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Don’t look back in anger
A popular saying in the English language, but a saying people are more likely to associate with the Britpop band from Manchester, Oasis, due to it being the title of their hit song Don’t look back in anger. Ironically, this played as I read through the story of Kovalainen’s Lotus stint at the end of 2013 and how this affected his 2014 drive chances.
Tony Fernandes, Caterham F1 Team principal said, “Obviously we would lie if we said it didn’t play a part. It was a whole mixture of a lot of things, but in any decision there are pros and cons. I am egalitarian, I put it out to various team members. There were those pro Heikki and those pro Kamui and I had to make a choice.”
Of course Fernandes did forget to include the bundle of cash that also came with Kobayashi’s signature, which given their failing to secure 10th in the World Constructors’ Championship last year really became a deal breaker, or more importantly a deal maker.
The Caterham head honcho does raise an interesting point though, as who, if anybody, really benefited from Heikki Kovalainen driving for Lotus at Austin and Interlagos?
Primarily, what kind of message does this send to your reserve/test driver? Davide Valsecchi, a youngster with what seemed to be a fledgling career and the 2012 GP2 Champion, was turned down in favour of a driver who in truth has already had his chance at showing what he could do. Valsecchi’s career has now taken a step back with him now seemingly ready to exit the Enstone setup, and as has been reported, still is without his salary. If his potential move to Indy Car does happen, he would likely never return to the F1 paddock.
The final nail in the coffin of Kovalainen’s Formula One career was hammered in with the poor showing, but could he really have expected any different? Jumping into the race seat at a team where he was unfamiliar was always going to be a challenge, and in the end proved to be one too far as he failed to get anywhere near the points as Grosjean picked up 2nd in Austin and was forced into an early retirement in Brazil. Even if you take into account the poor luck he had with his car he still was humiliated by the late season charge of Romain.
Then there is Lotus, who with hindsight would surely have made a different decision on drivers and had a chance of securing 3rd or even 2nd in the WCC. However, the writing was on the wall before the Caterham man arrived at Enstone as one Finn was never going to be a direct replacement for another. Furthermore, any parts for the 2014 season that were tested would have been less reliable if done so by Kovalainen and not the Italian, Valsecchi.
The only winner in the whole situation has to be Kimi Raikkonen, who abandoned a sinking ship and the embarrassment of further confrontation with race engineer, Alan Permane, as well as being beaten again by his teammate. He must have been laughing all the way to Maranello!
The situation at the time required a bit of common sense to be applied, something which seems to have been lacking at Enstone for some time. Fernandes said the treatment of Kovalainen had seemed “cold“, although at the top tier of motorsport cold is how you need to be sometimes.
I wonder if Lotus, Kovalainen and/or Davide Valsecchi look back in anger?
Newey has a history of it
Following this year’s test in Jerez, many jumped to the conclusion that the reason for the Red Bull overheating was due to the tight packaging of the side pods. History clearly demonstrates Mr. Newey has previous in such matters.
The MP4-18 never came to be due to having smaller sidepods, which caused heating problems and despite being lightning quick, it failed the crash tests and was too unreliable. Many of the car’s radical innovations made it into the design for the MP4-19, but the first attempt was a failure and the team weathered the season with a heavily revised previous model, the M4-17D. For this project, Mike Coughlan was brought in to assist Newey with the car – something that could only be done at McLaren due to their management structure and system of hierarchy. Can you imagine this happening at Red Bull with the leadership there?
The RB3 saw a space savingly packed gearbox cause problems on the car, leading to overheating. The car had been designed too aerodynamically without enough consideration of issues beyond pure pace. This does not sound too dissimilar to the 2014 Red Bull racer, where Ade has not been controlled in the extremeness of his design. The fact that the 2014 challenger was rushed doesn’t help, too, which is another parallel to the RB3. Back then it wasn’t the design that was rushed, but the hasty opening of the wind tunnel in Bicester, which caused the designers to base their creation on less than reliable data.
Newey’s relationship with the management at Williams became tense at the end of his tenure there, mainly due to his desire to become the team’s technical director there. Not having to share the power has been one of Newey’s strongest aspects at Red Bull, but could this also be the reason for Peter Prodromou wanting out? At McLaren the Red Bull chief aerodynamicist would have been assured of a more equal working relationship.
A bundle of cash or a promise of a more senior role seems to have convinced Prodromou to stick with the Milton Keynes team for the time being, but how long will this last if success does not follow? Furthermore, how will Newey react to having the reins put on him? The reports still circle of him being interested in designing an Americas Cup entry in the not too distant future.
Whatever criticism can be leveled at Newey one thing is for sure, at least he is consistent!
Positive signs for Mercedes
It seems like everything the team from Brackley touches at the moment turns to gold (or more aptly Silver) as the good news flows for Merecedes. Toto Wolff commented on how there are major companies involved with the team, stating it is a “positive sign, because large and professional corporations seek entry to the sport.”
