Daily F1 News and Comment: Wednesday 29th May 2013
This page will be updated throughout the day
Michelin are active
Michelin have been re-tweeting selected posts in the twittersphere over the past 24 hours. One was “We’ve created a poll.. let’s see if the f1 fans agree”. There was a link to a facebook poll asking “Would you want to see Michelin in F1 again?”
When asked why they were doing this @MichelinTyres replied, “It’s always interesting to hear what F1 fans think about something as critical as tyres”.
They were then asked whether they were considering an F1 comeback. @MichelinTyres said, “We’re completely open minded on this but it would depend on the tyre regulations”, adding, “They would need to incorporate sustainability – using fewer tyres. The sizes should also be more like road tyres”.
@MichelinTyres last comment on any possible return to the sport was, “It would be up to our management and motorsport department, and F1′s bosses to agree on the regulations first”.
This could be a setup, Michelin mischief making or a genuine bid to replace or supplement Pirelli. Pirelli wish to be sole supplier to F1, so a return to multiple manufacturers is unlikely. Michelin always claimed they wished not be the sole supplier.
As I suggested in my last article, Todt was in favour of the French manufacturer last time the contract was awarded. What is clear, were Michelin to return to F1, their intentions on tyre creation are completely opposite to those of Pirelli.
Do we want racing defined by tyres as it was in 2006, 05, 04, 03… back again?
@MichelinTyres concluded, “We won the championship in 06 with #Renault so no reason why we couldn’t do it now. And that was when other brands competed”.
Teams have been switching rear tyres
Adam Cooper has reported today that the effect of Pirelli reverting to the Kevlar base tyre as provided in 2012 will prevent certain teams from gaining an advantage that they have discovered in 2013.
The steel based 2013 rear tyres are ‘handed’ by Pirelli – ie designated for the right or the left of the car. Certain teams have discovered that by switching them to the opposite side of the car from which they were designated has made them run better. This is not against the rules.
However, tyres manufactured with the Kevlar base are not ‘handed’ and this practice will serve no purpose from Montreal onwards.
Mercedes confirm they have been doing this since Melbourne.
This change of belt or base is a clear change in the specification of the tyre and should not happen under the sporting regulations unless all the teams agree.
This gives the El Presidente Todt a conundrum to consider. If, as suggested in my last article, he decides to throw the book at Mercedes for ‘unintentionally’ breaching the sporting regulations – what will they do with Pirelli? Who may it be suing who?
I did predict F1 was about to descend into chaos on the Saturday of the Spanish GP. Yet this was not one of the anarchical scenarios I had considered. The others are still brewing.
Never let it be said that Marko is half hearted in anything he does or says. I can see it now, embarrassed he knew nothing about the ‘development test’ until after dinner the night of qualifying in Monaco; he orders his minions to bring his trusty rule book and pours over the detail late into the night.
His conclusion as dawn is breaking over the picturesue harbour setting for the race, “Why seek justice when thermo nuclear war is an option” – he thinks.
Marko is calling on the FIA to throw the book at Mercedes as Bilde report he believes the International tribunal will be called upon to adjudicate. “There will be a hearing, although I do not know when and where”. This is similar to the spy scandal of 2007 between McLaren and Ferrari”, Marko suggests.
In 2007 the FIA considered banning McLaren from F1, but ultimately excluded the British team from the constructors’ championship and issued a record $100 million fine – later reduced to $50m – and allowed by HMC&A as a tax deductible expense.
Sebastien Saves Sebastian’s bacon
The Red Bull car looked no where on Thursday and according to Marko on ServisTV the secret to Vettel almost clinching pole position 2 days later was the teams reserve driver, Sebstian Buemi.
He pounded out more than 400 laps of the Monaco circuit on the simulator to discover the problem. Allegedly, the factory then created 2 new front wings, and Buemi took them to Monaco in time for Saturday qualifying (AMuS).
“On Saturday we were on the pace,” said Marko. “After the initial problems, we are more than happy with the result — we have been able to extend our lead in both championships,” he smiled with satisfaction.
Are Lotus in disarray?
The number of stories and rumours emanating from Enstone is beginning to be of concern. I heard in February that a number of redundancies had taken place, though this was believed to be the in-house marketing team and was around the time of the NBC announcement.
James Allison has since left and over the weekend the 2012 financials were released and look pretty woeful with the debt position of the team at around $100m. Nearly nearly half of that figure is a loan from Proton who are holding the Enstone factory as security until repayment is made later this year.
The team was hoping to sign a major sponsor in Honeywell as a title sponsor for 2013 and leaked this to a number of sources, but the deal fell through.
Yet Lotus couldn’t have had a much better start on track to the year with Kimi winning in Australia and the team in second place in the constructors’ championship following the fly away races. 2 races later they are over 50 points behind Red Bull and in danger of being relegated to 4th place with a resurgent Mercedes just 3 points adrift.
