Daily #F1 News and Comment: Wednesday 2nd April 2014

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#F1 Circuit Profile: 2014 – Bahrain, Sakhir, Bahrain International Circuit – Round 3

#F1 Forensics: Mercedes & Red Bull – Two Horse Race for the Championship?


Red Bull issues ultimatum to struggling Renault (GMM)

New rule has slowed F1′ impressive pitstops – report (GMM)

Security plans in place for Bahrain GP (GMM)

Frentzen has fix for ‘processional’ F1 (GMM)

From the Ledger….

Big drop in Malaysian GP crowds

Bahrain – no comment

Is Button the reason why Mclaren lack a title sponsor?

Rain in Bahrain

FIA Press Conferences

Bahrain night race into the unknown for Pirelli

Schumacher scam


Red Bull issues ultimatum to struggling Renault – improve or be dumped(GMM)

Although the reigning world champions have emerged from the depths of a winter crisis, Dr Helmut Marko insisted Renault has a long way to go if it wants to stay under the engine cover of the team’s Adrian Newey-penned cars. Indeed, Marko has claimed the credit for much of Renault’s improvement since the winter, revealing he installed a crisis team comprising Red Bull and Toro Rosso engineers at the French marque’s Viry headquarters.

Now, he told Germany’s Bild newspaper his patience is running out. “If there is no noticeable improvement in two or three months, we will definitely be talking about an alternative,” said Marko, who is famously close to Red Bull’s team owner Dietrich Mateschitz. Until then, he said Red Bull is working on compensating for an 80 horse power deficit through car changes — and hoping for trouble at the front of the grands prix.

“We cannot put additional horse power in the engine ourselves,” said Marko. “But we can hope for trouble between Rosberg and Hamilton and drive past them.” He is referring to the internal battle between Mercedes’ 2014 driver duo Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton, who so far in 2014 have traded easy race wins.

Mercedes’ Toto Wolff admits he is aware of the potential for problems. “We are spending quite some time discussing those things, discussing scenarios and discussing situations,” he said when asked about the prospect of the driver relationship boiling over. “It’s Mercedes and it’s the team that comes first, but one day it (the situation) will be rubbish,” Austrian Wolff told the Mirror newspaper.

“What makes a difference is that these guys have known each other for such a long time and they have a fair relationship with each other. But it doesn’t mean that they are not extremely competitive and that they will try to use every advantage they can,” he added.

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New rule has slowed F1’s impressive pitstops – report (GMM)

Last year in Malaysia, Mark Webber entered the pitlane, had all four wheels changed and reached the pit exit in the space of 20 seconds. But according to Germany’s Auto Motor und Sport, the best total pitstop time at Sepang last weekend was Fernando Alonso’s 24 seconds.

The main change since 2013 is that pitstop incidents are now penalised more severely. In Malaysia this year, for instance, when Red Bull released Daniel Ricciardo with a wheel not attached securely, the Australian had to serve a ten-second stop and go penalty. He will also start ten places down the Bahrain grid this weekend. “I think it’s unfair to be punished twice,” Dr Helmut Marko is quoted as saying.

But an FIA source hit back: “The new rule was introduced at the request of the teams.”

Ron Meadows, the Mercedes team manager, said the rule has had the effect of slowing down the pitstops because a mistake “hurts you for two races, in a situation like ours, it is better to be on the safe side and do a pitstop that’s one second slower,” he explained.

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Security plans in place for Bahrain GP (GMM)

Bahrain is planning tight security for this weekend’s formula one race. “The plans will be implemented based on our studies and the experience gained during the events of previous years,” said the Sakhir circuit’s head of security, according to La Gazzetta dello Sport newspaper. Security in Bahrain has always been a relevant topic, particularly since the civil uprisings of 2011.

Again ahead of the 2014 Bahrain grand prix, opposition groups are reportedly organising disruptive anti-F1 protests. According to Arabian Business, the opposition is urging Bahrainis to burn race tickets and sabotage F1-themed billboards.

“There are conflicts all around the world, but that does not mean banning or stopping sports activities as it has nothing to do with those issues,” argues parliamentarian Ahmed Al Sa’ati.

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Frentzen has fix for ‘processional’ F1 (GMM)

A bit more fuel and a drill — that is how former F1 driver Heinz-Harald Frentzen would spice up the 2014 spectacle.

“I saw the first part of the race,” recently-retired Red Bull driver Mark Webber told Talksport radio when recalling the Malaysian grand prix. “I didn’t watch it all — it got a little bit processional,” said the Australian.

