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Have Lotus pulled a blinder?
When Lotus announced that they would not be in Jerez for the first test in January many raised there eyebrows. Questions were raised as to whether it was a car issue, a financial issue or if something more sinister was lurking beneath the water.
With the help of hindsight, we can see that staying at home for the test was not such a bad thing after all. They will have achieved much more back at base in Enstone than they would have on the back of a tow truck in Jerez. Furthermore, staying in England for the shakedown test cannot have worsened their financial situation, even if reports yesterday say they are not struggling.
Realistically, they are now the most advanced of the Renault teams having been the only ones to run the revised engine for their ‘filming day’. They have also had a chance to test out their rather unique front wing without the prying eyes of the media and other teams swarming around like vultures over their prey.
If Grosjean can continue with his end of 2013 form and the team can control the red mist coming over Pastor Maldonado they could once again spring a surprise on the field. So it is true – “All’s well that ends well” – or in the case of Lotus – “It probably wasn’t well but it still ended well after they were lucky”. Either way, those at Enstone right now must be smiling.
McLaren, try and try again?
The news spread yesterday that Luca Furbatto had left Toro Rosso for unknown reasons. The timing of the announcement seems a strange one, given he has put in the time to design the 2014 challenger, the STR9 alongside the highly rated James Key.
Leaving the Faenza setup would mean only 1 other team to go to if he were to be staying in Italy. However, the most realistic move in this situation could be a move back to his old stomping ground at McLaren. Having worked there for 11 years from 2000-2011 he will still be a very familiar face around Woking.
If we are to believe the news that Peter Prodromou has made a u-turn on his plan to join McLaren then Luca Furbatto would be a logical second choice. Furthermore, it would give Ron Dennis and the rest of the team some pleasure to pinch a different one of the Red Bull family after they have blocked their previous attempt.
Either this, or Prodromou’s move to McLaren is still on but will be delayed as Furbatto is promoted to the senior team from within. Ben Butler, Red Bull chief designer is a prime example of this having been shuffled between the main and the sister teams.
Meanwhile in Faenza there is no hanging around as their website today is advertising available jobs as Aero Design Engineers as well as Senior Systems Design Engineers. F1 is moving as quickly as ever.
New rules will stop ‘ugly’ noses for 2015 – Whiting (GMM)
F1’s governing body will move to stop ‘ugly’ noses ahead of the 2015 season.
Drivers, fans and even the designers have expressed dismay at the aesthetics of this year’s new cars, after a change to the nose-height regulations on safety grounds for 2014.
But the FIA also expressed doubts about the safety of the new solutions, believing that while the designs conform to the letter of the rules, the ‘spirit’ has been less well observed.
“As rule makers, we cannot get into how the nose looks aesthetically,” FIA technical chief Charlie Whiting told Germany’s Auto Motor und Sport.
“What concerns us is whether they fulfil the purpose that we intended with these rules,” said the Briton.
Whiting has already cleared all of the 2014 nose solutions to race, including the unique tuning fork-style Lotus, the double nosed Caterham, and the ‘anteater’ noses.
“Unless it’s dangerous, we have to live with how they look,” he said.
“We acted in good faith, but we are not designers. They want as much air as possible under the car.”
What has really upset the FIA is the way the teams have skirted the ‘spirit’ of the rules regarding the crash structure and the very nose tip.
So, for 2015, changes are looming. Whiting said the next set of rules will require nose “symmetry”, which will stop Lotus-style solutions.
New rules will also apply for the rate of deformation in the crash tests at the nose tip, and the minimum surface area may also be increased, preventing the pencil-thin 2014 noses.
And the 2015 changes will also prevent the sort of “radical transitions” from the wide part of the nose to the thinner tip, Whiting added.
Red Bull making ‘progress’ amid crisis – Ricciardo (GMM)
Daniel Ricciardo says Red Bull is confident the world champion team will overcome its technical crisis.
The new RB10 barely ran at the opening Jerez test recently amid packaging and Renault power unit issues.
Ahead of the second of three pre-season tests, set to begin in Bahrain next week, team driver Ricciardo said: “We’re confident we’ll run a bit smoother.
