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Pit Stop World Record
Records were indeed tumbling in Austin this weekend. Sebastian Vettel beat Michael Schumacher’s record of 7 consecutive race wins in a single season. Further, Red Bull clocked their pit stop for Mark Webber at 1.923 seconds, beating their previous record set with Webber ironically in Malaysia.
If you consider the sequence of events for a pit stop. Car stop – jack – nut removed – wheel off – wheel on – nut replaced – jack down…. then from jack up to jack down, eaqch member of the team on average completed their task in 0.321 seconds.
Red Bull and Mercedes time their own stops by using camera’s above the pit box and it’s come to light in recent weeks that the timing of pit stops is measured differently. FOM TV deliver the times to the broadcaster’s and they calculate the stop from the moment the car is stationary, to the moment it moves from its mark.
This of course includes the driver reaction time having received the signal that he can go. So FOM are measuring the pit stop not merely as a measure of the technical abilities of the pit crew, but as a team activity which includes the driver.
On the FOM measure, Red Bull did still break their previous record from Malaysia. They were recorded at 2.3 during that controversial Asian race weekend, whereas it was 2.2 here in Austin. We haven’t been provided with anything other than the time to 1 tenth of a second – which is rather inaccurate – and further there is an argument that all this pit stop recording be agreed to measured in a standard by all parties concerned.
Williams were a sedentary 3.5-4 seconds as they are still having to take incremental precautions to ensure they loose no more wheels and incur no more fines.
The script for this would be just about believable if someone was writing a spoof, Austin Powers action hero movie. In June this year, a mysterious and unnamed uber rich middle eastern individual announces through his mouthpiece – Mansoor Ijaz – they are investing in the Enstone based team.
The company they have formed to deliver this investment is called Infiniti Racing.
It is not long before these middle eastern petrol headed motor fanatics realise they have hijacked the space of the sponsor of the team who has one the past 3 drivers’ and constructors’ F1 titles – and are being sued.
Being chased by a global car manufacturing entity, Infinity quickly realise a change of plan is required. The end comes quickly for something that was to be unbounded and endless.
Later, having spent a few hundred thousand dollars on marketing, the phoenix from the Infinity ashes arises. Quantum Motorsports is now the new proud front for the middle eastern money from the Sultan of Brunei.
Interestingly, the word “quantum” is derived from the Latin “quantus,” – which means “how much?”
“How much” time does it take to do something after announcing it is in fact done?
“How much” interference do Lotus/Genii really want from these Quantum people who seem hell bent on taking over the whole team in time?
“How much” bulls^%t can be spoken publically before nobody left has a quantum of respect left for Quantum Motorsports?
All valid questions indeed.
The credibility of Quantum was once again the talk of the paddock in Austin and following the assurances made by Ijaz in Abu Dhabi, a carbon copy statement was issued again that in “1 week” matters would be concluded.
“We live in a world where the banking compliance frameworks and the way in which international transfers work are quite complicated,” said Mansoor Ijaz. “We’re not talking about moving small sums of money from one place to the other. Any time you have Middle East investors involved in a transaction where the monies are coming directly from the Middle East not outside already the complications can be quite significant and the compliance process can take some time, but we’re very close to the end now, I’m pretty sure that we’ll get it done this week.”
The detail of the matter appears to be surrounding 2 payments. The first is a $250m disbursement which must be paid to Genii in Luxembourg for the acquisition of 35% of the team. The second payment is for an unspecified amount which will be paid direct to Enstone to fund the ongoing operations.
According to Ijaz, the flow of cash from the Middle East is subject to strict regulatory matters and the payments to Luxembourg can only be mad in tranches of $50m. Further, the alleged payment to Enstone should clear British regulatory authorities today. He is also promising sponsors who will only sign up when Quantum have completed the acquisition of 35% of the Lotus F1 team.
So here we are again – “just one week to go” is the cry… so by the time we reach Interlagos the deal should be done.
Mansoor Ijaz was once again ingratiating himself in the paddock and particularly with Lotus as he rambled, “I grew up on a farm down in Virginia not too far from here on the East coast of the United States and the work ethic we had when we were growing up, the work ethic that these people have at Enstone is the same… and I’m telling you that we will not quit this week until we finish it and we will finish it this week. That’s what we’re going to do.”
Turning to Boullier he told him he was the “greatest team principal in the paddock”…
…and then made the same joke he had already tried on several other entourages. Ijaz claimed in Romain Grosjean, Lotus had the best driver on the planet…. [wait for it]… because Sebastian Vettel is clearly “out of this world”…. :):):) boom boom….
