Chequered Flag and Podium Politics, Ferrari policy of a No.2 statistically irrational, Ferrari upgrades ‘no revolution’

With many of the F1 personnel heading inter-continental, news yesterday and today is a little slow. But here we go anyway.

Ferrari admit they’re in trouble: Marc Gene at a publicity event for Shell Motorsport in Madrid today says the team have a number of upgrades for the Indian GP. He has been testing them in the simulator but is uncertain as to their effectiveness. He admits they will not know whether the upgrades work or not until they try them out on track on Friday. The most troubling comment was, “In India we will take a number of improvements to the cars, but they will not be a revolution, but we hope to help”. ( Playing down the upcoming Indian GP Gene adds,  “Each of the next four races will be important but not decisive in itself.”

The problem Ferrari face is their recent lap times relative to Red Bull. In Singapore and Japan, their best time for the weekend was around 1% slower than Red Bulls, and although they closed this to 0.3% in Korea the kind of upgrades Gene is talking about will at best close the gap and of course Red Bull will not be standing still. To win in India, Alonso most likely needs to qualify on the front row and with the weather set fair this will be a huge ask.

15:44 GMT Update. Wow, a rather large thesis (1500 words) has just been published on by the Scuderia’s chief designer Nick Tombazis. The subject: An explanation of Ferrari’s recent general lack of car development. Th biggest coverage following a very long-winded pre-amble is – the wind tunnel – surprise, surprise. Stefano Dominicali said following the Japanese GP “No excuses for my engineers because we’ve had to decommission the wind tunnel” (link). He clearly was being told then repeatedly what the designers saw as the problem and just preempting such an excuse. None the less Tombazis is unrepentant saying, “Compared to those of some our opponents, ours [wind tunnel] is older and therefore in some areas it is not operating at the highest level. The work will involve temporarily closing our wind tunnel here in Maranello for a period of several months”.

Ferrari have been travelling to Cologne, Germany and using the wind tunnel of the old Toyota F1 team. This can hardly be condusive to speedy resolutions of aero matters.

But what is this statement all about? Much of it we know already and yet we are treated to an unecessary but enormous apologetic about the wind tunnel and Ferrari’s ‘hopes’ for the final 4 races. This can hardly be instilling fernado with confidence.

The chequered flag and podium: Some things F1 never cease to amaze me and one of those is the consideration given to and timing of who waves the chequered flag at each race. It appears to be the prerogative of each race promoter to appoint this individual, and this honour is often conferred a mere few days before the race. It’s often a sponsor or dignitary not know to us the masses, but occasionally we have some celeb fun like Pele in 2002 Brazil – missing the end of the race whilst having a chat. (link) Of course the FIA have ruled in the past against ‘politicising’ of an F1 event and forbidden the promoters to do so under threat of fine or cancellation of their F1 contract.

As part of the podium ceremony after the 2006 race, the winner’s trophy was presented by Mehmet Ali Talat, who was introduced to television viewers via the captions as the president of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, a state which is recognised only by Turkey. The FIA announced they would be investigating this incident, as a possible breach of the organisation’s political neutrality. The identity of the person who would present the winner’s trophy was left to the last minute, leaving the FIA no time to veto the choice. Some commentators feared this incident could jeopardise the future of the Turkish Grand Prix however it was concluded with a $5m fine, which was later reduced by half. (Wiki)

So India beware, I guess putting up someone to present trophy’s from the Indian adminsitered region of Aksai Chin – a territory hotly disputed by China – might be seen as an opportunisitc and provocative.

The price of getting the podium ceremony wrong can be extremely high as another incident demonstrates which took place in Jerez following the 1997 European GP. The people chosen to present the trophies were dependent on the race order, with Daimler-Benz chairman, Jurgen Schrempp, only willing to make a presentation to a McLaren-Mercedes driver. As the McLarens of Häkkinen and Coulthard passed Villeneuve’s Williams on the last lap, this would have meant he could present either the trophy for first or second position or even the winning constructor trophy. There was some confusion due to the late changes in position and whilst the Mayor and the president of the Spanish region presented trophies, Schrempp did nothing. FIA president Max Mosley later announced “The disruption caused embarrassment and inconvenience to those presenting the trophies and therefore, no further rounds of the FIA Formula 1 World Championship will be held at the Jerez circuit.” This was the last race ever held in Jerez.

