with. Ian Ross returned with his ex-Alan Jones Lola THL-1 and John Gale turned up with Tim Schenken’s 1972 Surtees TS9B. The turbos sound nice but there is nothing quite like the wail of a Cosworth V8.


   A huge field of forty six entered for the touring car race which was taken out by Vince Macri in a Holden Torana GTR XU-1 but again due to the rain, and some bingles in earlier races, a reduced field of twenty two ran in the final race of the meeting. The sight of Mustangs, Toranas and Falcon GTOs battling it out with Minis always makes for fun for the crowd and that is what they provided over the three days. 


  Toss in equally large grids of sports cars, Formula Juniors, Formula Fords etc and you ended up with another highly enjoyable and action packed stroll down memory lane. It’s not quite Goodwood – nothing is – but the Tasman Revival is a damned fine alternative for lovers of historic Motorsport and much cheaper to get to from this part of the world. I, for one, am already looking forward to the next one in a couple of years time.















Sam Snape





  The great thing about formula one designers is no matter how tight you make the rules, someone will always find a new area to exploit. Whether it’s wings, ground effects, six wheels, twin chassis or double diffusers, there is always a next best thing. Over the decades one team and one designer was always at the forefront of innovation, and that was Lotus and Colin Chapman. They may not have always been the very first to come up with an idea but if not, they were usually the first to get it right. And so with Robert Kubica topping the times at Valencia it was perhaps appropriate that it was his black and gold “not a fag packet” Lotus sponsored Renault that debuted that next best thing.



 When you think of Lotus and Chapman, you think of the monocoque (Lotus 25), wings (Lotus 49), ground effect (Lotus 78 & 79), the astonishing twin chassised Lotus 88. and active suspension (Lotus 99T). There were failures of course. The 88 was banned almost immediately. Four wheel drive with the Lotus 63 arrived at just the wrong time with the advent of big slicks and wings. The Pratt & Whitney gas turbine power of the 56B might have been ideal for Indy where you don’t really slow down but it was a blind alley in F1. But these were just as much an important a part of Lotus’ history of innovation as the ideas that won.

   And now the Lotus name is associated with yet another possible great idea. OK Lotus is just the sponsor of the Renault team (for now) but Colin Chapman would have been proud of their exhaust set-up that sees them exit at the front of the side pods. The idea is to have the hot gasses being forced under the whole of the underside of the car and hopefully regaining some of the lost down force that went with the now banned double diffusers. There will be many issues with the dissipation of heat within the bodywork but if this works, and Thursday’s times suggest it may well, Robert Kubica could be looking at a VERY good year.

   So who else showed well. Red Bull were up there as one now expects with Vettel topping Tuesday’s times. Ferrari, no surprise, with Alonso on top on Wednesday. McLaren where there or there-abouts but with a modified version of last years car. One with no double diffuser, no F-duct and a new movable rear wing. And Renault. Force India had a great time with all three drivers within the top eight, but again this was with last years car. Timo Glock got a Virgin into the top ten of anything since their inception but again, with last years car who knows just how much weight they weren’t running. A slow dog, after all, just doesn’t get quick.

    So who appears to have gotten it horribly wrong? Any statement from drivers or team bosses at this time of year that speak of being “unfazed by lap times” can usually be translated into “Oh fuck”. Those “oh fuck” comments have been coming largely from Mercedes and Williams who would have been hoping for at least one reasonable lap time between them.

  Williams are possibly better placed than the silver slings as on the final day rookie Pastor Maldonado showed that it’s not just cash he brings when he set the teams best time of the test. Rubens had been hampered with “issues” over the first two days so perhaps Williams is heading in the right direction. Mercedes however, was constantly mired in the lower midfield. Neither Rosberg nor the unter-ubermensch every got any closer than at least one point three seconds to the quick guys. Still they may have been running with heavy fuel loads the whole time. Then again… “unfazed by lap times”… “Oh fuck”.

 For full times go to;


Sam Snape 



  Young West Australian Red Bull test driver, Daniel Ricciardo shattered Sebastian Vettel’s pole position time at Abu Dhabi yesterday on his way to totally dominating the young driver test on the Yas Marina circuit. His time of 1’38.102 was a staggering 1.3 seconds under the new World Champion’s best qualifying lap of just five days ago.


