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Previously on TheJudge13:
Mattiacci knows the score
Renault must look ahead to 2015 – Prost (GMM)
Renault needs to be looking ahead to 2015, according to F1 legend Alain Prost.
Although an ambassador for the French engine supplier, Prost does not hide his belief that Renault simply went into the all-new turbo V6 era this year unprepared. “We were just too late,” he told Germany’s Auto Motor und Sport. “We have seen in recent years how success is made — Red Bull had a plan and was world champion four times. Mercedes had a plan and is now far ahead at the front. Renault needs a plan for 2015,” Prost insisted.
However, the 59-year-old clarified that Renault cannot just give up on 2014 and focus exclusively on re-homologating a much better ‘power unit’ for next year.
“We have to improve continuously,” said Prost. “Nobody can say where Renault is today compared to Mercedes — Renault made a big leap in the Spanish grand prix,” he claimed. “Mercedes is still ahead, but many have misunderstood that the jump really came from their car.”
Renault, supplying four teams in F1 including reigning world champions Red Bull, says it is now approaching the full potential of its current V6 unit. “We are still with our plan of getting 100 per cent from the engine in Canada,” said Rene Taffin, referring to the next grand prix in two weeks. Red Bull, however, is not so sure.
Toto Wolff, the Mercedes team boss, said on Thursday that a Mercedes-powered car got up to 347kph on the Barcelona straight recently.“So in Monza I don’t know what we will be seeing, but 380 maybe?,” he said.
Red Bull counterpart Christian Horner replied: “I don’t think we’ll be seeing 380 from our car in Monza.”
Hamilton open to more ‘lively’ rivalry with Rosberg (GMM)
Lewis Hamilton has hinted he is open to having an even more “lively” rivalry with his teammate and 2014 championship opponent Nico Rosberg. When the duo was first paired together at Mercedes, they happily recalled their friendship dating all the way back to boyhood, featuring jocular wrestling and pizza-eating contests. And Rosberg said as recently as last week that Hamilton, the winner of the last four grands prix on the trot, is still welcome to knock on his Monaco apartment and ask for a quick hamburger. But as Hamilton sniffs his first title since 2008, the Briton is starting to take his boxing gloves off.
In an interview in Monaco, he claimed he is “hungrier” than Rosberg due to their respective upbringings: the German with his “jets and hotels and boats”, and Hamilton who slept “on a couch” in a “not-great place” in suburban UK. Many might draw quick parallels between Hamilton and Rosberg at Mercedes in 2014 and Ayrton Senna versus Alain Prost, and their utter domination at McLaren in 1988. Like Senna, Hamilton might be seen as the more feisty and aggressive, while like Prost, Rosberg is the calculating thinker.
Hamilton smiled when told of the comparison. “I think the fight between them (Senna and Prost) was more livery than what is happening with us right now,” he is quoted by Brazil’s Totalrace. “In our case, it’s all wonderful,” Hamilton laughed.
However, Hamilton indicated he is in fact open to a more “lively” competition with Rosberg, admitting even that a Suzuka 1988-style showdown would be “cool”. At Suzuka in 1988, the Senna-Prost rivalry reached its infamous zenith when the pair collided at the chicane.
“Not that I’ll take him out,” Hamilton smiled, “but it was pretty cool when it reached a climax between them at Suzuka. “I think things will get more livery as the year goes on and I hope we can look back in a few years’ time and say that we had something like that.”
TJ13 Comment: Of course we all know that the 1988 Suzuka race was when Senna won his first World Title. It was in 1989 Prost and Senna collided at the chicane.
FIA Press Conferences a joke
These events are on the whole a complete waste of time, and in Monaco they sink to a new low. The attention to detail in F1 is remarkably random. On the one hand to solve podium presentation variance problems, the FIA mandated a standard podium be built which now travels the world with the F1 circus. No more Romanian Austrian anthems being played when it should be German. No more flag confusion as we watch the fake flags pretend to flutter.
Yet, the FIA presents another stage, which in many ways is far more important. This stage is one from where the key players in F1 are open to questioning from the world’s media.
Watching both the drivers’ and team principals’ conferences from Monaco, was like watching my 11 year old daughters annual school production. People were speaking and the microphones were not turned up, there was feedback whistling around the room from time to time and most ridiculous of all, numerous times those being questioned could not hear the questions.
