Formula One - On And Off Track Week 51

Berthold Bouman, F1 Correspondent

Formula One - On And Off Track Week 51

Story Highlights

  • FIA embraces Formula E Championship
  • Ecclestone: F1 faces ‘struggle’ in America
  • i1 Super Series attracts ex-F1 drivers
  • 2012 Test days and car launches

FIA embraces Formula E Championship

The FIA is still adamant a Formula E Championship, a championship for electrically powered single seaters, is the way towards a more greener image of motorsport in general, and have recently installed the New Energy Championships Commission, who are working on regulations and safety aspects for Electric Vehicles (EVs). This also means the FIA is really serious about this form of racing, and an official Formula E championship is planned for 2013.

Although many people still think of electric Formula cars as an upscaled version of a toy radio-controlled car, technology has now made it possible to build cars that are just as fast as fuel engine propelled race cars. One of the companies that has been the frontrunner of the technology, is the French-based Formulec company, who have designed the Formulec EF01, a fully electric single seater formula car.

Jules Bianchi tests the Formulec EF01
Jules Bianchi tests the Formulec EF01

Photo by: Formulec

The company tested the car for the first time in September 2010, and are now conducting full tests on race tracks as well, and after two and a half years of development it seems they have mastered the technology, where others in the past have failed. The first prototype is a fully functional race car, and not a car that has been bolted together for demo purposes. The car and chassis have been developed by Formulec together with the Mercedes GP Formula One team.

Formulec have currently been promoting their EF01 car during the famous Bavaria City Racing events in Rotterdam (Netherlands) and Moscow, and it must be said, the cars are fast and are a far cry from previously presented electric cars. The car has a 220kw, which equates to 300 bhp, on board and the acceleration is impressive: 0 to 100 km in three seconds with a top speed of 260 km/h. The car has a range of 20 to 25 minutes depending on the track, batteries are quick-charged in 1 hour, and fully charged in 1.5 hours.

There is plenty of torque and a driver can easily make rubber donuts on the track, and in the rain like in Moscow, drivers had their hands full to keep the powerful car on the city asphalt. The lithium-ion batteries are manufactured by the French SAFT company, who also produce batteries for hybrid road cars. Hewland, the famous gearbox producer, has designed an unique transmission system, Siemens supplies the two electric motors for the EF01, and French tyre company Michelin supplies the tyres.

The company is aiming for a world-wide Formulec Series, starting at the end of 2012. According to a statement, contacts have already been established with more than 20 countries to host future events on five continents. The FIA is currently working on regulations, and if all goes well, the electric championship will become a reality.

Jules Bianchi tests the Formulec EF01
Jules Bianchi tests the Formulec EF01

Photo by: Formulec

Frenchman Alexandre Premat his driven this car and was impressed, and as the car doesn’t have a traditional gearbox, it is very light and easy to drive. “I would say you hear and feel the wind more in this car and you car hear the friction between the motor and the drive shaft very well,” said Premat. “There are plans for a championship for 2012 or 2013, but we need to find investors for this project. In the future it could certainly become a very interesting race series. And if they need more testing I will certainly be available for that,” he added.

In March 2012 there will be a meeting of the FIA WMSC and it is expected more will be announced regarding the regulations and safety issues concerning the Formula E championship.

Ecclestone: F1 faces ‘struggle’ in America

FOM CEO Bernie Ecclestone is a man who makes the headlines on an almost daily base, and is never reluctant to give his opinion, which has in the past led to some embarrassing situations for the now 81-year old Briton.

Recently Ecclestone has told the media he believes Formula One will not be ‘big in America’ in an interview with the English Al Jazeera channel. “We've been there, years ago, and it's a little bit like the rest of America, they want to see a profit before they start something and it's not easy to do that,” Ecclestone claimed. And he predicted, “Formula 1 will not be big in America.”

Reason for Ecclestone’s remarks were the financial and contractual problems that have delayed the construction of the Circuit of the Americas (COTA) in Austin, Texas. Formula One will return to America next year to the COTA on November 18, and another race in New Jersey is planned for 2013, but Ecclestone has his doubts whether the Americans will embrace the return of the sport.

“We've got maximum two races in America, and when you consider the country is as big as Europe and we've got several races in Europe, it's difficult,” he explained. “If we had a lot more races there and a lot more television, it would be okay.” Last time Formula One visited the USA was in 2007 on the Formula One track of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, a race won by Lewis Hamilton.

Lewis Hamilton won the last US GP in 2007
Lewis Hamilton won the last US GP in 2007

Photo by:

The race was dumped after Ecclestone nor the promoters of the US Grand Prix were able to agree on a new contract, and since then American Formula One fans have not been able to attend a Grand Prix on home soil. Another setback for the fans was the dismissal of American Scot Speed, who drove for Scuderia Toro Rosso in 2006 and 2007, but lost his race seat after a spell of bad luck and many retirements.

