#F1 Forensic : Mercedes ends the season dominating

•November 27, 2014 • 2 Comments

Brought to you by TheJudge13 technical analyst: Lorenzo De Luca

Mercedes ends the season dominating in Abu Dhabi

The season ended as it started, with the Mercedes power unit dominating the field. That was not a surprise seing that the UAE track features long straights – interrupted by slow chicanes that enhanced the PU106’s skills of power and good fuel consumption. From the opening laps it was clear – with Mercedes racing once again in a league of their own – with only Felipe Massa’s Williams able to clock similar lap times.

Race pace chart :

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As we can see from the chart above, Mercedes built a huge gap in the first stint with a full fuel load (Abu Dhabi required all the 100Kg of fuel to finish the race) and both W05’s were capable of running two seconds faster than the rest of the field during the first stint. This has proven a steady gap throughout the season, affected only by reliability issues as we can see in the chart below :

Race pace gap from Mercedes :

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Average team race pace gap from Mercedes :

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More than half of a second advantage on the n fastest team – Red Bull – it leaves little hope for next year too, specially for teams like Ferrari or Mclaren (although in this case Honda competitiveness will be a key role) that have to bridge around a 1s performance gap to the Mercedes.

A gap that gets even bigger if we look at the qualifying session, were the cars express the maximum performances.

Qualifying average gap throughout the season :

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Even in qualifying Red Bull confirms that they are the second force on the grid, with Williams following and then Ferrari. Here the difference in efficiency of the ERS system and recovery energy is even bigger expanding even more the difference between each power unit.

Sector 1 chart :

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Sector 2 chart :

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Sector 3 chart :

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In Abu Dhabi the biggest differences were evident in the second and third sectors, if in the first sector (relatively short) we have an average gap of just 3 tenths, in the second ( two long straights) and the third sector (slow corners in sequence) we have a 7 tenths average gap. It is interesting to notice how in the first two sectors it is Williams who is very close to Mercedes, highlighting a great low drag set-up (also helped by the Mercedes power unit) while in the third (and slowest) one it is Red Bull with Ricciardo who is very close to Mercedes, highlighting RB10 aerodynamic abilities and precision of the front end.

It’s also worth noticing the big difference in top speed with Williams being 10/15 km\h faster than anybody else with only Mclaren and Kvyat capable of attaining a similar top speed

Top Speed chart :

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ERS Failure cost Rosberg 2-3 seconds per lap

Without starting a discussion on who, between Rosberg and Hamilton, most deserved the world championship, in Abu Dhabi the ERS failure give us the opportunity to estimate its value on laptime. On the UAE track this was around 2/3 seconds per lap. If the most obvious loss is power (around 160Bhp) we also have to take into account how its failure affected the braking system, because with the MGU-K not slowing down the crankshaft anymore it was delegating the braking power only to the brakes pads and calipers (smaller for Mercedes at the rear end – only 4 pistons vs 6 ) and compromising the brake balance of the car .

Rosberg vs Hamilton race pace :

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Mclaren Mp24/9 B

It was announced that In Abu Dhabi – Mclaren had brought a huge aerodynamic update package, to start focusing on 2015 project. Peter Prodromou, former Red Bull engineer brought with him all the ideas he shared with Newey and there was no surprise seeing the new front wing being a copy and paste of the current RB10 front wing.

Mclaren new front wing :

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To better adapt the new front wing to the car, there was also the introduction of new turning vanes placed under the chassis, which in this case, have gone in a totally different direction from the Red Bull design

Mclaren turning vanes :

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#F1 Daily News and Comment: Wednesday 26th November 2014

•November 26, 2014 • 58 Comments

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Please if you are on Twitter press the tweet button below. If you re-write and tweet individual story headlines don’t forget to include #F1.

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Previously on The Judge 13:

#TJ13 #F1 Courtroom Podcast: Romanians in the cupboard


OTD Lite: 1958 – The FIA made a decision for the benefit of the sport

Mclaren-Honda’s stuttering start (UPDATE 10:24 GMT AND &15:51 GMT)

Alonso mocks Ferrari’s ‘Marlboro Man’ shakeup

Bottas’ managers play down Ferrari ‘rumours’


OTD Lite: 1958 – The FIA made a decision for the benefit of the sport

In the early 21st century, we have grown accustomed to the FIA being a toothless monolith that fails to make change for the advancement of the sport. Jean Todt repeatedly displays an antipathy to making decisions and it is left to the leech commonly known as Bernie to run the port into the ground.

Yet several generations ago, the FIA approved the use of fire-retardant overalls for the drivers – who counted many amongst them being killed in the infernos that could consume a car after a crash. In fact just weeks before, Stuart Lewis-Evans died from his burns after a crash in Morocco. Ironically a man that was managed by the Suffolk Toad.

The Avon tyre company had pioneered the research into this new technology and despite the fire retardation only functioning when they were dry – the design has developed into the multi branded apparel that the drivers wear today. Of course the danger of fire was and remains extremely dangerous but the progress over the decades has reduced the risk considerably. Witness Gerhard Berger’s dramatic accident..

The Grumpy Jackal

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Mclaren-Honda’s stuttering start

Mclaren fans have been holding their breath ever since the announcement that the Woking team and Honda were to go into partnership again. Would the 2014 Honda resemble the all-conquering Japanese outfit from a quarter of a century ago or would they emulate the lacklustre performances of the BAR-Honda era.

Rumours have been floating around for some considerable time that the Japanese are months behind schedule, and that they are approaching the project following the ‘Honda’ philosophy, which is to build towards peak performance.

After the first test run in Abu Dhabi yesterday, it is clearly too early to predict the true level of capability and whilst observers have reported that the Honda PU sounds better than the rest of the field – this in itself may not necessarily a good thing. There was substantial discussion in Formula One earlier this year about ‘noise’ and performance, and the F1 engineers maintained that incremental sound is a result of inefficient deployment of the energy available

McLaren Honda’s morning run was curtailed due to an ERS problem, whilst in the afternoon Belgian driver – Stoffel Vandoorne – completed just three laps. “I think we had some problems with data-logging, but we are still not 100% sure, the team is still analyzing everything. And ‘the same problem we encountered on the second lap, so we hope to find a solution for tomorrow

The fault was finally traced to difficulties with the fuel/data exchange. Vandoorne added “First of all, solve the issues we had today and then see if we can get more laps in. Every lap is very valuable because after these two days we will have two months’ time to come up with new ideas for next year. Hopefully we will get in more laps for tomorrow.”

Day One in winter testing in Jerez this year looked like this

1 Raikkonen (Ferrari), 1m27.104s (31 laps)
2 Hamilton (Mercedes), 1m27.820s (18 laps)
3 Bottas (Williams), 1m30.082s (7 laps)
4 Perez (Force India), 1m33.161s (11 laps)
5 Vergne (Toro Rosso), 1m36.530s (15 laps)
6 Gutierrez (Sauber), 1m42.257s (7 laps)
7 Vettel (Red Bull), no time (3 laps)
8 Ericsson (Caterham), no time (1 lap)

McLaren Honda completed just 3 laps yesterday, which is on a par with Red Bull’s performance back in January, so the comparison to yesterday’s running by the other teams is not really appropriate.

Abu Dhabi test day 1

1. Valtteri Bottas, Williams, 1m 43.396s, 80 laps
2. Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari, 1m 43.888s, 81 laps
3. Nico Rosberg, Mercedes, 1m 44.512s, 114 laps
4. Jolyon Palmer, Force India, 1m 45.516s, 37 laps
5. Carlos Sainz, Red Bull, 1m 45.339s, 100 laps
6. Will Stevens, Caterham, 1m 45.436s, 102 laps
7. Charles Pic, Lotus, 1m 46.167s, 89 laps
8. Marcus Ericsson, Sauber, 1m 46.253s, 95 laps
9. Max Verstappen, Toro Rosso, 1m 47.194s, 55 laps
10. Stoffel Vandoorne, McLaren, no time, 3 laps

Ron Dennis despite this start is confident that McLaren will be “strong” in 2015. “As a team and with Honda, we understand the challenges of these new power units and I am in a position to say that we will be strong,”

Whether Honda are at the races or not, Dennis argues the MP4-30 will be a far better car anyway. “You have to realise something: the group that designed the 2015 car is completely different to the one that did the last two.”

