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BMW have announced today (Wednesday) that they are to quit Grand Prix racing from the end of the 2009 season. This leaves drivers Nick Heidfeld and Robert Kubica without a drive for the 2010 season. There is currently no news as to the future of Sauber, the previous name of the team before BMW took over operations in 2005 and who still have involvement with the BMW outfit. FOTA (Formula One Teams Association) has vowed to do all it can to keep Sauber in Grand Prix racing.
It will be interesting to see if the Sauber name will return to F1 or if the team will be sold on in a similar process as the pull-out of Honda from F1 that led to the formation of the Brawn GP team. Team Principle Ross Brawn has already stated that the creation of Brawn GP was owed in part to the support of FOTA.
Nick Heidfeld during Friday practice - British Grand Prix 2009
Yes it really is true, seven times Formula One World Champion Michael Schumacher has announced that he is to return to Grand Prix racing with Ferrari. The decision to come back was prompted by the serious accident that left Felipe Massa in hospital with serious injuries during the Hungarian Grand Prix weekend.
There has been much speculation and rumour in the F1 world that the German was possibly considering a dramatic return to F1 after his spokeswoman hinted that he may be prepared to fill in for Massa in the Ferrari team. Hopes that he would return seemed to be dashed yesterday when his manager Willie Weber was quoted as saying he was '200 percent sure' that 40-year old Schumacher would not return to F1 with the Italian outfit.
Today's announcement will heighten interest in the sport no end as we anticipate the Europen Grand Prix at Valencia in just under a months time. With a ban on testing and having been out of the sport for over two years Schumacher will have his work cut out to be ready for a return to top form in Spain.
Grand Prix Blogger waits in anticipation for what will surely be an amazing spectacle at what was promising to be a dull return to a circuit widely criticised during last years event.
The personal doctor for Felipe Massa has said that the Brazilian is able to see from his left eye after some concern that he may have lost vision in it. Massa is reported to be making good progress after a serious incident at the end of Q2 on Saturday that saw a spring from the rear of Rubens Barrichello's Brawn car strike him on the crash helmet at high speed. The incident was alarmingly similar to the accident that killed 18 year old Henry Surtees the weekend before at Brands Hatch.
Initial signs during the qualifying session were that Massa had simply crashed into the tyre wall and looked to be a non-serious accident. However Massa was transported by helicopter to hospital and underwent an emergency operation on a fractured skull. News on Saturday night reported that the Brazilians injuries were 'life threatening'.
Fortunately Massa has made good progress since and today communicated actively in three languages with various visitors. It is virtually certain that he will be out of Grand Prix racing for the remainder of the 2009 season, however it is too early to say if he will be able to compete in the 2010 championship. Obviously the first priority for him is to return to good health and Grand Prix Blogger wish him a speedy recovery.
Massa during practice at the 2009 British Grand Prix.
Any developments on Massa's injury will be reported here on Grand Prix Blogger.
The world of motorsport has seen two terrible incidents since the last post on Grand Prix Blogger. On the 19 July 2009 18 year old Henry Surtees was tragically killed when a tyre and wheel from a car that had crashed into the tyre wall before him struck the young Briton on the crash helmet. The car continued into the following corner at full throttle and crashed into the tyre wall. When the car came to rest the foot of Surtees was still firmly planted on the throttle which was clear to see.
Here at Grand Prix Blogger we do not take any joy in providing links to fatal accidents, however we feel that not only the good points of motorsport should be shown but also the tragic events as well. The video below shows the Henry Surtees incident and we must emphasise that this is a FATAL ACCIDENT. If you feel this could upset you we strongly advise you to not view it.
We would like to extend our deepest sympathies to the whole Surtees family after the terrible accident.
For various reasons posts have not been added recently to this blog. You will be glad to know that I am now back and ready to cover the remainder of the season for you.
I am very sorry but I have been notified by You Tube and The Formula One Management that my videos should be removed from public viewing. I find this decision very frustrating as I simply do not see how they are harming F1 in any way, but obviously F1 is very 'precious' about its footage so I have had no option but to remove them.
