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Il Padrino tightens the reins on Alonso
As TJ13 has frequently reported, all is not well in the land of Ferrari. There is a power struggle going on at Maranello which has already seen Fernando having his ear clipped by Il Padrino, on his birthday of all days. The news that Di Montezemolo has now banned Alonso from twitter, one of the most active Formula One drivers on the social network, will be a disappointment to many.
Following a continued war of words and criticism of the 2013 Ferrari, the Spaniard has been banned from tweeting about all matters Ferrari. In an interview with RAI Uno, Il Padrino stated, “We will prohibit him from Twitter. Although Alonso, like anyone else, can write on Twitter what he wants, everything concerning Ferrari will be communicated by Ferrari.”
Alonso has used his interest in Samurai wisdom to tweet on a wide range of matters – his duel with Vettel, the Newey factor and the lack of development of his car.
Whether this ban is intended as an assertion of authority and control over the previously undisputed team no.1, or it is a desperate effort to try to regain the respect from the Spaniard – we can only speculate.. One thing is for certain, if Il Padrino can enforce this it will be a very effective way of cutting out Alonso’s tongue and restricting him from publicly criticising the team during the off-season.
In this most interesting game of chess it is now Alonso’s move, but surely if he remains true to his Japanese philosophy – A samurai cannot be intimidated. In the words of Miyamoto Musaschi, “In battle, if you you make your opponent flinch, you have already won.”
Today all we have from the Spaniard on twitter is, “Good morning! Getting ready for a “cold” bicycle ride this morning and simulator in the afternoon! Happy Friday!”
Maldonado to be announced today
At times, the teams will brief selected F1 news outlets in advance of a story for a variety of reasons. Lotus have been briefing this week that today is the day for a Pastor Maldonado announcement.
The problem is “next week” has almost become a defining value for the Enstone based team. Fernando has had the same problem with Ferrari’s in season car development programme. The concept of “mañana” appears to define both fairly well.
Bahrain F1 night race
Since the draft F1 calendar has been released, there have been mutterings that the Bahrain F1 race will be re-scheduled and become either a twilight or night race.
This week the WEC will conclude it’s season racing at the BIC. The race will begin at 15:00 and finish at 21:00 under the new lighting system which has been installed at the race venue.
Today, track boss Sheikh Salman bin Isa Al-Khalifa announces, “We are delighted to be able to trial the first phase of our lighting project at the WEC, a major milestone in this hugely ambitious project for the BIC, which is scheduled for completion in February, This is by far the biggest development project we have ever undertaken at the BIC since the circuit was first built. I believe that there can be no better way for us to mark our 10th anniversary in F1 by demonstrating our long term commitment to the sport through this significant investment.”
The F1 race will be a night race like Singapore, leaving Abu Dhabi for now as the only twilight race on the F1 calendar.
Mercedes, ‘best 2014 engine”, really?
There seems to be a common consensus amongst people I speak to who know a bit about F1 engineering that Mercedes will produce the best of the new Turbo V6 F1 engines. This idea is has been promoted to a certain degree within the F1 media too and it begs the question, why do people think this?
Renault clearly won the V8 era winning 40% of the races during that time and there is no reason they cannot repeat this feat.
I thought it may be interesting to do a bit of a straw poll as to why people believe Mercedes will produce a dominant powertrain and the responses were interesting. Firstly, in my opinion, nobody produced a shred of evidence or even a reasonable convincing argument.
Underlying this belief appeared to be the historic fact that when the V8’s were first introduced into F1, Mercedes then delivered the best and most powerful engine. They cite the reason for the engine freeze and the FIA’s sympathetic approach to allowing Renault a catch up opportunity during that time.
Martin Whitmarsh is not so sure and when speaking to Speedweek he admitted, “Will we have a competitive powertrain? I don’t know. There are many people in the paddock who seem to know, but I don’t know where they could have got that information from..
