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Previously on TheJudge13
Ron Dennis hauling Mclaren back into line – slowly
It would appear that Ron Dennis’ intervention and subsequent takeover at Mclaren was desperately required. The podium that Kevin Magnussen scored on his debut was ultimately a case of ‘flattering to deceive.’ The MP4/29 was designed by Tim Goss but after it’s stellar debut, has proven to be not only the fouth best of the Mercedes powered cars but has also fallen behind the Ferrari, Red Bull and Toro Rosso teams.
The race in Shanghai confirmed that Mclaren are currently the seventh best outfit and this is of some concern to Honda who will be entering into an exclusive arrangement with the Woking team next season.
Honda have already funded Mclaren with €100 million as the team continue struggling to find title sponsorship. Italian reports suggest that Honda would be willing to buy out Alonso ‘s contract and insert him beside Magnussen in a co-ordinated deal with Spanish sponsor Movistar so as to have an established top line driver, but Alonso is waiting to see how the situation develops at Maranello as Mclaren is not in a position of strength either.
What has surprised Dennis is just how much F1 has changed in just five years. Mclaren may have secured the services of former Red Bull aerodynamicist Peter Prodromou who is currently on gardening leave, but his colleague Dan Fallows changed his mind and returned to Red Bull. Dennis may pursue this through the courts but as in everything F1, it will come down to compensation. It begs the question as to why bludgeon a potential employee when he clearly doesn’t want to move.
Omnicorse explains: There is a significant re-organisation being undertaken at Mclaren as the Technology Centre is not producing the results that were expected. The original plans were to entice University graduates to the team to grow within the Mclaren group and then replace the engineers that were head-hunted by other teams but the one glaring problem was that all the graduates were inexperienced in F1. This infrastructure will also inevitably take some time to correct.
The Iceman under attack from passionate Italians
The Italian press is ramping up the pressure on the ‘Iceman’. Considering one of the most fascinating aspects of this season was to be the inter-team fight between Fernando Alonso and the incoming Kimi Raikkonen the results so far have been somewhat .underwhelming.
Stefano Domenicali signed Kimi Raikkonen against the wishes of the team – in response to the dominant position Alonso had created around himself in Maranello. Whatever people feel in regards Alonso’s personal qualities, he is undoubtedly a brilliant racer and now with the resignation of the much-liked SD, Kimi is suddenly in a much weaker position, especially as new-comer Marco Mattiacci has backed FA as number one.
Leo Turrini has written in his blog about the delicate situation that Kimi is caught up in. As a Kimi fan he is ‘suffering the torments of hell’ and yet explains in an honest appraisal this isn’t a team sport like cycling where the team shares the baton.
The calls for the lynching of Raikkonen have increased but Mattiacci has confirmed that Ferrari does not share this view. It’s interesting in itself that Turrini feels the need to mention this in his blog in defence of the one he calls “Blond.”
Perhaps more damning of Kimi is the use of the nickname – “The Holy Drinker”
Cesare Fiorio offers solace to Domenicali
Cesare Fiorio ran the Lancia competition department in the 1970’s and 1980’s and as head of the sporting activities for Fiat was assigned the Squadra Corse Alfa Romeo. In 1989 he was appointed sporting director for Ferrari but an extraordinarily successful career was brought to a dramatic end when he was sacked before the start of the 1991 season. He returned with Ligier in 1994 before moving to Forti, Prost and Minardi before leaving the sport and becoming a commentator on RAI.
In a recent interview after the Chinese Grand Prix he offered some interesting angles.
“It’s a real shame that Domenicali has been aggressively blamed by the very people who adopted the same approach with Costa at the time of his removal. It is a classically simplistic view that spectators offer without knowing the real reasons for successes and failures. These convictions can be spectacularly wrong.
As to how Marco Mattiacci will manage the team without F1 knowledge, the truth is 80% of all management decisions are common whatever the business. The remaining 20% is specific knowledge and experience which is not learnt in a month or even a year.
A good manager will surround himself with reliable and experienced people who can help him make the right decision – he will delegate authority and empower them so we have to give Mattecci a chance to express himself.
