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Previously on TheJudge13
Editor’s note: TJ13 began with a desire to offer a ‘fans’ perspective’ of this glorious sport of ours; warts and all. There are no agenda’s behind the articles and certainly no censorship from corporate interests. As a growing community, many articles are written by passionate fans but we’d like to encourage more debate and more doodles and muses from you all. A new feature is being introduced “Voice of the Fans” and will feature anyone who chooses to share their views. For anybody who has something to say, please send your words through the usual ‘Contact Us’ and we will put them into our new feature – the first entry has been offered by a TJ13 regular, Mike Cloud.
A view from the public gallery – Mike Cloud
“The Mars Bar and modern motor-racing”
I am from the UK. People here, over a certain age, will remember there used to be a Mars chocolate bar. The original one, I am talking about. It was big, full of thick nougat, topped with creamy caramel and covered in thick milk chocolate. You knew if you had eaten one, it was almost a meal in itself.
The manufacturer of this chocolate bar decided, in their wisdom, that it should all be altered. The nougat became thinner and more full of air, the caramel layer got smaller, and the thickness of the chocolate was reduced. The bars all got smaller too.
This was “progress”. The new “improved” bar may have had less sugar and other ingredients that are now considered bad for you, but it ruined the bar for me and I never bought another. The main reason it was done was probably to reduce the costs in making it. The customer would just have to tolerate it.
This is all well and good, you might say, but what has this got to do with F1 racing? In the past racing was much simpler. Some of the drivers even built their own cars. Almost anyone with the enthusiasm could join the sport. No multi-million pound business back then. Cars were simpler too, although a lot would be considered death traps these days. Now it is all run by computers. Look how complicated the modern steering wheel is. All Jackie Stewart had on his steering wheel was a big spanner, taped there in case of emergency. Back then it was man and machine.
Today is is man, machine and computer and the costs are astronomical. The sport continues, but it is only available for the “big boys” to enter F1 and even some of them are finding it hard to survive. Everything is regulated, down to the last millimetre, down to the last gram. Innovation is stifled. A lot of the regulation is there to prevent designers from making dangerously fast machines. I am all for trying to keep speeds within safe margins. However, cars have become too complicated now. One tiny sensor, of the 100’s in the car, can give a reading that will put the car into “limp home mode”. Or the sensor can fail or give a faulty reading causing the car to stop. I hope they don’t ruin the racing by developing in this “computerised car” direction and think the customer, us, will just tolerate it.
Lopez – Renault have found two seconds in performance
Lotus believes that the gains Renault have made in recent weeks has found around two seconds a lap in performance.
Lotus chose to miss the first test of the winter and have experienced problems ever since. The lowest point for the team was during the test when two engines blew in testing and curtailed their running after 16 laps on consecutive days.
Lotus owner Gerard Lopez said: “We didn’t expect to have the engine issues we’ve been having, we came out of the windtunnel essentially knowing we had a really good car. But the problem is when you start putting things down on the track, unless you can actually lap you can’t do any set-up work. So we’ve had huge, huge issues and delays because of lack of lapping essentially.”
In China, Renault provided upgraded engines believed to be on a par with the Red Bull works engines and Romain Grosjean made Q3 for the first time this year. Progress since the post-race Bahrain test had been significant and unleashed what the team always believed was the fundamental potential of the asymmetrically tusked car.
Lopez continued: “The stopwatch doesn’t lie – we moved two seconds forward in terms of performance – which is huge. The car is good. Romain had some diffuser issues on Saturday, but based on lap times and derivatives of that, we probably should have gone for P6 [in qualifying] if we hadn’t have had any issues. That is really where we believe the car belongs.”
“Renault is promising a fairly interesting step up for Barcelona,” he said, “Ever since I saw the issues we were having with the power unit, I’ve essentially said our first race is going to be Barcelona, and I stick to that.”
Lauda is concerned by a Red Bull revival
Great chassis? Check. Most fuel efficient power unit? Check. Reliability? Check? More chiefs than Indians? Check… so what the hell is Niki Lauda paranoid for?
