Daily News and Comment: Tuesday 23rd April

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F1: Not for Porsche

Porsche have had some pretty good publicity over the past week or so with the rumours that Mark Webber had signed a 5 year deal to race their new LMP1 sports cars when the return to the sport in 2014. The iconic sports car company has also been suggested along with others as possible entrants for F1 when the new engine regulations come into force.

The cost of developing the V6 Turbo’s has been significant, but the current V8’s are practically a decade old and it was time for F1 to move on. The hope within the FIA and senior echelons of the sport has been that manufacturers will see a greater relevance in the crossover of these power trains to the road cars they produce.

untitledThe FIA hope that the new V6 engines will be a platform that can be adapted across other racing series and then the manufacturers will greatly benefit from a larger production run and recoup investment costs quickly and efficiently.

It would appear that any hope of Porsche entering F1 has been dashed today. Speaking at today at the Shanghai motor show Wolfgang Hatz (Director for R&D and Head of Engines and Transmissions Development) commented, “We are a sports car company. Porsche has always lived for the transfer of racing to production cars. For that reason it was clear two or three years ago that we had to be back in high-level motorsport, and it was a choice between top-flight sports cars or Formula 1.

“But the final decision was the only logical one. F1 was an alternative, but the road relevance is not there. Also, there is a lot of publicity around politics and tyres, but not so much about the engines and chassis. The aero, too, is incredible, but so extreme that it cannot result in any development in our road car understanding.”

Porsche are entering the top category in sports car racing, the LMP1 series, and their car will be powered by a hybrid power train. There has already been some technology transfer between the race car and the Porsche 918 Spyder due to go on sale later in the year.

untitledEarlier this year at the L.A. show Hatz when asked about the future of the ‘gasoline engine’ replied, “In the past 10 years we introduced turbo direct injection engines which I think was a big step, we have started with the first full hybrids but I think the next step will be plug in hybrids.”

A plug in hybrid (PHEV) is a hybrid electric vehicle with rechargeable batteries that can be restored to full charge by connecting a plug to an external electric powersource. PHEVs have a much larger all-electric range when compared to conventional gasoline-electric hybrids, and also eliminate range anxiety associated with all-electric vehicles, because the combustion engine works as a backup when the batteries are depleted

Not many people expected Porsche to enter F1 as a full blown works team, but there was hope they may attempt to produce an F1 power train thus evoking the glory days when they manufactured title winning TAG engines for McLaren.

That hope fades somewhat following Porsche’s declared commitment to hybrid performance engine technology.

Release the beasts: Maldonado and Grosjean rejoicing?

There was a meeting in Paris during the winter break to discuss the proposed systems of sanctions for drivers over stepping the mark. Various ideas had been suggested and one being a points system for various offences with a maximum number of points a driver could accrue being set prior to them receiving an automatic race ban.

untitledReports are emerging today that the meeting was attended by team bosses, drivers (inc Vettel of course), El Presidente, various stewards and Charlie Whiting. The proposal apparently shifted from discussing a system for penalising the drivers to a debate on whether the drivers were being too heavily punished. It was argued that if this was the case the drivers would be discouraged from wheel to wheel racing.

Further, it was noted that all drivers should be treated equally. There was a feeling that the sport’s big names were not being punished for certain transgressions yet those further down the grid and less experienced were being sanctioned should they commit similar offences.

No word has been given to the F1 viewing public of the final decision taken and this begs the question – has there been a noticeable shift in race stewarding and if so with what resulting effect?

For me – even as an alleged Mark Webber lover – I was surprised at the lack of sanction for his driving in Sepang. The incident during the race when Webber guided Vettel toward the pit wall had overtones of the Schumacher/ Barichello incident in Hungary 2010. Yet on balance the Webber/Vettel episode was less severe and it didn’t seem to breach the ‘one move’ rule. Finally, the fact that Vettel did not end up in the wall is evidence Webber did leave him a car’s width room as required by the regulations.