McLaren Mexican PR disaster
Having sacked Mexico’s favourite son of F1 just over a year when they announced they were going to invest the time to nourish and train Checo into World Champion, McLaren succeeded in hacking the North American nation off even further.
Somehow, the McLaren merchandising operation was infiltrated by as yet unknown persons. Mexican flags were available to purchase for the fans who had travelled from across the border and a sample of this was erected high above the tents on poles.
The Consulate General of Mexico, based in Austin demanded a hearing with the race organisers and FOM to express his government’s deep unhappiness at the abuse of the national flag. A statement from the embassy stated, “The flag showed the image of a marijuana leaf next to the emblem of Mexico,” and they demanded the immediate removal of the flag.
McLaren responded saying, the flags next to a merchandise stalls at the Circuit of the Americas were not authorized or manufactured by the team. The statement blamed a third-party contractor who was not identified.
Further, embarrassment was heaped on the Woking team this weekend as Sergio Perez out qualified his team mate for the 5th consecutive time and then delivered a fairly strong 7th place, whilst Jenson could only managed a disappointing 10th.
Jenson was bullish on Friday about the team’s chances, inferring they may indeed have their best result of the season having posted the second quickest time on Friday in Practice 1.
Yet Jenson had a poor qualifying session and managed just 13th which became grid slot 16 after he was penalised for passing under a red flag in FP1, Matters deteriorated for the Brit when he made a misjudgement early in Sunday’s proceedings and damaged his front wing for a second consecutive race. A dejected Button told SKY, “I’ve got to sort myself out”.
Maldonado losing the plot
It doesn’t matter how much money you have in life, if you persist in being abrasive and arrogant, eventually the number of people who even ‘hang on’ becomes extremely limited. TJ13 wrote a piece last Thursday called “A tale of 2 drivers” which contrasted the graciousness of Perez with the childish petulance of Maldonado.
Further, the track record of the “Crashtor” was re-examined together with statistics that demonstrated he is the most penalised F1 driver in history over a single season.
Following his outburst in Korea where the Venezuelan pouted and sulked stating, “I’m living a really bad moment and I need some motivation to keep doing my best. I want something more. I’m here for something more.
I don’t want to just be in F1, to be honest. It’s better to stay at home, if it’s like that. I don’t care about being a F1 driver, I’m here to win and I need to do whatever it takes to be there.”
This was all car related as Maldonado believes Williams have let him down. This was confirmed on Thursday in Austin when Pastor rather arrogantly smirked, “I’m very happy. I wanted to leave the team, and I’m happy about that”.
The team have not bothered contending this and Maldonado claims it was his decision to leave Williams. “It’s been a tough year, very hard for the whole team, but personally I want to drive something different. This is an important time for me in my career. It’s a tough decision – my decision – but a great one”.
Again the message is the state of affairs is the team’s responsibility not Maldonado’s. “Overall, I feel I delivered more to the team than they did for me. We had a victory, some good results last year, and even this year we’ve done well in some races, but this is not everything. I’m waiting and expecting something more from Formula One.”
Maybe Pastor should have a chat with Heikki Kovalainen, Davide Valsecchi, Robin Frijns, Bruno Senna, Vitaly Petrov… the list could go on. These drivers can testify to the privilege that it is to drive in Formula 1 and how it can never be taken for granted.
Yet “Crashtor” is in a unique position. For a driver who once again this weekend re-enforced the impression he has more than his fair shares of ‘on track incidents’, he also has a monumental supply of cash from his home government. Despite the economic difficulties in Venezuala, Pastor is believed to have around $29m to bring to a team – less a few which he uses to pay himself.
Maldonado’s outburst following qualifying was both mesmeric and almost unprecedented. Regardless of translation, Maldonado was clearly accusing the team of sabotaging his qualification attempt whilst positively favouring Bottas.
“I think in my car somebody is playing with the pressure and the temperatures,” Crashtor stated on Saturday evening. When asked to clarify his apparent accusation, he added: “You need to ask the team, the guys that are working on the car, it is quite clear.”
Claire Williams played this down as post session driver adrenalin, though Maldonado again sneered that “at least it’s only 1 more race” he has to endure with the Grove team.
Clearly, someone had a word with the spoilt brat on Saturday night as his position softened a little on Sunday, though the team refused to comment further on the matter.
