Daily F1 News and Comment: Friday 24th May 2013

This page will be updated throughout the day

Tyre brinksmanship is becoming high risk

Once again, Paul Hembery has made it known that there is no contract in place for tyre supply in 2014. When asked what was the biggest challenge with the 2014 engines looming, he replied, “A contract. A contract is probably the first one. If you follow the regulations, on the first of September we’re meant to define the specification for next year but as yet we don’t really have a full picture of what the cars are going to be like, so you can imagine there’s a certain element of shooting in the dark”.

The 3 headed beast of the FIA, FOM and the teams without a Concorde agreement are in self cannibalistic mode over this. Ecclestone says a deal is done, and insiders believe FOM have produced Pirelli sponsorship marketing material. As usual we’ve heard nothing from the ‘silent one’ who is globe trotting and drumming up support for his re-election campaign to the role of FIA Presidente.

The teams are in chaos and can’t agree on the role tyres should play going forward. Of course there are 7 teams inside FOTA and 4 outside and there is no consensus on the kind of racing they want.

There is a danger Pirelli could leave the sport, and with no other suppliers even tendering at present this should be ringing the loudest alarm bells imaginable in the F1 paddock.

Hembery says today, “We have said that we won’t dictate deadlines, but time is really short. With the new turbo era, the tyres need to be completely different, which is a technical challenge that can not be solved in a day. We’re not talking about changing compound mixes, but of completely new tyres. The point is approaching where we will no longer be able to respond to the challenge. “

Even more F1 chaos

Otmar Szafnauer, sporting director for Force Indai, is adamant there should be no change to the tyres. “We will not agree to any change. Pirelli needs unanimity, and so nothing is going to change.

We built our car based on the specifications given to us by Pirelli in September 2012. Changing the steel ring for kevlar changes the dynamics of the tyre, which some teams might prefer.

We don’t see why Pirelli should intervene just because a few teams are having problems. They should change their cars instead,” added Szafnauer.

Pirelli have suggested ditching the steel lining and changing back to one made of kevlar beneath the tyre tread – as was used in 2012. Paul Hembery says, “This would not change the shape of the tyre, so the teams would not have to change their aerodynamics.”

Yet Szafnauerhe is adamant there is no basis under the sporting regulations ‘safety’ clause to change the tyres. “The tyres are safe; because when they are damaged they are still inflated. It just looks stupid, but we don’t agree to the change just so Pirelli can have a better image.”

I did suggest yesterday, Pirelli’s latest reasoning for changing the tyres would provide further support for the no change argument and Force India’s sporting director has the bit between his teeth about it.

Ecclestone’s failure to deliver a Concorde agreement by refusing to award the FIA an incremental amount of the uber profits received by CVC is becoming a bigger issue for F1 than the impending matter in Munich.

Someone call Jean Todt. Tell him he has a matter to decide upon. Then again, maybe he is deliberately playing hard to get.

Vettel sounds desperate

Maybe the feeling within the Red Bull team is that unless the 2013 tyres are changed their chance of another title in 2013 is slim because Sebastian Vettel is sounding like a man rolling the last dice at the Monte Carlo Casino who needs double six to survive ruin.

“On safety grounds we have seen people suffer,” he said. “The tyre, the surface, the tread delaminating and blowing up. Fortunately nothing happened but it’s not because drivers went over debris, because the tyres are not good enough and that can’t be safe.

There are certain things we need to be careful with because the last thing we want is a big off. Imagine, here at the end of the straight down to the harbour chicane, we have a tyre coming off. It’s ­something none of us want to see.”

Drama queen or what? This is not a logical thing to be saying, because the tyres will not be altered before Canada – so what point is there to raising this hypothetical scenario. It’s merely scaremongering.

After all the tyres have now run well in excess of 100,000 km this year without a hint of a big off or danger from their failure. The lack of sudden deflation means the failure is far more controlled than we have seen in previous years.

Mercedes hit back over Hamilton Jet Ski story

Swiss newspaper Blick reported that Lewis had done an ‘angry driver’ vs the paparazzi stunt by spraying them with water from his Jetski causing 150,000 euro of damage.

Mercedes claim this is not the case. In fact Nico and Lewis (and Roscoe) were working with SKY on a feature. A team spokesperson said, “The TV equipment is fine, as Sky themselves confirmed to journalists asking questions yesterday.

One photographer who failed to protect his camera equipment got some water inside it. But not specifically from something Lewis did. As he is a freelancer, we will make the goodwill gesture of helping to repair/replace the equipment.”

Which engines for who?

