Daily News and Comment: Friday 19th April

Hamilton evicted by Michael

For Lewis to leave McLaren has been an enormous wrench and a pretty emotional experience. Having been nurtured by the team from as far back as he can remember the separation will be similar to leaving home for the fist time.

There were signs Lewis was struggling to cut the apron strings when he made comments following announcing his move to Mercedes about a ‘sabbatical’ and popping in for lunch with his ‘old McLaren friends’ – all normal but difficult for those of us who have forsaken the comfort of our parents hospitality in teenage years for the bright lights of college or the big city.

Lewis was asked this week whether he still had much contact with his old team or was the fact he tried to visit them in the pit lane in Sepang a sign he is struggling to pull up roots that run deep.

Hamilton responded, “I went to see them in Australia. But I also tried to see them in Jerez, at the test, and there Sam Michael threw me out of the garage. That wasn’t very positive and I don’t feel very good about that. Martin (Whitmarsh) has been great and I have to say that I haven’t had enough contact, so I will give Martin a call”.

Sam Michael was not particularly supportive during the pantomime of life that became Hamilton’s latter years with the Woking team. This attitude of the team’s Sporting Director is now fairly transparent in Lewis’ self confessed description of events. Further, that Michael threatened to have Hamilton forcibly ejected him from the McLaren garage if necessary did indeed reflect the prior lack of bonne homme from one to the other.

I wonder whether someone will have a quiet word with Lewis and suggest the reason he’s not ‘had enough contact‘ is because the relationship is now one where the both the figurative and literal meaning of –  ‘don’t call us – we’ll call you’ – is most appropriate.

Bahrain want a return to hosting race 1

In a recent interview, Zayed R Alzayani has stated he would like Bahrain to return to being the 1st Formula 1 event of the year. The gulf state were believed to pay a premium for this privilege of some $10m extra on top of the hosting fee – an amount Australia as the new default season opening hosts refuse to contribute.

Alzayani states, “It’s a good start to the season, it gives us the chance to have the teams here longer, there is more anticipation, more unknowns. You don’t know how the cars will react to the new tyres, what the new regulations will do and the drivers are just back into their rhythm.

“But we are ready to have the race, whether we’re first, second, third or fourth on the calendar, and there are pros and cons for each. The decision is not entirely ours. We are talking about 2014 onwards, but it’s a bit early to talk about the calendar for 2014. We’ll come to that towards the end of the season when the calendar is being discussed and decided.

“There are some people who want the first race, and there are some people who don’t want the first race. We’ll see how it goes. It’s really a discussion between ourselves and Bernie.”

There are pro’s and cons to this for Mr. E to consider. One of the reasons the 2011 race was cancelled was because of the prolonged period of focus placed upon the opening venue for the season. Bahrain is now neatly slipped in back to back with China so the teams and personnel do not come home and in a way are on a mission to tear down in the east, pack up, fly to the middle east, set up and race. It’s all quite frenetic.

In 2011 the teams were due to perform the final test in Bahrain 10 days before the first race, and GP 2 and 3 testing was to be in the gulf states too. Of course this was all cancelled and the Circuit de Catalunya stepped in at the last minute to facilitate the final testing session of the pre-season.

After the cold and less from ideal pre-season weather in 2013 – there have been calls for winter testing to travel further afield toward the guaranteed warm weather – surprisingly – in the middle east. As an FIA class A circuit Bahrain would be in with a shout of procuring these events and Alzayani admits “It’s on the table.”

The teams not Bernie of the FIA set up the testing arrangements and they are against testing in the middle east if the first race requires them to travel back to Europe and then onto Australia. Hence if Bahrain want to continue to play a greater role in F1 they must procure the first race.

Yet Bernie’s dilemma is simple – is the 10 million extra green backs worth the hassle and another possible cancelled Bahrain Grand Prix.

Drivers’ Press Conference

A little bird told me there is to be a contest between drivers and certain reporters at the FIA press conferences this year. Also, certain drivers have been taking a little extra media coaching and even profiling certain F1 reporters/commentators with a view to ‘besting’ them at their own game.

This event felt as though it was dominated by continual discussions about the tyres and after several minutes I was losing the will to live. The MC was David Croft, SKY F1 Uk’s lead race commentator, and Jenson Button identified in the first few minutes this was likely to be a tyre fest debate due to the host’s previous well known fascination with the subject.