It is the manoeuvre which followed the chequered flag that was problematic. Vettel was coasting along the pit wall celebrating with the team and Webber cut in front of him at speed. This was clearly deliberate and possibly dangerous.

untitledThe precedent for this was at Spa in 2011 when as Maldonado drove past Hamilton on the wind down lap following Q2 he swerved his car at Hamilton’s and was deemed to have done this deliberately. He received a 5 grid place penalty and started from 21st instead of 16th.

This weekend too maybe Webber got away lightly in his duel with Rosberg. Coming out of the pit lane Webber was under pressure from Nico and ran deep into turn 1. He clearly cut across Rosberg in turn 2 to prevent him overtaking and the cars collided. Webber was issued with a reprimand after the race when in reality these kinds of incidents in the past have received drive through penalty as standard.

What do you think? Has the stewarding been visibly more relaxed this year? If so, is this a good thing or does having to re-establish what is acceptable and what insn’t just confusing for the fans and drivers?

Are there any other incidents you have seen which appeared to go unpunished in 2013 by previous stewarding standards?

Christian Aid week.

Having his authority usurped by a mere driver has left our dear friend Christian feeling as though he is still on top – but now on top of a bonfire about to be lit.

TJ13 wants to bring the humanity of Christian to you the readers this week in our series – ‘Christian aid’. Hopefully Christian will remember with rose tinted spectacles all the good times before he sold his soul to Red Bull and found a young German driver’s foot squarely on his neck.

Ok. This is more Buffy than buff.

untitled

We all hope the romp in the park for Sebastian would mean that was the last we heard from Christian about fragile Pirelli tyres particularly when considering Red Bull claim he could have two stopped. Apparently not, ahead of the meeting today in Milan where Pirelli are discussing whether to alter the tyres APP agency is reporting Horner to have said following the race, “I think the tyres are still on the edge”.

There is a theory doing the rounds that it was in fact the extreme heat in Bahrain that worked better for the RB9 than any of its competitors. Yet it is more likely that the Sakhir circuit particularly suits the Red Bull and Vettel was able to exploit the situation better than anyone by gapping the field and running in clean air.

Reghardless, if anyone is expecting wholesale changes to the tyres they will most likely be disappointed. Whilst Well Pirelli have made no statement as yet but it is clear there is no intention to make any significant changes to the 2013 compounds. Paul Hembery is quoted by Speed Week today as saying, “the teams should expect nothing new”.

36 responses to “Daily News and Comment: Tuesday 23rd April

  1. It’s all well and good for the FIA to hope that new manufacturers would enter into F1 as at least engine suppliers, but the economics don’t make much sense to a new entrant unless you are able to snag a top team. As it stands the top four teams, Ferrari, Mercedes, Red Bull and Lotus are all locked up either with their own engines or as preferred customers. McLaren are likely to move to Honda. The leading mid-field teams Force India and Sauber are likely to stay with their current suppliers. Toro Rosso are moving to Renault. Marussia probably signed Bianchi because they will get Ferrari engines. Caterham are in a partnership with Renault. Realistically the only team that could be gotten would be Williams, and I don’t think I would invest millions in an engine to supply just them.

  2. A lot of people, when asked why there isn’t as much wheel to wheel racing as there used to be, bring up the Arnoux / Villeneuve scrap at Dijon. They like to point out that had that occurred today both probably would have gotten penalties. Maybe, maybe not. What most people forget is that both the front and rear wing were made of aluminum and while they could be bent, wouldn’t usually break. Today the cars are carbon fibre and the parts fragile. A slight touch today shatters car parts into a million pieces. Sometime technology doesn’t make things better.

      • Generally speaking, yes. Unfortunately I don’t see anything changing primarily because a slight touch today can cause a lot of damage to a car when 20 years ago it didn’t. Bernie’s model of teams getting paid based on constructors points means that the lose of even a few points can cost millions, and if it’s a driver on a smaller team that has caused the damage on one of the large teams he’ll have to pay with a penalty.

    • Thats an excellent point. The wider front wings too are greatly responsible for a lot of collisions and tyre punctures. Shrinking them back to mid 2000’s size will automatically make the drivers more comfortable in wheel to wheel racing.
      Maybe FIA can add regulations that mandate that small taps and light contact don’t render a car useless.

