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Previously on TheJudge13
FP2 Review – Hamilton quickest, but not happy
Brought to you by TheJudge13 reporter Adam Macdonald
A tight first session gave us very few answers with a cold track and teams not wanting to push the boat out too much. Lewis Hamilton (and mechanics) started the second session in a race against time to make it out. A team of Mercedes personnel worked to get the car floor properly reattached amid a swarm of media surrounding the garage.
Meanwhile, out on track it was Kvyat who set the early pace with a 1:41.279. Giedo van der Garde joined David Croft in the SKYF1 commentary box, as he remarked on how good it was to see the slow motion replays of cars locking up. Something it will be interesting to see develop as the track rubbers in over the weekend.
Despite being 3 tenths down in the final sector, Vettel took the top honours going 0.192 faster, only to bettered by first Massa, then Ricciardo, Rosberg and Alonso immediately after. The latter two managing to dip into the 1:39s, with the Ferraris seeming to be much more competitive than in Bahrain two weeks ago.
20 minutes into FP2 and we finally saw the Iceman, Kimi Raikkonen, grace the Chinese tarmac. The Finn wasted no time in annoying Esteban Gutierrez, slowing while staying on the racing line. He slotted into 15th position, which he then improved to 6th, 1.757 seconds off the pace of his Spanish teammate.
Maldonado strapped on the soft compound tyres and went 4th fastest with a 1:40.455 which will have come as welcome news for all involved at Enstone. Following Sergio Perez’s first flying lap on the soft tyre, the delta between the prime and option tyre would seem to be 2 seconds.
No sooner had he done so, did he carry too much speed on the way back to the pits and lock up before colliding with the tyre barrier. A dejected figure trundled back to the pits to be weighed and disappeared away to the paddock. Some time for reflection for Pastor now.
While the cameras were focussing on Pastor Maldonado and his wreck in the pit lane entry road, Nico Rosberg snuck into 1st place with a 1:38.726. The lap was clearly hampered by the yellow flags being waived for the stricken Lotus, so expect more to come from the Silver Arrows.
Martin Brundle reported of the speed the Force India cars were carrying into turn 1, so possibly another big weekend in store for them this week. Fenando Alonso reclaimed the top spot, going 0.27 seconds quicker than Rosberg. Ricciardo joined the pair in the 1:38s, beating his teammate who was 2 tenths slower than the Australian.
Hamilton finally put the softs tyres on, but still found the car to be problematic in handling as he voiced his concerns over the radio. However, he then went to put his car 0.141 quicker to the surprise of many including myself.
Worryingly for any Max Chilton fans (such as myself), Jules Bianchi was 1.1 seconds quicker on the softer tyre than the man from Reigate. Whether Chilton encountered problems on his lap is unknown, but if not, it is enough of a gap to keep Max awake at night. Both Marussias posted times ahead of both Caterham F1 cars.
Kimi Raikkonen was the final driver to don the soft tyres and see what he could do with them, setting a 1:39.283 still 0.8 seconds short of Alonso. The rest of the field began with their long run race simulations for the final half hour of the second practice session. High degradation was seen for all teams, including the Mercedes cars, which will come as a sign of hope to anyone wishing for a break from the Mercedes domination we have seen so far this year.
All teams seemed to go through the initial drop off phase with lap times as the tyres degraded, then seeming to stabilise. Should we see rain once more in China, a green track could play havoc for strategists. The memories of 2012 will still be painful for Kimi Raikkonen, where his tyres dropped ‘off the cliff’ here causing him to go from 2nd to 11th in the space of a lap.
Chilton’s worries continued as he spun at turn 2, similar to Kvyat in FP1. With 15 mintues go, all 22 cars were out on track and jostled for position looking to get the final bit of data required to optimise setup for Saturday. Many questions still remain, which I’m sure will be answered in James Beck’s F1 Forensics piece to follow soon.
The excitement of the session dwindled as the routine work continued for the field. The long straight developed a very clear racing line with as David Croft described it, “an oasis of rubber” as the marbles built up away from it. This could prove problematic for anyone overtaking on Sunday.
With 2 and half minutes still to go, Lewis Hamilton called an end to a troubled day on his part only heading back for a practice start. Even though he tops the session with a 1:38.315, an evening of number crunching awaits the Briton to decipher how to correct his current car issues.
Rosberg and Hamilton friendship falling apart
Some of the most breath-taking motor-racing ever witnessed by Formula One was during the 1988 campaign. Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost dominated the season and their rivalry left audiences thrilled. The fact that their cars were absolutely dominant made no difference to viewing figures, in fact as the competition heightened so did the public’s interest.
