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Previously on TheJudge13:
Lewis Hamilton’s ‘winter of discontent’ pays dividends at Mercedes
Lewis Hamilton joined Mercedes last year and struggled throughout the season having moved away from his familiar Mclaren set-up. His initial problems centred around a car that had been designed around the driving styles of Michael Schumacher and Nico Rosberg. It was not unusual to see him in post qualifying and race press conferences seemingly disappointed with his performance.
In a typical feeding frenzy, the media hypothesised that he was once again in a ‘bad place’ and his emotions were ruining his performances. With news this year that Lauda advised the young athlete that he should get rid of his dog from meetings and concentrate on the job it would be easy to believe he is a malleable individual needing a fatherly figure to guide him.
The truth is he has worked hard over the last few months with the Mercedes engineers to develop the car more to his liking. “It’s a lengthy process, Michael had a different driving style to me. He required different things, different seating position, different set-up. I guess Nico and Michael both kind of gelled and went in one direction with the balance and then as I’ve come along, mine is slightly different and I guess we’ve then created a hybrid: Nico’s come halfway, I’ve come halfway so we now require the same things from the car.”
One of Hamilton’s strengths has always been his modulation of the brakes as the high speed downforce bleeds away to just mechanical grip. Last year he struggled with this aspect more than any other. “Working on the simulator last year, analysing data of how hard you hit the brake, the brake pivot position, the master cylinder, different brake material and really focusing on brake settings. For example, I told them to go away and develop, I gave them a software idea and they went away and developed a piece of software which I use and which helps me come up with brake migration and all that kind of stuff.”
“Set-up wise, I’ve been really pushing the guys because I like an oversteering car, but the car is too oversteery now. Last year I was struggling generally and really uncomfortable understanding some of the technical things they have on the car that Nico had been using for years. He knew it, so every time we did the debrief I didn’t understand what he was talking about, but he was using it to his advantage, so it was really studying that and making sure that I knew how to use it to my advantage too. It took all of last year to really understand what feeling it was giving me. Last year things were happening and I just thought the car was not underneath me.”
With Button recently stating that Hamilton plays mind-games – at which, Jenson himself is quite adept – the merest suggestion of an advantage for Rosberg is revealing. The ‘secret’ document that Mercedes prepared for the Chinese Grand Prix for Nico to study was used by the press to sensationalise an otherwise humdrum story. No mention was made of these documents being available for Vettel to study when he spoke of having to look at Ricciardo’s pace. Nor have they ever been mentioned outside of any team’s motorhome – but as we all know Lewis sells papers.
Fuel – The secret ingredient behind the fastest performance gains
In Enzo Ferrari’s time, aerodynamics were important for people who didn’t know how to build engines. Around the same time he was famously quoted saying ‘the horse should not be pushing the cart‘; an attack on the infiltration of the mid-engined concept. By the time of his death, aerodynamics were re-defining the new era of Formula One and engines, whilst still important, could not substitute for losses due to poor aero control.
During the previous turbo era and in to the early nineties, the chemists of the fuel companies began developing fuels – that required breathing apparatus and chemical protection due to the toxicity of the ‘rocket-fuel’ blends – that were provided to boost the engines beyond what a normal mixture of petroleum could provide. By the mid 90’s the FIA had brought in new regulations that prevented the use of anything other than ‘pump fuel‘.
Fast forward twenty years and whilst aerodynamics are still a fundamental part of the car design, and the Power Unit is in the process of development, one of the biggest areas for future battles centres around the fuel companies.
The general consensus was that the new 100kgs limit for fuel would be focused on fuel efficiency but teams have found that better fuel allows big power gains to made due to the energy recovery systems.
Ferrari has made significant gains with their supply of Shell lubricants and fuels. Not only do they power the car, but they aid in cooling and have less internal friction which in itself makes the unit more efficient.
What has also been noticed by the more astute observers is that the same engines using different fuel products have found differing gains in straight-line performance.
Renault’s F1 engine chief Rob White said: “if you gain sufficient fuel to be able to spend a little bit of fuel on generating electricity, it opens the door to energy deployment. There can be perhaps a biggish difference on end of straight speed, and a noticeable difference on lap time, from just a small change in fuel consumption.”
Rob Smedley – Williams Head of Vehicle Performance said: “There can be a lot of performance in it – especially as it’s a new breed of internal combustion engine – a V6 with different compression rates and all the rest of it. There’s a very different fuelling regime both in terms of efficiency and power so there’s lots to be gained there.”
Calling time on Pastor’s career?
Venezuela’s new Sports Minister, Antonio Alvarez, is quoted by Ultimas Noticias about time running out for Pastor Maldonado’s Formula One tenure. He confirmed that funding from the state-owned oil company PDVSA will cease after this season.