German Frentzen thinks part of the problem is all the fuel-saving, now that drivers can only use 100 litres from the start of the race to the end. “I would give them ten more litres in the tank,” he told Austrian television Servus TV. “Then they could drive fast for the whole race. And I’d drill a hole in the exhaust,” Frentzen smiled, referring to the quieter sound of the turbo V6 engines.

However, he said he is supportive of the move to more relevant ‘hybrid’ technology. “Rather than spending all the money on a front wing, now they’re investing in sustainable technology,” said Frentzen.

Daniil Kvyat, a teenage rookie on the 2014 grid, said he is proud to be a part of the ‘new’ F1. “I remember seeing cars going 330 (kph) on the Monza straight when I was a kid, but this year we will be going 360 or even more. With each revolution, something is lost and something is gained,” the Russian told La Repubblica newspaper.

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From the Ledger…..

FelipeNo2

 

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Big drop in Malaysian GP crowds

The consciousness of the Malaysian nation has quite rightly been consumed by the events surrounding flight MH370 and the associated tragic loss of life.

With this as a backdrop, the spectator attendance for last Sunday’s GP fell to the lowest in the event’s history. Just 62,340 spectators were present on Sunday, a 25 per cent drop from the previous year.

The race contract expires in 2015, and negotiations are under way over a new contract for Malaysia to hold and F1 event.

The Sepang International Circuit chief executive officer Datuk Ahmad Razlan is uncertain at present as to the outcome of the talks, stating, “That will be up to the government. Whether they want the event to continue or not and also whether we get a deal that will make it worthwhile for the country,”

The circuit was the first of the ‘Tilkedromes’, and Hermann Tilke would subsequently deliver a host of other new F1 venues in Shanghai, Bahrain, Turkey, Valencia, Abu Dhabi, Korea, India and Austin.

The inaugural Malaysian GP was held in 1999 and saw Eddie Irvine finish ahead of team-mate Michael Schumacher by 1 second. Schumacher had returned – after recovering from a leg-breaking accident at Silverstone – to support both Irvine’s and Ferrari’s title challenges. The McLaren on Mika Hakkenen was 10 seconds back and the Stewart Ford’s of Herbert and Barrichello were next, some 17 and 22 seconds further down the road. Only the top 8 finished on the same lap; this was a different era of F1 than the one we have become used to.

However, the longest sporting grandstand in the world and its associated facilities are getting tired after 15 years in use, and in 2013 Bernie Ecclestone commented that the stalled renovations must be completed. “They need to finish what they started.”

In an interview with the Star, he compared Sepang unfavourably to the newer Singapore which is considered to be a rival to Monaco in terms of glitz and behind the scenes business dealings. “It is obviously not the same as Singapore. Maybe because they don’t spend the money,” said Ecclestone.

Regardless, the opinion of the Malaysian Prime Minister, Najib Razak, of the effect F1 has on the nation was positive. “The event has proved to be a good investment,” he said in the 2013 event’s official programme. “Over the course of this grand prix weekend, 100,000 spectators will come to this country.”

Yet since the advent of the Singapore GP – which is a short 350km hop from Kuala Lumpa – there has been a reduction in the number of visitors attending the Malaysian GP.

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The fragility of the current pipeline of wannabe F1 hosts may well have re-defined in Ecclestone’s mind exactly what the race organisers should in fact be required to undertake in terms of renovations.

Alternatively, it maybe the reduced economic benefits are no longer sufficiently attractive for the Malaysian state to fund the race to the levels previously agreed with FOM.

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Bahrain – no comment

Since the cancellation of the Bahrain GP in 2011, the scheduling of the F1 event has been carefully managed by Bernie Ecclestone. No longer are the race organisers requesting they host the first event of the season and the Bahrain race is always back to backed with another (China last year).

This reduces the opportunity for the world’s media to highlight the internal issues which may still be facing the nation, because like F1, the global 24/7 news media exists in a self generated bubble – most often defined by the here and now or the immediate future.

Following previous vehement protests against the Bahraini rulers, which included comments from the Prime Minister, the UK parliament appears to be disinterested in now commentating on the internal affairs of Bahrain.

32 British MP’s – mostly from the Labour Party – attempted to get the issue on the agenda back on March 17th, when they tabled an early day motion (EDM) which stated.

