HRT Engineers worried about safety, Villenueve: ‘Vettel’s a child’, COTA wins Global award, Partially sighted driver wins Indy 500, Rosberg on Schumacher, Alonso/Vettel title permutations, RB to join elite club, US GP record: F1’s smallest winning margin

HRT price tag 40m euros: Thesan Capital (who we think are Banco Popular in disguise – see news yesterday) have most reasonably come clean today and suggested they would be happy to receive back their original investment of 40m euro’s. I bet they would, these are the last desperate scrabbling to realise some cash back on what was a ridiculous venture destined to fail.

If someone pays Thesan 40m euro then there is still 10’s of millions more for the new owners to find to get the team back on its feet again after paying off the debt. Of course there is the prize money from coming last this year, and whilst prize money in F1 is a closely guarded secret, I believe 12th is worth only about 7.5m euro ($10m). The likelihood is HRT will just cease to exist.

The reason I say this, is because there has been for 3 years agreement among the teams for a 13th team to race. This has never happened due to the inability of anyone to get the required funding for an F1 start up. Buying HRT is worse than starting a new team as there will be debts, unpaid wages, a factory in Madrid that would be better located in the UK – why pay anything for them? The prize money is insignificant compared to the rest of the costs.

The big hope for HRT was in China last week. Many news outlets announced that Ma Quing Hua had been signed as the 2013 driver apparently by mistake. However, I believe that a deal with Chinese backing was perilously close to being signed following letters sent by Saul Ruiz de Marcos (HRT CEO) to the heads of Motorsport in China. Hence, the pre-prepared announcements being made but ill-timed. The investors apparently baulked at the location of the team factory, identifying this as the major problem preventing investment (

This is ironic as the HRT vision has been to create a very Spanish team based in Spain – nothing wrong with the thought – but the reality is that like silicon valley where like-minded businesses are attracted by common resources, most F1 teams have been historically based in the South of the UK.

The real worry is that engineers are saying they cannot guarantee the integrity of the cars for this weekend in Austin, one today expressing fear for the safety of the drivers due to the lack of appropriate parts for the cars. De La Rosa was a passenger flat-out in India when his brakes seized, and Karthikeyna was very lucky not to lose his head after a failure on his car in Abu Dhabi.

If this is genuinely the case, as I mentioned yesterday the team must fulfil its contractual duties to FOM and appear in qualifying and the race. However, it is likely they will form up for the grid and do 1 lap before retiring the cars. With the spectre of 2005 hanging over the US Grand Prix this is hardly ideal.

COTA video: The first of a series of video features showcasing in detail the major aspects of the Circuit of the Americas in Austin Texas. International motor racing announcer Jonathan Green brings us up close and personal with all facets of the Circuit of the Americas as they prepare for the first major international event — The 2012 Formula One United States Grand Prix November 16th to 18th.

Jonathan explains what sets the Circuit of the Americas apart from the rest the world’s iconic tracks. The video series looks at the track layout, the corners, the facilities, and the unique design of this state of the Art Herman Tilke designed 3.41 mile track as well as the myriad of other events other than motor racing which will be a part of the future growth of COTA’s brand new motor sports, music and events facility.

COTA wins Motorsport Facility of the Year: Last night the ‘Professional Motorsport World Expo 2012‘ was held in Cologne, Germany. Cota along with Bhai Tech Advanced Vehicle Science Centre, Dallara LLC – Indianapolis and the  Moscow Raceway were nominated for the global Motorsport facility of the year. Here’s what the judges said,

“November’s race in Austin will be a highlight of the 2012 F1 calendar. Whether it’s in the challenging topography of the circuit layout, extensive spectator viewing banks or the top-of-the-line safety infrastructure, Circuit of the Americas has worked hard to ensure F1’s return to the USA is a happy one”.

“The importance of the Circuit of Americas is not the design of the track, but the role it must play if the USA is to be a viable market for Formula 1,” said jury member and noted racetrack designer, Alan Wilson. “Success will herald a boom for F1; failure, the end of the game. It is that important”.

Does anyone else find it amusing that somewhere that has not yet held an event can win a global award? Particularly as there may yet be traffic chaos and a whole host of other teething issues.

Red Bull set to join an elite club: “The stage has been set for a Sunday of high-drama worthy of a Hollywood Western as clinical German Sebastian Vettel and fiery Spaniard Fernando Alonso engage in their own version of the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral at the new $400 million Circuit of the Americas” (Reuters). This is how many will view the events of the upcoming weekend, however after a mere 7 years in existence Red Bull Racing is about to join a very elite club.

Whilst there is the above excitement over the drivers’ championship, what is practically a given is that Red Bull Racing will take its 3rd consecutive constructors title needing just 5 points. The exclusivity of the group of teams winning 3 or more constructors titles is exuded by the names of those racing marques present already.

Ferrari – 16 titles in 52 years of competition.

Williams – 9 titles in 28 years of competition.

McLaren – 8 titles in 36 years of competition.

