F1 News: No Saab for Bernie, Reserve Drivers Announced, Possible Tire Rules Changes, New Communications Head at Renault

What Happens When the News Does Not Appear Massive, but Is on a Second Look

12:02am EST —Little tidbits of news often combine to show a much larger picture.  The following stories may not make much on their own, but each provides extra insight into the 2010 Formula1 season.

Genii Capital Withdraws Bid for Saab:
Genii Capital announced that it (and FOM chief Bernie Ecclestone) has withdrawn its bid to buy Saab.  In the investment company’s press release, it explained that, after Genii entered its bid three days before the deadline closed, “Saab Automobile AB had been engaged in a partial shutdown process as a result of the length of the negotiations…unfortunately, Genii Capital believes that the timing of the next stage of the shutdown process at Saab is not compatible with its requirements for putting in place a solid business platform for the future and closing the transaction.”
This leaves Spyker Cars as the only bidder for Saab.  According to a Reuters article about the Genni withdrawal, “General Motors Chief Executive Ed Whitacre said on Monday the company has held advanced talks with Spyker Cars over the sale of Saab, but is proceeding with plans to wind down the unit.”   What does this mean for Formula1?  Likely very little, though it does negate rumors of a Bernie-owned, Saab-powered, Genii Capital-funded F1 superteam.  It also makes for interesting information about the commercial rights holder of the sport and his partnership with an investment company that recently bought out a good portion of Renault’s F1 team holding.

Reserve Drivers Named at Red Bull, Force India, and McLaren:
According to, respectively, the official Formula1 website and Reuters, New Zealand’s Brendon Hartley and Australia’s Daniel Ricciardo will be the reserve drivers for Red Bull, and Paul di Resta will be the reserve driver for Force India.  “Ricciardo and Hartley, who are both members of the Red Bull Junior team, will alternate reserve driver duties on a race-by-race basis,” and both drover for Red Bull-funded teams at the young drivers’ test in Jerez, with Ricciardo driving for Red Bull and Hartley for Toro Rosso.
di Resta has not been officially announced as the Force India reserve driver, but Martin Whitmarsh, McLaren team principal and development partner with Force India, told Reuters, “Paul will be running I believe in the majority of the Friday sessions (at grand prix weekends) for Force India.”  Whitmarsh also confirmed that Gary “Paffett, who is racing in the German Touring Car (DTM) championship with Mercedes this season, will give the new McLaren its test debut on Feb. 1 in Valencia before champions Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton get their hands on it,” and will be the team’s reserve driver, replacing Pedro de la Rosa, who will race for Sauber alongside Kamui Kobayashi this season.

Possible Changes to Tire Requirements After Qualifying:
According to Autosport, “Formula 1 teams have agreed to introduce an extra strategic element to races this season by forcing leading drivers to start races on the same tyres that they qualified on.”  Apparently, the Sporting Working Group has approved changes requiring the top ten starters to begin the grand prix with those tires used at the final run in Q3.  Similar to last season’s requirement that teams qualifying in Q3 do so with their starting fuel load, one has to wonder how this change would “improve the show.”
Jonathon Noble at Autosport suggested that, “this will open up the possibility of teams gambling on sacrificing the best possible time in Q3 by running a more consistent but less quick tyre so as to have a better chance in the race. Alternatively, teams may choose a tyre that is better over a single lap to secure a good grid position, even if it runs the risk of compromising race performance.”  Since drivers will still be forced to pit and change compounds so that both the harder and softer tire will be used during the race, and they will be starting with full-race fuel loads, it still seems unclear how this will do much more than improving the drama of qualifying.

New Head of Communications at RenaultF1:
According to Joe Saward, former F1 Racing Features Editor Bradley Lord has returned to RenaultF1 and is now the Head of Communications for the team.  Hopefully his time on the journalism side of F1 will have helped give Lord perspective and more news (such as a driver announcement) will soon be forthcoming.  The car will be launched from the pit lane at Valencia Monday.


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