Daily #F1 News and Comment: Tuesday 4th March 2014
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Marko Watch UPDATED 13:03 GMT
Month Of March
Bernard E looks for the exit
According to the Financial Times, Lord Ecclestone of the Small Build is starting to look for the exit as he feels he won’t be able to run the business full-time, while having to deal with those pesky Germans in Munich, who have somehow gotten it into their heads that laws should actually be abided by. Preposterous idea! The cynic in me tells me that Mr. E, who had no problem running the shop while being sued the heck out of in London, actually finds his job suddenly somewhat less fulfilling now that he can’t engage in a spot of light bribery, fraud or blackmail anymore, because of the BoD nannies, who decided to watch him because of the pesky Germans in Munich, who have somehow gotten it into their heads that laws should not be broken.
According to himself, Mr. E. has been looking for an assistant for some time, but not been terribly successful – all those naive young ones and their pesky morals and all. Let’s hope the exit isn’t a revolving door. Oh, look Mr. E., there it is. KTHXBYE…
(Leading to the GMM story this morning…)
Ecclestone admits bribe affair affecting F1 role
Bernie Ecclestone has hinted for the first time that he may need to voluntarily step back from running formula one. Until now, the F1 chief executive has been resolute in the face of the bribery affair, insisting the sport’s owners CVC support him unless he is found criminally guilty in a forthcoming trial.
“We don’t have any changes planned at the moment,” a CVC source told F1 business journalist Christian Sylt, writing in the Guardian. “The board constantly reviews facts and circumstances and the current position is that no changes are planned.”
But now, Ecclestone has been quoted as suggesting the affair is actually limiting his ability to run formula one effectively.
“I’ve been spending time on this (civil) case and to spend time on Munich I am not able to give what I normally would do, 24-7, to the business,” he told the Financial Times.
“I’ve been looking, over the last few years, for somebody who can join me to assist with what I have to do. I will eventually be in a position, if I decide to retire – or unfortunately become dead – to have someone to step into my shoes,” Ecclestone added.
However, it is believed the 83-year-old’s Financial Times comments were made weeks ago, while Ecclestone told Sylt this week that the journalist “misunderstood him“.
Sylt also asked Ecclestone if he will be able to continue to run F1 during the Munich trial, and the diminutive Briton answered “of course“.
RB10-B – Newey forced to re-think
I wrote in the news before the Bahrain test II began, that Renault had applied for an extension to continue developing their engine. Further, I suggested that if we saw the Newey pert behind featured on the RB10 this would suggest Red Bull and Renault expected some relief from the FIA.
We now know that Jean Todt refrained from sympathising with any national interest, and Renault have been told they must live with their current engine design. They will of course be granted the opportunity to fix faulty components, but the architecture must remain the same.
What should be recognised is that Renault have indeed made significant progress since Jerez, as evidenced by the Caterham team who once again racked up 297 laps to Red Bull’s 183 – almost half of which were on the final day. In fact across the 12 days of testing, Caterham were the class of the Renault stable in terms of mileage in the pre-season sessions, completing 621 laps. Red Bull, by contrast completed just 319 with only Lotus running less (241 laps) as a result of them failing to attend the first 4 days.
It is commonly accepted that Newey is a genius, but also known to be rather OCD, single minded and at times this results in stubbornness. I’m no techie, but I wrote it was clear after the first Jerez test that the design of the RB10 was exacerbating the problems with the Renault powerplant, more than other customers of the French manufacturer.
Well the inevitable has happened. Newey has now been instructed/decided to redesign the rear of the RB10. TJ13 sources reveal that we will see in Melbourne an expanded engine cover, the profile of which will see the ridge, or high point, extended by several centimetres to allow for an increased airflow, along with other cooling revisions.
The problem for Red Bull is that we are now at the end of the winter tests and Red Bull have a fraction of the data to that of the Mercedes and Ferrari teams. The team from Milton Keynes are known for their ability to rapidly develop their car later in the season and they were probably one phase of development too far behind in 2009. They failed to catch Jenson Button and Brawn who had won 6 of the first 7 races. Jenson didn’t win again that year, but clinched the drivers title at the penultimate race.
