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Strawman Kimi (09:00)
Vettel beaten (09:00)
Swiss tabloid Blick claims that after the 2012 season Kimi was set to become a strawman in a Sauber takeover. An unnamed group of investors was to take over the financially weak Sauber team and Kimi’s return to the squad that enabled his F1 debut was part of the deal. The plan fell through however as the investors planned to substitute the whole team management, which was met with understandable resistance from Peter Sauber and Monisha Kaltenborn.
Sebastian Vettel found himself in unfamiliar territory lately – he was beaten by someone else. While he was re-elected as the Driver of the Year at the Autosport Awards in early December, he was beaten to the honours of German Sportsman of the Year by overly manly discus thrower Robert Harting. The track & field athlete with a penchant for destructive victory celebrations relegated the F1 champion to runner-up for the second year in a row.
Button expects ‘hilarious test’ at Jerez
With the first track test of the 2014 cars just over a month away the teams are working flat-out, with the big teams giving their simulators a heavy workout. While Fernando Alonso tries the new (virtual) Ferrari at Maranello, Red Bull drains the energy grid of her Majesty’s Empire by running their simulator almost permanently. So many test drives are planned that a team of four drivers has been recruited to pilot the binary 2014 challenger. Sebastian Vettel is joined by Toro Rosso youngster Daniil Kvyat and test drivers Sebastian Buemi and Antonio Felix da Costa.
If Jenson Button’s latest statements, published by Autosport, are anything to go by, the simulator orgy is not only meant to test the car, but also a means for the drivers to learn how to drive it.
“Winter testing at Jerez is going to be hilarious,” Button says after trying out the car in the simulator. “It will be cold, the tyres aren’t going to work, the cars probably won’t work either and when you do get a lap it is probably going to feel weird because you are running higher gears – you get into eighth gear before you get to seventh gear now. It is a very different way of driving and you have to forget a lot you have learned over the years in terms of the driveability of a racing car, the engine, the power output of a racing car and the way you put the power down. It is so, so different.”
Wasn’t it Jenson advocating that the experienced F1 drivers would be the ones with an advantage in the 2014 cars?
What in fact was hilarious about the testing in Jerez this year, was the fact that Jenson Button on his first flying lap set a time that shook the paddock to their collective boots. “Incredible” was how Massa described it on more than one occasion.
McLaren were then to discover they had assembled part of the suspension system upside down and the rest of their miserable year is now history.
F1 Season of good cheer
It would be great to believe Mr. E each year spent time thinking about and sketching out his now famous annual greeting of peace and goodwill to all mankind. The reality is quite different – other than the odd signature.
This year we see Bernie and le presidente newly wed supposedly with a new Concorde agreement. Though as yet, the agreements are merely bilateral in nature.
None other than Il Padrino presides over the ceremony, which is apt following his recent comments over the Ferrari veto, and the fact that Il Padrino himself has a say in whom would replace Ecclestone.
The orchestra is being conducted by a person unknown and of course all the minions (team bosses etc) are cheering wildly their glorious leader(s) – who of course has made F1 what it is.
Dennis, Alonso and McLaren
The BBC today confirms a TJ13 story from some weeks ago relating to Ron Dennis seeking to increase his shareholding in the McLaren team. Further, TJ13 reported in September that McLaren were looking to sign Alonso, following off camera comments made ion the paddock by a think lipped Whitmarsh.
What the BBC don’t report, is the reason Whitmarsh failed to sign Fernando. In simple terms, his Ferrari exit and who paid what could not be agreed between the Spaniard and Maranello and McLaren were not prepared to foot the bill.
Having publicly suggested that Fernando “was under the watchful eye of team boss Stefano Dominicali” at an event during the week prior to the Japanese GP, Ferrari began to back track a couple of weeks later. Since then we seen Ferrari cooing over their Spanish driver, with the exception of Il Padrino’s faux pas – when he suggested Alonso had been an 8 out of 10 this year.
One of the difficulties in persuading Fernando to return to Woking was they way the relationship between him and Ron Dennis spectacularly imploded during the Hungarian GP 2007. Alonso had been pressing for preferential treatment and Dennis had refused this.
Fernando then threatened to reveal incriminating information to the FIA over the ‘spygate’ affair and from then on despite his apology, it appeared to some that Hamilton was being favoured at Alonso’s expense.
However, the BBC report when asked would he object to an Alonso McLaren reunion, Dennis states, “One has to recognise the first objective of any grand prix team is to win races. Whatever obstacles sit between a team wanting to win and winning, be it engineering, fiscal or human issues, you resolve them. You never say never.”
