Daily #F1 News and Comment: Thursday 21st November 2013

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Bad weather is bad news (04:30)

Paul Di Resta – Future out of my hands (04:30)

F1 flotation on hold (04:30)

Felipe no “whore” (10:05)

Williams confidence rises (11:44)

A tale of 2 hats (11:50)

Reminiscing with Mark (11:55)

Maranello – something in the air (12:23)


Bad weather is bad news

The winter that is being predicted in the UK, the coldest in 60 years, is not just bad news for those living in her majesty’s homeland. The 12 inches of snow that some are forecasting would see the worst weather since 1947, when Britain saw some of the coldest temperatures on record. This could could have further effects for society throughout Europe including at the site of the 2014 winter Olympics – Sochi, and more importantly testing at Jerez in January.

Many will recall the testing from earlier in the year with tyres graining after only a handful of laps, with some skeptical sections of the media predicting races with 4+ pit stops. The consequence was that it took the teams longer to grips with the Pirelli rubber. A much colder winter could see this problem being even worse, with testing even being cancelled if conditions are too dangerous.

Of course this is an extreme forecast and there is every possibility that this will not be the case. However, in 2012 the teams enjoyed the luxury of a decent amount of time to run on the 2013 development tyre in FP1 at Interlagos. Lewis Hamilton came out on top in a dry session, 0.009 seconds quicker than Vettel on the development tyre.

The weather forecast for Interlagos this coming weekend.

The weather forecast for Interlagos this coming weekend.

With rain predicted for the entire weekend in Brazil they may not be afforded that luxury. This is essential before the new engines and regulations come into force for 2014. Bahrain will provide some guaranteed warm weather, but on a dusty circuit that sees limited use apart from when the Formula One circus arrives in town, it will not be as much use as Barcelona will be in the warmth of summer.

Having been under fire earlier in the season when the tyres exploded at Silverstone, it is only fair that Pirelli want to conduct a tyre test before the new season is upon us. If they are forced to wait until Bahrain for some decent running on the new rubber it will be Pirelli’s loss if (and when) the tyres are not up to scratch with the standards of some teams. They are a global brand which has to take the flak of unwanted headlines when it all goes wrong.

However, this is providing they are granted the rights to be next season’s tyre manufacturer. Reportedly, they are holding out for a 3 year contract with the FIA finding themselves in a rather uncomfortable position of having already signed a contract for the trackside advertising with Pirelli, but not the racing contract. No company is going to want to provide tyres for the sport with bright yellow Pirelli advertisements in the background.

Once again Formula One finds itself in a difficult position. Many heated discussions and arguments will arise from the problem of no running on the new rubber before 2014. This has been caused by a combination of bad luck and poor management . I for one can’t wait.

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Paul Di Resta – Future out of my hands

The possibility of being without a place on the 2014 grid seems to really have hit home with Paul Di Resta. With Pastor Maldonado, Nico Hulkenberg and Sergio Perez all in line to take his seat when it is made vacant.

Speaking to BBC Sport, the Scot said “They know what I’m capable of, they know what I can deliver. I feel like I’m an asset to the team.

“But I can’t make the decision for them, and I have to respect their decision.”

For a driver who went 8 races without scoring a point earlier in the season, using you have delivered isn’t the best card to play. Following his 4th position in Bahrain, there has not been much to write home about in a disappointing season that has seen Di Resta blaming the team in Canada and Monaco for poor qualifying positions.

One option which has recently become open to Di Resta would be filling the now vacant position in Indy Car, following the forced retirement of his cousin Dario Franchitti after his crash in Houston. Wherever the Scot ends up, it seems Sunday could be the last time he is seen in a Formula One race.

Someone who currently seems like a very unlikely suitor for a 2014 seat at Force India is James Calado. Given the financial requirements of modern Formula One, unless the Brit can cough up some money it would be a long-shot of a drive. However, when TJ13’s Adam Macdonald caught up with Calado in Austin last weekend, he reported the driver being very confident of a racing seat next year.

Calado finished 3rd in the GP2 standings, following his win at the last round in Abu Dhabi. Furthermore, Force India have a history of promoting test/reserve drivers as Nico Hulkenberg was given a seat for 2012, following the 2011 season on the sidelines. Calado is set to replace Di Resta for FP1 in Brazil, as he did India. May the Force be with him.

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F1 flotation on hold

As the court case of F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone rumbles on, there will continue to be a delay to the planned flotation of the sport on the stock market. “One day we’d like to float the company,” CVC co-chairman Donald Mackenzie told reporters as he left court after giving evidence in Ecclestone’s trial. “We’ve got no plans to do that in the imminent future.”

