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Previously on TJ13:
Ross Brawn is ‘supposedly’ on a fantasy tour of Italy
TJ13 carried a story yesterday, from our colleagues in Italy, that Ross Brawn had been seen at Maranello and at the Fiorano test track. Speaking to BBC Sport and Italy’s Gazzetta Dello Sport, Brawn has played down the significance of the visit to the Ferrari factory.
Brawn told the respective reporters: “I was with a group of friends as part of a tour of Italy – nothing more than that!” A Ferrari spokesman unsurprisingly backed this up by suggesting that Brawn’s visit was “simply an Italian fantasy tour with friends that had been scheduled for some time.”
The group had also tried out the new exclusive LaFerrari hypercar around the Fiorano test track with the remainder of the trip focused on visiting some of the route which had been used by the historic Mille Miglia race across Italy and to visit “as many vineyards as possible.”
The Mille Miglie, as it name implies, was a 1,000 mile lap around Italy – which started and finished in Brescia. It ran a total of twenty four times between 1927 and 1957 with the Second`World War interrupting the race for a period of six years. The event was cancelled after an accident killed Alfonso De Portago, his mechanic and nine spectators in 1957.
In 1977 organisers began running the Mille Miglie Storico – a celebration of the former race with entries only being applicable to cars built between 1927 and 1957. This years event is to be run between May 15th-18th.
The Italian press continued that he had visited Maranello to say hello to colleagues from the past whilst the BBC article suggested that Brawn “is taking time off while deciding on his future.”
It would be naive to believe that someone of the stature of Brawn could walk into a facility like Ferrari without being met by senior management and most likely the President himself. Marco Mattiacci is a Fiat protege and he would also have been aware of the visit and its implications within the Italian press.
Speculation continues to mount in Italy that Mattiacci is being prepared for the ultimate role of President of the Gestione Sportiva and will replace Montezemolo with the full backing of John Elkann – Fiat’s chairman.
Elkann is the grandson of Gianni Agnelli who died in 2003 – the Ferrari F2003-GA was named in his honour – and following the passing of Agnelli he became Vice Chairman of Fiat and worked on turning around the FIAT Group. In 2004 he selected Sergio Marchionne as Fiat’s CEO and Elkann replaced Luca di Montezemolo as Fiat Chairman in 2010.
The recent resignation of Stefano Domenicali bears all the hallmarks of having been instigated by Marchionne who despite having an unorthodox management style can be ruthless in his dealings with ineffective leaders. With his success at returning Fiat and Chrysler to profit, his influence within the Group is significant.
As to Brawn himself – there is no amount of money that Ferrari could offer which would entice him back – he is wealthy beyond most peoples imagination. So the only angle that the team could offer would be an enhancement to his legacy. So begins the next chapter of Ferrari’s history as the corridors of power become smoke-filled once more.
Renault is finally seeing the end of its recovery
In Formula One’s never-ending pursuit of time, it is sometimes daunting how fast real life passes by. TJ13 reported from before the first test session of the 2014 season that Renault were in serious trouble with their Power Unit and the rectification would take between 15 and 20 weeks to accomplish.
With the issues of fuel flow meters consigned to the footnotes of history, the threats of Red Bull seeking another engine supplier and Helmut Marko’s clumsy suggestions that Red Bull software engineers fixed the engines problems, the start of the season for the French manufacturer has not been as disastrous as first feared.
With Lotus and Caterham having received updated units in China, there is a renewed belief emanating from Viry-Chatillon that the three week break has enabled another major step forward.
Barcelona and Monte Carlo are two circuits that are less demanding of the Power Unit but even so Remi Taffin – Head of Renault’s Track Operations believes progress has been made.
“These two tracks have different requirements from the point of view of energy, so we must make sure that the power unit works in the best way. We believe that we will be able to express the maximum of our potential from Montreal, but we have already made significant strides, even from the point of view of reliability.”
Despite the engine specification having being frozen Taffin still thinks that there is room for improvement as much of the potential is in the correct harvesting of the energy systems.
“Our performance improvement will come mainly from the evolution of the software. Moreover, if we can solve some of the problems we have encountered on our V6, we can take a step forward from our current situation. It’s not only here where improvements will come because you can improve the lubricants and fuels, and I think that from this point of view we will soon progress.”
Ferrari Technical Director – James Allison – defends F14-T
Ferrari’s Technical Director, James Allison, is adamant that the true potential of the Ferrari F14-T hasn’t been realised yet. Despite the three-week break Formula One works in an environment of continuous development therefore the workload at the factory has remained as constant as in the fly-away races.
“I think it’s wrong to question if the car’s true potential was seen in Bahrain or in China. It would be incorrect to suggest that it was the same car at the two events and its improvement was circuit specific. The simple reason is we changed our car quite significantly between the races.
