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Race Control (01:26)
Korea’s last hurrah? (02:08)
No single choice of F1 fuel? (06:00)
Alonso et al… Broken (11:04)
Close to Kimi’s curtain call (11:44)
Mexico 2014 improbable (13:44)
Barichello gets serious (14:55)
Maldonado set for 2 more years in F1
Who knows how the controversial recently departed president of Venezuela became fascinated in Formula 1. The answer presumably lies in the ability of certain people to influence him to ‘invest’ almost $200m in a young driver from his country and guarantee him a drive in the world’s premier racing series for 4 years.
The sponsorship of Pastor from the nationalised oil industry of Venezuela is due to run until 2015. Whether the payments for the next 2 years have already left PDVSA’s bank account is unclear and this could indeed affect Pastor’s ability to stay within F1. There are suggestions that PDVSA may be sold or privatised due to its grossly inefficient operations and losses despite being oil rich in reserves.
Yet for now, Pastor is sat on a guaranteed 2 more years as an F1 driver as the terms of the PDVSA sponsorship require Williams to employ a Venezuelan driver to qualify for the funding.
Maldonado can sit relatively comfortably as there is little chance of PDVSA sponsored Rodolfo Gonzalez (GP2) or E.J. Viso – who.competes for Andretti Autosport in Indy Car – to challenge him for his F1 drive.
Further, Pastor wants to give something back to the struggling tax payers of Venezuela and has established the ‘Pastor Maldonado Foundation’ with a primary aim, “to find a new driver from the very poor slums of Venezuela and give him the opportunity to become a race driver in the future in F1.”
Maldonado comes from a very different background and his place in motor sport was funded and encouraged by both his father and his uncle.
The raison d’être of Pastor’s foundation is explained by the Williams driver as follows. “We are focused on finding someone who is not even close to motor racing. At the moment we are staging a small go-kart championship and then we will select two or three racers and then put them in Europe with good teams, all paid for by the foundation.
We also help some with education, some who have lost their homes in tragedies and other sports. But now we are planning to find the second or third Venezuelan driver for a Formula 1 drive.”
Cynics may suggest it is fortunate for Pastor that the very people his foundation is looking to develop for Formula 1 are far from being capable to compete in the world’s premier class single-seater racing series.
So of course during the next 2 years where the PDVSA money is guaranteed, Maldonado is unopposed.
So how do the jury see Pastor Maldonado. Has he learned from his crash-fest days? Is he a genuine talent in a car that is unworthy of his talent? Will he make the step from the mid-field and like Grosjean get a chance to demonstrate what he can or cannot do in a better car?
Following the questions raised by TJ13 regarding the ability of the stewards to do a proper job in Sinagapore, I thought we’d publish this article from Formula1.com which proudly explains how race control is a fully 21st century operation, with technology capable of tracking a distant space ship……..
The F1 era of hand-held stopwatches and buccaneering free-spirit control is history. Not only is the sport itself highly technical these days, but so is the way it conducts itself. The stewards and their driver advisers see all and know all as they ensure fair play on-track…
Out on track at Abu Dhabi’s Yas Marina circuit things are moving pretty quickly. It’s only the second free practice of the Grand Prix weekend but the action is already hotting up as Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton trade fastest laps in pursuit of ultimate qualifying pace. The radio transmissions to the drivers advise them of potential hazards, keep them posted on car behaviour and tell them when to pit.
Back in the circuit’s control tower, however, the pace is altogether more sedate. In Race Control the fizzing radio transmissions are just a soft, white-noise intrusion on the focused silence. Twenty-two pairs of eyes are fixed on a vast bank of screens, each showing a different corner, a different view of the on-track action.
Information, in the most minute detail, floods through but is processed and acted upon as the situation warrants, while posts scroll up on screen with almost metronomic regularity: ‘Mercedes yellow wide T4’, ‘McLaren yellow wide T3’, ‘Lotus red wide T4’. A query appears from a marshal post asking if Race Control is happy with the position of a photographer at the bottom of the Corkscrew, near Turn 3. A check is made and the marshal post is told the position is fine and the focus on the track action continues.
On the other side of the building, in the Stewards’ Room, the same sense of composure holds true. Here, stewards Lars Osterlind, Radovan Novak, driver steward Derek Warwick and local ASN steward, Khaled Bin Shaiban, studiously follow the session as an operator cycles through the multitude of audio and visual options available to them. There’s little talk beyond the occasional comment on the state of the timesheet.
This is how things get done in Formula One racing’s command and control centres. From the moment an incident occurs on track to the instant a decision is delivered, the process is all about keeping calm and carrying on. The basis for that is a carefully-constructed system called Racewatch, which makes the judgement on an incident well informed and almost fool proof.