Maldonado claims he knows where he will be driving next year – then promptly adds he still has 2 options. Mmm… “I have a solid contract… but still my options are open”. It sounds as though he’s been talking to Mansoor Ijaz.
The Venezualan oil minister also claimed this weekend that a deal was now done with Lotus for the Maldonado drive in 2014. Yet Gerard Lopez contradicts this assertion, “I have read that it is being reported in Venezuela that it is done, but nothing is signed yet. He [Maldonado] is a serious candidate for next year”.
To crown off the perfect weekend, Crashtor damages his front wing on the first corner of Austin circuit and is then involved in another first lap incident which see’s Sutil retire from the race.
Maldonado’s nose out of joint – AGAIN
Pastor should be careful. If Quantum come up with the cash, it will be Hulkenberg who gets Kimi’s empty seat at Lotus, leaving just Sauber and Force India as possible destinations.
Then again, Sauber are heavily linked with Mexican sponsors and Perez could well be on his way back home to Hinwil. This leaves the decision to Bob – builder of fast cars. Whether he wants to oust the dour and critical Di Resta for a darker and moodier version in Maldonado – who knows – but $29m does glitter – A LOT!!!
Oakley mutli year deal with Ferrari
Having had a personal sponsor arrangement with Fernando Alonso for the past 2 years, Oakley chief executive Colin Baden announced a multi year deal between the eyewear specialists and the Scuderia in Austin.
Sportspro report, “The pair will combine to work on technical advances and innovation, although it is not thought that the US manufacturer’s logos will appear on Ferrari’s cars”.
Why so many driver investigations in Austin?
The first principle many F1 fans may not appreciate, is that the stewards predominantly investigate a driver only when a complaint is made by another team. This is why we hear drivers telling their engineers of incidents they’ve experienced, even though to us the viewers it was plain to see.
Even so, some have suggested in Austin we appeared to have more than the usual; number of investigations from the stewards. This is not actually the case.
Jenson Button was handed a 3 place grid penalty as during FP1 he overtook another car under the red flag. The session shouldn’t have been started since the medical helicopter wasn’t present.
In practice when Maldonado was desperately struggling with an alleged sabotaged car, the Williams team protested on his behalf that he was blocked by Gutierrez (Sauber) and Chilton (Marussia). These were upheld and Gutierrez was given a 10 place penalty and because Chilton was almost last anyway – he received a drive through penalty during the race.
JEV was awarded a penalty following the chequered flag for his involvement in a last lap incident with Gutierrez. 20 seconds was added to his time which saw him relegated to 16th place.
The problem the drivers have in Austin is that there are 2 sections of the circuit where the slower car often has no where to go. Similarly at Silverstone, the drivers are briefed to never hang around through the Beckets/Maggots section regardless of whether they are on a fast or ‘slow’ lap.
It appears in Austin, these sections maybe longer or even more tricky to find an extended line which does not cross the racing line.
Remember the racing line is to straighten the turns as much as possible, so once the cars enter turns 3 through 5, there is no permanent ‘outside ‘ line of rht e slower cars to take. The slow line continually crossed the racing line.
There is some respite around the outside of turn 6, but then again the racing line through 7,8,9, and 10 cuts from left to right and back again repeatedly until the straight down to turn 11. The problems a a little different after the back straight, but again the racing line through turns 13-18 can vary – but does use the extremities of the circuit again.
Again in turns 19 and 20 the cars on the racing line begin extreme right of the circuit and cross to the left on relatively short straights, leaving slower cars a point of no return to cross the racing line.
These problems occur at all circuits to some degree, though the design of Austin and the time between the corners does appear to exacerbate the problem. It’s not insurmountable, but the drivers need to take greater car and understand though 3-6, the best solution is to drive flat out – even if on a slow down lap.
Austin attendance, not bad, but….
The official numbers for the second Grand Prix of the Americas were not bad at all. New F1 venues usually suffer a 2nd year dip in attendees after the hype of the inaugural race is over.
Austin boasted 265,000 clicks on the turnstiles in 2012, and the initial countup from this weekend is that number was down to just over 250,000. Friday saw 58,276 fans turn out and Saturday had expected increase to 78,886 wit the race day just around 5,000 down on 2012 at 113,162.
There were differences though under the surface. Aerial TV shots showed certain grandstands with significant spare capacity which was not evident in 2012. One reason for this is that in 2013 1 day general admission tickets were for sale which did not provide a grandstand seat. In 2012, all the tickets were a three-day weekend passes and provided for grandstand seating.
