Daily #F1 News and Comment: Thursday 13th March 2014


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The month of March

Mercedes powerunit explained

FIA still supports embattled Ecclestone – Todt (GMM)

F1 stares into the unknown for 2014 revolution (GMM)

Heidfeld not happy F1 keeps putting on weight (GMM)

107 per cent rule no hurdle in Melbourne – Whiting (GMM)

Mclaren’s Melbourne livery a one-off (GMM)

Nervous teams to sit out Saturday practice (GMM)

And so it starts – Thursday at the track

The month of March

Adrian Newey, after Robin Herd the second highly influential designer at March is known for coming up with extreme designs and it isn’t a recent development either. Despite being saddled with an under-powered Judd V8 the 1990 Leyton House March chassis was extremely aerodynamically efficient. But the design was so critical that as little as a bumpy track could upset the aerodynamics completely. As a result the team suffered double DNQ’s on bump-fest tracks like Interlagos and Mexico City, but on the smooth circuit at Paul Ricard the aerodynamics worked splendidly. Ivan Capelli and Mauricio Gugelmin ran first and second for extended portions of the race as Layton House were the only team to try finishing without a pitstop. Gugelmins engine packed up on lap 58 and Capelli’s did the same 3 laps from home while in the lead, but the Italian managed to nurse it home in second place behind Alain Prost – the last podium for a March designed car in Formula One.



Mercedes powerunit explained

According to Mercedes the new Mercedes AMG Petronas W05 is powered by a technical revolution: the PU106A Hybrid Power Unit. It combines a turbocharged direct injection V6 engine with an advanced Hybrid Energy Recovery System.

That is all the marketing done then, now for the racing. One day until FP1 – less than that even!


FIA still supports embattled Ecclestone – Todt (GMM)

Even amid the corruption scandal, FIA president Jean Todt continues to support embattled F1 chief executive Bernie Ecclestone.

Earlier, a co-owner of the sport, the Norwegian central bank Norges’ Yngve Slyngstad called on the 83-year-old Briton to be “suspended” while he faces criminal charges in Germany. But Todt told the Telegraph: “At the moment, he (Ecclestone) is not guilty. Has he done a good job? He has done an outstanding job. That’s the only thing I concentrate on,” the Frenchman added.

Todt also told Germany’s Welt newspaper this week: “Without him, Formula One would not have become the global business that it is today. Some day in the future Formula One will have to do without him, but that’s the case for all of us. Currently, the relationship between the FIA and Bernie Ecclestone is not affected,” he insisted.

And Todt said there is currently no sign that F1’s owners, CVC, have a different view. “When CVC … want to move him on, they will let me know as President of the FIA,” he told the Daily Mail. “There has been no talk of that with them.”

Where Todt and Ecclestone do differ is on the sport’s all-new and revolutionary look for 2014, with the Briton recently slamming the “farce” of unreliable cars and disliking the milder V6 engine tones. Todt, however, is unapologetic. “If we had not gone this way,” he told Germany’s Auto Motor und Sport, “some manufacturers might have gone away. I’m not sure if Mercedes would have stayed or whether Honda would have come back,” added Todt.

Meanwhile, as one of the injured Michael Schumacher’s closest friends who visits the great German in hospital almost daily, Todt insisted he still has high hopes of a recovery. “I can tell you that we still have big hopes for Michael,” he said.


F1 stares into the unknown for 2014 revolution (GMM)

Formula One is staring into the unknown as the sport’s revolutionary new era begins in earnest this weekend in Melbourne.

“We can be neither too pessimistic nor too optimistic,” said Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso, “because it is likely that Australia will be a race in the dark for everyone in terms of performance.” The Spaniard was quoted by Italy’s La Repubblica as saying “good points and even the podium” are realistic possibilities for Ferrari at Albert Park, but he is not sure even the apparent dominance of Mercedes can be trusted.

“Mercedes looks strong,” he conceded, “but it was only testing. Now we will see the reality. It is the same for Red Bull. Many people talk about their problems, but maybe we will get to the first race and find them in front. Everything is yet to be discovered,” added Alonso.

F1’s all-new look has divided opinions. Former driver Patrick Tambay told France’s RMC that he thinks 2014 could be a “world championship for engines, a world championship for engineers, with the drivers in the background”.

