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Previously on TheJudge13:
Rosberg does Hamilton’s ‘dirty work’ – kart boss (GMM)
Fourteen years on, little has changed between Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg, according to their former karting boss. In 2000, the pair were teammates at mbm.com, the kart team sponsored by Mercedes-Benz and McLaren.
It was run by Dino Chiesa, who told Germany’s Bild am Sonntag newspaper on Sunday: “On his fast lap, Lewis was always a little faster than Nico. He knew it well and he knows it today. But Rosberg has always worked harder. He (Rosberg) has always done the dirty work — the setup, working with the mechanics and the engineers. Lewis has never worked as hard as Nico behind the scenes,” said Chiesa, when asked about the past in the context of the pair’s massive falling-out as they battle for the world championship in 2014 as Mercedes teammates. “One of them has the talent, the other is fast but is more of a thinker. And then Lewis cuts a piece of Nico’s cake and sells it as his own.”
Chiesa said Briton Hamilton and German Rosberg also got up to their ‘psychological games’ in karts all those years ago.
“Yes, but of course on a different scale,” he revealed. “At the time I was the team manager, but I was also like a counsellor or a father. I remember some angry phone calls from the hotel reception. Sometimes they had destroyed the room. It started with a thrown cushion, then a blanket, then the mattress was out on the street. It was all fun except that I always paid the bill at the end,” he laughed.
Chiesa said Monaco 2014, however, was slightly different. “Lewis behaved a bit like a young, angry Italian,” he surmised. “Nothing is ever his fault. He always thinks others are out to hurt him. But you have to understand this is a German team with a German driver who has been there for three years already. It feels to Lewis as if the team is a bit more friendly to Nico. It’s normal.”
Chiesa said he still talks regularly to Rosberg, but not to Hamilton. “It is difficult to get to him,” he said. “His management is not very helpful. It may be good for a Hollywood star, but not for a formula one driver. These people give the impression of him being a superstar. But a motor sport race is not a show, it’s hard work. So I think it’s right that Niki Lauda brought him back down to earth,” said Chiesa, perhaps referring to Hamilton’s smaller entourage and apparently clearer focus in 2014.
Meanwhile, former F1 driver Alex Zanardi has tipped Hamilton to beat Rosberg to the title this year. “I only want to say one thing about their rivalry,” the Italian is quoted by La Gazzetta dello Sport. “Nico is a very strong driver, but Lewis is a champion.”
Mercedes says Honda has 2015 ‘advantage’ (GMM)
Honda has an advantage in being able to concentrate exclusively on 2015. That is the claim of Andy Cowell, who is the engine boss for F1’s dominant Mercedes team. This year, the German marque is fighting for title spoils against only Renault and Ferrari, but Japanese carmaker Honda is returning to the fray in 2015 as McLaren’s works partner.
“There are pros and cons (for Honda),” said Cowell. He is referring to the fact that Honda is missing from the grid in 2014, the very first season of the all-new turbo V6 era. “Ferrari, Renault and Mercedes have the experience of winter testing and the grands prix this year,” Cowell told Germany’s Auto Motor und Sport. “We know based on facts what the issues are and how to solve them. Honda can only watch,” he said.
“On the other hand, we face a challenge in that we are continuing to develop the current engine in the context of what is allowed, and simultaneously we need to prepare for the 2015 homologation next February,” Cowell explained. “So Honda has the advantage of being able to learn through photos and analysing the performance of the engines whilst concentrating fully on 2015. They are gaining knowledge free of charge, but not in the depth of the three (existing) manufacturers.”
Hamilton must play ball
After a 2011 which had in many ways been an annus horribilis for Hamilton, 2012 began reasonable well. Yet as the year evolved the relationship with the team deteriorated to the point where there was minimal ‘non essential’ contact between Lewis and his race crew, particularly from the point he revealed he was leaving to join Mercedes.
Much of this was not directly Hamilton’s fault, as TJ13 reported at the time, Dennis had decided as early as June, he did not wish to renew Hamilton’s contract at the current level of remuneration.