"It was cool to do this test and great to get so close to the big boys times from the weekend!" beamed Ricciardo. "It's very rare to get a perfect car, but I have to say this is very close. It's a pleasure to drive it, you brake and you turn and the car does everything as you imagine it would."

His 1:38.102s lap was set in countryman Mark Webber's Hungarian GP winning Red Bull RB6 with an hour to go after Mercedes driver Sam Bird had briefly led the time sheets earlier in the afternoon. Despite general consensus being that the track conditions were estimated to be 1.5s faster than they were for the grand prix, Ricciardo's time has set tongues wagging in the F1 paddock, on only his fourth time behind the wheel of an F1 car.

Red Bull's Head of Race Engineering, Ian Morgan said, "Daniel has done a great job for us in the car over the last two days and made no mistakes, we're very happy with him. We completed our programme and got though everything as planned."

Having spun earlier in the day, Jerome d'Ambrosio recovered to set the second fastest time of the day for Renault. The Belgian ended seven tenths of a second off Ricciardo's lap yet four hundredths quicker than Bird.

"Overall it has been a fantastic day. Obviously I have some previous experience in Formula 1, but this was my first full day in the car so it was a big step for me," said d'Ambrosio. "It always takes some time to adapt to a new car, but I quickly felt comfortable in the R30 and we found a good balance early on."

Out in the McLaren for the first time since February last year, Gary Paffet took over driving duties from Oliver Turvey, setting 4th fastest time, ahead of Ferrari's Jules Bianchi, who set consistent impressive times after concentrating on development work yesterday.

Making his F1 debut, Sauber's Sergio Perez finished 6th, ahead of early morning runner Paul di Resta in the Force India - the Scot having handed driving duties over to Yelmer Buurman who could only manage 10th by the end of the day.

Driving for HRT yesterday, Pastor Maldonado finally got a taste of a Williams as the team evaluate drivers in contention for the seat vacated by Nico Hulkenburg. Spending most of the morning focusing on aerodynamic work, the Venezuelan was finally let off the leash, lapping three quarters of a second off Barrichello's qualifying time last Saturday. Despite a precautionary shut down of his engine, he managed to complete a strong total of 81 laps.

Newly crowned British F3 champion Jean-Eric Vergne missed the second half of the afternoon session as he had to catch a flight for this weekend's Macau Formula 3 Grand Prix, yet completed his second day of running by setting 9th fastest lap.

Fresh from his recent GP2 victory, Davide Valsecchi debuted for HRT in the afternoon but caused a red flag when he spun trying to improve his lap time. Although his best was 1:43.013s, it was still an impressive two seconds faster than Bruno Senna managed last Saturday, in the same car.

driver Luiz Razia completed a total of 70 laps and set 12th fastest time ahead of fellow debutant Josef Kral (HRT) and the Lotus pair of Rodolfo Gonzalez and Vlasdimir Arabadzhiev.



Day 2 times

1. Daniel Ricciardo - Red Bull - 1m38.102s 77 laps

2. Jerome D'Ambrosio - Renault - 1m38.802s 83

3. Sam Bird - Mercedes - 1m39.220s 82

4. Gary Paffett - McLaren - 1m39.760s 84

5. Jules Bianchi - Ferrari - 1m39.916s 93

6. Sergio Perez - Sauber - 1m40.543s 91

7. Paul di Resta - Force India - 1m40.901s 27

8. Pastor Maldonado - Williams - 1m40.944s 81

9. Jean-Eric Vergne - Toro Rosso - 1m40.974s 61

10. Yelmer Buurman - Force India - 1m41.178s 67 1

1. Davide Valsecchi - Hispania - 1m43.013s 32

12. Luiz Razia - Virgin - 1m43.525s 70

13. Josef Kral - Hispania  -1m44.143s 61

14. Rodolfo Gonzalez - Lotus - 1m44.312s 41

15. Vladimir Arabadzhiev - Lotus - 1m45.723s 49