It is believed as many as 50 changes have been made in McLaren personnel to the design and engineering staff who work on the prototype vehicles for the following year.

UPDATE GMT 10:24

Once again McLaren Honda hit problems on the morning of the second Abu Dhabi test.

Eric Boullier was honest in his assessment. “Overnight it went very well – a couple of issues, but things we could unplug and run without. We fired up at six o’clock and everything was fine; the car was on the ground ready to run at eight-thirty, driver in”.

As the session began 30 minutes later, the Frenchman revealed, “then something went wrong, which obliged us to take off all the battery pack again.” Today’s problem is apparently different to the one McLaren suffered yesterday”. 

Amusingly, Boullier explained, “Electricity is complicated – you plug in and something goes wrong, you fix it, re-plug and something goes wrong somewhere else,” 

“We are just chasing, but I understand we are closing in on the problems”.

UPDATE GMT 15:51

Well McLaren have been chasing another set of problems today, which again resulted in no running worth talking about.

After finally completing an installation lap this afternoon, the MP4-20H returned to the pits on the back of a recovery truck

Pascal Wehrlein, Mercedes test driver, set the pace and Marcus Ericsson pumped in the most laps by any driver for his new team for 2015 – Sauber.

Having committed the cardinal sin of putting your new team’s cr into the wall yesterday, Max Verstappen had a solid outing for Toro Rosso and was third quickest overall.

However, he was eclipsed by GP2 race winner this year, Raffaele Marciello, who gaev hope to the Tifosi that 2015 may just turn out better than 2014.

Despite being comprehensively outperformed by Kamui Kobayashi during the Abu Dhabi race weekend, Will Stevens delivered a hopeful 76 laps for Caterham and was 5th quickest overall. Though despite the prmises of a showcase to potential buyers, there is still no news from Acting Team Principal and Administrator, Finbar O’Connell.

Another débutante Richard ‘Spike’ Goaddard was on show today, as he appeared to struggle in getting to terms with the Force India car. However the team tested a “Fan Info Wing” this morning, which may be used in 2015 in an attempt to provide fans with an idea who is driving the car since the advent of what appears to be almost weekly helmet design changes.

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Presumably the Info Wing is for the less intuitive F1 observer, as it also displays the typre of tyre compound being run on the car. The wing has been designed by Lewis Hamilton’s father, Anthony.

 

Pos Driver Car Time Gap Laps
1 Pascal Wehrlein Mercedes 1m42.624s - 96
2 Raffaele Marciello Ferrari 1m43.208s 0.584s 91
3 Max Verstappen Toro Rosso/Renault 1m43.763s 1.139s 78
4 Marcus Ericsson Sauber/Ferrari 1m44.551s 1.927s 112
5 Will Stevens Caterham/Renault 1m44.888s 2.264s 76
6 Richard Goddard Force India/Mercedes 1m44.944s 2.320s 89
7 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull/Renault 1m45.151s 2.527s 88
8 Luiz Felipe Nasr Williams/Mercedes 1m45.937s 3.313s 83
9 Alex Lynn Lotus/Renault 1m46.168s 3.544s 52
10 Esteban Ocon Lotus/Renault 1m47.013s 4.389s 34
11 Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren/Honda - - 2

 

Clearly the past two days have been unhelpful for McLaren Honda, but it is also not a disaster. However, the team must hit the ground running day one in Jerez 2015 and be running comparable mileage to the rest of the field, otherwise the catchup process will mean another long and tortuous year for the Woking team and their Japanese partners.

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Alonso mocks Ferrari’s ‘Marlboro Man’ shakeup

Fernando Alonso has wasted no time in strongly distancing himself from Ferrari, where he spent the past five seasons as the fabled team’s ‘number 1′ driver. On Tuesday, the Spaniard appeared to be openly laughing at the Maranello team’s latest managerial shakeup, after Ferrari split with team boss Marco Mattiacci.

Alonso ‘retweeted’ a photo showing him grinning broadly as his friend Flavio Briatore posed with an unlit cigarette in his mouth and an open Marlboro packet as they dined in a restaurant. It was obviously a reference to the ‘Marlboro Man’, as Mattiacci’s successor is Mauruzio Arrivabene, until now a branding executive for Philip Morris. Not only that, it seems that at some point after the chequered flag waved in Abu Dhabi last Sunday, Alonso symbolically ‘unfollowed’ the Ferrari team on Twitter.

Meanwhile, although he was photographed in plain clothes in the Ferrari garage on Tuesday, Alonso’s successor Sebastian Vettel was reportedly unhappy with the Italian team on his first day of work at the Abu Dhabi test. That is because when asked by Germany’s Sport Bild what he thought of Mattiacci’s departure, Vettel appeared to have not been told the news first-hand.

“Is it true?” he asked the correspondent.

The report said Vettel reacted by telling Ferrari he was disappointed to have not been informed about the major shakeup. Finally, when asked by Brazil’s Globo if he will be accompanying Alonso from Ferrari to McLaren next year, the Spanish driver’s race engineer Andrea Stella answered clearly: “Yes.

Former F1 driver David Coulthard admits he has some concerns about Ferrari’s 2015 driver lineup, despite Vettel and Raikkonen’s combined five career titles.

Kimi Raikkonen’s return to Ferrari was the worst season for one of their drivers since 1982,” he told the Telegraph, adding that Vettel also “looked a shadow of himself” in 2014. “The German did not like the new formula, he did not like the engines,” Coulthard explained. “That is fair enough, but his mantra seemed to affect his ability to perform.” (GMM)

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Bottas’ managers play down Ferrari ‘rumours’ (GMM)

Valtteri Bottas’ managers have played down rumours linking the on-form Finn with a move to Ferrari. Italy’s La Gazzetta dello Sport reported this week that, perhaps in view of replacing its current Finn Kimi Raikkonen in 2016, Ferrari has made exploratory advances towards 25-year-old Bottas in recent days.

With his sixth podium of the season in Abu Dhabi, Bottas actually leapfrogged 2015 Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel to take fourth place in this year’s points standings. In light of the Ferrari rumours, however, Bottas’ current boss, Claire Williams, said the British team is determined to keep its driver beyond next year.

And Toto Wolff, who not only doubles as the Mercedes team boss, a Williams shareholder but also Bottas’ overall manager, is quoted by Turun Sanomat newspaper as describing the Ferrari link as just “rumours”.

Also on Bottas’ management team is the two-time world champion Mika Hakkinen, who told Ilta-Sanomat newspaper this week: “Valtteri will continue with Williams next year. It is still far too early to talk about 2016, but he is definitely heading in the right direction.”

Valtteri has had a fantastic season,” Finn Hakkinen added. “He has had two second places and four other podiums, which has been ideal to show just what a great job he is doing for Williams.(GMM)

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#F1 Daily News and Comment: Tuesday 25th November 2014

•November 25, 2014 • 55 Comments

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This page will be updated throughout the day.

Please if you are on Twitter press the tweet button below. If you re-write and tweet individual story headlines don’t forget to include #F1.

You may not realise how hugely important this is and has helped grow our community significantly

Previously on The Judge 13:

#TJ13 #F1 Courtroom Podcast: Romanians in the cupboard

Castrol #F1 GP Predictor Summary – Yas Marina 2014


OTD Lite: 2006 – Zanardi tests F1 car again

Driver reunion could make McLaren stronger – Dennis (GMM)

Hamilton wants to keep number 44 in 2015 (GMM)

Vettel has ‘passion for Ferrari’ – Ricciardo (GMM)


OTD Lite: 2006 – Zanardi tests F1 car again

It’s not uncommon to hear that racing drivers are a special breed. Their mental strength borders on granite and we have seen Robert Kubica return from an accident – which could have cost him his arm – and compete at the highest level in rallying; with somewhat better success than a fully able bodied Kimi Raikkonen.

