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The enduring legacy from the Formula One’s ‘Black weekend
It’s not difficult to quantify Senna’s legacy. As we reach the twentieth anniversary of the Imola tragedy his 41 race victories, 65 pole positions, his three titles and all his quotes still remain emblazoned as part of the fabric of the sport.
He also left a legacy which to date has enabled over 11 million of the poorest children in Brazil to have access to schooling, sports and education that they may never have been fortunate enough to receive otherwise.
Max Mosley spoke recently to Reuters about taking the blame for the quiet Formula One that we are experiencing but he also spoke of the lasting legacy that Senna’s death has had on thousands of people throughout the world.
It goes without saying that safety in motor-sport has changed completely in the last two decades but perhaps of greater significance is the effect that research has provided for road safety.
“That Imola weekend was the catalyst for change on the roads that has literally, without question, saved tens of thousands of lives. It is true that without the accident we would never have gone to Brussels, or developed the Euro NCAP (New Car Assessment Programme) standard, conducted crash testing or been able to get the legislation through the European Commission. All this has increased the standards of safety.”
“You know, thousands of people that are walking around, happy, alive and uninjured would have been killed if it were not for the work that has been done. All of that started with Ayrton’s accident and that to me is the thing that really matters.”
After Imola, the FIA gathered together a group of experts to scientifically assess how to make racing safer. Crash tests would become far more encompassing and there has been a continuous push to reduce outright speeds. Helmets became regulated, barriers improved and circuit designs modified to embrace the move to the future. Around this time the FIA began it’s push for greater road safety through changes in government and European Institutions.
“When we had the Senna accident we even had politicians saying Formula One should be banned. The whole of F1 was in turmoil and it went beyond the confines of Formula One. If you say ‘What has Formula One given society?’ the truth is F1, Roland Ratzenberger and Ayrton have allowed a change in road safety. This has affected the lives of thousands. Not maybe, it’s certain.”
Mosley concluded,” The road safety would have happened, but it would probably have taken another 15 or 20 years.”
Max Mosley went to Ratzenberger’s funeral because he had become the forgotten man of the whole weekend. It is of course easy to understand – Senna was a high profile champion at the peak of his career, known throughout the world and perished on our screens.
But maybe the legacy belongs to both men equally. If only one or the other had died, it would have been passed off as a freak accident- something that happens in motor-racing on occasion. For both to perish, the clamour that followed around the world was too insistent on change.
Mercedes loses another important team member from the design group
TJ13 reported recently that Niki Lauda had deemed the workforce at Mercedes in need of culling with redundancies in the pipeline.
With news of Bob Bell having left the team last December – destination unknown – and with the resignation of Ross Brawn coinciding with the end of the season, Mercedes is a fundamentally different structure to the group that pieced together the dominant Silver Arrow which Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton have won all four races of the current season.
With the historic grandees Ferrari and Mclaren both restructuring it seems a short-sighted decision from the senior management figures Lauda, Toto Wolff and Paddy Lowe. One of the victims of this process has been signed by James Key to take over as the concept designer at Toro Rosso.
Phil Arnaboldi is a 47year old Englishman who has been the Head of Car Concept at Mercedes and previously Brawn/Honda since 2008. He trained as a model maker with the Ministry of Defence before joining Mclaren in 1989 as a CNC programmer. After working through different departments he became a designer in 1995.
In 2000 he joined the Sauber team as their Concept designer before returning to England in 2007as senior designer for M-Sport who were responsible for the Ford WRC cars. In 2008 he joined Honda as Head of Car Concept where he has remained till his recruitment by the Faenza team.
What is the role of the Head of Concept? As Phil explained on the Mercedes-brawnteamf1 blog:
“I am responsible for the layout and packaging of the car. Most of my time involves working with CAD (Computer Aided Design) software to come up with designs which enable our car performance targets to be met. I work closely with all of our design groups to juggle the factors that allow the car design to evolve.
The mass, weight distribution, fuel volume, wheelbase, functionality and the FIA technical regulations are all taken into account as well as fitting the various systems and components within the constantly changing bodywork surfaces that the aerodynamicists find in the wind tunnel.
A typical day can vary from fitting the driver into a mock-up of the car to check that he physically has enough room to drive, to negotiating with our aero guys about how we can move the package of the car around to allow them to introduce the latest aero tweak or surface shape.
