Tony Hall of Fame: 2010 Formula One Testing, Valencia

NEWS & STORIES, PICS

Tony Hall of Fame digital series on iberianmph dot com is back and in yellow in black this time BIG TIME, unlike the corporate rendition of Renault Sport F1’s 2016 car. A missed opportunity to reconnect with the fans we reckon.

Ugly.

Image by @RenaultSportF1 – ugly car livery.

2010. Kubica’s last full season in F1; Der Finger takes the title, while Alonso suffers at the massive Slavic hands of Petrov in Abu Dhabi. Good fun. The cars were still politically incorrect and violent, bad to the bone. This is what we want to see here at iberian mph dot com: loud gas guzzlers, pure purpose-built racing machines, not the mass production plastic toys with posh and fake energy recovery displays. Also, less teenage wasteland please. While some kids can race, they belong to GP3/GP2, not F1. They can’t have it too easy.

Formula One Testing

Valencia 1 – 3 February 2010

The first F1 testing took place at the circuit of Ricardo Tormo, Valencia, Spain. For those who are interested, the circuit was named after the famous Spanish motorcycle racer and inaugurated in September 1999 and has a total capacity for 120.000 spectators. It is 4.051 kilometers in length with 14 turns. I was told by a member of the Renault team that the circuit was like an oversized go-kart track. So there we have it on record, a Formula One car is just an oversized go-cart! The unofficial lap record belongs to Anthony Davidson with a time of 1:08.54 in 2006 testing a Honda. The last time the F1 teams came to this circuit for official F1 testing was in January 2008.

Fortunately for me, I only had an hour’s drive to the circuit, not like last year when the first tests were in Portugal (mais non! Portimão rocks!!! – The Editor). I arrived at the circuit around 08.45hrs on the first day of testing. The weather, although slightly chilly, was bright and sunny. It was going to be a good day for sure. I have been to this circuit many times before and always find it very fan-friendly. You can also see the whole track from most of the stands.

Once inside the circuit, I made my way into the paddock area. Yes, I was one of the lucky ones. The motorhomes of Ferrari, Toro Rosso, Mercedes, Williams, Renault, McLaren and Sauber were all set up with team members and guests coming and going.

The drivers for day one were Pedro de la Rosa (Sauber), Gary Paffett (McLaren), Robert Kubica (Renault), Rubens Barrichello (Williams), Nico Rosberg/Michael Schumacher (Mercedes), Sébastien Buemi (Toro Rosso), & Felipe Massa (Ferrari).

The first driver I saw was Vitaly Petrov, he was by the Renault motorhome. Vitaly had just the day before been confirmed as the second driver for Renault and the first Russian F1 driver. I am sure he was looking forward to his first test in the R30. For today the R30 was in the hands of Robert Kubica.

Around 10.00 hrs the cars all went out and did their out laps and then back to the garages. For most of the cars this was the first time that the wheels had turned on a race track, the engineers and technicians would want to check that everything was in order with the car’s systems, including brakes, engine, gearbox, steering and computer systems. This took most teams around an hour to complete so we did not see much action on track until mid-morning.

Whilst I was waiting, I visited the media/press centre. It was packed with sports reporters and photographers, all busy writing and downloading the first pictures of the 2010 F1 cars (I’m feeling very old right now. – The Editor).

Most of my morning was spent checking out the paddock life and watching the cars on track. Watching from above pit lane, I was able to get some pictures of the cars coming in and leaving pit lane. As lunch time approached, there seemed to be a lull in the action on the track so I was off… Yes, the paddock walk again.

One of the people I saw was former Drivers’ World Champion (1982) Keke Rosberg. Yes, you would be right in thinking that Nico is his son. Keke was sporting a beard and had put on a little weight but it was Keke alright. I remember those years of Formula One racing like they were yesterday. Drivers like Jacques Laffite, Niki Lauda, Carlos Reutemann, René Arnoux, Nigel Mansell, Gilles Villeneuve, Didier Pironi, Alan Jones, Riccardo Patrese and many more. Sadly, many of those drivers are no longer with us.