One driver that has truly ignored the fate that lady luck has imposed on him is the indefatigable Alex Zanardi who having lost both legs in a near fatal accident in 2001 has returned with a passion to demonstrate the strength of the human mind. Not only has he completed the 13 laps of his ill-fated Indycar race but he has tasted success as a Paralympian and won races with BMW in WTCC.

On this day in 2006, BMW provided him with an F1 car to test and he turned in competitive times. As always with this inspiration, humour wasn’t far from his thoughts: “I was a bit too big for the cockpit of this car,” he joked, “so we cut something off my legs and made me a little bit shorter. I told the guys it was a much faster job than adjusting the pedals.”

The Grumpy Jackal

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Driver reunion could make McLaren stronger – Dennis (GMM)

Even Ron Dennis is now beginning to hint that Fernando Alonso is set to return to McLaren. In late 2007, when the Spaniard left Woking amid acrimony and the ‘spygate’ furore, a reunion with Dennis even years later appeared impossible. But the impossible now appears to be fact, with Alonso almost certainly having already signed a deal and McLaren deciding only the identity of his teammate for the Honda-powered 2015 season.

“From what I read,” said Alonso in Abu Dhabi, “I’m not the most pleasant person to work with, but the bottom line is that I can usually go back to a team where I worked before.”

Even Briton Dennis is now hinting that the most unpleasant of racing divorces does not mean the parties cannot reunite in the future. “Let me tell you my interpretation,” he told the Spanish daily AS, “because I know where you’re going. We live in a world in which marriage is a big commitment, but sometimes it doesn’t work out. But the truth is that sometimes, when you try to rebuild your marriage, you end up making it much stronger than it was before.

Dennis said a final decision about the team’s 2015 lineup will not be taken until a board meeting in December. It appears likely Alonso’s teammate will eventually be the young Dane Kevin Magnussen, with veteran Jenson Button apparently farewelling McLaren on Twitter by saying “it’s been a pleasure to call McLaren my home for the last five years”.

McLaren junior Stoffel Vandoorne will drive McLaren’s Honda-powered interim car at the Abu Dhabi test on Tuesday and Wednesday.

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Hamilton wants to keep number 44 in 2015 (GMM)

2014 world champion Lewis Hamilton wants to keep his personal race number 44 next year rather than switch to number 1. Traditionally, the reigning world champion in F1 wears the coveted number 1. But a change early in 2014, mimicking the system in MotoGP, meant drivers were able to pick their own number between 2 and 99 to keep for the rest of their careers.

Having run the number 1 throughout the season, outgoing world champion Vettel will now revert to his chosen number 5 to take to Ferrari in 2015. Mercedes’ Hamilton has run 44, and even has the number tattooed behind his right ear.

“44 is my number,” the Briton said this week, after securing his second career drivers’ title last weekend in Abu Dhabi. “I won my first championship with 44 in karting so I’ll ask the team if I can keep it on my car now. Whether the 1 is on my car or not is not important to me.”

British media sources are reporting that Hamilton is close to securing a new $30 million per season deal with Mercedes that could keep him at the team until 2020. Already with a contract for 2015, the dotted line may go unsigned until he has appointed a new management team in the coming months, but he told reporters on Monday that the 2016 contract is “a formality”.

“I haven’t made any decisions of how you go about it, but I currently have a great contract. Ultimately I think not a huge amount will change,” said Hamilton.

On Monday, it also seemed as though team boss Toto Wolff was not ready to negotiate the new deal anyway, having partied deep into Sunday night. “Definitely for me it (negotiate a contract) would not be the best thing for me to do,” the Austrian joked, while Hamilton revealed that he drank mainly watermelon juice to celebrate his title.

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Vettel has ‘passion for Ferrari’ – Ricciardo (GMM)

Daniel Ricciardo, the new de-facto number 1 at Red Bull, says he can understand why Sebastian Vettel is heading to Ferrari. It has been suggested that, after winning four titles on the trot, German Vettel could not cope with being comprehensively beaten by team newcomer Ricciardo in 2014.

But Australian Ricciardo is not sure it is quite as simple as that, even though “the team duel probably didn’t make Sebastian’s decision any harder”.

“He didn’t have the year he wanted,” Ricciardo also told Germany’s Sport Bild. “But we mustn’t lose sight of reality either. He has won four world championships with Red Bull. Would a fifth with Red Bull be as satisfying as one with a new team?

“I know how great his passion is for Ferrari,” Ricciardo explained. “Not just with F1 but also the road cars. He is a fan of the brand and its products. So I think it would have happened sooner or later.

The fact that it has come sooner for Vettel, however, means he is arriving at Maranello amid great turmoil. Stefano Domenicali, Luca di Montezemolo and now even Fernando Alonso and Marco Mattiacci have all fled during the course of a disappointing 2014 in red. The turmoil moved Ferrari’s new president Sergio Marchionne to seek to reassure the team’s staff in a letter this week that was leaked to Italy’s Autosprint.

“I understand your disappointment at the end of a season that we would all like to forget,” he wrote. “But, as often happens in life, it is the dark moments that push us into phases of renewal and rebirth, so today we have the opportunity to start a new chapter in the sports history of Ferrari.”

Marchionne said Vettel is the right choice to replace Alonso, and not just because “Sebastian and Kimi (Raikkonen) are united by a great friendship in life. We all know how important it is at this time to have a healthy team spirit,” he added, “coming from people who believe strongly in the project and want to share their commitment, sacrifices and achievements.”

Marchionne warned that the road faced by Ferrari beginning in 2015 “will not be short nor easy“, but that change “should not be feared”.

“Progress is made by those who decide to break habits and choose not to be the result of the past, but one of the causes of the future”, he concluded.

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Castrol #F1 GP Predictor Summary – Yas Marina 2014

•November 25, 2014 • 1 Comment

Brought to you by TJ13 Courtroom Reporter & Crime Analyst: Adam Macdonald (@adamac39)

 

The 2014 TJ13 Champion

A hard fought year has now finished and we are pleased to announce that the winner – by a mere two points – is AJKL, finishing on a grand total of 1,190 points.  Amazingly, it was a fairly average week which finished the Championship, but that doesn’t matter now – Well Done!

Your 2014 Champion

Your 2014 Champion

2nd Place – Silver Medal

In second place, ending with 1,088 points, is Alexiadis F1 Team which needed just a little more luck to have taken the crown.  Had Vettel not had his newish powertrain taken out and replaced with a relic then it may have been the team’s year.  Better luck next year…

2 points - so close, yet so far

2 points – so close, yet so far

3rd Place – The Ricciardo of the league

A little of the top two in the league, but ending in a very respectable third place was The Bull Whipper.  Top 200 in the world was impressive, so one team to watch for next year!

Best of the rest

Best of the rest

Nobody saw it coming

Red Bull finally being called up on their, erm…sailing close to the wind on interpretation – or cheating as some would call it – meant we saw some overtaking at least.  Other than that it was a fairly standard Abu Dhabi procession, save for the final twist in the title narrative.

Nico will come back strong next year, but Lewis is a worthy victor in 2014.

Last question’s answer

The question was: Of the 15 most recent seasons (2014 included) how many have seen the title decided at the final race?

Answer: 7 of the years saw a final day showdown – 6 of these without the influence of double points – so good riddance to the ridiculous idea!

Food for thought

Watch out for the war of words that will rumble on over the winter.  Anyone non-Mercedes will want more relaxed regulations, as those from the Stuttgart team (and those powered by it) will want to keep the status quo.

There will be no rest for the wicked this winter…see you all next year!

An iconic image which will be used time and again

An iconic image which will be used time and again

#F1 Daily News and Comment: Monday 24th November 2014

•November 24, 2014 • 140 Comments

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This page will be updated throughout the day.

