Wednesday, 10 October 2012

The Evolution of the Formula 1 Team (II)

A follow on from my previous post.
Previously I spoke of how the current AMG Mercedes F1 team evolved from the Tyrrell team and the modern Lotus team evolved from the Toleman team. I would just like to say again that I'm writing from memory rather than reference, so forgive me if I'm not 100% accurate. This time I would like to outline how the Scuderia Torro Rosso and Force India evolved from 2 former teams.
Some time around the 1980s, if memory serves me correctly, an Italian Formula 1 team called Minardi was formed. They were always minnows. But always managed to turn up year after year when bigger teams such as Brabham and Lotus eventullay folded. They never won races and always seemed to be bringing up the rear. Even a Ferrari engine deal in the 1990s didn't push them as far up the grid as one would expect. So points to Minardi were like podiums to mid-grid teams. But it was a good proving ground for the likes of Giancarlo Fisichella and Fernando Alonso who made their respective debuts with the team. In the early 2000s Australian Paul Stoddart took over the team and it became European Minardi, named after Stoddart's European Airlines I suspect. A noticeable result for European Minardi was Mark Webber's impressive 5th place debut in his and Stoddart's home Grand Prix. But it was to prove a one-off and Minardi were soon back in their usual positions at the back end of the grid. Stoddart seemed to be constantly at odds with the FIA and eventually sold the team to Red Bull when rules governing the running of junior teams were relaxed. Red Bull had it's own works team and European Minardi became Scuderia Torro Rosso. It made better progress up the grid under Red bull ownership and with Gerhard Berger as team principal, took it's first pole and first win at a rainy Monza in September 2008. Sebastian Vettel was the driver in the winning car that weekend. Eventually Vettel was promoted to the works team and the conveyor of Red Bull young driver talent was blooded in the team. But just as they seemed to be making more and more progress and coming closer to further podiums with Sebastien Buemi and Jaimie Algersuari, Red Bull decided to continue with it's development driver program and dropped Buemi and Algersuari for debutant Jean-Eric Vergne and Daniel Ricciardo moving from HRT. So their push for the front has been halted by driver development programs, but it is now, effectively, being run as an independent team under current regulations. That is how Minardi evolved into Scuderia Torro Rosso.
In 1990, after success in the lower formulas, Irishman Eddie Jordan set up a Formula 1 team. They made their race debut at Phoenix Arizona in the opening Grand Prix of 1991 with green 7up livery. Bertrand Gachot and Andrea de Cesaris were the drivers. They scored their first points with a double points finish in Canada that year. Gachot got himself arrested for assaulting a taxi driver and Jordan needed a replacement for the Belgium Grand Prix at Spa. Michael Schumacher made his debut in F1. He qualified well but did not last a single lap of the race with a burned out clutch. In the same race de Cesaris could have finished 2nd but for (correct me if I'm wrong) a gearbox failure near the end. Schumacher impressed enough to be whisked away to Benetton for the very next race with Roberto Moreno swapping to Jordan to soften the blow. They finished an impressive 5th in the constructors in their debut year. The following year was not so good under yamaha power. The yamahas were ditched in favour of Hart engines and in 1994 Rubens Barrichello took the team's first podium in Japan and first pole in Spa. They had a works Peugeot engine deal from 1995 and took a double podium in Canada. In 1997 they finally had a package together that could potentially win races. But rookies Ralf Schumacher and Giancarlo Fisichella's tempestuous relationship after a collision in Argentina overshadowed things a bit that year. The team scored podiums in Argentina and Canada and Fisichella came close to victory in Germany but a puncture ruined his race. Fisichella went to Benetton the following year and Damon Hill replaced him. Alain prost got Peugeots for his team and  Jordan switched to Mugen-Honda. Jordan had their best year to date with Hill taking their first victory at Spa and Schumacher following him home in 2nd. Then Schumacher left to join Williams and was replaced by Heinz-Harald Frentzen for 1999. Frentzen took victories at France (with a fractured leg) in the rain and a bone dry Monza after Hakkinen made a mistake and spun off. Jordan was always known as a talent spotter and in the opening race of the '99 season RTE pit lane reporter Declan Quigley saw it as "a victory for the Jordan school of excellence" because all points scorers in that race had either raced or tested for Jordan at some stage in their career. Frentzen led the Jordan team to third in both the Drivers and Constructors championships that year. A joint works Honda engine deal with BAR was worked out for 2000 and the team went for a revolutionary rather than evolutionary car with the EJ10. Jarno Trulli often qualified well in the car but sometimes complained that reliability issues meant he had to nurse the car to the finish line which cost them points. The Honda deal was under threat from 2001 and Eddie Jordan took on Japanese driver Takumo Sato Mid season in 2002 (I think) to please Honda.. The fans at the German Grand Prix expressed their anger at Jordan for axing Frentzen. The Honda deal was lost anyway and Cosworth and Toyota engines had to be bought, putting financial pressure on the team. They had one more fortuitous victory at Brazil in 2003 when a crash brought out the red flag. The race was initially awarded to Raikkonen, but Fisichella (returning to Jordan that year) was found to be leading at the end of the lap before the red flag. He was awarded the trophy in a ceremony before the following San Marino Grand prix. It was to be Jordan's final victory. Eddie Jordan sold the team to the Midland Group at the end of the following year. They had one final year as Jordan in 2005 and Tiago Montiero took their final podium at Indianapolis when all the Michelin teams pulled out before the start due to safety concerns. Only the 6 Bridgestone-shod cars started the race. Midland changed the name of the Team to MF1 the following year. A lack of investment meant little success. Spyker then took over the team and were also a back of the grid team. Eventually Indian Vijay Mallya took over the team and changed the name to Force India. Fisichella returned for a third term at the team that was once Jordan. They have managed some of the success of the old Jordan team and are strong in mid grid with current drivers Paul Di Resta and Nico Hulkenburg. They share some technology with McLaren and have Mercedes Engines which makes them a strong prospect in future. So that is how the old Jordan team evolved into Force India.
Whether you believe in evolution and reincarnation or not in nature and everyday life, it certainly can happen with the right business deals and personnel in place in Formula1.
I hope you enjoyed reading my 2-part synopsis of the evolution of some of Formula 1's well known teams as much as I enjoyed writing it.
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