“But it’s so complex this year, until we get laps under our belt we can’t really be sure of anything,” he is quoted by the Australian news agency AAP.
“I saw the car yesterday and they’ve made quite a bit of progress, so hopefully we’ll get a few more laps and kickstart our season,” Ricciardo added.
Williams driver Felipe Massa, who moved from Ferrari over the winter, said recently he would be “worried” if he was in Sebastian Vettel or Ricciardo’s shoes.
He told reporters in Sao Paulo this week: “It is not a disaster, but it is a concern not to be able to test.
“But I think it is a problem with all the Renault cars,” Massa added. “With such a small rear, in the case of the Red Bull, there may be overheating, but it’s difficult to know.”
Meanwhile, Ricciardo was asked by AAP about his new teammate, the reigning quadruple world champion Vettel, following the German’s comments that he will not be helping the young Australian get up to speed in 2014.
“I’ll pick things up naturally from him and learn the ins and outs of how he works,” said the 24-year-old.
“Obviously he’s not going to tell me how to drive around a corner — we’re all capable of that now.”
Ricciardo was also asked about predecessor and countryman Mark Webber’s latest comments, when the veteran Australian predicted he would match Vettel in qualifying this year.
“I won’t say I’ll come out and beat him — because until I do that, I don’t want to say anything. But of course I’d love to,” Ricciardo smiled.
“Obviously we know the calibre of driver he is, so the first thing is I’ve got to learn from him, respect what he does and then try to match him.”
Webber to draw new WEC fans
Porsche have made an interesting choice in their driver line ups for the two (19 hybrids they are entering to the World Endurance Championship. They have split the experienced pair Timo Bernhard and Romain Dumas – who are Le Mans winners and have been team mates for some time – in what appears to be a genuine attempt to avoid a number one and number two car scenario. This will be quite a novelty for Aussie Mark Webber.
Recently Porsche revealed details of their engine, to some surprise. Their LMP1 programme will be powered by V4 gasoline fuelled engine with a single turbocharger sitting between the banks – which Porsche explained was designed specifically to package itself with a hybrid system.
Amongst the engineering fraternity there was muttering as the V4 format is favoured least due to its inherently unbalanced design. A V4 was never been raced in any series with success.
Having said that, the V is rumoured to be close to 180 degrees, and may have some similarities with designs of the 1950’s where Porsche Le Mans flat 4 engines were described as having a ‘180 degree vee’.
Yet Porsche think their design will run smoother than others and the extremely compact dimensions provide the 919 LMP1’s with a space for the battery and hybrid drive system which will not affect the weight distribution or centre of gravity of the car.
Certain analysists suggests the V4 engine will be stiffer due to its short block and that torque will arrive aplenty from the turbocharged 16-valve 2.0 litre direct-injection 4-cylinder engine. The lower cylinder count will reduces weight and improve fuel efficiency
Unlike the Audi, Porsche’s turbo system will not be electric. The turbo V4 engine will drive the rear wheels only, while an electric system drives the front two which is the same arrangement their German competitors utlise. The German manufacturer plans to test their LMP1 again in Bahrain shortly, before the final official tests in March.
The organisers of the WEC are hoping that the sport will see an injection of new fans as global star Mark Webber returns to the series after building a stellar career for over a decade in Formula 1.
(TJ13 has renamed February in honour of Mark Webber. It will now be known as Webberary – lest we forget! Interestingly Auto Hebdo are running a feature this week in their subscription digital issue on Mark and his roots in Queanbeyan.
If TJ13 readers have any Mark Webber stories they would like us to publish this month, please send them – word format preferably – to firstname.lastname@example.org).
Which race to attend?
I regularly get asked “which is the best F1 race to attend” and find that I often give a different answer. The problem is that there has rarely been a race venue on the F1 calendar with no redeeming qualities.
I was recently chatting to a TV contractor for FOM and amongst other things, we began discussing favourite race venues. Most of you may be surprised, despite the location and the lack of decent hotels, he cited Korea and Mokpo as one of his top 5 memories.