“I know I’m going to win a lot of enemies but there will be not be one more dollar for motor-racing. Venezuelan sport has other priorities and it would be unfair to use state resources for disciplines that are not in line with the development of the country.”
Maldonado’s career had the personal support of the late President Hugo Chavez but it has also caused controversy within the country. Regarded as a national superstar after his solitary victory in Barcelona 2012, he remains a highly controversial figure in the paddock with questionable driving ethics causing penalty points to be applied to his licence.
It would seem that we will now finally have our answer. Is Maldonado a respected talent or just a very good pay driver…
Jenson sees mind games
There are seasons where stories are prevalent and recurring, and there is usually a reason for that. At present, we are fascinated with the Mercedes battle between Rosberg and Hamitlon. The neutrals amongst us are probably rooting for Nico to turn the momentum his way for a short while, just to keep things interesting.
So… much is being made of the inter-team rivalry within Brackley, and many of us predict, the friendship will and damn well should suffer some time soon, if Nico is to have a tilt at the title. Lauda reckons he’ll be happy for his drivers to “drive over each other” when the competition has been seen off and the likes of Gerhard Berger and Alain Prost have been vocal about the need for Nico to get his elbows out and be more aggressive.
Such is the level of comment on the Mercedes pair even elder statesman Jenson Button has decided to chime in on the matter. Button suggests Lewis tried playing ‘mind games’ with him when they were team mates at McLaren, “There were a few things he played on me. It would work on some drivers, whereas others it just makes them stronger because they laugh it off”.
Button sees evidence that Lewis is at it again with Nico, “I am sure there will be – if there aren’t already – be mind games going on”, says Button. However, “Nico is intelligent to know if Lewis is playing mind games or not, which in some ways could help Nico or harm him. He might just end up getting fed up with it.”
Button doesn’t cite exactly what he believes could be happening, but one thing is certain, given the state of his MP4-29, this isn’t Button playing mind games with Lewis – because clearly, what would be the point?
F1 fails again in America
Firstly, it must be noted that the Grand Prix of the America’s has been a raging success over its first 2 seasons. The teams and drivers love the venue that is COTA, the fans have been flocking to Austin and the government has been handing out rebates to the promoters based upon the increase in tax revenues the state has received from an uplift in visitors.
However, just the one Formula 1 race per season in the USA must be seen as a failure on behalf of the sport. Not long ago Bernie led us to believe we were on the cusp of a race in New York and for the older F1 fans, a nostalgic return to Long Beach California was seriously on the cards.
Little has been said regarding the New Jersey race since the final 2014 calendar was announced in December. A bullish Ecclestone at the time stated, “There is great demand for a race in New Jersey, and I have no doubt we’ll be racing at Port Imperial in 2015.” However, the prospect of a 2015 race at present is little above zero.
The IndyCar license to race in Long Beach was up for renewal also this year, and Ecclestone was confident F1 could challenge the status quo and agree a return to this nostalgic race venue.
Yet it may be that for certain would be hosts, F1 is perceived as far more of a risk since the failure of Korea and India – whose combined spend of over $1bn failed to secure a long term event.
Ecclestone attempted to play down the expense of upgrading the Long Beach facilities to satisfy Charlie Whiting and the FIA by claiming, “I could have a race at Long Beach this afternoon if I wanted.” Yet the city council were more circumspect, and awarded IndyCar an extension to their contract until 2018.
Despite his protestations to the contrary, it has to be suggested that FOM and Ecclestone missed an opportunity to acquire the bankrupt CART racing series if only to provide access to other racing circuits in the USA.
That said, at that time there was a long line of global wannabe F1 host nations all sending container ships of cash to the tax haven offices of the FOM group. Who cared about America then?
So, F1 is left for the near to medium future with just Austin as the single USA F1 event each year. Yet there are challenges to the state of Texas prized jewel just around the corner.
Mexico is coming, and what is yet unclear is how many of the Austin race fans had taken the short flight from across the border to watch what is their closets F1 event to the held at present. Will those fans continue to visit Austin when their country has its own event? No one knows.
What is true is that Austin has challenges it needs to face up to. Hotel prices are very high, and the cost of eating and drinking is inflated significantly during the week F1 is in town.
TJ13 is aware of significant anecdotal evidence which suggests European fans looking for a flyaway race to attend following the summer break are in fact favouring Singapore and Abu Dhabi, over Austin Texas.
Whoever takes over from Ecclestone needs to ensure F1 delivers another race to the USA. Because it is not beyond the realms of possibility that Austin and COTA may find the medium term challenges of hosting F1 too great…. And then there were none…
Customer teams are coming
Speedweek is reporting that Toro Rosso and Red Bull are planning a future together with much closer ties than in recent years. This year, the ‘little bull’ is running the same gearbox internals as the RB10, though they continue to produce their own casing.