Grosjean had made a good start to the year, picking up valuable points without getting into too much bother and could easily be better placed having started 6th and Barcelona but suffering a suspension failure.
To compound matters, it appears that had Lotus not retired Grosjean when they did on Sunday, he would have received a drive through or stop go penalty instead of the 10 place grid drop he will face in Canada.
Even after a disastrous weekend in Monaco he sits 9th in the driver standings, ahead of Button and just behind Di Resta, with all the drivers ahead of him having behind them more consistent F1 experience.
However, it could be that with the apparent turmoil around the team Eric Boullier is losing his nerve. When questioned by Sporting Life as to whether he was considering replacing Grosjean with reserve driver and last years GP2 champion, Davide Valsecchi, Boullier responded, “Not yet”.
Adam Cooper who was clearly at the same interview doesn’t mention Valsecchi but reports Eric Boullier more positively stating, “I think we just need to cool him down and have a proper discussion when we are back in the factory.
It’s not a worry, he did a great job over the winter and fixed all the problems he had last year, so I think there’s some frustration sometime when he knows he can be fast and he just needs to build himself.
He is fast and he can deliver some big results. He did it in Bahrain and he was on his way to do it in Barcelona so it’s just using the momentum and making sure he’s back on track with the real expectations.”
Even so, to even countenance the Valsecchi suggestion is hardly a vote of confidence for Grosjean, and would switching drivers be really what Lotus needs right now?
Time for a steady hand on the tiller Eric, methinks.
Pit Radio cut
If you’ve never seen the pit radio channel offered by some TV stations, here it is. There is 30 minutes of radio transmissions from the teams and you may be surprised at some of the things the drivers are being told.
We hear Jenson grassing up his team mate – 3 times, Vettel being told not to overtake, Webber being told to slow down and Kimi threatening young defenceless Sergio. Chilton’s engineer appears to think there is a Williams driver called ‘Botox’.
For those of you who didn’t have time to watch, Rocky tells Vettel, “Ok Sebastian, 3 laps to go – bring it home”. On the next lap having seen Vettel do the fastest first sector of the race, Rocky is a little more surly, “Sebastian. you know the score. Don’t take any risks”.
Vettel continues and puts in the fastest lap of the race only to hear Rocky again instruct him, ” Ok. That’s enough. You’re not getting any more points for that”. Vettel replies, “But satisfaction…” then Vettel’s voice breaks up but it sounds as though he’s suggesting he’s not happy at being told to drive slow for 77 laps (maybe you can get the exact wording better).
Rocky then refuses to relent saying, “Yep. There’s no satisfaction for us in that one though”. He adds, “You might enjoy yourself, but we don’t like it”.
Vettel then has the last word saying, “Let’s discuss this after the race”.
Ooh err. Did Vettel disobey a team order?
On refelection, what was a shame was Webber had thrown the dice and had pitted 5 laps before the safety car – clearly going for a two stop strategy. Unfortunately, Massa’s untimely Ferrari failure brought out the safety car at the perfect time for those who were going longer on stint 1.
So we’ll never know what a charging Webber after his final stop could have achieved. We do have Raikkonen’s example to know there could well have been overtaking.
Though this upsets many of you I know, but for me racing in Monaco is track limited FIRST… the rest is a lottery – unless you are on pole position.
Quick quiz: 6 racs in F1 history have been red flagged. 2 of them in the past 3 years at Monaco. Can anyone name the other 4 and for what reason?
Forza Ferrari video
Mmm. I wonder if Ferrari are looking to indoctrinate the revellers on the beaches and clubs of the Eurozone with this anthemesque number.
F1 TV viewing figures soar
Whilst in the the homeland of F1, the UK and Europe, TV viewing figures have been tumbling, the US is experiencing a renaissance in viewership. NBC have replaced SPEED in broadcasting F1 in the states and the Monaco GP was watched more than any other F1 race since the Canadian GP which was broadcast live in 2007 (1.494m).
This was the first live broadcast on US TV of the Monaco GP and 1.456m tuned in between 07:59-10:30 a.m. ET/04:59-7:30 a.m. PT. Fox TV broadcast 4 live races in 2012 and their average was 1.038m viewers.
The next race in Canada will also be broadcast live in the US at 14:00 ET/11:00 PT. This more sociable time could attract even more fans than did the race in Monaco.
NASCAR is always the ‘King’ of US motor racing and the FOX primetime show had an average of 7m viewers. As yet no figures have been released for the Indy500.
Uk audiences improved in 2013. The BBC highlights show had an audience of 3.11m viewers and was aired between 17:35-19:05 whilst SKY’s live audience was 855,000 according to ITV’s Media’s Top 10. The true figure subject to adjustment may be more like 750,000 which will be reported by BARB next week.