On the downside, reports from Austin suggest thousands of GA tickets were sold at a discounted rate late on the Saturday, with the intention of attracting some of the 100,000 visiting fans for the state college football team. The Longhorns were soundly thrashed the day before the F1 race 38-13 and it could be some drunken supporters decided to drown their sorrows in the sun on Sunday at COTA.
There are estimates that 40% of the crowd were Mexican fans, with most of those travelling from outside the USA. Whilst it is unlikely it will make the final 2014 F1 calendar, should the Mexican GP be revived it could be a large number of these attendees no longer come to watch F1 in Texas.
The fan fest concerts appeared to have fewer fans in attendance than in 2012, and these saw numbers from 2-4,000 when 12,000 were expected.
In May this year, a 67-page report was produced looking at how Austin fared from the 2012 F1 Grand Prix weekend. Hotels took 3 times the amount than during a Longhorns game weekend and global publicity was valued at $191.0m – probably by FOM.
Though little other information was really forthcoming and ‘lessons learned’ included a need to find ways to get F1 fans to spend more, it won’t be clear for some time whether shop-keepers report an actual benefit this year – or the same disappointment that was predominant in 2012.
COTA received $30m from the state comptroller last year, and it will take some weeks before the preliminary tax calculations can be done to work out this year’s disbursement.
So the initial impressions from year 2 are that COTA has a better chance than some other new F1 venues of making a longer term success of F1, though the reduced profits from cheaper tickets will reduce the return for the circuit’s owners.
Let’s be clear too. At around $450m cost to build the circuit; COTA will never make an appropriate profit for Red McCoombs and his mate.
F1 Strategy Group must decide future of tyres
David Ward’s solution to the regular paralysis we see in F1, was to appoint a chief executive at the FIA to run Formula 1. Now he is disbarred from running, who knows if this will ever happen.
It is therefore down to the undemocratic, but newly composed Quango – the Strategy Group – to sort out the F1 2014 tyre mess. The first matter requiring resolution is the ratification of the F1 tyre supplier for 2014.
It is surely way too late for anyone other than Pirelli to be given that responsibility, though they are now holding out for a 3 year contract.
The next matter for the Strategy Group on the tyre agenda, is what kind of tyres do F1 require?
Whether Pirelli conspired to deliver a one stop race for Austin or whether it was a happy co-incidence, the issue of what kind of F1 races do the sport’s participants want has to be top of the agenda. In just 71 days, the first V6 Turbo F1 engine will fire up in Jerez for its first shakedown and nobody has a clue what kind of rubber should be designed to complement the new powertrains.
Pirelli are making it clear that if they are given no steer on this matter they are not prepared to volunteer to take the kind of flak they received in 2013. A desperate sounding Paul Hembery almost begs, “We just want to be told what to do. We want a clear input and it clearly defined, because the characteristic [of criticism] this year is that people have maybe forgotten what we were asked to do”.
The Pirelli brief was in fact clear previously. They were tasked with delivering 2-3 pit stop races by providing tyres that would degrade accordingly. However, the furore of 2013 forces Hembery to remind everyone, “That has got lost somewhere in the passage of time, and that is the important thing that we want to make sure is resolved. Somebody needs to tell us what they want to do.”
If the ridiculous state of silence continues Hembery is clear what Pirelli’s response will be. “I guess what will happen is that we will take a very cautious approach and we will end up with one stop [races] after this year”.
The bitching among F1 fans is not necessarily about the number of stops ideal within a race, it is because they hate to see drivers spending extended periods of time nursing their cars to eek out extra laps to save the added delay of a pit stop.
Pirelli designed performance of the tyres to eventually fall of ‘the cliff’ to reduce this ‘tyre nurturing’, but it has merely led to an extended guessing game now being played by analysts to work out how to avoid the cliff and extend tyre life.
Were Pirelli to make bullet proof tyres, then the idea of a mandatory 2 stop race for 2014 has been suggested. The reality of this would in all probability solve nothing as all the cars would end up stopping within 1 lap of each other as they covered off their nearest rivals strategy calls.
Mechanical and engine reliability is hoped to bring some uncertainty in 2014, though if the regulations allow what they do at present we may see teams doing as Red Bull has done at the past 3 races. They have sought permission to break Vettel’s gear box seals due to ‘concern’ over potential damage. Parts have then been replaced and renewed accordingly and the gear box re-sealed for qualifying session.
