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Mclaren and Ferrari – Never the twain shall meet
After Ferrari’s recent change of Team Principal, Luca de Montezemolo rallied the troops with a resounding speech about changing the infrastructure within the Scuderia to make it more streamlined with less levels of communication for the various departments to negotiate. As always when Ferrari issues these types of calls to arms, the influential British media and various observers mock their ‘Italianess’ and the official announcements of using less emails.
But as has recently been revealed, Mclaren are also setting about changing their team structure to improve their organisation to get back to the front. Part of which has surprisingly been overlooked by the press – the need to implement better chains of command and clearer communication between the divisions.
Following a detailed review by Eric Boullier, Mclaren’s Racing Director, the team is now making changes which are believed in time will bring a fundamental benefit to the squad. In addition to Peter Podromou’s arrival next year, new aerodynamicists have been recruited to re-strengthen a depleted team. Tony Salter joins from Sauber and Guillaume Cattelani from Lotus with Dan Fallows still remaining a highly contested subject between Mclaren and Red Bull.
Boullier believes rather than a complete overhaul it will be these internal changes which empower the current staff and allow the team to move forward.
“McLaren is composed of brilliant individuals, they have been winning many races and have been fighting for championships, I think it is just to make sure that the same people are working together in one way with strong leadership, strong guidance and at least it will help them to recover their past success. Once we have this leadership in place with clear strategy, then we have to make sure the communication flow within the company is maybe a little simpler to make it faster and better in the end. That will be key for me – the key point to drive this company back to success.”
It may prove to be a coincidence but Ferrari and Mclaren – the two giants of Formula One – have both struggled with World Championship success since 2008. They have both had sporadic success through the subsequent seasons but their fundamental DNA has seemingly been mis-placed.
Montezemolo and Ron Dennis have both brought about change at a time when maybe they had both taken their eyes off the ball – be it political ambition or the construction of a manufacturing plant. Whilst Domenicali and Whitmarsh were likeable fellows – success was not forthcoming and any changes have not yielded the returns promised.
Following the banning of in-season testing – something that Ferrari had invested in heavily with two dedicated circuits at Fiorano and Mugello – the Italian team has been building up their electronic resources to match the best, including new state of the art simulation tools.
The troubles with their own wind-tunnel dated back to 2010 and forced them to use the Toyota facility last year. In another mirror image, Mclaren also made use of the Cologne wind tunnel but both teams suffered indifferent results with developments they brought to races.
Many fans are expecting a return to the glory days of the original Mclaren-Honda tie up but the more circumspect will point out – the last time Honda ran engines with other teams, including BAR and Jordan, their engine was not considered close to the best.
Taki Inoue has become a minor celebrity with his off the wall tweets to the world but there may be an element of truth in his latest outburst in regards Honda.
“Honda super formula is shit! Honda GT is shit! Honda F3 is shit! Honda WTCC is medium shit! What do you expect Honda in F1?”
Rosberg tips rivals to be closer in Spain (GMM)
Nico Rosberg has tipped Mercedes’ rivals to have closed the gap during the three-week break since last month’s Chinese grand prix. The Brackley based team has utterly dominated the opening four ‘flyaway’ grands prix of the new turbo V6 era. But the start of the European season is traditionally the scene of vast improvements up and down the pitlane, as teams add the first major developments to their fledgling cars.
“Until now we have had a big gap to our nearest competitors,” championship leader Rosberg is quoted by German-language Speed Week. “But three weeks have passed since China and for sure a lot has happened. So we will have to wait and see,” said the German ahead of this weekend’s Spanish grand prix.
I hope that we still have an advantage, but we will have to see how big it is. I am confident that we will still be the fastest. But we are also aware that the competition has been working around the clock to catch up,” added Rosberg.
At the same time, Barcelona is usually a key indicator of how the rest of a F1 season will look. Not only is the Circuit de Catalunya a frequent test venue for the sport, the nature of its layout is a good indicator of how a car will perform on most types of tracks.
“A car that performs well in Barcelona should perform well everywhere,” agreed Paul Hembery, tyre supplier Pirelli’s F1 boss.
Ross Brawn spotted in Maranello
Word has reached TJ13 from our correspondent in Italy that Ross Brawn was seen in Maranello and Fiorano yesterday but there is little indication of what his plans for the future are.
There are no doubts that he would have had many friends at the Scuderia’s headquarters from his time at the factory between 1997 and 2006 and it is probably the first time since he left Ferrari that he could actually visit their factory without being a direct competitor. But as ever in the fevered world of Maranello, the rumours begin once more.
