Renault unveils black and gold R31

The famous black and gold livery makes a return this season as Renault unveiled its new R31 challenger to the press in the Valencia pitlane.

Vitaly Petrov will have the first opportunity to shakedown the R31 during the opening day of official testing at the Valencia circuit, with team-mate Robert Kubica taking over the last two days.

The R31 features a pull-rod suspension for the rear end, while the structure underneath the car (the tea tray) appears quite radical compared to rival cars.

Technical director James Allison described the development direction Renault has taken as ‘brave’ saying:

“Anyone who follows the sport will have seen that words like aggressive [and] brave are being bandied around across several of the teams this year for their solutions.

“I believe that we have chosen a direction that is really on the brave end of brave.”

The team also revealed that former HRT driver Bruno Senna will join Romain Grosjean, Jan Charouz, Ho-Ping Tung and Fairuz Fauzy as part of the team’s test and reserve driving strength.

Sauber’s new Ferrari-powered C30

This is new Sauber C30 powered by Ferrari. The Swiss outfit hopes the new 2011 racer will bring it a step forward in pace with improved reliability, needed to become a more regular points scorer.

The new design features a now standard high nose and a slender rear end compared to last year’s challenger.

Technical director James Key said: “Our aim in the development of the Sauber C30-Ferrari has been to build on the strengths of the C29 and to eliminate its weak points.

“In addition, it is also important for us to go into winter testing with a car we understand, and we have worked hard on ensuring the characteristics of the car are heading in a direction we believe in. There will be much to learn about the new Pirelli tyres and in this respect we want to ensure there are no surprises with the way the car is handling.”

Key said that one of the primary targets for the outfit was to have a car that would be predictable from the start – because there remains so much uncertainty about how the new Pirelli tyres will fare.

“In order to take a step forward in 2011, we were already systematically tackling the C29’s weaknesses over the last season – and we’ve made progress. The insights we gleaned were taken into account when the concept for the new C30 was being drawn up.

“Since some of the changes decreed by the regulations – particularly regarding the tyres – can only be analysed out on track, it was important for us to build, firstly, a fundamentally predictable car and, secondly, one that would provide sufficient flexibility to respond to ongoing findings at the track and during further development stages.”

The new C30 features a fully integrated blown diffuser, and the team has been able to sculpt the sidepods more aggressively through fitting its radiators more vertically.

Sauber has also opted to use a single mounting for its rear-wing, rather than the twin-mounting arrangement it used on the C29.

Team principal Peter Sauber said he hoped the C30 would help the team make progress in the areas where it was lacking last year.

“We want to finish in the points regularly and clearly improve our position in the FIA Formula 1 constructors’ world championship,” he said. “2010 marked the 41st year of our company history and one of the most difficult.

“Never before had we faced such reliability problems, but we managed to overcome them in the second half of the season. We implemented some well-considered structural changes. The appointment of James Key as Technical Director already bore fruit last season, and he is now in charge of development of the Sauber C30-Ferrari.

“At the same time, we have managed to secure our business foundation for the 2011 season. In these economically straitened times that is something we can be proud of too.”

Sauber has confirmed that the KERS units it will use in 2011 will be provided by Ferrari.

As for the drivers, Sergio Pérez will be making his Formula One debut this season. The GP2 runner-up will partner alongside Kamui Kobayashi.

Team Lotus reveal Renault-powered T128

This is the brand new and more aggressive looking T128 from Team Lotus. The outfit has pinned hopes that this 2011 racer will make them midfield contenders and bring them their first world championship points.

Even though the T128 will not appear in public until later this week, when it joins the second day of the Valencia test, Team Lotus have chosen to reveal images of the new car in a special edition of its Team Lotus Notes online magazine.

The outfit had always admitted that last year’s T127 was a deliberately conservative machine built simply to get the team onto the grid in a very limited timescale, rather than with outright performance in mind.

It halted development on the 2010 car early in the season to focus on the 2011 design, which is more in line with modern Formula One practice, and features Renault V8 power and transmission systems from Red Bull Racing.

