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Previously on TJ13:
Mercedes Oompah band played on..
It would seem that whilst Aldo Costa designed an engineering masterpiece with the Mercedes this year, handing over the production of the exhaust to the German companies acoustic engineers has failed miserably, Rather than operatic symphonies, we have a thigh slapping oompah band to hand…
Remember when your parents said it was better in the old days
Mattiacci’s silence ‘deafening'(GMM)
Marco Mattiacci is officially the lowest-profile team boss in F1, two respected correspondents have declared. Just ahead of the Chinese grand prix last month, Stefano Domenicali quit Ferrari, with president Luca di Montezemolo appointing the F1-unknown Mattiacci to replace him.
44-year-old Italian Mattiacci’s motor racing experience is almost nil. But even in that context, a team press conference in Barcelona last weekend was “bizarre”, Speed Week correspondent Mathias Brunner reports.
He said Montezemolo made his “usual rallying calls”, while Mattiacci sat beside him in complete silence. “Apart from a brief message on the Ferrari website and a press conference in China, the former head of Ferrari North America has been silent,” said Brunner.
In the Ferrari website message, the Maranello team said Mattiacci is “continuing with the task of analysing and evaluating the team and its working methods”. But Leo Turrini, an authoritative media source on Ferrari matters, pointed out that Mattiacci has now been in place at the head of the famous team for a month.
“During this time, he has almost never opened his mouth” publicly, he said on his Quotidiano blog. “Now, we all agree that the Cavallino needs facts and not words, yet for decades, at least at the end of a grand prix, the boss has offered his version of events. Cesare Fiorio did it, Jean Todt, Stefano Domenicali. Mattiacci’s silence is deafening,” said Turrini.
Montezemolo, however, is backing Mattiacci to deliver eventually for beleaguered Ferrari. “When he came, Todt was criticised a lot because he knew nothing about formula one, but then he managed to do a great job,” he said. “So it’s like going back in time and I am sure that Mattiacci will do a good job.”
Mallya and Roy slowly bowing out
TJ13 has followed the Vijay Mallya and associates story pretty much since our inception in September 2012. The stories have been wide and varied and even include an employee of a Force India sponsor committing suicide due to none payment of salary for several months.
Two themes run concurrently. Firstly Mallya has massive financial problems, and the once ‘King o good times’ billionaire is no longer regarded with much honour or respect within his own country. Secondly, there have been big promises made to the Silverstone based team of £50m investments from Mallya and Rubrata Roy himself. These never happened.
In fact, Force India have planning permission for new premises at the very gates of Silverstone, and one of Roy’s family is currently hunting for investors to find the a few million to get the project under way.
What we can say about Force India, is that it is run by a man who is Mr. Formula 1 through and through. Bob Fearnly has stabilised the team to run within its budget and which does not rely any more on a penny from its once high profile wealthy benefactors. Force India is consistently at the head of the mid-field teams and in the past 2 seasons has been challenging the mighty McLaren.
Bob represents the working man in F1. This is apparent from his no nonsense common sense and direct style of communication together with his recent galvanising of the disenfranchised teams and his refusal to suffer fools gladly.
These attitudes are reflected in the culture and working practices of the Force India team. Working for Force India means you do a day’s work – you get a fair days pay. Further, there is no jackets on chairs mentality and no unnecessary waste.
To live within their means, Force India do not have the endless funds of others to design, test and build countless parts which never end up on the car. As TJ13 reported last week, the cost of producing a front wing is around £100,000, of which the carbon fibre cost alone is £10,000. The there is the design efforts, CFD time, model builds for the wind tunnel, testing time inside the wind tunnel and the extra component which must be built – merely to be smashed to bits in a crash test.
This of course means that during the August break, the Force India factory unlike others is closed and quiet. Further, UK bank holidays are respected and the factory staff take the day off.
Last week, on the bank holiday Monday, it has been reported to TJ13 that on the hat stand – where the Force India executive offices are situated – sombreros were spotted. Also, in the trash were a couple of empty bottles of Don Julio.
It is no co-incidence that this visit occurred when most of the Force India staff were enjoying the English spring sunshine.
TJ13 reported during 2014 winter testing, that Carlos Slim was showing a great interest in acquiring ownership in the Silverstone based team. Due to ongoing legal matters in India, and a desire from the Mexican barons to see whether the 2014 car is once again competitive, discussions have been slow.
Further, Fearnly has urged caution over a hurried sale, due to the fact that a certain Mr. Ecclestone uses the change of ownership of F1 teams as an excuse to marginalise them either financially or in terms of influence. Williams are on the F1 strategy group because of the fact they have the longest continuous ownership of the mid-field teams.