One particular rumour involves Marco Mattiacci being nobody’s fool and inviting Brawn back. As a former CEO of Ferrari America, there is little doubt the man is intelligent and most likely very persuasive but is there any strength to the rumours?
For some months now, it has been believed that Brawn was working alongside Honda as they prepare their entry for next season and yet was spotted in Italy on a fine afternoon.
Many Ferrari fans would welcome Brawn back with delight as he is recognised as the architect of most of the Schumacher success. Since those heady days he had further proved his leadership qualities with Brawn and Mercedes. Yet he left Mercedes after declaring he wanted full control of the team and it’s unlikely he would join Mclaren without insisting on a similar position of authority also.
There is still some confusion with our Italian cousins as to the real motives behind the recruitment of Mattiacci – whether his appointment was a decision made by the FIAT board or the sole responsibility of Il Padrino himself. If Brawn is recruited to the team, his overall position will likely suggest who has the real power within Maranello.
Mercedes employ sports psychologist to perfect their domination
A classic description of a psychologist used to mean someone trained to deal with problems that an individual was experiencing in life which was preventing them achieving a stable mind set. In the 21st century their roles have expanded and now encompass clinical, sports and industry with both behavioural research and practitioners.
Jackie Stewart has for years advocated the use of coaches for drivers and always questioned why Formula One drivers believe they are above the use of such professionals to develop their talents. Every other professional sport employs sports psychologists and coaches at the highest level dealing with tennis, golf, footballers and other high profile pressure environments.
Romain Grosjean has made no secret that he made use of the profession last year as he seeked answers to his Formula One problems and the transformation proved startling but to date he appears to be the sole beneficiary not a ground breaker.
It appears that the Mercedes team have also acknowledged the potential benefits and have enlisted the services of Dr Ceri Evans. He had famously helped the New Zealand rugby team overcome their mindset to win the 2011 Rugby World Cup and was an observer in China recently where he observed the team as they performed in high pressure situations, such as pit-stops. He made his report to Toto Wolff with recommendations but as yet has had no involvement with the team’s drivers.
Evans studied experimental psychology at Oxford University and set up Gazing Performance in 1998 – his clients include banking groups, car hire firm Avis and the UPS organisation. He has assisted various rugby institutions but has been employed by the Brackley team on a consultancy basis. He will attend various Grand Prix as required but no planned schedule has been set.
Mercedes’ move follows a growing trend across global sports. In 2012 Brendan Rogers, Liverpool Football Club’s manager hired Dr Peter Stevens to assist the team which has been fighting for the Premier League title this year and he has also worked with snooker champion Ronnie O’Sullivan in recent years to achieve World Title success.
It’s intriguing that in a sport dominated by ground breaking technology, where the teams chase every 1.000th of a second at the cost of millions perhaps the biggest performance differentiator is the “nut” behind the wheel.
Dickie Stanford appointed General Manager for Williams Heritage
Williams Grand Prix Engineering has announced this morning that Dickie Stanford has been appointed to the position of General Manager for Williams Heritage. This new division has been established to oversee the maintenance of their historic Formula One cars.
Stanford had stepped down from his position as Race Team manager before the start of the season explaining he wanted to replace a life lived on the road with a factory based position.
He began his career with Williams in 1985 as a mechanic on Nigel Mansells’ FW10 and worked his way up to Chief mechanic before becoming Team Manager in 1995. In 2005 he stepped down from the role so as to spend more time with his family. He returned as Race and Test Team Manager in 2010 and guided the team through a barren period of their history.
As General Manager of Williams Heritage, Stanford will be responsible for the team of highly experienced Williams mechanics that maintain and run the historic car at events such as the Goodwood Festival of Speed.
Stanford will report to Jonathan Williams and Sir Frank Williams said, “A team of our longevity has many historic assets that need to be cherished and preserved for future generations to enjoy. Dickie combines strong mechanical knowledge of our cars from his time as a mechanic, with first class operational and logistical skills honed as Race Team Manager. He is therefore perfectly placed to take on the day-to-day operational running of our historic car programme and provide support to Jonathan in ensuring that Williams’ Heritage programme goes from strength to strength. I would personally like to add my thanks to him for his services to the team during his time as Race Team Manager.”
Stanford added; “I have a lot of passion for the company and its heritage and the opportunity to take charge of our historic car programme is too good to turn down. With the formation of Williams Heritage as a distinct division within Williams, we will be well placed to ensure that our legendary cars continue to be well looked after and can be showcased to Formula One fans for many years to come.”
