Daily News and Comment

There are a number of stories to catch up on so we’ll make them brief. This page will update today from 14:00 GMT onwards

Perez admits Ferrari asked him to help Fernando

It appears Ferrari do lean upon certain ‘relationships’ to favour their man when required. Sergio was interviewed by Spanish paper La Marca and as part of the Q&A he was asked did he think the other F1 drivers reacted differently if they saw Sebastian Vettel or Fernando Alonso appearing in their mirrors.

untitledThis is what Sergio said. “You should ask them what they do – but for me this is not the case. I do not make distinctions between them. Last year, when I was speaking with Ferrari, they regularly asked me to take care of Alonso, but I do not know if they ask everybody else to do the same”. 

untitledThe Spanish reporter then asked Sergio if he believed leaving the Ferrari family was a missed opportunity, the 23 year old answered: “No, it’s an experience that led me to a better place. I’m happy at McLaren, I hope to stay here for many years, maybe my entire career.”

Perez on his first day at work in Woking stated he wanted to beat Jenson and challenge for the WDC in 2013. He appears to have modified this ambition and told La Marca,  he was just happy in Melbourne to have been quite close to his ‘team leader’ – Jenson Button’s pace.

“I’m happy with that because Jenson is one of the very best drivers,” he said adding, “He has won in Melbourne three times. I didn’t know where I would be compared to him, so while it’s not a relief it is reassuring that I am strong and close to a world champion.”

Lauda Watch

Well ladies and gentlemen it has been a little quiet for some weeks. Plenty of deferential praise amongst the teams for others and modesty as to how good their own 2013 cars are. Yet if you’ve been following F1 as long as I have, you would have realised it wouldn’t take long before the handbags were drawn.

Lauda is in warm up mode and before launching an attack on a competitor team he decides to practice on Pirelli. He describes the F1 tyre strategy as ‘fundamentally wrong’ and accuses Pirelli and the FIA of confusing the fans.

untitled“The situation with the tyres is absolutely stupid,” Lauda spits out with disdain. “Artificially creating more and more pit stops is wrong,” he tells German publication Bild. “Pirelli can’t really help it as they are only doing what the FIA ordered them to do, but 90 percent of the time no one understands what is happening in the races now.”

We have to presume Niki is referring to the fact that pole sitter Sebastian Vettel finished the 2013 season opener third on Sunday, while Lotus’ Kimi Raikkonen did one fewer pit stop and surprisingly from seventh on the grid.

It may be that Niki has revealed a little too much of his personal problems when he says, “My advantage is that I can ask our (Mercedes) engineers. The fans cannot. But even our people are confused. When the tyres are so soft, it’s bad for Formula One. The fans don’t understand if there are more than two pit stops. (For Formula 1) it’s a fundamentally wrong path.”

Pirelli’s Paul Hembery’s response is that “Many fans have told us they think the racing is more exciting now.”

Mmm. Is Luada speaking as a pundit – or non executive chairman of Mercedes AMG F1? I guess you can never underestimate how difficult change can be for some of the older generation.

Red Bull vs McLaren: Seconds out… round one

Lauda’s appetite for confrontation appears to be spreading like wildfire. Christian Horner has been criticising McLaren for their ECU troubles.

Whether it was rats, the ECU or the FIA that failed to allow proper policing of red/yellow/blue flags and DRS this weekend we shall know in time. Anyway apparently McLaren are now to blame for Mark Webber’s slow start to the race in Melbourne.

untitledWebber had a terrible start and then later developed a KERS issue at the weekend Horner reveals. “You need to ask McLaren why the ECU didn’t work because he was blind and had no telemetry. It is something they need to get on top of because it caused a lot of issues during testing,” he added.

Christian Horner is of course referring to the standard electronic control unit across all F1 cars mandatorily supplied by McLaren subsidiary MES to each Formula 1 Team. MES have supplied this standardised component for a number of years and supply IndyCar and other series too as they are world leaders in the technology.

However, in advance of the quite different requirements for the 2014 season’s engine configurations, it was decided to attempt a phased in approach to delivering the necessary ECU’s. There have been some problems with the new units in testing; however Martin Whitmarsh is upset with Horner’s opportunistic attempt to apportion the blame to the unit for Webber’s poor start.

untitled“You can also inflict ECU problems on yourself by how you set it up, but I will look into it”, Whitmarsh told PA Sport and said he was “distressed” when he heard about Horner’s criticism.

“We’ll put our hands up if it’s a fault that’s derived from the hardware or the BIOS,” he added. “I’ll be disappointed if it is our fault because in Formula 1, NASCAR and IndyCar, we’ve not yet stopped a car, and we’re very proud of that record.”