From what I know about Mercedes’ resources and organisation, I am assuming that they have done a good job,” adding that after such a miserable season, “I believe that we will be competitive”.
One of the reasons the Renault engine became so dominant was due to their engineers ability to understand what kind of power and exhaust fumes were required and when, and this has been delivered primarily via the dark art of ‘engine mapping’.
With the turbo engines delivering more torque than is imaginable at present and the fact that fuel efficiency will be crucial to the new powertrains, Mercedes ability to produce more grunt than the others will most likely be irrelevant. Creating engine maps which make the car more driveable will be crucial to getting the power down efficiently and only when required, and Renault have proved to be the masters of this.
Further, Ross Brawn notably made reference twice in the past 5 days to the fact that there will be an advantage for the engine manufacturers ‘works teams’ who have had longer to consider the harmonisation of the powertrain and the chassis. – Ferrari, Mercedes and Red Bull.
If this is the case, and no one engine dominates the others, then Whitmarsh’s assertion that McLaren will be more competitive next year may be more in hope than actuality.
Mandatory 2 pit stop races
Less than 2 calendar months to go before the 2014 cars roll out of the garages in Jerez and Pirelli still have no steer on what kind of tyres people want for the year,
Pirelli commercial director, Paul Hembery, stated recently, “People have maybe forgotten what we were asked to do. 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.”
The kind of tyres Pirelli design, will affect the number of pit stops that are on average required in each race. Their previous brief was for races where teams were forced to stop 2-3 times.
As often is the case in F1, instead of grasping the nettle and addressing the issue, a fix is designed to treat the symptom which in fact fails to address the problem. To this end it has recently been suggested that there be a change in the sporting regulations to force teams into making a mandatory 2 tyre changes during a race.
Autosport is reporting this idea will be discussed in December’s at the next meeting of the F1 Strategy Group.
Specifically, no car will be allowed to use the prime tyre for more than 50% of the race and also that the option tyre also be restricted be 30% of the racing laps. This will almost certainly remove the necessity for a driver to ‘manage’ their tyres and teams designing cars which are kinder on tyres will gain no advantage.
Further, Pirelli have requested one of the pre-season test days be designated as a wet session, with Pirelli paying for the soaking of the nominated circuit.
There are those who a pro the mandatory stop idea but many believe simply the nettle should be grasped and Pirelli given a single and coherent directive on tyre dsesign.
Andrew Benson of the BBC comments, “For what it’s worth, think this idea for maximum stint lengths and at least two pit stops is a really bad one”.
Yet as Will Buxton points out, “We’ve had mandatory stops in GP2 for years and it’s never dulled down the show. A 2 stop minimum in F1 is a good idea”.
The problem is that without s proper steer, Pirelli just make tyres which are bullet proof and Buxton adds, “Think about it. Increased torque in 2014 means Pirelli will be conservative with tyres. Mandatory 2 stops eradicates 1 stop snoozefests”.
Though the limit on stint lengths could lead to most cars adopting similar strategies and 2 stop ‘snoozefests’ are just as bad as 1 stop ‘snoozefests’ and the danger is each race becomes a carbon copy of the others.
The joys of well thought out and planned F1 decisions huh?
Engineering musical chairs
Chief race engineer Xevi Pujolar is to leave the Williams team and join Toro Rosso. He previously worked with Helmut Marko at the Red Bull-backed RSM F3000 team back in 2000.
Pujolar joined Williams in 2003 as a performance engineer in 2003 and was promoted to race engineer in 2004 assigned to work with Juan Pablo Montoya. After a spell with the defunct HRT team, the Spaniard returned to Williams in 2011 and was the voice of calm heard throughout the 2012 Spanish GP coaching Maldonado to his 1st and only GP victory.
This season Pujolar was promoted to the role of chief race engineer.
This leaves the door open for the arrival of Rob Smedley to the Grove based outfit, most probably as director of trackside operations and responsibility for both Massa and Bottas. Unfortunately this could mean there is less of the popular banter during the race between Smedley and Massa that has provided fans with great amusement at times.
