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Schumacher rejects Lotus – Only Nico Rosberg is sad
It was somewhat surreal that Lotus asked seven times world champion Michael Schumacher to come back out of retirement to stand in for Kimi Räikkönen. Granted, no other living being bar Rubens Barrichello beats the German in terms of experience, but there was only one potential winner in such an endeavour – Lotus. Did they really expect that Michael would come out of retirement to help Lotus beat the team that has given him five of his seven titles and the company that started his F1 career?
One has to keep in mind that it was Mercedes, who paid for Schumacher’s drive in the Jordan at the 1991 Belgian Grandprix and his love-affair with Ferrari is a fact of recent history. Did they really expect he’d step in to beat both of them? And that’s not even counting that Schumacher has no experience whatsoever with the 2013 Pirelli bubble-gum tyres. He would have had a whole lot to lose with nothing to gain.”
Fellow Germans Vettel and Sutil think that Schumacher made the right decision. “He’s done the right thing,” Vettel agrees with his close friend’s and ROC partner in crime’s decision. “The only ones to profit from it, would have been the guys at Lotus.”
“You can only lose in a stunt like that,” Sutil agrees. “Especially with the F1 format being as it is now.” There is precedent to this situation. Both Luca Badoer and Giancarlo Fisichella fared badly when stepping in for the injured Felipe Massa in 2009 and Gerome D’Ambrosio, standing in for the banned Romain Grosjean in last year’s Italian Grandprix didn’t set the world ablaze either. With testing all but verboten stepping into a different car is likely to be a no-win scenario.
Only Nico Rosberg is sad about missing another chance to race Michael. “Too bad,” Schumachers last team mate says. “It would have been fun to race him again.” Rosberg explains in a somewhat dada-istic interview, why his duels with Hamilton are different, but in the end the same as his head-to-heads with Schumacher. “It’s so completely different. The challenge is similar. They both are hard opponents. But apart from that things are completely different – their strengths and weaknesses, how you can work with them. One of them likes Haribo gummy bears, the other is hell-bent on wearing a new pair of running shoes every day. It’s completely different.”
Not F1: Dario Franchitti has to call it quits.
After seventeen years in America’s premier openwheel racing category in CART and IndyCar, Scotsman Dario Franchitti has to hang up the helmet for good after the spine injuries sustained in the last lap crash in this year’s Indycar race at Houston, Texas.
Graduating through Britain’s junior formulae, Franchitti joined Giancarlo Fisichella in taking the detour via DTM. Driving for Mercedes, the scot earned himself a race victory in the second race at Mugello, Italy in 1995. Another victory followed at Suzuka in 1996. For the 1997 season, he went to America to join Hogan racing in the Champcar series.
Even though he was the Jaguar test driver in 2000, Franchitti never really got the chance to try his hand at F1, which in my opinion is a loss for F1. Concentrating on his work in the land of the free and the uncontrollable secret service, Franchitti scored 31 race wins – three of those being wins in the Indy 500 – and four championship titles.
Whatever you’ll be up to, Dario. Thank you for so many years of driving excellence.
Race Of Champions with a female touch
In the last six years the Race of Champions, the annual december show event organized by rallying amazon Michelle Mouton has been a somewhat F1-esque affair. Many nations fight for the title and in the end Schumacher and Vettel win. Although neither of the notorious serial kill…err… winners has ever won the drivers title at the event, Vettel and Schumacher have won the Nations Cup for Germany every year since 2007.
This year however, things are going to be different. For the first time ever, the event will not only have a female host, since Williams test driver Susie Wolff will line up with David Coulthard for Team Britain. Instead of the usual lineup of Andy Priaulx and Jason Plato it will be Susie and Crazy D, who will take on ze Germans this year. Go Susie!!!!
Alonso passes medical
Though he avoided all media duties on Thursday, Fernando Alonso attended the medical centre at COTA for final clearance to race this weekend. He didn’t speak to the media, though gave a thumbs up as walked to the car which would return him to his hotel.
Fernando told his twitter followers, “Happy to have the ‘ok’ from doctors and race this weekend, Last day to recover and do my best to help the team!” A Ferrari spokesperson revealed Alonso’s tests had “all proved positive”.
