Daily F1 News and Comment: Thursday 16th May 2013

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@McLarenF1 Whitmarsh announces partnership at Honda HQ in Tokyo

McLaren Honda 2015 becomes reality

Finally. One TJ13 reader @patrick23dingen tweeted this morning, “Formula 1 is not a village – it’s a street” and he’s right. Rumours of this developments suggesting this new partnership have been regularly written here on TJ13 since Lewis signed for Mercedes. The single biggest reason this reunion was on the cards is because McLaren have fallen out of love with Mercedes. More of that another time.

There will surely now be an outpouring of copy written about this most historic of Formula 1 partners over the coming days. Yet here’s a few thoughts for now.

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Were they successful together? Most certainly. 44 Grand Prix wins and 8 world championships. They created in 1988, “the most successful Formula 1 car of all time. The all-conquering McLaren Honda MP4-4 – which was driven to victory 15 times out of 16,  by Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost” says Whitmarsh.

  • 5 years of partnership – 1988 to ’92
  • 80 grands prix starts
  • 53 pole positions – a 66 per cent strike rate
  • 44 victories – a 55 per cent win rate
  • 30 fastest laps – 10 in 1988 alone
  • 8 world championships – drivers’ titles for Ayrton Senna (1988, 1990, 1991) and Alain Prost (1989), and constructors’ titles in 1988, 1989, 1990 and 1991
  • 3 race-winning engine configurations – 1.5-litre turbo V6, 3.5-litre naturally aspirated V10, 3.5-litre naturally aspirated V12

There’s a sweet irony about the fact that the current Mercedes team is derived from Honda technology and that Honda now return to F1 with Mercedes’ longest standing F1 partner.

In 18 years, the McLaren-Mercedes partnership has failed to deliver much in the way of world championships. Most recently Lewis Hamilton won the WDC in 2008 and prior to that their only success has been with Mikka Hakkinen winning the WDC in 1998-99 and of course McLaren last won the WCC with Mikka and David Coulthard in 1998 too.

The partnership has though maintained the Woking based team in the top 3 constructors every year bar 2004 when they came 5th.  Some may perceive this era as a failure for McLaren, yet it must be remembered during that same period another epic F1 marque has declined to the point they are beyond recognition of their former multiple title-winning ways.

untitledFor Honda, this is a coup détente. McLaren have established themselves as the most successful team in Formula 1 during the time they have competed. Jenson Button has a celebrity Japanese girlfriend and that will give Honda column inches in abundance back home in Japan – and maybe it get’s Jenson a stamp on his application for a contract extension.

Jenson said today, “I grew up watching McLaren-Honda Formula 1 cars racing and winning around the world – they wrote their own glorious chapter of Formula 1 history, in fact. Even now, picturing those unmistakable red-and-white cars evokes vivid memories of some of the most dramatic and exciting motor racing the world has ever seen.”

The question now is whether Honda will seek to entice another team or two to work with their technology and with Renault presently about to have high level talks with FOM’s CEO over their future involvement in the sport it could be there will be teams requiring a supplier of Formula 1 engines in 2015.

On this note, I believe McLaren have secured the power of veto over certain potential partner’s from whom Honda may receive requests to supply from. In that case it is unlikely, whatever Renault’s plans, that we will see a Red Bull Honda anytime soon.

At the partnership re-launch Takanobu Ito, President and CEO of Honda Motor Co, had this to say. “Ever since its establishment, Honda has been a company which grows by taking on challenges in racing. Honda has a long history of advancing our technologies and nurturing our people by participating in the world’s most prestigious automobile racing series.

untitledThe new F1 regulations with their significant environmental focus will inspire even greater development of our own advanced technologies and this is central to our participation in F1.

We have the greatest respect for the FIA’s decision to introduce these new regulations that are both highly challenging but also attractive to manufacturers that pursue environmental technologies and to Formula One Group, which has developed F1 into a high value, top car racing category supported by enthusiastic fans.

The corporate slogan of Honda is ‘The Power of Dreams’. This slogan represents our strong desire to pursue and realize our dreams together with our customers and fans. Together with McLaren, one of the most distinguished F1 constructors, Honda will mark a new beginning in our challenges in F1.”

