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McLaren Honda it is
TJ13 reported over the festive period that McLaren would not be unveiling a sponsor when the MP4-29 was revealed to the world and that from 2015 the team would be Mclaren Honda.
The reasoning suggested was that Renault have consistently complained about the lack of exposure they receive from their relationship with Red Bull when compared to Infiniti. This was no better evidenced when I stood in the pit lane in Jerez for the unveiling of Newey’s latest creation, and lo and behold where did the team’s French engine manufacturer feature?
TJ13 also revealed that it was probable that Honda would be contributing more than just free engines, and would as a minimum replace in total the Vodafone contributions in 2015 by providing further cash supplements for the incremental profile they will receive by not playing second fiddle to a title sponsor.
Today Michael Schmidt, eminent German F1 writer, reveals Honda will be investing an eye watering 100 million euros a year into McLaren in free engines, cash and 50% of the drivers’ salaries…. and he states, “the money is already flowing this season.”
Regardless of what has been widely reported, TJ13 has learned there is no competition between Lotus and McLaren for a big bucks signing from Sony to promote their latest video games platform. In fact, should Sony decide to partner with McLaren, they will be far less prominent on the MP4-29 than if they were to accept the inducements from the Enstone team.
More significantly is the news that Sony today announced a $1bn loss and the cull of 5,000 jobs worldwide. Their shares were downgraded recently by credit agency Moody to ‘junk status’.
Funny how perspective differs. I was in Seville Sunday night and when I mentioned I was returning from Gibraltar to the UK, a local inhabitant got pretty animated over the ownership of the British protectorate that is ‘the rock in the sun’.
In an attempt to lighten the situation I offered to sign over the ownership of Gibraltar to our Spanish friend and this act of fatuous generosity – sealed by the judges signature on a beer mat -appeared to mollify the ‘Senior’ greatly. So much so that he bought me a drink 😉
Yet in F1 land there are times when similarly intense and singularly focused opinions cause an equally obtuse divide. Silly shaped noses and new engine noises have segregated father and son, brother and sister… and Uncle Tom Cobley and all.
The gripes about the ‘puny lawn mower engines’ commissioned by the FIA persist, yet the reality is that the V6 turbos are here to stay whether Ecclestone or anyone else likes it or not. Throughout the generations, F1 has been represented by a variety of engine sounds, and this is merely the latest iteration of that journey.
The new noses have created an equally ginormous storm in a tea cup of opinion with some fans so disgusted with the look of the 2014 cars they’ve threatened never to watch F1 again. Yet the FIA are not about to enforce a change in their design despite Newey’s earnest expressions of concern that this years pointy front ends are less safe than previously.
The bad news for those for whom the phallic appendages are repulsive is that their hope that Guru Newey’s quasi bollock design nose will be the one to which all others gravitate – appears to be foundering on the rocks. It was amusing around mid-morning day one Jerez, when I heard that the bollock theme was continuing with the team from Milton Keynes having fitted a rear spring incorrectly. This meant little running for Sebastian except a couple of laps at the death of the sassion.
It appears that Newey and Horner’s admitted comments about being behind schedule on the 2014 design were in fact true. As a result Red Bull kept developing their 2013 car, leading to an unprecedented domination of the second half of the season, other teams quietly got on with the job for 2014.
The result is, that the RB10 whilst aerodynamically efficient became something of a rush job. The cars when sent to Jerez are significantly completed before they are shipped, yet Auto Bild motorsport claims that the RB10 was actually assembled from scratch in the garage at Jerez in an all-nighter before the presentation. While these claims have been neither confirmed nor denied by the team, the fact that a team with such an obsessive attention to detail would botch up the mounting of a rear suspension spring, which prevented any running of note on the first day of the test, would lend some credibility to it.
In a rather understated manner, the good doctor Marko surmises to Auto Bild, “We need to redesign certain things. It’s annoying, but I keep remembering that in 2010 we also did not test in the first week”
In reality, the RB10 is right now undergoing a fundamental redesign as Adrian Newey fiercely scribbles on his artists easel with old fashioned graphite H2 pencil. Whilst the pert little rear end and svelte cooling inlets are his primary focus, it appears the ‘keel nose’ too is under review. The Red Bull car that appears on track in Bahrain will have some notable alterations, though version 3 for Bahrain 2 will be significantly different again.
An ex-F1 world champion of yesteryear who has known Mr. Newey since he joined F1 as an understudy to the enigmatic Postlethwaite recently told TJ13 that Postlethwaite himself made it clear his young understudy needed to be strictly controlled, otherwise he could become obsessed and disappear down a rabbit hole of his own making.