Please if you are on Twitter press the tweet button below. If you re-write and tweet individual story headlines don’t forget to include #F1.

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Previously on The Judge 13:

#TJ13 #F1 Courtroom Podcast: Romanians in the cupboard


OTD Lite: 2006 – Hamilton joins Mclaren F1 team

New deal with champ Hamilton may take time – Wolff (GMM)

Mallya slams Red Bull as F1 ‘cheats’ (GMM)

Mattiacci focused on Ferrari top job ‘at the moment’ (GMM)


OTD Lite: 2006 – Hamilton joins Mclaren F1 team

Formula One World ChampionshipAs the world awakens celebrating the birth of a new double champion, it is somehow fitting that the entrance of Lewis Hamilton to F1 celebrates its official anniversary also. It was eight years ago today that young Lewis was unveiled as the latest driver to join the hallowed turf of F1.

The story of how a eleven year old Lewis told a startled Ron Dennis that he wanted to drive for Mclaren in the future is well known and his apprenticeship led to the Stevenage karter becoming a protege of the Woking outfit. He was unveiled to the public as team-mate to double World Champion Fernando Alonso and the rest as they say is history. Race winner and title challenger in his first season, champion in his second and the winningest British driver in history.

A mercurial talent who wears his heart on his sleeve, as capable of stunning drives as he is of self-sabotage and now a double champion it was with prophetic words that Dennis unveiled his latest charge -

We reviewed the grid and, apart from the top three, we reckoned most of them had plateaued. I am distinctly unimpressed with the majority of drivers currently involved in F1. I feel Lewis is well equipped to deal with these drivers who fall into that category.”

The Grumpy Jackal

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New deal with champ Hamilton may take time – Wolff (GMM)

With Lewis Hamilton now a double world champion, Mercedes has vowed to waste no time in signing him up for the future. Officials for the German team on Sunday insisted that, with the British driver and Nico Rosberg finishing first and second in 2014, their rivalry will be back on track in silver cars next season. Beyond 2015, however, is less clear, even though German Rosberg is already signed up.

Hamilton only has a deal until the end of 2015, meaning the former McLaren driver may be looking for yet another challenge in 2016 and beyond.

“I definitely don’t feel that I’m looking for a new challenge,” he insisted after winning his second drivers’ title in Abu Dhabi on Sunday. “I feel like this is just the beginning.”

Before the final race weekend of the season, team boss Toto Wolff has been saying he and chairman Niki Lauda will sit down with Hamilton to discuss the terms of a 2016 contract as soon as Monday or Tuesday this week. Indeed, Wolff joked late on Sunday that those talks may kick off while Hamilton is still suffering from Sunday’s “hangover”.

Hamilton himself, however, appears in less of a hurry. “We still have another year to go,” he said, “so there’s no particular rush but this is my home. I feel very happy here.”

It appears obvious that Hamilton and Mercedes want to stick together beyond 2015. “We will clarify this in the next few weeks,” team chairman Niki Lauda told German television on Sunday. “He is happy, we are happy — I don’t see any problems.

Agreement on the actual terms of the contract, however, may be more difficult, particularly as the new two-time world champion is now being hailed as one of F1’s all-time greats.

“Lewis feels at home with the team,” said Wolff, “and we have the fastest car on the grid. So we have some pretty important arguments on our side! “But of course there is no guarantee that we will come quickly to an agreement. We would definitely love to keep Lewis, as he is an important part of this story.”

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Mallya slams Red Bull as F1 ‘cheats’ (GMM)

Rival F1 team Force India has blasted outgoing world champions Red Bull as the “cheats” of the sport.

“Red Bull gives you flexible wings,” team supremo and co-owner Vijay Mallya said on Twitter on Sunday. The former Indian billionaire’s attack on the energy drink-owned team follows not just the latest flexible wing saga, but also team boss Christian Horner supposedly enraging his counterparts in a recent meeting.

Not only Mallya, but also Lotus owner Gerard Lopez have intimated to members of the F1 media that it was Horner who openly laughed at the demise of backmarkers Caterham and Marussia. The next most endangered teams – Lotus, Force India and Sauber – have been arguing ferociously in recent weeks that the sport should more fairly distribute its almost $1 billion in annual income among the teams.

But Horner is quoted by the Times as “categorically” denying that he scoffed at their plight. “I would never decry other teams,” he said. “They have my respect. For example, we have helped Caterham get into the paddock. They got gearboxes from us (in Abu Dhabi) even though we are owed money.

But something has obviously enraged Mallya, who launched a tirade of anti-Red Bull sentiment on his official Twitter page ahead of Sunday’s 2014 finale in Abu Dhabi. “Arrogance and a superiority complex on the part of those who are paid to be in F1 should not dilute or colour those who pay to be in F1,” he said. “A big F1 team that says we small outfits should not come with bananas to a gun fight, grabs maximum money and cheats on the regulations,” Mallya added.

Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel and Daniel Ricciardo were disqualified from qualifying on Saturday after the FIA deemed their front wings were illegal.

A BBC report that revealed a concealed spring was specifically designed to allow the wing to illegally bend was also ‘retweeted’ by Mallya. Former Caterham technical boss Mike Gascoyne also attacked the Red Bull chief on Sunday, tweeting before the race: “Wonder if Christian Halliwell will visit the back of the grid? Will remind him of his first few years in Red Bull.”

He signed off with the hashtag: “Whatgoesaroundcomesaround”.

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Mattiacci focused on Ferrari top job ‘at the moment’ (GMM)

Marco Mattiacci has done little to reject rumours he is set to depart as Ferrari’s team boss. Reports throughout the Abu Dhabi weekend suggested the Roman and former Ferrari North America chief, who arrived at Maranello in April to replace the suddenly-ousted Stefano Domenicali, is on the verge of himself being replaced.

The rumours say Marlboro executive and F1 Commission member Maurizio Arrivabene, or perhaps even Ross Brawn, are set to succeed Mattiacci. When asked if Abu Dhabi was his last race, Mattiacci said on Sunday: “At the moment I am very focused on my job just as I was when I started in April.

It is obvious, however, that more changes may be afoot at Maranello.

Piero Ferrari, the great Enzo Ferrari’s only living son, was trackside in Abu Dhabi and he answered “I don’t know” as to whether Brawn is set to return. But when asked if the team’s former technical director parted on good terms a decade ago, however, Ferrari insisted: “Yes.

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#F1 Polls: 2014 FORMULA 1 ETIHAD AIRWAYS ABU DHABI GRAND PRIX – Driver of the Weekend

•November 24, 2014 • 11 Comments

Lewis Hamilton - Nico Rosberg - 2014 Abu Dhabi

Having had time to reflect on the race weekend, who is your driver of the weekend? This takes into account not only the race itself but all the events over the course of the weekend.

#F1 Race Review: Hamilton seals the 2014 WDC in style

•November 23, 2014 • 21 Comments

Brought to you by TheJudge13 contributor Mattpt55

Lewis Hamilton - 2014 Drivers World Champion

 

The changeless weather of the desert hung over the start of the Double in the Desert as those on yachts popped champagne corks and no doubt those in the Mercedes motor home made a few extra trips to the executive washroom before heading to the pit wall.

Ambient temps of 26°C and track temps of 33°C were a perfect mirror to the day before when Rosberg proved the better man and took pole. With lots of ends to attend to, the story line was crowded in the pre-race with Button, Alonso and Vettel all worthy of attention as well as Caterham and Marussia. But there was no doubt the WDC was the story of the evening and as the lights went red it was to be the smallest of margins that provided the biggest of differences. 0.2s and the direction of the setting sun provided all the margin necessary as the race at the front was settled by the first turn. Sadly the curse of the Leprecorn reared it’s head and deprived true fans of the race at the end as Mercedes yet again suffered reliability issues that gutted one of the drivers and spoiled the much hoped for decisive end to the season.