These images released so far suggest the T128 features a more intricate front wing design, sharply sculpted sidepods, as well as a more conventional higher nose plus an airbox/roll hoop reminiscent of the 2010 Mercedes – suggesting Lotus has found a way around the rules that appeared to have outlawed such ‘blade’ designs.

The team’s chief technical officer Mike Gascoyne is confident that Team Lotus has achieved everything it wanted to with the T128.

“I think that basically this car looks like a frontrunning car in every area,” he said. “We said very clearly that we want to start challenging the established teams and I think that’s very achievable.”

The dispute regarding the Lotus naming rights continues despite the new car launch and yet, Tony Fernandes’ outfit had chosen to continue with the traditional Lotus type numbering system by choosing T128 for its car, rather than the TL11 title that was initially announced.

Fernandes said it was a relief to be able to focus on the new car after a winter of legal disputes with Renault’s new title sponsor Group Lotus.

“There has been so much has focus off-track it’s a thrill to be able to get back to talking about racing,” Fernandes admitted.

“The launch of the T128 is a big step forward for Team Lotus and I want to thank the whole team for the amount of hard work that has already gone into T128, and I want to thank Renault and Red Bull Technology for their tremendous support in helping us make this step forward and for being such great team partners.”

The team’s driver line-up remains unchanged for 2011, with Finland’s Heikki Kovalainen and Italy’s Jarno Trulli at the wheel.

Ferrari unveils the F150

Scuderia Ferrari became the first Formula One team to unveil its 2011 racer, the F150 at Maranello.

Following the final-race heartbreak that cost the world drivers’ title in Abu Dhabi last year, the Italian outfit hopes that the new design of the F150 can deliver better results.

The design of the F150 incorporates the numerous 2011 regulation changes, including an adjustable rear wing and the return of KERS, as well as the removal of items now banned, such as F-ducts and double diffusers.

“The major aspects with the most impact on the project were connected to the aerodynamic development,” explained technical director Aldo Costa. “The double diffuser, the F-duct, is gone. The driver can’t change the car’s aerodynamic set up anymore. The underbody won’t have any ‘holes’ in the central part anymore. This is a fundamental change.

“The rear wing will be movable, so that the driver can overtake the car in front of him and use it in the qualifying according to his needs. The KERS is back. Although we’ve improved its size, it’s still quite big. Therefore the technicians had to redesign the car’s layout.”

Ferrari team principal Stefano Domenicali is well aware that the team lost vital ground in the early stages of last year, so he is keen for the F150 to be competitive from the off.

Speaking to the media earlier this month, he said: “For 2011 our goals are very clear, that we are aiming to win both the titles, constructors’ and drivers’ titles, this must be the goal of our team.

“And so the expectations, that of being able to have a car competitive from the start, a reliable car, a strong car, and I have to say that we’ve seen this last year.

“If you’re not perfect within such a competitive environment, with opponents that are so strong with teams, which also varied numerically, then it becomes difficult to win.”

Fernando Alonso will have the unique opportunity to drive the car during some promotional filming at Fiorano, weather permitting. As for team-mate Felipe Massa, he will shake down the F150 the next day, before its first proper test at Valencia next week.

127 Hours review

New blog contributor invisiblekid’s film review of Danny Boyle’s thriller 127 Hours, starring James Franco.

Right, lets get one thing straight right now. This is NOT the feel good movie that many have labeled it. Even Danny Boyle said it was a feel good film. Sorry but it’s just not. Just as Boyle’s last film Slumdog Millionaire was incorrectly called “The feel good movie of the year”, that wasn’t true either. Both are grueling films where bad things happen, but just happen to have a happy ending. Making a film where by at the end, not everyone you’ve seen dies does not mean it’s a feel good film.

In this instance, it’s slightly more clouded especially with it happening for real back in 2003. Escaping death by hacking your arm off (not a spoiler obviously) and becoming a better person for it, it only makes it a feel good event for Aron Ralston (played by James Franco).