Alonso may have passed the medical, but appears far from fully recovered as the team decided he should rest rather than do his usual round of interviews. Pulling 5G in an F1 car will be a sterner test for Fernando than talking to out held microphones.
Sauber find some money
Speaking to Swiss broadcaster SRF1, Monisha Kaltenborn confirms the team have been able to pay some outstanding debts recently, but does not disclose the source of the funds. The electricity bill TJ13 reported a few days ago is now cleared and the unpaid Hulkenberg is now in credit too. “We talked about it with him and clarified the situation,” said Kaltenborn. “A payment was made.”
There are still 56 other writs for payment – circa 500,000 euro – pending against Sauber since the promised Russian money never materialised.
Raikkonen surgery goes well
Finnish broadcaster MTV is reporting Kimi’s surgery has “gone well” and he can start, “can start light exercise in 4 to 6 weeks”. Kimi elected not to drive for Lotus in the season’s final 2 races, to ensure he has sufficient recovery time to start work with Ferrari in 2014.
Get well soon cards have been arriving by the post bag for the popular Finn, yet one paddock wag suggested he heard Boullier comment, “We have drawn up a posting schedule with Kimi’s management and talks are progressing. But we expect to send him a card by next Tuesday.”
In the mean time replacement driver Heikki Kovalainen is keen to fit into the team quickly, and he is seen below receiving instructions from Lotus’ trackside operations director Alan Parmane. Whilst our ‘listener’ didn’t catch all the conversation, the conclusion was clear.
Permane: “And when I say ‘move out the f***ing way’, you say how f***ing far!”
Isn’t this lovely though….Lotus issue a statement.
“As planned, Kimi Räikkönen underwent back surgery yesterday at The University Hospital of Strasbourg. Lotus F1 Team is happy to report that the operation was totally successful, according to Professor Afshin Gangi.
“Kimi will now rest for a few days and he will start his recovery process as early as next week. Everyone at the track and at Enstone wishes him a quick recovery.”
McLaren team in turmoil?
Have McLaren lost their way since Ron Dennis left the race team to focus on car building? This is a question I’m asked frequently. My response is usually, “they hadn’t done particularly well during Ron’s final years on the pitwall”.
Yet in the modern world of F1 where all the team principals like each other and ‘get on’, the McLaren racing team appears to have lost some of its bite when compared to the era of Dennis the pit bull
Yet Dennis is still clearly influential within the racing team, and is very much involved in driver selection, but criticism has been swift coming over the handling of the team’s decision to let Sergio Perez go.
Influential German F1 writer, Michael Schmidt, is scathing over McLaren’s handling of the matter. “Perez thanked McLaren as though they have done him a favour, and McLaren has praised Perez in a way that makes you wonder why in the world they’re separating. It’s dishonest,” says Schmidt.
“A bit more honesty would be appropriate. McLaren should say why his contract is not being renewed, and Perez should be allowed to say what he thinks about the late notice. If they’re both just singing each other’s praises, they treat us – the fans – like we’re stupid,” Schmidt adds.
It does beg the question, did McLaren choose the wrong guy for 2013, or was it a case that they didn’t get the best out of him?
2011 wasn’t Lewis’ finest year in motor sport and his ‘Ali G’ comment in Monaco is said to have enraged Dennis. Whilst Lewis start to the 2012 season was less volatile it appears the die was cast with the McLaren boss.
He went public in June over any possible contract renewal for Hamilton stating, “He is on the end of a contract which was signed a at a time when the economy was somewhat different. Now there has to be a balance”. Dennis added somewhat fatuously, “He’s very highly paid. He’s certainly paid more than I am.”
A few weeks later, Ron was on the offensive again, “I think people get the wrong impression though, as when I last looked at the contract I was paying him. It’s a question of whether we employ him, not the other way around.”
A bemused Hamilton was confronted with this quote and concluded. “It has nothing to do with me particularly, what he says,” adding “Martin is my boss.”
What isn’t clear, is how Simon Fuller’s XIX were behaving behind the scenes. Having signed up who they believed could be their next David Beckham, the agency clearly needed to get Lewis a better deal than his father had negotiated before them.
