NEVER has V8 Supercars gone so far for so little. As the undercard to formula one at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix this weekend, Australia’s premier racing series got three short races and the cold shoulder.
Unlike the previous two treks to Abu Dhabi in 2010 and last year, when the V8s were the main show at the dazzling Yas Marina circuit, this time they have been pushed into the background, with limited track time, unfriendly scheduling and having had to accept being penned in the secondary pit lane with no access to the F1 area.
Being marginalised by the F1 organisers has been a shock to the V8 Supercars contingent, who are used to VIP treatment on their foreign forays. It’s a long way to fly 28 cars and hundreds of tonnes of spare parts in two jumbo jets, plus airlift hundreds of V8 Supercars and team personnel, for three 12-lap, 65-kilometre sprint races.
Aside from the novelty qualifying races at the Sandown 500 in September, these are by far the shortest the V8s contest all year. So short that pit stops for tyres and fuel, along with the strategic element they add, are redundant.
Of course, being on the supporting program of an F1 event means a guest racing category will play second fiddle to the main event, but treatment verging on disdain is another matter altogether.
As well as the derisively short races, on top of severely restricted practice and qualifying sessions on Friday, the teams, officials and most of the travelling media have been penned in the support paddock far from the F1 paddock and main grandstand.
It is a well-equipped secondary pit lane, topped by a decent grandstand, and the facilities for the teams are better than those of most Australian tracks. But their passes are good for only that part of the track – with a dire written warning that being found in an unauthorised area would result in expulsion. So the V8 drivers and team bosses are just like any other spectator watching the F1s from the sidelines.
In a minor concession, on Friday the V8 teams were given three tickets per car for seats in the grandstand above their pits to watch the F1 action from a trackside vantage point.
There is a growing feeling that F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone’s Formula One Management has deliberately made life difficult for V8 Supercars with its ambitions for international expansion.
And it’s not as if the V8s are jostling for space or track time with other secondary series; it’s the only support category on the program.
Visiting Australian media were told that to cover the V8s, they’d need an F1 credential – notification of which arrived close to the one-month deadline for applications. Those who had organised this then found that, technically, their F1 media pass wasn’t good for access to the support paddock. Only some fast-talking has avoided being barred.
At the last minute, V8 officials were informed that the series’ regular safety car driver, V8 Utes racer Amber Anderson, was not qualified for the task at Abu Dhabi and had to be replaced by an F1-appointed driver.
The weekend’s three sprint races – two on Saturday and one on Sunday – have scheduled for late morning/early afternoon, at least a couple of hours before the F1 day/night action begins, resulting in almost no spectators watching the V8 races.
The track’s grandstands were almost deserted during Saturday’s almost back-to-back races, which undermines V8 Supercars’ contention that the value of being here is performing in front of powerful corporate guests. V8 officials can take some comfort, perhaps, from the fact that MotoGP star Casey Stoner has stopped in to watch on his way to his final race before retirement in Valencia, Spain, next weekend. But then, Stoner is a guest of personal sponsor Red Bull and as well as watching the V8 races from the Triple Holden pit he is hanging out with Red Bull Racing’s Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel in the F1 pits. That’s star power for you.
■ Mark Webber’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix weekend got off to a shaky start when he was forced to retire his Red Bull with technical trouble in Friday practice.
The Australian completed only 21 laps in the evening session, 13 fewer than his teammate and the quickest man on the Yas marina track, Sebastian Vettel.
Webber was called back to the pits after water was seen leaking from his car as he left the garage for a heavy fuel run.
He later confirmed it was a KERS issue, although different from that suffered in India the previous week.
”[It’s] a pain. Obviously it’s not great when your mileage is limited, it’s nice to have as much as you can in,” Webber said. ”We’re not to the bottom of the fault yet, that’s for sure.”
Despite the shortened run, Webber finished the night fourth fastest, behind McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button.
This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.