Mutterings from both professional and casual observers alike are grateful that Mercedes’ management is allowing their drivers to fight for race victories – so huge is their current advantage over the rest of the F1 field – and yet the Mercedes non-executive chairman sounds out a cautionary note.
“It is looking good, but let’s be careful,” said Lauda. “There are a lot of races to come. The Red Bulls are famous for coming back, and Newey is there. He wasn’t here (in China), so he sends something new for Barcelona I’m afraid. Things can go wrong in any way. But, at least the start point for us is not a bad one.”
Lauda believes that the Spanish Grand Prix will be a big test for Mercedes and give a true answer as to whether or not it is set for title glory. “For me the biggest worry, which I am always worried about, is that we keep on working. The most important time is the next three weeks, as everyone will come up with a new package – plus Barcelona is a very particular circuit. It is hard on tyres, and not so much about engine alone.”
“You need a good car/engine combination. This will be very important information for me personally to see how the season will continue. If you are on top of the game in Barcelona, then it is a bit easier but Barcelona for me is a key race.”
At the 2013 Spanish Grand Prix, Mercedes dominated qualifying but by the end of the race Rosberg had fallen to sixth – over a minute behind the winner – with Hamilton, an exasperated twelfth, having incredulously exclaimed he had been passed by a Williams.
Mercedes finished second in the standings last season after a strong campaign but following Hamilton’s victory at the Hungaroring before the summer break – Red Bull returned and were never challenged again.
It is likely that the pattern from the previous seasons causes concern for the Austrian. Mercedes have begun each year strongly and fallen away as the development war gathered pace throughout the season. It may just be possible that Lauda’s warning carries a certain prudence.
Ferrari working on front suspension to tackle Raikkonen’s issues
With the Italian media’s relentless post-mortem of Ferrari’s self-inflicted problems, attention has fallen on the under-performance of Kimi Raikkonen in the four races to date. Whilst the irrepressible Alonso secured a podium position in China – Raikkonen struggled through to finish eighth. This was not the expected performance of an ex World Champion returning to the Italian squad.
During the post-race Bahrain test, a crack developed on the chassis being used which halted further running. Therefore in China Raikkonen received the new one but he refused to blame the new car for his ailments.
“It’s probably more to do with my driving style, I don’t think I work the tyres very hard, so when it’s wet and cold it’s hard to get the tyres working. If there was an issue with the car it would not be fast on new tyres. The new tyre works well until the grip from the rear tyres goes away, then you have to go slower and you start cooling down the tyres more and everything goes around and around and you cannot fix it.”
Ferrari had upgraded the front suspension on Raikkonen’s car in an effort to make him feel more comfortable in the F14 T, but the 2007 world champion struggled for grip in China and remarked, “There’s not just a magic thing I can suddenly change in my driving and fix. It works for you in some places and against you in some.”
The fact that Ferrari are concentrating their attention on the front suspension may reveal a clue to the actual problems Raikkonen’s suffering with. Ferrari has been running pull-rod suspension since 2012 and quite obviously the man from Oviedo is accustomed to it’s driving characteristics. Raikkonen has joined from Lotus which, like most other teams, uses the conventional push-rod suspension. Could this small anomaly be the real reason for his apparent lack of pace?
Construction in Mexico imminent
As TJ13 has regularly noted, the paucity of $3-400m plus cathedrals of racing Bernie has been able to recently stuff into the FOM pipeline. The huge projects that were required for the Indian and Korean GP’s now lie empty and desolate and they have been replaced this year by the Russian and Austrian GP’s.
Whilst Sochi is a new circuit, much of the infrastructure required for brand new modern F1 venues was already in situ following the 2014 winter Olympics. Dietrich Mateschitz had already given the former ‘A’ ring in Austria a facelift, and so the incremental infrastructure expense was relatively small to procure this year’s F1 event.