His counterpart at Lotus, Alan Parmane, is most famous for his radio communication to Raikkonen during this year’s Indian GP. Taking over from kimi’s race engineer, Parmane came on the radio demanding Kimi, “move out of the ****ing way”.
Smedley is unlikely to adopt this approach.
The restructuring of the Williams personnel continues under the guiding hand of of Pat Symonds and today they announce Jenson Button’s former race engineer Jakob Andreasen, will be joining the team for 2014.
He has performed the chief race engineer role for Force India’s, thoug originally hailoed from McLaren where he was Lewis Hamilton’s data engineer before becoming Button’s race engineer in 2010.
McLaren have been running their second season of the carton ‘Tooned’ during the latter half of 2013. There were only 8 episodes in 2013 whereas last year there were 12.
The series was entitles ‘Tooned 50’ to coincide with the celebrations of McLaren’s 50 years in F1. We being with the arrival of an ‘old guy’ known as ‘the mechanic with no name’ who remembers it all from back in the day when Bruce McLaren was alive.
The series plays tribute to the drivers who became F1 world championsip winners whilst driving a McLaren car. Fittipaldi, Hunt, Prost, Senna and Hakkinen all have an episode each. Even Niki Lauda makes an obscure appearance as Laudfinger who kidnaps James in Monaco.
Conspicuous by his absence is Lewis Hamilton, except for a most brief appearance in a bubble, held by the professor.
Grosjean and Maldonado confirmed by Lotus
Lotus have finally announced that Pastor Maldonado will drive for them in 2014 alongside Romain Grosjean. Many F1 commentators now assume the Quantum deal is off, though TJ13 reported earlier this week that PDVSA had attached some conditions to their sponsorship.
The Venezuelan’s were rightly concerned that the Enstone team would merely use their cash injection to pay current debts and not for the 2014 season.
Quantum’s acquisition may well be a dead duck, however, Lotus will have been required to provide evidence of their ability to conduct the 2014 campaign in full prior to the monies from PDVSA being deposited in their accounts. A deal whereby PDVSA in fact make stage payments throughout the year may satisfy their concerns.
There may be more Lotus finance stories emerging before Jerez. Anyway, here’s what everyone had to say.
Eric Boullier, Team Principal: “It is with great pleasure that we can formally confirm that Romain Grosjean will continue with Lotus F1 Team next season. He has really made the most of his tremendous talent over the latter part of the 2013 season and will be a fantastic asset to our 2014 challenge.
Romain will be joined by Pastor Maldonado; a driver I have known since he drove for me at DAMS in the 2005 World Series by Renault season. It is clear that Pastor has pace and potential – demonstrated by his 2010 GP2 Series title success and then through strong races throughout his career at Williams F1 Team – and we are convinced that we will be able to provide the correct environment to enable him to flourish regularly on track.
We have been working on our new car in alignment with the new regulations for over two years and we are confident that we have a very good solution to all the challenges ahead. With Romain and Pastor I believe Lotus F1 Team will be able to cause quite a few surprises next year.”
Romain Grosjean, Lotus F1 Team Driver: “I am very happy to have official confirmation that I will be continuing to drive for Lotus F1 Team next season. This past year has been tremendously satisfying for me. We have worked well together, and I know everyone at Enstone is motivated to continue the fight for every last point available. I am very excited about next year’s car and I cannot wait to get out on track for pre-season testing before heading to Australia for the first race of the season.”
Pastor Maldonado, 2014 Lotus F1 Team Driver: “It is a fantastic opportunity for me to join Lotus F1 Team for 2014. It’s no secret that I have wanted a change of scene to help push on with my Formula 1 career and Lotus F1 Team offered the very best opportunity for me to be competitive next season. The regulations and cars will change significantly so it is a very good time for a fresh start. I can’t wait to be racing in black and gold.”