In 1982, turbocharged engines were refined F1 and ground effect cars were at the forefront. In addition, F1 cars were starting to be made in carbon fibre and the minimum weight of the cars was then 580kg (for 2010 the min weight is 620kg). Also, in 1982 the rules allowed for 34 entrants in qualifying with 26 cars on the grid. There were three tyre manufacturers Goodyear, Michelin and Avon.  Okay, back to now…

Outside the Sauber motor home I met Pedro de la Rosa and I got the Tony/driver photo.  Pedro looked so happy and had a big smile on his face every time I saw him. Well, wouldn’t you if you were given a drive in a F1 car after so many years a test driver?

As I neared the Mercedes motorhome, I saw Nico Rosberg. He was about to do a press conference. I followed the reporters and photographers into the Mercedes motorhome and stood in front of Rosberg. One of the questions asked was how difficult had he found it going from driving a Williams car last year to the Mercedes this year. He replied that he had not encountered any problems and found the Mercedes very easy to drive. He also said that the team was experiencing some understeer due to the new tyre size and extra length of the car. Wonder how the other teams are finding the new tyres!

I made my way back to the Renault garage where I was to spend the rest of my afternoon. As I arrived, Robert Kubica was just about to enter the garage so again I was lucky to get another Tony/driver photo. Kubica would be testing the R30 for the rest of the afternoon and the whole of the second day of testing. Also present at the tests and representing Renault was Ho Pin Tung and Jérôme D’Ambrosio. Both these drivers will be racing in GP2 with the DAMS team and wearing Renault colours.

When the car was in the garage, there would be as many as 20 mechanics/technicians working on the car, unbelievable. Everybody just seemed to know what was expected of them and they quietly and methodically went about their work. As you can imagine, I felt very privileged to be there in the garage watching the team at work.

As far as Renault was concerned, everything seemed to go according to plan on the first day. Robert had been busy getting used to the R30 and had started work on set-up and getting miles on the car before the day’s testing drew to a close due to the Williams of Barrichello coming to a stop out on track and that bringing out the first and only red flag of the day.

On day one the Toro Rosso with Buemi did the least number of laps and Massa in the Ferrari did the most with 102 and the fastest time, Renault completed a total of 69 laps. We saw the Williams running for the first time with the new Cosworth engine and they completed at total of 75 laps. It is good to see Cosworth back in F1, shame it is not with a V10!!

Once the R30 was back in the garage, after the first day’s test was completed the engineers started to take it to pieces. The car was to be completely stripped down, everything checked, and rebuilt ready for the second day of testing. The team would be working all night to achieve this. That is dedication for you.

On day two of testing I arrived at the circuit for 10.00 ready for the day’s action. The drivers for the day were Barrichello, Kobayashi, Hamilton, Kubica, Rosberg, Buemi and Massa. The weather was again excellent. Just what the teams wanted.

When I arrived some of the cars were already out on the track so I made my way to a paddock viewing facility. I was above the Renault garage and close to McLaren and Sauber. Today it was Lewis Hamilton at the wheel of the McLaren MP4-25. Kobayashi was in the Sauber and Kubica in the R30.

One of the first things I noticed was that Robert Kubica was wearing a plain black crash helmet, why I wondered. After a while I found out that he was trying out a new Bell carbon fibre helmet which was reportedly much lighter than the one he usually wore.

In addition, I saw that the R30 was sporting an antenna on the top of the engine cover and camera mount. It was a measuring device which measures air flow and would help with analyzing the aerodynamics of the car.

The Renault garage was very busy as Robert came and went and various set-up changes were made to the R30. Outside in pit lane cars were coming in and going out, the sound of those V8s blasting past was like music to me.