Ultimately, 2014 is not going to be a year to fight Mercedes but one area where the newly appointed manager will direct his attention is to give back to Maranello political weight within the sports institutions.”
Magnussen prefers Button to Alonso – Mclaren-Honda not ready for Alonso
In what would appear to be one of the least surprising admissions made by a Formula One driver, Kevin Magnussen admitted he would prefer Jenson Button to Fernando Alonso as a team-mate.
The 21 year old Dane remarked, “I’m happy now. I think having someone like Jenson – easygoing, speaks very good English, knows how to explain things and very experienced and fast is ideal. I couldn’t ask for a better teammate.”
With such ‘qualities’ available to Mclaren and Honda, it is perhaps inevitable that speculation about Alonso’s future is increasing.
Whilst the promise of a Mclaren-Honda may sound like a dream to a man who has confessed he wanted three titles like his idol – Senna – he would temper this with the fact that Mclaren are in similar shape dynamically to Ferrari.
With the return of Ron Dennis – Mclaren are also undergoing a restructuring after years in the doldrums and rebuilding a design team that had been depleted in recent years as engineers moved elsewhere.
The recruitment of high profile chassis engineers is always tempered by the fact that they will not be able to start work for a period of time as they enjoy tending their petunias and vegetable patch. The full effect of their employment would not be felt until 2016.
There would also be a question mark against Honda. They dominated from late 1985 to mid 1991 with ground-breaking chassis design and two ‘pedallers’ called Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna but..
..Renault arrived with their V10 powerhouse which dominated for the next few years. By the early 00’s Ferrari, BMW and Mercedes had moved the technology forwards again – and Toyota and a returning Renault also proved competitive – but throughout this period Honda never once looked likely to emulate their previous success.
Even the rumoured spend of $1billion dollars on the 2009 chassis would likely have been wasted as the engine was overweight and thirsty. One of Ross Brawn’s most fortunate days was buying the team for £1. His next having Mercedes provide Brawn with a cutting edge power unit.
If Alonso chooses to stay at Ferrari he would be working once again with a man who contributed to his two World Titles, James Allison.
It won’t have escaped Alonso’s notice that this man designed a car that allowed Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean to challenge for race victories throughout 2012 and 2013.
If he moves, he goes up against Ron Dennis once more…
Lewis Hamilton gets ‘money can’t buy’ gift from Lauda
According to reports in the German tabloid – Bild, Niki Lauda gave Lewis Hamilton a ‘money can’t buy’ reward for winning his first ever F1 hat-trick – drum roll please….
A ride on his own private jet.
“I told him ‘If you win, I’ll fly you back’ to Europe. Otherwise Lewis would have been on a regular flight.”
By all accounts, Lauda was true to his word and flew the pair back on his Bombadier Global 5000. No mention was made of Nico Rosberg but it may have explained his demeanour on the podium.
Other than the fact that this has been published on a tabloids website, it also misses the point that Hamilton has his own $30million private jet
Vettel suffering “the pressure effect”
The cold hard facts are clear. Daniel Ricciardo has out-qualified his 4 times world champion team mate 3-1 this season. Further, TJ13 has asserted the Red Bull Racing decision to ignore the Fuel Flow Rate as measured by the FIA sensors in Australia, was a pre-medicated calculated call. Had Newey and Horner complied with the instructions of the FIA during the race, Ricciardo would have finished 4th or 5th – giving him a further 10-12 points.
This would mean that the drivers’ championship after the flyaway races would look very different. Daniel Ricciardo would be ahead of Vettel by between 1 and 3 points.
Whilst here at TJ13 we enjoy at times in speculating on the reasons behind ‘strange’ decisions and actions taking by the F1 players, nobody is suggesting that the Ricciardo DQ was orchestrated to favour Vettel.
Analysing the race in China, it seems there is an argument that Daniel was given a slightly too conservative strategy during the last phase of the race together with Vettel compromising the Australian’s alternative pit stop strategy before finally relenting and ‘letting him through’. The fact both cars ended up during the manoeuvre off line and on the dirty part of the track suggests Vettel wasn’t really playing ball. This certainly cost Ricciardo the opportunity to overtake Alonso and claim his first rightful podium of his career.