      • RJ – You lot are on form today. What a great idea. The front wing is getting silly now with 5 layers of extra wing, winglets feathering slots and wavy end plates…. There’ll be a front rudder soon to assist with turning in

        • Totally agree. Take Massa’s little winglet flapping around, examples are abundant. I think Mark Webber gave an interview when they introduced these wider wings that they will cause a lot of retirement. Well it has and it will continue to have as I gather the aero rules for 2014 will be quite similar to this years.
          On the flip side there is the safety issue, if drivers get the feeling that they can do light taps with other cars and have nothing happen, they will do it and someday it might just not stay a small tap and could lead to an ugly accident, even with the current safety levels Alonso’s head was almost chopped off at Spa last year.
          So balance is important but right now its towards too fragile, they need to butch up the cars a bit.

        • Reducing the size of the front wing will also affect the aerodynamices from the rest of the car. This may lessen the dependance on aero and spice up the racing – easier to follow a car and overtake?

  3. I seem to remember that whilst growing up, I put Ferrari and Porsche as direct competition as manufacturers of fast road cars. Now whether this opinion has changed because of my F1 following, or because things have changed in reality, but I now see Porsche as in the group of cars below Ferrari. Now I know that Porsche make a great sport car, and that they probably sell lots more cars than Ferrari, but I don’t think many ‘boys’ growing up will have a poster of their cars on the wall, Ferrari definitely will though. I think LMP1 is exactly the wrong image they should be going for, I mean who buys a performance car for its ‘green’ spec or economy score? Audi, who are going to be the direct competitor, and from the same company, are easily a better choice. Seems a very confusing move to me.

    • I think you underestimate the appeal of Le Mans. It attracts many many thousands. The fact that Porsche does not commit to F1, I see more of a loss for F1 rather than Porsche.
      Besides, grand touring is a better platform to transfer technology to a road car when it comes to marques liek Porsche, Lambo, Aston Martin, etc. And if Ferrari didn’t have the history they have in F1, I don’t think they would enter F1 nowadays either.
      Something needs to change to attract big manufacturers. Maybe cheaper engines and a limit of supplying a maximum of 2 F1 teams.

      • As Bernie only wants 10 teams in F1 the existing engine (3 excluding Cosworth) manufacturers, even if they were limited to supplying two teams, would almost cover the field. Add in Honda and their are only two teams left to be supplied. And what happens if Infiniti are able to re-badge Renault engines?

    • Interesting Simon. I was brought up to believe all things motorised and Italian were beautiful – but fell to pieces.

      I still have no particular passion for a Ferrari over a Porsche or Aston Martin.

      What decade were you referring to Simon?

      • I have to approve your your choices of cars your honour.. Aston Martin is definitely up there with the best and of course a certain Mr Bond also prefers them, well the older generation Bonds.

      • That is why you are a judge, and I am not. I make emotional decisions, you look at the practicalities!

        • Well I find people live more by emotions than practicality and logic. I fully agree with point about the perception of Ferrari being superior to the general masses. But I do doubt how many of those people will actually go on to buy either a Ferrari or Porsche or Aston martin. The people who actually do buy them will be much more informed about the individual brands and probably wont be affected much by Ferrari being a F1 legend.
          But of course being in F1 could only increase Porsche’s brand value and sales.

          • “But of course being in F1 could only increase Porsche’s brand value and sales.”

            Like it did when Porsche supplied Arrows?

          • Ah well Im not old enough to know about that time, so have no idea what happened when Porsche supplied Arrows.
            But unless they go like Honda, they should be benefited from F1 exposure. BMW and Toyota had good positive exposure before they withdrew in 2009, even though they didn’t come close to winning any championships. You can’t discount the wide coverage of F1 and the brand awareness it raise’s.

      • I had playmates of the month on my wall, and if there was a Ferrari somewhere in the background, even better, but that’s just me.

  4. Whats with all the banging on about everyone running in Q3 and such on the t’interwebs as well today. It frankly doesn’t bother me, but all they need to do is insist all cars must set a representative time within 107% in all sessions, end of really, all cars running once in all sessions.