Clearly this is a win for the FIA as Honda make it clear it was the engine regulation changes which attracted their attention back toward F1 once more. Ecclestone fought bitterly for them to be abandoned, and was influential in having the V6 Turbo preject set back from 2013 to next year.

Having spoken for several minutes in his own language, Takanobu Ito introduced Martin Whitmarsh to the podium. Here he is.

So the long term future is coming together for McLaren. Their philosophy has always been to try and establish long term partner’s. We now know who will be supplying engines for years to come, so 2 big issues remain. Firstly, can McLaren find a partner to acquire Mumtalakat’s stake in the group and who will replace Vodafone as title sponsor?

The contenders are Gillette, GSK and now Telmex, who made a quiet entrance onto the rear wing of the MP4-28 last weekend. Could it be that McLaren have something different in mind?. The GGT alliance?

Yet most of all today is a good day for Formula 1 present, a great day for McLaren and Honda, and a historic day when memories from long past will be remembered with fond nostalgia.

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Mercedes real problem

Ex Formula 1 driver and test driver during the Honda era in Brackley believes he has identified the problem Mercedes have. He tells Sports Week that during the BAR and Honda era, even though he ploughed around the track countless times for them, nobody bothered to save the data properly.

“It’s crazy after all that testing that the knowledge was not properly documented at the time and, but just existed within the team informally and in the minds of individual employees.” Wurz adds that as key employees left the team so did their know how.

Alex believes Mercedes as a team are too segmented and they don’t cascade the knowledge across the individual specialist departments. He compares their hierarchy to that of McLaren which Wurz observes to be relatively flat and of course because McLaren did record and retain their data prior to the testing restrictions it is this which gives them the edge as the season progresses in the development race.

Football and Formula 1

Remember the Chelsea-Sauber tie up? Not much marketing appears to have come from that relationship so far.

Well TJ13 has been informed, Michael Carrick is at Red Bull headquarters doing some filming for Sky TV. Could this be a Red Bull – Man United story?

Ironic really if it was as only yesterday I commented on how how the Ferrari F138 looks like it’s wearing a Man U kit.

Formula E

Despite being unhappy with the way F1 is treating them, Renault Sport have signed up as a partner for Spark Racing Technology in the new Formula E series.

“Renault has demonstrated a unique commitment to zero-emission mobility, with a range of four cars available for sale. Renault in Europe, and the Renault-Nissan Alliance worldwide, has gained a position of EV sales leader. Formula E is an exciting opportunity to demonstrate the excellence and the reliability of our EV solutions,” said Philippe Klein, Executive Vice President, Corporate Planning, Product Planning & Programs of Renault Group.

“We believe that motorsport is an efficient manner to promote the efficiency of new technologies, and we’re eager to use that single-seater in FIA Formula E championship to show our technology is the best”, he added.

Spark Racing Technology are to build 42 single seater cars to race in the series proposed to begin in 2014. 10 teams, 20 drivers and 2 cars each for the race. The charge in each car will last for less than 50% of the race, so the vehicle the driver begins racing in will need to be recharged to complete his final stint.

Frédéric Vasseur, CEO of Spark Racing Technology, is delighted to welcome the French sporting marque because, “Renault’s expertise in electric powertrain design and integration acquired both in production E.V. and in Formula 1 makes Renault Sport a natural partner for Spark in this exciting Formula E project”.

Patrice Ratti, Managing Director of Renault Sport Technologies joins the love in. “Engineers from Renault Sport F1 and Renault Sport Technologies will collaborate with Spark Racing Technology team to optimize the electric and electronic layout and performance of the powertrain. Our experience will be particularly valuable to ensure the safety and reliability of the car.”

Tag Heuer were also revealed as the official sponsor of time. Here are the official photographs as released by Formula E with the strap line, “The future of racing is here”.

Renault’s problem with F1

TJ13 reported a couple of days ago that Renault CEO Carlos Ghosn would be meeting Bernie Ecclestone in Paris in the coming week.

AMuS are reporting that this began when Renault were provoked as their motorhome was denied access to the paddock last weekend in Barcelona. Ecclestone said: “Renault is a supplier, and if we let them all in the paddock, there would be no room for anyone else.”