But luckily there was Tavo Hellmund and his Full Throttle Productions, who came out of the blue and managed to convince Ecclestone, who is a personal friend, to sign a ten-year contract for a Grand Prix in Austin. The construction of the circuit is now finally on its way and it is expected the circuit will be finished in time.

Why Ecclestone thinks there is not much love to be found for Formula One in America remains a mystery, America is country that embraces racing with any motorized vehicle on no matter on how many wheels, and has a long and rich racing tradition, that includes Formula One as well.

The Indianapolis 500 was part of the Formula One Championship in the early 1950’s, and later there have been Grands Prix at Riverside, Sebring, and the most famous of all American road courses, Watkins Glen, who hosted the US Grand Prix from 1961 to 1980.

There have been Formula One venues on the Long Beach street circuit, Detroit, Dallas, Las Vegas (Caesars Palace Grand Prix) and Phoenix, the latter hosted the event from 1989 to 1991. There was no US Grand Prix held from 1992 to 1999, but in 2000 the Formula One circus returned to Indianapolis on a purpose-built track that partially ran through the infield of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and famously Formula One cars ran in opposite direction on a part of the oval as well.

As said, the last American who was active in Formula One was Speed, but many Americans have taken part in the Formula One Championship, but only two succeeded in grabbing the title; Phil Hill took the drivers’ title in 1961 for Ferrari, while Mario Andretti won the title in 1978 driving for Colin Chapman’s Lotus team.

Mario Andretti, 1978 F1 World Champion drives the 1978 Lotus 79
Mario Andretti, 1978 F1 World Champion drives the 1978 Lotus 79

Photo by:

Plenty of American drivers have participated in Formula One, to name but a few: Chuck Daigh, John Fitch, Bob Bondurant, Ronnie Bucknum, Ivor Bueb, Richie Ginther, Masten Gregory, Peter Revson, Kevin Cogan, Danny Ongais, Eddie Cheever and son of Mario Andretti, Michael Andretti.

And with the news of the past few weeks, American fans can once again look forward to some spectacular Formula One races on home soil, no matter what Formula One boss Ecclestone thinks of it!

i1 Super Series attracts ex-F1 drivers

The new i1 Supercar Series has revealed the names of the drivers who are to participate in this new series to be held from January to March 2012, interestingly enough, all but one of the announced International Drivers are ex-Formula One drivers. Canadian Jacques Villeneuve is on top of the list, followed by Giancarlo Fisichella, Vitantonio Liuzzi, Karun Chandhok, Jean Alesi, Heinz-Harald Frentzen, Alex Yoong, Sakon Yamamoto and Mika Salo.

Darshan M, CEO i1 Super Series said in a statement, “This is a big moment for us as we confirm our drivers and calendar for the inaugural season. As promised we have a fantastic line-up of proven international race winners mixed with young Indian drivers. The drivers will have their first taste of the Radical SR3 tomorrow so we will work closely with them to make the car even better.”

And this test was held yesterday at the Yas Marina circuit, and the Formula One oldies performed well, Frentzen was the fastest of the International Drivers, followed by Fisichella, Chandhok and Alesi. Liuzzi was ninth, Yoong 11th, and Yamamoto and Salo 13th and 14th.

Chandhok said about the test, “I feel very happy to be here to support a great new initiative for motorsport. I think everyone is aware of how passionately I feel about being an ambassador for the sport in our country and I welcome any new programs that help to develop the sport.”

Jean Alesi
Jean Alesi

Photo by:

Former Ferrari driver Jean Alesi said, “I feel very confident with the whole package. The car balance felt great and I was very happy with the grip and was very easy to adapt my driving style to it.” Italian Fisichella was also enthusiastic about the new series, “I was quite impressed with how easy it was to acclimatize to the car. This was the first time for all of us so am sure we are all learning more about the car. The series looks very promising and it feels great to be a part of it.”

And fastest man of the day Frentzen commented, “The lap times were so close apart today so it means we are in for a really close championship. The car feels good, grip levels were really high and it was easy to adapt to the car. I think what the organizers are doing is great so I look forward to the inaugural season.”

The international races will be at Sepang (Malaysia), Sakhir (Bahrain), Losail (Qatar), Buddh International Circuit (India) and the Yas Marina circuit in Abu Dhabi.

2012 Test days and car launches

Traditionally, December is always a quiet time for Formula One, but the fans are already looking forward to the traditional start of the new season, the pre-season test days and the presentation of the 2012 cars. The driver line-up for 2012 has almost been completed, only HRT and Williams have yet to confirm their second driver.

Pre-season testing:

Date: Circuit: Country:
February 7-9 Jerez Spain
February 21-24 Barcelona Spain
March 1-4 Barcelona Spain

Sauber and Lotus have announced they will launch their 2012 contender on February 6 at Jerez, one day ahead of the first testing day. Red Bull will launch their car on February 5, but have not disclosed where the event will take place, and the same goes for McLaren, who will launch their new car on February 1, but will later announce where the unveiling of the MP4-27 will take place.

Join us again next week for another episode of “Formula One: On and off track”

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