Daily News and Comment: Tuesday 9th April 2013

Big Foot vs Sleepy

TJ13 has reported the problems that Nico Hulkenberg has fitting in his Sauber car this year and how they have had to slice of part of the sole of his racing boots to ensure his feet can operate the pedals without interference.

Well true to the cartoon world that is F1, whilst big foot struggles, one of Snow White’s saviours – the dwarf sleepy is more than comfortable in his $30m driving machine.

untitledHaving acquired a new model F1 car this year sleepy tells us, “The seating position in the car obviously is quite inclined. If you’re sitting in the car it’s so easy to fall asleep when you’re in the garage. Generally, between qualifying sessions, I often fall asleep between Q1 and Q2 and Q3 – it’s so comfortable.”

Someone send in Roscoe to poo please (This is not an April fool ladies and gentlemen). This must be why Lewis dreamily sauntered into the McLaren box during the Sepang race, he thought it was time for milk and cookies and his afternoon nap.

Either Lewis is being amusing or he’s telling the truth. Were it to be the latter it would show he is in a pretty good frame of mind at present as having a quick nap during the Monaco weekend a couple of years ago would have been the antithesis of what we would’e have expected.

Another graduate from the RB Junior Driver Programme

Having signed a female driver yesterday, Marko is shuffling the deck with his protoges again today. Following Vettel, Buemi, Alguesuari, Vergne and Ricciardo – the next candidate to graduate from Marko camp is Portuguese driver Felix da Costa.

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A preferable celebration to the finger?

Many believe he will win the 2013 Formula Renault 3.5 series, and should that be that case the next step could be a seat at Scuderia Toro Rosso. When asked about this possibility during the closed season Vergne was not threatened by this prospect, “I see no problems with that. That’s how it works at Red Bull. I’ve been in the same position. Antonio is a good driver.”

It now emerges that da Costa has moved a step closer to challenging the Red Bull B team drivers, having received instructions to head off to Shanghai. Felix won the Formula Renault round at Monza, and under Red Bull orders he is indeed now en route to China, where he will fill in as the Red Bull reserve driver Sebastien Buemi.

Before we become too concerned for Buemi’s posisition, while F1 is in the Far East, he will be at Silverstone, kicking off his sports car world championship campaign at the wheel of Toyota’s hybrid prototype.

Margaret Thatcher and F1

Whatever you think about Margaret Thatcher RIP, to my recollection she only once was pictured with an F1 car – and what a choice of car. Come on TJ13 scholars of F1 history. The car, year and why it was significant?

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Lotus, Shanghai – 2013

A smooth link to the next story if I say so myself. Of course it was in China in 2012 where we stared at our screens in horror as we watched Kimi Raikkonen fell from 2nd place to nowhere in just over a lap. Of course the Lotus team tried do 1 less pit stop than the other front runners and we vividly saw what was meant by the drivers when they had used the term “off the cliff” during testing in Barcelona 6 weeks earlier.

Interestingly China is what we call a ‘front limited’ circuit, this means the first point of failure will come on the front tyres. This is unusual as many circuits a ‘rear limited’ and the driver in 2012 who demonstrated the best sensitivity of touch on the front wheels was in fact Kimi’s team mate – Romain Grosjean.

untitledJames Allison talks of Romain’s progress last time out in Malaysia as follows.

“Romain started off the weekend with a setup that was far too oversteer biased, but through gradually moving towards greater levels of understeer he became significantly more comfortable in the car; subsequently putting in a very good race performance. As mentioned previously, these tyres really do reward a well-balanced car, but the format of a race weekend places sufficient time constraints to make finding that sweet spot a challenge. In Melbourne we didn’t quite manage to find the zone with Romain, but by the end of the week in Malaysia we had it much more to his liking and he subsequently rewarded us with a sterling drive”.

James doesn’t mention the B spec aero bits their No. 2 driver had to put up with on both occasions – but hey ho. However good news for Romain in China as Alison says, “We’ll be upgrading Romain to the latest spec exhaust and related bodywork”, big cheer… hang on… what was that?