It was to be Williams that stepped into the breach however and provided the late drama as Massa popped onto the Super Softs and did his best to catch the leading Mercedes in the last 10 laps. There were yet again battles up and down the field as well as the spectacularly appropriate visual metaphor of a Renault engine going up in a flames in the back of a Lotus, no doubt a fitting way to end their partnership. Red Bull starting from the pit lane and the chippiness natural to drivers desperate to extend their careers marked the early phase of the race before the challenging nature of Yas Marina reduced the overtaking to those who were seriously out of position from the start and gave the decided advantage to the defender.

The middle of the race saw Mercedes’ woes appear and opened the window for Williams who wasted no time in jumping on it with both feet. With Bottas and Magnussen having tied for worst start of the GP, it was Massa best placed to pounce as one of the Mercs began dropping rapidly down the order. Rapidly deciding on a bold course of action, Williams switched their strategy and held Felipe out long then tossed him onto the faster tyre and gave him 10 laps to catch the leader. Starting at more than a second a lap it was looking all too real but with 3 laps to go the bleeding was stopped as the tyres finally started to lose their performance edge. And thus it was that Lewis Hamilton crossed the line as the 2014 World Driver’s Champion with Williams locking out the rest of the podium as Bottas followed Massa home.

Fireworks, donuts for Hamilton and Jenson, the British flag on a victory lap for Lewis and generally driving about like a hooligan to celebrate followed. And a happy birthday for Ross Brawn, who was delivered an especially juicy present as Lewis acknowledged the long propounded theory that Ross was equally influential in getting him to come to Mercedes, despite what Lauda said. Classy gestures abounded in the podium ceremony and both Mercedes drivers promised to come back stronger next season.

Sauber’s worst ever season finally came to a pitiful end as Ferrari’s annus horribilis continued for a second straight year, Alonso and Raikkonen coming 9th and 10th at the end of the day. Regardless of what happens with Jenson’s career, Button singlehandedly saved McLaren from losing out to Force India in the WCC with his 5th as Magnussen was nowhere in this race, and if it was his valedictory drive, it was a good one indeed. Ricciardo confirmed his 3rd in the WDC with a keen drive to 4th despite the pit lane start and Red Bull’s season was book-ended with self-inflicted controversy as Vettel struggled home in 8th, no doubt ready for a clean slate next year.

Act I

As the lights went red, it was all eyes on Hamilton and Rosberg and as the lights went out it was Hamilton with the perfect start, reacting in 0.2s and leaving Rosberg, who had a good start himself, far behind by the apex of T1. Afterward, Sky claimed that perhaps the fact that the even side of the grid stayed in the sun much longer might have provided superior traction to Hamilton, who actually complained on the parade lap of low revs during his practice start. But the fact was that it was Lewis who won the start rather than Nico losing it, and that ultimately was all that race fans would have to hang their hats on, as Nico’s ERS failure later on would rob him of the chance to implement his comeback strategy that was evolved during the early stages of the race.

Farther back, it was Bottas dropping to 8th and Magnussen to 10th with the worst of the starts, whilst at the other end it was Button up to 4th and Raikkonen to 5th who made the best of their chances. Sutil and Magnussen traded carbon fibre as the field ran down the back straight and into sector 2.

On lap 2, Magnussen complained of Right Front damage on the radio and Hamilton had already exited the DRS of Rosberg. By the following lap Raikkonen, Alonso, Kvyat and Bottas were all looking racy as they were well within each others DRS. The pair of Mercedes drivers opened up a gap on Massa and behind him Button began to lag, well already 5 seconds behind the leader by lap 4.

The fragile nature of the Options rapidly made themselves apparent as Bottas was on the radio complaining of graining, also on lap 4. Alonso took a neat maneuver to slip past Raikkonen the following lap and it was immediately apparent why, as he ducked into the pits to ditch his rapidly degrading tyres. In his wake, Kvyat swept past Kimi as well, as the extra lap he was suddenly sentenced to did his race no favors what so ever. Farther back, Ricciardo edged by Kobayashi and Sutil as he began carving his way through the field.

Button had begun to experience Front Right graining as Alonso exited the pits and confirmed the pit delta at 21.6 seconds. Button was told to box and Hamilton extended his lead to 1.7s over Rosberg by the start of lap 7. Those with early stops, including Alonso found themselves held up by traffic as Kvyat and Raikkonen trailed button into the pits to take on the Prime tyre. Hamilton continued to edge the gap up to over 2s as the Mercedes continued to lap more quickly on the Option than the new runners did on the Prime. Alonso had a bit of entertaining dialogue on the radio as Stevens apparently held him up for longer than was considered appropriate, at least by the Spaniard. His temperament was not helped by then having to get past Kobayashi immediately afterward. The Force Indias, starting out on the Prime, had moved up to 5th and 6th as those on the Option pitted, whilst ahead, Bottas had made up for his poor start by regaining 4th, though with a significant gap to Massa.

Given the difficulty of overtaking, those stuck in traffic were rapidly seeing their race strategy go sideways whilst those who had stuck it out and managed their tyres were setting themselves up to battle at the front. Magnussen and Hulkenberg were investigated for a bit of shenanigans and as Button negotiated his way past Kobayashi and Vergne caught up to Perez, Hamilton got the call to box at the end of lap 10, having successfully gotten Bottas out of his pit window.

Act II

A quick stop for Lewis and Rosberg dialed his car up and gave it a good go, taking about a second out of Hamilton overall, but losing about 0.5s to Massa, an early sign of the William’s pace. AS Merc cycled through the pit stops, Ricciardo and Perez had a good go and by lap 13 the Colgate Kid had gotten by Sergio and taken possession of 9th, with his eyes set further up the field. Perez celebrated by having a massive lock up once he could no longer hold Ricciardo back, setting the stage for him to pit 2 laps later. Farther back, Vettel was trapped behind Magnussen, who had somehow managed to get Hulkenberg penalized for a little coming together, a 5 second stop and go that was served by the thoroughly disgruntled German at his subsequent pit stop. Massa finally stopped at the end of lap 13 and was out into 3rd.

Up ahead, Rosberg was steadily eating into Hamilton’s lead, a few tenths at a time. Perez was followed into the pits by Vergne as Vettel in 7th stacked up behind K-Mag, with Button and Alonso behind Seb. Hamilton’s start reaction time was officially announced at 0.2s as Double Waved Yellows appeared at T18 for a suddenly powerless Kvyat, who till then had been having a quite reasonable race. Quickly cleared, the race rolled on as Hulkenberg boxed to serve his time and take on new tyres.

Lap 17 saw the K-Mag train continue and Rosberg discussed a change in strategy on the radio, to run a long second stint and then take on a pair of Options for a short final sprint, which was the strategy Massa, too, would adopt slightly later in the race. Ricciardo, Magnussen and Vettel all still were on their first set of tyres, as Vettel backed off Magnussen’s DRS but Button and Alonso behind kept the pressure up. Meanwhile, Hamilton showed Rosberg a new fast lap and the game of trade the tenths was on in earnest between the two teammates.

Bottas caught up to Ricciardo lap 20, and Red Bull suggested that Danny Boy not make life too easy for the Finn, keeping in mind they were on different tyre strategies, which the Aussie gleefully took to heart. Magnussen radioed in his tyres were still good and stayed out till lap 22 as Mercedes got on with the business of lapping the backmarkers.

It all changed lap 23 as Rosberg had a sudden lock up and went off track at turn 17. Though he regained the track and carried on the gap which was hovering around 3 seconds had gone out to 5.5 seconds, putting a serious dent in his plans to chase down Hamilton at the tail end of the race. But as the subsequent laps rolled by it became all too apparent that not all was well with Nico’s car, as he continued to drop back into the clutches of Massa, 8 seconds adrift as lap 25 came around and dropping to 10 by the end of the circuit.