This is something that has sadly been missing ever since; as teams seek to control their drivers for the benefit of the manufacturers and essentially miss the point that the, often forgotten, audience is crucial to any advertising/ marketing criteria. Whilst the advance of technology is impressive – although many times irrelevant to the real world – the real story has always been the rivalry between the drivers.
2014 appears to be another season of dominance by one team, and Formula One fans should be grateful that the management, to this point, is allowing their drivers to race. But it appears cracks are appearing between Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg.
In China – Rosberg suggested that the two protagonists had discussed Bahrain. “Yes we sat down and went through everything, it’s all behind us and flat-out ahead.” When asked about this discussion, a bemused-looking Hamilton shook his head and flatly denied any meeting had taken place. But when pressed by reporters if their relationship was still amicable he replied, “As far as I’m aware, yeah”
It’s understandable that two driven personalities will seek to beat the other at any given opportunity and the press are infamous for mis-quoting individuals in order to raise tensions.
Before the pre-season tests began we had reports of how great a friendship these two men had since racing together in karts, yet within weeks reports emerged that Hamilton was not invited to Rosberg’s upcoming wedding. After Hamilton’s dominance of Malaysia, excuses were found for Rosberg’s tardiness and a portfolio of information provided for him by the team.
Then the ever mysterious “Sources” claimed that Mercedes wanted a Rosberg WDC victory whilst willingly paying Lewis a huge wage. He wasn’t employed for his technical ability but for his blinding speed – it just doesn’t add up…
Obviously there are two sides to every story, but why would the press seek out the mundane versions. Is it possible that Rosberg’s nuptials are just for him and his fiancee’ or that he requested the telemetry from Mercedes as most other team-mates have done over the years. After all, Button was lost for a number of races in 2012 and copied Hamilton’s settings.
Rosberg also defended his radio transmission during the race about some of Hamilton’s defensive driving. “The majority was tough but respectable, so let’s go with that, rather than pick out one small example.”
The ‘one small example’ in question happened at Turn Two on lap 18. Hamilton cut across Rosberg to retain the lead, to ensure he was better placed to defend his position on the run down to Turn Four. In the time honored tradition of threatening the collective when inebriated, Rosberg felt the speed at which Hamilton came across him was “above the limits” and said he might “struggle to avoid” an accident in future.
It would be wise of the young German to think back to a similar event in Bahrain two years ago.
The race stewards investigated two separate incidents involving Rosberg as he defended his position from both Hamilton and Alonso by moving to the right of the track up to the white line that demarcates the edge of the track.
Article 20.4 of the F1 sporting regulations says: “Manoeuvres liable to hinder other drivers, such as deliberate crowding of a car beyond the edge of the track or any other abnormal change of direction, are not permitted.”
Reflecting on the incident with Rosberg, Hamilton suggested: “Fortunately neither of us got in trouble, neither of us were hurt, and hopefully we will try and rectify the rules to make them clearer so that we won’t be in that position again.”
After the incident with Hamilton, Rosberg claimed that the Brit had overtaken him off the track, a manoeuvre not allowed in the rules but he accepted: “Of course if there had been the barriers at Monaco it would have been a different story, but then again the guys behind would have backed off a lot earlier. In that situation, which I’d probably do again, it was harsh but within the rules, and I didn’t judge I was putting my competitors in danger.”
Alonso dramatically insisted: “He [Nico Rosberg] pushed me off the track. You have to leave a space, all the time you have to leave a space. If instead of such a wide run-off area there had been a wall, I’m not sure I’d be here to talk about it.” Rosberg said he preferred not to say anything until he had seen a replay.
If Lewis is in a happy place then he can be devastating as a driver which may explain some of the psychological games being played out with the media.
Ferrari unlikely to recover in 2014 – Malago(GMM)
Giovanni Malago says it is unlikely Ferrari will recover from its competitive slump within the 2014 season.
The Italian olympic chief’s name is now well-known in the F1 paddock, after Ferrari this week quoted him as saying he dislikes the sport’s ‘new’ face. “I hope the people who run the sport look again at the rules because the way formula one is now, it has much less appeal,” he had said in the quotes faithfully reproduced on Ferrari’s official website.
Now, Malago has admitted he doubts Ferrari can emerge from its competitive slump within the 2014 season, despite Marco Mattiacci having been drafted in with Fiat’s backing to replace boss Stefano Domenicali. “I think that in formula one, as well as in (grand prix) motorcycles, unlike many other sports, it is difficult to overturn your results in the same season,” he is quoted by Tuttosport. “In football,” Malago explained, “you can improve and aim to win the championship, but this hardly ever happens in formula one.”