It may be the case that these events are supposed to be stage managed to the point that no one is ever asked a difficult question, but the quality of the technical delivery is becoming pathetic.
For those of you who choose not to waste around 45-55 minutes of your lives each GP weekend watching this Punch and Judy show, the event is chaired by an invisible MC. Predominantly this role rotates between James Allen, David Croft and Bob Constanduras.
The event begins by the MC asking a question from which he solicits a response from each participant. He then asks a second question again to all the panel, then the questions are thrown open to the floor.
There are a few regular reporters who ask questions at most events, then there are the local media, who on the whole are utterly useless. They clearly are not regularly writing about F1 and often ask questions about issues which have come and gone weeks earlier. Further, though repeatedly asked by the MC for their name and publication, most of these buffoons fail to give us that information.
Fans of the English Premier League will know the name Brian Woolnough, who unfortunately passed away recently. Brian was famed amongst his peers for asking the tough questions without regard as to whether this curried him favour or not with the interviewee.
It didn’t matter to Brian whether he was questioning the England manager, the highly irritable Sir Alex Ferguson – (who regularly banned reporters from his press conferences) or a lowly Norwich City manager. He was direct and said what he thought.
Such was Woonlnough’s tenacity even Alex Ferguson paid tribute to him after his sparring partner’s death, noting: “He asked good questions. Sometimes too good!”
Formula 1 has no one of this stature or courage. It appears the likes of Joe Saward and Adam Cooper are above attending this press conference.. Yes the event is on the whole banal, however, these two men alone have more than half a century of F1 knowledge between them and given the inclination should be capable of putting members of the panel on the back foot.
Part of the problem is the format of the event. Questioners are prevented from asking supplementary questions, which results in convoluted complicated questions which attempt to be a ‘cover all options multi choice affair.
This allows those answering to easily evade anything which may in fact be pointed.
One solution would be to offer the ‘non-professional’ F1 writers a separate press conference which is not televised and hold a smaller more professional event which is televised. Further, those with annual press passes should be required to participate in a minimum number of these meetings each year as part of their pass qualification criteria.
There are a handful of F1 writers who offer a glimmer of hope that a properly organised FIA press conference could be something of worth and interest to F1 fans across the globe. Of particular note are Dieter Rencken, Michael Schmidt and Ian Parks – of the Press Association.
Yesterday, Dieter Rencken managed to put Christian Horner on the spot when he challenged a previous answer he had given and publically corrected Horner’s facts.
Rencken refused to be deflected by the refusal of Horner to recognise the issues around funding in Formula 1. He demanded, “whilst Formula One has always been a meritocracy and yes, the top teams have always earned more, yet never in the past have four teams shared an incremental amount of this value, even if they finished last in the championship, which effectively what happens now and that’s the point that I was trying to make. Can we ever have a fair competition as long as four teams share such exorbitant amounts of money?”
Horner began his reply shifting his position whilst buying some thinking time. “I knew I was going to get that question, because Dieter only asks difficult questions.” Whilst Dieter is no Brian Woolnough, at least he was prepared to press the point.
Many F1 writers in their minds still exist in a world where they have the ear of “important people”and are given privileged access and opportunities for a scoop. For this reason they don’t wish to upset the apple cart and appear in public to be too interrogatory. Many are just lazy and on a jolly for 19 weekends a year.
If Bernie and the FIA want to spice up the show, then give the fans of F1 press events where proper questioning prevents the interviewees from hiding behind PR lines.
Much was asked but little said yesterday about cost control with the team principals’ hiding behind the confidentiality of their ongoing “private” discussions. The questions were too easy to deflect yet a simple closed question may have got the discussion going.
We are regularly informed in terms of eyeballs on screens that F1 is second only to the Olympics and World Soccer Cup tournaments. This being the case, the FIA press conferences are a sad reflection on how badly the sport is run.
Boullier: McLaren team Principal
Following the departure of Martin Whitmarsh and big Ron’s takeover of the McLaren F1 racing team, to suggest the new roles and responsibilities were ‘murky’ would be an understatement.
Lotus team Principal, Eric Boullier, was recruited as ‘Racing Director’ and he was given a remit to do a review of the organisational structures within the team.