Martin Whitmarsh skipped receiving the Autosport’s life time achievement award at a ceremony earlier this month to attend the opening of Fernando’s exhibition in Madrid. It is believed he took a contract for Alonso to read over, as the Woking outfit are still keen to see the Spaniard return for the beginning of their new partnership with Honda in 2015.
A return of Ron Dennis to the pitwall could be problematic for Fernando as his reflection of his time at McLaren suggests. “I always said that there are no problems with anyone, it was just the philosophy of the team, especially one man in the team that is not there [anymore].”
Florida Racing Series
The Florida winter series, is a new Ferrari idea designed for drivers who want to prepare themselves the best way possible for the 2014 season. It’s not a competition, but merely training sessions for everything that goes on at a race weekend. Free practice, qualifying and the race itself, but there will be no winners or losers.
As the name suggests the 4 events will take place in Florida, where at the moment they have the ideal weather conditions for racing. The series is for professional and talented youngsters.
The first who have confirmed their participation are Lance Stroll, Antonio Fuoco (2013 Formula Renault 2.0 ALPS champion), Raffaele Marciello (2013 Formula Renault 3.5 champion) and Jules Bianchi, (all 4 are Ferrari Driver Academy drivers).
Jules Bianchi has commitments with Marrussia, but will take part in at least 1 of the 4 events, that are scheduled from 22 January to 19 February 2014.
The series are supported by the Ferrari Driver Academy, but it’s not a “Ferrari drivers only” event, it’s open to other drivers too, Swiss born Simona De Silvestro (Indycars) will be there, the winner of the Spanish F3 open series Ed Jones, Formula Renault 2.0 ALPS drivers Latifi, Van de Laar, Alex Bozak and Leonardo Chicks who hails from go karts.
2013 World Endurance Championship title winner Allan McNish has announced that he is to retire from the sport. Long time partner Tom Kristensen along with Loic Duval were also part of the winning Audi team which claimed the FIA title.
McNish, who has now won Le Mans 24 3 times together with three American Le Mans Series titles, said: “I’ve had fantastically successful time with Audi and feel it’s the right time to step back from Le Mans sports-prototype racing and to look at other opportunities.
As a racing driver it’s important to stop at the right time when I’m still fast and capable of doing the job and the timing feels right after winning Le Mans for a third time this year and claiming the World title.
This year especially was mega successful, teaming up with Loïc for the first time and obviously with long-time co-driver Tom. We’ve ticked all of the boxes and I ticked my personal ones too but now the time is right to hand over to the young guys.
I’ve won the championships and races I wanted to win and frankly there’s no better way to end my Audi sportscar race career than going out as a World Champion.
My fellow Scot and mentor Jackie Stewart knew when to get into things but also knew when to get out and he has taught me that lesson.”
Tipped as a future F1 driver, he tested with both McLAren and Benetton in the early 1990’s whilst also competing in F3000. When an F1 drive failed to materialise, McNish began a sportscar career with Porsche in 1996.
Two years later, he drove the revolutionary 911 GT1 to victory in the 1998 24 Hours of Lew Mans, partnered by Laurant Aiello and Stephane Ortelli.
McNish finally found an opening into Formula One in 2002, for the newly formed Toyota F1 team as a development driver. Given his link with Toyota through sportscars he was an obvious choice for this role, and after impressing in testing he was hired to race for the 2002 season.
The Toyota car was just not very good and McNish failed to score any points during the season, though a pit lane mistake during the Malaysian GP did cost him a result. Team mate Salo didn’t fair much better scoring a point in Australia and another in Brazil.
Both drivers were replaced for the following year by Olivier Panis and Cristiano da Matta. ITV commentator Martin Brundle made his feelings clear commenting, “replacing Salo and McNish with Panis and A.N. Other is not in my view a step forward”.
The majority of McNish sportscar success has been with Audi and today he paid tribute to the team, “Over the years I won three American Le Mans Series titles, four race wins at Sebring and at Petit Le Mans, scored two wins of my three Le Mans wins with Audi and have now won the World title.
My success is not just down to me but comes as a result of a huge effort by Audi Sport who gave me the tools and my co-drivers to do the job right.
There are some great new drivers coming through and they need an opportunity just like I did. I’m looking forward to being part of Audi Sport in the future to ensure that these young drivers have the same level of fun and success that I have enjoyed over the years”.
Uk F1 viewers may hope that SKY in 2014 re-capture the excellent presentation and analysis skills of McNish who was by the BBC’s Radio 5 live F1 for commentary. This could facilitate the repatriation of Johnny Herbert to the North Pole and Santa’s grotto where he and his red face belong.