There are no easy answers, but the current paralysis is absurd and requires someone to take leadership on the matter and agree a way forward.
CVC will fire Ecclestone for a criminal offence
CVC co-founder Donald Mackenzie tells the High Court in London, “If it is proven that Mr Ecclestone has done anything that is criminally wrong, we would fire him.”
Mackenzie recalls a meeting in February 2011 with Ecclestone where he finally admits to the Gribkowsky payment. “He [Ecclestone] told me that he had had a meeting with one of his colleagues who had reminded him that he had made payments to Gribkowsky and he apologized for having forgotten this.
He told me he had never lied to me and I must say that I had trouble believing you could forget payment of $40 million.”
Could it be the long knives are out for Ecclestone. The clear inference from MacKenzie suggests Ecclestone was lying to him previously.
Ecclestone claimed last week that the High Court case was not attracting adverse attention yet MacKenzie disagrees, admitting that F1 is “a successful investment apart from the adverse publicity and this is a good example of it.”
Ecclestone is accused of selling F1 for less than it was worth to CVC and depriving the applicant in this case from an incremental $100m in return.
Ecclestone is safe to continue running F1 regardless of the result of this case. This is a civil matter and even should he lose, CVC won’t sack him as the trial doesn’t prove, “that Mr Ecclestone has done anything that is criminally wrong.”
That said, Mackenzie’s evidence today does nothing for Ecclestone in terms of a character reference and it does CVC no harm to distance themselves from their deal making ‘agent’ and chief executive of their investment – should it be declared by a court that Ecclestone was indeed ‘dodgy’.
Webber’s incriminating evidence
We recently ran a piece in F1 Forensics which questioned, “Are Red Bull illegally ‘mass damping'”
Matt Somers sends us this evidence from Webber’s pit stop this weekend which he believes in light of the above article is “compelling” when re-examining the ‘splitter flex’ theory.
Hulkenberg sceptical as the midfield driver pieces fall into place.
Eric Boullier tells AMuS, “Grosjean and Hulkenberg would be one of the best driver duo’s in Formula One, and also financially very attractive.” It seemed the obvious choice when Kimi left for Ferrari, though the persistent delays in the arrival of Quantum’s investment has almost scuppered the opportunity.
The fact the conclusion of the investment has dragged on for so long means Nico Hulkenberg is no longer convinced it will happen. Mansoor Ijaz has even intervened with the Hulk in person, though it appears this carries no weight with the young German who when asked whether he had been persuaded shrugged and told reporters, “He told me the same as everybody else.”
Boullier still clings to the latest promise from Ijaz that the deal will be done ‘within the week’ and admits it would be “fantastic reward for the whole team to know in Interlagos that the future is secure beyond the next 2 years”.
On the other hand, the Lotus boss is philosophical that they may already have lost Hulkenberg. “He had a bad experience at Williams and doesn’t want to be in the same situation again. So you couldn’t blame him if he signs somewhere else. It would just mean the timing was not right for him or for us.”
Martin Brundle claimed some weeks ago that the Hulkenberg signature was on a contract for 2014 and a done deal – it must be catching. He admitted this weekend he at the time thought this to be Force India, admitting this on air and obviously no longer concerned over the confidence he had kept which in time had been proven untrue.
Monisha Kaltenborn also pitched in for Hulkenberg’s services, stating there was a seat for him in the Sauber team for 2014 should he want it. When asked about this, Nico seemed surprised but responded with a beam, “That’s good news, isn’t it.”
Pressed on whether he would be interested in a second year at Sauber, Hulkenberg replied pragmatically. “I want to be in Formula 1 at first and then after we have to see. I want to get a car that’s able to do what we’re doing now basically to well in the points and I wouldn’t mind to be on the podium every now and then. But certainly Sauber is one of the possible options.”
If we dismiss for now the smaller teams, the driver conundrum is becoming fairly simple. The word is Sutil has a deal at Force India for 2014. Hulkenberg will get a drive whether at Lotus, Force India or Sauber, as should Maldonado and Perez with the cash they have to bring from sponsors.
This leaves Paul Di Resta out in the cold. He has been sweetness and light recently, but his tetchy attitude with the team earlier this year, the bust up his ex-forces personal trainer had in the pit garage during the summer and his run of silly errors following the summer break, prior to India appear to have meant the Silverstone team are calling time on his F1 career.