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Previously on The Judge 13:
OTD Lite: 2007 – Toyota’s corporate blandness invades F1
As mentioned in the comments yesterday, on this day Sebastian Vettel ran into the back of Mark Webber as they followed close behind Lewis Hamilton’s Mclaren. Hamilton took a sensational victory in such poor conditions that the circuit paid back entrance fees to spectators that couldn’t even see the track from their stands.
And in the final laps Robert Kubica and Felipe Massa took leave of their respective senses, and played at being Villeneuve versus Arnoux at Dijon 1979. How they didn’t get penalised was beyond most observers.
But what I found fascinating was the behaviour of the organisers of the Japanese Grand Prix at Fuji. The circuit prohibited spectators from setting up flags to support their favoured teams and drivers. With the exception of Toyota.
Why Toyota? Former Benetton mechanic and Fuji TV F1 commentator, Tetsuo Tsugawa explained: “…Although I have worked in Formula One for thirty years, this is the first time I have seen a Grand Prix race without seeing fans wave the flag of Ferrari. I think this is inexcusable. What I heard was Fuji Speedway prohibited flags and banners of F1 teams, but I saw a Toyota F1 flag in the stands of the Toyota-owned circuit.”
“The track later said the flags were not prohibited, but there was a miscommunication between the race organisers and the staff of the circuit. However, many fans familiar with Formula One noticed the strangeness of the circuit without the team banners.”
Of course it wouldn’t be fair to just write about the criticism they received. After all there was praise too…
“I would like to say congratulations to Fuji Speedway for hosting this race for the first time in 30 years. The facilities here are excellent and the race was well organised.” offered the Team Principal of Toyota F1, Tadashi Yamashina. You couldn’t make it up!
Nico and Lewis become driving instructors
TJ13 presents the fourth installment of the Allianz road safety campaign featuring Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg – filmed no doubt in happier days..
Mercedes dominate despite worst reliability
“We have enhanced controls, recruited other experts, shortened the time of replacement of various components. But while our car is a reference point in performance, from the point of view of robustness we have a problem, “says Toto Wolff.
Auto Motor Und Sport carried a survey recently about the comparable reliability of the first four teams in the 2014 World Championship. Surprisingly, Mclaren has accumulated the highest distance covered with 8277kms and only three retirements. Second behind them is Ferrari with the distance covered of 7,989kms.
Red Bull is third on the list, and despite having failed to finish on five occasions have covered 7,729kms. Which staggeringly leaves the Mercedes in just fourth position having completed the distance of ‘just’ 7,639kms.
The most recent issue for the Silver Arrows team was the breakdown of the wiring on the steering system of Nico Rosberg which seemed inexplicable seeing as the car had not been moved after qualifying had finished. But the first retirement was the spark plug cap in Australia that accounted for Lewis Hamilton.
Of course between these breakages has been the failure of the braking systems on both cars in Canada, Rosberg’s gearbox failing in Britain, Hamilton suffering problems with his brakes in Austria and Germany and a spectacular fire in Hungarian qualifying.
After a daunting pre-season testing regime – that frightened all the other runners into fearing they couldn’t compete this year – Mercedes have slowly moved way from the early season dominance to a point that the chasing pack can see chinks in the silver armour.
A despairing Niki Lauda stated: “Every time it’s something different, it can not go on like this.” It is no surprise that the Leprechaun constantly tells all that will listen that he is relevant because it is unlikely the paymasters at Stuttgart do..
Alonso – out of the Italian frying pan into the Japanese fire
Last year, media reports stated categorically that the Renault and Ferrari engines were some way off of the performance of the Mercedes engine. Considering how secretive the teams are around in-house developments it was always staggering to have neutral observers being able to accurately predict what has in fact transpired. But essentially, with teams made up of 100’s if not 1000’s of staff it is practically impossible to mute an entire workforce.
Italian sources are reporting that Honda is currently around three months behind schedule in just being able to run an engine in anger. This isn’t the twenty weeks repair schedule that TJ13 learnt about from Renault; before anybody else got wind of their problems in Jerez this year. This is fundamentally more serious and it appears that the 2015 season could well prove to be a frustrating year for Mclaren drivers – enduring worse than any of the Renault powered drivers have suffered this season.
The design of the engine hasn’t been signed off yet and currently Honda is having problems with fuel consumption allied to a lack of horsepower. Honda has invested massively within Japan and has passed over the work on the Energy Recovery System to their partner Mclaren Applied Technologies. Although this group developed the electric system for the P1 hyper car, they are currently struggling to integrate this with the Japanese engine design.