Martin appears to be still snuggled in his ‘winter onesie’ and needs to realise the gloves are off and the Queensbury rules were abandoned many years ago.

Sauber caught short of a car

For some team debutants Australia was a success, for Nico Hulkenberg it was a bemusing disaster. After qualifying in 11th, Nico was in the perfect grid slot to fit the medium compound tyre and attempt a Sutil type charge for the front of the field.

Yet 90 minutes before the lights were due to go green mechanics went to finalise the preparations of the C32 and “fuel suddenly splashed out of the car,” according Roger Benoit.

“(It was) a problem with the fuel tank, which is directly behind the driver,” confirms team manager Beat Zehnder: “It must be a crack in the tank. It’s something I’ve not experienced in twenty years.”

Hulkenberg’s chassis has been returned to Switzerland, despite practice for the Malaysian Grand Prix looming in a couple of days. The team is shipping out its spare car at Sepang, whilst another is being constructed at present and will be sent to Malaysia from Hinwil as soon as possible.

untitled“I’m bitterly disappointed but at the same time I’m not blaming anyone,” said Hulkenberg “Things like this happen in racing.”

Its funny how at times there’s so much going on and you miss the obvious. Has anyone seen anywhere in the media the question asked as to why Hulkenberg was not given Guitierrez car?

Tell Lewis he’s fighting a phoney war

My father taught me a lesson that took some time to live out. Yet when I understood it, it changed my life. ’Don’t fight battles you can’t win’ were his sage words.

Not one for suffering fools gladly, the righteous pursuit of truth justice and idealistic values have always been attractive to me. However, sometimes in life you have to accept that you just can’t win. There is an old Chinese adage that suggests, ‘if you seek revenge – dig 2 graves’.

untitledSome of us fail to understand that not even the sheer force of our persuasive powers or even should natural justice chose to fight by our side that the situation in hand cannot be won around. It’s not that ‘you can’t win’, more that ‘it can’t be won’.

There is no disgrace in withdrawing from such a position. The perpetual confrontation will sap the life blood from you and prevent you from moving forward into a more positive place. Further, it will make you out to be an obsessive fool to those who observe the goings on.

I’m sure there are those who write F1 articles for mainstream media outlets who hibernate during winter – see what you think. Paul Weaver writes in the Guardian, “Lewis Hamilton with stoicism and self-restraint many people thought was beyond him, has mostly bitten his lip since his decision to leave McLaren for Mercedes six months ago.

But on Sunday, when the Australian Grand Prix was long over, the post-race formalities completed and the night turned as black as the swans that sail on Albert Park’s lake, Hamilton turned on those who had mindlessly criticised his momentous move”.

That may be Paul’s opinion but I’m sure I’ve been listening to consistent justifications from Lewis as to why he jumped ship as he engaged his detractors every step of the way.

untitledSo yet again last weekend Lewis found it necessary to comment as follows. “It’s nice to prove people wrong, It has been everyone – particularly all the ex-drivers – a lot saying it was the worst decision ever, saying: ‘He’s going to finish nowhere; they’re going to be nowhere.’

Confusingly Hamilton then suggests, “And then they contradicted themselves, going the other way. They don’t know what they’re talking about. They’re either this way or that way. But it’s the bit in the middle. We have done a good job – we finished fifth. We have a lot to work on. We didn’t ever come out and say: ‘We’ll kick everyone’s butt.’ We never said that we would be crap either. The team have done well, I’m really proud of my team. I’m proud of my decision as well.”

As was suggested by a TJ13 viewer when commenting on how Mark Webber dealt with the Helmut Marko question at the FIA conference, maybe Lewis needs to tell the part time F1 writers, ‘I’ve spoken about this extensively and I’m not about to do so again”.

Interestingly, my view from day 1 of the announcement by McLaren has been firmly that Lewis was pushed and today Mr. Ecclestone has come to the defence of The Judge. Bernie states, “Ron said that he could have kept Lewis if he had wanted to but he didn’t want to. Lewis told me that he would have rather taken a year off. I don’t know why it came to blows. In fairness to Lewis, he didn’t leave McLaren over money. I don’t know what it was because of but it wasn’t to do with money. He just wanted a change I think. He probably thought he had been there long enough and wanted to move on.”

It is kind of understandable if Lewis feels pushed that he keeps justifying how much better life is now and harps on about the difference between the new and old team. Yet even if this is the reason, it’s time to move on as I’m afraid the message coming through loud and clear is – sour grapes.

untitledI want to see the Hamilton that can take a car by the scruff of its inferior neck and wring the last drops of performance out of it to the finish line – whatever the position he finishes. Further, his very well paid management company would do well to educate their protégé in the ancient art of deflecting the haranguers with those 2 simple words that mean so much – ‘no comment’ – followed by a wining Hamilton smile.