“It’s a complex situation,” said Dennis. “He is on the end of a contract which was signed a at a time when the economy was somewhat different. Now there has to be a balance.
He’s obviously going to look at what’s available, where could he go. We’re going to look at who’s available. At the end of the day, hopefully the fact that he’s been part of this team from the beginning of his career will play a significant role in whatever decisions both sides make. But it’s a little early to be talking about it.
He’s very highly paid,” Dennis added, “He’s certainly paid more than I am.”
Of course since signing his previous contract, Lewis had instructed Simon Fuller and XIX to act as his agents. XIX would have looked ridiculous had they only managed to secure Lewis a contract with similar or reduced levels of remuneration.
By going public in Canada with his comments, Dennis upped the anti and XIX duly responded by pitching Lewis to Mercedes amongst others.
Matters rumbled on until the Hungarian GP, when Dennis again went public on the state of the negotiations with Hamilton. “I think people get the wrong impression. When I last looked at the contract, I was paying him,” insisted Dennis. “It is a question of whether we employ him, not the other way around.
Clearly behind the scenes XIX were creating havoc on Lewis behalf. On the other side we have a stubborn Ron Dennis, who having done a few negotiating rounds with Senna probably believed he could not be pushed around.
At this time Hamilton was asked by SKY about the comments made by Ron Dennis and probably unwisely replied, “I don’t know what questions he has been asked so it’s not really for me to comment on. It has nothing to do with me particularly, what he says,” said Hamilton. “Martin is my boss.”
By the time the summer break was over, the hardball nature of the contract negotiations meant things were going from bad to worse for Lewis within McLaren. Behind the scenes Ron Dennis had intervened and ruled that Hamilton was no longer to receive the data and set up information from Jenson’s practice sessions.
The result being at the next race in Spa, Jenson qualified on pole and Lewis was just 8th some 8/10ths of a second behind his team mate.
Lewis was furious because the team had not shared set-up information from Jenson’s car and made his infamous tweet on Saturday evening.
Jenson romped to victory and Hamilton recorded a DNF as he kept his foot in whilst a rampaging Roman Grosjean tried to pass him around the outside at the start of the race.
Martin Whitmarsh was having to manage a toxic situation Between Dennis, XIX and Hamilton and at the next race in Monza, matters got even worse. Jenson joined the political fray and quietly arranged to take his mechanics and engineers out for a meal following qualifying. This didn’t go down well with Hamilton’s crew who were left to fend for themselves, though one or two were actually seen out that night with Jenson.
Following Spa, Whitmarsh had intervened with Dennis on Lewis’ behalf and some believe he even managed to persuade Big Ron to offer Hamilton terms which were as good as he was being offered elsewhere. Hamilton began receiving Button’s data again and duly qualified on pole position for the next 2 racers in Italy and Singapore.
Of course much of this is ancient history, including some snippets that TJ13 was made aware of during that time.
That said, today’s comments from Dino Chiesa provide some kind of context to the events during the 2012 Spa GP weekend. It was clearly an extra-ordinary thing for Hamilton to do – tweet Jenson’s telemetry – though the motivation behind this action was not crystal clear.
Chiesa is suggesting that Hamilton is not the complete package as an F1 driver and without assistance from his team mate, his ability to set the car up as a race winner – week in and out – is diminished. This clearly would have infuriated Hamilton as he struggled to match Jenson’s pace in Spa, particularly as most driver contracts include clauses for shared information.
Dennis was playing hardball with Lewis, frustrated with what he considered excessive demands from XIX, he was reminding Hamilton of the importance of the team.
Some believe the level of influence on the performance drivers now bring to the totality of the package in Formula 1 has diminished over time. Circumstantial evidence of this exists this year at Red Bull.
If we put aside ‘bad luck’ and reliability, Daniel Ricciardo has consistently for a third of the season now extracted more from Newey’s RB10 than his quadruple world champion team mate. Gone are the blown floors and the style of driving required for the 2014 is revolutionary and gone is Vettel’s advantage.
As much as it may frustrate Hamilton, he needs Mercedes big time. If he learned nothing else from his split with McLaren, he should remember the delta time between himself and Jenson in Spa 2012.