We’re learning how to extract performance with these new set of rules and we hope to make the car more competitive. The key to a successful season is to continue to improve at every race. If we can bring a significant increase in our performance at the next few races we will continue to see progress which will define the true potential of the F14-T, not just one single race.”
Ultimately any progress made by the engineers is reflected by the team’s drivers. Kimi Raikkonen has struggled to adapt to the car and has trailed Fernando Alonso significantly but Allison expects improvements from the Finnish driver soon.
“With Fernando we’ve seen an extraordinary level of performance, scavenging every possible point at every possible opportunity,” Allison said. “Kimi is working extremely well with the team, collaborating with the engineers, helping us to drive this car forwards. He has class written all over him and, in a very short space of time, I’m sure we will also see the results of that on the track.”
Press Schedule for 2014 Spanish Grand Prix
For those who would like to listen to the drivers and team principals; The FIA has now published the press schedule for this weekend’s Spanish Grand Prix.
On Thursday at 15h00 Fernando Alonso (Ferrari), Max Chilton (Marussia), Daniil Kvyat (Toro Rosso), Kevin Magnussen (McLaren), Pastor Maldonado (Lotus) and Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull) will grace us with their wit and humour.
On Friday at 16h00, after FP2, Cyril Abiteboul (Caterham), John Booth (Marussia), Robert Fernley (Force India), Monisha Kaltenborn (Sauber) and Franz Tost (Toro Rosso) will be in the hot seats to face the press.
Stewart, Prost moved from front of Senna’s coffin (GMM)
The configuration of the pallbearers at Ayrton Senna’s fabled funeral was changed at the last minute, the F1 legend’s former personal assistant has revealed. Betise Assumpcao, now married to Williams co-founder Patrick Head, told Brazil’s Agencia Estado that when she arrived for the 1994 funeral, she discovered that Jackie Stewart and Alain Prost were scheduled to be the lead pallbearers.
Triple world champion Stewart had fallen out badly with Senna when he accused him of deliberately running arch-rival Prost off the track for the 1990 title. “I am never going to speak to you again,” Senna had told Stewart, according to the Scot in an article for the Daily Mail newspaper last week, marking the 20th anniversary of his death at Imola. Stewart claims he made up with Senna a year later, and also the bitter acrimony between Senna and Prost had also eased by 1994, following the Frenchman’s retirement.
Nonetheless, Assumpcao revealed her horror when she arrived for the funeral to discover that Stewart and Prost would be at the very front of the casket. She said her arrival was delayed after helping friends, family and international guests to make their way from the city to the Morumbi cemetery.
“Gerhard Berger, Ayrton’s best friend in F1, ran to me and cried ‘Betise, you must do something’,” Assumpcao recalled. “Someone told me that Alain and Jackie will be at the front of the coffin — apparently it’s in order of world titles!” she added, recalling Berger’s words. “You have to change it,” Berger told Assumpcao. “They are the two people Ayrton hated the most in his life.”
“He (Berger) was horrified and frankly, so was I. My stomach started to hurt. I turned quickly and went to the cemetery gate. On the way, I bumped into Geraldo Rodrigues, Rubens (Barrichello’s) manager and a dear friend.I told him ‘You won’t believe it. They want to put Jackie Stewart and Alain Prost right at the front. Ayrton will be turning in his coffin!” she said.
“There was no doubt in my mind that Gerhard had to be right at the front,” added Assumpcao. “He had been with Ayrton in most of the good times with Ayrton, on and off the track.” She put another Brazilian world champion, Emerson Fittipaldi, alongside him. In the end, Prost pushed the coffin trolley in the position behind Fittipaldi, with Stewart a further two places behind.
“I went back to where the drivers were and pretended I didn’t know anything of the previous arrangements. I think Ayrton would have been happy to see me, helping his friends and making decisions without hesitation. He was like that,” Assumpcao added.
TJ13 comment: With 32,000 people attending the Imola ceremony last week and practically the whole of the media expounding the enduring Senna legacy – this recollection by his former P.A seems an appropriate place to let this man rest.
Cavallino signs agreement to supply Williams Martini merchandising
Cavallino Group LLC has signed an agreement with the Williams Martini team to supply official team apparel. The company is a growing family run automotive lifestyle company whose expertise ranges from online retail sales, track side and event sales, wholesale distribution and licensed merchandising.
As part of the agreement with the Williams team they will supply a range of clothing that will be available from the Williams Martini Racing website and other approved distributors around the world. Cavallino will also be supplying the team with clothing that is worn at races and official functions attended by the team’s drivers and personnel.
Edward Spivak, President and Co-Founder of Cavallino Group, said; “We are honoured and excited to be chosen as the merchandise partner for WILLIAMS MARTINI RACING, and to be working with such a prestigious Formula One team. We are working with some of the top apparel and accessory factories all over the world to be able to bring new ideas to Formula One merchandise and we will use new printing techniques to improve on already premier products. We cannot wait to bring high quality products to eagerly awaiting Formula One fans.”