“We have an extremely good system in Race Control that is able to detect incidents for us,” says race director Charlie Whiting, who presides over the nerve centre and who will be most familiar to F1 TV viewers as the man who pushes the button to start the race. “The system is programmed to highlight any incident – for example, if a driver goes too quickly in a section under yellow flags. That’s based on GPS tracking and timing, but the software also has a number of other inputs and is programmed to respond accordingly.”
And the response is swift. In the following day’s third practice session, Sergio Perez is caught speeding in the pit lane and incurs a €2600 fine. Later, the firebrand Mexican is cited for allegedly impeding Bruno Senna in qualifying. The stewards review all the available footage and hand the Sauber driver a reprimand.
Their day is about to get a lot more complex, however. At the end of qualifying third-fastest man, Vettel, slows and pulls over on track. The Red Bull Racing driver climbs out of his car and trudges towards pit lane. The stoppage constitutes a possible breach of the regulations and the stewards are immediately called to investigate. It’s a long, slow process as Vettel and team representatives are called to give their explanation and then the officials wait on technical reports from the race
At last, though, Vettel is deemed to have breached fuel regulations by not having enough in his car – a full litre – for a sample to be taken, and he’s relegated to the back of the grid. It’s a sensational development in an already knife-edge championship battle, but it’s the sort of decision race stewards make all the time, as Garry Connelly – a regular chairman of race stewards who this year officiated at seven Grands Prix including the season finale in Brazil – explains.
“It’s a big responsibility but one that’s become a lot less of a burden simply because of the technology now at our disposal. We have a wealth of data, that most people won’t be aware we have access to.
“First of all, we have all the video feeds – the pictures that have gone to air; the vision captured by FOM [Formula One Management] but which hasn’t been put to air; the closed circuit cameras around the track, and all the onboard material as well.”
The vast amount of camera footage available to the stewards is backed up by a stream of data that feeds into both Race Control and the Stewards’ Room.
“We have GPS tracking, which shows where cars are at any given time,” says Connelly. “We also have access to all the team radio transmissions, which are very important as they allow us to know if a team has warned a driver that he’s about to impede another car and whether a driver has ignored that information.
“Finally, as of this summer, we can now obtain real-time telemetry from the cars. That’s really useful as we can overlay telemetry information from an incident with data from previous laps, so we can tell if a driver has done something like failing to back off under yellow flags.
“Linking all this together you can come up with a complete picture of what’s going on. You have a mass of information that isn’t available to the public or the teams. That’s why decisions are sometimes taken that people have trouble understanding, but they simply don’t have all the information the stewards do.”
And if meting out suitable punishment is still a cause for debate among the stewards, there is also the vast store of historical precedent for the stewards to draw on.
“We keep all the incidents from recent seasons on video on a hard drive, and all of that is available to the stewards,” says Whiting. “It’s an invaluable resource because, of course, the same stewards are not at every race. This way they can refer back to all that past footage and it helps them make a more informed and consistent decision.
“The stewards also have a list of penalties they can refer to dating back to 2003,” he adds. “It’s categorised by offence and penalty, so the stewards can quickly see who’s done what, where, and what penalties were handed out. That way they can, for example, look at all the penalties given for causing a collision over past seasons and then cross reference that with the video and you pretty quickly come up with suitable penalties for ‘crimes’, based on historical data.”
Connelly, however, insists that the stewards’ investigations often go deeper than even that, with consideration also being given both to how an incident impacts on a race and a driver’s previous race history.
“Take a driver who has caused as collision,” he says. “Typically the offence is punishable by a drive-through, but more recently there have been a couple of occasions where a stop-go has been imposed. That has typically been because the offence has been a second one or more by that driver during the season. So you do look at the driver’s record.
“We also now take into account the consequences of the penalty. This wasn’t done previously and it might lead people to think that there are inconsistencies, but if someone is coming third in a race by 50 seconds, then giving them a drive-through is not a penalty, potentially. So you do look at the consequences.
“You’ve also got to look at the consequences of their action. To relate this to a civil situation, if I throw a punch at you and miss, I’m probably going to get charged by the police with attempted assault or something like that. But if I connect and break your jaw, I’m going to get charged with assault causing bodily harm or something like that. That could lead me to suffer more dire consequences. It’s the same action, but the repercussions are much different each time.”
Connelly points to Romain Grosjean’s one-race ban as a situation in which history, precedent and outcome all fed into a decision he presided over.