Allison continues, “..as run by Kimi in Malaysia. We also have a few small tweaks to the front wing, rear wind endplates and sidepod vanes. One of the benefits gained from the new exhaust package is an increase in rear downforce through corners where the ratio of exhaust speed to car speed is high, which tend to be the lower speed corners. This is a good step forward which we hope will aid us in protecting the tyres at this kind of circuit”.

untitledMaybe this means Kimi is not getting much of an uprgrade and they’ll be on identical packages. Mmm. Then again maybe our Romain needs keeping in his place – oh well – he can learn from Webber.

I do like Jame’s explanation of the difference between last year and this year’s tyres – its one of the clearest I’ve heard yet. “They’re just one step softer all round than last year and the new construction makes it harder to access the rubber on the inner corner of the tyre. In other words, the available rubber is reduced as it’s very tricky to get the entire width of the tyre in contact with the road. Certain teams are keen for a switch back to last year’s rubber, but teams will always push for what’s in their best interest. We feel the current tyres makes for entertaining racing, but then we would say that as our car tends to prosper when the tyres are tender”.

Well good luck to Maggie’s old team this weekend I say. I think for those TJ13 readers playing the GP predictor game we’ll see a non-predictable weekend – maybe – but then maybe I’m bluffing you all 😉

Neale more bullish than Whitmarsh?

It’s interesting how if you listen carefully enough, you’ll hear different resonances from within each team. Truly as F1 fans we are privileged in that the amount of information and comment we do get from the players in the sport we follow. I suggest the level of comment and the flow of information is unsurpassed outside of North American sport.

Of course we do see the drivers – or some of them – squeezed into corporate moulds and it was a matter of time before Sergio Perez got the Ron Dennis’ barber haircut treatment and now looks tidy rather than some gun slinging Mexican off to drink tequila and chew baccy with members of the gang.

untitledYesterday, TJ13 reported Whitmarsh wistfully suggesting he’d gladly have Paddy Lower back to help them sort out the MP4-28 he designed. Today we have Jonathan Neale, McLaren MD singing a different tune. “I think we know where the problems are with the car. Between Australia and Malaysia, we have managed to improve the car. Some of them are routine upgrades, others are a response to the current situation.

We will have to try our latest package in China on Friday which will be key for us. I am firmly convinced that we are on the right track. We have an idea of ​​where the problems lie. After the Grand Prix of China, we should have even more answers. ”

There we go – no need for Paddy who designed the car Martin, we think you’re wrong – we at McLaren now have it sorted. So who is telling the truth? Whitmarsh or Neale?

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8 responses to “Daily News and Comment: Tuesday 9th April 2013

  1. Re Thatcher pic I want to say Lotus 88 and Mr Chapman alongside her. I think she had visited the Fens back in the day. Used to live there.

  2. Oh if the twin-chassis Lotus 88 had been raced, wonder where that would have led… more sustainable ground effect, with less G on the driver, or not quite a step forward similar to the Lotus 69.. who knows.

    Looks tight between Felix da Costa, Magnussen and Vandoorne (McLaren juniors), I’d daresay Felix da Costa will be in FP1s after the FR3.5 season finishes (YDT and USA-Brazil) ahead of a 2014 debut. So it looks like Vergne and Felix da Costa to take over from Webber in 2015/16, unless recent events have hastened his wish to retire which would give a chance to Ricciardo to maybe stop-gap the Red Bull seat (or Kimi to move in, who knows!). It looks tough for the McLaren junior drivers to go somewhere but does Force India still have a third driver space after the Sutil-Bianchi conundrum? I would put Calado there possibly as well from next year but it would depend on his RSF backing, and it looks like Vandoorne has the young driver momentum at the moment. It’d be interesting to see a sim-racing comfortable driver in F1… 🙂

    • I too would like to see the SIM-racing driver given a chance to benchmark themselves.

      If they were to do reasonably ok, I suspect the face of F1 driver recruitment/development would radically change and pretty quickly… fascinating idea

      • Indeed, maybe something like this? http://lotusf1team.com/lotus-f1-team-confirm-launch-of.html Although it is an April fools’ joke.. My money would have to be on Vandoorne, Stanaway.. and also the sim-racing world champions Huttu, Luis, and the finnish youngsters Nieminen and Kivekas, originally from LFS, who’ve done well in the iRacing WDC as well… another driver, Bryan Heitkotter has won the GT academy US and is now racing, why couldn’t these guys? 🙂

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