Christian Horner appears to have been able to keep Adrian on the relative straight and narrow for the past few years – ironically whilst failing miserably to control a certain Mr. Vettel.
Yet the monumental technical changes in F1 for 2014 meant poor old Christian had little grasp on what his technical expert was up too. Adrian was running free with the leprechauns.
Evolution – not revolution, has been Newey’s mantra for years, however he candidly admits to Auto Bild that he has “no idea” whether he can completely resolve all the issues on the RB10 to his high standards of satisfaction.
Despite their apparent bottomless war chest of cash, Red Bull F1 are seriously up against it and expectations within the team are minimal at present for Australia. Production times for fundamental components such as the gearbox are measured in a matter of weeks not days, and everything about the RB10 design is being re-examined.
Newey commented yesterday, “At least during the early part of the season, we will be discussing an ‘engine formula’. Reliability, power, fuel consumption — they will be decisive factors, The aerodynamics will only really count once these new V6s have matured”.
Good idea Ade… deflect the attention to Renault. Yet it is clear Newey has overstepped the mark. Better the fat ugly side pods of Caterham which allows the engine to run for at least 20 laps before overheating than a fabulous sleek racing machine Newey designed which can’t yet make it to pit stop 1.
Red Bull’s woes are worse than people understand. In the build up to Jerez we had Christian Horner was spouting his views to the world that many of the teams would fail to finish the Aussie race due to fuel issues, But Toto Wolff commented on day 3 of the test, they believed their fuel consumption in Melbourne would be “no problem”.
Funny how dynasties rise and fall – and the crowing from Renault of how they won the V8 era just weeks ago now appears nigh on comical. Of far greater interest will be whether Newey, as was done in days of yore, introduces an brand new car in time for Canada or the British Grand Prix.
Dare we trust them?
Following half a season of false promises and darn right lies from a certain businessman claiming to be the saviour of Lotus F1 team, there is a new latest promise which has been spread far and wide onto the twittersphere. This time the team are keeping their cards closer to their chest, maintaining the mystery.
They tweeted last night saying, “Meet you back here on Friday at 17:00 CET to find out what our #F1 mechanic Chris is complaining about.” The 20+ team who run the Lotus twitter account appear to be back to their old time best after a spell of keeping quiet which was most out of character. They now appear ready to enlighten us all and play devil’s advocate where necessary.
Anybody care to speculate what “the most ridiculous thing” could be?
GP3 vs IndyCar
You don’t need to be a genius to know that raising funds to go racing is no easy task. The struggles that young drivers face to gain a place in the lower formulas is well documented, so a seat in Formula One is nigh a pipeline dream for most, than a believed future reality. That is unless, say, your father sits on the board at AON insurance and convinces the company to back you to the tune of £10 million. These kind of stories are few and far between, so Max Chilton can count himself as extremely lucky.
When TJ13’s Adam Macdonald caught up with Conor Daly in Austin back in November, the young American talked of the struggle to make it into GP2 from GP3, let alone further to the ultimate goal, F1. His latest tweet appears to be the towel being thrown in as he tries so desperately to progress in the motor racing world. And before it is raised, we are aware he drove for Hilmer Motorsport in GP2, although only for 2 races. (He actually took part in a straight line aero test for Force India in May 2012 as well)
A fairly successful season saw Conor, son of former Formula One driver Derek Daly, finish 3rd for ART Grand Prix, which seems unlikely to be enough to secure him a promotion to GP2. With Daly now set to move to IndyCar and away from the Euro based series into America instead, it sits as an uncomfortable reminder of just how far GP2 and GP3 have fallen in stature and value for money. Martin Whitmarsh alluded to this fact last year as Magnussen was announced as Perez’s replacement, being sourced from World Series by Renault instead.
Granted, Daniil Kvyat has been awarded the Toro Rosso drive for 2014 after Daniel Ricciardo vacated his seat there, but 2014 will be the second year in a row where the GP2 champion from the year before has failed to secure a drive for the following F1 season.
Given that success in America is dependent on gaining popularity among fans stateside, having a homegrown driver is of paramount importance! Alex Rossi being the only other realistic American hope of making into F1 anytime soon, the pressure is now firmly on him to break through – although Marcus Ericsson has proven the value of a fat wallet by passing straight into the Caterham 2014 race seat.