I don't think I have to say anymore on this subject as my frustration and anger about videos I FILMED MYSELF should be obvious. Once again F1 shoots itself in the foot with regard to its relationship with fans - it's just a very sad reflection on the management of F1 in my opinion.
There can be little argument that the San Marino Grand Prix held at the Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari in Imola, Italy on the 1st of May 1994 was one - if not the - blackest weekend in the history of Formula One. A series of tragic events and accidents beset both days of qualifying, as well as Sunday's race.
The weekend saw the deaths of two drivers. The popular Austrian driver Roland Ratzenberger succumbed to head injuries sustained during Saturday qualifying after a high-speed crash.
Sunday's race tragically saw another driver lose his life as arguably one of the greatest drivers to have ever sat in a racing car, Ayrton Senna was killed whilst leading the race in his Williams Renault.
The weekend also saw injuries to spectators, pit crew and a policeman. The string of events that occurred that weekend was staggering, and would have seemed excessive for an entire season let alone a single Grand Prix weekend.
Let's take a look at the weekend, starting with the Friday, as this is where the first significant incident took place, that was to be the first of a string of tragic events.
Friday qualifying saw the Brazilian driver Rubens Barrichello survive a horrifying accident at the Variante Bassa corner whilst travelling at 140mph. His Jordan Hart clipped a high kerb at the edge of the circuit launching it into a tyre barrier.
His car rolled several times and finally came to rest upside down on the grass at the side of the circuit. He was knocked unconscious in the incident, and was given emergency medical treatment trackside. Fortunately the crash spared him injuries worse than broken bones, and he returned from the medical centre the next day to spectate at the race, albeit with a broken nose and his arm in a cast. Needless to say he took no further part in the weekends on-track events.
Twenty minutes into the Saturday qualifying session saw the next accident to plague the weekend. The Austrian driver Roland Ratzenberger was on a fast qualifying lap when he failed to take the Villeneuve curve in his Simtek Ford car.
Video of the incident shows him slamming violently into a concrete wall at the side of the circuit before bouncing back into the middle of the following corner, where the car came to rest. Despite the incident visually looking serious the cars safety cell that is designed to protect the driver was largely intact after the crash. However Ratzenberger died from a basal skull fracture due to the violent force inflicted on his body when the car struck the concrete wall.
Subsequent investigation of the accident concluded that Ratzenberger's previous lap had involved him running over a kerb at the Acque Minerali chicane, damaging the front wing of his Simtek. Instead of returning to the pits to have it replaced he decided to continue on his qualifying run, a decision that was to cost him his life.
As he approached the high speed Villeneuve curve - with the front wing being subjected to high loads - it failed, leaving Ratzenberger a passenger in his car, and completely unable to control it.
Ratzenbergers death was the first during a Grand Prix weekend since Riccardo Paletti was killed at the 1982 Canadian Grand Prix. However, Elio de Angeles had died during a test session in his Brabham car at the Paul Ricard circuit in France in 1986.
The popular Austrians death had a profound effect on three times world champion Ayrton Senna who visited the crash site to see for himself the aftermarth. Professor Sid Watkins, the head of the Formula One medial team at trackside, wrote in his memoirs that Senna broke down and cried on his shoulder following the accident. Watkins claims that Senna told him he would race the next day, despite the accident. Tragically twenty four hours later Senna himself would lose his life in a horrific crash.
Despite the tragic events of Saturday qualifying the race went ahead as scheduled with Senna in pole position on the grid in his Williams Renault. Second place was taken by the young German driver Michael Schumacher, with Ferrari's Gehard Berger lining up third. In fourth place was Senna's teamate Damon Hill, with J.J. Lehto, Schumacher's teamate lining up fifth. Rounding off the top six was Nicola Larini in the second Ferrari.
