On Dec. 29th F1US received their permit to relocate the natural gas pipelines that cross under the proposed circuit. This is the start of construction, the first necessary activity, necessary because these pipelines limit the areas that circuit construction can commence. The permit request was applied for by Richard Suttles on behalf of his client Accelerator Holdings,LLC, the owner of the property on which the circuit will be built. This is evidenced by the fact that the party that paid the surety is Accelerator,LLC and their representative of record is Kurt Rechner. Rechner is also the COO of Prophet Capital, the company run by Mr. Epstein. The Professional engineer of record is Carlson,Brigance $ Doering. They have produced very detailed drawings, approved by the AHJ, that depict the relocation and site soil protection plans. Also evident in the permit approval paperwork was reference to a paid lobbyist, Lynn Carley,who occupies office space in the same suite as F1US. So, apparently construction has officially begun, and for that I am very happy.
On Tuesday, December 28th, I and several other members of the facebook group Friends of Formula 1 Austin (including admins. Vance Facundo, Matt Sager, Tim Woods) had the opportunity to sit down with Formula 1 United States CEO Bruce Knox for a one and a half hour conversation. The meeting was arranged by Ali Putnam, an account executive at 3 Point Partners. 3 Point Partners provides consulting services in the areas of media, communications, community outreach, and government relations. Thanks to Ms. Putnam for making our visit possible.
As you may already know, due to my professional career as a construction project manager, I have an avid interest in the nuts and bolts of project development and execution. I also have a fanatical interest in formula 1, and the Austin project has given me a great opportunity to combine my professional life with my avocation. Having been to Grand Prix events in six countries, I have a pretty good idea of what goes on during a Grand Prix, and having been in construction management for 30 years, I have a pretty good idea of the difficulty associated with completion of a project of this complexity.
Heikki Kovalainen makes my top 10 of the year due to the fact he was the winner of “class b” for the new teams in 2010. Heikki was regularly one of, if not the fastest, of the 6 new cars in the field. Kovalainen also managed a feat no one has ever managed...he out qualified Jarno Trulli in Monaco. When the car held together, Heikki got the most out of it and finished a fine 12th in Japan which enabled Lotus to clinch the lucrative 10th place in the constructors table. Now the team has a years experience under their belt, they could well be mixing it with the midfield in 2011.
2010 marked the return to competition of Felipe Massa after his life threatening crash in Hungary 2009. Sadly we only saw the Massa of old once during the season and that was during the controversial race in Germany. Felipe’s main problem in 2010 was getting the tyres to work the way he wanted and was generally not a match for his teammate Alonso. Massa will need to find a way to get the tyres working for him in 2011, if he wants to avoid another season of playing second fiddle to Fernando.
Public safety is a subject that has been mentioned now and again at various commission meetings and in the media. The commissioners have a serious interest in public safety and need their questions answered. Some members of the public who oppose the circuit, however, are using the subject as a scare tactic. The floodplain was discussed, the pipelines were discussed, the pollution was discussed, the noise was discussed, and public safety was discussed. Some of these subjects have been put to sleep.
The HVL and natural gas pipelines were one of the first subjects that made the headlines. FTP and their specialists met with industry representatives and devised a plan that would eliminate any concerns about the safety of the pipelines. The end result is that the pipelines will be relocated and the specification in use today will bring a much safer installation.
The next concern was the floodplain. Citizens and commissioners alike were worried that the construction and other developments at the site would worsen the flood probabilities. That is a fair concern, but once again the specialists have found a way to engineer these concerns away.
One of the remaining hurdles to be crossed between the F1 promoters and the AHJ (Authorities Having Jurisdiction) is the traffic plan. Everyone understands the need to move all competitors, vendors and attendees to and from the site safely and in a timely manner. It is also understood that the site must be prepared for a major incident that impacts the group as a whole. A plan must be in place that satisfies these concerns and has a reasonable chance of managing any conceivable probability. The plan must also insure that the event will not be a commercial failure due to undue delays that may sour the attendee’s personal experience and impact the future attendance at the event.
The City Council tabled an agenda item scheduled for the Dec. 14th meeting, an item that was meant to address the F1 traffic plans. The item was moved into the New Year, but the exact date has not been determined. One may ask why that happened. In the opinion of many observers, the answer may be the absence of a dedicated project management effort, an effort that considers everything from circuit homologation to hot dog sales. Tilke may be too focused on the details of what goes on inside the fence to manage the things that happen elsewhere i.e. the City Council, etc.
Building a formula 1 facility and promoting an F1 event is a very complicated matter. Back in May when Bernie told the world that Formula 1 was coming to Austin, we were all quite excited. Especially exciting was the prospect of having the first “real” F1 circuit in the US since Watkins Glen.
But soon after the initial party was over, there was the realization that a very difficult task lay ahead. When sober minds started considering all of the things that must be done to pull this rabbit out of the hat, the exhilaration turned to a measured panic.
Initialization of the Project -
The processes involved in managing a project of this nature are well understood. All projects have the same elements, but some projects have very special circumstances that must be considered. I have been following this closely and there are some aspects of this project’s implementation that I am very comfortable with, and some that I am not.
The fact that Tavo Hellmund and his group Full Throttle Productions (FTP) secured a 10 year contract with Formula One Management (FOM) is in itself a remarkable accomplishment. Several years of preparation preceded the announcement, and the success is a testament to Tavo’s hard work and perseverance. He used his contacts in F1 to his advantage and never stopped pursuing his dream in spite of the odds against him.