Formula One could learn a thing or two from IndyCar as the lower budgets make it more accessible to young drivers. Another bright talent who (as history would show) will probably be forced out of the Euro racing series’ due to cost, being lost to IndyCar – in truth, a better value series. Surely something has to change here!
Raikkonen manager Robertson dies (GMM)
One of Kimi Raikkonen’s managers, David Robertson, has died.
It emerged late last year that the 70-year-old, who teamed with his son Steve to bring drivers like Finn Raikkonen and Jenson Button into F1, was in hospital in the US with cancer.
“Very sad to hear that David Robertson, who helped me reach my dream of racing in formula one, has passed away,” McLaren driver Button, who no longer worked with the Robertson duo, said on Twitter.
The Finnish broadcaster MTV3 reported that Robertson had suffered from cancer of the larynx.
It emerged a week ago that Raikkonen, who switched from Lotus to Ferrari over the winter, was now working with former F1 driver Mark Blundell’s management company MB Partners.
“I have known Kimi’s management and advisors for a very long time,” said Blundell, “and as such, we are working closely together on behalf of Kimi.”
In other sad news, it has been confirmed that GP2 boss Igor Mazepa, who headed the 2013 title-winning Russian Time outfit, has died at the age of 40.
According to media reports, it is believed the Ukrainian died after a blood clot.
Bernie Ecclestone seems quite chatty lately and lately he is poaching in Nostradamus’s area of expertise as the short stuff from Suffolk predicts that while we’ll get a new champion, it will again be a German.
“Anything can happen under the new regulations. So I would not want to comment much on what could happen this season. The way things worked out at Jerez, Mercedes seem best prepared to succeed with Rosberg winning the title,” Ecclestone told the Indian news agency IANS.
Just last week the very same man, who is ‘unsure’ what will happen, yet predicts the world champion, slammed the proceedings at Jerez, calling it a farce. Asked whether the expected lottery during early races could enable Force India to reach the podium that eluded them since Giancarlo Fisichella’s spectacular drive in the 2009 Belgian Grandprix, he Nostradamus’ed: “Why a podium? I would love to see them win a race. And I am confident they can achieve that. They might not be as strong as the Mercedes but as their customers, Force India should progress farther up the grid.”
Now if someone would just give that car a nose job…
Frijns says, “It’s not fair”
The 22-year-old Dutchman, arguably the hottest young talent not yet on the F1 grid, has seen his rise thwarted by his lack of personal backing.
Last year, Frijns combined the Sauber reserve role with an on-again, off-again GP2 campaign, but ultimately he lost both seats due to the money issue.
For 2014, he has been signed by Caterham and will appear in the green car at grands prix on some Friday mornings, but he will not combine the seat with GP2 because the grid of the support series is now dominated by ‘pay drivers’.
And Frijns said F1 is heading the same way.
Referring to his situation in 2013, he admitted: “I thought it was not fair, as I had worked so hard for years, winning championships, going to the limit in every race — but for what?
“This world is not fair — it’s about money. It’s like you pay $20 million to the Barcelona (football) team and they put you on the field.
“It’s the same here,” Frijns told Spain’s El Confidencial. “I’m not saying they’re bad drivers,” he added hastily.
“It has always been about money, but not as much as now. The crisis began four years ago and the teams are really suffering. And with the changes with the V6 this year, it’s costing even more.”
Explaining how his Sauber adventure ended mid-season, Frijns said: “At the end of the year the car was very good, but in the middle the team had financial problems that everybody knows about.
“Then came the story with Sirotkin … I couldn’t be in the car. But I don’t regret the experience with Sauber, I know what the circumstances were and I can’t blame them for anything,” he insisted.
Now, he has started a new adventure with Caterham, and he has already tested the 2014 car at Jerez, albeit amid Renault’s technical crisis.
“I changed my manager and I got this opportunity with Caterham,” he said.
“I am more involved in the team than I was (at Sauber) last year, I have more time on the track, which is quite rare these days.
“I feel that they believe in me, and that is very important,” added Frijns.
A steering wheel from the future?
Here’s a close up scroll through the demonstrator displays of the new McLaren Electronics PCU-8D F1 screen. Considering the cutting edge nature of F1, it looks a little dated already to me.
Sebastian Vettel believes it may be worth syncing it with Netflix for when his RB10 is stationary.
Renault teams to attend Lotus filming days?
It is safe to say that Renault is far behind their opponents from Ferrari and Mercedes, as was evident with the extremely low mileage for Renault powered cars at the first winter test in Jerez last week. How convenient that Lotus will hit the track on Friday and Saturday with their E22 challenger.