In Barcelona we saw the once dominant Sahara sponsor name moved from the sidepods and was reduced substantially in size and placed on the engine cover. Sahara are bowing out quietly whilst their boss – ‘Roy’ – is currently sweating it out in a New Delhi jail until he does what he is told by the Indian Supreme Court.
The word is that Slim is keen to progress matters so that an announcement can be made in the near future. Fearnly has urged caution and believes even without a new cash injection the team will again finish well in the constructors’ championship this year. On that basis, who is running F1 may be clearer as the Ecclestone trial will be concluded.
Then the Silverstone F1 team could launch for 2015 as “Mighty Mexico” – or whatever grandiose nationalistic name the next owner of the team prefers – would be preferable.
The joke’s on Bernie and Jean
The F1 folk maybe be obsessive and relentless and appear at times to have no other life besides the one that is focused on the next 10th of a second gain in lap time. Yet there are regular pranks and jokes being played, together with the usual gamesmanship and psychological sparring that has been a fundamental part of F1 for ever.
Last year, Charlie Whiting told a group of reporters in Melbourne that he suspected a local plague of giant rats were responsible for the problems race control was having with the electronic driver on track management systems. The oversized rodents then became media creations akin to the globetrotting “Madagascar” type escapees as they trundled around Asia wreaking havoc for another couple of F1 events.
This year, Ron Walker, the chairman of the Australian Grand Prix Corporation and an old ally of Ecclestone’s, set the cat amongst the pigeons when he complained on following the Australian GP that the lack of noise in the season-opening Grand Prix on Sunday could affect future ticket sales.
Many thought this was a collaborative effort with Ecclestone pulling the strings, however it transpires Bernie was as surprised as anyone to hear the comments and legal threats Ron Walker espoused.
Having made a fuss over the new V6 engines for years, Ecclestone had realised that any further negative talk would weaken his hand in terms of negotiations with race promoters and had no intention of rocking the boat.
Bernie was not in Australia and had not attended any of the pre-season, test sessions so he had never heard the new engines on track. However, merely having heard the abomination of sound produced by FOM TV for the season opener, Ecclestone did comment that he was “horrified” by the sound.
Mr. E duly appeared at the next race in Malaysia, and immediately upon hearing the cars live on track admitted he had been too critical in his comments following Australia, stating the V6 sound was, “better than I thought”. The F1 supremo suggested if they could be made a little louder this would probably suffice.
In an interview with Martin Brundle pre-Bahrain, Bernie revealed that he had asked all the engine manufacturers to look at improving the volume somehow, and interesting he highlighted that Mercedes in particular were being most helpful on this. Further, Bernie had engaged the FIA to assist him in persuading the teams to examine a solution.
Clearly Ferrari and Renault have bigger fish to fry and Ecclestone’s request has not unreasonably been filed under ‘pending us getting within a lap of the silver arrows’.
However, yesterday we saw the engineering masterpiece which Mercedes proposes to up the volume of the engines. The pitch and frequency of the V6 engine note can’t really be altered as this is produced by the mechanical machinations and revolutions of the ICE.
As an aside; the inspiration for Mercedes solution is secretly credited to Lewis Hamilton. One day he was playing some of his ‘fav’ one hit wonder bands full pelt in his motor home, and a Brixton engineer heard the MARRS track and thought – “there’s an idea”.
So the ‘megaphone’ exhaust concept was born. Nico Rosberg dutifully tested it but his conclusion was not encouraging. “We tried the new exhaust today, just as a team we want to do good for the sport,” he said in a video posted on Twitter. “Unfortunately, though, it wasn’t a great solution, it just didn’t work, it didn’t make it much louder. So we’ll just have to try for another solution, we’ll try pushing.”
TJ13 was impressed with the way the team decided to issue its comment on this highly technical futuristic engineered solution. Clearly nobody from Mercedes wished to face the media in case they burst into fits of uncontrollable hysteria. Just like the emperor’s new clothes, it was obvious to anyone with an IQ of more than 5, that this copper alloy… hand beaten component… which had roughly been formed into the shape of a gramophone speaker was a p$%s take at Bernie and Jean’s expense.
His Master’s Voice
Rosberg put the whole matter into context when he stated, “Everyone was talking about the exhaust but to be honest I didn’t notice much difference in the sound. Of course, we’re happy to try these things if that’s what the FIA and the fans want us to do. But perhaps this was not the right solution.”