Former McLaren technical co-ordinator Peter Vale has been appointed by Williams as its new race team manager and it can only be hoped that Vale will follow his predecessor’s example of using the medium of Twitter to show fans what is going on with Williams.
McLaren to pass Mercedes information to Honda – Wolff (GMM)
Toto Wolff suspects McLaren will pass on knowledge about Mercedes’ turbo V6 to its 2015 engine supplier Honda. This year, Mercedes is in the awkward situation of being contractually bound to supply its industry-leading new technology to McLaren, whilst knowing the British team is already setting up its new works relationship with Honda.
When asked by Germany’s Auto Motor und Sport how much information about Mercedes has already passed from Woking to Japan, team boss Eric Boullier smiled whilst insisting: “Nothing!” Indeed, correspondent Tobias Gruner insists Mercedes is “using every means” to prevent Honda from learning from McLaren’s final year with Mercedes.
But Wolff admitted: “I am convinced that what McLaren learns is being exchanged with Honda in the context of what is allowed.” He said McLaren’s own telemetry will allow Honda engineers to see information about things like torque, power delivery and driveability. “And also what is needed for cooling, hydraulics, electronics — all these things are of course passed on,” said Wolff.
Wolff said he trusts McLaren – famously fined $100 million by the FIA for the 2007 ‘spygate’ scandal – to stick to what is allowed as it moves from Mercedes to Honda power. “We have a very clear understanding of what can be disclosed and what cannot, but I am convinced that they acknowledge the partnership and the confidentiality that they enjoy as a client today,” he added.
Wolff also acknowledged that even the transfer of some information will not overcome Honda’s inherent “disadvantage” of only returning to formula one in 2015. “Honda has a natural disadvantage,” he said, “because they are coming into the sport when everyone else has already been there (in the V6 era) for a year.”
At the same time, he also thinks rivals Ferrari and Renault will be closer to Mercedes next year. “Our concepts are very different,” said Wolff, “but the others will certainly catch up a lot, because they have information about how our engine runs when they see it on the track. Next year the field will automatically be closer.”
Rosberg v Hamilton duel will be close claims Norbert Haug
The battle between Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton is likely to be the overwhelming topic of the 2014 season given the current dominance displayed by Mercedes.
Despite differing views from the senior team management – in regards to team-orders possibly being required later in the season – and the continued ‘paranoia’ that the other teams can successfully close what is believed to be a two second advantage, ex Mercedes boss – Norbert Haug believes it will be a close duel between the two.
Speaking to the German Bild newspaper he commented,“Nico and Lewis are very close to each other and each of them has a good chance of dominating the rest of the season.”
Haug continued: “I hope it will be a close duel between them for a long time, I have known Lewis and Nico since they were kids and I’m proud of them both. I hope we see many more hard, exciting races as we did recently in Bahrain. But it’s also clear that there is a loser and a winner at the end of every duel. Hero and zero is never far away in motor sport.”
Lotus asymmetrical nose being evaluated by competition
Lotus may well have missed the ‘twin tusked’ boat if rumours from Spain are to be believed.
The troubled Enstone team has been centred in a storm surrounding it’s finances last season which saw the mass exodus of around 100 influential employees to other Formula One teams. As ever in this fast moving sport, technical committees will gather and evaluate different solutions found by the competition which may aid their own developments.
Having missed the first tests of 2014 and handicapped by a second rate Renault power unit, Lotus have not been able to fully display the potential of the Nick Chester designed E22 but it has received attention in various wind tunnels including Williams and Mclaren.
Pat Symonds commented that, “Lotus have been haemorrhaging employees from all departments over the last few months, so I think all of the teams had an idea of where they were going,” he continued that he suspected other teams were also investigating the aerodynamic properties of the asymmetrical nose on the Lotus but admitted, “We have also looked at several interpretations (of the double nose),but some of them simply did not fit with our car.”
.Italy’s Omnicorse claims the solution has been tested by Tim Goss for some time in the Woking wind tunnel and Boullier has hinted that Mclaren will have some major upgrades for the European leg of the season. After a great start to the season, Mclaren have suffered two disappointing outings in recent races and are also studying solutions which will incorporate the single pillar rear wing support as mounted on the Lotus as well.
The one factor that may prevent the introduction, in Catalunya, of a similar nose is the fact that the whole unit has to be crash tested by the FIA but it could be seen later in the season if the benefits outweigh the current design.