It is practically impossible that the three drivers courted by Woking do not know the current situation and whilst they may accept the money offered for what is likely to be a difficult season, would they want to consign themselves to three years of unknowing?
This possibly explains why Ferrari have decided to play hardball with Alonso. They refused his terms of extending his contract for $30 million per annum and Marco Mattiacci has become detached in his dealings with the Spanish superstar.
As an amateur magician, Alonso understands the playing of cards intuitively but is he prepared – at 34 years old next season – to gamble himself to a project that will gradually see his personal competitiveness begin to wane.
Whilst many remember the old alliance between Mclaren and Honda as a dominant one, the F1 landscape has changed in the intervening quarter of a century. The last engines that Honda built for their own team in the mid 2000’s were both under-powered and had heavy consumption.
How to keep Fernando happy… as seen on Twitter
Silverstone Grand Prix Tickets, Finance now available
Silverstone have launched a partnership with Zebra finance which offers finance opportunities for those wishing to purchase tickets for the British GP in 2015.
“To celebrate the launch of our new instalment plan option we’re offering 0% interest on all ticket purchases made through Zebra Finance. This offer will only be around until 17th October 2014, so don’t hesitate, purchase your 2015 British Grand Prix tickets today using the instalment plan.
The repayments via the Zebra Finance Instalment Plan are illustrated with the Representative Example below.
|Amount of credit||£755|
|Repayable by 9 monthly instalments of||£83.89|
|Total amount repayable||£755|
|Annual rate of interest (fixed)||0%|
9 month example based upon purchase of 2 tickets of £345 each plus car parking of £65”.
This offer is only available to those purchasing full 3 day grandstand tickets and approval or rejection of an applicant occurs within an hour.
Of course Zebra finance are not doing this for the love of Formula 1, they will receive a commission or benefits in kind from Silverstone to fund the administration of the scheme.
The cost of attending the British Grand Prix weekend for a family of 4, even attending GA – with accommodation and travel is unlikely to be less than £1,000 and more likely £1,500.
This speaks volumes about the state of F1’s finances and the cost to race-goers. Certain German outlets are describing this as ‘grotesque’… Finance a car… finance a visit to the British GP.
Lotus losing money again
Despite suggestions from the Lotus team deputy principal Federico Gastaldi, that “the immediate future is bright and we are all working hard to be well prepared for 2015”, the BBC reports Lotus 2013 loses have increased from the £55.3m in 2012 to £64.9m in 2013.
Further, the team is spending around £130m a year on its F1 programme and they are around £130m in debt to Genii shareholders.
The CEO of Enstone Matthew Carter claims Lotus budget is relatively modest when compared to the bigger spenders in Formula One whose annual budget is in excess of £1/4 billion ($400m).
Carter claims that for 2014, following a programme of redundancies and the introduction of new partners, the Lotus team will post numbers close to break even.
This is all very positive news, and rightly so considering Canadian billionaire Lawrence Stroll is now considering buying the Enstone team.
TJ13 reported earlier this year, that Lotus and Renault were close to doing a deal which would see the Enstone outfit as the Renault works team. However, the disaster that was the Renault power train and the subsequent and necessary significant input from Red Bull engineers, who were shipped to work full time in Viry – put pay to this.
There have been many who believe Red Bull has been the unofficial Renault works team for some years, though Helmut Marko rejected this before the Singapore GP 2014.
“That was never the case. For many years we’ve been a customer team for them like all the others and it’s only our success that has made us move closer together – under such conditions Lotus was, for a long time, the secret darling of Renault. That has only changed very recently. What followed was the announcement that Red Bull is the official works team of Renault”.
It is for this reason Lotus are now looking to Mercedes for a power train, and have a pay as you go deal in place – which is not ideal.
Much of the value to the Genii investors would have been based upon the fact that Renault were seriously considering buying the team back, though now it appears ‘Lotus Renault’ will be just ‘Lotus’ in 2015.
Sauber appear to have blown an offer from Stroll as reports in the Swiss media suggest the Canadian investor believed they were asking too high a price. So the Genii investors must now take a long hard look at their predicament.
The team has lost money for the past 2 years and the prize money they will receive for 2014 will be around $18m less than it was for finishing fourth in 2013.
A deal which sees the Genii investors get their cash back – may in fact be as good as they can expect. But will they take that – or believe the perpetual dream that big money can be made from owning a Formula 1 team?