Order of the day
Some things it seems are guaranteed to happen in an F1 race at the moment whether it be in Melbourne, Malaysia or Bahrain. Under the darkness of the desert illuminated by brand new floodlights, Sebastian Vettel was told to let his Aussie teammate through in order to benefit the team.
Rocky, Vettel’s engineer uttered, “Sebastian, let Daniel go through please. Daniel is quicker than you. Let him by please.” A most helpful Vettel obliged and gave indication of where on the lap he would let Ricciardo past. For all the hankering they received from the years previously with team orders, they appear to have finally learnt their lesson.
So while it may come as little solace to Mark Webber as he watches the GPs from somewhere less busy than the F1 paddock, he can take heart in the fact he did make a difference to the Milton Keynes team. Seeing so many teammates racing each other was refreshing, not least the battle of the Mercedes pair for first place. The Force India cars were allowed to go wheel to wheel as they fought hammer and tong for 3rd place.
Predictably, no team orders were issued from Williams after the team u-turned from their post-race interviews in Malaysia and apologised to both drivers for issuing them; when they had primarily stated they were not orders at all. Bottas and Massa were free to race until the end, with Massa just edging it.
However, there are those who still believe the somewhat cryptic message Paddy Lowe gave over the team radio to both the drivers was in fact a team order. When interviewed by Simon Lazenby of SKYF1, he inferred that it was not an order but then said, “they didn’t listen anyway.”
Whether he was saying they didn’t listen and still raced without caution, or if this was a slip of the tongue is unclear. Truth be told, there would be very little point in team orders as the chances of the title going anywhere else but Brackley this year are extremely slim. What do you the readership think? Team orders or just a poor choice of words from the technical director?
Sweep it under the carpet
When the political unrest first started in Bahrain during the Arab Spring in 2011, the race was cancelled on the fear of safety grounds. It then controversially returned in 2012 subject to much criticism from the worldwide media, as we raced in a place with such a poor human rights record. Every year since it has become a less contentious issue, with such little fuss being made this year, if you were new to Formula One you could still be gleefully innocent as to the troubles of times gone by.
However, does this mean that problems have resolved themselves or that the Bahrain police have learnt how to deal with the protesters to keep them away from the public eye? Of course not, it would wonderfully naive to think such when there has been no significant change to the regimes in the Middle East. With this being the case, one has to consider then whether F1 going to these countries helps or in fact hinders their cause?
On Sunday evening in the Bahraini capital of Manama, a car bomb exploded with no report as to any injuries or loss of life. Although, this was not picked up by any mainstream media, only New Strait Times reported the bomb in an area where many foreigners live. So with a only a march which was highly controlled by police and a demonstration of burning tyres on Sunday morning the Kingdom of Bahrain has escaped any kind of political punishment or condemnation for another year.
What used to be used as political weekend for many, to highlight the troubles the Shia population it is now so similar to any other weekend. The problems are swept under the carpet as the F1 ship sails in and out of town without even glancing either side to see what is going on around it; some things just don’t change.
Should we thank Pastor?
For weeks now the question everyone has been dying to have answered is just how fast are the Mercedes cars? Again, it was Paddy Lowe who let it slip that they were holding back in previous races, which only fueled the fire for people who speculated how fast they could truly go.
As many jumped on the bandwagon to criticise the hot-headed Venezuelan, who has built up a reputation for himself during his 2 and a bit seasons in an F1 car, for the way he caused the incident which lead to the safety car. Whether people would have reacted in the same way if it hadn’t sent Gutierrez into a tumble and merely stopped his running will always be a mystery, but there were some positives from the incident.
Bringing out the safety car set us up for a final 10 lap showdown that even the most imaginative of script writers would not have thought of. The Mercedes drivers were forced to show their pace advantage over the field as the driver duo battled it out until the line. The 3 second advantage they held on some laps was impressive to say the least.
So as nobody was hurt and Maldonado was punished is it an incident which we can actually thankful for? After all, without this, we would have been robbed to one of the best finishes to an F1 race (in terms of wheel to wheel racing) in recent years. In fact, maybe we should be thanking Pastor instead?
Vergne – I was hospitalised
While nobody can deny the importance of Formula One testing drivers, given the fact it is the pinnacle of motorsport, at what point do we say enough is enough. Jean-Eric Vernge revealed in Bahrain that it was he who had been hospitalised following the Australian GP 3 weeks ago.
Vergne stated it was a direct result of his dieting which caused him need attention, caused by the ludicrously low weight limit for driver and car this year. “I did a diet this winter but you get to certain limits that the body can no longer take,” said Vergne speaking to the Daily Mail. “I was in hospital between the grands prix in Australia and Malaysia because of a lack of water and a little bit of lack of everything. I was very weak.”