As frantic radio traffic began between Rosberg and his engineer Bottas finally got by Ricciardo. After a bit of trouble shooting it was the nightmare scenario for Mercedes, ERS failure for Nico and the team unable to reset the engine leaving the FinnGerMonagasque hopelessly exposed to the brutal realities of the rest of the field. With Nico’s attention rapidly turned to damage limitation, Massa, seemingly unable to believe his good luck, rapidly lined up Rosberg and for good measure took his strategy as well, opting to run long and go for the Options at the end.

Meanwhile, it was only Hamilton’s perfect start that was saving Mercedes from a PR nightmare as he was comfortably ahead of his teammate prior to the ERS giving up, saving them from the one fate they wished to avoid, reliability problems affecting the WDC result. Of course, it could be argued that the end result was affected as Nico never had his shot to take P1 back and race fans watched with bitter disappointment as they realized that the last duel was not to be.

As the laps unspooled it was Massa who provided a ray of hope for a contest at the sharp end, the Williams looking lively and it’s top speed giving a shadow of a chance. But it was Maldonado who really took everyone’s mind off Nico’s woes, when his engine burst spectacularly into flames on lap 28, a fitting end to Lotus and Renault’s last campaign together.

Following up, Button and Alonso were well into it, with the pair dragging down the straight before Button out-braked Fred and took the position into T11. AS was frequently the case this year, Alonso hung around and as Button checked his wing mirrors in the subsequent turn he managed to out-brake himself and let Fernando right back through.

Act III

Lap 31 saw Hamilton in the 1:49’s while Massa was in the 1:47’s and it was the call to box for his final stop of the season at the end of the lap for Lewis. Massa continued to push and further back Rosberg desperately plotted for a way to stay in with a chance should Hamilton encounter trouble. Hamilton came out directly behind Nico and rapidly cleared him and while Lewis disappeared up the road Rosberg continued to bleed 1-2 seconds per lap. Mercedes called Nico in lap 34 and to add insult to injury he was told it was to be a manual pull away, such a rare occurrence that even the erudite Rosberg had to be coached through it.

A bit further back Button worked his way back through traffic, having pitted lap 29 from 5th. He came out 10th, but looking up the road 5th was still a real possibility for him while back in 12th, his teammate was suffering through a miserable stint on the Options which were discarded on the subsequent lap. Button passed Alonso as K-Mag completed his stop as Raikkonen stepped up to have a crack at the Spaniard.

Rosberg’s top dropped him to 7th and as a dialogue with his engineer revealed he was still magnificently obsessed with putting himself into position to take the WDC should Hamilton fail. The only advice that was offered him was to drive flat out as the technical problems on the car were not going to be solved till it was parked in the garage.

Bottas was in lap 36 as no doubt the massive Mercedes PR machine worked out how to limit the damage from Rosberg’s failure post race. Massa continued to push as Lewis lingered in his pit window, around 15-16 seconds back, but made no effort to reel him in or even run similar lap times, perhaps very concerned about making sure his car would make it to the end of the race.

Vettel slid past Rosberg as Bottas prepared to come into range of DRS on Ricciardo yet again, a battle that should continue to entertain next season as well.

Lap 40 saw Raikkonen trying to get past Vergne as Rosberg continued to struggle with his wounded car, having an off going into T1 but managing to keep it pointed the right direction. Button continued his inexorable forward progress but with 15 laps left the shape of the race began to solidify. Red Bull decided that Ricciardo was better off in front of Bottas, strategy be damned as Valterri was told to be careful with his tyres.

Button having caught up to Rosberg, effortlessly passed him while Hulkenberg who had previously pitted lap 36 began to copy the McLaren man’s march towards the front, closing in on Alonso ahead of him after picking off Raikkonen and Vergne in the meantime having switched to the Options which provided him with a devastating advantage.

Act IV

Massa boxed lap 44 for the Option tyre and emerged roughly 10 seconds back of Lewis, who still seemed to be serenely swanning about putting as little stress as possible on his powertrain. Massa began to claw back big chunks of time as the helplessness of his situation finally began to take a toll on Rosberg, belied by his increasingly short responses to his engineer. Hulkenberg, having stuck it to Alonso in T11 the previous lap, continued his relentless prowl up the road, looking for one last, good points result to redeem the second half of the season.

Two laps later he passed the increasingly disconsolate Rosberg for 7th as up the road Massa was getting the best use out of his Options, taking North of a second a lap out of Lewis. Bottas was within 3 seconds of Ricciardo on tyres half as old while back in 10th Perez on 3 lap old Options continued his hunt for maximum points.

Ricciardo bailed the end of lap 47 for his Options moving Bottas to 3rd, Button to 4th and Hulkenberg to 5th. Massa continued to hammer away and by the conclusion of lap 49 he was within 7 seconds of Hamilton. Vettel got by Alonso T12 with his new boots, following Perez. Ricciardo slotted back into 4th and the top 5 looked set, with the only question being would Massa catch Hamilton.

Lap 52 saw Rosberg drop far down the field, such that 2 laps later the team would offer to retire him before Hamilton lapped him. Rosberg insisted gracefully on finishing and with no hesitation the team came back and endorsed his decision. Massa had reeled in all but 3.5 seconds of Hamilton’s advantage, but that would be as far as his tyres would take and as the field settled down for the final laps it was an exceedingly ebullient Hamilton taking turn 21 to fireworks and the cheers of the crowd. Close behind the Williams duo crossed the line, then Ricciardo and Button having both significantly out driven their teammates in the final race of the season.

Ferrari finished 9th and 10th, with Alonso edging Kimi one last time while Vettel finished 8th, behind Perez and Hulkenberg, putting pressure on McLaren finishing 7th and 6th respectively.

It was the newly crowned champion Hamilton that stole the show with his donuts and flag waving as well as his wild swings of emotion once he parked it up, though his old teammate Jenson decided to have a go at a little celebration as well.

There will be much speculation this off season with a new engine manufacturer coming into the sport and much shuffling of personnel. Mercedes has set the bar extremely high this season and winter testing is already eagerly anticipated to see what kind of progress has been made by their competitors and with a little bit of luck we will see even closer racing next season.

Again, it has been an absolute pleasure writing these reports for such a knowledgeable audience. And yes, special thanks to those behind the scenes who help me make these reports possible. You know who you are. And if you’ve been reading and not commenting, consider giving it a go, you never know what kind of fun might result. Now go forth and speculate wildly!!

Final Results:

# Driver Ctry Team Time Gap Pits
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:47.473 1:39:02.619 2
2 Felipe Massa Williams 1:46.837 2.500 2
3 Valtteri Bottas Williams 1:47.530 28.800 2
4 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull 1:45.846 37.100 2
5 Jenson Button McLaren 1:47.376 60.100 2
6 Nico Hulkenberg Force India 1:46.468 61.900 2
7 Sergio Perez Force India 1:46.820 70.800 2
8 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 1:46.881 71.700 2
9 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1:48.351 85.400 2
10 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1:48.117 87.400 2
11 Kevin Magnussen McLaren 1:47.632 89.900 2
12 Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso 1:47.546 91.400 3
13 Romain Grosjean Lotus 1:49.121 1 lap 3
14 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:53.252 1 lap 2
15 Esteban Gutierrez Sauber 1:48.255 1 lap 2
16 Adrian Sutil Sauber 1:50.874 1 lap 3
17 Will Stevens Caterham 1:49.240 1 lap 2
R Kamui Kobayashi Caterham RETIRED 13 laps 3
R Pastor Maldonado Lotus RETIRED 28 laps 1
R Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso RETIRED 40 laps 1

Word Drivers Championship

2014 Drivers' Championship Graph Abu Dhabi

World Constructors Championship

2014 Constructors' Championship Graph Abu Dhabi

#F1 Polls: How would you rate the 2014 FORMULA 1 ETIHAD AIRWAYS ABU DHABI GRAND PRIX?

•November 23, 2014 • 66 Comments

Lewis and Nico - Abu Dhabi 2014

With the 2014 World Drivers Championship decided at the last race how would you rate the race? Please use the comments section to tell us why you voted the way you did.