The first question is always keenly anticipated and sets the tone for the rest of what is to follow.

Croft: Jenson, before we get on to this weekend in Bahrain, a general question for you. We’ve seen lots of variety this season, lots of overtaking, 10 different drivers have led a race and you’re one of them but the fans seem a bit divided on what we’re seeing, whether it’s good or whether it’s bad. Now you’re the most experienced driver on the grid, so what’s your take on the action so far? 

BUTTON: “Wow, that’s question! I haven’t watched the races to be fair, as we’ve been travelling around so much. So I haven’t seen what’s on the screen. Maybe it’s the commentary that’s the problem”.

Croft: “Quite possibly, but as a driver competing in them, what’s your take? Is this racing as you want it or can you not push or do you have to save fuel or tyres or whatever?”

Button: Yes, we have to do all that, but I think there’s been a lot of overtaking. You know, we’re never going to be happy with everything in this sport or in any sport but I think the racing has been good fun. I was on the receiving end of most of it at the last race, because obviously doing less stops you’re running old tyres most of the time, so there’s people overtaking you most of the time. So it’s not the enjoyable part of it for me, but I think if you were doing a three-stop strategy at the last race it was a fun race. They seemed like they were able to push pretty hard., In the past we had tyres that would last the whole race and there wasn’t any overtaking. It’s very difficult to get the correct balance. But we’re having two or three stops which I think is what the idea was for racing in 2013 so that’s good and there are a lot of teams fighting at the front. I think Formula One’s great at the moment. I’m really enjoying racing. As I say, I haven’t watched a race but from what I see around me it looks good to watch.

Croft: What are us commentators going to be saying about you and McLaren for this weekend? A continuation of the progress you’ve been making or…

Button marks up Croft’s for the second time with his jab like response when he queried, “I hope you say something different because it’s getting a bit boring. It’s all about tyres when you talk!”. David Croft ignored the advice and it felt like about 80% of the next 25 minutes was spent on the 2013 tyre debate.

Croft gloves up defends, “Well, give us something different to say then”.

I’m sure David Frost had a far stiffer test with when tackling the intellectually superior Nixon. Fortunately he didn’t collapses into this line of questioning or we’d have never know about Watergate… and then all the other ???gate’s including Vettel-gate would have been called something else. The importance of a good question eh? 🙂

Cowed by McLaren’s lead driver, Crofty weaves and ducks and turns his attention to weaker prey. “Felipe, let’s move on to you. Jenson’s talked about this circuit. It’s a circuit you’ve won on before. You’ve enjoyed success here. So what’s the secret to a good lap here at Sakhir”.

Massa aware of the game afoot and with a twinkle in his eye quipped, “The secret –  is secret!”. 

Crofty is now in trouble. Reeling from that unseen uppercut he practically begs Massa to bail him out, lamely pleading “Spill the beans”.

Confused and in a daze Croft’s is now unsure whether he’s questioner or commentator answering questions and so he mumbles a question was then proceeds to answer before the recipient had chance to speak – or throw another punch.

Croft to Massa, “So I imagine that you come here with a fair amount of confidence, certainly different to last year. Your form seems to have improved immeasurably on this time in 2012. What’s made the difference for you, the car, the tyres – what?

If I’d been answering Felipe’s question I think I may have said, “Yes – No -Yes – No…. anything else?”.

Well this was a clear victory for the drivers. Shame we had to wait for the towel to be thrown in during the 10th instead of the 1st or 2nd round.

Latest snippets from Bahrain

Caterham: We haven’t got any confirmation of this yet, but I’ve been sent a message from a TJ13 reader in Finland who has seen in interview with Kovalainen following his return to the green goddess in FP1 today. Apparently he said the car is a lot more difficult to drive than was the 2012 version.

Ferrari: Are apparently pioneering a rear jack that is hydraulically powered to 14 bar. They have won the SKY pitstop award a number of times in recent races. Pressurised jacks for the front of the car are against the regulations.

Pirelli: Paul Hembery says with 15 minutes of FP2 left that he prior to FP1 he would have thought the race was a definite 3 stop strategy – now he thinks 2 is doable fairly easily. I’m afraid this is the inevitable consequence of allowing to be influenced by pressure from Red Bull to change the original selected compounds.

