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Fuel flow sensors tampered with UPDATE GMT (15:08)
Red Bull considering alternatives to Renault (GMM)
After struggling to get up to speed in F1’s new V6 era with Renault, Red Bull is beginning to think about alternatives. Dr Helmut Marko has already issued an ultimatum to Renault. “If there is no noticeable improvement in two or three months, we will definitely be talking about an alternative,” he told the German newspaper Bild.
But the German magazine Sport Bild claims that the industry-leading Mercedes power unit is not an option for Red Bull, as the German marque “does not want to support its biggest competitor”.
Rather, the publication revealed that, two years ago, Red Bull looked into working on an engine project with AVL, an Austrian automotive company. There have also been paddock rumours Red Bull could take over Renault’s F1 operations at Viry-Chatillon.
“There are some considerations,” Marko admitted. “But for now we are hoping that Renault can get its problems under control. “We are currently 80 horse power behind. An increase of 40 horse power would be enough, because we can make up that difference with the chassis.”
Renault is hopeful.
“Red Bull is supporting us 100 per cent,” Rob White said. “We want to, and we will solve the problems together. The data we have from the V6 turbo and the electric motors tells us that if we get all the parts of the powertrain working in harmony, we will be really competitive.”
Marko ruled out as “utter nonsense” speculation Red Bull could simply pull out of F1 and race elsewhere with Cosworth engines.
Ecclestone says Haas set for F1 in 2015 (GMM)
Gene Haas looks set to take his place on the pitwall as F1’s newest team owner in 2015. Having earlier played down the Nascar team co-owner’s chances of securing the twelfth team entry, Bernie Ecclestone said this week: “I think Haas will be accepted. They have got the money but it’s a question of whether they are going to spend it,” the Independent newspaper quotes him as having told F1 business journalist Christian Sylt.
It is believed the FIA recently delayed a decision over Haas’ 2015 application pending F1s chief executive Ecclestone’s ‘ok’. Money seems to have been the 83-year-old Briton’s main concern. “A billion would last a new team owner four years,” Ecclestone said. “I’ve spoken to Haas but I don’t know what they are going to do. It’s America, so I don’t know.”He also didn’t rule out the possibility more teams could soon be following Haas into F1. “Every year we or the FIA have approaches from new teams,” he said.
Lotus ‘faster than Williams and McLaren’ – Permane (GMM)
Lotus claims its troubled 2014 car is often better than a Williams or a McLaren. Actually, the Enstone based team is badly suffering with its E22, plagued with issues related to the problematic Renault ‘power unit’.
“We are still in the learning process,” chief engineer Alan Permane told Germany’s Auto Motor und Sport. “I suppose we need to make exactly the step that Red Bull made between the Bahrain test and Melbourne.”
There was, however, a glimmer of hope for crisis-struck Lotus in Malaysia, when Romain Grosjean at least managed to finish the race, albeit outside the points. “For us it’s a big step,” Permane insisted, “even though we’re not usually happy with eleventh. “But the times in the second sector showed that our car is fast in the corners. Faster than a Williams or McLaren,” he claims. “In the other two sectors we are behind, especially in braking,” Permane admitted. “We have a decent car, but we’re lagging behind with the power unit, even compared with other Renault teams. But that’s our fault,”
Permane admitted that skipping the first official test at Jerez has had consequences. “We are just behind in time,” he explained. “We missed the opportunity to recognise the problems early on and sort them out. We will make a development step with the drivetrain in Bahrain, a major one in China and then another one in Spain,” Permane revealed.
From the Ledger…..
Johnny Herbert and Damon Hill re-enact ‘Multi-21’
The whereabouts of one of a once well known paddock character has in recent times been of concern to many McLaren fans. Following Big Ron’s rumbustious return to the helm of the space ship that is the MTC, the once public face of the famous British racing marquee has disappeared without a trace.
Wild rumours still swirl around the MTC; one report is that Whitmarsh has in fact been abducted by aliens who believe understanding the mind of Martin could indeed unlock the secrets to the domination of the entire human race.
