Post Qualifying Sepang 2013: The ‘off track’ Verdict

A large cup of ‘thistle tea’ please

Here’s some ‘off track’ matters that will be hopefully complimentary to James ‘on track’ pre-race roundup.

It was all looking so good for Force India until the rains came. I never quite understood the purpose of thistle tea before today but with rapier like cut and thrust Di Resta with a high dander plunged the point home, “We’ve got it wrong on the pit wall. I’m sure they’ll stick their hands up and admit it”.

Thistle tea I believe is a soothing, balmy and calming influence and Mr. Paul needs to sip from his bottle before spouting off to the media in such fashion.

Bob the builder of fast cars informed us that Force India (and maybe others) lost the weather radar system about 5 minutes before the rain came which meant Di Resta missed the window for a quick dry lap in Q2.

On a positive note, one of my judge friends from the world of Ice Dance was watching qualifying and dropped me a text during Q2. He commented that he was most impressed with Di Resta’s triple toe loop, which when followed by a perfectly centred spin, ge informs me is a move with a high technical tariff. Apparently in his opinion awarding Paul a near perfect 9.8 would not be inappropriate.

On to Adrian Sutil. What can we say about this man? Firstly I suggest someone has a quiet word with him over his facial hair in particular the pencilled in little black moustache. He may or may not realise this has overtones of a ‘Berliner’ from Cabaret and none of us wish to seee him being proffered a pineapple.

Many have been dismissive of his performance in leading the race in Melbourne, yet one thing in F1 is true – if the paddock is not talking about you, you are nowhere and nobody. When you are a matter for discussion inside the circus ring it must be from a positive perspective.

Analysis is now being focused on the skills and instincts of the 2 Force India drivers, and the early evidence is damming I’m afraid and could well result in an indictment for the Scott. I will be asking the Procurator Fiscal to weigh the evidence and return to us later with a verdict.

untitledToday one Force India driver is P15, the other performed admirably and had the rains not arrived he may well have found himself in the post qualifying drivers’ press conference. The team believe that such is the superior tyre management of Adrian they are desperate for a dry race and expect even from 9th he will make the podium or 4th place.

The verdict is that Force India team procurement would be best advised in sourcing a substantial and reliable supplier of thistle tea for their non-Germanic driver.

Visible Marussia’s

On this note, Bianchi again is keeping Chilton firmly in the shade and placing Marussia well ahead of Caterham. The invisible Marussia’s are no more as Jules Bianchi was featured for nearly a lap in Q1, whether the deal has been done with Ecclestone or on the other hand he is calling them out to sue for ‘rights’ damages – who knows, but as of a few days ago the deal was not signed.

The focus of the verdict will now switch to some shenanigans with the Leafield team who will next be considered in this verdict.

Where’s Heikki?

Now that we know where Paddy Lowe is.. and going to be, we can still play my favourite childhood game but with someone else today.

Heikki and Tony Fernandes were quiet good friends until the impudent young Finn decided to pitch himself for a drive with Ferrari. Kids today huh – ungrateful so and so’s, don’t know the opportunity in their hands…

untitledRanks then closed and pit bull Mike Gascoyne was sent out to publicly criticise Kovalainen’s attitude and lack of ‘respect’ towards the team. Then locked a desperate battle with Force India to win the award for most dithery and indecisive team in F1, Caterham eventually revealed that Heikki was out in young Van Der Garde was in.

So today was ‘curioser and curioser’. In the garage was a casually dressed Heikki with a skull and crossbones cufflinked shirt wandering around and chatting at length with Tony and Cyril – all in full view of the suited and helmeted Charles Pic and Giedo VD Garde.

This was no ‘flying’ visit from the Finn – he was clearly there at the behest of the Caterham team management and in lengthy and deep conversations throughout FP3 and then later in the day.

My man has been suggesting this week there is serious consideration being given to returning Heikki to the car. Fernandes has admittedly taken his eye off the ball and is just now realising how badly placed the team is and it also appears that it was Caterham more keen on the merger with Marussia than Marussia were.

Invisible Red Bulls

There are murmurings that Red Bull are feeling a touch paranoid and suspect that Pirelli have been briefed to design tyres with the specific target to disadvantage high downforce car designs.

untitledWhen asked specifically the issue of tyres, Marko says today to, “I always understood that the best and fastest should win – and not that the one who builds the best car is punished for it”.

Stefano Dominicali on the other hand is dismissive of the lobby to change the tyres. With a wave of the hand he said, ‘it is not important what we think, it is what it is. We have to do the best job we can [with the tyres we are give]’.

