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Smedley returns to the pitwall
On a number of occasions the British media have implied that Ferrari ran a 1-2 policy with Massa and Alonso. Yet on many occasions Massa was too far back in the championship standings and as would anyone, he just had to support the team.
When the title was beyond his team-mates grasp he was free to race with Fernando; and Kimi before that. He was also allowed free rein at the start of seasons; it wasn’t Ferrari who wanted Massa to move out of the way in Australia 2010 – despite Alonso screaming he could win the race.
In Germany, that year, it fell to Massa’s ‘big brother’ to relay “Alonso was faster than him”. Despite that, it will be of some reassurance to Felipe that Rob Smedley is returning to the F1 pit-wall this weekend after completing his gardening leave for Ferrari.
As reported by TJ13 in yesterday’s news, Massa and Williams have resolved their issues with the team admitting it was wrong to issue the order last week. Massa reportedly found the phrase used “funny” and says the matter is now history..
Smedley’s new position with the Grove team is ‘Head of vehicle performance” and he will be track-side in Bahrain. Some may regard the posting of Rod Nelson back to the factory as a move in best keeping with Machiavellian traditions, following his involvement in the “Felipe, Valtteri is quicker…” boo boo. Nelson confirms, “Rob will be at the track and I will work in the factory and at the tests throughout the season.”
Nelson post race in Malaysia did little to calm troubled waters amongst the Williams drivers with his rather authoritative stance and comments, “We will go through it with the drivers and discuss what we expect”; and regarding Felipe, “he didn’t do what we would have preferred him to do”.
This may indeed be a cull of Il Padrino proportions, however, Smedley will not speak directly to the drivers, unless there is something which requires a more senior intervention than each of their race engineers can deal with. This occurred in 2013 when Alan Parmaine, Trackside Operations Director of Lotus, infamously grabbed the microphone and screamed, “Kimi, get out of the ***king way.”
Eric Boullier was the master of the understatement following Parmaine/Kimi’s spat, when with a dead pan expression he told SKY, “With hindsight, this radio message could have been sent in a less emotional way,”
No matter. With Smedley on the WIlliams pitwall, Felipe can rest assured he will not be getting any more messages causing him flashbacks to Germany 2010, and it will require a damn good reason for him to allow Bottas through.
Further, for Bottas to establish himself as a top driver, he needs to beat Massa fair and square. At this race in 2013, we saw Perez challenge, overtake and best his team mate Jenson Button – whose squeals for help to the pit wall will remain in the memory for quite some time.
Williams car runs on air
The Williams team know that their car lacks aerodynamic downforce compared to the competition; and this forced them into trying a different tactic in Malaysia.
It is now apparent the team from Grove sought to capitalise on the fuel efficiency of the Mercedes power unit and started the Grand Prix with little more than 90kgs of fuel on board. Felipe Massa completed the race using 87.82kgs while team-mate Valtteri Bottas consumed 89.23kgs. When you consider that 10kgs of fuel equates to around three tenths of a second gained in lap time, it’s not difficult to see why they progress once the race starts.
Ferrari are kicking off with Jean Todt and Bernie Ecclestone over the new F1 regulations. They ran a most unscientific poll of fans to ‘prove’ that something should be done. Yet, Il Padrino’s biggest gripe is that the cars cannot be run for extended periods of time, without the need to save fuel. It would seem Mercedes cars do not have this problem, so Mr. President, it’s not the rules, but Ferrari’s design which is lacking, or so it would appear – sir!
Minardi offers a strong opinion on Formula One’s future
Gian Carlo Minardi was speaking to the website http://www.minardi.it about the current state of Formula One and he replied to many of the fears that Formula One fans have been raising about the current spectacle. He doesn’t share their pessimism and in fact offers a quite different landscape of the future.