On the flip side however, it’s not inconceivable the team from Brackley could probably win the constructors’ title with one car.
Hamilton realises this and despite telling SKY F1 following the Monaco race that he was not friends with Nico – after consultation with his advisors he did a U turn the following weekend and posted on twitter a picture of himself and Rosberg during their karting days, stating, “We’ve been friends a long time & as friends we have our ups & downs. Today we spoke & we’re cool, still friends #noproblem”
James Allen notes of Lewis retraction, “On the one hand it shows sensible management of the situation, but it comes only after his instinctive handling of the situation in Monaco backfired. Not for the first time, he has had to change position”.
Canada will be fascinating, as it is a track Hamilton enjoys and he could easily be uber dominant there. Though should we see Rosberg quicker in FP1 and FP3, when the qualification simulations have been run, there may be ructions ahead.
If Lewis gets it in his head the German team are favouring the German driver, then quite frankly – anything could happen.
Fuel Flow sensors to be replaced suggests competition
SentronicsTM Ltd is made up of three companies: Reventec, Mikina Engineering and Polyhedrus Electronics although no link back to Renault or Red Bull can be established with simple investigative searches online. Why the French manufacturer? Because Sentronics have devised a solution to a problem that did not exist.
Red Bull challenged the original sensor as both inaccurate and unreliable. But it was reportedly also found that the Renault powered teams had re engineered their installation on to the power unit which was causing failures and fluctuating results.
It would seem that the cut-throat business model – which Formula One teams kneel at the altar of – isn’t merely for the teams within the sport but for the suppliers of anything associated with the circus.
Reports in Racecar Engineering state that the teams “may” not have to use the controversial Gill fuel sensors for the remainder of 2014. Although, as was experienced last season with Pirelli, changes cannot be made unless there is unanimous agreement or on safety grounds.
There is an alternative fuel sensor unit in the final stages of development by a British company called Sentronics. By all accounts most of the original Gill design team have been recruited and have been working on second generation ultra-sonic sensors.
Managing Director Neville Meech offered: “We remain convinced that the ultrasonic time-of-flight principle is the best way of measuring fuel flow on board a race car, and with our second-generation sensor we’ve let the demands of the motorsport application have a greater influence over the design. As a result, the FlowSonic is a compact and robust unit with the minimum of materials and parts, and hence less to go wrong.”
The Sentronics group is made up: Reventec which was established last year by former Gill Sensors design engineer Meech. Their base is Downton Business Centre in Salisbury and are neighbours to Mikina Engineering – a CNC technology company that was established in 1999.
The final member is Polyhedrus Electronics which started up in September 2013 and their only presence online is a Facebook page and cutting edge technology which would put a fourth grader to shame – terminology such as “PCB’s are simply pushed onto a set of programming pins using enormous red knobs!” Oh, it’s great to see pre-pubescent humour lives on – and a FIA friendly photo of the technology lab…
In fact on their blog – Geekily Interesting – co-founder Jon Masters states: “The business has a bit of a hippy vibe to it that I love and we’ll need to work hard to make sure that the daily pressures of keeping our business going don’t detract from that.”
In a technology heavy sport, it seems somewhat unlikely that the corporations that invest so heavily will be quite so relaxed in their approach. It doesn’t bear thinking about how Dr Helmut Marko would attack this start-up, when Renault is constantly criticised for their short-comings…
Mercedes F1 management not up to the job
When Niki Lauda announced himself on the scene at Mercedes, TJ13’s comment was that ‘there will be trouble ahead’.
During his previous foray into F1 team management at Jaguar, Niki learned well how to not ‘make friends and influence people’. Lauda was sacked by Ford for lacking in technical expertise.
The 15 month period where Lauda was in charge was epitomised by discord and strife and instead of improving, this period saw the Jaguar challenge in decline.
Bizarrely, Niki even decided that he would test the teams’ F1 car, so he could ‘better understand what the drivers are going through’.
It didn’t end well for Niki….