He continued to say there could be “some very exciting announcements of big companies” in the near future. It seems the positive sentiments have not escaped Norbert Haug, the former Head of Mercedes-Benz motorsport, who like Bernie Ecclestone also believes Mercedes are in good shape.
The 61 year old said, “It would not surprise me if the title would go this year to Stuttgart.” Haug then alluded to the time frames involved with Brackley commenting, “The Mercedes factory team is now in its fifth year. Red Bull took five years to score their first win.”
These comments are a complete u-turn from what Haug said back in November, when he was quoted as saying, “I don’t think Sebastian Vettel’s dominance can be broken yet.” He then continued, “I also don’t think Red Bull is going to be much less competitive after the coming winter, even with the biggest technological revolution in 25 years.”
What a difference a few months can make. Haug’s change of mind is like when enough time has passed between former lovers and now the rose-tinted glass shields the negativity of yesteryear. It would appear time really is a healer as Haug seems to have moved on, although it must be hard to see the team fighting at the front having put so much hard work in, only to be outed in scapegoat fashion before the recent success came their way.
Schumacher not responding to ‘deliberate’ stimuli (GMM)
Now two weeks since doctors started trying to wake Michael Schumacher, the F1 legend remains in a coma.
That is the news of the German daily Bild-Zeitung, reporting that while the seven time world champion has often presented reflex twitches since the anaesthetic was reduced, Schumacher is still not responding to deliberate stimuli.
However, Bild said the former Mercedes and Ferrari driver’s wife Corinna – who is at his bedside on a daily basis – is following the doctors’ advice by continually talking to the 45-year-old, as there is evidence it can help a patient in Schumacher’s condition.
The report also claimed the newly retired Ross Brawn, who worked closely with Schumacher during the ultra-successful Ferrari era, visited the famous driver’s bedside, slipping in almost unnoticed by the media last Thursday through the staff entrance.
Meanwhile, it is believed that French investigators into the skiing accident are preparing to reveal their findings, with Bild citing ‘legal sources’ in believing the file will simply be closed.
Why Williams F1 should improve – Pizzonia (GMM)
Former team driver Antonio Pizzonia has backed Williams to bounce back into competitive form. The fabled British team has struggled for success since Jacques Villeneuve won the last title in 1997.
But for 2014, Grove based Williams has the highly-competitive new Mercedes V6 on board, the title-winning technical chief Pat Symonds, and long-time Ferrari driver Felipe Massa. Not only that, Brazilian Pizzonia said he has heard that Williams is investing heavily in other, less high-profile areas of personnel.
“Look at the history — it is a team that can win,” Pizzonia, who as Williams’ test driver substituted for injured Ralf Schumacher and Nick Heidfeld in 2004 and 2005, told Brazilian radio Jovem Pan. “What has surprised me most, knowing Frank Williams, is that he has invested a lot on the technical side of the team,” he explained.
“They are hiring new people, significant people, which is financially not cheap for the team, and if you analyse the history of the team, they haven’t done it much before.
“They have always sought to promote young people in their own factory who could have a bright future, but I think now we could see a very strong improvement,” added Pizzonia.
He said Williams’ decline dates back to his own time at the time, some 10 years ago.
“There were relationship problems with BMW, the team was losing competent people and then there was the financial side with the loss of strong sponsors and from there the situation got worse.
“In recent years they even had to go down a path they’d never gone down before, which was to have paying drivers.
“But I hope now we see a turnaround and the team goes back up again,” said Pizzonia.
He also commented on F1 more generally, including the recent complaints of some active drivers who are unhappy with the sport’s reduced speed due to the new engine and aerodynamic regulations.
“There’s two sides (to that),” said Pizzonia. “For the young drivers it will be much easier to adapt, because the leap from GP2 and the World Series is much smaller. But I think there is some frustration for some drivers who see that Formula One is going backwards in terms of speed. But I understand that F1 is doing it for safety and for a range of other factors.
“As a spectator though I have to say I am not really in favour, because even on TV the speed reduction is apparent. It’s not as cool as it used to be,” said Pizzonia.
Planning ‘all in place’ for Austrian GP (GMM)
Austria’s return to the F1 calendar this year is on track, Red Bull supremo Dietrich Mateschitz says.
“We are striving for a perfect race weekend with sold out grandstands,” said the Austrian billionaire, who has rebuilt the former A1-Ring circuit. There had been some minor doubts about the race’s return, as the Red Bull-Ring was initially limited to a small maximum crowd, while circuit upgrades were still in the planning.
“The construction is on schedule, even if it is tight, and the permits are all in place,” Mateschitz told the Salzburger Nachrichten newspaper. With world champions Red Bull arguably the biggest spenders in pit-lane, Mateschitz also commented on the hardening plans for team budget caps for 2015.
“At the moment the question of what is excluded and what else the manufacturers can redeploy in other budgets is still open,” he said. “On one hand, billions were spent on the development of the new engines, which is not questioned,” added Mateschitz.