The big question was – who would become team Principal? Dennis led us to believe there may be one announced at the end of the review of the organisation. However, none has been forthcoming.
Having heavily criticised the FIA press conferences in another article today, it must be said that despite the incompetence surrounding the management of these events, occasionally snippets slip from the lips of the interviewees which are revealing.
At the team Principals’ conference on Wednesday this week, Dieter Rencken asked the following.
“We’ve heard a lot today about closing up the gaps in competition, Toto, you were quoted a couple of weeks ago saying part of the reason for two teams winning the 14 last races is due to the spending war. If we do really want to close the gap between front and rear, is it actually possible when four of you teams represented here today share an incremental $250million per annum?”
Toto Wolff began his response well, “Do you think Dieter it’s on our agenda to close the gap between the teams? I think it is not on my agenda”. The rest of his musings meandered away from the issue, which he failed to address.
More interesting was Eric Boullier’s response. “It’s always the same story. Let’s say for the fans, for the show, for the show on the track, you would like to have, obviously, a different winner every weekend. As the team Principal of McLaren I would like McLaren to win the 19 races….”
Better late than never I guess…. So Boullier is in fact Whitmarsh’s replacement after all. Welcome to the murky world of Big Ron’s “smoke and mirrors”.No wonder Jenson described Dennis as an “unusual character”.
Rosberg signs a new contract
The world and his dog got so excited this week when Dieter Zetsche, the chairman of Mercedes-Benz Cars, said that Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso was “maybe the best driver in F1”. Few reported; as did TJ13; that these comments were made in the presence of the King of Spain on a joint visit to a Spanish automotive business.
Well if Fred was raising his hopes that Mercedes were about to sneak into his Maranello cell a crowbar concealed in a giant Torta di Ricotta, today he will be crushed with disappointment.
Nico Rosberg’s contract is with Mercedes is due to expire at the end of this year, however, the BBC are reporting that Stuttgart have demonstrated their support for their German driver and given him a two year extension on his current deal.
So for those who speculated we may see a re-run of the battle between Alonso and Hamilton in the same team, the dream is over. The Brackley-based outfit are clearly happy with their current line-up and have no intention of breaking it up for the foreseeable future as Lewis contract runs to the end of 2015.
David Coulthard made an interesting observation on Rosberg’s new found security within his team. “Nico’s being rewarded for not only helping build the stability in the team over the last couple of seasons but also it gives him a platform to really have a clear head and take this World Championship battle head to head with his team-mate.”
This of course assumes Nico has been particularly careful so far this year not to upset the applecart and risk colliding with his team mate for political reasons. In that case, this ‘be a good boy’ mentality from Rosberg may explain why he appeared to allow Hamilton to bully him during their epic battle in Bahrain.
However, are more Machiavellian view of this could be true. Rosberg has been given strict operating instructions in his new contract as to how he will behave given certain situations. This is not to say he has accepted number two status, but merely he will contractually abide by agreed protocols, such as…. The leading Mercedes car following the last round of pit stops during a race – remains unchallenged by his team mate from thereon to the chequered flag. This is but one example of how Mercedes may nail down the rules to avoid what they perceive as self destruction.
Let’s hope Coulthard is right, and Rosberg has been playing by the Queensbury rules. Nico can now put aside his fancy upbringing – as Hamilton describes it – and demonstrate he is hungry to win. He can get down and dirty into Lewis’ world and where scratching, name calling, hair pulling and spitting are all allowed, and it is winner takes all.
It’s a miracle, he is made well
A certain Bernard Ecclestone found it necessary to make a visit to his physician earlier in the week to solicit a sick note to present to Judge Noll of the Mucnich court. Apparently Mr. E was too ill to attend the proceedings which already have been listed at his convenience.
It appears the Munich court are suffering fools rather too gladly, as the aforementioned Mr. E was seen yesterday clambering out of a boat in the Monaco harbour at the annual Grand Prix event held in the principality.
Eyebrows were raised when Ecclestone negotiated with the judicial authorities in Munich that his trial be held on only 2 days a week for some 3-4 months. This was to allow Bernie to go about his ‘necessary” business which is of apparent global importance. Whether such an expedient attitude would be granted to a ‘normal’ person facing a criminal trial is unclear. It may be as simple in Germanic jurisprudence that “you don’t get what you don’t ask for”.