The incidents that were to mar the race began as soon as the lights turned green with J.J. Lehto stalling his Benetton Ford on the grid. Pedro Lamy, driving a Lotus, further back on the grid had his view of the stricken Benetton obscured by other cars, and struck the back of Lehto's car at high speed. The resulting impact fired debris high into the air and over the security fences. Nine spectators suffered injuries as a result of the incident, but fortunately none were serious.
This brought the safety car onto the circuit requiring the cars to drive behind it at a vastly reduced speed. This was whilst the carnage the startline crash had created was cleared by race marshalls.
Travelling behind the safety car was at such a reduced speed that the tyre pressures of the following F1 cars significantly dropped. The safety car used was far below what was required to maintain anything near the pace that was needed to keep the cars in a satisfactory state to restart. The car used was a simple, average road car, and did not travel at anything near the race pace needed for an F1 car.
Both Ayrton Senna and Gehard Berger had in fact raised the issue of the safety car not being fast enough in the drivers briefing in the morning before the race. Unfortunately it appears that nothing was done to change this before the race began.
Once the debris on the startline had been cleared it was time for the race to re-start. The safety car pulled into the pitlane and Senna opened his throttle with Michael Schumacher close behind.
The first lap went without incident with Schumcher clearly managing to keep pace with the William Renault of Senna. However, as the cars passed the start/finish line for the second lap the incident that would change Formula One forever occured.
Live coverage of the race was broadcasting from the onboard camera of Michael Schumacher showing Senna's Williams Renault ahead when the unthinkable happened. Sparks were clearly seen coming from the underneath of the Senna's Williams ahead when, in the blink of an eye, his Williams Renault veered violently off the circuit at the Tambourello corner at nearly full speed. It struck a concrete wall at the side of the circuit showering the area with debris.
The impact tore the entire right hand side of the car away and the Williams Renault carried on travelling for several metres with Senna's head being violently shaken inside the cockpit.
When the car came to rest at the side of the circuit the television cameras were quick to focus in on Senna sitting in the car, who has his head tilting every so slightly to one side. For a moment his head moved and there was relief that he appeared to be conscious. However this could not have been further from the truth, as Senna was in fact fatally injured.
Medical assistance took, what seemed an age, coming to Senna's aid with BBC commentatory Jonathan Palmer commenting "we really need to see some medical attention coming to the car of Senna" as the Brazilian sat motionless in his car. When help finally arrived television transmissions from the BBC were cut as the scenes that would have greeted fans were not for Sunday afternoon viewing.
The Italian broadcaster RAI did not cut their transmission however, and what was broadcast were graphic scenes of the fight to save Senna's life. To compound these problems the Larousse car of Erik Comas was accidently let out of the pitlane whilst the fight to save Senna's life took place at the trackside. Marshalls frantically waved down the driver as he approached the crash scene at high speed.
Comas was forced to stop his car at the scene of the accident, and witnessed the graphic scenes and fight for Senna's life. He is reported to have been so upset at what he saw he withdrew from the race immediately.
When the medical assistance at the trackside had done all they could, Senna was airlifted by helicopter to the Maggiore Hospital in nearby Bologna as medical personnel continued to fight for his life. At this point many viewers were becoming aware of the gravity of the situation as large pools of blood had clearly been seen where Senna had been lying, as the doctors fought to save him.
Despite the shock that had been witnessed by so many people the race was restarted at 2.55pm, thirty-seven minutes after Senna's accident had occurred. The result of the race would be decided by aggregate timing taken from the race before it was stopped and after the restart.
When the race restarted Gehard Berger took the lead, but with Michael Schumacher still leading on aggregate. Schumacher took first position on the track on lap 12, with Berger retiring from the race four laps later after suffering handling problems with his Ferrari. Unfortunately more serious accidents were still to blight the race.
As Michele Alboreto left the pitlane in his Minardi his right rear wheel detached itself from his car, hitting two Ferari and two Lotus mechanics in the pitlane. They were taken to hospital to be treated for the injuries they sustained - but fortunately recovered fully.