“F1 has taken a road which is both difficult and uphill, perhaps, there have been too many new novelties put together quickly, but I am sure that soon these will give us much satisfaction . During the first two rounds we saw a compaction performance with as many as 12-13 cars packed into 1. This is extremely positive from the technical side, especially if we think that in the Bahrain test a lot of the teams had a lot of problems. In a few grand prix, what today we call “boredom” will be overturned into exciting race.
The world is moving towards a direction which the current issues include noise pollution, energy saving and consumption. Due to the resources available to the Circus they can quickly find solutions. In Italy, for example, all of the racetracks have to fight against the laws on noise pollution which limits the activity on the track “says Minardi.
“These days, I have heard that the fans are running away from F1 because the cars no longer make any noise. But are we sure that the main problem is just the roar of the V6 Turbo? Amongst the millions that watch the Grand Prix around the world, the only ones who have a right to gripe are the fans present at Albert Park and Sepang. Everyone else watched the races sitting in front of a television set. “
Another issue that Minardi pondered was the penalties given out to drivers for insignificant contacts. “These are the evils of F1. Decisions against Magnussen, in particular, scare me and harm the sporting drama. Going down this road will deprive us of those duels that were possible and became part of the DNA of the races which helped to write the history of the sport, as well as causing the fans to fall in love.
With today’s rules the legendary duels between Villeneuve-Arnoux at Dijon 1979 or Piquet-Senna in Hungary 1986 would result in punishment of life imprisonment.
On Sunday, the McLaren driver was penalised heavily for a normal race contact; one so light that Raikkonen admitted he hadn’t realised what had happened. We’re talking about a hit among a portion of the front wing and a right rear wheel. I understand the discussion on safety, but if you do not accept these episodes anymore then there is only video games left.”
Fernando Alonso is prepared for the fight
In a milder Bahrain paddock than many expected Fernando Alonso was asked for his opinion about the troubled Ferrari F14-T.
“It would be very sad if I felt right now that we can not compete in the title race finale in Abu Dhabi. We are only at the third Grand Prix of the season,” he said. “I am convinced that we can do a good job, we are in the early stages of the development of the car, and this year, as opposed to half a tenth that could be expected to be found in 2013, we are improving two-tenths per race. The development potential is a lot, we can become much more competitive. I am sure that we will play in Abu Dhabi, but in the meantime we have to improve in all areas of the F14 T. We will do our best, we ran only two races, there is still a long way ahead and we are ready to fight. “
When pressed further about the spectacle of Formula One Alonso continued, “Driving this car is still exciting for us because we are competing against each other and the competition, which is inherent in our DNA to keep us entertained. It would be the same competing with karts that go 50 miles per hour and use rock-hard tires which make them slide all over the place, ” said the Spaniard.
“We enjoy the duels, the head-to-head, but for guys like me, Jenson Button or Kimi, we have been in this world for a while and we miss really fast cars a lot.
These cars are much less demanding of physical conditioning. Previously, for example, Malaysia required a specific training program whereas this year I told the team that I could also do without the system that allows you to drink in the car…
That said, this year’s cars are difficult to drive, because they slide and because we have more commands to handle during the race than in the past. It is interesting to think that Formula 1 cars have changed so much during my 14 year career.”
Alonso concluded:“There will always be exciting races and boring races, it’s like in football, sometimes there are terrible goal-less matches and at other times the most thrilling 5-4 which is great fun to watch.”
Hamilton ‘unbeatable when focused’ – Lauda (GMM)
Lewis Hamilton will be hard to beat for the 2014 title, according to Mercedes team chairman Niki Lauda.
Hamilton’s former McLaren teammate, Jenson Button, this week said that while the 2008 world champion is “super fast, he is also very up and down emotionally”. When Button’s comments were put to Sepang winner Hamilton ahead of this weekend’s Bahrain grand prix, he admitted: “I would say that is quite accurate.” Since debuting in 2007, the now 28-year-old Hamilton – amid other turmoil – has dumped his father as his manager, fallen out with another mentor Ron Dennis, and had a famously off and on-again relationship with his popstar girlfriend.