The track surface was improving all the time as more rubber was laid and lap times were getting quicker from the previous day and the drivers were getting back into the groove after their winter break.

Most teams were doing long runs today. Renault did a 40 lap run or the equivalent of 160 km or 100 miles.

The day finished again with a red flag but this time it was the turn of Renault with the R30 coming to a halt on the track but in front of the Renault garage. Did it run out of fuel!? The R30 had run 119 laps throughout the day just 5 short of Ferrari who completed 124 laps.

Before I left the paddock, I had to see what all the fuss was around the Ferrari motor home. It did not take long to find out that Fernando Alonso had arrived at the circuit. Barriers had been put up and security guards were everywhere. The fans on the stands above the garage were all shouting his name. Somehow I don’t think I am going to get my photo with Fernando. Maybe tomorrow he will come looking for me!!

Mind you, I did get a picture with Nira Juanco and Antonio Lobato of the television channel La Sexta. They both do excellent coverage of F1 for Spanish fans and Antonio is a very good friend of Alonso.

I had intended to arrive at the circuit around 10.00hrs, I could not have been so wrong. The first 100km took 45 minutes but the remaining 20km took another hour. The motorway traffic was very heavy and moving very slowly. There could only be one reason for this, yes, you are right… Fernando Alonso was taking over the Ferrari for the final day of testing.

Finally arriving at the track, I was glad I had a VIP parking pass. One would have thought that the Formula One season had arrived in Valencia early. Thousands of fans had turned up to watch the testing and it was the middle of the week. The final count for fans that attended on the final days testing was reported at 36.400 and the total number of spectators for the three days of testing was reported to be 56.000.

Perhaps, those running Formula One should take note of these attendance figures because more people attended these tests than attended many grand prix last year.

So who did we have driving for the final day of testing. To start with, we had 3 World Drivers’ Champions, Jenson Button (McLaren) and Fernando Alonso (Ferrari) driving their cars for the first time and Michael Schumacher (Mercedes) driving for the second time. In addition, the other drivers were Pedro de la Rosa (Sauber) Jaime Alguersuari (Toro Rosso) and finally the rookies of Vitaly Petrov (Renault) and Nico Hulkenberg (Williams).

I made my way into the paddock. The Ferrari camp was a no-go zone, there was no way I was going to get any pictures there, well not today.

The paddock was much busier than it had been in the previous two days so I made my way to the media centre and the track viewing area. The fans were getting value for money today. The weather was beautiful, sun and bright blue skies.

Again, I was above the Renault, McLaren and Sauber pit area and therefore had a good view of the cars coming in, going into the garages for changes to the set up. Vitaly Petrov was having his first driverof the R30 and appeared to be getting to grips with it.

After a while I went down to the Renault garage. Petrov was out on the track and his manageress was at the pit wall keeping a watchful eye on her protégé.  At one point Petrov brought the R30 back to the garage and work immediately commenced on changing the brake set up at the rear of the car.

Petrov was to drive 75 laps in the R30 on his first day’s test which was a good start and acclimatization, while the Ferrari of Fernando Alonso did 127 laps and had the fastest time. However times from the first tests really don’t mean too much as teams were going for reliability and  systems checks and some cars may have been running light fuel loads and others heavy loads. I am looking forward to seeing the times at the final Barcelona tests.

Before I go, I have to say a big thank you to all at Renault F1 for their patience and for putting up with me in the garage and my continuous questions.

Now, if any of you reading this article think that the life of a F1 mechanic, engineer, computer technician, cook, press officer or truck driver is glamorous then think again. These people work extremely long hours, live out of suitcases for half of the year, spend hours travelling or waiting at airports. They are dedicated to the team and I can honestly say if team spirit counts for anything, then Renault F1 and the R30 will be a winner in 2010.

Thank you again for your hospitality, I look forward to my next visit.

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Pen 2 the Paper & Camera 2 the Eye