After selling part of it’s stake last year, CVC owns 35% of the Formula One, down from 63%. Having previously planned to float F1 on the Singapore stock exchange, it brought in investors from the US (Blackrock and Waddell & Reed) and Norway (Norges Bank) as floating during the market turmoil was seen as a risk.

If CVC are forced to wait until all the legal difficulties surrounding Ecclestone are over then they could be waiting a long time.

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Felipe no “whore”

The lines become blurred at times when debating F1 pay drivers. The regular defence of such a practice is that Alonso brings Santander.

This is a little disingenuous because Santander sponsor entire F1 race weekends, the McLaren drivers as well as the Ferrari team. Further, Fernando – until Kimi signed – was the best paid driver on the F1 circuit. This is not quite what we describe as a pay driver.

Speak to the drivers and they are crystal clear on the matter. It appears for them the litmus test is whether you get paid by someone other than the ‘paying sponsor’, and if so you are not a pay driver. A driver bringing more than one sponsor, one of which merely funds the team direct also appears to exclude the driver from being a pay driver.

The most decadent example of a pay driver many would argue is Pastor Maldonado. At its zenith, the PDVSA contract provided for payments north of $40m a year to be made to Williams. To give that some perspective, McLaren – who together with Ferrari extract top dollar for their title/main sponsors – have been paid around $75m a year from Vodafone.

Crashtor may have fallen out with some of the race team at Williams, but his seat is still warm for a few more days to come – even so ‘lil Felipe’ wades in today with his views on the Venezuelan and others of his ilk.

Massa tells Brazilian publication Globo that he is proud that Williams wanted him for his talent and not his money. He describes negotiating with Lotus and suggests Eric Boullier behaved as though he wasn’t really interested in Massa’s services.

By contrast, Massa says of Williams, “the team came after me. The first conversation was: ‘we want you whatever’, and I cannot stress enough how very positive that was for me.”

“After everything I’ve been through and all I’ve achieved, it wouldn’t make sense to pay to drive. I will not play the whore”, Massa tells assembled reporters in Brazil. “It is logical to help with sponsors, but I will not be a prostitute.”

Felipe is pragmatic about sponsorship and does bring some petro-chemical dollars to the table. “Of course, I will do all I can”, Massa offers. “Money is good for improving the car and I have great relationships with some companies, some of them Brazilian”.

Whether the “whore” who is keeping warm Felipe’s drive for 2014 will kick off again this weekend may depend on whether his pimp has agreed the fee’s for his next endeavour. It is most probably the case Maldonado cares less about racing in Brazil, than concluding the deal with his next F1 ‘ ‘lover’ – for at least one more year.

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Williams confidence rises

For many, the climax to the F1 season is trundling to an irrelevant close in Brazil and the eyes of the sporting world are now glued to what should be a titanic struggle and a more evenly fought battle ‘down under’.

In part this may be because In Schumacher/Ferrari style Vettel and Red Bull have smashed the opposition such that double world champion Fernando Alonso is content with not winning the drivers WDC. “I am very proud of this second place in the Drivers’ Championship, it’s a small reward for me, the same as being first of the ‘mortals’ behind Red Bull.”

Yet there are F1 stories to be concluded, threads to be tied up and sub-plots being resolved. One of which is the resurgence of the Williams team – in particular rookie rising star Valteri Bottas, who muscled the woeful FW35 into 8th place in Austin and a gargantuan haul of 4 points.

Bottas is no stranger to Interlagos, “I drove in FP1 last year and I have done a lot of work in our simulator which correlates well to the actual track so I’m feeling well prepare”

With Crashtor having never finished a race in Interlagos and now most publically – ‘on his way’ – there is no doubt as to who is leading the team this weekend and will in turn gain every ounce of support in preparing his car to the nth degree. “After a strong performance in Austin where I picked up my first points for the team,” Valtteri believes, “I think we will have a good opportunity to finish in the top ten once again in Brazil”.

Fighting talk indeed – and with an iffy weather forecast, who can rule out anything at a venue where the right call to switch or stay on tyres could result in a race winning advantage – as it did for Jenson Button in 2013.

Xevi Pujolar, Williams chief race engineer believes the team is on the up. “After an improved performance in Austin, the team are aiming to continue this momentum to finish the season with another points finish.”

The master stroke from Pat Symonds in ditching the Coanda exhaust system and reverting to a more traditional solution appears to be paying dividends. Bottas explains the difference, “It has made the car more consistent and more predictable. Before, we were sometimes in the middle of the corner and we were getting snaps on the rear end that didn’t happen every lap.