All of this has to be drawn and checked on CAD to see the effect that any changes may have on the car layout and I have a small group of very experienced guys that work on this constantly.”
When Brawn sold the team to Mercedes, Arnaboldi remained at the team over-seeing the gestation of the W05 with particular attention paid to the installation of the electrical systems. It would seem quite a significant part of the team’s direction may have left the building…
F1 goes back to its roots – or does it?
The FOM news briefs regarding the future of the F1 calendar have seen a remarkable shift over the past few years. Brand new venues were the flavour of the future, such as India, Austin, Sochi, Thailand (various) New York along with one or two more far fetched ideas.
Yet in recent times the emphasis has shifted. This year we see the return of the historic Austrian GP and TJ13 reported last week that the reconstruction of the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez in Mexico city was imminent and hopeful of participating in the F1 series as early as 2015.
South Africa and France have been mooted by Ecclestone in off the cuff comments, though the former via the Cape Town authorities have told Mr. E he can shove his GP and the exhorbitant fees associated.
Over the past 24 hours, voices inside FOM have been suggesting that the next realistic addition to the F1 calendar will be the re-introduction of Argentina. The Autódromo Juan y Oscar Gálvez last hosted the world’s premier racing series from 1953 to 1998, though the configuration of the circuit was altered a number of times.
Yet should F1 return to Argentina, it will not be to the track which has delivered many great F1 moments, but to a new circuit to the international stage which saw MotoGP debut at last weekend, at the Autódromo Termas de Río Hondo.
The local town has a mere 30,000 residents, however it is located just 60 miles from Argentina’s fifth largest city, Santiago del Estero.
Whilst there was a track in Termas de Rio Hondo previously, the redesign which was completed in 2013, was in effect a complete overhaul – delivered not by the infamous Mr.Tilke, but Italian circuit designer Jarno Zaffelli.
In December 2011, a three-year deal was announced for the Termas de Río Hondo circuit to host an Argentinian MotoGP from 2013. However on June 20th, 2012, the Spanish government advised against travel to Argentina for any teams or riders sponsored by Repsol due to “safety reasons”, following a dispute between the company and the Argentinean government.
What had actually happened was that a local subsidiary of Repsol had been commandeered by the Argentineans and nationalised.
Matters were resolved and the inaugural international motorcycle race eventually took place in April 2014 and saw world champion Marc Marquez maintained his unbeaten start to the season with victory at the Argentina MotoGP.
TJ13 has been informed that in its current state, the circuit would not be ‘fit’ for Formula 1 to race there. Yet the local management believes that the adjustments required to meet the FIA’s standards are in fact tweaks, rather than big money spend.
A new facility, good to go, is surely a thing of beauty for Mr. E to contemplate, following the trauma’s of New York and the failure of any other obsequious governments to rock up with $600m on offer for a new racetrack facility and a 6-7 year contract.
If this briefing from FOM isn’t some game to get the historic host of the F1 Argentian GP – Autódromo Juan y Oscar Gálvez – to up its game and bid for an F1 return, then Formula 1 may be going to Argentina next year. Though with the country in economic crisis, who will pay the whopping F1 hosting fee, is unclear at present.
Jenson just fine
Certain media outlets have been reporting that Jenson Button was injured last weekend whilst participating in a triathlon in Fuerteventura. The McLaren lead driver had apparently completed a 2km swim and the 90 km bike ride without trouble, but began suffering muscle problems during the half marathon third leg of the event.
Today McLaren deny this to be the case and state that Jenson actually withdrew from the entire event prior to it commencing.
“Jenson decided not to complete the Canary Islands triathlon, but he is fit and well and has, contrary to a few rogue media reports, no injuries of any kind,” claims a McLaren spokesman. “Indeed, he is driving in our simulator today and is looking forward to participating in the forthcoming Spanish Grand Prix.”
Jenson will be competing in his 15th Spanish GP next week, though has only stood on the top step of the podium once and that during his championship winning year with Brawn.
Sometimes, it’s interesting to look back a year and reflect. The new Formula 1 has had its critics in 2014, but remember what Jenson had to say following the 2013 event in Barcelona.
“When we’re going round [during the race] doing laps three seconds slower than a GP2 car did in qualifying, and only six seconds quicker than a GP3 car did in the race, there’s something wrong. This is the pinnacle of motor sport. We shouldn’t be driving round so slowly to look after the tyres.”
What a difference a year makes.