Hamilton told the Independent: “I’ve always talked about trying to put the right pieces in place to get through my year in a positive way without having those spikes, and I feel like I might have found it.But you never know!”
If Hamilton has found his happy place, it might be very timely, given the five-year gap since his sole title triumph and the current dominance of the Mercedes package. Triple world champion Lauda told the Swiss newspaper Blick: “When Lewis is fully focused on his work, he is almost unbeatable.”
Given the potential for title trouble between Hamilton and his Melbourne-winning teammate Nico Rosberg, Lauda’s words could be explosive. Hamilton and Rosberg’s relationship dates all the way back to their karting days, but as the Briton insisted on Thursday, they are not friends. “In formula one, we can count our friends on one hand, Nico does not come in the five friends I have and I don’t come in his.”
The relationship could be strained even further if German Rosberg has more races like the one in Sepang, where although he finished second, he was easily beaten by Hamilton.
Asked if the 2014 situation has affected their relationship, Rosberg said: “It has not changed at all. Yet.” But he admits that could be because the title battle still has so many races – 17 – to run.
Indeed, Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso was asked on Thursday if he sees Hamilton or Rosberg as the ultimate favourite. “I think it’s 50 per cent each way,” he is quoted by the Spanish sports daily AS, “but there is also Kimi and myself and of course Vettel.”
F1 to have EUR 150m budget cap – Todt (GMM)
F1 is heading towards a budget cap of EUR 150 million per team for the 2015 season and beyond. FIA president Jean Todt said he is confident the controversial new regulation will be agreed by June of this year, as the governing body aims to urgently bring down costs and keep struggling teams in business.
“If the teams don’t want it, we won’t do it,” he told Germany’s Auto Motor und Sport. “We do not have the mandate to do something against the will of the majority. But from all of my discussions I conclude that the majority of the teams, the FIA and the rights owners do want this cost limitation,” revealed Todt. Asked to name the figure for the 2015 cap, he answered simply: “150 million euros.”
That ties in with F1 chief executive Bernie Ecclestone’s recent claim that a figure of about 200 million dollars has indeed been broadly agreed. “If the revenues are higher, the team makes a profit,” Todt said. “That would be a healthy model. A team like Ferrari should make money through formula one, just as can be done with a Le Mans project.”
Renault/Red Bull, the missing link
The concept of a ‘works team’ began around the time when the idea of racing cars first began. This is a team which is responsible for the design of the chassis and of the engine. With few exceptions, these teams have been entered in the F1 championships by automotive manufacturers, who when economic times are good, often spend more than the other entrants and should have a clear advantage.
The key to a ‘works team’ advantage is the intimate knowledge they have from constructing both the engine and the chassis of the car. The design of both should account for certain characteristics of the other, and so compromises are made to ensure the ‘whole’ – car and engine together – is optimised, and better than the sum of just an optimum creation of the separate parts.
Of course 2 of the 3 engine manufacturers of the new V6 Turbo’s have ‘works teams’, Mercedes and Ferrari, though Renault and Red Bull collaborate in a way where Red Bull is a preferential partner – and so this has lead to some commentators describing the team from Milton Keynes as the Renault works team.
Yet, this is clearly not the case, and is the very reason why Mercedes and Ferrari should be ahead off the Renault-Red Bull collaboration.
Mercedes have spent over 2 years considering the 2014 F1 car proposition, and have done this from a wholistic viewpoint which looks to optimise the engine and chassis design as an optimum package.
This means the engineers designing the engine have been feeding back to the chassis designers, how certain aerodynamic shapes would fair in terms of heat dissipation. Mercedes believe they have designed the optimum aerodynamic car, based upon certain constraints laid down by the Brixworth engineers.
This in turn forced the boys and girls at Brixworth, to consider innovative solutions when presented with certain packaging designs provided from Brackley. This apparently resulted in the ‘break though innovation’ of the new Mercedes engine which sees the turbo compressor at one end of the engine whilst the actual turbine is at the other end. They are connected by a long shaft which runs through the ‘vee’ of the engine.
