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Quantum opportunism (10:12)
Alonso suffers from off track excursion (11:11) update (12:57)
Rocky and Vettel show rolls on (12:33)
Kaltenborn tiring of F1? (14:27)
Caption Competiton (15:37)
Lotus were the team hitting the headlines this weekend. Kimi kicked it all off by refusing to attend the regular Thursday press appointments the team arrange for him. Of course this followed the public spat on team radio last from the Indian GP weekend, where an expletive was directed at Kimi – to which he took exception.
Raikkonen had suffered some criticism for his on track behaviour in India, where most analysts suggest he made a pointless and obvious defence of his position against his team mate. Mikka Hakkanen was a lonely voice suggesting Kimi took the racing line to keep his tyres up to temperature.
Of course Kimi had all his fans reaching for the Kleenex when he revealed he’d been paid not a ‘single euro’ this year by the team, and threatened to not race in Austin or Brazil if the team failed to honour an agreement reached which saw him choose to race in Abu Dhabi.
The media discussion over this matter was confusing. Some appeared to suggest this kind of arrangement was becoming more normative – where the team paid certain drivers at the end of the year when the prize money was granted by Mr. E.
Kimi again is on a remuneration deal that is weighted towards the number of points he scores. His basic salary/retainer in 2012 was reputedly between 4-5m euros, though the BBC report he renegotiated this for 2013 for a higher basic of 8m euros and smaller ‘bonus’.
Suffice to say, it is Kimi’s salary that is outstanding at this point – his bonus would only ever be paid at the end of the season. Yet Kimi was paid by the Enstone team in a similar manner in 2012 and he has no reason to believe they will be breach of contract and not pay him for 2013.
Rightly or wrongly, following the radio message exchange in India Kimi decided to up the anti over his pay. This topic is not new in the public domain, Lotus team boss Eric Boullier said to the BBC during the Singapore GP, “The truth is, yes, we owe him money. He is going to be paid. Last year it was the same. We owed him some money and he got paid in full at the end of the year.
It is just the way we manage our cash flow. We are not as rich as some of the teams at the front. Maybe it is not as sustainable as it should be. We have favoured our people working in Enstone, which is understandable I think. There is nothing else behind this.”
Raikkonen said that despite being owed money by the team he would continue to race for Lotus this season. “It’s unfortunate but I want to help the team and I want to win.”
An interesting side effect of Kimi’s tantrum is that Quantum Motorsports have been handed a PR opportunity. Quantum chairman Mansoor Ijaz was quick to speak with the BBC stating, “There is no question the deal is definitely happening. It has now been completed from our side. Our deal is to buy 35% in newly-issued shares. We are essentially diluting Genii Capital. The options do allow us in a fixed amount of time to take control of the team later on.
We’re going to clear off the debt, and then we’re going to bring very high quality sponsors which you’ll see very soon. Those sponsors will give us the longevity and capacity to compete at the top end of the business for a long time.”
This is slightly disingenuous because the deal has been ‘done’ from Mansoor Ijaz and Quantum’s perspective for some time, it is Lotus who have been uncomfortable with some of the terms. Lopez said back in August the matter was with Genii to move forward with, and yet the team have since heavily courted Renault – both publicly and intensively behind the scenes.
TJ13 believes it is the case that investment/ownership deals with Renault or Quantum are mutually exclusive as Quantum wish to assume control of the team in the long term.
Lopez has been fairly transparent over the financial structures of the Lotus team. He told AMuS in August, “We continue to look for partners to join the team. First of all, I want to ensure that the team continues to be well-funded. Whether [Genii] gets the money back now or later, we have to see. It’s not about getting money back quickly now. [The total debt] is €120m, but four-fifths of it we owe to ourselves, to Genii, because we do not sponsor the team but finance it through loans.
We could have signed a cheap contract but we think, from the performance point of view, we need a sponsor who pays really well. We don’t want to sign something now for three, four, five years that we will regret later.”
A mischievous Mansoor Ijat confirmed to reporters that he personally had calmed troubled waters with Steve Robertson – Kimi’s manager – “I’ve apologised to Steve, we’ve apologised to Kimi.” He added, “They [Lotus] are going to pay a lot of bills this week, let’s put it that way. We’ve asked them to make sure things get paid as quickly as possible,”
We shall see how desperate Genii/Lotus are this week. TJ13 believes Genii are determined to get the terms and value they believe they have risked much for. Mansoor Ijaz is at present making cheap political capital on the Lotus team’s very public fallout with Kimi Raikkonen.
Why Williams not functioning well
It may be that it is time for the universally loved Sir Frank Williams to relinquish all control over his F1 team. It feels pretty ruthless having to tap Sir Frank’s bonce with the gavel, but this next admission beggars belief. Williams told SKY, “I wasn’t aware he [Brawn} was available. I may now have to contact him. I can say no more,”.