But Steve Robertson, the manager of Ferrari driver Kimi Raikkonen, does not agree. He said the “new generation” of V6-powered cars are only “at the beginning of their life cycle. Every team is aware of the massive improvements they can make to their cars,” Robertson told Finland’s Turun Sanomat newspaper. “I do not think any team will begin already to focus on their car for next year, at least in the same way as they might have done in the past,” he insisted.
Ferrari-powered Sauber driver Esteban Gutierrez, however, agrees with Malago that the Maranello marque will struggle to catch up in 2014.
“All the teams with Ferrari engines know they are working hard, making changes, but so far it’s not enough,” the Mexican is quoted by Spain’s El Confidencial newspaper. “It will not be an easy year for Fernando (Alonso).” That fact is evident on Alonso’s face in the Shanghai paddock. The dark glasses-wearing Mattiacci finally made his first appearance in a Ferrari uniform on Friday, but several metres separated him from the team’s Spanish driver as they walked the length of the Shanghai paddock together.
Earlier, Alonso’s first statements about his new boss were far from glowing. On Thursday, he said he wasn’t even sure Mattiacci was making the trip to China, while revealing he has been talking with the departed Domenicali “all the week long”. And when asked about Mattiacci’s inexperience, Alonso answered: “It’s too early to say if it will be a very good thing or very bad. “I don’t really have much to say. I drive the car,” he later added.
Plea bargain could keep Ecclestone in charge (GMM)
Bernie Ecclestone has denied rumours he will strike a plea deal with Munich prosecutors to stay out of jail and in charge of F1. The sport’s chief executive faces up to a ten-year custodial sentence if found guilty at the end of a trial that begins in Germany next week. But rumours in Shanghai suggest the 83-year-old actually intends to strike a mid-trial deal with prosecutors whereby he pleads guilty but stays out of jail in order to remain in charge of formula one.
Asked about the plea bargain rumours, Ecclestone insisted: “No, not at all. I’m going into this trial to prove my innocence of what I’m being charged with,” he told the Telegraph.
Donald Mackenzie, the F1 boss at the sport’s commercial rights owners CVC, has said that if Ecclestone is found guilty of a criminal offence, he will be sacked.
But, citing a “CVC source”, Telegraph correspondent Daniel Johnson has reported from the scene of the Chinese grand prix that a plea bargain “would throw up a different set of circumstances”.
Ecclestone responded: “You should ask Donald.”
“What can I say?” the Briton is quoted by the Guardian newspaper. “I can’t speak for him.”
Maldonado hits out as 2014 race ban looms (GMM)
Pastor Maldonado has hit out at the new ‘penalty points’ system that could see him having to serve a race ban later in 2014. After just the opening three grands prix of the season, the Venezuelan already has three ‘demerit points’ against his F1 super license. Jules Bianchi, meanwhile, has four.
“I’m not sure if anyone will reach the full 12 but after three races, having four, then he should reach it very soon,” Adrian Sutil said in China. The most serious incident involving Lotus’ Maldonado this year was in Bahrain, where contact with Esteban Gutierrez caused the Mexican to roll over. But he also made a fundamental – and bizarre – mistake in Shanghai practice, when he took his eyes off the track and simply drove off it in a corner.
“I think it’s a good system,” Gutierrez, referring to penalty points, said in Shanghai. “It puts some conscience on ourselves to not do wrong moves and to respect each other and to race in a fair way.”
Maldonado, however, insists the Bahrain crash was simply “a normal race contact“, and so he is critical of the new penalty system. “We need to avoid the incident but at the same time (with penalty points) you cannot race,” he told reporters on Thursday. “We are racers and we are always risking. If you are competing, you need to take chances. So maybe they need to be slightly more flexible. That’s my opinion.”
Gutierrez is quoted by Brazil’s Totalrace as suggesting the biggest problem with Maldonado is that he does not seem to be learning from his mistakes. “It is pointless to discuss the television images, because they are clear,” he said. “That’s the problem: it seems that Pastor is not recognising his mistakes, he sees things only from his side and I don’t think that’s right.”
Maldonado, however, insisted the Bahrain rollover made the “light knock” appear more dramatic due to the new mandatory low noses on the cars this year.
“With the new noses, when we touched, the car took off. So for the spectator it was quite shocking,” he is quoted by Brazil’s Globo. “I think the punishment was related to the magnitude of what we saw, not the contact itself,” Maldonado added.