Another suggestion is that Whitmarsh has in fact followed in the footsteps of Jobe Smith, and dissolved himself into a virtual reality, and will at some point cause all the telephones on planet earth to ring simultaneously.
Yet, the reality of the “Where’s Martin” mystery may have been solved by Joe Bloggs and his baby. Joe – whose real name is John McGregor – “loves Cars, F1 and the Ford Racing Puma. Also likes bikes, motorcycles, photography, hi-fi and technology” and he resides in the county which is diametrically opposite on the compass to the one from where Bernie Ecclestone hails.
Tired of the endless propaganda from the F1 anti noise lobby and his chalkboard’s full of algorithms – which John has been creating to help his friend Christian solve the Y = Y is our car slow? – Mr. McGregor has fled from the endless flat wheat growing plains surrounding his home town of Norwich, and taken to the hills of North Yorkshire. He is there inducting his baby into the ancient ways of the ‘fell walker’.
Much to John’s surprise, he was wandering through the streets of Richmond, near Darlington, and who should he bump into??? The missing Martin Whitmarsh, who is dressed to walk.
Martin assured John that Big Ron does not have a white fluffy cat on his lap after all, and the shop frontage outside which the 2 men and a baby are pictured belongs interestingly to a company called “Gekko Creative”; one of whose motto’s is “say what you mean – and mean what you say”.
Is Big Ron branching out and Martin is the scout?
#TheThingsYouFindOnTwiiter @RacingPuma (John McGregor)
McLaren fiddle with their livery
As TJ13 reported in November 2013, that McLaren would run this year without a title sponsor. In February, Big Ron did say that whilst no such sponsor would be evident for the first few races, one would emerge later in the season. Sources close to TJ13 are still advising us that McLaren will partner only with Honda for 2015, and the team will be entered into the F1 championship as “McLaren Honda”
This arrangement gives the Japanese manufacturer more visibility than the beleaguered Renault gets from the muddle that is “Infiniti Red Bull Racing Renault”.
For now though, the team from Woking continue to fiddle with their livery and sponsors. Here’s the latest from Bahrain
The F1 stalking horse
The mystery of the hurried and truncated application process for new teams to join the 2015 F1 line up is as unclear today as when the FIA announced it in December 2013.
Bernie Ecclestone has stated on a number of occasions that he is against having more than 10 teams in F1. To that end, the team finishing 11th in last and this year’s constructors’ championship receives no money from the prize pot.
Haas has indicated his F1 team would be based in the USA, which would create incremental logistical and personnel difficulties previously discussed here. This together with a $200m spend to open a factory equipped to design and build F1 cars, means an F1 start-up is a seriously expensive proposition.
Ecclestone highlights this, stating “A billion would last a new team owner four years,”
Whilst dismissive initially of the Haas application, it appears Mr. E is now open to the idea. “I think Haas will be accepted,” said Ecclestone. “They have got the money but it’s a question of whether they are going to spend it.”
TJ13 has previously questioned the motives behind the Haas application which proposes to use a Ferrari engine and a Dallara chassis, both companies are based in Italy and are less than 2 hours drive apart.
With Tony Fernandes threatening to withdraw Caterham from the sport at the end of the year and seeing as Lotus, Sauber and Marrussia are financially on the edge of a precipice, to have some new F1 entrants in the wings seems a sensible idea.
Yet something just doesn’t stack up. The FIA process for new entrants and the timescales outlined to get a new team up and running and on the grid, are ridiculously short. It’s as though there is a team good to go and awaiting the FIA’s rubber stamp of approval. Haas may in fact be a mere stalking horse for what is in effect a Ferrari ‘B’ team.
TJ13 has been informed that at the next F1 strategy Group, there will be an extended discussion again on the topic of customer cars and some half way house proposal will be recommended. This will see incremental freedom for the teams to collaborate and buy in parts of the car which they currently have to make for themselves.
This addresses in some way the matter of cost in F1, because if a chassis can be shared, then all the cash the likes of Marussia and Caterham spend in CFD and wind tunnels designing their cars would be saved.