Yet the base point from which they begin this development catchup race, from a perspective of pure mileage run and data gathered alone is unprecedented. In 2009 there were just 17 races and this year there are two more – assuming Russia and Ukraine do not end up at war – and with double points being awarded in Abu Dhabi, this in effect takes the race count in 2014 to 20.
Further, in Jenson’s WDC year Red Bull were facing a single team with the huge advantage at the start of the year. Now, all of the Mercedes engine teams all look strong and Ferrari is no slouch either.. So we could see Ferrari, McLaren, Mercedes AMG, Williams and Force India all taking points from each other in the first part of the season. So, unlike in the days of the Brawn, no one team will gain a significant early advantage over the others.
Stefano Dominicali appears to concur with this view. “I believe, we could see big changes from the first race to the second and from the second to the third, with everyone bringing in developments all the time. At first, reliability will be the key, because without it you don’t score points. I also think that some teams that are struggling at the moment will be able to catch up.”
It wouldn’t be unreasonable to observe that these are not the comments of someone who believes they are leading the way for a pole of podium in Australia… anyway I digress.
The flip side of the argument is that in 2009, Red Bull managed to score a race win with Vettel in race 3, this was followed up by Vettel achieving the following results thereon; P2, P4, retired, P3, P1 and P2 to the point where 9 of the 17 races were completed. The teams ambitions at present are to be ‘competitive’ by race 4 or 5.
Winter testing has been a write off for the team from Milton Keynes. Yes, this has been during just 5 weeks, and there are 10 weeks before we see the cars in Barcelona for the 5th race and the start of the European season – plenty of design and development time for Newey.
Were this 2013, you would back the resources at the disposal of Red Bull to fight back, however there are variables of which we are not yet certain. Even given a Renault engine which is fault free and each unit being capable of running the required 5 races before it is retired, the question is does it have the power of the Ferrari and Mercedes powertrains? If not, Newey will need to compensate with clever aero solutions.
We have evidence already that the RB10 may indeed have an aero advantage over the rest of the field at present. Jenson’s comments appear to suggest the potential of the RB10 through the corners is indeed ‘special’. Yet, how much of this will be lost with the rear end redesign will only be evident at some point future from now.
So how has the most recent dominant team in F1 found themselves in this position? If we are to believe Horner and Newey, they claim their push to win the title in 2013 meant they continued developing the RB9 for too long and neglected this year’s challenger.
TJ13 suggests at this time an appropriate response to that is – TOSH.
It is now clear that Newey’s design is just wrong.
Of course Renault are in part culpable, but the squat chubby barn door design that is the Caterham, is clear evidence that the brief from Renault – if interpreted properly – meant the car design had to take account of the fact that cooling would be an issue.
We all believe Newey will sort out his problems, but at what cost to the aero design. Fiddling in the margins and failing to resolve the cooling issues could see the RB10 fall further behind the others with DNF’s aplenty.
Nobody expects to see Newey to copy the bloated design of the Caterham, yet finding the right balance between cooling and aero efficiency under time pressure is a real challenge.
From a long term perspective it would be better to overcompensate for the cooling problems and deliver a bloated design which is reliable. It can later be honed into a sexy aero profile, however an untamed Newey will back himself to find the optimum solution immediately.
Hence, if the RB10-B we see in Australia is still suffering incremental overheating problems when compared to the other Renault teams, then Vettal, Newey et al will have lost further ground.
Interestingly, having completed 100 kms in Bahrain with the RB10, Red Bull are out again today with what they claim will be an RB8.
The big question is, can Red Bull catch up? As already suggested back in 2009 season Red Bull hunted down the dominant Brawn GP team, the result being they failed to overhaul Jenson by a whisker.
