The season opening Bahrain Grand Prix ( of the 2010 FIA Formula One (F1) World Championship) is on tomorrow, March 14th 2010. There are altogether 12 teams of which 3 are new entrants this season (with 24 cars/drivers on the grid)
It is of special interest to Malaysia this year for 2 reasons namely, the real presence of Malaysia in F1 racing with the debut of Malaysia’s very own Team Lotus , and the collaboration of Team Mercedes with Petronas in F1 racing.
This is therefore more than just a participation but the first foray into F1 which was announced by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak only in September last year which is now a reality.
When it was first mooted late last year, many were sceptical. Only the Principal Officer, Datuk Tony Fernandez and the Technical Head, Mike Gascoyne were positively identified together with Naza Motors as joint backers. Then there were a flurry of behind the scenes manoevering to get additional sponsors (especially with the loss of Petronas to Team Mercedes) and to naming the drivers and the management team.
The detractors spewed countless venom, mindful of the enormous financial burden to be carried by Team Lotus. Tony Fernandez ventured on anyway. Lotus at their factory in Norfolk, England came up with a new car (within 6 months) after assembling ‘80,000 components'( a report stated that in all seriousness a 99.9% perfection will still mean 80 component parts are not up to mark)
The testing must be more than perfect. It is awesome! It is no small wonder that an F1 car that made it on the starting grid can still stall at some point in the race owing to a less than perfect testing. It cannot be more perfect than that!
The Lotus T127 rolled out on a T127 chassis supporting a Cosworth 2010 engine. It went through the various precision factory tests and last month was presented on the tracks in Spain for final tests by the designated drivers.
So we have Malaysia’s very own F1 car to be driven by the named drivers, Jarno Trulli and Heikki Kovalinen with Malaysia’s own Fairuz Fauzy as the 3rd and reserve driver.
The Management Team comprised, the CEO, Riad Asmat (son of OP Tan Sri Asmat), Mia Sharizman Ismail as Head of Operations (Asia), Alex Yoong as Head of Driver Development (Asia) and Nino Judge as the Head of Driver Development (Europe).
So what is it in for Malaysia apart from the ‘novelty’ and the hype worked up for our presence on the world’s stage which is a grand PR adventure for prime movers Tony and his team.
For a start Alex Yoong and Judge will co-host a driver’s development programme with the aim of nurturing young drivers for the future. Alex’s father OP Hanipah Yoong went up against all odds singled-handedly in guiding Alex as an F1 driver before. So Alex is very much aware of the difficulties and pitfalls.
On the technical side, a team of young engineers are already in Norfolk working towards building up a core of technically experienced personnel. These would be conveniently absorbed into Proton and Naza Motors in future, I imagine.
With the impending production of the compact EMAS hybrid of Proton recently exhibited at the Geneva Motor Show, it is imperative that we need these engineers in large numbers.
There has to be a concerted effort to trigger off the multiplier effect of human capital development to meet needs of industry. A home grown F1 venture can certainly provide the platform to enhance the numbers.
On the prospects of notching up glory in this debut presence, Tony is being realistic. ‘We hope to finish each race, anything better is a bonus’ he said. He has 19 opportunities to do that as there are 19 races in the 2010 calendar. The 3rd leg in K. Lumpur will be on 4th April.
Apparently, we’ll get to see the real, the actual, the car that is going on the tracks in Bahrain tomorrow at the Pavilion in K. Lumpur when it is put up on show in early April (before its debut on our Sepang Circuit)
This is mainly because there was insufficient time to produce an additional car for exhibition purposes. So be it!