The problem is that Williams feel they will eventually disappear as a team designing and building F1 cars and they have a heritage as an F1 team which many believe should be preserved. Whether the bigger boys can agree a way to support the Williams brand and ensure they too can supply F1 cars is a thorny issue, and one which will not sit well with the likes of Sauber and Force India.
The route to customer cars will see Formula 1 become more like a specification series, not from a regulatory point of view, but because groups of cars will be very much the same – as is the case for all cars in a spec series.
For now, Ecclestone admits, “I’ve spoken to Haas but I don’t know what they are going to do. It’s America, so I don’t know.”
Bernie is a little disenchanted with ‘America’ at present. A team known as US F1 was due to join the championship in 2010, but had insufficient financial backing to get up and running. New York’s iconic skyline has been touted for some time as a possible venue for an F1 race, though already 2 years late, Ecclestone probably believes it’s a dead duck.
More recently there have been moves for F1 to return to Long Beach California, though the city council yesterday proposed a 3 year extension to the IndyCar series, though there is still an opportunity for F1 to bid.
What will be will be – as the old song goes, but there are some monumental decisions about to be made behind the scenes and depending on the outcomes, the face F1 will be forever changed.
Fuel flow sensors tampered with
The FIA have issued a new technical directive, that following the Spanish GP only sensors which have not been modified, may be fitted to the cars. Red Bull, Toro Rosso and Lotus, have been modifying the sensors provided by Gill prior to their calibration by Calibra.
The modifications are apparently intended to facilitate the installation of the sensor between the fuel tank and the engine and the threads on the sensor have been drilled where the fuel lines are attached.
We hope to have more on this from Lorenzo soon, yet the FIA has revealed 95% of the fuel flow sensor problems to date have mysteriously occurred on Red Bull, Toro Rosso and Lotus cars.
From Barcelona onwards, only sensors in their original condition as supplied by Gill sensors will be legal. This statement of intent indicates that the FIA have no intention of sitting down with Horner, Marko or anyone and discussing “a better system” to replace the fuel flow sensors.
Further, Caterham may be asking themselves why they are the only team in the Renault club not party to the advice that modifying the fuel flow sensor may assist them. Whether this was a Renault ‘wheeze’ or the original idea came from Milton Keynes, we’ll probably never know.
One thing appears certain now, Daniel Ricciardo was made a sacrificial lamb in Melbourne and lost 10-12 points because his team decided the best way to fight a cause that would see them return more quickly to the front was by challenging the FIA to back down and remove the fuel flow sensors.
This has backfired on two fronts. Firstly, on past form, Red Bull would have expected Charlie and his merry band to have kept their heads down and say little or nothing until April 14th. In the meantime, such constant denunciations of the fuel flow sensors by Horner et al, would create the illusion in the mind of the public that something was terribly wrong and required immediate change.
As I wrote last weekend, the FIA made an unprecedented public briefing to the media to explain why fuel flow sensors were a fundamental part of the new regulations, and the response has been that anti FIA ‘fuel flow gate’ hysteria has been prevented from the headlines of the F1 writers publications.
The second reason this has backfired on Red Bull is because most of the ‘clarifications’ Charlie issues take place behind closed doors. Teams are cut some slack and given time to quietly sort themselves out and come into compliance with the regulations.
However, once again, the FIA have not acted to type. The way today’s technical directive has been leaked by the FIA is designed to inflict maximum embarrassment on Red Bull who have been taking the lead in rubbishing the fuel flow sensor equipment and the associated regulations.
By the way, you may remember TJ13 in the Daily News and Comment on the Monday after the Australian GP, did suggest that Joe Baur checked out the RB10 fuel delivery system. Seems like the FIA got there in the end.
Filed this afternoon, here is the drivers entered in the 2014 Formula One Championship have used the below listed number of power unit elements during this season so far:
ICE Internal Combustion Engine
TC Turbo Charger
MGU-K Motor Generator Unit – Kinetic
MGU-H Motor Generator Unit – Heat
ES Energy Store
CE Control Electronics
Poor Kamui is having a rough return to F1, and the new rules grid drops are going to see him starting P24 plenty.