Of course attending a Formula 1 race under Bernie’s current business plan is for some just too expensive and whilst they love F1, they just can’t afford to go. Yet, if you’re determined to get to a race and want to get the most out of what may not be an annual treat, I suggest buy a Genaral Admission ticket and go for the three days.
To mitigate the cost you could pick a venue where camping is possible, or a city where the transport is good enough for you to stay some distance from the circuit in accommodation that has a more normative price, and travel in.
If you have a GA ticket for Monza, you can stay in Milan – about 45 mins to an hour from the Autodromo – and travel from the central station to the circuit is free with your GA ticket.
Barcelona is another place where this is possible. Trip advisor lists 521 Hotels, 269 B&B’s and another 613 other ‘speciality lodgings’. This does not include some of the towns up the coast which are easily accessible by the coastal train which runs frequently and is inexpensive.
The Circuit de Barcelona Catalunya (as it has been renamed this year) is also a good circuit for watching from GA, much of the track is in a kind of bowl below the natural lie of the land, so vantage points are good – and being a hundred rows back from the fence doesn’t matter on the banked grassy areas.
The city itself is one of my favourite in the world. I discovered Barcelona a mere 8 years ago, and have been again and again whenever possible. Each time I find something fabulous and new to see & do, places to eat far from the hordes of tourists snapping pictures of the street artists on Ramblas.
Then there are always people to sit and chat to whilst having a convivial beverage – more often than not in the sun.
One of the main attractions in the city is the Gaudi architecture, particularly his magnum opus, the Sagrada Família – whose eternal construction and evolution from Gaudi’s original ideas fascinates me to and I try to observe the progress each time I’m in town.
@historyinpics posted this today, and for those of you who have been to the church, the clutter that has been erected around it is stripped away in this photograph from 1915.
Gauda died 11 years later, allegedly run over by a tram whilst working full time on what many consider the signature note of his legacy, which today is still unfinished.
I haven’t spoken to the TJ13 management about this, but maybe it would be good to run some readers stories and experiences from when they attended a Formula 1 weekend or race.
Include helpful tips for current F1 venues from mistakes you made or how you ‘lucked in’ and benefitted.
With Australia almost upon us, send in your tales from a visit to the race down under – no matter how recent or ancient.
Symonds hedging his bets
Williams fans who hope their team will be challenging for podiums in 2014, may need to take a reality check. Pat Symonds, appointed last August, may be the Williams team technical director, however whilst his title is similar to Adrian Newey’s, he is a very different animal inside the organisation of an F1 team.
“When I started at the end of August, a lot of the car was defined; the basic monocoque and suspension. But my way of working isn’t to pick up a pen and do a front wing endplate and say this would be perfect. Particularly with what I found at Williams is that we need to have the right people doing the right things. So that involved employing some new people and that takes quite a lot of time in F1, with gardening leave and long notice periods etc.
So now nearly all of them are on board but they have not been here for long, just a matter of weeks. Implementation of the process is now starting which I hope will pay off.”(Motorsport Monday).
Symonds is making the point that much of the work for this season’s car was done before he arrived in Grove. Further, that the people involved in that car design and preparation required support and additional resource in the terms of new personnel who were not yet present in the team and therefore not part of that process.
On his appointment to the Williams team, Pat made it clear to Autosport how he would proceed. “A lot of what I would like to do at Williams is to look at the process rather than the detail and that process can have an effect reasonably quickly.”
Yet it was evident quickly that Symonds knows his stuff, as the team abandoned their 2013 coander exhaust system and immediately found performance in the latter half of the year.
For now there is a ‘work with what we’ve got’ theme coming from Williams new man, he explains “this year, the gearbox had to be well under way because the targets was to get that on the test rigs late November, That was probably the longest lead time, the gearbox internals and the casing”.
By contrast, the world champions arrived in Jerez with just 1 gearbox, which was the fully machined iteration of that components design. We all laughed at Newey’s comments in November which suggested he was concerned about whether they’d devoted enough resource to the RB10 – “Yeah right Ade… pull the other one… wink wink”. Two weeks ago we expected the bull from Milton Keynes to be snorting with rage and pawing the tarmac, yet all we got was a rendition of “I’m a little tea pot”, pumping out steam….