“That this House opposes the staging of the 2014 Bahrain Grand Prix due to ongoing human rights violations in that country; notes that Human Rights Watch’s 2014 World Report highlighted that Bahrain’s human rights record regressed in key areas in 2013 drawing particular attention to arbitrary detention, ill-treatment and torture of activists, prosecution and harassment of government critics and a failure to hold those guilty of human rights abuses to account; expresses deep concern that in previous years Bahrain has implemented a severe crackdown before and during the Grand Prix, restricting freedom of movement of persons in the country, detaining and deporting foreign journalists and conducting mass arbitrary detentions in towns close to the Formula 1 circuit; recalls with concern that previous Grand Prix have coincided with the extrajudicial killing of protester Salah Abbas in 2012 and the arbitrary imprisonment and alleged sexual abuse in custody of protester Rihanna al Mousawi in 2013; further expresses disappointment at the continued failure to hold security forces to account for these abuses, as well as the arrest, detention and torture of 27 employees of the Bahrain International Circuit in 2011; and urges the Government to make strong representations to try and prevent the 2014 Bahrain Grand Prix from going ahead”.

For those not familiar with the British parliamentary system, EDM’s are used for reasons such as publicising the views of individual MPs, drawing attention to specific events or campaigns, and demonstrating the extent of parliamentary support for a particular cause or point of view.

Whilst there is very little prospect of EDMs being debated, a number do attract a great deal of public interest and frequently receive media coverage.

It appears Mr. Putin is occupying the minds of the British parliament this year far more than the ruling Al Khalifia’s activities within Bahrain.

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Button a turn off to sponsors?

History would suggest that one of Ron Dennis’ goals was to surpass the success of Mclaren’s Italian prancing rivals. He has modeled his company on the Maranello concern but despite his best efforts his ambitions keep falling short. There will always be factions within the legions of opposing fans that argue the differences but ultimately the dollar speaks loudest.

In a recent interview, Emilio Botin, the Santander Group’s chief spoke to the Marca sports newspaper and made comments that explained the true value of Ferrari to the business world.“We want to continue in F1 for at least ten more years. I am convinced that, in ten years, Fernando Alonso will be as good as he is today.” He continued stating Santander wants to continue backing Alonso for the same period.

The difficult start to the 2014 campaign hasn’t changed their plans and Santander would remain loyal. Domenicali – who was also present for the interview – insisted that real improvements to the Ferrari would arrive by China, to which Botin replied ‘Good, good’

“The partnership with Ferrari is the best we have had throughout our history,” said Botin. “It is the key for Santander being known around the world. There is only one Ferrari team, period,” he said. “We were interested in being with McLaren still because we have a bank in England, but it was a small sponsorship.”

As the interview concluded Botin explained why he had allowed the Mclaren sponsorship deal to end. “When (Lewis) Hamilton was there it was justified. (Jenson) Button is a great driver, but it’s another matter,”

As far as many people are concerned there isn’t a lot of trust of the banking sector – period – yet this cold hard business view of what is worth sponsoring and what isn’t may raise an eyebrow or two in certain F1 boardrooms.

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Rain in Bahrain

It is a present raining in Bahrain 18:45 local time, though no worries for the weekend which is dry, dry, dry all the way.

The first full dry F1 weekend of the year should give us a better idea of what the teams can really do – particularly Mercedes in qualifying.

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FIA Press Conferences

Thursday, April 03, 1500 hours local time (1400 CET)
Jules Bianchi (Marussia), Jenson Button (McLaren), Marcus Ericsson (Caterham), Romain Grosjean (Lotus), Nico Hulkenberg (Force India), Jean-Eric Vergne (Toro Rosso)

Jenson won this race in 2009 and this will be his 250th GP, though even a podium appears a bridge too far for McLaren this year. I suspect we’re just going to get a lot of ‘woe is us’ (McLaren) from JB.

Friday, April 04, 2000 hours local time (1900 CET)
Robert Fernley (Force India), Paddy Lowe (Mercedes), Adrian Newey (Red Bull Racing), Pat Symonds (Williams), Remi Taffin (Renault F1)

Now this should be better. Hello Mr. Newey – here’s a very long list of questions about fuel flow for you. First up, “Where would Daniel Ricciardo have finished by your calculations had you complied with the FIA and regulated the fuel flow accordingly during the Melbourne race?”

Supplimentaru question: “So why did you sacrifice 10 or 12 points for Daniel and the team? Would it not have been more pragmatic to comply with the FIA’s instructions and later bring the fuel flow problems to the public’s attention another way?”

Any more for anymore?

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Bahrain night race into the unknown for Pirelli

Having been the pariah of the F1 world and seen its race cancelled in 2011, then wilfully used the F1 brand in 2012 to support the political views of the rulers of the desert state, Bahrain has nicely ingratiated itself on the world of F1.

8 days of pre-season testing has taken place this year at the Sakhir Circuit and a further 2 days of in season testing will follow the 3 days of the GP weekend.

This year will see the Bahrain race time move to 6pm local time, so whilst the teams (which could run) have plenty of data on their 2014 cars from this track – the big unknown is how the tyres will work during the night race as the ambient track temperature cools.