Regardless, Judge Noll is risking presenting a view to other nationalities of the German legal system being ‘soft’ and far too ‘accommodating’. Many already believe Ecclestone will find a way to ‘negotiate’ this charge away – as he himself claimed he is trying to do to Martin Brundle on the grid in Spain.
Mattiacci knows the score
The appointment of Marco Mattiaci to succeed Stefano Domenicali was one of those ‘left field’ moments which nobody in F1 saw coming. Even Mattiacci himself has said he thought the call he received from de Montezemolo was an April fools joke.
Fernando Alonso publically appears to be bemused by this appointment and takes great delight in dismissing any current or near term future impact Mattiacci is likely to have on the team. “I don’t think [changes] are going to happen soon,” he said. “He’s still learning about the team situation, the Formula One environment, the F1 weekends.
There are a lot of things to learn and [he needs to] get some experience [in] before making any decisions that at the moment he will not take”.
So Marco is about as useful as a chocolate fireguard as far as Fred is concerned – in that there’s little he can do in terms of getting the Spaniard a car that’s half decent.
This view isn’t helped much by Il Padrino, who gave the impression that Mattiacci was his frist thought as Domenical’s replacement – and that he didn’t have, or want to spend, the time thinking too long about this.
It isn’t beyond the boundary of anyone’s imagination to believe the leadership of the Scuderia can make incoherent decisions. Yet when considering Mattiacci’s pedigree and reputation within the automotive world, his appointment – and more importantly his acceptance of the role – makes it difficult to believe this was a knee jerk reaction.
In F1 as in most organisations, there are short, medium and long term goals, and at times these goals conflict. Even when not in opposition to each other, beginning the process of rectifying a medium term objective may have little or no impact on one which is short term.
What is becoming clear is that Ferrari are in a complete mess. Despite Renault completing cocking up the installation phase of their 3 year V6 Turbo engine programme, it is clear that even their fractious partnership with Red Bull is beginning to deliver results which Maranello can but hope to achieve.
This mess is not going to be fixed overnight. The appointment of Ross Brawn isn’t going to fix this mess. Jesus Christ himself (please replace with your preferred deity) may indeed to struggle to conjure up a miracle of significant enough magnitude to resolve the deep rooted problems in Maranello.
And THIS…. This is the reason Marco Mattiacci has been appointed as head of the Scuderia team.
At FIA press conference yesterday, Mattiacci was coy, refusing to speculate on the improbable and towing the party line on cost control. However, there was a moment when he let his mask slip.
Fulvio Solms of the Corriere dello Sport asked, “Mr Mattiacci, in the last years, Ferrari was often close to winning the championship. Now it looks like this aim has returned on a medium to long term. Can you say how long is this term in your plans?”
With hindsight, the nationality of the reporter begs the question as to whether this enquiry was indeed a plant, an question tee’d up so nicely that Mattiacci couldn’t fail to hit one straight down the middle even if he wanted to.
Marco Mattiacci responded. “There is a lot of work to be done. I don’t want to give any deadline, definitely it’s a medium term but we are going to come back competitive. This is for sure. We are working 24/7, were going to come back competitive, that’s for sure”.
Medium term? A phrase used by both questioner and respondent.
The medium term of course is a relative measure, defined in time by what would be considered to be a long term period and what also is counted to be short term – in any given scenario.
Yet it is clear, medium term is not today, tomorrow or next week. In fact in the corporate world from where the Ferrari superstar boss hails, the medium term is counted in years, not months and not weeks or days.
The operations of the Scuderia are not dissimilar to that of a reasonably sized corporation, and a revision or complete re-design of its procedures, personnel and process is not something done quickly. This is Mattiacci’s speciality, and this is why he has been recruited by the FIAT board.
The modern Ferrari brand derives value from the relative recent success of the F1 team. However, another decade of impotence and ignominy would damage the brand and cannot be allowed.
The task ahead is immense indeed – a complete overhaul of the entire Ferrari F1 organisation – and would daunt most men (or women). However, Marco has steel in his eyes and commitment from on hjigh.
So Fernando can cajole his team, bemoan his lot, mock the latest car and even threaten to ‘tweet the world’…. all he wants – it won’t phase Mattiacci. His objective looks long beyond the time when the Spaniard will have hung up his Maranello red, FA monogrammed racing boots.