When the race finally ended Michael Schumacher was the victor with Nicola Larini second and Mika Hakkinen third. However, there was to be no champagne on the podium in honour of Ayrton Senna and Roland Ratzenberger as by this time the drivers had been told of the death of the Brazilian champion. In the press conference after the race Schumacher stated "I cannot feel satisfied" regarding his victory and went on to say "never have we seen something like this, not just one thing but so many things, I hope we learn from this".
During the restarted race news had been coming in regarding Senna's condition. For a while there was hope and many could not imagine the idea that Senna could have actually been killed. However at 6:40pm on Sunday night, two hours and 20 minutes after the race had finished Dr. Maria Teresa Fiandri announced to the worlds media that Ayrton Senna had died from his injuries.
The official time of death was registered as 2:17pm, meaning that despite the efforts to save him Senna had been declared dead instantly when he crashed. The official reason for his death was subsequently cited as a head injury that had been caused by a piece of the cars suspension breaking off and piercing his crash helmet, and then his skull. Had it not been for this freak occurance Senna may have been able to walk away from the incident, despite the ferocity of the impact, however we shall never know if this would have been the case.
It emerged sometime after the race that an Austrian flag had been discovered in the cockpit of Senna's Williams. It seems that he had intended to unfurl and display it from his car at the end of the race. This was to be in tribute to Roland Ratzenberger who had lost his life the previous day.
The effects of Senna's death and that of Roland Ratzenberger sent a shockwave through the whole of Formula One. Instant changes were implemented in an attempt to make the sport safer, with the introduction of a pitlane speed limit and the addition of many chicanes and corner modifications on many circuits around the world.
The cars were also subjected to changes that were phased in as the season continued. The changes became so widespread they gave the sport a complete facelift and can still be seen today in the ever-striving quest for safety.
The ongoing war in the world of F1 is over. The sport has been saved in its current form much to the relief of fans and sponsors the world over. The peace deal was not without its casualties as FIA president Max Mosley is to step down on October of 2009 without seeking re-election. It seems that the deal struck to keep F1 intact relied, in part, on the departure of the Englishman.
Bernie Ecclestone, president and CEO of Formula One Management and the Formula One Administration is to remain in his position as there has been no attempt to oust him from his responsibilities.
The threat of a rival series has been a dark cloud looming over F1 for many months now and risked diluting the premier motor racing series in the world into two championships both vying for spectator and viewer attention. The announcement that the split will not occur can only be good news for the teams developing next years cars as well as the sponsors and fans that love F1 as a business and a sport.
Despite the feelings of hostility from many members of the F1 community towards F1 president Max Mosley he has had the grace to step down in the interests of the sport as a whole. A future F1 under the governance of Mosley seems to be an impossibility and the announcement of his departure seemed to be the catalyst for the change of heart by the FOTA teams.
The confirmation from FOTA now means that the provisional F1 entry list is confirmed with F1 2010 fielding a capacity 26 car grid. These are the team that will be lining up on the grid in March:
Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro
Vodafone McLaren Mercedes
BMW Sauber F1 Team
Renault F1 Team
Panasonic Toyota Racing
Scuderia Toro Rosso
Red Bull Racing
Force India F1 Team
Brawn GP Formula One Team
Campos Meta Team
Manor Grand Prix
Team US F1
The question now is who will replace Mosley as the FIA president? One name that seems to be re-occuring is that of former Ferrari principle Jean Todt, however being an ex-Ferrari chief and not seeing eye to eye with all team bosses does make this seem an unlikely prospect. Mosley's deputy has also been mentioned however as he is suspected of being in his 70's (as he remains highly private about his age) this too seems unlikely. Here at Grand Prix Blogger we will keep watching this story and report any developments straight to you.
Here is the final part of my 2009 British Grand Prix footage. This time the action is at Abbey chicane during Friday FP2. This is a great place to watch the F1 cars, or any other racing come to think of it. If you ever go to Silverstone I really would recommend giving it a try.
VIDEO REMOVED AFTER REQUEST FROM FORMULA ONE MANAGEMENT (SEE BLOG POST FOR REACTION).