Mark Hughes writes, “The ‘trick turbo layout’ triggers a series of critical performance benefits. A reduction in turbo lag means less power needs to be be harvested from the car’s ERS unit to keep the turbine spooled off throttle. That in turn improves the efficiency of the car, with more power reserved for performance gain and less fuel consequentially used up”.
All of this creates less heat and is why we haven’t seen burning Mercedes engine cars, whilst Renault’s customers engineers are were nicely toasting their cold hands in Jerez.
The fatal flaw for Renault is that no matter how close the collaboration, their relationship with Red Bull is not that of a works team. Add to this, Newey is very focused and determined on what he believes should be possible from an aero-dynamic perspective and – Bingo – we have a beautifully designed RB10; aerodynamically ahead of the field, but the question is – can Renault deliver a V6 turbo engine which will propel the RB10 to its optimum capabilities? In fact is this task even possible?
Mercedes customer teams obviously have an engine with the same advantages, yet they received delivery of the power unit much later in the chassis design process, and have had less time to consider how best to adapt.
There are other advantages to the ‘innovative layout’ of the Mercedes powertrain. The W05 requires a smaller intercooler because the distance between the compressor and the spinning turbine provides a physical separation from the hot gases which drive the turbo blade. The sidepods are subsequently smaller, which improves aerodynamic performance.
With the compressor in front of the engine, Mercedes have been able to move forward the gearbox and improve the car’s centre of gravity and therefore its handling.
All this is part of the now homologated designs, and whilst their competitor engine manufacturers can marvel, they are not able to copy.
Ferrari may yet unlock the potential of their combined engine and chassis combination, which should also have had such sympathetic consideration in the design process.
As TJ13 suggested in Jerez, it looks as though the RB10-A requires Newey to urgently consider a fundamental re-design to provide an optimum partner – RB10-B – to the now homologated Renault F1 engine.
Red Bull’s continued public criticism of Renault and their apparent insistence that all the problems sit in Viry will see this redesign prolonged until maybe it’s too late for them to fight back in this year’s competition.
In the most positive official news yet, Sabine Kehm has released a statement stating Michael Schumacher has experienced “moments of consciousness and awakening.”
The statement reads: “Michael is making progress on his way. He shows moments of consciousness and awakening. We are on his side during his long and difficult fight, together with the team of the hospital in Grenoble, and we keep remaining confident.
“We would like to thank you all for the continuous sympathies. At the same time we again ask for understanding that we do not intend to disclose details. This is necessary to protect the privacy of Michael and his family, and to enable the medical team to work in full calmness.”
Marko, a dog with a bone
Some people just can’t let the past go. The rift between Mark Webber and Helmut Marko is still being perpetuated by the ‘consultant advisor’ to the Red Bull F1 racing team.
Speaking to AMuS he states, “We finally have an Australian who starts (races) well and can put Sebastian (Vettel) under pressure with fairly.” Mark Webber gained a reputation for not being the best starter in F1, but has now departed to race in the WEC for Porsche.
The outspoken Marko is not taking matters well at present, and presents as a bear with a very sore head. He recently suggested Red Bull may pull out of F1 if they are not treated fairly and threatened Renault will be replaced as the team’s engine supplier unless they get their act together.
F1 wining the PR battle against the naysayers
The alleged mass gathering of F1 promoters threatened by Ron Walker will now not occur. The retiring Australian GP promter had threatened Ecclestone with a law suit because the sound of the new V6 engines was too quiet. “It will be an issue for promoters all around the world,” he declared.
L:ast week the slightly eccentric promoter of the Singapore race, Ong Beng Seng, was filmed by SKY during a practice session, telling Ecclestone he felt the lack of noise would make his event less attractive. That said, Ecclestone himself made a U-turn stating the sound at the Sepang circuit was, “better than he expected”, and commented that only a marginal improvement in the noise levels may resolve the matter completely. This of course may have been that in a rare moment of self realisation, Bernie grasped by criticising the new F1 he was talking down his bargaining hand.