“That incident could have completely changed the outcome of the FIA’s premier championship,” he says. “But what Romain got the extra penalty for was not that, or at least not wholly for that. When you’re a relatively new driver to Formula One and you have the privilege of driving in a potentially winning or podium finish car, you’re mixing it with a group of drivers who have many years more experience than you do at the sharp end of the field. It therefore behoves you, in our view, to exercise greater care and attention because you are, with all due respect, the new kid on the block and maybe a little out of your league compared with the guys around you at that end of the grid.
“It was a very serious decision and one that was taken only after lengthy weighing of the facts, the evidence, history, everything,” he adds. “However, every decision weighs heavily on the stewards’ minds. No decision to penalise a driver is ever taken lightly.”
Korea’s last hurrah?
We met the promoter of the Korean GP in yesterday’s news, as he compared losing money on an F1 event as similar to the Olympics.
Mr. Park did indeed last year manage to negotiate away the FOM clause which increased the hosting fee for the Korean GP by 10% each year (compounded).
Growing in confidence, Park is calling out Ecclestone and FOM as he rates the chances Korea will remain on the F1 calendar for 2014 as “fifty-fifty”.
The race was indeed listed as provisional by the FIA when last week they released their 1st finger in the air guess at what the calendar actually resemble next year. Korea has been placed in a revised April slot meaning they would host an F1 race just 6 monthsafter the event this weekend.
Yet there have been continued doubts over the long-term viability of the Mokpo race, which will stage its fourth edition this weekend. Despite bullish forecasts of ticket sales and unbelievable reported historic race attendances, the race has continued to run at the biggest lost of all the annual F1 events.
Won-HwaPark insists the country is still determined to stay on the schedule. “We want to improve the current contract with Formula One Management. We are still negotiating with Mr Ecclestone. We wish to have a satisfactory conclusion with Mr Ecclestone” (SKY News).
In an amateurish attempt to play Ecclestone at his own game and negotiate in public, Park suggests the chances of the race continuing beyond this weekend are no more than, “50/50”.
To be fair to the Korean promoter he offers that he would be open to converting the race into a night-time event, provided the financial terms of the deal were right. “It’s a great idea. We’d be glad to consider to hold it as a night race with certainly better conditions from Mr Ecclestone.”
The clinching factor is clearly because, “This circuit is far from downtown so we do not have any noise problem.”
Korea should survive at least another year and get a Bernie discount due to the high level of uncertainty over New Jersey and Mexico to be ready for 2013.
Marussia confirm Bianchi for 2014
Another 2014 seat is confirmed and relatively early by the Marrusia team.
Team principal John Booth told assembled reporters in Korea, “Jules joined us at very short notice at the end of pre-season testing, with only two days of running under his belt. He rose to the challenge of his debut season exceptionally well and since that time has clearly demonstrated his ability and potential. 2014 heralds a new era for the sport and continuity and consistency of line-up will be important in helping us to navigate the transition.
We look forward to confirming our full race driver line-up later in the season. Until then we have an important job to do to ensure we retain our 10th place in the Constructors’ Championship and this is where our full focus will lie in the intervening period.”
Bianchi responded, “I couldn’t have wished for a more supportive environment in which to make my F1 debut and from the very beginning I have always felt completely at home with the team. We started the season very well and while the challenge has increased as the season has developed, we have learned important lessons together that will place us in a much stronger position next year when there are a lot of changes for the sport and the Team to get used to.
I am very excited to be part of the team as we all enter this new era of F1 and I look forward to achieving some rewarding performances together. I would also like to take this opportunity to thank the FerrariDriverAcademy for their continued support for my career.”
Given Bianchi’s association with Ferrari this is hardly a surprise as the team are set to use a Ferrari engine and gearbox package in the coming season.
No single choice of F1 fuel
In a statement issued after the World Motor Sport Council meeting in Croatia, the FIA confirmed last Friday that there are no plans to go to a single fuel supplier, as has been the case with tyres since 2009. Many teams were believed to have been unhappy at the possibility of losing the choice over fuel supplier, as oil companies also deliver significant commercial revenue avenues to their partner teams.
Given how thirsty the 2014 engines will be, teams will not be keen to add yet another variable (no matter how minor it is considered) to their new packages. All manufacturers are believed to be worried at the 100kg fuel limit for 2014 onwards.
Some surprising, but not shocking recent F1 facts
Upon reading some 2014 facts, it seemed strange how one-sided they are – but not entirely shocking…
a) Mercedes have been on pole eight times in 13 races. Vettel has taken the other five.
b) None of the five 2013 rookies has scored points so far.
c) No driver has won from pole in Korea so far.
d) Last year’s Koren GP had just 34 overtaking manoeuvres.
e) There have been more safety car periods (5) than race leaders (2 – Vettel and Alonso) in the 3 Korean GPs so far
f) Alonso has not been on the front row in the last 23 races and has not been on pole in a dry qualifying since 2010
Alonso being able to fight for Championships until the final race in 2010 and 2012 is made even more impressive by that last fact!