SKY improved from last years average audience of 565,000 and this despite the weather during the UK Bank holiday weekend being excellent. In 2012 the race was of course shown live on the BBC so this improvement for SKY was to be expected.
This gives a combined average UK audience of 3.96m up from that in 2012 of 3.77m. However when the race was free to air exclusively on the BBC last in 2011 the viewing audience was 5.15m. This has to be disappointing for advertisers and sponsors.
I believe that FOM are currently looking in detail at streaming F1 on the internet and therefore any new TV contracts would not including internet exclusivity for that region.
Six and O
In American speak, only 3 drivers have out qualified their team mates by this margin this year. Vettel, Raikkonen and Hulkenberg.
One driver has a five and O – do you know who?
The race last weekend over 500 laps was the fastest ever at Indianapolis with the average speed being over 300kph.
This has apparently been posted in newspapers across the world today. Looks like Stuttgart are making the most of their investment.
Pirelli not now changing tyres for Canada
Breaking News: GMT 11:55
Rumours are emerging that following the protests by Red Bull and Ferrari, Pirelli will not introduce the adapted 2013 tyres in Canada. A Pirelli spokesperson has said, “We’ll be bringing two sets per team for Friday practice with a view to implementing the new rear tyres in Silverstone. The regulations allow for this and for reasons of sporting equity, we think that this is the best way forward”.
This does not mean the tyres WILL be introduced for Silverstone. The regulations Pirelli refer to allow for the teams to have them for Friday practice.
Eric Boullier welcomes this decision by Pirelli and comments, “We are excited to test the modified tires in free practice in Canada, but we must race with the original 2013 tyre specifications. I see no need to rush this, but we can not compete in Canada with new tires, without having tested them before.”
The mind boggles. The clear losers here must be Red Bull, because Ferrari, Lotus and Force India are quire comfortable on the current tyre compounds. Is this a Pirelli re-action to Red Bull’s protest?
The threat of the International Tribunal sitting and judging ‘the development test’ and possible breaches of the sporting regulations has surely affected Pirelli. So for the new compounds to be raced upon, it will require the unanimous agreement of the teams, and of course Mercedes can no longer be deemed to have an advantage having tested the adjusted compounds in Barcelona.
Red Bull may now have to wait for ‘justice’ from the International Tribunal until after the German GP and will now not get to race the new rubber compounds they crave.
Pirelli may be doing Mercedes a favour, as they claimed they were already getting on top of the 2013 compounds without the ‘development’ test and this will give them the chance to demonstrate this.
Conspiracists will now have a field day and Mattpt55 and I need to do some work. Oh the possibilities are truly wonderous!!!!
UPDATE: GMT1830 Paul Hembery has told journalists he would like to switch his phone off for 2 weeks and not talk tyres. Mmm. Commercial director for a global tyre company… is it not part of the job?
Clearly Pirelli have made the decision not to run the new tyres in Canada to avoid the race being run again under sporting regulation protests and Craig Slater of Sky News reports, “they say it is only because they couldn’t get the unanimous support from all the teams to run the tyre over the full course of the weekend.”
Williams part company with CEO – quickly!
A statement from Williams today reads as follows.
Williams Grand Prix Holdings PLC (Ticker: WGF1) has announced that Mike O’Driscoll will become Group CEO with effect from today.
O’Driscoll, formerly Managing Director of Jaguar Cars (2007 – 2011) and ex-President of Aston Martin Jaguar Land Rover in North America (2001 – 2007), has been appointed Group CEO to guide the long term future of Williams. The newly created role will see the Williams F1 Team and Williams Advanced Engineering united under one management structure and will enable Mike to provide support to Sir Frank Williams, founder and Team Principal and to work in partnership with Claire Williams, Deputy Team Principal.
Mike will lead the Executive Committee who will report to him and in turn he will report to Sir Frank Williams and the Williams Grand Prix Holdings board.
Alex Burns, previously Chief Executive Officer of Williams Grand Prix Holdings PLC, will leave the company with immediate effect. Williams thanks him for the significant contribution he has made to the business and wishes him well in his future endeavours.
Whatever anyone says, TJ13 identified Williams along with Caterham as two teams where morale and certainty of the future was problematic over the winter period.
Williams has been one big revolving door for over a year now. March 2012, Alan Parr exits swiftly, Williams get a cheque for £25m a week later – up pops Toto Wolff to steady the ship. Mark Gillan, Chief op’s engineer (integral in 2012 Barcelona win) leaves at a days notice in December – why? “To spend more time with his family (right) “.
Toto and Burns almost recruit Paddy Lowe, then Toto bails out and grabs Paddy to join him at Brackley. Claire Williams becomes Depty Principal and and now this!