But the taciturn Kimi Raikkonen insisted: “In the end, I think the races will be quite similar to before. Over the years, from time to time we’ve always had to be saving something rather than just driving flat out from start to finish,” he told Finland’s Turun Sanomat. “So it’s nothing new really,” he added, referring to the new fuel restrictions. “I don’t care to guess where we are or what will happen,” added Raikkonen. “Let’s see what happens on Friday and go from there.”

Expecting more drama than that, however, is the veteran British commentator Martin Brundle, who thinks 2014 could be “the wildest season I have ever seen. Some teams look like they will struggle to get their car to the start of the race, let alone the finish,” he told the Daily Mail.

Indeed, Germany’s Auto Motor und Sport has even been moved to ask FIA race director Charlie Whiting what will happen if not a single car reaches the chequered flag on Sunday.”The winner will be the driver who failed last,” the Briton explained, adding that a two-lap countback may then apply. “So it could be that the winner is actually not the last survivor,” said Whiting.

The bizarre situation of a feasibly zero per cent reliability rate could make it wise for teams to repair technical failures and put their cars back into the race, several laps down. “It might be worth changing an electronic box or a rear wing,” confirmed Sauber team manager Beat Zehnder.


Heidfeld not happy F1 keeps on putting on weight (GMM)

Nick Heidfeld thinks Formula One should go on a diet. Actually, it is the drivers who have been skipping dessert throughout the winter period, as the much heavier turbo V6 and energy recovery systems debut.

Germany’s Bild newspaper said the already-slight Nico Rosberg dropped 3 kilograms since the last race of 2013. His Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton, who had a visibly muscular upper body in the last couple of seasons, has lost even more. “Unfortunately,” said the Briton who has lost 4 kilos, “getting rid of muscle is harder than getting it. It was the hardest winter of my life.”

Daniel Ricciardo has also lost 4kg, with Red Bull team boss Christian Horner joking: “If it was up to Adrian Newey, our drivers would have lost about 15kg each!”

It is believed most cars are now close to if not slightly over the mandatory minimum car-plus-driver weight of 691kg. Perhaps the lightest driver in the field is Felipe Massa, who tips the scales at just 58kg.”I’ve never been as happy as I am now to be small,” the little Brazilian grinned, with Bild reporting that the competitive Williams is below the 691kg limit, crucially allowing engineers to place ballast in the ideal places.

According to former F1 driver Heidfeld, however, even the lightest cars in 2014 are now way too heavy, but the weight limit is being further increased for 2015, to 701kg.

“I don’t like how the cars keep getting heavier,” German Heidfeld, now a Le Mans driver who last raced in F1 in 2011, told T-Online. “In my day we were at 600kg, soon it will be 700. The higher weight means the cars get slower and slower — 100kg is something like three to four seconds per lap. It is also against the spirit of the times, as the trend is exactly the opposite in street cars,” Heidfeld added.

As for the likely pecking order in Melbourne this weekend, 36-year-old Heidfeld agrees that Mercedes looks better prepared than its rivals for 2014. “How Ferrari will go is very speculative,” he said, “but I want to emphasise that the track in Melbourne is not a good gauge anyway. I think we will only see a trend after the first three or four races,” he added.


107 per cent rule no hurdle in Melbourne – Whiting (GMM)

When asked how many cars he thinks will finish Sunday’s 2014 season opener, Daniel Ricciardo grinned his usual grin and answered: “No one. We’re all going to be running across the line!”

The Australian was only half-joking.

Indeed, after the calamitous testing rounds at Jerez and in Bahrain, Germany’s Auto Motor und Sport has already asked FIA race director Charlie Whiting what will happen if not a single car reaches the chequered flag in Melbourne.

“The winner will be the driver who failed last,” the Briton explained, adding that a two-lap countback may then apply. “So it could be that the winner is actually not the last survivor,” said Whiting.

Another bizarre possibility recently mused is that F1 might struggle even to get half a grid together at Albert Park for the race. If the 107 per cent rule had applied at the last test in Bahrain, many cars – notably Red Bull’s world champion Sebastian Vettel – would not have qualified for the race. But the Associated Press on Thursday pointed out that stewards are able to overlook that rule in some cases, and Whiting confirmed that cases this weekend in particular are likely to be looked at “very sympathetically”.