On the flip side of the coin, Vettel was disadvantaged this weekend in China by his team’s decision to pit him early for a 3 stop strategy, which was then reversed later to just 2 stops. Yet the reason for this was based upon the incremental tyre degradation Vettel had suffered during the opening stint. At present, Sebastian is not getting the same life from the 2014 Pirelli’s as Ricciardo.
Red Bull may yet rue the points lost in Melbourne and China as Ferrari may well be getting their act together and if Kimi does get into the mix, the target of Maranello to be the best of the rest looks possible.
However, despite all the ‘if’s and buts’ it is clear that given the equipment Newey has produced for his drivers in 2014, Ricciardo appears to have the slight edge over his 4 times world champion team mate.
“Sebastian’s having a tough time at the moment because he hasn’t got that feeling from the car he’s looking for,” believes his team principal, Christian Horner.
“He’s tremendously sensitive to certain aspects of the set-up, he’s not getting the feeback from the car that he wants. The compound effect of that is he’s damaging the tyre more – which is very unusual for Seb since Pirellis were introduced. It’s highly unusual for him to be going through the tyre life quicker than the average”.
Mr. H would have us remember that form is temporary, but class is permanent. “That’s just a culmination of the issues that he’s currently got and as soon as we work those out I’m sure he’ll be back with a bang.”
Adrian Newey went on record over the winter stating that of all the drivers he has ever worked with, Vettel is in a league of his own when it comes to aptitude – the ability to learn and adapt.
So the explanation for the current performance differential between the two Red Bull drivers appears to be simple. Daniel is stepping into a car which is giving him incremental performance and Sebastian feels he is in a car which does not deliver the performance he was used to in the RB9. The confidence factor between the two based upon this alone must me large.
If Newey is correct, then Vettel will be working night and day in the simulator and studying his teammate’s data, learning to correct his driving style to adapt the current machinery.
This improvement in the German’s performance should become apparent over the next couple of races, but if it does not… then we may need to look at other explanations as to why Vettel is not dominating his team mate – or even delivering performances of parity.
The politics of the Renault-Red Bull bust up pre-season and the subsequent blame game over the RB10’s powertrain’s performance may well have affected Sebastian Vettel’s approach to his driving. Instead of maxing his efforts at 100%, hissy fit or not, it would be easy for Vettel to think ‘why bother’ because the problems with the Renault engine were outside of his control – and it may be this which is the difference between the German and Australian bull riders.
Felipe Massa believes there is even more to the current lack of performance from Vettel and calls it “the pressure effect”.
The Brazilian driver explains. “When he [Vettel] had a team that was all working for him, for all the years when he was with Webber, life was much simpler, easier. But now he is under a little more pressure and that changes the situation — the pressure effect,
I am not knocking Vettel’s talent, the driver that he is, because everything he did deserves the recognition. But this is a situation that now he has to overcome. Without doubt it shows that Ricciardo is a good driver, fast and with the talent to be there. He has arrived at a great team and so far he shows he can do a great job,”
Mercedes Dominance not seen for 22 years
The last time we saw an opening of the season where a single team dominated the lead of the first 4 races was back in 1992. Of the 224 laps to date in 2014, Lewis has lead for 164 and Nico for the remaining 60.
In 1992 it was Nigel Mansell and Riccardo Patrese who for Williams shared the lead for the first 442 laps of the season until in the sixth race of the year in Monaco, Ayrton Senna managed to lead between laps 71 and 78.
Toto Wolf is cautious of Mercedes dominance, “I think you cannot go into a season with these new regulations and think we’re going to make four wins in a row. And I guess that also in a couple of years we’ll look back at the statistics and say, wow, that was a run”.
The reality of the situation is that having made 2 mistakes on his Q3 qualifying laps and starting 4th, Nico Rosberg drove the race in China with no telelemetry and easily regained second place behind his team mate, who drove flawlessly and without any apparent mechanical issues.
By the end of the next 2 races in Barcelona and Monaco, we’ll know whether Mercedes is likely to emulate the Williams 1992 performance which saw one of their drivers 1st or 2nd in every race of the season bar Canada and Australia – when neither cars from Grove finished the race.