Let’s hope they are not pressured to changing the manufacturing process of the tyres and the manner in which the structural element of the tyre performs at present. It does not suit Red Bulls advanced coander style of design not Vettel’s ability to drive in the counter intuitive manner which brings out the best from the Red Bull design.

Protests: James Allen is saying he can see a huge pall of black smoke over the back of the circuit and visible flames. There has been promised a ‘volcanic’ protest scheduled for 30 minutes after FP2 is completed. GMT 14:00

FP2 ~Whose looking good: Without the backup of Dr. James’ analysis I’ll take a punt from what I can see in the tea leaves (and times). I reckon with minutes to go Lotus are looking very good with Ferrari not far behind. Red Bull may have moved up from 4th in China and look to be the third best team at present. Mercedes may be quick over one lap but it’s not clear whether they can keep pace with the other’s during longer runs.

Force India have the capability to put one over on McLaren if they can refrain from shooting themselves in the foot.

Pic: Looks as though he may get a penalty after having a minor collision with Esteban Gutierrez.

Lewis: When it was suggested this could be the hottest race on record and what wouold that mean for the team, Lewis replied “It sucks because you sweat you arese off… er… and the the degredation kills you”.

Aha – we hear you Lewis… so if not death from perspiration then from degradation???

Heikki: Here’s the full quote he gave on his first drive in F1 2013.

“Straight away, the feeling with the car was that there isn’t any margin for error through a corner when you lean on it. It’s on a knife edge. It’s more unbalanced than I experienced last year. It’s more difficult to drive and more inconsistent. It is not a surprise because of the way that the car has been modified in terms of ride height and stiffness”.

Heikki thinks there are some quick fixes. “Part of it is solvable with setup changes, but when we improve and put upgrades on, the one area that we need to improve is the back end. It needs to be stronger.”

Some things in F1 don’t realy change. As TJ13 said when Williams announced they were not taking the FW35 to first winter testing – it never turns out well – it didn’t. In modern day F1 changing both drivers in the same season is a bad idea. Toro Rosso demonstrated that perfectly well in 2012 and now Caterham may find they too have made a big mistake.

From comments made yesterday it is apparent Heikki refused to play ball with Fernandes over a change in contractual matters for 2013. He was offered a no pay to drive opportunity and turned it down. Yet in the long run it may have been the right call and could it be Fernandes who ends up over the barrel.

Barichello: Look out for the smiling Brazilian this weekend. He returns to the paddock for the first time this year working as an expert for Brazilian TV channel – Globo.

Depotation: According to Ian Parkes of the Press Association, a TV crew has was picked up and detained yesterday, detained and they have been deported from Bahrain today.

Brazilian GP to stay at Interlagos

Bernie tells Reuters, “I’ve just received a letter from the mayor and he’s guaranteed to revamp the whole facilities there, which will be good, we’ve been waiting long enough. If Sao Paulo do what they say they’re going to do then we don’t need to move.”

The race had been under a perceived threat from Ecclestone as Rio are hosting the next Olympics and a Sochi style F1 circuit integrated with certain Olympic facilities had been suggested. Speaking in Brazil last month  Ecclestone said, “It’s a super race track but the facilities need a big facelift.”

Then  as if he can’t restrain himself once he starts waxing lyrical on F1 venues… Bernie states. “I’m all for the race in Mexico, I think it would be fantastic, really good. It’s commercial at the moment, but it’s okay, we’ll get it sorted”.

Then a little randomly he adds, “I’d like to get back to Turkey”.

Don’t worry Bernard – Christmas is coming and we all love a bit of Turkey.

Tyre Facts from FP1 and FP2

FP1: FP2:
1.F Massa  1.34.487s Hard Used 1.K Räikkönen  1.34.154 Medium New
2.F Alonso  1.34.564s Hard Used 2.M Webber  1.34.184 Medium New
3.N Rosberg  1.34.621s Hard Used 3.S Vettel  1.34.282 Medium New

The most laps achieved on the medium tyre was 20 and on the hard compound it was 28

It’s like Rangers vs Celtic

Sir Jock is on his soap box (or bench maybe). He was instrumental in establishing F1’s relationship with Bahrain years ago when in true Scottish form he was too tight to get a round of drinks in and the Crown Prince stumped up his shout.