Lotus – 7 titles in 37 years of competition.

Yet there is an inner circle within this private members club, and it is reserved for those who have managed 3 or more consecutive titles. Ferrari managed 6 consecutive constructors titles (1999-2004), McLaren have 4 (1988-91) and Williams have 3 (1992-94). For certain Red Bull move straight inside the inner sanctum which when all things considered is not bad for a team that even in its earliest guise was only formed 16 years ago as “Stewart GP”.

Alonso/Vettel title Permutations: 

If Vettel wins in Austin then Alonso needs to finish fourth (or higher) to keep the title fight alive;

* If Vettel finishes second then Alonso must finish eighth or higher;

If Vettel finishes third then Alonso needs to finish in the points;

…which is another way of saying that Vettel can take the title with a podium if Alonso fails to score. The Spaniard has failed to finish in the points only twice this year, retiring on both occasions after a collision at the first corner.

If Vettel finishes off the podium (which he has not done since the Hungarian GP) or fails to finish (ditto Italy) then the World Championship will go to the wire regardless of where Alonso finishes.

Some engines may be marginal: “To come to a brand new track is always a challenge,” comments Renault engine boss Remi Taffin, “We are obviously dependent on computer simulations and on test rigs before we arrive. These simulations are so accurate, that we can predict certain matters like gas mileage and torque curve much. Yet details like texture of the curbs and asphalt texture we can explore when we get here.” he tells

Whilst F1 engines are incredibly robust now compared to only a few years ago, many of the teams have no new power units left for the last 2 races and are dependent on recycling others which have been used previously. “The second sector consists mainly of the long back straight, which at over one kilometer in length of the longest straight line in the entire calendar”, the Renault boss  observes, and “on the back straight the engines will be at full stress for some 13 seconds where the top speed will probably be 314 Kph”.

Interestingly there have been mutterings that Vettel had been forced to abandon the original engine usage schedule set out at the start of the year – this would be a cause for concern if true heading into Austin. Yet Red Bull did not opt for a 9th engine in Abu Dhabi when they chose to remove the car from parc ferme and change the gearbox, ratios and suspension settings. Normally this would attract a 10 place grid penalty, which of course was meaningless as Vettel was starting from the pit lane.

So, either Renault didn’t have a new engine, Red Bull couldn’t afford another one – or it was of no concern to them. There is however one other possibile reason why Red Bull did not elect to take the 9th engine because this would have added several hours work to what already was a significant change to the car. In Abu Dhabi qualifying goes into the night, and by the time the stewards had deliberated for over 4 hours regarding Red Bull’s fuel irregularity, it was by then around midnight.

Maybe Vettel is more marginal than planned on engine usage and this just adds to the mix of what already is a fascinating weekend coming up.

Nico on Michael: It’s always interesting the way people answer questions, particularly if those questions are not ‘leading questions’ that is questions that prompt a particular answer.

Much of the problem with mainstream F1 journalism is that they either ask leading questions to key F1 personnel or the questions are so predictable the interviewee is easily in their comfort zone.

I’m fascinated with a Q&A Nico Rosberg did yesterday, which thejudge13 reported on with regards to his assertion that an F1 driver is a ‘chain smoker’, in the Uk this means lighting one cigarette after another – as per Rosberg’s description. The world at large appears to believe that F1 drivers are now pure athletes who train their bodies to the last 1% to ensure maximum performance yet incredibly for at least one, this is not the case.

More importantly, there were other questions Nico addressed that give us some insight into his relationship with Michael Schumacher. He was asked a very open question which allowed him to say pretty much what he wanted; the question was, “How ould you describe your 3 years with Michael Schumacher?”

Nico chose to answer, “The relationship was not as bad as some may think. We exchanged information and impressions in a transparent manner “. Nico could have said, ‘He’s a great team mate, we got on well and shared pretty much everything’ – or something of that nature.

In fact, we would expect of a politically astute interviewee an answer of that kind. But he chose to emphasis the perception that many people believe the relationship to be ‘bad’ and then suggest it was something better than that. However, his description leaves me feeling it was highly functional at best.

It is the next question and answer that reveals even more. Nico was asked whether Michael now being permanently retired, would it be seen as damaging to his reputation that he returned to F1. Nico’s response was, “You only live once, you have to do what you have to do and when you’re getting paid a lot of money why wouldn’t you do it”.

Another slight dig, why mention the money Nico? He continues, “being a legend is others perception of you, but this can only exists to a certain point”. To me that suggests Nico thinks Michael’s return was a failure. There is no need to articulate this, he could have been gracious because for sure he will never have the record Schumacher has.

From this exchange, we glean that the relationship was not that great and probably some of that was driven by Michael and his reputation.  Yet Nico has clearly been affected by it, and the fact he is continuing in F1 is an opportunity for him to take a cheap shot across Michael’s bows. (In my humble opinion – feel free to disagree and comment).