Mercedes Reserve Drivers
Mercedes are one of the few teams to have announced a reserve or test driver in 2014. Okay, many of these roles are filled in the smaller teams by drivers who bring money to the budget, in exchange for a few test sessions and the odd FP1 outing each year. Clearly Mercedes do not need the cash.
Paul di Resta was doing the media rounds during the closed season making it very clear he would be happy to be the team’s test driver this year whilst competing in DTM.
During the opening weekend of the 2014 F1 season, the Herald (Scotland) reported, “Controversially dumped by Force India at the end of last season as they opted to take the multi-million pound sponsorship cheque waved by Mexican Sergio Perez, Paul Di Resta is closing in on a test and reserve driver role at Mercedes GP.
The role, expected to be confirmed within four weeks, will further consolidate the Scot’s long relationship with Mercedes-Benz. It is 10 years since he joined the Mercedes Young Driver Development Programme, and this year he returned to lead the car giant’s all-out assault on the German Touring Car (DTM) Championship”.
Yet no announcement has been forthcoming.
In direct contrast with the Mercedes F1 team’s philosophy of having no reserve drivers this year, one of McLaren’s test drivers, Gary Paffett is competing in the same series as Di Resta,
Finland’s Ilta Sanomat is reporting that Heikki Kovalainen who was dropped by Caterham for the 2013 season, is on the brink of signing a contract to be a Mercedes test driver.
Kovaleinen lost his role as reserve driver for Caterham following his dismal results during the last two races of 2013 when he stepped into the vacant Lotus seat left by kimi Raikkonen.
Ilta Sanomat adds that the contract offer to Kovalainen has been on the table for some time and that now the detail has been resolved contracts will be signed imminently.
It would be a huge smack in the face for Di Resta were Mercedes to sign Kovaleinen, yet it could be the case that the Scot has learned to keep shtum and he too will be once again part of the F1 fold of the World Championship leaders.
Secret problems affecting Raikkonen in Maranello
Mika Hakkinen insists that Kimi Raikkonen must quickly get on terms with Fernando Alonso. “Kimi has problems but they must be resolved. At the moment Alonso is utterly dominating him and the difference is not small.
After four races he should have settled in by now. His car is not so catastrophically bad that he can’t do anything about Alonso. He needs to do something and do it soon.”
Various reports have suggested problems with the pull-rod suspension, the rear brakes which harvest energy in a way that Kimi is struggling with, a new chassis has been provided as the old one caused problems, different compounds of tyres that are harder to heat up, a driving style that is not suited to the car…
The list is endless and is of concern to any fan of the Iceman. His biggest ally was Stefano Domenicali and with him removed the cloaks are fluttering as the blades become unsheathed.
Intrigue is never far away from the Maranello concern and whispers are reaching the ears of a distinguished journalist who as an unofficial Ferrari source is famous for offering riddles in place of answers. Luca Colajanni was subtle with his words as ‘The Horse Whisperer’ but Leo Turrini moves his prose to a different level.
Leo Turrini is both a journalist and an author that has written a number of books about F1, cycling, skiing and music. His most recent publication was a book of Ayrton Senna, a man who Turrini called a friend. He has close acquaintances within the Ferrari network and because of his close friendship with Domenicali, it was Turrini who broke news of his resignation from Ferrari.
Last week he spoke about a fable, which by all accounts, he swears is true and it is the secret behind Kimi Raikkonen’s poor form.
[..He was in Fatima, Portugal to honour a promise he made twenty years ago to a friend who is no longer here. Someone had taken the opportunity to print a photo of Turrini and Raikkonen outside the Montana restaurant on to the T-shirt he was wearing. Could this be the birthplace of The Holy Drinker as LT has affectionately christened him?
Whilst in Fatima he is approached by a big guy that he has never met, around the same age and after asking finds out he is a Finnish man. The man asks Turrini if he was there to understand the fourth secret as well…
Four secrets? There was only three and they are all known. No, the man insists, there are four and the last one is and he points at Turrini’s shirt. ‘Ok, I didn’t know that, if you tell me I’ll write an article…’
The big man states, the fourth secret is the real reason why the guy pictured on your stomach is trailing his team-mate. He added no more.]
The friend he honours is Ayrton Senna but beyond that the characters of the story could be anyone. The Alonso v Raikkonen story was always going to be one to watch for this season but it seems that the behind-the-scenes machinations may be skewing the picture somewhat..