Sir Jock calls on his heritage to explain to the rest of us who have no concept of what is happening in Bahrain and likens the running battles on the street to the fights between the fans of the 2 Scottish Glasgow football clubs.

“It’s no different to the Glasgow Rangers and the Glasgow Celtics. One is a Sunni, the other is a Shia and they had to put a bloody great fence up to keep the two back. The Glasgow constabulary wouldn’t allow Hampden Park to be cleared at the same time. The Rangers had to be first and the Celtic guys later. They didn’t want them to mix because they would kill each other. That’s Roman Catholic and Protestant. In Bahrain we have got Shia and Sunni”.

Sir Jock is a staunch supporter of the Al-Khalifa regime and he observes, “They have already started a move towards democracy. You can go in shorts and a bikini in Bahrain but women can’t even drive in Saudi Arabia,” he added.

The Bahraini regime has offered since 2011 to hold talks on democracy and Sir Jock understands how the Arabian mind works in detail. “[Bahrain has] got to change, but it will not happen in five years never mind 12 months. Some of these journalists are going to say nothing has happened since we left here. That’s not true but on the other hand Bahrain are at fault for not communicating.

I think that the Prime Minister [of Bahrain] and his Majesty have to communicate more fully with the whole media to explain what they have done since last year. But they are not media conscious…that is not their culture. Their culture is ‘Why would we tell everybody what we are doing?’ You tell everybody what you are doing because it would sound better. It would be nicer and people would know that and therefore understand your motives and direction.”

In an incident today, ITN workers have been detained and threatened with deportation. A spokeswoman for ITV News said their team “were on assignment visas approved by the Bahraini authorities”.

“Having filed a report last night, they were stopped while filming this morning and taken to a local police station for discussions with officers. They have since been asked to leave the country, which they are in the process of doing.”

Sir jock indeed fears that should the instability in Bahrain go unchecked it could lead to the apocalypse for both western nations and F1. He argues this will happen because Bahrain’s involvement in the sport isn’t restricted to its race, the country’s sovereign wealth fund Mumtalakat also owns 50 per cent of Britain’s leading team McLaren. “If you didn’t have Bahrain you wouldn’t have McLaren,” he said.

Ron Dennis was not available for comment over Sir Jock’s warnings that the termination of the historic Woking based F1 team could depend on the success or failure of the Celtic fans ability to win a brawl with their opponents from Rangers.

20 responses to “Daily News and Comment: Friday 19th April

  1. I can’t say I blame Sam Michael – even if he and Lewis were best buddies I don’t think I’d want someone from a rival team in my garage during testing while they are trying to keep the new bits secret…

    • He’s not exactly the most personable of people at the best of times in an interview

  2. Also, was it just me or were the Force Indias absent from out TV screens again this year?

    • It was in qualifying where the world feed did not feature the FI cars last year. But you may be right, I didn’t see much of them except on the pit lane shots.

  3. Does anyone know the pit lane time loss here? 0.5s faster on a better conditioned track from Medium to Hard, looks like split strategies might be on the cards again.

  4. Having been quick to rubbish the previous amateur nonsense that was the Drivers’ Conference I would give cash money to have watched this one. It has always amazed me that it has taken decades for the drivers and constructors to learn to fight back against these endless moronic questions…!

  5. Oh, and… doesn’t conference mean discussion, not interrogation…? 😉

  6. The honorable judge kills it again with a decisive blow in the form of a press conference biopsy. That sentence confuses even me so i’ll stop there.

      • I’d be interested in hearing some of the questions that we think should have been asked in the driver’s press conference.

        Mostly because I’m not a journalist and can’t tell a good question from a bad one. What would the golden question have been to open up the box that is Jensen Button?

        • Hi EightM – maybe you are joking but a basic rule of thumb is that if you ask a stupid question you must expect a stupid answer…
          Unless the interviewer is also a stupid person, in which case (s)he won’t actually expect the inevitable… 😉

        • I may have tried… “Jenson. I’ve never seen you permanently clean shaven. How do you feel about McLaren enforcing this policy since Gillette came on board as a sponsor”.

          For those of you who maybe watch English premier league football – my favourite journalist/interviewer who could make anyone unconfotable if he chose but commanded the respect of whoever he was asking questions of from England manager, FA exec or star player. Brian Woolough – (1948-2012) RIP

          • So you would ask a question that has really nothing to do with racing or Formula 1 and is more on a personal level?