Having been refused an engine contract by Ferrari, the Italian based team was forced to switch to buy engines from the same manufacturer as ‘big brother bull’. In 2015, the cars for both teams will share the same rear suspension layout and possibly other components depending on regulation changes.
This by no means is an indication that Toro Rosso are winding down the size of their in house production operation. Franz Tost explains that there has been a quiet but continuous expansion of personnel for a number of years now. “Compared to 2008-2009 when we had about 135 people, now it is up to 325. We are growing and the process is not complete,”
This kind of collaboration is not unique in F1, as Force India and McLaren have had a shared technology partnership arrangement for a number of years, having access to gearbox and hydraulic components.
However, the whiff of A and B teams is in the air and is growing from strength to strength.
In a recent interview with Martin Brundle, Bernie Ecclestone admitted he felt this is the way F1 should go.
MB: “Where are you on customer cars? Do you think it would be better to have say six teams with six ‘B’ teams to go with them, so there’s some economies of scale and some structure to it – and the grid would be a lot closer too?”.
BE: “Yeah, I mean I’d like to see that. Whether it would work or not, have to wait and see”.
This debate is unlikely to be concluded in time for the 2015 season, though it makes sense for teams to share development and production of certain components, and should go some way to reduce the costs across the board.
Ecclestone illness halts bribery trial (GMM)
The brakes were applied to Bernie Ecclestone’s corruption trial on Tuesday. The F1 chief executive is appearing once or twice per week in Munich for the court proceedings, in which he is charged with bribing the jailed banker Gerhard Gribkowsky.
But as the trial resumed on Tuesday, the 83-year-old Briton’s lawyers asked the judge for an adjournment, as Ecclestone is suffering from a bad cold. German publications like Bild and Handelsblatt – adding that Ecclestone’s voice was also hoarse – published photos of the unwell-looking F1 supremo repeatedly coughing in court.
After two hours, the judge agreed to the adjournment until Wednesday, and told Ecclestone he appeared tired. “I’m ok,” Ecclestone replied.
But a court spokesperson told SID news agency that Ecclestone was examined by doctors and a medical certificate was issued. In fact, Tuesday was arguably a good day for Ecclestone, with a public prosecutor appearing as a witness and admitting Gribkowsky had told a range of “fluctuating stories” to explain his sudden fortune years ago.
DPA news agency said Ecclestone’s lawyers were “visibly pleased” when that testimony was given.
Magny Cours on pole for 2015 F1 return (GMM)
Magny Cours is on pole position to return to the F1 calendar next year, the boss of the former French grand prix venue has said. “If the will of a number of people is confirmed in the coming weeks, we are very close,” Magny Cours chief Serge Saulnier told France’s Infosport on Monday. France has been absent from the F1 calendar since Magny Cours, located in the centre of the country some 250 kilometres from Paris, lost the race after 2008.
“We are still in negotiations with FOM,” Saulnier added, referring to F1’s commercial rights company that is run by F1 chief executive Bernie Ecclestone. “We are a candidate for a date in 2015, but for now nothing is signed,” he said, revealing that representatives of local regions have been asked to contribute towards the race fee.
“I am hoping,” Saulnier continued. “We have been working on it for more than three years, it has built slowly but surely, and I feel that the time has arrived to sign this agreement. I hope and I would like it to be done before the summer,” he added.
Haas building 200-strong F1 workforce – report (GMM)
Amid the F1 paddock’s usual scepticism, the sport’s newest team is pushing ahead with its plans. Gene Haas – a top Nascar team co-owner and boss of Haas Automation, a world-leading machine tool maker – has secured a two-year license to make his F1 debut either in 2015 or 2016.
After a visit to Haas’ North Carolina headquarters, Auto Motor und Sport correspondent Michael Schmidt says the Gunther Steiner-led team’s “plan A” is to race next year. Schmidt said Steiner, who has worked with Jaguar and Red Bull, is now rapidly building a workforce, with many experienced F1 people showing interest because Haas can offer new challenges and high-ranking positions.
“There are many interested parties,” a source said, “but we can only hire people when we know who our engine partner is.” The front-runner is Ferrari, who are also keen to supply a lot of other components to Haas. Mercedes has already ruled itself out of the running to fill Haas’ needs. “We can only offer engines and transmission,” said team chairman Niki Lauda.
The Haas car will almost certainly be built by Dallara. Schmidt reports: “A 200-strong staff is under construction. In September, the factory in Mooresville will be ready.” At the same time, Haas is also looking for somewhere to base itself in England, the report added.