Alonso et al… Broken
The drivers’ press conference was rather a non-event. When asked about the lightening pace of Vettel in Singapore, I enjoyed Lewis cheeky grin and deliberate stirring of the pot when he remarked, “The last time I was able to put the pedal down that quick was errr. what… 2007… 2008?…. 2007 (smirking) when we had traction control”.
Clearly, Lewis does read…. the news…
Yet Fernando has decided he will defend Newey and the Red Bull team’s technology – which some may see as yet another indication that competitive attitudes have sunk to a lack lustre level since Vettel crushed all before him 2 weeks ago. Alonso doesn’t believe Vettel’s engine note in Singapore was is anything out of the ordinary.
“I think this engine noise difference has been all year there with Red Bull,” Alonso said. “It’s true that maybe in Singapore it’s more obvious because it’s a street circuit and people can watch in the corners but if you go to a winter test already in Barcelona we were in the corners following the test session and the Red Bull is a different sound.
So they are using something different compared to other teams but something that is completely OK because they pass all the checks every race on Saturday and Sunday. So they are completely OK and it’s up to us to do a better job and to maximise the potential, so I’ve not really got any bad feelings about that or any strange feeling.
Inside the car you try to maximise the car, it’s true that when you find a Red Bull you see they are faster than you in the corners but it’s also happened sometimes with other cars and we don’t say anything like Mercedes was pole position and winning easily in Hungary and you have the same feeling. But as I said, all the things are good and it’s up to us to do a better job.”
Drivers may not be best positioned to understand the precise sounds of a competitor cars engine – so whether Fernando’s comments are designed to oil the political wheels of favour with Newey et al or whether he is just a broken man… time will tell.
Strangely I’m missing the samurai warrior who will fight his enemy in the mountains or on the sea (or on twitter); I’m missing the whirling dervish matador who slashes his phone at Fry and Domincali, threatening to tweet to the world of their failures.
There’s a death pall hanging over the paddock at present. The atmosphere is thick with the stench of an indomitable rout of quite some magnitude; a crushing subjugation of all who dared to compete. Established has been a dominion of such supremacy that once proud warriors now willingly bend the knee to pay homage to the all conquering force that is Red Bull.
It’s all over and with 6 races to go.
Merry Christmas 😉
Close to Kimi’s curtain call
Davide Valsecchi states he is “ready” to make his Formula One debut this weekend. Kimi’s back problems continue and the decision to stand down and allow Valsecchi to race the car, will be made as late as possible by Raikkonen.
Those who have suggested Kimi is demotivated to race for Lotus because the team have failed to pay him his dues – clearly do not know the man. He is a born racer.
Meanwhile the team’s reserve driver has been questioned over his ability to replace Kimi if required. “My role requires me to be ready,” the reigning GP2 champion informed Autosprint. “The rest are situations and decisions that are taken by the team alone.”
The latest comments from Raikkonen suggest he will be attempting to drive the car as he pointed out, “It would be a bit pointless to come here if I didn’t think that I would race. Right now it’s ok. Obviously tomorrow we’ll see.”
However, with a new mega Ferrari deal now tucked away, the TJ13 reported some time ago that the Finn is seriously considering surgery to reconstruct a deteriorating problem he has been suffering with for some time. Ferrari for sure have clauses in their driver contracts which would be punitive were such an employee be medically unfit or incapable to properly pilot the car.
Kimi did appear to infer in Singapore that he was technically entitled not to race due to the breach of contract and TJ13 believes this is an angle being examined that may release Raikkonen early to undergo the medical treatment required.
Lotus may be too far behind Mercedes to realistically take 3rd in the WCC. Kimi would not shirk his obligation to fight for the team in this championship if he could make a difference, yet he has no interest in beating Lewis, Mark or even Fernando into 2nd in drivers championship. He’d probably rather be 4th thus avoiding the end of season F1 awards dinner.
Whilst dead and done in terms of who will win the drivers’ title, there may be a few moments of interest and excitement between now and Brazil. Given the green light, Raikkonen’s exit would afford Valsechhi a unique opportunity as a rookie to drive get a late season drive in a car which has won already this year.