Of course the rest is history.
So did McLaren panic when they appointed Perez? Il Padrino had already stated that Sergio – a Ferrari junior driver – wasn’t ready for a drive with a top team. Was the Perez appointment meant to ‘stick it to the red team’?
There were safer bets at the time, and the most obvious was Nico Hulkenberg. The German was considered by many to have demonstrated his ability to be a top driver, yet he was overlooked to the surprise of many in the paddock as well as the fans.
McLaren of course have now appointed rookie Kevin Magnussen as Perez’s replacement, again overlooking Hulkenberg once again. He admits this weekend, “I’ve spoken regularly to Martin Whitmarsh. It’s hard to know why there was so little interest [in me]. I believe I have made all the right arguments on the track.”
The irony will be if McLaren’s latest protoge doesn’t make the grade and Ferrari sign Hulkenberg in either 2015 or 2016. If the Hulk then develop’s into the star almost everyone believes is possible, those making driver decisions in Woking will look very silly indeed.
I’ve heard it said that the Magnussen appointment may be in part a result of Helmut Marko’s taunts to the Red Bull opposition over their lack of trust in their young driver programmes.
Sam Michael is revealing when he spoke to SKY yesterday. “You have to remember that on all of our Young Driver Programmes, they are there to produce World Champions. They are not there to produce also-rans because, quite frankly, McLaren has the buying ability to go and buy anyone we want on the grid in that situation”.
Having backed Perez recently and commented on more than 1 occasion that recruiting rookies will be a “risk” in 2014, Jenson could do little else other than express surprise at his team’s decision. He told F1 writers in Austin, “It’s one of those positions where it could light up your career or put an end to your career very early if things don’t go well, It’s a massive risk to be put in the deep end, if you like, with a team that should be fighting for a title”.
Yet in life and F1, risks at times must be taken; and McLaren are prepared to take this huge risk because they believe Magnussen is the next Lewis Hamilton. Sam Michael notes, “Normally you search for many years to have just one young driver, just as McLaren did with Lewis Hamilton”. Michael goes on to make the case that McLaren now actually have 2 young drivers of that calibre.
Potential is one thing, getting sufficient time to develop is another. Magnussen and any rookie driver in F1 today, have a huge disadvantage when compared to Lewis’ rookie year as the Brit had racked up over 10,000 miles in an F1 car testing before he raced one in anger.
McLaren may have acted in haste over Perez following the panic following Lewis’ departure. The appointment of Magnussen though is quite different, it is a measured and reasoned calculated risk. The management in Woking are nailing their colours to the mast that this kid is the one to rival Vettel.
All they need to do now is build a car capable of rivaling Newey’s.
Another big name team joins Formula E
Formula E have announced the 7th team to join the new series – and it’s a name that will make many sit up and take notice. The outfit, from Germany’s Allgäu region, will race under the name of Audi Sport ABT Formula E Team, based on the name used in its successful commitment as an Audi factory team in the popular international touring car series DTM.
They join IndyCar outfits Andretti Autosport and Dragon Racing, Asia’s China Racing and Super Aguri and fellow European squads Drayson Racing and e.dams.
Head of Audi Motorsport Dr Wolfgang Ullrich commented: “We’ve been watching this new project of the FIA with great interest and are delighted that ABT Sportsline as one of our close and long-standing partners will be involved right from the beginning. We’re keeping our fingers crossed for the squad on tackling this new challenge and are planning to support its commitment with drivers from our factory line-up if required.”
With five titles to its credit in the DTM alone ABT Sportsline is one of the most successful German teams, which has achieved victories and titles in GT and endurance racing as well. The commitment in Formula racing now also marks a return to the outfit’s early days. At the beginning of the 1990s, ABT scored its initial successes in Formel ADAC and Formula Three. One of the drivers back then was the subsequent Formula One and DTM star Ralf Schumacher
Alejandro Agag, CEO of Formula E Holdings commented, “We’re delighted to welcome the Audi Sport ABT Formula E Team into the championship, our seventh of 10 teams and the third European outfit. Formula E is very much an open championship and a platform for teams to showcase their own fully-electric cars, so to have one of the most successful German motorsport teams with the support of a big manufacturer on board is a fantastic addition to the series. I’m sure German racing fans will also be particularly pleased as they now have a home team to support during the Berlin Formula E race.”
