Here’s the news from the world of motorsports:
• Prodrive Confirmed as 12th 2008 Team: As was widely speculated last week, David Richards’ Prodrive organization has been confirmed by the FIA as the 12th team to be allowed entry into the Formula 1 World Championship when sweeping new rules take effect in 2008. All 11 existing teams will be retained, ending speculation that some of the smaller teams like MF1 Racing and Super Aguri Racing might be threatened. The Prodrive selection makes sense, since Richards has extensive F1 experience as team principle of both Benetton and BAR/Honda and Prodrive has won championships in the FIA World Rally Championship, British Touring Car Championship and in the GT1 class at Le Mans. Richards says Prodrive is making plans to build a new factory, but what remains to be seen is from where he will source the budget necessary to fund an F1 team and which, if any, manufacturer Prodrive will be aligned with. FIA president Max Mosley said the field is limited to 12 teams due to the number of pits and garages available at a number of the circuits. He said that more teams could be added if the circuits make changes to accommodate more cars.
• New BMW Designer: The BMW-Sauber team has hired a new chief designer, creating a new position under technical director Willy Rampf, who designed the current F1.06 car. Jorg Zander, former head of design for Williams, has been named to the position. Prior to Williams, Zander worked with Toyota and BAR/Honda.
• Wing Flag Redux: Ferrari’s rear wing is still the subject of much debate concerning its ability to flex at high speed, allowing the car to attain higher speeds on long straights. Honda technical director Geoff Willis told Italian magazine Autosprint that he has filed a written complaint with FIA technical director Charlie Whiting, “because the speed of the Ferrari car at the end of each straight is incredible. I think I have enough evidence seen on video to show their rear wing is too flexible.”
• New Toyota Revealed: The newest iteration of Toyota’s TF106 made its track debut in a test at Paul Ricard this week. Both Jarno Trulli and Ralf Schumacher spent time behind the wheel. The team will test it one more time following the Spanish Grand Prix, with plans to race the car for the first time at Monaco at the end of May.
• Testing Update: The teams were busy testing last week, as they prepare for next weekend’s Grand Prix of Europe at the Nurburgring. Most of the teams tested at Silverstone, close to home for the majority, with Renault, Honda, Williams, Red Bull, BMW, Scuderia Toro Rosso and Midland F1 attending. At France’s Paul Ricard circuit, Toyota (as mentioned above) and Ferrari shared the track, while Ferrari also had Felipe Massa pounding out laps at its private Fiorano circuit. At Silverstone, which seems to lend itself well to the new V8 engines, McLaren’s Juan Pablo Montoya was fastest on the first day in wet conditions, but once the track dried out Renault took charge, with Fernando Alonso fastest on Wednesday and Giancarlo Fisichella setting the fastest lap of the week on Thursday. The McLarens and Hondas, as well as Red Bull’s Christian Klein, were the best of the rest. At Paul Ricard, Toyota test driver Ricardo Zonta had the fastest lap of the week on Tuesday in the current TF106, with Ferrari’s Michael Schumacher fastest on Wednesday and his brother Ralf topping the time sheets on Thursday in Toyota’s new B-spec TF106.