This page will be updated throughout the day as new stories break.
Melbourne F1 promoter dismisses a night race
In a perverse manner, it may be that the events surrounding qualifying in Melbourne this weekend give power to Mr. E’s arm in his long wrestle with the Australian F1 promoters. He has been trying to badger them to install lights at the Albert Park Circuit and run the race later for the benefit of the European TV audience.
However this battle see’s Australian Formula One Grand Prix boss, Andrew Westacott, ruling out a Melbourne night race, despite the 2013 qualifying session being washed out after Q1 and having to be delayed to 11h00 local time on Sunday, hours before the race start time of 17h00.
When pressed on the matter, Westacott says, “How are we going to do that? We are in the middle of a city park, not to mention the huge cost to set up the lighting. And it wouldn’t just be for the track, but for basically the entire park. “It’s unthinkable”.
However, the rain this weekend may have dealt Bernie the winning hand in this long running dispute. The operating window for the race and qualifying is clearly so tight that a recurrence of this weekend’s delays and even the cancellation of the race is more likely than not.
In Melbourne’s favour they have another 2 years on the existing contract, and based upon the shambles that was the 2013 F1 calendar, they have almost 2 years to extract what they need from Mr. E. Against is the constant PR exercise to justify to Melburnians the Aus $50m cost to the tax payer of hosting an F1 race – which would rise substantially should the race be held at night.
Yet the rumblings I’m hearing from the media in the paddock is that there are many F1 personnel who would be glad to see Australia leave the F1 calendar. They cite the length of journey time from Europe to Australia, time zone acclimatisation and the cost of Hotels and wine as reasons for the malcontent. The ability of Albert Park to cope with the weather may now add another item to their list of grumbles.
Sauber for Sale
This rumour was perpetuated almost weekly during the 2012 season, and we became familiar with Peter Sauber issuing a clear denial in the form of the word, “No”.
The inevitable happened again in Melbourne and Monisha Kaltenborn was questioned over the future and stability of the team. She replied, “These rumors have always existed. If someone comes who can strengthen the team in sporting or commercial areas, we will decide on whether it is in the interests of the team!”
Kaltenborn has been leading the rallying cry on behalf of the smaller teams that the costs of F1 are killing the midfield competitors and are not sustainable. She has argued passionately for cost control and for the FIA to implement regulation and to police it.
It could be that hearing Le Presidente’s final word on the matter this week caused Monisha to respond to the question as she did. When arriving in Melbourne, Jean ‘the lesser’ claimed it was not his job to regulate on these matters.
There was also a hint in the principal’s press conference that something is afoot during the debate over the future marketing and positioning of F1. The comment, ‘we need to look after all the teams’ was made by Toto Wolff.
The cost of the V6 Turbo’s is set to rise from $5-8m a year to up to £20m a year which Monisha argues will break the smaller teams and seriously damage the sport.
Vettel new contract
Under the radar this weekend has been a story from Austrian newspaper Kleine Zeitung. they claim Vettel has now signed an extension to his Red Bull contract until the end of 2015 with an option for 2016.
The report claims Christian Horner has revealed this to a select group, however I believe that Helmut has commented on this stating, “I can’t imagine Horner wold divulge something like that.” Is our Austrian pinscher on his way out of the RB inner circle and will ‘Marko Watch’ survive the 2013 season?
I believe that there has been no deal agreed with Marussia. TJ13 reported last week that the team commented “We are in active discussion with the Commercial Rights Holder but, as of today we do not have a signed agreement with them.”
John Booth, team principal, was asked whether it was important to get a deal done in time for Melbourne. He replied with a faint smile, “No it’s not vital for Marussia ahead of Australia. It’s vital for Bernie because he won’t be able to film us without it.” He added though, “It’s getting pretty close now, nothing is signed yet, but it’s getting pretty close now.”
As with all things Bernie, and ask Pirelli, close is not done so I reviewed the qualifying 1 recording to see what footage there was of the cars. They were not completely invisible as were the Force India cars in Bahrain 2012. However, when compared to Caterham who are a fair comparison, they had a mere 5% of the on track air time of the team from Leafield.
The handful of shots were also taken from a clever angle at the end of the main straight, so the sponsors on the car could not be seen or in the spray where just the colour of the car could be made out.
Due to the weather and strange days and nights schedule this story is one that has been shelved. The mystery for many is how did Jenson deliver such an ‘amazing’ lap on the first day of Jerez, yet the car be so poor at present.
I did hear a while ago and I believe certain media outlets are now getting the story – that McLaren in effect fitted the new suspension on that first day of testing incorrectly to the MP4-28. A suspension rod was inserted inverted and caused the car to run lower than the design brief intended.
It is also emerging that McLaren were trying to replicate this mistake on Friday in Melbourne, however without the same ‘amazing’ results.
McLaren today the team made 2 fundamental mistakes costing both their drivers badly. Martin Whitmarsh admitted the decision not to return Perez to the inter after a failed effort on the super soft in Q2 was an error. Further, the accept they sent Jenson out too early with 3 timed laps to record in Q3 when the track was evolving very quickly.
The result is Jenson’s final lap was the worst of those in Q3 and he admitted to the media that worse still, his rear tyres for the start of the race are already ‘destroyed’.
By way of contrast, the professionalism of Red Bull had Sebastian Vettel cross the line with 1 second to go of Q3. This meant he had the maximum opportunity to benefit from the track evolution that was around 1s per lap. As it happened Vettel didn’t need the final lap.