This weekend is apparently one where much of the engine supply issues for 2014 could be ironed out. Renault say they will have their finalised their powertrain be ready by next month.

Rumours are rife as to which teams will be supplied by which manufacturers with pace gathering to the idea that Toro Rosso will be ditching Ferrari in favour of Renault.

There’s been some criticism in F1 of Renault and the proposed prices they are asking from a team for a years supply of 2014 engines. 20-23m euro’s has been discussed but Alain Prost cast doubt on these numbers inferring the actual price is lower. He did reveal how much the Prost team had to pay up front to Ferrari for the engine supply for 2001 – $32m!

Prost revealed, “Renault Sport F1 is [spending] 150 million euros per year, and you can imagine… if you just make a very quick calculation about the price you can imagine divided by four teams, for example, and you will realise that Renault is paying a big contribution”. 

I’ve heard today that Williams could switch from Renault to Mercedes, and then there are other more spurious rumours saying Honda will be in F1 – not in 2015, but  – in 2014, though this appears highly unlikely.

The concern that McLaren will leak information to Honda is still bothering Lauda who said today, “We will give McLaren only the information about our engine that they desperately need.” (AmuS)

This has led to heightened paddock talk that McLaren will receive a sub-standard service in 2014, getting the bare minimum service from their engine supplier – hence the Honda 2014 rumour.

Sauber financial troubles

It seems to be the weekend for rumour and counter rumour. Apparently neither Monisha Kaltenborn or Peter Sauber have been seen in Monaco this weekend, which would be highly unusual. A connected source says they are “in eastern Europe, on the search for sponsors”.

Christian Horner admitted in the principal’s press conference this week that the new engines for 2014 are proving “hellishly expensive”, and Kaltenborn has repeatedly said there are big problems looming for 2014.

Telmex have been a major source of funds for Sauber over the past few years, but they appeared on the McLaren in Barcelona (Clario Video) adding to already rampant speculation they will transfer allegiances to the Woking based team as title sponsor given the opportunity.

Part of the problem is that Ecclestone continually berates any suggestion from the teams that times are hard with comments like, “They’ve got more money than God”, which philosophically is true, though irrelevant. The bigger teams are financially sound, but even Lotus have at times displayed cash problems and have recently trimmed staffing levels.

Formula 1 lives in a continual state of angst and so it appears normative to suggest there is a crisis. Yet the storm clouds appear to be gathering more quickly and heavily than usual and it all comes down to money – of which there is plenty – should it be distributed better.

Of course no one wants to see rubbish teams turning up in F1 and being incompetent, but the sink or swim philosophy as promoted by F1’s commercial rights owner may not be appropriate in current economic times. Banks that couldn’t fail did. Governments are in effect bankrupt and printing money. What chance do Sauber, Marussia and Caterham have trying to survive on the crumbs they receive from the Emperor’s banqueting table?

Kimi told to change helmet

The 2013 Monaco Grand Prix will mark the 40th anniversary of 1976 Formula One World Champion James Hunt’s grand prix debut. To honour this occasion, Lotus F1 Team driver and 2007 World Champion Kimi Räikkönen will feature various references to Hunt on his helmet when he pilots his Lotus-Renault E21 through the streets of Monte Carlo.

I’ve always respected James Hunt,” said Räikkönen, who wore a replica of Hunt’s iconic black helmet at the 2012 Monaco GP. “I think it’s great that ‘Rush’ is coming out and that his family is launching products to represent one of my favourite eras in F1.

Hunt is the co-subject (with triple champion Niki Lauda) of Academy Award-winning director Ron Howard’s film ‘Rush’, slated for September release, which centres on the pair’s friendship and fierce rivalry for the 1976 driver’s title. Revered for his combination of courage, talent and rebellious playboy lifestyle, ‘Hunt the Shunt’ tragically passed away in 1993 at the age of 45.

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To commemorate the late champion, Hunt’s family has commissioned paintings from renowned motorsport artist Nicolas Hunziker, one of which adorns the top of Räikkönen’s helmet.

This has apparently upset Bernie Ecclestone who has told Raikkonen to ditch the helmet. If you look above the Iceman logo, you’ll see “Kimi on the Hunt” and this is deemed as marketing for the upcoming movie Rush which is positioned to receive maximum footage from the onboard camera.

Speed Week asked Kimi about this sanction and he replied, “I know nothing about it. As far as I know, I will wear the helmet all weekend.”

Free SKY feed for Monaco GP

SKY F1 UK have been selling a day pass to Sky Sports this year for £9.99, along with 1 month passes for £29.99. However, they are offering a free trial this Sunday of their internet feed via Not TV.