At this point, where taller drivers like Adrian Sutil are being forced to race without a water bottle in a desperate attempt to shave even the smallest amount of weight away from the car, some form of regulation needs to change. Even adding 10kg to the car and driver limit (as is set to happen from 2015 onward) will not necessarily aid the cause of the taller drivers who will still be forced to keep weight to a minimum to aid performance by allowing weight ballasts to be placed strategically in the car.
One solution would be to introduce a minimum weight for the driver based on their height with a separate weight for the car being taken as well. This would ensure each driver is given a fair chance, leveling the playing field for taller drivers like Ericsson, Hulkenberg and Sutil. What do readers think?
And finally, at what point does Formula One have a moral obligation to the drivers. Of course, sportsmen can push themselves; but at what cost to their future health? With the Formula One field still being all male, there is no warning sign of ‘burning out’ as there is with females, which carries great dangers. Could we hear stories in 20/30/40 years time of drivers who suffer as a result from the regulations that are currently in place?
Sense must prevail soon.
Montezemolo disgusted by Ferrari
“Aerodynamics are for people who do not know how to build engines”
Without question, one of the most famous quotes from Enzo Ferrari; and fans of the Prancing Horse can only imagine what his response would be right now considering it’s irony. The Old Man famously never attended a race after the death of his son, and any appearances at Monza or Imola would be arranged during qualifying. He had lieutenants who would sugar-coat disappointing results and keep the truths from him, safe in the knowledge that he was in Maranello.
This no longer applies. It is rare to see Luca di Montezemolo at any circuit outside Italy but he was in attendance this weekend in Bahrain to meet with FIA President – Jean Todt and F1 ring-master – Bernie Ecclestone.
LdM – the President of Ferrari – runs the team with a far more measured approach than his predecessor – no less passionate just less dramatic. He left the Sakir circuit around ten laps before the chequered flag was waved – disgusted by what he had witnessed and you didn’t have to be a student of body language to understand that Maranello will not be a pleasant place today.
Sakir confirmed that the Italian power unit was trailing not only Mercedes but Renault too and after being humbled by Red Bull’s RB10, no doubt has been left that the F14-T is also in need of urgent development.
“Seeing Ferrari so slow on the straights gives me great pain. It would be necessary to have an additional gear. This week we have several different things to try and the engineers at home have to make a big leap in quality. I dislike seeing Ferrari like this.
I’m going away – there isn’t much to see. We are too slow on the straights because there is a lack of power. I wasn’t expecting much from this race but certainly more than this. We’ll see…”
Unsurprisingly, Ferrari’s technical team had their responses ready.
Stefano Domenicali: “This race was the culmination of a difficult weekend exactly how we imagined before arriving in Bahrain, a circuit particularly difficult for our cars. Now before us is an important test, where I expect to see a first leap.”
Pat Fry: “In Maranello, we are working on solutions that will guarantee a better power delivery and better drivability. Also we are working to improve the aerodynamic efficiency of the car. The data from this race will be used as a reference for the test which will be held here in Sakir over the next few days.”
Ferrari’s history stretches back over seven decades and within that time span there has been periods of poor performances and needing to push the cavalry forwards but 2014 marks the sixth season in a row that the design group has fallen behind the other teams.
Aldo Costa was ‘released’ amid suggestions his designs were too conservative because the pressure of the Ferrari name made it impossible for an Italian to push design boundaries.. Yet his design is currently dominating Formula One in a manner that hasn’t been witnessed since 1988.
Fernando Alonso, unquestionably one of the greatest drivers of this generation has almost carried the team to two titles – 2010 and 2012. If his luck had been a little kinder, he could have been a four-time champion but Ferrari have consistently produced poor designs.
Rumours of wind-tunnel calibration issues began in 2010 and countless updates failed to produce expected on-track results but the despair of losing the title in Abu Dhabi brushed the issue under the carpet. With Red Bull dominating in 2011 and Ferrari only winning – at Silverstone that year – when exhaust blowing was outlawed for one race – they carried on with their 2012 design and re-wrote the rule book on insanity.
“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Einstein.
With the same tools, wind tunnel calibration issues and the same group of designers the 2012 car proved a continuation of the downward cycle. Only truly inspired driving kept the Spaniard anywhere near a title challenge.
So last year, Ferrari closed down their wind-tunnel and had it re-calibrated. By all accounts this has been proven to be working and under the stewardship of highly rated James Allison Ferrari seem to have turned a corner… and yet the pace-setting teams have introduced up-dates at every race this year. It appears endemic within Ferrari to have the reactions of a sloth.
Has Il Padrino moved his eye off the ball in recent years with the incredible success of the Ferrari brand and his continued interest in following a political career. It’s entirely possible that his rebuke of Alonso last season was as a reaction because he was out of touch with the team.
Quite possibly then, LdM walking away disgusted will bring focus to Ferrari once more but there is no doubt – the pressure in Italy has just been ramped up…