#TechF1 Treasures- The #F1 Race Weekend in Official FIA Documents #AbuDhabiGP

•November 23, 2014 • 10 Comments

Brought to you by TheJudge13 contributor Mattpt55 - the best in Scrutineering, Stewards’ Decisions, and other assorted FIA documents looked at slightly irreverently  

There’s the race we see on telly, and then there’s the race behind the scenes. One rarely talked about by reporters but told in part by the official FIA documents. Here is a selection of this weekend’s documents for you to peruse at your leisure. Enjoy. Wonder where all this great stuff came from? Right Here

Apologies for the Pressers, I was trying out a new development and let’s just say it might need a little more sorting, LOL! Enjoy the race


ThursdayTechPresserNaughty Step

Friday      – TechPresserNaughty Step

SaturdayTechPresserNaughty Step


Thursday

Tech

From the Dept of If You Were Wondering 

APressApp15

 

 

 

From the Dept of Things You Should Know 

AEvent1A

 

 

From the Dept of Counting All the Things

ATech1A

 

 

 

From the Dept of Shiny New Things

 

 

 

ATech2A

 

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Presser

From the Dept of Truth

 

APresser12A

 

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Naughty Step

 

From the Dept of All Good Things Must End

ANaughty2

 

 

 

From the Dept of Math

ANaughty1

 

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FRIDAY

Tech

 

From the Dept of Shiny New Things

BTech1A

BTech2

 

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Presser

From the Dept of Mattiaci Has A Nice Side

BPresser111A

 

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Naughty Step

From the Dept of Officially Noted

BNaughty2

From the Dept of Legit

BNaughty3

 

From the Dept of 

BNaughty4

 

From the Dept of Actually Naughty

BNaughty5

 

 

 

From the Dept of Once is not Enough

BNaughty7

 

 

From the Dept of Pain

BTech5

 

 

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SATURDAY

Tech

From the Dept of Up All NightCTech1

 

From the Dept of That’s Not Good

 

CTech2

 

Took them long enough

 

From the Dept of Checking All Things

CTech3A

 

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Presser

From the Dept of Silly Questions

CPresser111

 

 

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Naughty Step

From the Dept of  OOOPS

CNaughty1

 

 

From the Dept of Wow

CNaughty2

 

 

 

From the Dept of When it Rains

CNaughty3

 

 

 

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SUNDAY

From the Dept of I’ll put something here if the Lazy-Ass FIA ever gets around to publishing it before the race

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Tech

 

Top

Presser

Top

Naughty Step

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Thanks Carlo for helping out with the new look!

#F1 Qualifying Review: Rosberg make it 11-7 under the Abu Dhabi lights

•November 22, 2014 • 68 Comments

Brought to you by TheJudge13 contributor Mattpt55

2014 Abu Dhabi GP - Nico Rosberg

 

Like well trained actors prowling the footlights, the main players took the stage today for the last Qualifying session of 2014, providing a distraction for the real story fiercely percolating in the background; the political coup of the midfield and the shape of F1 going forward. With their backs against the wall, the spectre of the EU has been raised as the stakes are literally life and death for the trio of Sauber, Lotus and Force India and the gloves have come off in the press as well.

On track the roles are well rehearsed however, and it will be no surprise to learn that once again it was Rosberg who would provide the fastest lap in Q3, with Hamilton not getting as close being the only wrinkle this time out. Williams managed a second row lockout with Bottas getting the better of his more experienced teammate. Further down the grid it would be the battle between Ferrari’s and the battle for P10 that would steal focus away from the swirling drama of the driver’s championship as less than 0.2s covered the runners between 10th and 14th, setting the stage for some real racing tomorrow. Button too got more drama than he bargained for in his potential swan song, but with his troubles yesterday already hanging over his weekend, it’s not a real revelation that they echoed into today’s session.

Even further down the field it was Will Stevens managing to come good and finish within 0.5s of Kobayashi in the recently revived Caterham but no real surprises, other than it was the bottom 5 being dropped instead of the bottom 4 since overall numbers were up to 20 this weekend.

As it has been all season, the battle of the teammates dominated the session with the storylines set and the audience awaiting only tomorrow’s denouement to cap off a fascinating season both on and off track.

Q1

Sunny and warm, no other real way to describe the weather at Abu Dhabi, with the ambient temperature at 26°C and the track 33°C, a drop of 12°C from FP3. Many stories echoed through the paddock as the main focus remained the battle between the two Mercedes men for the Drivers’ Championship. Given that Hamilton needs only P2 and the Mercedes look to be a second clear of the field at least it is likely that the story of tomorrow’s race will be found further down the field.

As the lights went green there was a moment of breathless anticipation before Magnussen rolled calmly out of his box and headed toward pit exit, to be neatly edged as a rather eager Stevens jumped out of the Caterham garage just in front of him, claiming the glory of being first on track.

Following that dynamic duo was Button, then Kobayashi, Massa, Raikkonen and finally Rosberg, advancing the clock toward the 16 minute mark. Interestingly, Rosberg started on the Super Softs, meaning they will favor the Prime tyre and feel their advantage lies there, but the McLarens were out on the Softs, suggesting they could extract some performance there. Or, possibly they just hadn’t thought it through properly.

As the minutes ticked past 16:00 Hamilton emerged from his slumber and Perez got his first timed effort underway. Lotus and Sauber threw their lot in as well with the Option tyres, making for interesting bedfellows in the tyre department.

Perez cracked across in a 1:43.856 followed by Stevens in a 1:45.781. Magnussen followed up with a 1:43.171 and as the 13th minute ticked by it was the Williams of Bottas that took P1, upping the ante with a 1:42.344 and Massa unable to better it. To the surprise of no one, Quali darling and recent BAMBI winner Rosberg (it’s a German sporting award, seriously) stamped his authority all over P1 dropping the times into the 1:41’s.

But it was a surprising Hamilton that came through half a minute later and 0.1s faster to claim first honours, both of the Mercedes men with lockups aplenty in their first efforts.

Early days at the 11 minute mark and the leaderboard featured some unusual names as many of the midfield ventured forth on the Options whilst much of the sharp end had tried the Prime for their first efforts. Hamilton, Rosberg, Bottas, Hulkenberg and Massa were the top but as the teams reset for second efforts there were clearly going to be changes in the final wave as everyone went to the Options to ensure making Q2.

As the track settled, a lonely Bottas pulled a P3 as Rosberg rolled into the garage and the track began to empty, with only the Red Bulls yet to set a time and Kvyat was well into S3 on his first lap. Ferrari hovered suspiciously around the drop zone as their car appeared to not enjoy the Primes at all, setting the stage for some interesting moments for the tifosi at the close of Q1. Although, one could be forgiven for thinking they were getting used to it at this point of the season.

Kvyat jumped into the mix splitting the Williams at 8 minutes to go with the Mercedes firmly parked in the garage. Red Bull decided to get on with it, with both their cars on track as 7 minutes came and went.

Bottas and Massa finally joined the rest of the sharp end in the pits as Red Bull began to dial it in, with Ricciardo having the early advantage on his teammate. Vettel crossed first in P4 and not surprisingly, the Colgate Kid took P3 dropping Seb to P5 as the rest of the field began to circulate in anticipation of the showdown for P15.

3 minutes to go and both McLarens were down near the bottom of the time charts, along with usual stalwarts Gutierrez, Sutil, Kobayashi and newcomer Stevens. Button got on with it and leaped up to P4.

As Magnussen got on with it the Ferraris improved, Raikkonen far more than Alonso, P5 compared to P11. But neither was as good as Magnussen who came through in P3 with less than a minute left.

Down at the desperation ditch, it was Lotus looking for a way out with Maldonado, Gutierrez, Sutil, Kobayashi and Stevens all on the outside looking in as the seconds ticked by.

Ricciardo and the Mercs stayed in the garage as Massa attempted an uncharacteristic late effort.