MES apologise to Webber

McLaren Electronic Systems have just issued a statement and apologised to Mark Webber Mark Webber and Red Bull for a software-related issue that affected the Australian racer on the formation lap in Melbourne.

The new standard ECU, which features on all Formula One cars, was introduced by McLaren Electronic Systems in winter testing and will power the 2.4-litre V8 engines this season and the new 1.6-litre V6 turbo engines that are set to be introduced in 2014.

McLaren Electronic Systems say that whilst all the ECU’s ran without incident in Australia, Webber’s garage data system had to be re-started during the formation lap and, as a result, his preparations for the start of the race were disrupted.

Webber made a poor getaway from the grid in Australia, dropping from second to seventh on the first lap. However, this would appear to clear MES for the FIA for the debacle which meant that race control could not talk to the cars or control DRS directl. This puts the rats firmly back into the frame as the crime suspects.

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20 responses to “Daily News and Comment

  1. Obviously Lauda says the things he says becaue if it wasn’t for the tyres, the Merc cars would have been further up the field in that race. I have to admit though, although I don’t like the man, I kind of agree with him. Just put good tyres on and let people race their heart out. It is exciting racing but so artificial as well.

    As for Whitmarsh, he’s a nice guy, but he’s weak. I’ve moaning about him since he took over from Dennis. McLaren are a huge team and being so long without a contructor’s title is unacceptable.

    • Mclaren last won the WCC in 1998.
      That suggests that in those 15 years, Ron failed for 10 years, twice what Martin has.
      Bearing in mind that previous to 1998, it had been 7 years since their last one.
      Forgetting Ferraris 8 in the same period, William also won a few, Benetton/ Renault a couple, RBR has won 3 and even Brawn has matched the Mclaren total…
      I think Ron is too closely involved to this day.

    • Glad Bernie backs me up 🙂

      It was as clear as crystal to me – I chart the events in the ‘angst’ piece which were primarily responsible for the breakdown in relationship with Ron in 2011.

      Lewis was a very angry boy that year.

    • I think the key event was when Ron told the press that it was he who paid Lewis and not the other way round. The Mail hinted at something happening in Summer 2012:
      http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/formulaone/article-2237084
      “….. It is understood the incident, probably dating back to the summer when Hamilton’s representatives were negotiating his future, may be embarrassing for Dennis if details emerge.
      A senior figure within Formula One, who asked not to be named, said: ‘I do know what has happened. Everyone makes mistakes and Ron made a mistake. Everything went pear-shaped and I don’t think it would be fair to say any more than that.’ ….. ”

      Ron had hinted in June 2012 that money was a key issue:
      http://www.jamesallenonf1.com/2012/06/ron-dennis-sheds-light-on-hamilton-contract-talks/

      Despite that, McLaren and Whitmarsh tried hard to hold on to Lewis and it was only after the Singapore GP that Lewis made his decision to leave known.

      BTW, it can’t have had anything to do with telemetry data that Lewis tweeted – because now McLaren are officially allowing live access to that data on their website during the race weekends.

      • Interesting tweet and pic (at 2:42 PM – 18 Mar 13) here
        https://twitter.com/ f1elvis/status/313767491509841920

        Note – Link posted broken to avoid the pic & tweet appearing in full here.

  2. It must suck for Alonso/Il Pardino to know they are getting “help” but still cannot win the championship… Me thinks Perez might get a horse’s head in his bed soon…

    Lauda.. Perhaps I can become a non-exec chairman of a Formula 1 team.. Not that difficult to understand the tyres, ask Kimi, he had an easy race because Louts built him a good car.

    • Oooh – err Don. Your Spanish blood betrays you. Yet you opposed the inquisition – no? Did they have horses heads too? SO many questions….

    • I’d be careful believing too much written by sections of the press. According to many, Perez had to back off in Malaysia.
      Yet later in the season he passed both Ferraris at Monza when Alonso was fighting for the championship.
      So a Mclaren driver, who was let down by the Ferrari academy and told it was too early has set the cats amongst the pigeons… What about reports of Renault powered vehicles helping out other Renault runners.

  3. Surely after seeing the tyres acting the way they did the new “best of the rest” plan is to scrape into Q3 then not run. Therefore starting the race on mediums or completely brand new softs, but in 9th/10th place?

    One way Hulkenberg could end up with a podium this year (with a bit of attrition)

  4. Lets just put it simply Lauder cannot follow the races any more and needs to retire, the sooner the better. Maybe he should run for FIA President, then we would know we had one!