Valsecchi blows his top
GP2 champion and Lotus’ reserve driver, Davide Valsecchi, did not mince his works when speaking to his native Italian journalists. Valsecchi has attended each GP weekend this year as with Lotus and reveals he was telephoned on Wednesday by team boss Eric Boullier and given the news Kovalainen would be replacing Kimi.
Davide was informed that Heikki’s greater race experience in F1 and his recent Friday practice experience with Caterham tipped the scales in his favour. He reacted emotionally stating, “It’s a huge blow to me,“ adding, “from the sporting point of view it’s a tragedy. It makes me angry to have lost the battle with Kovalainen who is not a great champion, not even an active driver; his last results were five years ago.
If they had taken Hulkenberg I could have understood, even Maldonado, but this…!
I was sure that from the point of view of motivation and desire to achieve, the team would have taken me and I would have been right up there.
Perhaps I lack experience but what chance do you have to gain any? Nevertheless, things change quickly in F1, so I won’t give up and I will be ready if they need me in Brazil.”
Valsecchi may have a point. Kovalainen’s F1 record is hardly stellar and Nico Hulkneberg felt it was a ‘risk’ to drive the Lotus E21 with no time to familiarise himself with the E21, despite having competed in a 2013 car all season.
Speaking to SKY during FP1 in Austin, Davide admits, “My career is not in a fantastic way, not easy to recover from this position”
How the Lotus team management will react to such forthright views from the Italian reserve driver is as yet unclear, though some will feel this is a more honest response than the McLaren love in over the sacking of Perez.
What is not clear is which chassis Heikki will get. Unlike Grosjean, Kimi was favouring the short wheel base version of the E21 and it is probable that it is this version which will be assembled for the Finn for the weekend.
Kubica crashes out of Rally GB
Having won the WRC2 title this year, Robert Kubica steps up to the big boys’ cars in the Rally GP. He finished the first day of the rally in seventh place, but after climbing out of his car following the final night stage he admitted: “I have a lot of things to learn”.
Unfortunately, on day 2 stage 4 Kubica rolled his Citroen DS3 and was out of the stage. Both Robert and his co-driver were unharmed.
The knives are out for Checo
Former McLaren team manager – Jo Ramirez – says that Perez has only himself to blame for being sacked by McLaren. In his column for the Mexican publication ‘Cancha’, Ramirez makes an interesting claim about McLaren’s expectations when they recruited Perez.
“McLaren needed a better driver than Jenson Button, they didn’t need an equal, but Checo wasn’t up to the challenge, except on a few occasions.”
Following what appears to be a rather bold claim, Ramirez continues his attack on Checo. “Sergio will probably be uncomfortable reading this, because sometimes the truth is not nice. He had a golden opportunity, one that only comes once in a lifetime. His problem was never integrating with the team. The syndrome of becoming an F1 driver went to his head very fast. He always complained about the British press, but they were the same press that wrote: ‘Checo, a good driver’, but why is he so arrogant?”
Having been something of a mentor to Sergio in his younger days, the clue to Ramirez opinions may be found in the next portion of his diatribe.
“Checo grew a lot as a driver during the last three years in F1, but unfortunately he didn’t grow as a person at the same rate. Today the drivers are arriving in F1 at a very young age without knowing how to behave. In most cases they have a manager that coaches them. Sergio tried to do it alone and failed.”
There may be the spectre of a grudge in Ramirez perspective, but fellow Latin American F1 writer – Livio Oricchio – also criticises Sergio Perez attitude today in his column in Estado de S.Paulo. “The relationship between the Mexican and McLaren never got going.
Formula one is not just about commitment, its more than that, Its interaction, working together, two sides Committed to the same goals. Winning and losing together. Perez is not the kind of man who does that.”
Oricchio claims his sources at McLaren and Sauber confirm that Sergio “has an arrogant attitude” which many dislike. He adds, “I’ve Interviewed him a few times, even this year. He does not look in your eyes and wants it to be over. In his work relationships it is no different”.