I reported from Jerez testing that as Pat suggests, the production of a gearbox is a mammoth task. It requires 2 operatives for 10-12 days, both doing 12 hour shifts to produce this vital component. So compare Williams readiness to that of the world champions. “The gear box has now done well over its 5 race cycle. We’re really happy with that.”
It’s not clear whether Pat Symonds is managing expectations for the owners of Grove and their supporters or not. Yet with Renault in trouble and Williams now powered by Mercedes, there is reason to believe the once dominate British racing marque will have a better year than in 2013.
Williams F1 today announces a multi-year sponsorship deal with the insurance company Genworth. This is a Fortune 500 corporation with a history of nigh on 150 years. The Genworth logo will appear on the rear wing endplates of the Williams cars, plus on the driver overalls and team kit.
To low nose – or not to low nose… THAT is the question
There were some stories around the time I was in Jerez, that the teams would be protesting the Lotus nose design. At the launch of the Toro Rosso James Key said, “The Lotus nose needs clarification, but it’s a very clever idea, the question really is, is it within the spirit?”
My understanding was that the Enstone team had checked this with Charlie Whiting at the FIA during the 2013 summer break and been given the all clear that it met with the regulations. Auto Hebdo this week confirm this to be true and add comment from Charlie who notes, “It’s a very clever interpretation of the rules.”
Further, there would have been little surprise amongst the teams as Lotus has been a leaky bucket, haemorrhaging staff for the latter half of 2013. James Allison was there up until around the month of May and as Pat Symonds told Motorsport Monday, “We were aware of the Lotus [design] as they’ve lost a lot of people. All the teams knew what Lotus was doing… we may have even run the design in CFD”.
So for F1 supporters who think noses with appendages are ugly, good news – there’s unlikely to be a rush to copy the Lotus interpretation of front end regulations for 2014. The FIA of course have said they will look at the regulations ‘soon’ for 2015, though this reaction was on the back of Adiran Newey raising safety concerns rather than aesthetics.
Paddy Lowe disagrees with Newey. On the issue of noses he stated this weekend, “It’s something that has been discussed and studied a lot by the TWG [Technical Working Group] over the years, but mainly by the guidance of the FIA Institute who do a lot of research in this area,” explained Lowe, who is executive director of Mercedes.
So they are the ones that have come up with the recommendation that the low nose is the best solution, the best compromise for the range of different types of accident that a car can experience.
There is no one perfect solution to every single type of impact, but we need to consider impacts of all kinds of directions around other cars, particularly with an impact into a rear tyre as we saw with Mark Webber in Valencia where the launch is the real risk.
That is particularly one where the low nose is very helpful. So the analysis and research has been that this is the best compromise and I respect that, with something that has been worked through thoroughly by the TWG.”
Lowe’s nonchalant views on 2014 nose safety are in stark contrast to Newey’s. Does this mean Ade’s comments which caused nigh on hysteria were another indication he’s concerned the RB10 has gone the wrong way?
Anyway, I digress… back to Enstone. Lotus clever PR around the reveal of their car may have excited their fans but we now know at best was greeted by a yawn from the likes of Pat Symonds and others. For Lotus and their fans, the hope of a magic bullet, a key piece of design which will see them punch above their financial weight in 2014, appears to be a forlorn one.
Completing 20 odd laps in Jerez of course has been beneficial for the E22, but being part of the Renault stable for 2014 may be like the standing in the box where the gate is bolted – and the once all conquering horse has flown.
Trouble in Leafield
Having had the benefit of an all conquering Renault engine during 2013, Caterham failed miserably to beat rivals Marussia who were the single Cosworth engine customer. Further, Marussia were struggling financially prior to the start of the 2013 campaign and had held talks with the ‘green team’ over a possible merger.
When asked about this in March 2013, diminutive Caterham CEO, Riad Asmat, rubbished the idea along with any talk of his team leaving F1. “Rumours of a withdrawal are nonsense,” he declared. “Caterham is staying this year, next year and for many more years.” (SKY).
9 months later, Tony Fernandes began singing a different tune. “My message to the 250 people here [at the factory] is we have to go for it this year. This is it – the final chance. We’ve given you the best infrastructure, the best potential drivers but it is now down to all of you to go and do it.