After evaluating the performances of every driver during the season. Here is what I believe to be the top 10 drivers of 2010:
1. Denny Hamlin
Championship Position: 2nd, Wins: 8, Top 5: 14, Top 10: 18
Denny Hamlin started the year as one of the favourites to potentially unseat Jimmie Johnson has champion. In early January, Hamlin tore his anterior cruciate ligament playing basketball, he was initially going to have surgery after the season, but the plans changed for him to have surgery following the Martinsville race in March. Denny was back in the car just 9 days later and despite having a relief driver on standby, he completed the whole race at Phoenix. Hamlin then took 2 wins within 6 weeks of having surgery and began the chase leading the points standings and held onto that position until Kansas. Hamlin remained 2nd in points until Texas, where he regained the lead by 33 with 2 races to go. A finish of 12th at Phoenix meant Hamlin went to Homestead leading by 15. A 14th place finish in the final race wasn’t enough to prevent Johnson claiming his 5th championship.
2. Kevin Harvick
Championship position: 3rd, Wins: 3, Top 5: 16, Top 10: 26
After finishing 19thin the 2009 standings, Kevin Harvick led the RCR revival in 2010. Leading the standings for the majority of the regular season and only missing out on the title by 41 points come seasons end. Harvick would end the season with the most points under the classic points system. Harvick took victory in what many people regard as the best race of the season at Talladega in the spring, beating Jamie McMurray to the line by 0.011. He narrowly missed out on a season sweep at the track after a Clint Bowyer was adjudged to have been ahead when a caution came out on the last lap.
This is a copy of an email we sent to Tavo Hellmund at Full Throttle Productions. This is in response to the questions raised by the traffic study commissioned by FTP and delivered to the authorities. Please read the full report. It can be found here:
Hello Mr. Hellmund, I am John Flood from the blog formula1journal.com I know Vance Facundo and Tim Wood from Friends of Formula 1 Austin, and I am a supporting member of that group. They have given me permission to discuss this subject with you. I have been promoting the race through my blog and forum. I have been to F1 races in 6 countries, have contacts within F1, and I concentrate on the technology and business of F1. I provide technical support and F1 education to the Austin efforts. Back in September a associate of mine sent a detailed traffic study of the Austin project to Red McCombs' group. It was developed by his risk management associates at a firm near Dallas. The firm focuses on risk assessment with regard to major projects and events. I will not mention the firm by name as they are not currently seeking a commercial relationship, but instead have a sporting interest in the event. Just for informative reasons, here are their conclusions:
In December (9th or 10th) the FIA will promulgate the 2013 engine regulations. There have been many ideas tossed about in the media about the exact configuration and specification of the Power-Train regulations, but some things are clear: their intent is certain. In September, I wrote this:
The engine will likely be a twin turbocharged 1.6L 4 cylinder with Kers. The turbo boost is expected to be around 3 bar in order to reach a BHP of 500 to 550. RPM's will be limited to approximately 10,000 to 11,000. The Kers output is expected to be 112kw (150 HP) and the battery storage is expected to increase to 2200 kJ. Quite frankly, I find those storage capacities to be a bit hard to believe. I doubt that the current batteries have that kind of capacity. If true, Kers would supply 150BHP for 24 seconds. If so, the car would have a maximum combined power of around 650 to 700 BHP.
After winning his 5th consecutive title, can Jimmie Johnson be considered the greatest driver ever in NASCAR? It’s the big debate that has been going on since the final race of the season took place at
Homestead-Miami Speedway on Nov 21.
In terms for number of consecutive championships won, Jimmie is head and shoulders above the rest. No driver had won more than 3 in a row, until 2009, when Johnson won his 4th straight. Now he has extended his own record to 5. However, some people will point out that all his championships have been won under NASCAR’s, much debated, “Chase for the Sprint Cup” format which was introduced in 2004. If you look at the champions using the old system, Johnson would only have won 2 championships.
Jeff Gordon (5)
Tony Stewart (2)
Jimmie Johnson (1)
Jeff Gordon (6)
Jimmie Johnson (2)
Jimmie Johnson (3)
Jimmie Johnson (2)
Jimmie Johnson (4)
An interesting side note is if that the classic points were still in effect, Johnson’s team mate Jeff Gordon would now have 6 championships and be just behind the late, great Dale Earnhardt and the King Richard Petty in total championships won. Instead, he is still behind both of them and now Johnson.
Another interesting stat is Johnson has the 6th best winning percentage in NASCAR history:
Overall all-time winning percentage: [drivers with over 100 starts]:
1. Herb Thomas -- 21.053% (48 wins, 228 starts)
2. Tim Flock -- 20.856% (39/187 or 40/187)
3. David Pearson -- 18.293% (105/574)
4. Richard Petty -- 16.892% (200/1184)
5. Fred Lorenzen -- 16.456% (26/158) 6. Jimmie Johnson -- 16.208% (53/327)
7. Fireball Roberts -- 16.019% (33/206)
8. Junior Johnson -- 15.974% (50/313)
9. Cale Yarborough -- 14.821% (83/560)
Johnson also have the 2nd best top 5 percentage behind Jeff Gordon and leads all active drivers in top 10 percentage and he has yet to finish outside the top 2 in any of the seasons in which he has taken part.
Is Johnson the greatest ever? In my opinion he is the best driver on the current grid, but not the greatest of all time. That honour still lies with Petty and Earnhardt, due to their higher number of race wins and championships. However, at age 35, Johnson has plenty of time on his side and based on the stats he has racked up so far in his career and he is with the best team around right now. He can easily reach 7 championships and could even take more than that.