Talking of podium protocols, on this day in history, 1977, the 2nd ever Japanese Grand Prix was held in Fuji. On lap 5 Gilles Villenueve hit the back of Ronnie Peterson’s Tyrell and his Ferrari rolled into the crowd killing a marshal and a photographer. James Hunt went on to win the race, but he and 2nd place Reutemann were not in the mood to celebrate and left the circuit before the podium ceremony, leaving 3rd place Depailler to receive the prizes alone.

Indian cricket ace Sachin Tandulkar waves the flag at the end of the inaugural Indian GP (YouTube). Here’s a rather limp wristed Psy wafting the chequered flag for 15 seconds last time out in Korea. (YouTube) Massa does a better job after his rather nasty crack on the head kept him out for his home race. (YouTube)

I’ve no recollection of political gaffes over the chequered flag, so if you have any please leave a comment and enlighten us all.

Podium odds Indian GP: According to William Hill bookmakers – David Beckham or amusingly Stephen Gerrard are 3 times more likely to become the next James Bond than either of the Marrusia or HRT drivers finishing the Indian GP in a podium position. If we consider winning the race, then they are 20 times less likely to do so than David Haye (ex boxing heavyweight world champion) is of becoming the first ‘black’ Bond.

Monsoon like conditions today in New Delhi: The following picture taken today near New Delhi would almost definitely lead to a red flag in an F1 race. (pic) However, the forecast for the weekend is sun, sun, sun all the way.

Lewis returns to twitter: Oct 8th was Lewis’ last tweet, “My bad, just found out Jenson never followed me. Don’t blame him! Need to be on Twitter more!”, shame because he’s been on less than ever. Today Lewis is campaigning for support, “Please support #Malala Yousafzai who was shot simply because she wanted to go to school. Go to  and sign the petition”. Whatever, you think about twittergate #2, its bad for us if the drivers are driven out of communicating their feelings and pressed back into corporate clone like communication.

Ferrari policy of a No.2 makes no sense: Thejudge13 suggested last week when we looked at the era of Hawthorn and Collins that there may have been an emotive reason for Ferrari not wanting 2 drivers to compete on track (Origin of team orders). Today, Keith Collantine of F1Fanatic has written a great article on why statistically this idea of only 1 “rooster” makes less sense for Ferrari than it may have done in days gone by. The argument is simple, in the Schumacher era when the car was so dominant that Barrichello could reasonably be expected to follow his team leader home number and finish second, this resolved any inter-team rivalry that may have caused problems. However, today this is not the case and even Red Bull rarely face a situation where deliberately switching drivers is possible.

Further, the points system has changed and rewards finishing 1st less now than it did in 2002.

2002   1st 10 pts – 38.46% of total points available

2012   1st 25 pts – 24.75% of total points available

And a 1-2 finish used to be worth 62.4% of the points available in 2002, now its just 42.5%.

Keith argues that Ferrari’s reason for having a significantly inferior No.2 when compared to other teams is a reflection that the team only cares about the driver’s title. The constructors title is where the prize money is awarded and historically Ferrari receive a ‘special payment’ each year from Mr. E for being Ferrari – and this is worth more than 2 places in the constructor’s championship. (F1Fanatic)

Mallya: The daily update. Staff have turned down an offer by the Kingfisher Airlines to be paid in 3 installments. They say this has not even been put in writing and that the verbal offers made by the company in the past have not materialised (Economic Times). This will not help the airline regain its license to fly as they have to present a coherent business plan to the Indian authorities – no staff doesn’t fit that bill.

(This page will update throughout the day with more stories – check back later)

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