    • Do you use and RSS reader lol? Where did that come from? left field indeed. Have you replied to a comment on another site here by mistake?

      • Ha Ha, in this particular instance no, but usually! It seems to be the current debate on quite a few F1 websites today, but I don’t want to comment on there, so I thought I’d chuck a random comment on here too, as its kind of a current topic today; what the hell! ha ha, I did qualify it with a “on the t’interwebs as well today” thats northern for “and another thing” lol

    • Frankly it doesn’t bother me if half the cars don’t run in Q3. I love the fact that now the grid is just the starting positions, not the almost final finishing positions which it used to be. Qualifying had become too important in the Bridgestone era, its much more fun now when you know a guy starting 7-10 using alternative strategy or something can actually fight it out for the win. Kimi’s drives in Australia & Bahrain were majestic.
      Though I do concede it is unfair for people who have paid to go see qualifying, but as Ive always just watched the sunday afternoons live, maybe that point doesn’t affect me much.

      • I’m in agreement personally, I love this format and hope they stick with it. I perhaps want at least 6 cars to run, but I quite like the tactical element of seeing who doesn’t run, and of course surprises like seeing Massa come out on hard tyres.

        • I agree too, the strategy of not running has been a useful tool for some cars, so I like the added suspense it adds to the build up of the GP. As long as some drivers still go out and set a time, I really don’t see a problem with it. Of course this will all change when next year Pirelli make tyres out of various types of cheese and have off the scale degradation, just to spice things up a bit, again.

  5. Let em race, some of the penalties last few years shouldn’t have happened. It got to the stage could have a 50:50 racing accident and they just had to penalize someone for the sake of it. Although if someone does an insane Grosjean move like Spa it should be punished very severely.

  6. I really think stewarding standards have been changed this year. Although this could encourage again some on-track battle, it may also result in confusing the fans. After China I was discussing this topic on my italian site. I hope you have the opportunity to translate this:

    http://www.f1web.it/2013/04/16/shanghai-arbitraggio-allinglese-ma-le-sanzioni-della-fia-fanno-acqua/

    I actually compared similar actions which have been treated in completely different ways from the stewards. I think this did not help the sport.

    • Hey Vittorio great to hear from you.

      you should read this article (use google translate if need be) as Vittorio raises the point that historical penalties form the basis for the current understanding of an offence.

      I would go further, we now have a problem in F1 because in 2011 what Maldonado did was a crime and now for Webber it’s OK. Too whimsical I’m afraid.

      This demonstrates a lack of a long term plan from the FIA – no surprise there then.

      Speak again soon Vittorio I hope

  7. Is it just me, or have there been very few (any?) penalties given out during a race this season. Almost every incident seems to be ‘investigated after the race’.

    Is this somehow linked with the problems with the race control to car communications system, which I gather are still ongoing? I would also guess that the excuse of rats eating the wiring given in Australia was just a lie and there is something a bit more fundamental going wrong?

    I know the FIA changed the supplier of timing to the WRC and they had some significant teething issues – has the supplier to F1 changed also?

    I do suspect a lot of drivers are overly cautious going for overtakes for the risk of damaging their cars. If there is contact there is often the double-whammy of a penalty but usually the damage is enough.

    Maybe the solution is two-fold. Make the wings smaller but also maybe tougher to minimise the risk of damage. Secondly, have concrete guidelines as to what consists a penalty. In general, if someone has lost out then a penalty would be appropriate but if it was just a quick tap then just let them get on with it.

    In terms of making the wings stronger, it was mentioned that in the olden days they used to be aluminium. Would there any reason not to go back to this? You could allow a limited amount of carbon-fibre add-ons but the ‘core’ wing could be metal and therefore less likely to break. I guess the only concern there would be the possible risk of punctures.

      • Hi Carmelina – good to hear from you

        I heard that if they couldn’t get the system working in Bahrain (which they didn’t) they were going to revert to last years system.

        Do you know anything about this Carmelina?

  8. Horner – I’m not sure what’s more embarrassing, that picture, or this video:

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