How anyone presiding over an F1 team cannot be aware of Ross Brawn’s position is beyond me, and how come Claire never thought it pertinent to let her father know?
Brawn began his F1 career in the 70s when Sir Frank Williams gave him a job as a machinist.
“When he was with us he was really extraordinarily clever in terms of engineering — he is very gifted.I am sure he has accumulated infinitely more knowledge … so if he was to come he would be a great addition”
Then as if realising his PR mistake on television, Williams backtracked immediately, “the reason I am being hesitant is that I do employ people already and it is very unlikely that we could afford Ross, or that he would want to come to us, so all I would be doing if we didn’t get him would be offending everyone at the team already.”
There was a rumour a few months ago that Brawn was to acquire Toto Wolff’s 15% shareholding in the Grove based team, this has since been flatly denied by Brawn. All conversations with Brawn on his future were declared ‘off limits’ to the media this weekend.
In addition, Williams admitted to another abject failure this weekend. They have been developing the coander exhaust system like the others in an effort to increase and improve their cars’ downforce. However, they ran a traditional system this week and the car was visibly better, with Maldonado just missing out on a point. The Venezuelan had this to say, “I certainly feel that the pace and consistency of the car has improved with the new aero package we ran this weekend and I could feel that the car was improving as the race went on”.
Yet Williams do need to look to the future, they give the impression that like Sir Frank they’ve aged – become ponderous and dithery. The team appear to have lost some edge since Patrick Head retired and are merely drifting towards their worst ever season in F1.
Alonso suffers 28G from off track excursion
Fernando Alonso participated in the normal media commitments post the chequered flag, he did complain to certain reporters that he had a sore back from his off track incident with JEV. Alonso joked, “Hopefully I am Ok for Austin – I still have all my teeth,” but also revealed, “The back is obviously a little bit painful because it was a big hit. We have the alarm on the chassis after a minimum of G-forces, this alarm for the medical car etc. Hopefully I am OK for Austin.”
Then events initially appeared to take a dramatic turn, as Alonso was photographed under a space age foil warmth blanket with his neck in a brace. A Ferrari spokesman said Alonso had gone for a “normal precautionary check requested by the FIA”, and later Fernando was given the all-clear following a visit to hospital.
However, the twitter addict has been silent. No Samurai wisdom and his last offering was from before the race when he tweeted, “Attack and attack. We had to overtake some cars and score points for the team! Eyes on the next race … ;)”.
The G-Force Alarm in the F1 cars is activated when a force above 18G is experienced. This requires the driver to attend a medical examination, though exact times cales are not clear. Alonso is believed to have suffered a momentary vertical 28G – F1 driver’s experience lateral G-Forces of up to 5 when cornering quickly or braking hard.
UPDATE: 12:57 GMT Alonso tweets, “Hello! Thanks for all the support messages! The night was so so, I will do more tests this afternoon and try to be 100% as soon as possible!”
Could we see the absence of Kimi and Fernando in Austin? Surely not.
Rocky and Vettel show rolls on
During the race FOM TV continued to broadcast the ongoing battle between Sebastian Vettel and his engineer Rocky. The team have this 100% attention to detail attitude to everything which includes Sebastian not necessarily stressing the car/tyres when it’s not necessary.
Vettel was repeatedly given target lap times when he was around 30s ahead of the field which were slower than the times he was delivering. Still alls well that ends well, and Red Bull racked up another 1-2 result and a win for Sebastian.
In India Sebastian did donuts in front of the grandstand, failing to follow parc ferme rules, and the team was fined a ‘discounted’ tarif of 25,000 euros. She sheer delight and emotion of Vettel’s post race performance in India was well received here at TJ13, yet the repeat performance yesterday in Abu Dhabi was an ‘also ran’ moment. Anything which becomes ritualistic, loses its impact, and it was more of a relief for Webber to donut since his recent run of DNF’s.
Here’s the pit/car exchange with Rocky, Horner and Vettel post chequered flag and donuts.
Rocky,”Ah, you did your job, mate. You did your job, well done”
Rocky,”Yeah, I’ve counted now, that’s 125,000 dollars”
Horner,”And by the way, you can pay that one”
Rocky,”And Sebastian, you do need to bring the car back, OK? Bring the car back into the pit lane, please”
Rocky,”OK, Sebastian, sorry to be on your case, but to be clear, you do need to bring it home, OK, in the garage”
Vettel, “Ahhh, let me quote, Yeah, Yeah, Yeah, Yeah, guys, I know what I’m doing”
Rocky,”Yeah, I’ve got evidence to the contrary”.