Since joining Mercedes as chairman, Lauda has overseen the rolling of heads. First up was Norbert Haug, with 20 plus years of experience. Then Ross Brawn and Bob Bell decided their positions were untenable following the conclusion of the 2013 season.
Of course no one is deluded enough to believe the current Mercedes success is due to the management skills of Punch or Judy (Wolff and Lauda). Both speak authoritatively when interviewed though Paddy Lowe appears to lack gravitas.
Yet we now understand there has been strife within the team for some months. Both drivers have used qualifying engine settings during the race to disadvantage their team mate and Lewis has blatantly publically called his team and Nico, cheats and liars.
Former F1 driver John Watson is scathing in his criticism of both Lauda and Wolff for the way they have managed the drivers this year. The outspoken Northern Irishman believes, “both Hamilton and Rosberg have grown up in a gilded world which is as real as fantasy is. They are not emotionally equipped or developed to know how to deal with this battle, and I don’t believe there is anyone of the quality of Ross Brawn at Mercedes who has that ability either,”
In the second race of 2013, Brawn had an issue with the drivers during the race. Nico wanted to pass Lewis because he believed he was quicker. “I’m so much faster, let me go past,” pleaded Rosberg on the pit to car radio.
Brawn was assertive and unequivocal. “Negative Nico.. Negative”.
Rosberg obeyed, but was pushing Hamilton, so Brawn intervened once more. His form of words was polite, but his tone close to menacing. “Nico please drop back, there’s nothing to gain – I want to bring both cars home please.”
The team had underestimated the fuelling requirements and both cars were marginal to complete the race distance.
Hamilton finished third that day in Sepang, and Rosberg missed out on a podium. When the German crossed the line, his engineer said: “Good effort, very well done. You showed what you were able to do today.”
Brawn notably added: “OK thank you Nico, we’ll discuss the last thing later, but I’m very pleased with the work this weekend.”
A rather petulant Rosberg replied: “Remember this one.” Though minutes later when asked by the BBC to explain his comment, Nico became compliant and answered, “No, it’s no question. It was a clear instruction. That’s the way it is. It would be the same way if I was in front. I know that”.
Following Brawn’s intervention that day and after the race, there were no further disputes reported last season between the two Mercedes drivers.
John Watson believes that Punch and Judy are in fact exacerbating the problems between Lewis and Nico this year. “Lauda is on record as saying Hamilton was ‘unbeatable’ after winning in China, Bahrain and Spain, and I have no doubt that there will have been an element of “what about me?” from Rosberg. In Spain, his body language was not positive. I noticed that when they were doing the group photograph, they all gave a big cheer, but Rosberg didn’t”.
Waton’s observations on Wolff and Lowe aren’t any better. “Is Toto Wolff more interested in talking to the press and projecting himself? Does he really have the authority? And what of Paddy Lowe? He is a fantastic guy, but he is not the person to deal with this feud. Lauda is a very clever man, but I don’t know what authority he has either. At the end of the day, if there was one person who could kick ass in that team, it is the person that they let go”.
It is becoming trendy in F1 not to have a team principal. Mercedes don’t have one and following the recruitment of Eric Boullier to replace Martin Whitmarsh, Ron Dennis announced Boullier to in fact be the “Racing Director”.
Lauda believes he is ‘the godfather’ at Mercedes and Wolff and Lowe appear to be equally keen to be seen and heard on TV multiple times each race weekend.
“Formula One isn’t like golf, tennis, boxing or any other individual sport”, says Watson. “You are playing for a team, and there are responsibilities that come with that. It goes back to having someone on the pit-wall with authority that everybody in the team – drivers, engineers, whoever – actually respect.
And at the minute there is nobody I see at Mercedes who has that level of respect within that management structure that Ross Brawn would have carried.”
Toto Wolff attempted to lay down the law following the Monaco GP giving Lewis notice that as far as he was concerned, a Prost-Senna instance “will never happen”. But what if it does? What will Judy do?
Lauda also commented following Monaco that he would ‘sort it out” with the drivers. Yet following his bigging up of Hamilton, Rosberg is as likely to take Niki as seriously as he would Mr. Punch.