Following Ecclestone’s comments, the sound levels for the cars on certain TV broadcasts improved dramatically.
Today another senior world motorsports individual has come out in favour of the sound of the new F1. Derek Warwick, president of the British Racing Drivers’ Club and driver steward each year ridicules the Ferrari claims of a mass revolt amongst F1 fans. Speaking to Reuters he says, “I’ve been in this sport now for 50 years, I love my sport and I will never talk it down. Do we need to tweak a few things? Yes. Are our fans supporting us? 100 percent.
We (British Grand Prix organisers) are in line with last year (on sales) so we can’t ask for much more than that.
If the fans really think about it, the V8s were too noisy. I think they were ear-bleeding,” he added. “We’ve just got to re-adjust our volume.”
Warwick says that all 30 people employed in his Honda franchise are “buzzing” about F1 this year, and suggests that Ron Walker’s negativity is due to the constant pressure he is under promoting a race which regularly makes a loss.
The circuit director at Silverstone, told Reuters that the British GP was on course to match the number of spectators who attended the event in 2013.
“I think the British public are intrigued by what they are seeing in the press and TV and they want to come and make their own minds up about it. I have got no evidence at the moment that these new changes are making any difference to the (ticket) sales. We are seeing some nice little spikes (in sales)…I’m reasonably encouraged with the way things are going.
We are quite excited about this year.”
All we need is for Ferrari to get their act together on track, then Il Padrino will calm down too. Though at present the Ferrari president is believed to be pressing for certain immediate changes to the regulations in play for this year’s F1 championship.
FP1 report, Frijns wins
|4||Nico Hulkenburg||Force India-Mercedes||1’38.122|
|8||Daniil Kyvat||Toro Rosso-Renault||1’39.056|
|9||Sergio Perez||Force India-Mercedes||1’39.102|
|10||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull-Renault||1’39.389|
|12||Jean-Eric Vergne||Toro Rosso-Renault||1’39.862|
|14||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull-Renault||1’40.406|
|18||Giedo van de Garde||Sauber-Ferrari||1’40.913|
In what was one of the less dramatic practice sessions, we saw a number of reserve drivers on track today. Bottas gave way to Felipe Nasr, who was 13th quickest, 0.5secs behind Felipe Massa.
Sauber’s Giedo Van Der Garde was 18th, some 0.25secs slower than Adrian Sutil, whilst Dutch favourite and highly rated prospect – Robin Frijns was 0.3secs quicker than Caterham’s race driver Marcus Ericsson.
Frijns clocked the session leading number of laps – 35 – and this kind of result continues to raise the question, why is Frijns not getting an F1 drive?
Fernando Alonso amusingly had to stop in the pit lane in a manner similar to Daniel Ricciardo during last week’s race in Sepang. The team had fitted a soft tyre to his front left corner and three medium tyres on each of the others.
Whilst Alonso put in the third quickest time, the Ferrari appeared to be a real handful, which for the viewers was at times spectacular to behold.
Only Kvyat and Vettel made it into the top ten, in what already looks to be a tough weekend for the Renault powered cars. The gap between Lewis and Vettel was a worrying 1.9s with Ricciardo a further 0.9s down the field.
In addition to this Vettel, Ricciardo, Vergne, Kyvat, Bianchi and Chilton all received new ICE’s – two down, three more to go…
Hopes of a Lotus revival were quashed, with Maldonado and Grosjean managing times 3s off the pace and they finished respectively in 16th and 19th positions.
FP2 begins at 16:00 BST and will be the first under lights at Bahrain. This will be the time of the start of the race, and so the long run race programmes deployed by the team, may give us an idea of how the race pace will pan out on Sunday..
From the Ledger….
Back in 2012, we saw Romain nearly decapitate Fernando in Spa. Growing frustration with this year’s Lotus could see him return to his crashing antics? Whilst you ponder, perhaps you might enjoy this little treat from the net.