Of the 8 Mercedes cars only Massa has been forced to change an engine component. 1 new energy store and 1 new electronics control.
Formula E challenges F1
The cars may be a little slower, at a top speed of 250 kph; the sound may be a little quieter than the rumble of the new V6 F1 engines; the race will be shorter and the spectacle will be different, but Formula E is 6 months away from taking to its globe trot of the sexy cities of the world.
No one suggests Formula E will steal F1’s audience, yet as the cars race beneath the famous skylines of the world, there will be a sense of occasion that these great cities have opened their hearts to a brand new racing series.
In surprising news which may make Mr. E groan inwardly, Formula E series organiser Alejandro Agag told Forbes that talks with New York city authorities are underway. Bernie desperately wants a race with the Manhattan skyline as the backdrop, but it is now 2 years late and there’s no sign of the $100m required to stage the event being forthcoming anytime soon.
“We are working with New York,” says Agag – adding with a modicum of deference, “but we are kind of waiting to see what happens with Formula One.”
Formula E is offering to rock up and race within the city limits for free, unlike the pricetag for an F1 race which can be as high as $60m per annum. All Formula E request is their host cities provide prime landmark locations for the circuit together with the track preparations and introductions to local sponsors.
Agag shamelessly indicates he has been wooing wannabe F1 promoter Leo Hindery. “In New York the hospitality revenues would be huge so Hindery should put the money forward and he would recover it.”
With a fight for his freedom in a Munich court starting in 3 weeks, the uncertainty over CVC’s continuing ownership of F1 and an Aussie promoter threatening a mass legal action from the collective F1 organisers around the world, Bernie has a lot on his mind at present. The news Formula E is trying to steal the crown jewels of city-scape racing will irritate him greatly, but in his heart he knows F1 in New York is probably dead in the water.
However, Formula E may not stop at New York, they have a proposed expansion to 20 races by 2020 and it could be they pick off a dissatisfied F1 host.
Malaysian GP organiser Razlan Razali hinted this weekend, his country were in no hurry to sign an extension beyond 2015. “As for the contract talks, whether or not it is extended is up to the government, but I foresee a final decision only about six months before next year’s race.”
He added a note of caution too, “The new regulations and the quieter engines have received a lot of negative feedback as well. This affects the atmosphere of the race, so we’ll want to see more of how this issue develops too,”
Were Formula E to pinch a host from F1, due Ecclestone failing to re-negotiate a new contract because of the exorbitant hosting fee; then as they say, “the cat would be truly amongst the proverbial pigeons” for the future of the current F1 business plan.
The craziness must stop
We heard a lot about safety last year when certain teams wanted Pirelli to re-design midseason the tyres they had produced for the 2013 competition. Yet behind the scenes teams were running more aggressive cambers and lower tyre pressures than recommended by Pirelli.
The explosion Lewis Hamilton suffered during the British GP appeared to be the final straw and the last team – Force India – was persuaded to agree with the others to allow the tyres to be re-configured.
Pirelli refused to admit there were safety issues, so it required the agreement of all the teams to allow the FIA to instruct Pirelli to act accordingly.
There is a far greater danger to safety this year lurking within the paddock garages. It’s a danger that could see a driver lose control of his car at high speed and suffer serious injury – but why?
Certain drivers are having to starve themselves to keep the combined weight of the car and driver down to minimise the advantage the smaller drivers have in lap times. Last weekend there was an unofficial report that one driver had indeed fainted during the Thursday media day, though whether this was a diet related incident or not is unclear.
Today Adrian Sutil explains the seriousness of the situation. “We [heavier drivers] have to lose so much weight. There is not much we can lose anyway, so we can’t even train because we have to lose the smaller muscles. It is a difficult situation and I don’t think it’s fair.
Small drivers can eat what they want but we are just naturally heavier and we get a penalty of half-a-second a lap, or more. Not because the smaller ones are better drivers, they are just lighter. That is not how it should be.”