In a most serious piece for SKY SPORTS, Rachel Brookes who was trackside on Wednesday said dead pan, “not an audible difference as far as I can tell”
Mercedes though are now exhonerated. They have done their bit. So Jean and Bernie will next be knocking on Ferrari’s door, asking them for an alternative. If they can get Mr. Mattiacci to speak – this would be an achievement – but were Ferrari to pick up the baton and run with this buffoonery, God only knows what we’ll see strapped to the back of the F14T.
Mercedes no historic Monaco advantage
Some drivers particularly excel at certain circuits and certain teams cars run better at some F1 venues than others. Lewis Hamilton for many, is a beats in Montreal and Mercedes have a reputation in recent times have excelled in Monaco.
Michael Schumacher just 2 years ago qualified his W03 on pole position before being forced to take a 5 place grid penalty. It was a shame as given the dominance pole position commands, this was Schumacher’s best chance of a race win since he returned from retirement.
Last year Nico Rosberg took pole position from team mate Hamilton, by just 8/100th’s of a second. Nico then went on to win the race.
I driver’s affinity to a circuit will see him perform beyond the norm of the car he is in simply because of his experience and confidence at that track. However, there are factors which can mean a car which has run well at a given F1 venue on previous occasions will not necessarily do so again.
Toto Wolff explains. “We have been the quickest team [at Monaco recently] because we haven’t been the quickest team on the other circuits. On a low-grip circuit like Monaco it was where we were able to keep the tyres alive more easily, but this isn’t a problem at the moment. I also think the power unit is not so important”.
So Toto is saying Nico and Michael benefited from the fact that they were able to incrementally improve the Pirelli 2012/13 tyre performance at Monaco in 2013, over and above other circuits with the W04.
Yet this is not the whole story. The most significant reason Mercedes were more competitive included the fact that the tyre degradation they were plagued with elsewhere was less noticeable in Monaco. Add this to the fact that overtaking is nigh on impossible, and despite Honer’s suggestion that there were two silver busses ahead of his cars, this would have been the case whoever had qualified on pole.
So have Mercedes really lost their Monaco advantage? Should Christian, Sebastian, Daniel and others be genuinely excited?
Well, the key to being successful in Monaco is having a good high downforce aero package and further a car which delivers good traction out of the slow speed corners – Williams beware.
This being the case, the disadvantage of the Renault put-put engine is mostly irrelevant. Further, Newey’s car has been lauded as the best aero design of 2014. So surely the RB10 has a chance of finally getting ahead of the Mercedes.
Well, Barcelona gave us a huge insight into a number of factors which were previously more obscured. One of which was how good the cars are in technical slow sections of a track.
Sector 3 in Barcelona demonstrates which car is good in slow corners and where traction is important too. Here are the best times for each of the top 4 finishers for S3 during the race.
Having been giving a grid slot drop, not only was Vettel’s gearbox changed, but most likely some aero tweaks were made which would enhance his ability to overtake. This in turn may well have compromised his sector 3 capabilities. That said, Vettel’s best theoretical lap (all 3 best sectors added together), was over 1.8s slower than Hamilton’s best. Ricciardo’s was just over 1s slower.
So, taking Ricciardo alone, we can see in the slow corners where traction is at a premium, the RB10 looks pretty good. Just 6/100th’s of a second behind Hamilton’s S3 time and 2/10th’s behind Rosberg.
Impressive stuff, and to be fair the Ferrai’s and the rest were nowhere by comparison. That said, only Valtteri Bottas and Kimi Raikkonen could get within 6/10th’s of Rosberg’s S3 time.
However, the gap between Daniel and Nico should both re-assure Mercedes and demonstrate Red Bull still have a lot to do if they are to get a result in the Mediterranean. If we extrapolate the S3 gap between Ricciardo and Rosberg over a lap of Monaco then we would see over half a second between the Silver Arrows and the Red Bull.
Based upon last year’s Q3 times which saw the Mercedes 1&2 and the Red Bull’s 3&4, this would be a disappointing increase in the gap – which in 2013 was just 3/10th’s across all four cars.
Further, the sector 3 times in Barcelona suggests that the stereotype is true. Lewis is a racer grabbing the car by the scruff of the neck, but in the technical sections, Nico has the advantage.
Does this make him slight favourite in Monaco? Well he had the advantage in Barcelona.
Lotus and the Bank
It’s unclear whether the new partner Lotus announced in January has in fact upped its sponsorship of the team, or whether repossession proceedings have begun.
Nay matter. Here is the livery for the E22 in Monaco.
Seriously, due to the general lack of sponsors, we have seen McLaren feature a number of partner’s in unusually prominent positions on the car for one or two races. Genii are probably doing the same. Forgoing their position for a race to give a current partner some incremental visibility.