Such is the discontent and feeling of victimisation in Milton Keynes, had the rain not fallen today I believe the decision had been made not to run at all in Q3 – for 2 reasons. The first would’ve been to make a dramatic point and the second because the RB9 is eating tyres in a way that fresh tyres and a lower starting position would be advantageous for the team here in Sepang.

I believe the analysis from Milton Keynes is that for the optimum time, the RB9 must 4 stop tomorrow and hence use and unprecedented 5 sets of tyres.

Fortunately this problem is particularly acute in Sepang due to the abrasive nature of the asphalt. In China the  tyre wear will be significantly less and opting for p9/p10 to save tyres for a car capable of a podium will not be so attractive an option.

Forza Ferrari

Speaking of Stefano, he looked genuinely delighted when he was questioned over Felipe finishing ahead of Alonso. Without hesitation he replied, “That’s what I want.. That’s what I said last year when everyone was pushing me to do something different. I’m happy for him, for the team, because as always we think as a team not as a person.

untitledTJ13 reported that there was an internal struggle going on between Fernando and Il Padrino over who should be the second Ferrari driver. La Stampa were wheeled out to kick Fernando back into line when he stated he wanted Felipe to remain as his team mate.

Well it seems Stefano was indeed under pressure to get rid of the Brazilian and recruit AN Other from what he said today, and for the Felipe ‘hangers’ it does appear he is on his ‘A’ game. Let’s not forget this man was WDC for about 20 seconds in 2008 before Lewis slipped past Timo Glock and crossed the line to snatch the title from Massa’s grasp.

More importantly… I knew it – the cat is out of the bag now Stefano. We finally have the concrete evidence in the form of a signed confession. Ferrari – do not think as a person – and as this season progresses we shall see hard evidence of this time and again.

Other Evidence

Here are a few other snippets of vital information before you put money on a champion for tomorrow’s race. To deal with the heat and humidity Nico Hulkneberg apparently soaks his undergarments in water and then puts them in the freezer. Seconds before donning his driver’s suit he whips them out of the deep freeze, dons them before zipping up his fire protection gear over the top. If he’s not the ice man, he certainly has ice pants.

Ross Brawn was being interview by SKY and behind him in the garage an air gun popped making Ross jump to what sounded like a rifle being fired. At the time he was admitting that they had cocked up their tyre strategy and like Ferrari and Vettel should’ve pitted Nico and Lewis for a new set of intermediates.

untitledLauda was lurking in the background and for a split second I was horrified thinking that the poor tyre analyst who didn’t make the right call had been forced to his knees and executed by an incandescent ‘non-executive chairman of the board’ –  with a single shot to the head.

Predictions for the race

Following the events of today, my GP Predictor selection is looking a little woeful i’m afraid. So I shall indulge myself with  giving you my revised thoughts.

untitledI now expect a Ferrari win – and it could be Massa if he can run a counter tyre strategy to Fernando  placing himself in a different part of the track.

Fernando plays the percentage game and for a 3 stop strategy this would probably be to start on the medium tyre and then make 3 changes each time taking on hard tyres. if I was Rob Smedley I would gamble, and try a more risky tyre strategy that goes medium, medium, hard, hard in attempt to get ahead Felipe ahead of his team mate during the second stint. the risk is he runs out of tyre in the final stint and has to make a 4th stop.

If Vettel does not manage to maintain first place for the early part of the race, we could see the Red Bulls behind behind the Ferrari’s, both Mercedes with maybe Kimi, Sutil or even Hulkenberg getting ahead of them too. Anything better than 5th will be a delight for Horner and Newey

Watch the Hulk in the early laps of the race and it could be Marussia get ahead of a Williams. I really really hope (unusually) it doesn’t rain because the dry tyre race pace situation is fascinating at present.

6 responses to “Post Qualifying Sepang 2013: The ‘off track’ Verdict

  1. Love this site so much, keep up the good work. One question is there a way a marque like mercedes will stay in f1 without being a front runner? And when merc pulls out what happens to Lewis?

    • My uninformed opinion and speculation is that Lewis’ stock has risen since his move to Merc. Consistently starting on the 2nd row in what was originally expected to be a 4th order car has so far accomplished his asperations of being good no matter what team and equipment he’s been given.

      At the end of the day for the qualy in KL Hamilton was up 0.8s on Rosberg. This is pretty significant, even if Merc as a team for both drivers got their tires wrong in not pitting for fresh inters.

      So, if merc fold I think there would be some great considerations by the top teams on this. If Perez’s form continues then a return to McLaren may even be an option. All be it an option Hamilton probably has no intention of pursuing. I still believe that he wants the RBR drive.

  2. Great article!

    Fernandes having Heikki in the Caterham garage is like bringing your much more attractive ex girlfriend home to meet your much less attractive current girlfriend.

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