US GP 2002 boasts smallest F1 wining margin: Reubens Barichello was recorded 0.011 seconds quicker than Michael Schumacher at the finish line. Remember that anyone?

If we disregard the Ferrari fixed finish, the real closest finish ever was in 1971 at the Italian GP on the last year Monza ran without chicanes to slow down the cars.  Peter Gethin scored his only F1 win with Ronnie Peterson, Francois Cevert, Mike Hailwood and Howden Ganley within 0.61s. Here’s a clip to gain a flavour of the time..

Now THAT’s what you call an exciting race and finish!!!!

Villeneuve Watch: Seeing as Nikki Lauda has gone quite, (regular readers of thejudge13 will know we enjoy following the comments of the outspoken newly appointed boss of Mercedes F1 in our ‘Lauda Watch’ features) it appears another opinionated former world champion is hogging his limelight. We reported on Monday, Jacques criticising the decision to get rid of Schumacher instead of Rosberg and today he tells AutoSprint that Vettel needs to grow up.

“I have no doubts: Fernando Alonso is the best, that’s why I root for him, Seb is super quick, but there is a difference with Fernando that emerges in case of an unfavourable situation. Alonso remains calm, cool, and rational, while Vettel most of times gets upset, angry, screams and flicks the middle finger. He reacts like a child. These behaviours indicate two different states of maturity but, let’s be clear, Sebastian is an ace too; however, he struggles more in critical situations. He looks almost unbeatable when he leads, but if he needs to catch up he becomes vulnerable.”

Villeneuve dismisses Vettel’s performance in Abu Dhabi remarking how he damaged his front wing in an unecessary battle with Senna, “then he lost control of his car and crashed under the safety car. A very serious error that had light consequences”.

Wonder if we got Niki and Jacques together discussing F1 how that would go?

Lauda Watch: This happened last time I said we’d got nothing for Lauda watch – a story comes in. A couple of weeks ago Niki Lauda was suggesting that Mercedes increase the budget for the F1 team by 50m euros for 2013 to around 200m euros. It appears Niki is not quite the ‘golden boy’ with the Daimler Benz board we may all think.

“We do not intend to increase our budget,” says Dieter Zetsche, Damiler CEO. Even though the Mercedes drivers Michael Schumacher and Nico Rosberg in the last three years could not compete with the top teams, Zetsche is convinced of the performance of the car. “The Mercedes engine is considered the best in Formula 1,” he says, “the reasons for the unsatisfactory results to be sought in ‘other parts of the car’. Certainly we need to be better soon.”

This may be true Dieter, but even Niki thinks some of the old Honda equipment is starting to become dated. What does this mean for Lewis Hamilton? Will he have a release clause if the team can’t compete? At present Mercedes having scored no points for 4 races are being seriously hustled by Sauber for 5th place in the constructor’s championship.

On this day 14th Nov 1893: Not an F1 tale, but apt considering the imminent US GP and its early associations with Indianapolis. Tommy Milton, the first two-time winner of the Indianapolis 500, was born on this day in Minnesota. Milton’s achievements were all the more remarkable because he had limited vision which led to him being rejected for military service in World War One.

He started driving in a circus act, recorded his first major win in 1919 and while recovering from serious burns sustained in an accident later that year he broke the world land speed record. He won the Indy 500 in 1921 and again in 1923. He went on to become Indianapolis’s lead steward before poor health forced him to stand down, and dogged by illness he committed suicide in 1962.

Tommy after his win in 1921

(This page will be updated throughout the day – as news comes in)

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6 responses to “HRT Engineers worried about safety, Villenueve: ‘Vettel’s a child’, COTA wins Global award, Partially sighted driver wins Indy 500, Rosberg on Schumacher, Alonso/Vettel title permutations, RB to join elite club, US GP record: F1’s smallest winning margin

  1. The chain smoker is supposed to be Kimi according to the German website motorsport-total.

    I think your reading into the Rosberg quotes wrong although obviously none of us know for sure but the same sort of quote from La Gazzetta dello Sport last year sheds a bit more light on it all. After taking a while trying to find it here it is!

    Nico:”Obviously he doesn’t like (being beaten by his team-mate) but it doesn’t last long, He’s not a bastard as some people say, when I ask him a question he doesn’t lie to me. You can work with him and that was a nice surprise after what I had heard”

    It probably comes from him growing up with his father Keke who wasn’t Schumacher’s biggest fan. Also two major league whingers as Rubens and Herbert for your teammates won’t do you any favours on teammate stories being told.

    The money quote I see as just him thinking Schumacher wanted to come back and saying that when your also getting a lot of money to do something you want its a no-brainer

  2. RE smoker – this exact discussion is ongoing at planetf1 – kimi was the first name to pop up, then de la rosa, then someone remembered the bbc f1 forum in bahrain, paul di resta appeared to have some fags in his hand, with some claiming to have seem him smoking.

    It has also been mrentioned that some (kimi say) may occasionally smoke, but only say on an occasional night out (which, thinking about it, is nearly every night im kimi’s case :))

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