Astonishingly Sutil reveals he will forgo his drinks bottle this weekend in an attempt to reduce the weight of his Sauber, “For Bahrain it’ll be one and a half hours in the car, no drink. In Malaysia I had a little bit of tea. There is a danger of fainting and dehydration. We are driving at more than 300km/h along the straight, so it’s not so easy any more. You can’t guarantee that every driver is 100 per cent from a physical point of view.”
During the winter Red Bull amongst other teams requested that the minimum weight of the cars be increased by 10 kilos to prevent drivers dieting to the extreme. Ferrari blocked the move, believing they had a lighter engine package and 2 of the shorter drivers who are not affected by the weight regulation.
Unlike the Pirelli tyres, it should be clear to everyone that the minimum weight regulation is creating a dangerous set of circumstances. This is a safety issue – full stop – and Jean Todt must increase the minimum weight regulation immediately to stop the craziness of a driver refusing his drinks bottle and unnecessarily risking life and limb.
Well, Felipe he’s no baby anymore…
FIA drivers’ press conference
For those of you who don’t get this – enjoy.
Massa and Bottas sort it out
Felipe Massa today states the matter of the instruction for him to let Bottas past at the Malaysian GP is resolved. “Everything was discussed and it should be fine,” said the Brazilian. “It won’t happen again until it is the right time. That was not the right time.”
Felipe is a team player and he remarked that he was happy to allow his then team mate Kimi Raikkonen through in 2007 to win the Brazilian Grand Prix in order to claim the drivers’ title.
“I’m not against team orders,” says Massa. “It is part of our sport. But I didn’t expect what happened last weekend and it was not correct and the team knows that.”
Amusingly for those watching, the instruction given from the Williams pit wall used exactly the same phrase as Ferrari did when they instructed the Brazilian to hand the victory to Fernando Alonso in the 2010 German GP.
Felipe commented that he had found this “funny”.
The team have admitted they were wrong to issue the order last week and Massa is gracious about the whole thing. “I don’t think it damaged my relationship with the team,” he said. “If I do a mistake, I will be the first one to say sorry.”
I don’t know about you, but this picture would suggest if it came to fisticuffs, there’d only be one winner.
Rosberg admits problems
In the DN&C ealier this week, TJ13 suggested that it was inconceivable that Lewis Hamilton alone was the reason for the 17 second difference between himself and his team mate at the chequered flag.
Today Rosberg reveals this to be the case. “There’s been a big analysis of what happened. Of course, I want to win, I don’t want to be second because second is the first loser. I don’t want to be a loser. We’ve reviewed everything and gone into a lot of detail and learnt a lot. I’ve had a long sit down with everybody. There’s things on my side that I can do better and then there’s some things going on we don’t understand, some very strange things happening where we think, ‘woa, what’s going on there’, like on tyre temperatures for example. That’s a group effort and we will step it up again.”
TJ13 also questioned how long the bromance would last when the Mercedes drivers fully realised they were in direct combat with each other for the drivers’ crown in 2014. Rosberg admits, the potential for conflict will raise its head at some point this year. “At the moment it hasn’t changed at all.
Maybe because we are not thinking about championship yet and we’re taking it race by race, making the most of what we have and winning races. It’s early days. But of course I understand it could change if we are still in a similar position. We’ve been in this position before. In go-karts we were fighting for the championship there, and it’s exactly the same, but with a little bit more people around and more media and spectators.
We managed to get through there with respect and I’m confident we are going to be able to manage in any circumstance. I’m sure there will be tough times inevitably, but I’m confident we can work through it now and move on”.
Clearly determined to beat his team mate this year, Nico concludes. “Lewis won that kart championship, so it’s my turn now.”
This weekend his huge for both drivers. Should reliability prevail for both cars and Nico win the race, then the psychological advantage Lewis may feel he has following the Malaysian GP will evaporate very quickly.
Should Lewis beat Rosberg in a 1-2, he will still trail his team mate by 11 points. Bring on Sunday’s sundown in Bahrain, when the circuit lights will be on and the red lights go out.