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Previously on TJ13:
Mclaren-Honda: concerns from Mercedes about second spy-gate
Insiders in Formula One fear that another spy story could explode with Mclaren at the centre of the storm – states Italy’s Omnicorse.
Mclaren has developed an experimental chassis for the tyre tests following the British Grand Prix to test the new hybrid V6 from Honda. The intention is for the Japanese engineers to understand the issues the team has with the Mercedes Power Unit and eliminate the problems before next season.
Honda is not restricted by any testing rules that Mercedes, Ferrari and Renault had to adhere to last season and therefore wants to assimilate as much data as possible from the current engine installation from Mercedes.
As long suspected, the Mclaren cars have their power units removed by Mercedes before they head back to Woking, but this cannot prevent data from being passed on to the Honda technicians that are present at events.
Niki Lauda and Toto Wolff are not happy about this and want the FIA to regulate the situation. It remains to be seen if Mclaren and Honda will be allowed to marry up during the season or more likely they will have to find other solutions beyond the dynometer to test their brand new design.
Mallya continues selling the family jewels
In recent weeks, TJ13 has brought news of changes in the collapsing empire of Vijay Mallya and the subsequent effect it was having on the Force India team.
Barely two days have passed and the newest instalment of this soap opera has emerged – United Spirits Ltd has announced it has agreed to sell its Whyte and Mackey whiskey business for £430 million – which would be great news for investors except it was acquired seven years ago for £595 million.
USL chairman Vijay Mallya said: “I am very proud of what Whyte and Mackay had achieved under USL ownership. We believe that Whyte and Mackay is a prized asset with excellent growth opportunity. Moreover, I am delighted to be able to pass on Whyte and Mackay into the hands of a new owner who is committed to realising the full potential of the business and whose vision of Whyte and Mackay is aligned with that of USL.”
In September 2012, Indian magazine FirstBiz asked if Mallya was India’s worst businessman. “Vijay Mallya has served as such a wonderful example of how not to run a business – there are larger lessons to be learnt from his impending failure.”
Within three months the airline had lost its licence to fly and the empty promises Mallya made regarding repayment of debts led to three of his directors quitting Kingfisher around a month ago.
It would be reasonable to believe that these funds would be used for staff that had been laid off and other debts which prevented his airline from operating but much as his ‘partner in crime’ Rubrata Roy, it seems an ex-billionaires conscience is above the law.
Newey poaching attempts ‘permanent’ – Marko (GMM)
Red Bull has not denied rumours Ferrari made yet another move to poach Adrian Newey. “We’re used to these permanent poaching attempts from both sides,” Dr Helmut Marko told the German newspaper Bild am Sonntag, referring not just to Ferrari. “Mercedes and Ferrari don’t just try to get our top employees; they are trying at every level (of the team),” said Marko.
In reality, Red Bull and Ferrari have a more immediate problem even than a tug-of-war over F1’s most sought-after and highly paid engineer. At the Circuit de Catalunya, a layout expected to play into the hands of Mercedes’ rivals, Lewis Hamilton was a clear second faster than any other qualifying pretender.
Not only that, world champion Sebastian Vettel is having one of the worst grand prix weekends of his formerly glittering F1 career. Despite having switched his RB10 chassis before the Barcelona weekend, the German has struggled simply to get his new Red Bull to run in Spain. “It’s getting a bit boring,” Vettel said on Saturday. “We’ve had all sorts of problems this year.” Boring perhaps, but the quadruple title winner is at least retaining his sense of humour.
Asked if his 2014 travails are a good test of his mettle, Vettel replied: “Well, I haven’t been tested on the track much so far! If you compare my salary with the number of laps I’ve done, then I am the best paid driver,” he smirked to Germany’s Auto Motor und Sport. Vettel sat out most of Friday and also broke down in qualifying, so he added: “I’d say I’m well rested for the race.”