TJ13 is hearing today that Kimi’s race engineer at Ferrari will be Antonio Spagnolo, who was engaged as a chassis engineer for Fernando Alonso last season.
Pat Fry is set to take over from Steve Clarke in what many see as a demotion to the role of pit coordinator/head of race engineers. For God’s sake Il Padrino, just put him out of his misery and sack him!
James Allison will be the sole Technical Director for the team and Massimo Rivola, Scuderia Ferrari’s sporting director, is set to be called upon to attend to other duties.
The ‘sack season’ for presents is usually a ‘sacking season’ too in Maranello.
Mmm… and so far Fernando is behaving himself on twitter as Il Padrino has instructed.
Meanwhile, James Allison explains what he’s been up to for the past few months. “When I arrived in Maranello, work on the project had been on going for two years. I tried to immerse myself in its philosophy and adapt to the team as quickly as possible. Having said that, what you could call my active role in the design of the car involves working identifying the areas on which maybe we should push harder and concentrate more effort.”
This of course means if the 2014 F1 Ferrari is a dud, James cannot be blamed. He does though believe that there will be a change of emphasis on car development for next season.
“It’s true that the influence of the power unit on overall performance of the car will be much greater than in the recent past. From when, in 2007, the freeze on engine development took hold and performance levels converged, it’s clear that its influence on the pecking order got ever smaller, while aerodynamics grew in importance.
In the years leading up to that point, that wasn’t the case: I can well remember how important the engine was in terms of Ferrari’s successes in the first half of the Noughties. Now we will witness a re-balancing, although aerodynamics will still be a key factor”.
The big question is given this freedom in engine design, will Ferrari return to the top of the pile?
Allison also believes that Ferrari’s recent years of famine has been because Maranello failed to keep up with the technology required to be competitive. “It’s impossible to be competitive without having the right tools and adequate resources: now we can say we have moved on from being maybe the fourth or fifth team in terms of the tools we have, to once again being at the cutting edge and everything is in place to open up a new Ferrari era.”
So the solution to Ferrari’s woes was there for for all to see. Ban emails, get the Italians talking again an pop out and buy some new Snap-On spanners and screwdrivers – “simples”.
2014 F1 Pirelli’s
The 3 day tyre test in Bahrain is under way, however, don’t be expecting Pirelli to publish the times. Even the teams will not be certain which tyres are which because Pirelli has created scores of combinations of compounds they wish to test.
One thing is certain. the tyres will all have a kevlar construction. The steel belted rubber construction discussed tirelessly during the first half of the 2013 F1 season has been consigned to the past, probably for ever.
Ferrari unveil their 2014 V6 engine
We have seen and heard the powertrains from the competitors of the prancing horse, yet nothing but silence has emanated from Maranello yet.
Mercedes F1 Turbo V6 engine
However, a TJ13 source suggests today that Ferrari will unveil their new 2014 V6 Turbo F1 engine in 2 days time – on Thursday December 19th
Ferrari’s big reveal is intended to be a Christmas gift to all the tifosi and we believe the design brief Ferrari have followed is to build an engine on or close to the weight minimum of 145kg by using highly innovative materials.
Of course, the lighter the car/engine package, the more ballast options will be available for setting the car up for different circuits. There were recent moves by Red Bull to get the weight limit raised by 10kg, though this was rejected by the F1 commission.
This means Ferrari are rolling the dice. The more lightweight the engine and the more innovative the materials will have the effect of moving the engine up the unreliability ladder. Will this give the Mercedes and Renault engine designers sleepless nights over Christmas?
Further, Pat Fry has been demoted to pit lane co-ordinator/trackside op’s and James Allison will assume control for all technical areas of the Scuderia. Andrea Stella will remain alongside Fernando Alonso and the Spaniard’s ex-chassis mechanic – Antonio Spagnolo – will become Kimi Raikkonen’s race engineer.
F1 TV figures plummet
The Grand Prix of the America’s delivered the lowest UK TV viewing figures for any race since the Bahrain GP of 2007. Around 2.5m people bothered to watch the race live or on the BBC highlights.
BBC One screened their edited recording from 22:25 and averaged just 1.71m viewers, whilst the newly shortened SKY ‘race show’ delivered and average of 761,000 down 55,000 on 2012.
The season finale, historically a favourite with many fans, was equally as devastating for the UK broadcasters. BBC One broadcast a live race show and attracted an average of 3.45m whilst Sky Sports F1′s live coverage averaged just 499,000.
The combined average of 3.95m was the lowest since at least the 2005 race, as data has been collected in the present format since 2006.
Double points for the last 4 races? If the European audiences suffered similarly – it’s not hard to work out who is calling the shots.