Now also the straight-line speed is a bit better, the pure traction is the only downside a bit. But what we gain in the straight-line overcomes that loss.”

Traction is a problem for everyone on the bumpy Interlagos surface so any deficit Williams have in this area may not be as critical as at other venues.  Add into the mix that the 800m altitude reduces the power of the engines some 8-9% so teams tend to run older and possibly less reliable engines – resulting in incremental DNF’s.

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A tale of 2 hats

The fact that Romain Grosjean has stolen Mansoor Ijaz’s hat is not in question. However….

untitled

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Reminiscing with Mark

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Maranello – something in the air

Since Ferrari’s last public insult of Alonso which suggested he required ‘baby sitting’ by Stefano Domenicali at a launch event in Tokyo, the rhetoric has begun to change. It is widely believed that Il Padrino recruited Kimi Raikkonen because at the time they were not confident that Alonso would be driving for them in 2014.

The ongoing criticism of the team from the Spaniard, a vacant Red Bull seat, Honda returning to partner McLaren and another woeful Ferrari F1 car made this speculation more than plausible. The problem for Marenello was they would clearly have to abandon the number 1 and number 2 driver philosophy the team has enshrined for years.

Il Padrino re-enforced the fact that Alonso’s reign as the undisputed number at Ferrari was over yesterday when speaking to CNN. “I don’t like No. 1, No. 2,”, said Di Montezemolo adding codedly, “No. 1 is the timing, No.1 and No.2 depends on the timing.”

We could debate for hours what exactly Il Padrino means by this philosophic musing, yet more importantly he went on to again praise Alonso. “Fernando is really a very, very good driver. I’m very pleased to have him in the team. I am only frustrated that we haven’t been in condition to give really a super car in the last seasons.

Alonso knows that he drives to win for himself, but also for Ferrari. Ferrari is a team and I want drivers (who) will drive and will act and react as a team member, not only one man”.

Clearly not wishing to take the credit for this turnaround, but surely it was Alonso’s ear tweak that changed his outlook and made him the ‘team player’ Il Padrino declares that he is.

Luca goes on to award Fernando “a good eight out of 10” for his efforts this year. To some this may seem a little patronising, yet Montezemolo appears to be genuinely building bridges. “I’ve been with drivers like Niki Lauda, Alain Prost and Michael Schumacher — fantastic — but Alonso in the races is really fantastic”.

The Ferrari president explains why he recruited Raikkonen. “I need a driver able to win races or at least to take off points from our main competitors. I think he will be in condition to do it. For a car with completely new rules, in which you have to develop without the previous year’s car, you need a driver with experience – . don’t forget that Kimi was the driver that won our last world championship.”

Aha. Most convenient. It is the rule changes that have forced Ferrari to abandon the No.1/No.2 driver policy then?

So all is again well in Maranello.

Kimi is coming, Fernando is staying – the civil war is in cease fire and Senior Santa will be here soon.

…. BUT….. TJ13 believes a very high profile Ferrari figure may soon be leaving the team.

Not quite of the order of a Richter scale 9 – and in some ways maybe not too surprising.

Sometimes for things to change, change must start at the top.

IN OTHER NEWS… Flavio Briatore is inferring he is close to making his F1 comeback….

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50 responses to “Daily #F1 News and Comment: Thursday 21st November 2013

  1. A dusty track is still better than a cold track isn’t it. Surely it isn’t too late for the powers that be to switch the jerez test to the middle east to avoid wasting an entire test session.

    • There are some reports which say it won’t be any colder than average. Kind of hard for the FIA to play God and predict the weather though…

    • ….That’s a yellow card!!!

      Jerez is fantastic. By late morning its T-shirts and shorts… early 20 degrees c….

      …Andalusian tapas and wines in the city in the evenings – and the sherry bodegas to visit – plus the Haman baths…..

      ….you will be melted if you carry on like that young person…. 😉

      PLUS I have a very nice room booked this year….

      …seriously – Jerez is more about a total shakedown of the car/systems than tyres…

      …if you remember last year, Lewis discovered the brake system didn’t work on his first drive….

      • Jerez is the shakedown test for finding brake failures or incorrectly fitted suspension parts, fairly sure they’ll have bigger problems than brake failures though. Getting the engines to run in a reliable fashion will probably be the biggest hurdle followed by the tyres.