As an aside, when part of the F1 calendar, the ‘A’ ring was not the favourite of most F1 fans. Racing was often dull and predictable but we will have to wait and see what the renewed Austrian GP throws up this year before making much further comment.
Austin was the last big shiny new ‘from out of the ground’ F1 venue. It is reputed to have cost Red McCombs and his buddies over $450m. So for those living in denial that there is an F1 cash crisis, ask yourself where is the next Austin coming from?
Well Mexico has been lurking in the background for some time, and there were serious talks of a brand new Tilke-house of F1 worship rising from the dust near Cancun. The big problem which TJ13 can reveal is that Austin, Texas promoters have a deal with Bernie Ecclestone and FOM which prevents any competing F1 race within 1,500 miles of COTA until 2016. Interestingly this would allow New York, but rule out Long Beach and of course Mexico.
The legal restrictions negotiated by McCombs is the reason we have not seen a flurry of activity in Mexico since the return of the historic GP was first mooted during the 2011 season. Due to the huge investment in the circuit, COTA initially demanded a five year moratorium on races ‘close’ to them though this was settled at four with guarantees that in 2017 the race in Texas would be ‘sufficiently removed on the calendar’ from any competitor event.
This made the provisional 2014 calendar circulated in Monza highly dubious as the Austin and proposed Mexico events were back to back.
There is already bad blood between the promoter of the Mexico GP, Tavo Hellmund, and COTA as TJ13 outlined here in the article “Law suit involving Austin GP promoters” (Nov 2012). Tavo’s father, the recently departed Gustav, was a good friend of Ecclestone’s and responsible for bringing F1 back to Mexico in 1986.
Of course Charlie Whiting and Hermann Tilke visited the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez last September to inspect the current state of the facility and the specify the required upgrades which would see F1 return to this historic venue.
It is not clear yet what these upgrades must be. The track surface was historically ‘bumpy’ due to geological activity in Mexico and surely entire racing surface will be lifted and completely re-laid.
Regardless, work will commence on Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez next week. The circuit when last used by F1 was beyond the city limits but over the years it has become engulfed by the spread of the metropolis. To this end there may be some human cost to reclaiming the venue from the homeless who live there before any serious construction can begin.
Vettel left back in school
In a treat for Hungarian F1 fans, Red Bull will provide a demonstration of their cars on the streets of Budapest, May 1st. The will be represented by their new number one driver – Daniel Ricciardo – and ex legend, David Coulthard, who are both honoured with meeting the Hungarian people. Meantime, Sebastian Vettel has been kept back in school and set extra homework by his master Adrian Newey,
This extensive manual for study is entitled, “How to drive a formula 1 car in 2014”. 😉
Mercedes overtures of friendship rejected by Marko
The good old days are surely returning to F1. Bitter feuding between the senior personnel of the bigger teams, annual court appearances before FIA tribunals and an open despising of each other regularly expressed in the media.
Ron Dennis rode out into the public gaze last weekend on his cloud based chariot – nick named, “holier than though”. He lambasted Red Bull for not acting with integrity over contracts McLaren have with employees. He accused Christian Horner of failing to act in a “correct and professional way.”
When later asked by Ted Kravitz whether it was hurtful when people questioned Red Bull’s ethics, Horner’s riposte was, “Not when it’s from Ron Dennis.”
Dennis apparently later sought out Christian on the grid to wish him “a happy easter” Horner revealed.
It’s all just a game and the F1 guys who once raced in muddy fields know exactly how it should be played. Have a big fight and then pretend to all be friends following its conclusion.
TJ13 was criticised for inaccurately reporting on the day of the Red Bull appeal hearing that Mercedes had requested a three race ban for Red Bull, though of course a few days later this transpired to be indeed the case.
Red Bull’s newly evolved version of Ferrari’s horse whisperer – the Red Bull Spy, was acerbic following the hearing at the FIA’s international Court of Appeal. In a post on the team’s website, ‘the spy’ wrote, “The big news we’re digesting is that the playful scamps at Merc decided to have a good old sticky-beak at our appeal and requested we receive a three-race ban.