This is a circuit known for punishing the tyres due to its abrasive surface there is a trade off for Pirelli to consider in its tyre selection; durability vs grip. To this end the Italian manufacturer has selected the Medium and Soft tyres based upon their knowledge of the conditions.

 “Bahrain is a circuit where we’ve done two recent tests, so we go there with a lot of knowledge of the track, which we certainly benefit from,” says Paul Hembery.  “We know that there’s a big traction demand and that’s why we’re bringing the medium and soft tyres. Temperatures at the start of the race should still be reasonably high.

We’ve noted a very big drop in temperature though as soon as the sun goes down: a variation that can be as big as 15 degrees. Managing that very wide range of temperatures to get the best out of the tyres is going to be one of the biggest challenges for the teams throughout the weekend. This should make it quite tactical in terms of strategy, so it should be a very interesting race from that point of view.”

Pirelli consultant driver, Jean Alesi, who has raced this circuit in the Speedcar series explains how he believes the track should be approached.

“You need a smooth and clean rhythm to get the most out of the tyres, especially in the traction areas, so that you don’t put too much stress through them. The circuit is quite abrasive but it has a nice flow to it, although competing at night will be a new challenge. The most important thing is to try and control the degradation, but again, that might be very different after dark. It’s going to be interesting to watch and managing the tyres is definitely going to be important”.

In previous years, the teams have tended to use a medium downforce aero package as there are 4 straights where the cars can top 300kph. This compromises braking and creates understeer on entry into the corners, causing the drivers to repeatedly lock up and damage the tyres. The traction zones create peak surface tyre temperatures of around 130 degrees centigrade

Pirelli are organising a tyre test alongside the 1st in season test on the Monday and Tuesyda following the race. Caterham will oblige the tyre manufacturer on day 1 with their services and day 2 will see Mercedes and Williams carrying out tyre testing duties. All runs will be under the control of Pirelli.

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Schumacher scam

Incensed Michael Schumacher fans have issued a torrent of complaints against a German  magazine following its publication of a feature cover picture of the F1 legend and his wife accompanied by the headline “Awake!”

Fans bought the magazine, only to find the Die Aktuelle discovered their “Awake” headline merely included two stories about people who had awoken after a coma.

The German publisher, Gong-Verlag, has so far declined to comment on the outrage over the “tasteless” cover and face accusations they merely tried to cash in on a tragedy.

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Organisers at the Sakhir Circuit have arranged for a message of support for Michael and his family

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32 responses to “Daily #F1 News and Comment: Wednesday 2nd April 2014

    • Or a standard minimum (6 sec?) pitstop time… might also interestingly affect tyre strategy.

    • The penalties were public knowledge prior season commencement, so it’s not as if Red Bull had a ‘Eureka’ moment at Sepang.

        • Sorry Nigel – that was a general observation – not aimed at you; memories can be short all too often 🙂

  1. So Mr Marko, if Renault doesn’t sort out their engines, do you think you’ll be able to get an engine from Merc or Ferrari?

    • They’ll proudly build it themselves! Newey has loads (!) of experience with engine design. 🙂

    • At first Renault should ask RB, why little sister Toro Rosso is that much faster down the street with the same engine!

  2. HaHa, Marko is so unintentionally hilarious.

    Marko “The rules we agreed to for this year because of problems we had last year, are totally unfair when we have the same problem this year.”

  3. More reason to drop the GMM stuff …..”100 liters of fuel”. More like 100 kg. Just saying…….. this type of basic error is B.S. and you, Judge, shouldn’t allow it. It diminishes your blog.

    • Well, I’m with you, but they probably mention litres because Frentzen then talks about litres, so it would probably confuse people, maybe…

  4. Those comments by Santander’s CEO don’t surprise me. Banks are businesses and they’ll go to the most marketable team and driver. Alonso, Hamilton and Vettel (in that order) are the most marketable drivers. Ferrari and McLaren are the most marketable teams. Hence the combo of Alonso and Ferrari is the ideal for any sponsor.

  5. So Martini advertising in Bahrain, drinking champaign on the podium and praying for infidel Schumacher. Renaissance has downed upon Islam?

  6. Woohoo! This Friday is the annual spring-time Adrian Newey in the FIA presser event!

    I like your idea, Judge, of asking where Ricciardo would’ve likely finished if RB had followed the rules in OZ. One would hope such a question will be put to Mr. Newey.

    In addition, we will have Remi Taffin of Renault, and one of Ferrari’s engine guys, Luigi Fraboni. Plus Paddy Lowe and I’m particularly interested in Pat Symonds. The Friday conference will be highlight of the early spring pressers. There are many great questions to ask each of those folks.

    It’s always nice to have the technical guys instead of those ding dongs like Toto, etc.

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