Vettel hits out again at the other teams capabilities
There must be moments that as the head of PR and Marketing you wish you could just stay under the covers for the day. TJ13 has just written a 3 part series with in some 5,000 words deflecting some of the attention away from Vettel and crediting him with being a highly intelligent and funny individual. Then up pops some 66 year old bloke who has a mischievous pop at the Milton Keynes outfit and BOOOOM!!!!
Sebastian’s response to the accusations the RB9 has illegal systems is to hit back at the rest of F1’s designers and engineers. “We are pretty proud of the system we have because other people will never figure out how we have done it. Constantly we try to improve the car, that is part of the homework we try to do.
We were playing around quite a lot in practice [in Singapore] and the first time it worked was in the race. I’m quite confident because other people will never figure out how we do it.”
So, Red Bull work harder while the rest of F1 are playing with their genitals. Further, the other teams do not have the mental faculties to even conceive of the techniques, systems or component design used by Red Bull to achieve their current dominance. Would this be inferring they’re all a bit thick?
Mmm. Did someone mention Vettel may have an image problem recently?
I retract from my previous opinion. Twitter is probably not a good idea for young Seb.
Mexico 2014 improbable
I was chatting to our TJ13 man on the ground in Mexico last night, and he is amused at the idea the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez will be ready to race in 2014.
When the last race was hosted here in 1992 many things were different. Nigel Mansell triumphed for Williams in the indomitable FW14B en route to his world championship title. The car from Grove won 9 of the 16 races, came second in 3 and retired from the other 4.
The circuit at that time was some distance from the edge of Mexico City, yet in the intervening period the growing conurbation has crept out and engulfs the nigh on derelict circuit.
People have makeshift homes on the Autodromo, they walk their dogs there whilst children play games and impromptu football matches spring up around the place.
There is considerable re-constructive work required to make this wasteland fit to gain the required FIA approval to host an F1 event.
It appears the money behind the scenes may not yet be in place to begin the required construction.
Many believe the cash will come from Carlos Slim Domit’s organisation, though he appears to suggest otherwise to ‘Mexico Today’.
“I believe there is potential to do more races in the Americas and I believe that Mexico is in the right spot to do it. It’s a stable country, our economy is doing quite well and we have drivers people can identify with. All of the pieces are coming together and I believe the potential promoters are doing a good job in trying to secure something.”
That hardly inspires anyone with confidence.
This all reminds me of one of the first TJ13 pieces written which predicted 19 races this year when others felt the high watermark of 20 would be maintained – if for no other reason than it would smack of an Ecclestone failure.
22 green bottles standing on the wall, 22 green bottles standing on the wall
And if one green bottle should accidently fall, they’ll be 21 bottles standing on the wall
New Jersey and Mexico look doubtful – so the teams needn’t worry, 20 is as good as it gets. But then again as TJ13 reported yesterday Korea want a cut in the price of the hosting fee or they may default
…they’ll be 19 green bottles…..standing on the wall.
The annual Grand Prix Drivers’ Association Dinner
Good to see the effort made by the competitors from the premier global motor racings series. Guess they’re tired of suits and ties from the day job….
Barichello gets serious
Barichello is pushing for an F1 return
There have been reports all week that Barichello is set for an F1 return. Monisha Kaltenborn confirms this is the case and further that he is under consideration for a drive in the 2014 Sauber car.
“There are a couple of options out there and we know what he has is experience. He would like to come back, so let’s see.”
No one can accuse Monisha of inconsistency because when pressed on the matter she replied, “I always have to give you the same answer – we will [announce our drivers] in due course.”
There were rumours in the German media yesterday that Barichello may in fact take the wheel of the Sauber at his home GP in Brazil this year. Kaltenborn quashes this idea, “I don’t see any possibility there. We have no reason to change our two drivers for that race”.
With the prospect of being forced to field 18 year old Russian kid Sirotkin as a driver in 2014, it makes sense that Sauber are considering the services of an experienced and reliable driver which may prevent them being sucked into battles with Caterham and Marrusia.
McLaren/Pirelli test banned by the FIA
Recently Ferrari and Red Bull have done some testing with Pirelli. McLaren planned to do something similar in Austin Texas in mid October.
Apparently Force India were the stalking horse who complained on behalf of others to the FIA about the venue for the test. The reason was that this would be just weeks before the Grand Prix at the same venue, and McLaren would gain an unfair advantage running this year’s car there ahead of the rest of the field.
Clearly Ferrari did this successfully in Barcelona earlier in the season and the result was a romp home to the chequered flag for Fernando Alonso in the subsequent Spanish GP.
Yet this decision appears reasonable, though McLaren and Pirelli will now need to look elsewhere for somewhere warm and with rain free weather to perform the test.