Alonso came through in P11 with Perez behind him in 14th. Maldonado improved to 16th temporarily however it would not be enough to keep him in with a chance. Gutierrez slotted into P15 however he was hard done by Perez jumping to P14 and putting him right back out. Sutil then leapt over Grosjean to take P15 and stick the knife firmly in, once again denying the unlucky Frenchman Q2. Massa’s late effort was good enough for P3. Grosjean, Gutierrez, Maldonado, Kobayashi and Stevens were headed to the showers early as the rest went on their merry way preparing for Q2.

Q2

Sky quick off the draw to tantalize the tifosi with tales of the return of St. Ross to the scarlet fields of Maranello, where clearly the winds of change are blowing cold and hard, though they are quick to use the word rumour liberally.

As the session starts, it is Sergio Perez first on track followed by Hulkenberg and Raikkonen. Rosberg shuts his visor and follows, not far behind and no doubt looking to reverse the outcome of Q1. Sutil then went and Hamilton trailed behind and then the exodus was truly on. By the 12th minute only Button was left in the pits as twilight descended in the desert and Perez looped towards the conclusion of his first lap – a 1:42.467 to set the bar. His teammate was the first to get a crack at it and failed, coming just behind, but before anyone else could have a go, it was Rosberg off the track into T11 with big lock up. This left the door wide open for Hamilton, who promptly took advantage and laid down a 1:40.920, well clear of the rest of the field.

Nico gathered himself for a second go as the rest of the field plowed through; Massa, Alonso, Perez and Raikkonen rounding out the top 5 with 8:30 left to play.

Conditions continued to get trickier as the sun dropped, bringing increased wind and cooler temperatures to the track. Rosberg’s second effort showed the degradation of the tyres as he finished almost 0.5 down on Hamilton, good enough for P2. Bottas took P3 as the field retired to the pits to ready for their second run. Massa and Ricciardo rounded out the top 5 and at the bottom it was the 2 McLarens having set no time with Sutil and Raikkonen in front of them.

As the clock wound toward 4 minutes it was Hulkenberg and Magnussen first out with Button following closely. Soon the rest would follow but it was Button who seized center stage. In the middle of his out lap the team radioed him with a desperate message to cool the car and box as they had incorrectly fueled the car, in tribute to Sam Michael no doubt. Replying with utter disbelief “Are you serious”, Jenson nonetheless brought the car back into the pits as the precious seconds dripped off the clock.

By the 2 minute mark it was clear that only Danny Boy and the mighty Mercedes would stay put in their garages. Interesting choice for Rosberg, as he would now be starting the race on a set of flat spotted tyres that were also one lap older than Hamilton’s. But clearly he felt pole was more important and saved an extra set of tyres for Q3.

On track, with Button still not having set a time, the bottom of the time sheets featured Raikkonen, Hulkenberg and Sutil as well as the now properly fuelled Briton and his teammate Magnussen.

Magnussen was the first McLaren up, taking P8 and demoting Hulkenberg to P9. Button was next through, claiming P6 despite his team’s wobbles and yet again demonstrating the depth of choice for McLaren in terms of drivers. The carnage continued for Force India as Vergne ruthlessly seized P10 as the checkers fell.

But the session doesn’t end until the last car crosses the line and it was Kvyat with a stellar lap to put K-Mag out and himself into P8, ahead of Vettel and Raikkonen, who had barely crawled into P10 after the flag dropped. As they headed for the pits it was Magnussen, Vergne, Perez, Hulkenberg and Sutil in that order who headed for the lounge, but with nary 0.2s between P10-14 there should be some good battles in the midfield tomorrow.

Q3

Bottas was first out of the pits but after only a minute gone he was followed by Massa, Vettel, Rosberg, Kvyat, Button and Ricciardo. Hamilton was the tail of the snake momentarily however Alonso followed him up with only Raikkonen left sat in his garage. The latter having decided to only give it one shot in the final session.

As the sun dropped into the desert, Massa was given one timed lap on his tyres and Hamilton complained of a vibrations in his tyres, not the first time he’s had that complaint. Bottas was first to get underway and as he came round, Massa was already setting faster sector times behind him.

It was Rosberg who was on fire though, going purple behind Felipe as he chased the wily Brazilian through the twisty bits of the track.

Hamilton was even faster and looked to be set to maintain his advantage as first Bottas and Massa took P1, before Rosberg crossed the line with a 1:40.697. It was not to be for Lewis though. A scruffy exit of T20 cost him his chance and a decent chunk of time as well, leaving him 0.3s off his teammate and only 0.1 ahead of Massa. Behind them it was Bottas and Ricciardo whilst Alonso ran off track at T1 somewhat spoiling his efforts with 7 minutes left to go.

By time the field were all back in the pits there was a scant 4 minutes left and certainly much for Lewis to think on.

The field began trickling back out round the 3:30 mark and it was the points leader last of all, departing with just 2:35 left in the session and everything on the line.

Vettel was on it as Lewis began his out lap and Bottas was warned not to hold up Kimi as the Elder Finn was on a hot lap. Ricciardo immediately had the better of Vettel but Bottas had the measure of them both and even Rosberg was unable to top his S1 time as he tried to buy himself a little insurance with his second effort.

S2 saw their fortunes reverse as Nico went 42 dead and Valterri languished 0.2 behind. Hamilton had a massive lockup into T1 thoroughly putting him on the back foot with nearly 0.2 lost in just that one moment.

The tripartite contest continued, with Hamilton making up some time on Bottas through S2 but still losing out to Rosberg.

The last sector was tragic for Bottas, even though he was fastest of the chasers. He was just unable to take Hamilton for provisional P2, the aero might of the Silver Arrows being too much for the Williams in the end.

As it stood, Bottas was 0.004s adrift of Lewis and as he continued to carve away at Bottas, Rosberg finished his lap by improving on his already stellar effort with a 1:40.480.

Hamilton kept his head in it and managed to improve as well, to a 1:40.866, plenty of margin over the Williams but farther than usual from his teammate.

Behind it was the rest of the field, marching two by two, Massa trailing Bottas, Vettel trailing Ricciardo, and then the odd couple of Button and Kvyat. The last pair were Raikkonen and Alonso, the Finn having upset the Catalan in his last appearance for the Maranello marque, only the third time this year that Kimi has topped Fernando.

Of course, as with all good things it was not to stay that way as Grosjean was being forced to start from the back due to his component usage (things must be tight at Lotus as it would have been simpler and less damaging just to replace the PU and start from the pitlane) whilst Red Bull (quelle surprise!) failed post race scrutineering as their wings flexed too much under load.

That fact had been evident for years on the World Feed,  it appears that the FIA had finally got round to designing a proper test and have trotted it out for the last race. As a result, Red Bull will start from the back of the grid with “modified” cars and a butthurt Christian Horner took to Twitter to defend the team and “accept” the official ruling.

At the front tomorrow’s race looks to be fought primarily round the pit stops as in Brazil. A poor start for Lewis could see the Williams get involved and with a top speed of 341 kph they could prove tricky to pass, as Mercedes lag them nearly 10 kph through the DRS zones. Behind them, however, there is an amazing lot of cars that are very close on pace and the battle for those last 2 points could be epic in the closing laps, especially with the Bulls being relegated.

Happy watching and it has been a real pleasure covering qualifying for you all this season.

Qualifying Results:

# Driver Ctry Team
1 Nico Rosberg Mercedes
2 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes
3 Valtteri Bottas Williams
4 Felipe Massa Williams
5 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull
6 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull
7 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso
8 Jenson Button McLaren
9 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari
10 Fernando Alonso Ferrari
11 Kevin Magnussen McLaren
12 Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso
13 Sergio Perez Force India
14 Nico Hulkenberg Force India
15 Adrian Sutil Sauber
16 Esteban Gutierrez Sauber
17 Pastor Maldonado Lotus
18 Kamui Kobayashi Caterham
19 Will Stevens Caterham
20 Romain Grosjean Lotus
Romain Grosjean – Four place penalty as part of 20-place penalty for power unit changes
 
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