    Also:
    “(It was) a problem with the fuel tank, which is directly behind the driver,” confirms team manager Beat Zehnder: “It must be a crack in the tank. It’s something I’ve not experienced in twenty years.”

    No you won’t experience it now either! The fuel is held in a flexible bladder like a space hopper, made of kevlar, rubber and exotic spices and not in anything that can crack. The only possibilities are at pipe entrances/exits. So it is much more likely that the fuel leaked from a joint or a cracked pipe elsewhere. The bladders are nearly bulletproof (well kevlar innit!)

  5. “Has anyone seen anywhere in the media the question asked as to why Hulkenberg was not given Guitierrez car?”

    I believe they can’t switch the chassis after the entry list for the Grand Prix is confirmed.

  6. Judge – have you come across the story saying that Lauda was shocked that the employees at Brackley DID NOT drive Mercedes cars. (Shock, Horror!!). Found this entertaining that he expected even the lowly employees to be driving mercedes’, because everypne can afford them …. Anyway, apparently, he claims he has got them on a better leasing deal (supposedly meaning they all drive mercedes’ now). Which I bet is a result for some of the employees – Lauda will be in their good books!

  7. yes, how true that XIX should be helping Lewis in other ways than in the promotion of Brand Lewis. But that’s the rub here. That interview Lewis gave is entirely typical. He makes his point badly although I think it is a fair observation. The real issue for something so keen to air his grievances is why he doesn’t address the debate about the Pirelli tyres. “Just put good tyres on and let people race their heart out.” How much did he outqualify Rosberg by and how far ahead was he when Nico retired? You have to go back before 2011 to see him truly “wring the last drops of performance” out of a car. Let’s not forget here we are talking about a driver here who was the equal of Alonso in his debut year. Schumacher was at his salient best when he spoke about the Pirellis and it was disappointing not to see Lewis chime in and support him or indeed Webber when he’s spoken about his misgivings on tyre deg.

    • Hi Charles – great to hear from you.

      You make a noteable observation. Why are we not discussing other matters re: Lewis?

      Team Hamilton is too passive and needs to be pro-active re:news. When is his next UNICEF days, how much did he beat NR by as you say….

      We hear from football players ‘entourage’ regularly – where is Lewis highly paid PR people. Look invisible to me.

      • I get the impression that Lewis has a “marketing and contract” team, rather than a “press and public relations team”.

        If he had the latter, he would either first get trained to talk in the language of “Yes Minister” politicians or he would be advised to be like Francis Urquhart and reply “”You might think that, I couldn’t possibly comment”.

        On the other hand F1 drivers like lewis and Raikonnen who have risen from the family backgrounds that they had, are refreshing in their personality not being moulded by the Corporate machine,

        As Kevin Garside http://goo.gl/vxx1z says about Raikonnen
        “His reluctance to play the corporate game, or “b******t” as he refers to this aspect of modern Formula One, explains in large part why he left Ferrari”

        Leave them the way they are, they add value to F1 both on and off the track. I think it is time to get off his case. Judgement delivered long ago.

  8. And, as always, it can be hard to know how much of the interview is left on the cutting room floor before publication. Lewis knocking his previous employers probably sells a lot more than him whining about tires (which, if he’s not, good on him) and I would wager that it’s an easy quote to get for a journo.

    I agree, I think that he and Kimi are as close to candor as you are going to get from anyone actively working in F1, and that is probably part of his magic. And since Kimi hardly says anything, we had best hope the corporate media trainers don’t get their hooks too deeply in him.

    When he tweeted the telemetry at Spa last year, that said volumes about how little he trusted his team. To me, he was trying to prove they lied to him about the performance characteristics of the wing he chose (whether they did is a separate matter).The degree of rancor and paranoia behind the scenes must have been incredible. I have been in similar situations (not driving, music) and know firsthand how hard it is to perform well under those circumstances. I thought it made his driving all the more impressive last year. If he was just another driver trained in the art of drone speak, I would never have had that deeper appreciation.

    • Of course we don’t want drone speak Lewis, and to be honest I don’t think we will get that – but like Webber on the Marko matter – all I suggest is, “I’ve answered that plenty thank you” [smile] to avoid the whole – why leave? – is it better now? – will you go back? … trash that we are so bored with… would serve Lewis well … methinks.

      Then he can tell us more about Roscoe pooing on the plane, shirtlifter getting upset and the consequence being Lewis having to part-ex a ‘nearly new’ corporate jet – would be just fantastic…

      Sometimes poo is simply a better topic than raking over the past. 😀

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