In true cold war rhetoric, the discourse continued, “There’s a few pursed lips from our management at that but they’ve decided to rise above it and not comment – but down here at the coalface you can be sure we’re telling out mates in the next garage along where they can shove that three-pointed star”.
Niki Lauda decided to offer the olive branch and deliver a Sachertorte – famous Austrian chocolate cake – to his adversaries pit garage during the Chinese GP weekend. This was clearly not received with the ‘genuine’ goodwill the former 3 times world champion intended.
Red Bull’s point man, Dr. Marko, made his feelings clear to the associated press over the peace offering when he commented on Lauda’s actions. “He thinks everything is over with a cake? I think the next time he wants to eat pasta with us, he should put on a bulletproof vest.”
In life the ‘new money’ and ‘old money’ are often used to contrast the new pretenders to the game with the old hands who have been at it quite some time. The former are often characterised as loud, brash and flash; whereas the latter appear to deal with etiquette, are affable whilst at the same time being capable of an embrace of friendship whilst drawing the assassins knife and inserting it in the back with faultless precision.
Clearly Niki is from the ‘old money’ school and his cake was no peace offering – rather an opportunity to gloat face to face at his adversaries defeat.
The brash turn of phrase from the Red Bull Spy, written by their head of communications, which suggested Mercedes “shove that three pointed star” would have better adhered to the rules of the game had it been more eloquently crafted. Maybe, “Insert their famous marque’s historic pointed emblem into a small aperture not usually known as a receptacle,” would have done the trick.
Further, Marko equally appears from the more modern tradition and the Red Bull Spy’s assertion that the Milton Keynes team principals would be rising above the fray – was clearly lost on him.
In some way these exchanges of rhetoric may infer that Dennis and Lauda are ‘old money’ and possess a sense of irony and breeding; whilst Horner and Marko are defined by the brashness of the PR machine which markets Red Bull fizzy drinks.
Mercedes ‘pit bull’ lawyer, Paul Harris, launched repeated frenzied attacks on the integrity and competence of the Red Bull team at the appeal’s hearing last week, yet this was obvious to all merely a payback for the actions of Horner et al. over ‘testgate’ last year.
All is fair in love and war in the paddock – once famously described by Lauda – as a pit of vipers.
Eric the braveheart
There were some who questioned the reasoning behind McLaren’s recruitment of Eric Boullier. Yet it is becoming clear that his skill set was well targeted by the Woking based team.
Having been wheeled out time and again alongside the con-man Mansoor Ijad, Eric’s job at Lotus evolved during the closing days to primarily one of convincing a sceptical world of something which was indeed unbelievable.
TJ13 coined the phrase, “doing an Ijad”, which represents presenting oneself to be – or be doing – something which most others find incredulous.
Last week, McLaren handed the Frenchman the job of making the big announcement of a “new and exciting partnership” between Gillette and McLaren. The reality was an extension of an existing agreement.
Today Boullier on a McLaren phone in asserts the title sponsor arrangements are moving forward. “The plan Ron discussed is happening,” he states.
TJ13 reported in December that McLaren may not sport a title sponsor for 2013. Due to breach of contract, Vodafone who should have been visible on the cars this year, would have been forced to pay a considerable amount of the contractually agreed sum regardless of them withdrawing from the sport.
McLaren then announced they would be ploughing in Group shareholders profits this year to plug any funding gaps the racing team may suffer.
Boullier persists, “Until we have signed the package, signed the final contract obviously nothing will be announced or changed. As long as we are in that position we will keep going with what we are doing now.”
So, big ‘Ron’s plan’ is moving forward. This plan appears to be to create smoke and mirrors around the lack of a title sponsor for as long as McLaren can get away with it. Who is in the pipeline and why they are not yet revealed, we can only speculate.
Though we now know why Eric was recruited to Woking – for his indomitable brave heart in presenting to the world the unbelievable.