        As for all the tyre squabbles ? I hope that ultimately it does not end up with a driver, Marshall’s or spectators seriously hurt or dead. F1 dodged tyre shaped bullets at Silverstone. Which I lay squarely at the feet of the teams and the FIA. Most tyre manufacturers would struggle to produce tyres with all that inane politics and posturing going on.

      • Good points about the sherry at Jerez, plus the convenience of the initial shakedown tests being closer to teams’ factories.

        But pack yourself some gloves and rain apparel, as it appears 20’s is exceptional at that time of the year… mid teens w/chance of rain is the norm. Recent years it’s often been colder. The tire data from Jerez will be close to useless.

        The biggest open question about the new tires is whether or not the Strategy Group will specify “2+ stops per race”. If they decide no, or fail to decide, then Pirelli will provide hard plastic tires to satisfy a 1 stop per race spec.

        Pirelli has cleverly passed the “2+ stops per race” argument back to it’s originator, FOM. Pirelli have done this by declaring they will do as the “Strategy Group” asks them to do.

        So, if FOM still believes that “2+ stops per race” improves the TV ratings and popularity of F1, they now need to convince enough of their fellow members of the Strategy Group to specify that policy.

        The Strategy Group consists of three groups, FOM, FIA (they each have 6 votes) and the top teams, (Mercedes, Red Bull, McLaren, Ferrari, Williams and Lotus), who each have 1 vote.

        The Strategy Group will signal us with white smoke from the chimney if 1 stop per race, and black smoke if 2 to 3 stops per race.

        • I must confess that in my above comment I’ve assumed that Pirelli have passed responsibility of deciding the nature of the tires for 2014 (2 to 3 stops versus 1 stop per race) to the Strategy Group.

          Previously, Pirelli said they received direction from FOM (Bernie) to provide tires to F1 that require 2 to 3 stops per race for 2011 through 2013.

          I candidly don’t know how the nature of tires became the domain of the Strategy Group. And I’m curious to know about that.

      • Doesn’t the FIA control F1 race paddock?
        Can’t see the problem, their show, their rules.
        Up to Pirelli to sort out why their signage isn’t displayed with Ecclestone?

        • F1 is FOM’s show.

          Track signage deals are FOM (Bernie) as they handle the commercial aspects of F1.

          Back in August Bernie described the FIA’s position regarding tire suppliers. He said, “(FIA) are nothing to do with commercial. The FIA’s position is that they are regulators. They regulate all the regulations that have been agreed.”

          • Will someone who understands how this mess works make a chart or something? The more I read the more confused I get.

  2. I hope Di Resta doesn’t end up over in IndyCar… He’s obviously got the talent to stay in F1, given the chance. IndyCar is a joke. Besides the 500, there’s virtually no interest in the series anymore. When they do make the news, it’s usually for the wrong reasons. Ignored by the mainstream media and fans alike, the series is no place for a talented guy like PDR.

    • I’m not with you on this. I find that diresta is overrated(mainly english people believe in him) he had a faire chance to prove him self but all he did was scream how much better he was as vettel in earlier classes. And he never really showed the world that his potential is big enough to be a great one.

      • … I’m not sure the “English” are particularly taken with the dour “Scot”…

        …they [Scotland] may be an independent nation come September 2014 anyway….

        • I do hope the Scots (and the Welsh at some point too) vote to go independent.

          The sooner Coulthard, Di Resta, Jackie Stewart, Andy Murray, et al can be Scots and not be lumped with us English,the better it will be for everyone concerned. 😉

          • Ah come on guys, if he was a world champ or any way handy you’d be singing his praises from the roof tops.

            Irvine, McGuigan, Greg R, Lennox L……its winners you fickle punters like. Till they lose :-). Then they go back to being Irish or Canadian or whatever.

            Sonia o Sullivan was claimed on the BBC once! 🙂

          • Close Bruznic, but no cigar… Correction: Scottish people believe in Direst, the rest of the world (and that includes England) doesn’t. 😀

      • I didn’t used to rate Di Resta, which can be justified by his spinning off in 3 races in a row. But if you take these incidents into account (strong finish at Singapore due), and also uneven out the luck he and mainly Sutil both have had, then this season for me he just edges it – the first time he’s beaten his team mate over a season.

        So at this point, I would take him on for one more season over Sutil, whose time would be up. He’s had a good 15 year career.. But he seems to be going off the pace as this season has progressed. I feel Di Resta is slightly better suited to the 2014 formula as well, but Melbourne would say they are equally matched pretty much. Sutil has done well, considering he only sat in a kart at age 14. Quite an old school driver in that respect.