If you have an email address and a twitter account (if not set one up it takes 1 minute) you can get the race for free here http://www.nowtvwatchtherace.com/

All you have to do is tweet #WatchTheRace and leave your email address to receive the free pass.

Even if you have a feed you use, or refuse to watch sky because they charge, because this is free it may be an interesting experience to hear about how you feel their coverage compares to others.

Williams encourage drivers to tweet

Claire Williams, deputy team principal to Frank, says it is vital that drivers are allowed to carry on tweeting – despite the possibilities of PR disasters. Claire Williams reckons F1 drivers need to be accessible so the sport doesn’t become boring.

Speaking to Status Social Claire says, ““I think it’s a great thing. There are lots of people that say Formula 1 is inaccessible and that the drivers are inaccessible and people can’t get into the paddock to meet them. So for drivers to tweet and to do it personally (and they all do, our drivers, they do it themselves, a press officer doesn’t do it for them), I think it’s so important that drivers do that.

I think it adds colour to the sport and it adds characters to our sport that are so necessary, so that it doesn’t just become an inaccessible, dry terrain that people aren’t interested in – and that people love. Racing drivers they’re heroes!.”

I’d go further. Red Bull should make it a contractual matter for Sebastian Vettel to tweet and read Fernando’s tweets of Samurai wisdom. I believe this is for Sebastians well being and development as a human being.

Should he see Alonso tweeting ‘wise words’ his OCD competitive nature would compel him to find more authoritative  sources and fight back with a higher wisdom. The knock on effect would be that as Sebastian educates himself further, then F1 fans would too become better read.

This would save Governments billions in enforced programmes of indoctrination, which means they could toss a modicum of that saved cash towards the world receiving free-to-air F1 everywhere.

And that is my manifesto for the role of President of the FIA! 😉

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10 responses to “Daily F1 News and Comment: Friday 24th May 2013

  1. It seemed to me whilst watching FP2 that Red Bull have lost their market.

    They are no longer the party team which is light hearted and fun, as Lotus have shown they can be that. (e.g. this weekend they have ‘Daft Punk’ sponsoring their cars)

    They are also not the out and out fastest car anymore, further taking the shine off their image. Ferrari and Lotus have the best race pace, whilst the Mercs are one lap specialists.

    Furthermore, people have become bored of them winning everything; so much so that they want anyone else to win. All in all the RB brand has hit a stumbling block and it doesn’t appear to have any solution at present.

    • Herr Mateschitz has the solution:

      “Formula One is a marketing tool for Red Bull, which means that we permanently evaluate our input and the output of our commitment. This equation has to be positive.
      “If long-term success is there, then there is definitely no question at all”.

        • Don’t know, but i’m seeing parallels with Benetton: a designer considered by many as the best,a talented young German driver, and a few parts on the car that belonged in the gray area of the rules at best.

          • Very well possible, Alonso made some “unfriendly” remarks about Ferrari in his Renault days, and look where he ended up ;0

    • Maybe RB have found a new market… Yesterday I saw Seb’s RB8 parked inside a supermarket in Cannes. Glamorous PR? There were racks of t-shirts less than a metre away… I’m being 100% serious

  2. re. “Free SKY feed for Monaco GP”
    They need 3000 tweets to unlock the code. I have added my tweet to bump up the tally by one. Perhaps you can cajole your tweeter followers with this tweet to get to the 3000 mark:

    ” Tweet for #WatchTheRace and you could pick up a FREE pass to watch the F1 MONACO GP LIVE this Sunday on @NOWTVSport. http://bit.ly/18PzePo

  3. Slightly off topic, but anyone else thinking that perhaps one of Williams’ problems is (lack of) consistency – eg engines:

    2000-5 – BMW
    2006 – Cosworth
    2007-9 – Toyota
    2010-1 – Cosworth
    2012- (what is rumoured could be as early as the end of this/next year) – Renault.

    They were 3rd, 3rd, 2nd and 2nd form 2000-3, but havent been near that since. As mentioned, they are already rumours about a new engine supplier for them, despite them claiming that the Renault colaboration would be a good thing due to past success (like with Mclaren-Honda).

    Drivers –

    ’09 – Rosberg and Nakajima (remember him?)
    ’10 – Barrichello and Hulkenberg
    ’11 – Barrichello and Maldonado
    ’12 – Senna and Maldonado
    ’13 – Bottas and Maldonado

    Many team personnel chages in the last years (whether by choice, or just upsetting Emperor Ecclestone), many drivers, many engine changes, how are Williams supposed to progress?

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