Sir Frank Williams, Founder and Team Principal of Williams, added; “As a Formula One team we take great pride in our appearance and demand team clothing that is befitting of our premium brand image and can withstand working in challenging conditions. We also need to supply fans with a range of merchandise that makes them feel part of the team. In Cavallino we have an official supplier that can meet our demands and we look forward to working together.”
The development of merchandising is seen as a crucial tool for the development of a brand and its success contributes to the bottom line of all the teams. For some years, Ferrari’s brand has been the envy of other Formula One teams with sales from licensing and merchandising a significant part of their profits. With a 60 year history which has always been emblazoned in red, the brand remains one of the most recognisable in the world. It is this market that the other Formula One teams hope to exploit with their own merchandise.
It was felt during the PDVSA era that many companies were reluctant to sponsor Williams due to public concerns with the associated Venezuelan regime. Now following a few barren seasons in both performance and sponsorship, the much loved Williams team has initiated a resurgence with title sponsorship from one of the most iconic liveries in racing history – Martini Racing.
Any business venture is generally based around the concept of maximising profits and the only question that is left unanswered is when Spivak states ‘factories all over the world’ will the label read – Made in China. When a Formula One team cap sells for between £25-30 and the same style cap is produced by Nike, for example, for less than £10 – it would appear that the myopic view of the F1 teams remains as ingrained as ever.
Team mate mentality
Much has been written about the Mercedes F1 team’s dominance and the expectations that Ferrari and Red Bull will close the rather large gap to the team from Brackley this weekend in Barcelona. This may indeed be the case for Red Bull, even if for the simple reason hat following a disastrous winter testing schedule, much of what should have been done in Jerez and Bahrain has been happening during the 4 flyaway race weekends.
Sebastian Vettel is to get a new chassis, though the reasons given from Red Bull are confusing. Some reports suggest this was a planned upgrade from pre-Australia yet others infer there have been cracks found in the No. 1 RB10, which may have contributed to the heavier tyre wear Sebastian has been suffering compared to his team mate.
Yet in any sport it becomes harder with each successive year to maintain dominance at the head of the field. The mental effort to cover every detail, cross every t and dot every i and prepare better than the rest of the competition becomes incrementally more difficult as a champion’s reign progresses.
Sebastian became a father this winter which is a fundamental change to most people’s world. He may also feel some relief that he has seen off his long standing team mate and thorn in his side. Further, he may not have expected Daniel Ricciardo to hit the ground running as well as we have seen, and been caught somewhat on the back foot.
Then there is the fact that the 2014 F1 cars are quite different to drive. The drivers doing well appear to like the changes and conversely the others are not so happy. Vettel mastered a counter intuitive driving style which maximised the down force from a combination of Newey’s aerodynamics and clever Renault engine maps. That advantage is now gone from the world champion’s armoury.
So, given all this, it would be no surprise were Vettel’s mental strength to have dropped a few percent, which is affecting his performance.
With Renault claiming they have made significant steps forward in performance for the up coming race in Barcelona and Sebastian getting a new rampaging bull’s rump under his backside, the next few days for him are important indeed.
Given these anticipated improvements, we may see Sebastian establish himself ahead of his young Australian co-driver. However, Daniel Ricciardo maintain the edge over his world champion team mate, the psychological blow to Sebastian could be damaging for some time to come.
A similar intrigue exists within the dominant Mercedes F1 team. Nico leads the driver standings, whilst Lewis has won 3 of the 4 races. Rosberg should forget his friendship with Hamilton and their karting days together, because if he wants to become world champion he must do what is required.
When Lewis’ entire world is ticking over nicely, Rosberg may find it difficult to knock him from his stride. However, when Lewis head is not right, then the cracks appear in his armour.
TJ13 is of course not suggesting that Nico engages mercenaries to kidnap Roscoe, or tries to ‘get it on’ with Nicole. Yet the German must no only find a way to beat his team mate on the track, but also upset the rhythm of Lewis existence.
Nico has commented that Lewis has been better in the rain so far this year, but that “I was better in the dry”. This observation on the year to date is probably not enough to derail Hamilton mentally and Barcelona probably favours neither driver particularly. So with Monaco up next, where Nico has been strong, a win in Barcelona may be enough to rattle Hamilton as the circus heads off to southern France.
A number of partisan publications are crowning Hamilton already as 2014 F1 champ, yet the next 2 races are crucial in the inter team Mercedes battle – particularly with Canada following where Hamilton has been king.
With Mercedes bringing a raft of aero changes, Nico may just find a setup which Lewis fails to discover, and this could be the edge he needs to halt the momentum ‘team Lewis’ appears to have at present.
What is certain is that if Rosberg wants to win the drivers’ title this year, he must forget friendship, and do as most F1 champions have done in the past – find a way to upset his team mate’s state of mind.