Gerhard Berger, once Vettel’s boss at Toro Rosso, also thinks motivational issues may be creeping into the 26-year-old’s struggles. “Firstly he knows that he has no chance with this Renault engine,” said the former McLaren and Ferrari driver. “And certainly after always being at the front for four years and giving everything, in this situation you could find that your batteries are getting low,” added Berger.
But Red Bull’s Marko thinks the real problem is simply Mercedes’ increasing dominance.
“We are one second from them. In the race we won’t see Mercedes,” he said. “We are making small steps forward, but so are they. We need a quantum leap, otherwise for us the year is over,” added Marko.
It is believed Red Bull wants to introduce substantial fuel and engine modifications in time for its home race in Austria next month, but this might require a relaxation of the engine ‘freeze’ rules. “The rules are clear, and we stick to them,” Mercedes F1 chairman Niki Lauda, apparently ruling out cooperation to help struggling Renault, insisted.
So for now, Marko admitted he is hoping Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg’s lonely battle at the front comes to blows. Lauda, meanwhile, is taking delight in Mercedes’ current situation. “I was really concerned that our lead would be smaller on an aerodynamic track like Barcelona,” he said. “But we are even further ahead of Red Bull than before.”
Il Padrino re-enforces his commitment to Ferrari
Team insiders report that Marco Mattiacci has a closer relationship with the apolitical Kimi Raikkonen than with the fiercely political Fernando Alonso. In fact since his arrival in China, of the two drivers ,it is only Alonso who has seemingly made any public comment about the new boss.
After the frosty reception he gave the incoming Team Principle, he appeared to have softened his stance by Barcelona. “Marco has little racing experience,” he said, “but plenty on the management side. He is listening and learning as fast as possible. We’ve had meetings to help in all areas and he wants to listen to everybody. I don’t think he wants to become an engineer, but his priority is to take his time and then make decisions. He needs more time.”
With Luca di Montezemolo present in the Catalunya paddock it is hardly surprising that Mattiacci has maintained a low profile but Il Padrino offered words to seemingly appease the ranks of Tifosi worldwide but most likely a veiled comment to Alonso.
“I’m not happy with the situation, I want to be close to the team and Mattiacci – who has just arrived. It was the same for 4 or 5 months when Jean Todt came to Ferrari in 1993, because he was not an expert.”
What the boss omitted to add was that he was not an ‘expert’ in Formula One. Todt had run the Peugeot Talbot Sport division from 1981 and masterminded the Peugeot 205T16 and the 905 Group C car with stunning success. It was only Peugeot’s reluctance to enter F1 that pushed the little Frenchman towards Maranello. The rest as they say is history.
Haas visit revs up rumours of Lotus strife (GMM)
Big paddock rumours are swirling around the future of F1’s Enstone team. Once Ayrton Senna’s first team, Toleman, the outfit subsequently became title winning Benetton and Renault, before Kimi Raikkonen won races in the current black and gold ‘Lotus’ guise. But Finn Raikkonen departed after bitterly revealing he was not being paid, and rumours of financial trouble have struck again, despite the millions brought to the team by the well-connected Venezuelan Pastor Maldonado.
Lotus appeared to have been left stranded as the team that has not paid disgruntled engine supplier Renault so far in 2014, after fellow customers Toro Rosso and Caterham insisted all their invoices are up to date. But a Lotus spokesman said in Barcelona: “We have an agreement with Renault for the payment of our power unit for 2014. We are 100 per cent up to date with our agreement.”
Nevertheless, the rumour mill was already shifting gear, as reports on British television Sky emerged that Gene Haas – F1’s next team owner – is set to visit Enstone. Some have suggested the Californian may have listened to the critics and acknowledged that basing his new team in the United States might not be a good idea.
One such critic is Toro Rosso team chief Franz Tost, who said in Spain: “I would not like to do that to be honest. “Getting highly-skilled technical people to Italy is one of the main problems for Toro Rosso! These people prefer to stay in England, where the best infrastructure for F1 exists,” he told F1’s official website.