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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!