Whilst the car is dominant and the team certain to secure both F1 titles this year, the ease of Mercedes task may in fact fail to prevent, “the devil making use of idle hands” – as Grandpappy Judge used to say.
The Hulk leads the way
Rejected by McLaren, Sergio Perez may have felt he proved a point by making the podium for his new team Force India in Bahrain, The reality of the matter is, the Mexican driver has a mere 20 points from 6 races – 15 of which he scored for his third place in the desert.
Meanwhile his team mate Nico Hulkenberg – often described as ‘large’ and so far ignored by the big teams – lies 5th in the driver standings, on 47 points, just 7 behind Daniel Ricciardo.
Reflecting on the last outing, the German had this to say. “Monaco was not our strongest track, or our weakest track, but we still brought the car home for a great result – it’s my best run of results in Formula One and I’m really enjoying the racing. I’ve said many times that consistency is our strength and we showed that again”.
Of course Hulkenberg is using the ‘Royal we’ here. Consistency is ‘his’ greatest strength whether in a Williams, Sauber or Force India. This year the Hulk has sixth places in Australia and China , fifth place in Malaysia , Bahrain and Monaco and just squeezed into the points in Spain.
Canada is next up, and the track layout which features one long high speed straight, connected by slow corners to other shorter straights, should suit all the Mercedes engine teams.
Hulkenberg is cautiously optimistic. It’s difficult to say how we will perform in Montreal. In theory it should be one of the better tracks for us, but things change from race to race. It’s good that we have the soft and supersoft tyres again because I think the softer tyres are more suited to our car” He concludes, “To get a quick lap you need good top speed, a car that can attack the curbs and you also have to be brave enough to get close to the walls.”
Despite this, Sergio remains un-phased. “I have very good memories from Montreal. In 2012 I started at the back of the grid and managed to finish in third place. It was an amazing race and my one-stop strategy worked perfectly”. Yet this was back when Perez was driving a Sauber which had both decent pace and was balletic on its Pirelli tyres.
With 4-5 times the torque this year, on a low grip circuit with tyre compounds which are tougher but less grippy, the team will want to keep Sergio’s natural ebullience contained, at least until the red lights go out on Sunday.
Ferrari ‘upgrades’ for Canada
Ferrari have had tremendous success at the Gilles Villeneuve circuit over the years. The Canadian GP has been held there in Montreal 34 times, with Ferrari winning 10 of the races.
The Ile Notre Dame is a man-made island, built from the soil excavated during the construction of the 1976 Olympic village. Following concerns about the safety of the Motorsport Park circuit near Toronto, a new track was built on the island and the Canadian GP debuted there in 1978.
The script could not have been written better, as the first winner in Montreal was the first ever F1 win for a Canadian and it was of course Quebec born Gilles Villeneuve, driving a Ferrari. Ferrari also won here with Rene Arnoux in 1983 and in 1985 with Michele Alboreto.
Michael Schumacher was to become ‘King of the Ile’ for the red team winning a further six times for Ferrari during his Maranello career.
It has been 9 years since Ferrari was successful at the Gilles Villeneuve circuit, and barring an intervention of apocalyptic proportions, this time next week it will be 10 long years.
Following a poor start to the season, it was rather strange that the red team didn’t bring many upgrades to the Spanish GP besides a modified rear wing. The team claimed they were in fact preparing a larger upgrade which would be evident after Monaco at the Canadian Grand Prix.
Technical director James Allison explains to Ferrari fans, “In Monaco, we continued to analyse the areas in which the F14 T can be improved and now, we are looking ahead to the next race in Canada, where the package we will use there is a good step faster than the car we raced last weekend.”
One would hope this to be the case because the F1 circus jumps from the slowest circuit on the calendar to one of the quickest in Montreal, which requires a completely different aero package.
Yet Allison reveals he is far from confident Ferrari will be making a step ahead of their competition this weekend. “While our development programme has progressed well in recent weeks, it is hard to predict exactly what this will mean for the competitiveness of the F14-T, as we do not know what steps our competitors plan to bring to Montreal. So any improvement has to be seen in relative terms, hoping that the track will deliver an answer worthy of all the efforts we have made so far.”