TJ13 believes to come from as far behind as they are at present will surely require a miracle for a Red Bull driver to win this years WDC. They are fighting a clearly excellent Mercedes engine, with 4 Mercedes powered teams who have solid cars already.
The opinion of Ferrari prior to Bahrain test II was that they may have been hiding their light under a bushel, this is now probably not the case, but the team from Maranello are also clearly with half the Atlantic Ocean of blue water between them and Red Bull.
Confidence today is high in Milton Keynes in an objective which sees them being competitive by race 4 or 5.
However, this belief has to be balanced with the fact following a miserable test in Jerez, confidence at Newey HQ had them believing they would be at the races by the end of Bahrain II – when to onlookers it may be more apt to suggest Red Bull are “at the movies”…. one of the “Nightmare on………”, franchise.
Marussia ‘competitive’ in 2014 – Button (GMM)
Jenson Button has tipped usual F1 backmarker Marussia to take a big step forwards in 2014.
Yet to score a single point in its Marussia or Virgin guises since 2010, the team did finally beat rival Caterham to the coveted tenth place in the constructors’ championship last year.
And in pre-season testing ahead of the 2014 season, Marussia’s new MR03 – powered by a Ferrari ‘power unit’ for the first time – looks considerably quicker than Caterham’s struggling Renault-powered machine.
McLaren driver Button is quoted by Brazil’s Totalrace: “It’s interesting to see how some teams have improved their cars suddenly.
“There are several teams that are strong at the moment,” he added. “Even Marussia — their car is much better than last year.
“I think people will be surprised at how they are actually competitive,” said Button.
Massa to be ‘strong rival’ in 2014 – Alonso (GMM)
Fernando Alonso has tipped his departed Ferrari teammate Felipe Massa to be a “strong rival” in 2014.
After eight years in red, Brazilian Massa’s move to the once-great British team Williams was seen as a clearly backwards step for the 11-time grand prix winner.
But after pre-season testing, Mercedes-powered Williams has emerged as one of the strongest forces for 2014, with Massa tipped as an outside chance for outright victory in Melbourne.
“I’ve talked with Felipe several times this year already,” Spaniard Alonso is quoted by Brazil’s Globo.
“He is happy, Williams has so much history in formula one and is not just any team, and they have had a very strong pre-season,” he admitted.
“It is very positive because now they can be fighting. Felipe will definitely be a strong rival this year,” added Alonso.
Alonso also played down the constant suggestions that both he and Ferrari will struggle to cope with his rivalry with Massa’s 2014 replacement, fellow champion Kimi Raikkonen.
“We are trying to work together, working for Ferrari and arriving in Australia to fight for the race,” Alonso said. “So let’s have this internal competition – normal in every team – because we all want to be ahead of the other one, and hopefully this can help Ferrari,” he added.
Bottas plays down 2014 ‘fuel saving’ fears (GMM)
Valtteri Bottas has played down fears grand prix will become little more than fuel-saving affairs in F1’s new ‘green’ era.
Each driver will be limited to just 100 kilograms of fuel per race in 2014, representing a significant reduction over the unrestricted V8 era.
“I don’t think you’ll hear much about drivers having to save their tyres this year,” Red Bull team boss Christian Horner told the Daily Mail, “but we might hear a lot about having to save fuel. My concern is that we will lose an element of wheel-to-wheel racing, of man and machine on the limit.
“Hopefully we won’t see a driver having to wave rivals past because he is saving fuel to get to the chequered flag,” he added.
Horner said he is worried F1’s desire to be more environmentally relevant may adversely affect the sporting spectacle.
“It’s a fine line,” he said. “First and foremost, it’s a sport and should be entertainment. Secondary to that should be the technology for the manufacturers.”
Williams driver Bottas, however, did a full race simulation at the Bahrain test last week and said he did not have to try too hard to conserve fuel.
“I didn’t have any problem,” he told the Finnish newspaper Turun Sanomat. “I did some practice in the simulator at first and then in Bahrain I was able to do two race distances.