Renault is unhappy because they claim to spend each year on F1 the amount of a midfield Formula 1 team’s budget – some $100m plus. They believe preventing them the opportunity to entertain their guests inside the paddock is unfair.

untitledRenault also argues they should have formal input into the regulations because the other engine manufacturers have this opportunity via the votes of their work’s teams.

Stories are beginning to emerge, the motorhome was prevented access to the paddock because Mr. E is unhappy over the amount they are charging teams for the new 2014 engines.

Renault customers are being told they will pay about $29m a season for by comparison Mercedes are asking for $21m and Ferrari $19m. Current engine spend is capped at around $11m so for the smaller teams this is a huge hike in cost, but the cap has been removed for 2014.

To give some perspective to these numbers, Caterham’s revenue is around $80m dollars in 2013, no wonder Marussia are getting close to Ferrari.

Ironically, today’s big announcement may see McLaren pay nothing for their new engine supply in 2015, due to the power of their brand when combined with Honda’s.

There are those who believe the organisation of Formula 1 is going to pot and is pretty chaotic at present. There’s issues over the future calendar, old circuits in financial difficulty, 2014 engine cost and supply still unresolved, arguments over testing restrictions, tyre debates and a host of other problems are bubbling away.

“Chaotic at present”? I’m not so sure. Sounds like F1 business as normal to me.

McLaren promise to be faithful

Speaking to Reuters, Jonathan Neale, CEO of McLaren is confident that McLaren’s ability to compete won’t be compromised in 2014 now that their engine supplier Mercedes knows they will be using Honda in 2015.

Mercedes have been developing their 2014 powertrain for some while and Neale says, “They’ve been respectful about giving us all the information that we need but not giving us more than we absolutely need to get the job done”.

Of course McLaren could reveal Mercedes secrets to Honda who begin supplying the new F1 Turbo engines a year later than the rest. Neale denies this will happen

“Our relationship with Mercedes spans two decades…we are very careful about protecting each other’s intellectual property. We’ve given the undertakings to Mercedes, Certainly there will be no poaching or dismantling of parts.”

This is all rather weird. It’s like being married to someone for a couple of decades and then telling them you’re leaving in a year’s time to return to your first love.

However, for the next year or so you demand to share the marital bed and promise not to go messing around with your lover to be, or even comparing notes on performance data.

Anyway, I’m sure they’ll be all grown up about it.

Neale did add something interesting and possibly a little rash. “Jenson will drive here for as long as he wants to drive here. He’s a great guy and he’s doing a really good job for us in some difficult times. He fits our value and our culture here really.”

Twittersphere

For those of you who refrain from this domain. Lewis today posted this comment and picture. “This was on the way to the hotel in Orlando! Wish I had time to hit the park”.

Did you have to Lewis? I dread the inbound comments.

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Boullier not happy

I’m having a feeling of de ja vu. I’m sure I felt this way in January when having to comment daily on the F1 calendar shenanigans. It was pretty likely, but here is what Eric has to say about the recent Pirelli decision.

“There aren’t many sports where there are such fundamental changes to an essential ingredient part-way through a season,” he says. “Just imagine for a moment that, because a football team can’t run as fast as its opponent, the dimensions of the pitch are changed at half time!

That there are changes to come can be seen as somewhat frustrating, and I hope they are not too extreme. It’s clear that Pirelli have found themselves in a difficult situation and under pressure from different quarters.

Last year, when we were designing our 2013 car, each team received information from Pirelli and everyone did the best job they could to develop a chassis which would make best use of the tyre characteristics. We even ran with some experimental 2013 tyres at the end of last season, to assist us in confirming our development paths.

As with every season, some teams do a better job than others with their designs, and some drivers are more adaptable than others to the changes of both car and tyre.”

Apparently from the data Lotus received when running the test 2013 compounds at the end of last year, they focused their efforts on designing the E21 accordingly.

“It is frustrating when you’ve developed a car from a set of tyre specifications which are available to everyone – for tyres that are the same for everyone – to then be told that they are being changed mid-season. That said, we have a team of talented designers and engineers who will be working twice as hard to ensure we adapt to these changes in the most competitive manner.”