Whether Ferrari indeed have an upgrade or just the modified low-medium downforce aero package as usual for this event is unclear from Allison’s comments.
Allison also reveals that the re-structruing within Ferrari is well under way, though he fails to mention or give any credit for this to Marco Mattiiacci. “We must be able to make the most of the creativity and originality of our engineers,” Allison continues. “We know there is no magic wand, but there is a wealth of talent at Ferrari and we are working on an implementation and an approach to the work which allows it to emerge.”
Yet isn’t that the point? Mattiacci – master organiser of men and motoring corporations is supposed to be finding the hidden key to unlock Ferrari’s latent potential?
He is the one to whom the ‘staff of leadership’ (magic wand… if you like) has been presented by Il Padrino, and it is Mattiacci who must lead the men in red from out of the desert.
Surely we are not going to get another weekend of “Marco is still learning about F1” … kind of statements… in various guises… from various Ferrari players?
It feels at present like Ferrari are groping deeper and deeper into the darkness, with no light at the end of the tunnel -and not a wind one…. might I add.
Jenson Button has been credited by his team principal Eric Boullier as one who is giving real leadership to the team during difficult times. Probably doing another “Ijaz”, Eric explains, “Despite our current lack of pace, Jenson continues to be an absolutely fantastic ambassador for the team. Not only is he a fantastic driver, but he’s also somebody with the feel and experience to steer the team and give it direction for development. His input has been invaluable, and he remains a tireless contributor”.
This despite the fact Button had questioned the team’s wisdom in bringing in a rookie for 2014, when he felt in a year of such change an experienced driver would assist the progress of the car’s development.
This required Eric the brave to mop up once again behind McLaren’s senior driver. “I don’t think it’s more challenging to have a rookie driver instead of two experienced drivers,” Boullier stated. “A kid like Kevin can do most of the job and get enough feedback to answer some questions from the engineering team, and when you have someone more experienced like Jenson you get more details and you can dig for more problems to find solutions.”
The season began very brightly for the team from Woking, following Red Bull’s disqualification for trickery, both their drivers finished on the podium in Australia. Yet since then McLaren’s form has dropped off a cliff, and they’ve failed to score points in three consecutive races – something not seen even during 2013’s anus hornbills
A rather fortunate double-points finish in Monaco ended this woeful run and Jenson believes this means the team has turned the corner.
“It was a positive for the whole team to put some points back on the board at Monaco after a difficult few races; we’re obviously still far away from where we want to be, but it’s important that we maintain our aim of continuous development throughout the whole season,” said Button.
The rather bizarrely he adds, “Although we’re still a long way from the leaders, we’ve matched the general rate of development since the start of the season, which is a positive.”
Mmm. Seeing as there is no precise manner in which this assertion can be verified by measurement, Jenson may feel prepared to wing it somewhat.
Yet after topping the constructors’ table following Melbourne, McLaren have seen Red Bull, Ferrari, Force India and understandably Mercedes weep past them. Even Williams have outscored McLaren in the 5 races since the season opener.
Hey ho, we can let Jenson dream maybe because he is returning to the scene of one of the most memorable F1 races of modern times. Canada 2011 was Button’s most memorable victory in a race where for a while it felt as though the apocalypse had arrived.
Rain played a decisive part in Jenson driving from the back of the field to pip Sebastian Vettel on the last lap to a quite remarkable win, and it appears the weather is something Jenson believes may help McLaren in Montreal again this year.
“In Canada, the weather can always play a key role – the forecast currently looks good, but you never know when you pull back the curtains in the morning whether you’re going to be faced with blue skies, or grey clouds and pelting rain. We’ll probably get a bit of both.
I really enjoy the Canadian Grand Prix – it’s one of those races where everything just feels right. The city is fantastic, the fans are friendly, loyal to the sport and incredibly supportive, the track is intense, and the racing is usually pretty hectic. It’s a place that simply produces great Formula 1.”
Good to see Jenson is feeling positive – or is it just delusional?