According to reports from several media outfits the team booked the track at Jerez for two days to stage their allotted filming days, including a maximum of 100 kilometres of track running.
“We plan a few PR activities, but there is nothing more to say about the topic,” the team acknowledged after an inquiry of Motorsport-Total.
There are unsourced rumours that Renault has invited selected engineers from its other customers to be present in Jerez as “spectators”. This is would enable them to observe the activities of Lotus and start an exchange of information to help with solving the current problems with the Renault power train.
In last week’s test the Renault teams managed a measly 151 laps, half of what the AMG Mercedes team managed on their own.
Perhaps the reason for Todt’s silence on F1 matters? (GMM)
FIA president Jean Todt remains an almost ever-present figure in Grenoble.
It is there, almost 600 kilometres from Todt’s Paris office, that the great Michael Schumacher – one of the former Ferrari boss’ closest friends – lies grievously injured after a late December skiing fall.
Ever since Schumacher’s coma began just after Christmas, the diminutive 67-year-old Todt has fought through the crowds of reporters in order to be with the German. He is one of very few Schumacher friends that has been welcomed to Grenoble by the sorrowful family.
Indeed, the mutual admiration is obvious on the wall of Todt’s office, where only one photo is present — featuring his wife Michelle Yeoh, his son Nicolas, and seven time world champion Schumacher.
Now more than a week ago, doctors began to try to wake the 45-year-old from his long coma.
“Michael and his family are very close friends of mine,” Todt told the German newspaper Die Welt.
“He is an important part of my life. And now he is seriously injured.”
Frenchman Todt said he has tried to give the Schumacher family “every conceivable type of assistance” during these most trying of weeks.
“Often that is just to be there for them,” he explained.
Regularly, Todt has made the almost 600 kilometre journey to Grenoble, just to be with his unconscious friend and his family.
“I think he would do it for me, if I had an accident like that,” he said. “I am sure Michael would be here for me.”
Usher’s Ledger: Exclusive – Renault seen preparing for Bahrain test with revised engine
The Usher has been doing some investigation and found Renault…
Fiat spin off Ferrari
In what’s known as an ‘Double Irish Arrangement’, FIAT is re-organising its affairs. This move is a tax avoidance strategy used by multinational companies to lower the amount they have to pay to various governments. The fact that Italy is classed as one of the European economic ‘PIGS’ means this will hardly go down well with the Italian finance minister.
Payments are made between related corporate structures to shift income from countries where the tax rates are high to those where they are lower. Certain countries like the USA use transfer pricing rules in an attempt to prevent this. Apple pioneered this kind of activity in the 1980’s when they took advantage of the fact the Irish tax law doesn’t levy charges on subsidiary companies which are beyond its physical borders
The intangible assets of the FIAT group (and their future income) are being shifted out of Italy and the Ferrari brand asstes will be placed into a ‘newco’, away from the automotive business.
Of course the official line is that this is being done to create greater value from the both automotive and the brand/ logo separately. Both are significantly diverse activities in nature and of course require a different management. The skill set to develop the brand/logo must not be present in the whole of Italy…
Recently the Ferrari brand was deemed the most powerful and recognizable in the world, more so than Google, Coca Cola, PWC and Hermes.
The enormity of the brand of the prancing horse is clear in the numbers. There are 64 license agreements worldwide and 28 franchises (on 5 continents). These will deliver in 2013 some 92.5 million of turnover, with a net profit of 50.8 million euro. These are respectful numbers when set against the Ferrari Group as a whole which in 2012 had a turnover of 2.43 billion with a net profit of 244 million.
Q3 to be extended
Its hard to complain that the FIA are doing their frequent ‘nothing’ as a recent flurry of meetings have proven. The teams and Charlie Whiting will be sitting down in Bahrain to discuss changes to the qualifying process.
Charlie is keen to extend the Q3 session by 5 minutes, because at certain circuits it’s tight for teams to get their drivers in and out twice and complete 2 flying laps.
Other moves are afoot to force drivers to run in the Q3 session. Pirelli have designed a qualifying tyre which could be provided for Saturday running only. Another idea would be to force the Q3 runners to start the race on the tyre they completed their fastest lap on in Q2.
For any of these rules to take force this year, it requires the unanimous agreement of the teams and the FIA and the rubber stamp from the World Motorsport Council all in under 5 weeks.
The FIA are once again the story. Truncated new entrant processes, 5 second penalty regulations not yet finalised and now this. Why do we find ourselves in the last minute saloon again when Q3 non-runners have been an issue for years.