F1 Paddock Insights

May 20, 2009

Despite the hope of a resurgence of many of the teams in the Formula One paddock leading into the Spanish Grand Prix, Brawn GP’s Button and Barrichello stormed to another 1-2 to extend their Constructors’ lead. This weekend the teams travel in style to the playground of the rich and famous, Monte Carlo. 2009 marks the 80th edition of the Monaco Grand Prix with its stature as the pinnacle of motor racing seemingly getting more pronounced every year. Here’s the latest from the paddock in Monaco.

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– The ruling from the French FIA court of appeal has just been announced, ruling against the Italian team’s opposition to the proposed budget cap. Ferrari had hoped that, due to a clause in the agreement signed with Bernie Ecclestone, they could veto any major decision made by the FIA. It appears, however, that the FIA is now clear to push forward with its plans to install a budget cap and it will be up to the teams to debate at what level it is set. With the matter of the two-tiered technical regulations decided, the word from inside the courtroom is that the teams can now push harder for the budget cap to be raised, with Ferrari, Toyota, Renault and Red Bull Racing the most fervent of supporters.

– Beneath the Formula One drama on the track and the usual soap opera carrying on off it, there is another little sub-plot developing between two of the sport’s heavyweights, Flavio Briatore (ING Renault team principal) and Ross Brawn (Brawn GP). First, Flavio was in support of the inclusion of Ross Brawn’s reincarnation of the Honda F1 Team. Then the team ran the controversial double diffuser, started doing rather too well and Flav wanted to remove Ross as the technical delegate of FOTA. Add to that the dispute over unpaid television and prize monies from 2008 and Flav was starting to get a real bee in his bonnet over the Brackley-based world-beaters. Now the Italian has told F1 insiders that no-one in the Formula One paddock can match the Brawns for the remainder of the season –yet more sour grapes, Flav? The Red Bulls of Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber are getting pretty close and Ferrari’s rise in the past few weeks looks ominous for the other teams.

– The big question inside the paddock this weekend is whether the cars struggling for maximum downforce can survive the pressure of 78 laps around the tightest circuit on the calendar. Bridgestone are introducing a new intermediate tyre that will offer the drivers more grip around the circuit this weekend. Couple that with the extra grip that slicks provide and perhaps the pack will be evened out where downforce previously made a lot of the difference. F1 insiders tell me that this Grand Prix should be a race for the Monaco specialists like Button and Alonso. Keep an eye out for the drivers running KERS as well this weekend as the short straights and need for acceleration could really play into their favour. However, it could also take them too wide and throw them into a barrier, there is no room for error in Monaco!

– Finally, the star of the 2003 British Grand Prix is back on our screens. No, we’re not talking about Rubens Barrichello but in fact Neil Horan – the defrocked Irish priest who invaded the track and forced Mark Webber to swerve dramatically out of the way. The diminutive Irish man popped up on our screens again on Saturday night when he performed his ‘soft Irish jig’ to the delight of the Britain’s Got Talent crowd and multi-million strong audience. Simon Cowell couldn’t stand the man, but the other two judges put him through to allow him a step closer to performing for the Queen – whether a publicity stunt or a big mistake, this could be his biggest achievement to date (his CV also lists the 2004 Olympic Marathon and the 2006 FIFA World Cup!).

With the cars set to hit the track in the Principality, the intense working conditions of the paddock as well as the inevitable murmurings of budget discontent should make this Monaco Grand Prix a lively one to be at. Always a hot ticket for the celebrities, the Cannes film festival has started the juices flowing among the Hollywood rich and famous, so expect there to be more A-listers than team personnel in the pit lane!

Enjoy the racing from the ‘Jewel in the Formula One crown’.

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