        If he is still slightly inconsistent on occasion come 2015, then I would expect to see a line up including either Vandoorne or Calado as replacements. If Hulkenberg is at the team for 2014, I would expect him to possibly move up in 2015, unless Ferrari opt for their own protege, Bianchi. If not, then 2016 when Raikkonen may retire (2 year deal?).

        Sutil looked down and out after Austin, while Di Resta was unusually chirpy, but I still wouldn’t be surprised to read Sutil in the car for 2014 and Paul risking it in his cousin’s IndyCar (which he should do well in tbh).

  3. Massa’s whore/prostitute analogy seems to be ar$e about face. Prostitutes get paid to provide a service to a punter.

    Massa is the one who is getting paid. Williams are the punter, as they will be paying for his services.

    Unlike Maldonado; as Maldonado was the punter. Williams were supplying the service paid for by mal Don.

    re. Alonso, Santander, Ferrari – is it not the case that Santander pay Alonso’s “salary”, although perhaps via Ferrari? In March 2012, Petrov was quoted thus:

    “Vitaly Petrov has hit out again at his ‘pay-driver’ label, insisting that even the highest paid driver on the grid – Fernando Alonso – has a similar arrangement with his team, through sponsor Santander.

    “I see no difference between myself and Alonso,” said the Russian”

    • He was simply having a shot at his thankfully departed countryman. Rubinho of the seat jumping fame.

  4. ” … very high profile Ferrari figure may soon be leaving the team.

    Not quite of the order of a Richter scale 9 … ”

    Pat Fry

    • I disagree. It seems that finally Mr. Flav will take over the Ferrari pitwall. This is bad news for Kimi and a lot of fun for the ones follow the Ferrari soap opera.

        • No, I wouldn’t. It’s a pretty obvious move. But, putting the enormous Flav in charge of the team it doesn’t look logical to me. He is an unconditional ally of Alonso. So, all the ear-tweaking measures already taken will be overruled. That’s why is so funny to follow Ferrari without being a tifossi.

        • Could only be a Richter 9 event if he fell off the pit wall – the sudden stop……:-)

      • Briatore would be one of the worst things that Ferrari could possibly do to itself. Fingers crossed that this rumor is pure bs…

  5. ” …. The Ferrari president explains why he recruited Raikkonen. “I need a driver able to win races or at least to take off points from our main competitors. I think he will be in condition to do it. For a car with completely new rules, in which you have to develop without the previous year’s car, you need a driver with experience – . don’t forget that Kimi was the driver that won our last world championship. ….”

    That is an insult to Massa.

    Massa gifted the championship to Kimi, without Massa’s help (and Alonso’s hindrance caused to Hamilton), Kimi would not have won the title.

    In 2014, I think Ferrari are going to regret massively having ditched Massa for Kimi.

      • The bet to be that Alonso outscores Kimi by the same or greater margin than he has done this year with Massa?

        Bet is on. (virtual pint of bitter)

        Must remember to tally up the score after every race.

        • It would be ironic if Ferrari then lost the WDC to Vettel as Kimi and Fernando were taking points off each other, same with Hamilton and Rosberg. Ferrari and Mercedes have to hope that Ricciardo can take it to Vettel in the races, or he’ll simply replace Mark in taking the battle to them instead.

          • …its a testimony to the strength of the Vettel/Webber partnership that has seen Red Bull claim 4 WCC’s – maybe this is what created this change of heart

          • …but if they could win the WCC I’m not sure they’d be that bothered… McLaren being utterly rubbish this year didn’t help either.

  6. I don’t know about Ferrari. Even since Schumi they said they allowed their drivers to race – at the start of the season.
    But I note ‘team’ is now mentioned in every conversation about Alonso, just as happened with ‘motivation’ and Kimi.

  7. Il Padrino is right. I think Ferrari has always had a fairly obvious policy of backing whoever is in the most likely position to win the championship. It wasn’t Barichello’s fault that Schumi was always so much faster.

  8. The flav man might be implying, but he is not inferring. It is you the dear reader who infers. Why do so many people get this wrong?

      • Yeah, pretty funny…

        Is Luca getting too old?

        Will the Board replace him?

        That would be 7.5 on the richter…

    • What score does he give Massa for the last few years then I wonder! He’s gradually been going off the boil, but recovers with good car development over the season.. while Alonso goes backwards over the season (and as others catch up and pass, RB in particular with full season car dev.).

      Perhaps they keep doing a 2008 and adjust the car so Massa can drive it well, thereby hindering their best WDC chance over and over….

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