What is clear is that Vettel is set to struggle at Albert Park, even though boxes upon boxes of new parts for the RB10 have been shipped from Milton Keynes and will be fitted ahead of practice on Friday. “We are not in the best position for this race,” the quadruple world champion told reporters on Thursday, “but it’s a different story when you talk about the championship.”

Even the overwhelming favourite, Mercedes, is expecting the unexpected. “All the media are talking us up. Favourite driver, favourite team,” said Lewis Hamilton. “I just don’t know what’s going to happen this weekend.”


Mclaren’s Melbourne livery a one-off (GMM)

McLaren will run prominent ‘Mobil’ branding on its 2014 car in a one-off livery this weekend in Australia. Earlier, we reported that after the MP4-29 was tested in all silver throughout the winter, new bodywork with the addition of the colour black was spotted in the Melbourne pitlane.


The British team has now confirmed that the Melbourne livery is a one-off to mark the 20-year-old partnership with oil sponsor Mobil. The situation follows the departure of title sponsor Vodafone, and returning chief executive Ron Dennis’ refusal to accept the offers of potential replacements who expected a lower price due to McLaren’s poor 2013.

“Our cars will not feature a title sponsor at the first event,” Dennis said last week, “but it will definitely feature a title sponsor in the next few events.”

Commenting on Dennis’ return to F1, former arch enemy and now FIA president Jean Todt said: “He was strong opposition to us (Ferrari) and we were strong opposition to him. I like his sense of detail and his approach to perfection,” Todt told the Daily Mail. “Sometimes he is a bit arrogant. We all have our own style but I respect his achievements.”


Nervous teams to sit out Saturday practice (GMM)

Television and trackside viewers face a questionable spectacle on Saturday morning at Albert Park.

As ever, an hour of practice is scheduled to finish just two hours before the all-important qualifying hour. Some teams, however, may not bother to send their cars out at all on Saturday morning. That’s because the newly V6-powered cars have not only proved worryingly unreliable in winter testing, but because repairing them now takes much longer than in the past.

“Sometimes hours pass before a diagnosis is even made,” said Auto Motor und Sport correspondent Michael Schmidt. A full engine change can now take a whopping six hours, but Force India technical boss Andy Green added: “If we have to piece it together with individual parts, it can be 18 hours.”

FIA race director Charlie Whiting confirmed to reporters in Melbourne: “I’ve heard teams say that they’d skip P3 to make sure they have a car for qualifying.”


And so it starts – Thursday at the track
It seems there are a lot of TJ13 readers in Melbourne this weekend. Not only will Jennie report her experiences from the track but we also have Steph and Carl that have sent us some photos of the preparations and V8s. It is easy to forget there is a whole weekend of racing!


34 responses to “Daily #F1 News and Comment: Thursday 13th March 2014

    • Perhaps there’s a hint of RBR changing their power unit in that idea – “He’s pining for the fjords”.
      Maybe Cosworth have their first customer?

  1. On a side note, I just found out that the wonderful Android app f1lt, which provided free live timing has been cancelled due to some C&D from Bernie’s henchmen.

    Do you folks know of other apps that could provide a similar experience to f1lt?

    • Hmmm…. They really *don’t* get it, do they? First no timing info from Jerez and Bahrain, now they cancel this incredibly useful app. It’s like they would rather we didn’t watch…

      And no, I know of nothing to replace it…… 🙁

    • What a bummer! I used that app last season and it really helps you understand who is on a charge and who is on what tyres, how many laps on that set and how many stops. It adds a new dimension and depth to the understanding of how the race is panning out. I think it’s ridiculous. FOM have no clue, especially now the racing is even more complex.

  2. Just when they thought they sorted qualifying and getting people to run at Q3, there are now issues with even running in P3! I think we know already which teams won’t be running in P3, *cough* *cough* Red Bull *cough*

    • I would hazard a guess that all teams won’t be running any more than absolutely necessary – hefty engine penalties after 5th change, remember?

  3. “The winner will be the driver who failed last”
    Jeez, is that a can of worms being opened there? Is there a definition of “failed” somewhere in the technical regulations? Failed power unit? Or just not moving in the right direction any more?
    I vividly recall the sight of a short French dude in red overalls trying (but failing) to push his dead car over the line in Germany, 1986. Putting the politics of the period aside, I wonder what would have happened if he’d managed to beat someone else across the line. Would he have claimed the extra points?
    Is pushing your own car ever a valid means of locomotion?