Why the knives are out for Checo in such a way is unclear, and on his first day at the MTC he was clearly anything but arrogant.
Sergio marvelled to SKY Sports, “As soon as you walk through these doors, you see these great cars and there is so much history with this team that you immediately feel great. It’s a dream come true to drive for this team
I’m here to give everything I can, to do my very best in every single race, inside and outside of the car, and to work with this great family at McLaren”. Turning to his team mate, Perez is equally respectful, “Jenson is a very fast driver and one of the best in the world. It’s a guarantee he will be fast and competitive. I will have to make my own space, but I think I will be able to work with Jenson. I’ve got a lot to learn from him but at the same time I want to beat him.”
Sergio believed his time at McLaren would improve him as a driver. “Being here at McLaren will help me improve in many areas. It will be much more intense than I have been used to. I think once the season starts will look again at where we can improve, but first of all we have to go to testing and Jenson and I will have to do everything we can to make sure we have a competitive car”.
Such was the overwhelming experience of being in the McLaren team, Martin Whitmarsh had to encourage their young driver to ‘get his elbows out’ which he promptly did upsetting Button at the next race in Bahrain.
It would be easy for Oricchio to mistake a lack of self confidence for arrogance as he cites the Mexican’s inability to ‘look in your eyes’ when being interviewed.
A loss of confidence would not be an unreasonable state of mind for Checo to have found himself in as his senior world champion team mate has regularly been at a loss for words after racing the pig of the MP4-28 which the team created for their drivers.
COTA 1 hour to FP1
..and with 11 minutes to the start of the session – FP1 is delayed as this is still the visibility.
Ecclestone losing his marbles
If you think Bernie Ecclestone’s faculties have recently deteriorated – as evidenced with the never ending revolving door and the ‘I don’t remember stuff from 3 days ago’ comments – think again.
On this day in 2008….
Bernie Ecclestone, under fire after dismissing racial abuse of Lewis Hamilton in Barcelona earlier in the year as “a bit of a joke”, called for anyone found guilty of the offence to be banned from the sport for life. “I want you to know that I’m not a racist,’ Ecclestone told the Mail on Sunday.”It came out wrong. I was having a shave when the radio station rang me, it was early in the morning, and I wasn’t really concentrating. No excuses, but I was careless in my choice of words. I mucked up. I rang Lewis and his dad to apologise and they accepted it immediately. They know I’m not a racist.’
When asked if he would call for anyone who blackens their face at a grand prix, or makes monkey noises, to be evicted in future and banned for life, he replied: “OK, I will. That’s what should happen, and I am happy for you to say that I want it to happen.”
Lewis gets a new chassis for Austin
It appears Lewis Hamilton was unfairly handicapped in the Abu Dhabi race with a cracked chassis. “Lewis’s results in Abu Dhabi were not what we expected, particularly compared to Nico,” said Ross Brawn to Formula1.com.”Nico did a great job, but what was puzzling was that some of the behaviour of Lewis’ car wasn’t consistent with what we saw with Nico,”
The team subsequently examined the chassis and found significant damage. Though before Hamilton fans claim Lewis ‘was robbed’ by mechanical failure, Brawn reminds us, “We knew Lewis had had some excursions over kerbs and things, but when we actually got here and started to strip everything down, the damage was pretty significant, It may even be at a level that was affecting the handling of the car. At what point the cracks became significant is difficult to say, but certainly they were not good.”
Filled with the power of hope and optimism, Hamilton commented, “I’m hoping this weekend to put myself in a better position – I feel positive – The problem I’ve had recently is that I’ve been stuck in a lot of traffic and haven’t been able to go past, so it definitely doesn’t make the performance seem so good”.
We are likely to see a skinnier wing and lower drag setup from Mercedes this weekend, so when the inevitable pole position goes Vettel’s way, at least the Silver Arrows will have a shot at overtaking during the race.
Lewis is clearly not superstitious about his weekend as his race helmet celebrates the Michael Jackson song, “Smooth Criminal” – from the album BAD.
While the Williams team wait for the fog to life…. idle banter passes amongst the team members 😉