            How would that eventually lead to spilling watergate quality answers?

            This makes me ask, what is the real purpose of the driver’s press conference? Is it to get to know the drivers better personally, or to get the drivers thoughts about F1 and their own jobs?

            I’m not critical, I think the answers we get are boring and the questions are dull as well. But I don’t think criticising the questions without attempting to help them make it better is the right way to go about it either. This is difficult it seems though because they are all so guarded and no so primped and primed on what to say for certain subjects.

          • Well said, this is exactly what I was thinking. I’m sure that making probing questions was easier for David Frost due to the fact he didn’t have to repeat the same thing every couple of weeks. Building a relationship with the driver but also managing to lean on them for information must be a tough balancing job. The drivers know this as it really isn’t their job on the line, a bad interview/q&a would not see them lose their job. However, if you manage to alienate yourself from all the driver, your days as a member of the F1 media front line will soon dwindle.

            However, tyre talk is great for Pirelli but there is only so much someone can show an interest in. I can’t wait until next year when we are talking about ERS failures and the difference between power plants, if only for a bit of light relief!

          • Ok. (Phew) I knew a written question wouldn’t translate without a couple of verbal stage direction notes. This was not meant to be a hostile question and okay maybe the David Frost citation was a little poetic exaggeration I employed to draw a clear comparison

            I humbly beg to differ the question is nothing to do with F1.

            The example question I gave was meant to demonstrate how a question can be constructed to elicit 1 of 2 responses – neither of which may be palatable for the respondent. This means the interviewer can plan a supplementary question for either answer he receives.

            The question would be asked mischievously and with a twinkle… based upon a good relationship with Jenson yet the question forces one of two interesting responses.

            Either Jenson admits McLaren have had a word with him and Sergio over facial hair or he denies it. If he denies it, why has he co-incidentally chosen to change his personal hygiene procedures since Gillette become a team partner.

            If he admits the team have told their drivers to shave it is an example of the lengths McLaren will go to get their drivers to work for sponsors – a new whole level not seen before I would suggest. An array of interesting follow up questions then open up…

            The simple yet well designed question was meant to be the point… juxtaposed to the long winded multiple questions which are vague and allow the respondent free reign to say whatever they wish or even the chance to turn the tables on the questioner.

            Maybe I could have selected a better topic – I was on the move and jumped on my mobile wordpress app to answer the question while I had 5 minutes to spare. Lesson learned 🙂

          • Thanks for that! Exactly the response I wanted from you, and a fulfilling answer.

            I totally agree with your opinion on this and where we all want the DPC to go. I just wanted a full example of how the depth of the question should be and where we would want that question to then lead.

            Thank you again for taking the time to run through it. And thanks for the stopgap 5m answer as well. It’s purpose is case in point.

            Lastly, I will say I certainly don’t expect the average reporter to be able to muster up a questioning scenario like that. Nor be prepared for all possible directions. So how could we get the lemmings to get to this level? Maybe a mastermind media person who hands out questioning flashcards before all the conferences? Think of this as a media quality control measure, that would surely enhance the event for everyone involved.

          • If all questions were submitted in advance for the DPC, then the host interviewer could re-word/restructure them. Further, use a pro every time – not a someone like Croft who has no craft in questioning.

            The problem is that in F1 there are few writers well versed in the art of interviewing. The older school guys used to rely on ‘behind door chats’ which is why you hear a lot made of ‘from within the paddock’ and ‘at each race’ – this used to be the only way to get any information.

            The new Martin Brundle was a driver and has had no formal training at interviewing anyone – so he just does what he thinks. He had Checo yesterday – after Whitmarsh had spoken to his driver suggesting he had over stepped the mark – and Brundles question was along the lines of… “how do you feel about it Sergio?”. Sergio then predictably rambled for a minute or so saying what he wanted and addressing very little.

            All we got from the driver was he felt both he and Jenson had pushed the boundaries a little too far. Where was the – “where do you believe Jenson did this?” follow up from Brundle. the question was too open and felt like they just wanted some filler from Checo rather than controlling the conversation.

  7. Around 80% of the press conference talking about tyres? Felt like almost 100% to me. I almost switched off in boredom before the end. I did like Jenson’s jibe to Crofty about the commentating though 😉

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