“The most important thing was to lose as little laptime as possible while ensuring you have the fuel you need for the whole race. I have to say that, at least for Bahrain, it was not really necessary to save fuel at all. I was able to drive quite normally. I think that at most of the races, we will be able to drive like this,” Bottas added.
Today we see a return of a TJ13 feature which tracks a certain Austrian Doktor who is regularly afflicted with the illness – verbal diarrhoea. For us the fans, the good Doktor is a source of invaluable insight into the goings on behind the armed and guarded doors at Red Bull HQ.
You will note the TJ13 black op’s observation team has been recruiting some high profile individuals over the winter.
Speaking to Sevus TV, Herr Helmut admits, “The season opener is coming at least two months too early for us. We are not where we should be”, he added. “This is a very, very serious thing. At the moment we do not know what [time] period we will need to catch up, or whether we will at all.”
Whilst it may be a stretch to say the all seeing eye into Red Bull’s F1 operation is compelled by some irresistible force to always speak the truth – like some deranged Jim Carey character – we can be sure the increasingly loveable Helmut does spout what he believes to be the truth.
Even if this were a manipulative release from Herr Doktor, he gains nothing by bluffing that Red Bull are in fact behind where they really are. Does anyone think the other teams hearing this are going to relax, give their employees a few extra hours a day off or cease force feeding them energy drinks to increase productivity because the dreaded Bull is mortally wounded?
A guest on the Red Bull TV channel, Niki Lauda quips at Marko, “If you started earlier, you’d finish sooner,” a reference to the relentless obsession in continuing to develop the RB9 which dominated all before it during the last 9 races of 2013.
Marko was quick to respond, “Can you say that in French The engine comes from Renault The message must go there? . . “
Marko criticises Renault’s approach to testing the engine. He claims the engine, gearbox and ERS components weren’t tested as a whole unit prior to the car hitting the track in Jerez, hence why the vibrations only became noticeable then.
“There is the conventional turbo engine, supplemented by the two energy recovery systems . The interaction of these as a single unit is making it difficult to deliver harmonious driving characteristics,“ Marko explains.
“We are currently struggling with the turbo lag. This is enhanced when the electric power is supplied. So, you step on the gas and only nothing happens. Then suddenly in comes the power and spins up the wheels”. This is a software problem and it means Renault have not even begun to tune the engine because delivering continuous and regular lap times has not been possible.
“I think we have a good car,” states Herr Doktor, “especially in the high speed corners because our car was again the quickest. But you need a motor that works. We now need to survive this initial phase.”
Both Lauda and Marko are predicting an orgy of failures in Melbourne. The Markop suggests even some of the cars that finish will be in fuel conservation mode at the end of the race and some 5-10 seconds away from the leading lap times.
Defiant as always, Herr Doktor tries to wind Niki up by suggesting his analysis could see the Mercedes team beaten by Williams in Melbourne. Lauda is on his ‘A’ game, quickly responding with another jibe. “Our customers are as important as we ourselves, if they win, I can say to my own team… if they can… why not us? This will provide the motivation for us in-house. This is a very constructive competition.”
Marko is candid of Vettel’s chances in the up-coming race. “Right now, it would be a success if we reach the finish line because we’ve not done many miles. When half the field retires, then we may grab a few take points.”
WOW… This is truly depressing, and all efforts must be made to prevent a Jim Jones inspired pact either in Milton Keynes or Viry-Châtillon
So no chance of pole for Vettel in case he blows his engine, and the mighty world champions are planning to trundle around in the hope others DNF to steal a point or 2 from a Marussia or a Caterham…. Mmm…..
Hail Herr Marko for your candidness – we’d never hear this from Christian.
The flagship daily feature last month, which had a marmite (vegimite for Aussies) effect on readers has clearly been influencing the world of F1 at large.
Today the BBC announce they will be running a series of films from Mark Webber as part of this year’s coverage, and the king of Webbuary himself will be joining the BBC presentation team for several of their live races.
Oh and by the way, is this a match???