Neither Vettel nor Webber were investigated by the stewards for their donuts, though Christian Horner admitted, “It’s not great for the gearbox or the engine, but it’s good for the drivers to let off steam and there are only two races left.”
We may now see donuts after every race following Vettel’s apparent discovery of a loophole in the FIA’s intentions.
Kaltenborn tiring of F1?
According to the Gulf News, Sauber team principal Monisha Kaltenborn has voiced her opposition to the FIA’s plans to expand the Formula One calendar from 19 races to 22 next year.
“I simply think 22 races in a year will be too much, not just from a professional point of view but from a personal view as well, We are a small team and travelling around for nearly the whole year can be quite demanding. I think 22 races are a bit too many. If you are exclusive then you should try and remain that.”
Most people who are on the outside of F1 would love to work within the sport and especially for the race crews who travel to the races around the world. One can accept the cost argument against too many races for smaller teams, but such personal preferences appear to suggest maybe Monisha hasn’t really got the stomach for it all.
Further, smarter scheduling of the F1 calendar could reduce the travelling – suggestions on a postcard.
Mercedes or Hamilton: Who carries the can?
In these times when teams have gigabytes of information streaming from the car lap by lap and teams of analysts looking at timing sheets and set up data, who is finally responsible for what on race day?
Mercedes clearly believed Lewis Hamilton was capable of taking pole position this weekend and someone made the decision to set the car up accordingly. As Vettel has demonstrated year on year, the fastest way around the lap is not necessarily to have the fastest car.
Jenson Button was one of the quickest through the speed trap in Abu Dhabi all weekend, but this didn’t help his cause much over the single hot qualy lap.
Lewis was on target for at least a front row slot when his car failed on the last lap of Q3 relegating him to 4th on the grid. The start compounded Lewis’ problems as Grosjean slipped inside him into turn 1 which forced Hamilton to back off and he remained P5 until the first stop for tyres on lap 7. He emerged P12.
Whilst Hamilton managed to stay ahead of Hulkenberg, he emerged behind his team mate, Gutierrez, where he stayed until lap 18. When the Mexican stopped his Sauber this released Hamilton, who made short progress but soon found himself on the back of one stopping Adrian Sutil.
There he remained for 7 further laps until Sutil opted to pit. Hamilton managed just 3 further laps before he had to pit for the second time. Now on lap 30 this saw Lewis emerge behind JEV, who was on tyres some 12 laps old. Hamilton couldn’t pass and was again stuck this time behind the Frenchman until lap 44 and of course his race was ruined.
Following the race a downbeat Lewis appeared to shoulder all the blame for his poor 7th place finish. Rosberg of course was on the podium in 3rd. Hamilton told reporters in the pen, “Clearly, with Nico’s result the car is better than what I’m able to bring home with it, so I just want the guys back home to know that I’ll keep pushing, It’s the same in every race so it can’t be other peoples’ fault. Nico is getting great points for the team, so I just need to work harder to do the same.”
It could be argued that because Rosberg was able to go further on the first set of tyres, he suffered less than Hamilton. After pitting on lap 10 he emerged in 6th place (Ham P12) behind JEV, but he dispatched the Frenchman in just 3 laps.
Rosberg was then behind the other Force India of Di Resta, who held him up for 5 laps before Rosberg made it through. Lap 20 and Nico was up to 3rd place where he remained for all but 4 laps for the rest of the race.
It was noticeable that a number of drivers when struggling to overtake a ‘slower’ car deployed the strategy of running deep into the hairpin prior to the longest straight, straightening the car quickly and getting on the power before the car in front of them. I don’t remember seeing Lewis attempt this.
Yet Ross Brawn appears to echo Lewis’ sentiments, “Lewis got tangled up in other people’s races after his first stop and found it impossible to overtake in traffic. This is a clear weakness of our package at the moment and he spent most of his race behind slower cars, unable to demonstrate his true speed.
This is an issue where we need to get our thinking caps on in order to find a more effective compromise because there’s little point having a quick car if we can’t use that performance in the race.”
What’s Brawn suggesting? The team set the car up for the quickest 1 lap – ie with less wing and greater traction through the slow corners – a la Vettel? If so, this is surely deluded.
Those of us who maybe want someone other than Vettel to win and get pole, still select him each week for our GP Predictor points. What are Mercedes thinking?
Lewis should have a car set up for passing other cars. Less wing and a greater ability to overtake. Further, maybe his engineer could coach him when he sees other drivers using certain strategies to overtake.
So who is to blame?
Bad Luck on traffic?
Bad strategic thinking on car set up and qualifying?
Or did Lewis not see an overtaking methodology used by others which may have dispatched Gutierrez, Sutil and JEV soon enough for him to have been at least top 5?
What 25G???….Yeha…….. bring it on!!!!
Who and When? – other captions welcome