Finally, he was asked about Ferrari’s explosive ‘fire and ice’ new driver pairing of Fernando Alonso alongside fellow champion Kimi Raikkonen. “Even if there are frictions,” Mateschitz insisted, “it has to work.
“With us, the media spoke about the crisis between Vettel and Webber for the longest time, but it still worked. It doesn’t matter if Alonso and Raikkonen are blood brothers or not.”
More bull from Red Bull?
Lotus may have internal power struggles raging between Andrew Ruhan and Gerrard Lopez, and new Russian investors who want to control the team’s PR crew, but the same old problems at Red Bull rumble on.
In previous years around this time we’ve seen the good doctor Marko snipe at his German protégé’s drivers’ team mate – who decided enough, was enough and buggered off to the World Endurance Series.
A difference of opinion between Marko and Horner rears its head from time to time as it did prior to the launch of the RB9. Marko was published in the in-house magazine, the Red Bulletin, criticising Mark Webber.
He said of the Aussie, “Red Bull puts him in a car – a possible winner – and suddenly along comes this young kid and he snatches the booty from under Mark’s nose”. Adding, “It seems to me that Webber has on average two races per year where he is unbeatable, but he can’t maintain this form throughout the year. And as soon as his prospects start to look good in the world championship, he has a little trouble with the pressure that this creates.
In comparison with Seb’s rising form, it seems to me that Mark’s form somehow flattens out. Then, if some technical mishap occurs, like with the alternator for example, he falls relatively easily into a downward spiral”.
At the launch of the RB9 Christian was asked about these comments and forced to reply, “We all know Helmut can be outspoken at times. His comments reflected his opinion, and these things can be misinterpreted.”
Yet Horner has on a number of occasions hidden behind the ‘misunderstanding’ explanation or following Marko’s nigh on weekly missives on Servis TV where utterances from the Austrian described as ‘lost in translation’.
Today Christian Horner faces the world to explain how his team are fairing following what can only be described as one of the most disastrous 4 days of testing in Formula 1 history.
He told Sky News that there was “nothing major” wrong with the RB10 adding, “There’s a few things we needed to tighten up on our side but nothing major and obviously Renault have some issues that they are tidying up as well,”
Mmm. Last week the good doctor told the world that Ade was performing major surgery on his latest creation as he “has to redesign some elements in the rear of the car”. Unfortunately the SKY reporter today didn’t joined up the dots and should have questioned Horner over the discrepancy between his “tighten up on” and Marko’s “redesign… [a number of] elements”.
“Lost in translation”, would probably been the reply.
Note Horner quickly deflects the problem away from Red Bull by including Renault in his response.
Yet the truth is Red Bull are working night and day to solve a number of problems that their installation is creating the Renault engine; problems which the Caterham and Toro Rosso do not have.
Further, a classic motivational strategy is in play. The Bullite troops are being marched up to the top of the Red Bull mound, the standard is raised and in a monotone drawl are informed by Christian that their enemies can’t wait to see them fail – a classic siege mentality approach.
If this is the case, then there may be some truth in the rumour that Sir Alex Fergusson was sighted on Friday quietly exiting the rear door of Christian’s office this weekend, after a coaching session on how to control his foot soldiers in a crisis.
Still for now the willing minions are manning the machines on double shifts, possibly with free Red Bull provided for extra productivity.
Strangely quiet is the in-house shrine where daily worship to Ade is offered. Newey has stated himself that he has doubts as to whether he can fix the RB10 to a point where he is satisfied.
But for now, according to Christian the team merely needs to “tighten up a few things”, and that is all we need to know.
Ericsson expects better manners in F1 than in GP2
Whilst Caterham finished bottom of the pile in 2013, their rookie driver Marcus Ercisson is not phased by stepping up from GP2 to Formula 1.
Marcus Ericsson has been competing over the past few years for a GP2 team capable of winning races, yet he joins an F1 team who have never scored a point and finished bottom of the pile in 2013.
His mentor, Eje Elgh – himself is racer, suggests that Marcus should take time to “understand his place” in Formula 1 and strike the right balance between trying to make a quick name for himself and carefully building a reputation.
Ericsson himself admits he will have big decisions to make, such as, “Can I drive round the outside of this guy at 250kmh or not?”. When questioned who he felt he should avoid on track, the young Swede total Eurosport Sweden, “Maldonado’s got a reputation for being a bit crazy”, though adding, “there are not as many wild mindsinF1 as in GP2”.
Having Kobayashi as a team mate will give Marcus plenty to think about, as the Japanese driver has a reputation for attempting banzai moves and leaving you with a little “Kamui Kiss”.
Yet its interesting that Crashtor’s reputation is already influencing the thinking of a rookie F1 driver, who has been in close combat with pretty aggressive drivers like, Johnny Cecotto Jr. Still, unless Caterham and get their act together it will be a moot point whether either of their drivers can get alongside anyone else at 250kmh, unless being lapped.