There isn’t much for the viewer to take home and change their lives with. Aron started the film as a complete cocky twat and experienced a million even billion to one accident. During his ordeal, he realised this and has made amends. Not much for us to feel good about ourselves.

But onto the film, which frankly is miles better than I have made it sound so far. Aron Ralston is an adrenaline junkie and has all the trimmings that come with it. Cockiness and skills to make him think he’s unstoppable, taking massive risks, treats his girlfriend (now ex) badly and doesn’t return his mums calls.

During a trip to the Blue John Canyon, he tries to beat the recommended time for the climb. During which, he finds a couple of lost girls and in his own typical high risk lifestyle, show them a short cut to their destination. Which has to be said is very cool.

Later, they part ways, and until the end, the only people we see are in his mind.

A bizarre incident leaves him trapped with one arm jammed between, well and rock and a hard place, that being the title of the book. With only: a few bits of rock climbing equipment, a video camera, a still camera and a bottle of water, he tries to free himself from his predicament.

From here on, it’s just us watching him as he records his feelings and see his slow deterioration including: hallucinations, premonitions, and flashbacks all via Danny’s masterful camera work.

It’s very claustrophobic for all involved, including us the viewer, so brilliantly is the stage set made and the closeness in which it is filmed. The flashbacks of course bolster the image we get of Aron, but not in a way that it’s too obvious in what it’s doing. They are just of him remembering the good times and the life he had the in parts, wasted.

The close camera work also shows us the why the film works so well, actor James Franco. His facial expressions will be used a training tool for many years to come. It’s staggering how he and Boyle made a film, with the most talked about finale, that we all know how it ends, into something so gripping and real.

The second Aron is trapped; you can see in James’ eyes that he already knows that it’s too late to do anything. We see him desperately try everything else in seconds that follow. But then there’s calmness and organisation as he calculates his next move instead.

Despite the stillness and depression, Danny’s makes everything flow with such a pulse with fancy camera work. Following the water flow through Aron’s water bag and bottle. The vertical camera lifts from way down deep in ravine where Aron is trapped, to way up high in the sky. It could be seen as silly and a ‘bit Michael Bay’! But it in fact all adds to the slowly building tension. It reminds me of Breaking Bad in the way that you know your getting tense, but you really have no clue just how tense until it’s released.

The release ironically, comes from Aron’s err… release. So while its no spoiler as to how, there’s one point, or two actually (you’ll know when you see it), which got me, wincing like a schoolgirl. These I will not describe, as I feel it will spoil it for any that have not watched it. But my god, it was painful to watch.

Utterly brilliant work indeed, and you can see why some of the faint hearted that watch it, did, well, faint.

Just like Chris Nolan’s Inception, this film was only funded due to the director’s previous massive hits.  Given the subject matter though, I have to hand it to Danny Boyle. Thinking of a truly bizarre, complicated, massive set piece film as in the case of Inception is one thing. But to see how to make a riveting film from such a static event and be so passionate about it is shear brilliance. Just like the film.

BBC F1’s new commentary team and in HD

The excellent BBC F1 coverage has been improved and tweaked further with a new commentary line-up for both the television and radio coverage for 2011.

On the television side, Martin Brundle will take over the lead commentator role over the lacklustre Jonathan Legard. Joining Martin is his old-pal David Coulthard. It will be fascinating how the pair will get on explaining the on-track action this season.

As for Radio 5 Live, the excellent David Croft and Anthony Davidson double-act will remain but will be joined by a new pit-lane reporter Natalie Pinkham. The previous pit-lane reporter Holly Samos left last season to spend more time with her family. It’s going to be interesting how Natalie will fit in with Crofty and Little Ant.

And yet the biggest news is High Definition. Finally, Bernie Ecclestone and Formula One Management (FOM) have seen the full picture – pardon the pun – and has adopted the HD format for this year’s Formula One World Championship.

Both the BBC1 HD and BBC HD channels will display the High Definition coverage and it will definitely make a big difference in enjoying the racing action!

Roll on the first race at Bahrain on March 13th!