If we’re at the back I don’t think I’m going to carry on. Nothing is set in stone but after five years with no points there is a limit to one’s patience, money, motivation, etc, so it’s an important year.
I need to feel like we’re going somewhere. If I feel we can compete, then great but if we’re not competing then we have to seriously examine ourselves and ask ‘does this make sense?’ If we’re not competing, two seconds behind everybody else, then we haven’t made any progress”.
These kind of “last ditch”, “over the top lads”, “charge of the light brigade” rhetoric of doom and die are usually accompanied by an “off with his head” announcement.
Today, Caterham CEO Riad Asmat leaves the team, “with immediate effect”. Apparently after 5 years as an automotive boss he wants to pursue a ‘different path’.
Asmat states, “My decision was one of the hardest of my career, but now the time has come for a new direction.”
Team owner Tony Fernandes comments, “Riad was one of the driving forces behind the establishment of Caterham and the growth we have achieved since we began in 2009 We are very proud to have worked with him, and proud to be able to call him a true friend. We wish him every success in the future.”
Fernandes is most unhappy about the team’s performance, and his threats have been taken to heart within the team.
The problem though may be Fernandes himself. There’s a pattern to be observed.
He was conned when he bought QPR into blowing fortunes (up to £100m some suggest) on players who were useless.
Similarly, his expectations when joining F1 could be generously described as unrealistic. How come he didn’t at least do a Google search and find out when the last start up F1 team was running with wolves in a nano-second.
Fernandes was told by Mike Gascoigne, then the team principal back in 2012, Caterham would surprise some of the midfield teams that year – they were nowhere near. That same year during winter testing (day 3 or 4) he demanded Jarno Truli be removed from the car because he wasn’t setting lap times quick enough to impress the sponsors.
He sent for Heikki, who was golfing at the course owned by Barcelo hotel nearby and stuck him in the car for the afternoon. At the second winter test in 2012, Jarno was no more and Petrov was in.
The petulant and threatening ‘last chance saloon’, ‘don’t you know this is my money I’m wasting’ – kind of speech recently delivered by Fernandes, rarely achieves its purpose. It simply causes the less optimistic to leave the sinking ship earlier and then the ship sinks even more quickly.
The final plans for the Caterham Alpine joint venture with Renault were signed off a couple of months back, though a whisper came my way recently suggesting by the time it comes to market in 2016, it may be just Renault who are left to deliver the project.
1,000 upwards and onwards
I just noticed on the website statistics page, that today’s daily news is the 1,000 post made on www.thejudge13.com
Interestingly as it is a Webbsday during Webberary, Mark Webber completed a 1000km Tasmanian adventure with friends in 2003 and it was this which inspired him to set up the now globally Swisse Mark Webber Tasmania Challenge. For those who may be unaware of this, the event is a 341km race spanning across five days and has competitors run, bike and kayak the distance.
Always with time to speak to the ordinary guy, Mark had this advice to Kerry before she set off. “My top tip is to go hard but don’t smash yourself on the first or two days. It’s a marathon, not a sprint so you need to keep something in reserve for the end of the week. Take the time to look around you. Not only to make sure you don’t miss the scenery, but to make sure you don’t get lost. It’s pretty lonely out there if you go the wrong way.”
And if you don’t “look around you”, you can get run over and break your leg – as Mark knows too well.
The latest from ‘Team Lewis’
This presumably is the result of offering the drivers the opportunity to market themselves via their own unique and permanent F1 number.
Historic F1 races set for Canada
The promoters of the Canadian GP have announced that they will be holding 2 historic F1 races during this years event. One will be on Saturday afternoon and the other Sunday morning.
Some 30 cars from the 70’s and 80’s will participate. Among them will be the Lotus 77 of Mario Andretti (1976), the Wolf WR6 of Jody Scheckter (1978(, the Shadow DN9 of Jan Lammers (1979), John Watson’s McLaren MP4/1B (1982), Williams FW08C of Keke Rosberg (1983) and the 1980 Gilles Villeneuve Ferrari 312 T5.