Susie Wolff

Susie is at Silverstone today to be fitted for a 2 seater F1 car.

Some people have no idea how their PR looks.

28 responses to “Daily F1 News and Comment: Thursday 16th May 2013

  1. Clearly Wurz still hasn’t digested the fact that Ross Brawn didn’t validate his existing Honda test driver contract when he took over the team in 2009…

  2. Hmm… this Formula E. A1 GP also ran the same chassis with different drivers (country nationalities) but died a death because people we just not interested. Maybe I am missing something but unless they find a way of making it really flash and glamour Formula Scalextric may not last that long…

  3. Good to see Mercedes will be losing $21M a year from McLaren starting in 2015. With Force India’s tie-up with McLaren hopefully they’ll do the same.

  4. McLaren were DQed in 2007, so finished last in the WCC. (or didn’t place depending on how you view the situation)

  5. also judge, in what marriage is there ‘performance data’? Sounds like a strange matrimony if you ask me.

    • There IS performance data. What do you think your wife talks about with her Lady friends, while you and your buddies are having a pint at the pub? 😉

      • That her husband is leaving her in 18 months to hook up with an old girlfriend – until then – everything is as normal…

        • Quite frankly, I doubt anyone at Brixworth is losing any sleep over fears of losing data to Honda. Honda has been running an extensive turbo engine program in CART before,so that they have probably more data to begin with than Mercedes will be able to collect in the next 5 years.
          Also, all Honda need is buying off some old CART chassis or cobble together a prototype themselves and test the raw heck out of it in 2014. Since they aren’t official entrants of F1 next year and they are not subject to any testing bans.
          McLaren will be a Mercedes customer next year, so that isn’t exactly a marriage to begin with. The marriage ended when they lost the works contract. Isn’t much of a marriage if you have to pay for any ‘affection’ is it?
          And if Honda really wanted to spy on the Merc engines, the better option would be Force India. They’re a lot less well off in financial terms than McLaren and the offer of a sweet deal with let’s say rather ‘very affordable’ engine prices in 2015 could excite them enough to drop a few hints now and then.

  6. Woohoo, McLaren Honda. I’m not rejoicing because it’s Honda, but rather because it’s a new engine supplier that does not have their own team in the sport.
    NOW BRING BACK LEWIS, DENNIS!

  7. Did I mention that losing McLaren will cost Mercedes $21M a year? I think I did but I’ll say it again. One can hope Force India splits as well. That would be a loss of $42M a year. That sounds pretty good.

    • Can anyone explain this to me…

      Ferrari announced they are cutting road car production to create greater exclusivity – but how come their F1 engine is cheaper than Renault and Mercedes?

      • “but how come their F1 engine is cheaper than Renault and Mercedes?”

        Maybe they aren’t gouging their customers.

    • Yes, but Mclaren are only paying for their engines this year and next, so up to now Mercedes has been paying out.

    • Quite frankly I can’t make any sense of this childish stuff. I think your handle is a bit of hint, but obviously you haven’t done the maths.

      a) ‘Losing’ 42 Million quid of income to a multi-national company like Daimly-Benz is like losing a sixpence down the back of the sofa.

      b) When they ‘lose’ McLaren, they produce a whole team’s year’s supply of engines less. That’s a lot of costs not incurred and so the ‘damage’ will be a whole lot less than what you seem to look forward to so gleefully.

      c) Since the engines are not produced by AMG Mercedes F1 at Brackley, but by AMG Mercedes High Performance Powertrains in Brixworth, which are two separate entities in the vast Daimler-Chrysler empire, the impact on the Mercedes works team will amount to exactly zilch, otherwise known as nada.

      • little typo there – it’s Daimler-Benz of course. DaimlyerChrysler has thankfully been history for a while now.

      • d) Mercedes might get some extra revenues from Williams instead as rumours are increasing that Williams will switch from Renault to Mercedes…

        • Considering the asking price of renault it wouldn’t exactly come as a surprize. On top of that is Toto Wollf’s history as a Williams man and his missus – current Williams test driver – ihas been a long-time Mercedes DTM drivist. Pieces fit too well together for this not to happen.

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