    • it can’t be as when you run your car dry and have to push it, you won’t have the necessary amount of fuel left for a sample and will be DSQ’ed anyway?

      • You sure Hippo? I knew they had to provide a sample after qualifying but there’s been occasions when cars have run out after the finish line and not been penalised.

      • FH – For a S/W guy, that’s an interesting failure in logic, as the scenario that Roger presented was a car failing… you’ve assumed failing = running out of fuel. Contextually, that is not what Roger was implying.

        Roger – Great question. The answer lies in the sporting regs.

    • You can’t push your car over the line. Maybe in the old days, but now it would mean an immediate black flag. And you can’t run dry. Or rather, you can’t run dry and be classified. Every car needs to provide at least a 1L sample, and any that stop out on track also have to provide 1L plus the extra fuel that would’ve been consumed had they driven the car back to pit lane in the normal fashion.

      As for finishing the race early, I don’t see any reg’s that deal with such a scenario in a satisfactory manner. It seems that the race suspension, then two lap countback would be the order of the day. The 2-hr time limit reg requires the race leader to cross the start/finish line one more time to bring the race to a close.

  4. Nice livery on the McLaren. I’m desperate for the Woking boys to be up there this season.

    • You think? I get the feeling I’ll be watching the Mclaren racing against the pre-war titans with that monochrome livery!

      As an aside, Ron Dennis came back because he was unhappy with how Whitmarsh was running the team. Has he given credit to MW for getting Honda to return or is he standing in that spotlight?

  5. There was a strange article here a few days ago that highlighted the underlying morbidity of Ferrari’s #ForzaMichael daily remembrances of Schumacher. I thought it was a strange opinion given that the odds are now poor, and getting poorer that Michael will regain the intelligence that had been such a strong factor in his successes. The author thought the morbidity strange, while I believe it’s healthy and appropriate.

    Anyway, I just now stumbled upon the below video on yt which was released by MB on Nov. 29th, 2013. I believe it shows well why it’s appropriate to be mournful.

    Interesting comments here about Ross Brawn setting the team up for championship success, Michael’s passion for karting and mentoring young kart racers, his assessment of Vettel’s abilities, etc.

  6. Interesting perspective from Mr. Heidfeld, and I agree with him. 600kg should be the goal. I hope the strategic group (whatever they call themselves) looks to bring the minimum weight back down in a few seasons.

    Being too heavy is appropriate now given the expense of this large tech push on the power unit side, of course. But as time passes, I’d hope that weight savings be allowed on power units (and perhaps variable valve timing someday), as well as other areas of the cars.

  7. WTF Todt?
    Dennis arrogant?
    And that is for you – the hopefully neutral – president of the FIA to say?

    Even if it is true, you’re not Mosley or what? I thought Todt was about silence…

  8. Many believe Mercedes are favorites. And there was an interesting discussion in comments recently as to Lewis Hamilton’s strengths and weaknesses to fight for another WDC.

    Peter Windsor has posted today on his youtube channel an excellent interview with Lewis Hamilton. Windsor’s approach is as a racer, so he tends to focus more upon the craft of racing in such interviews.

    What is interesting is that PW asks LH if he is more comfortable with the braking this year. LH seemingly gives two contradictory answers on that issue.

    First he notes that the car performs differently from corner to corner, under braking, where one corner it may surprise and push on, while the next corner the back-end unsettles and he has to chase it. He said it’s worse than F1 car he’s previously driven in that regard.

    When PW asks him specifically about the car’s braking systems and the car’s performance inconsistency that LH just described, LH denies it’s a braking problem because he believes the Mercedes brake by wire system is working very well.

    Neither PW nor LH say this, but an implication of that is that there are aero instabilities in that car under braking.

    Inconsistent performance of a car during braking and turn-in can cost significant lap-time.

    It’s a good interview that covers other subjects as well…

    • implication of that is that there are aero instabilities in that car under braking

      Not necessarily.
      Of course it’s worse than last year’s car; it has significantly less downforce.

    • in race stints, pace wise, it appears that Mercedes AMG is behind Williams, this is what Auto Motor uns Sport leads to believe in their analysis
      also, supposes that McLaren has high tyre wear, while Ferrari is hiding something
      hopefully, today we will know what’s the order

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