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Previously on TheJudge13:
Patrick Head – Technical genius or technical dinosaur
Patrick Head oversaw some of the most iconic and dominant cars Formula One has ever seen. The 1980-81 Williams FW07, 1986-87 Williams FW11 and the Renault powered cars that defined a generation throughout the 90’s.
As chief designer, and then technical director, he introduced some of the most influential designers of the late 20th century such as Adrian Newey and Ross Brawn who would both have continued success with new employers.
His job role changed from chief designer to technical director around the mid 80’s and under his supervision Williams would claim five drivers titles and seven constructor titles. New technology such as active suspension was allied to the most advanced electronics at the time and it would take legislation change and countless years for the competition to claw back the deficit.
With the withdrawal of the works Renault engines, Williams entered a period of decline and by 2004 Head stepped down as technical director and Sam Michaels took over his position. The suspicion being that Head seemed to no longer have the hunger or drive for success.
In Monaco recently he was speaking to the BBC’s Tom Ford about the state of Formula One and shared what appeared interesting views on the state of Formula One today; considering that he pioneered the technological direction Formula One still pursues to this day.
“Technically it’s still as fascinating as ever and i certainly wouldn’t look back and decry it. In truth I’m not sure where it is, is what it’s all about. In truth Formula 1 is more about entertainment and some of the way its going is not sound but that another matter.
I think the car rules are fine, and the engines are fascinating pieces of kit but far too expensive for what they’re supposed to be doing, you could produce 800bhp engines for 2 million euros per team each year whereas the teams are spending ten times that so it’s a very expensive way of powering f1 cars,
It should be more about drivers and entertainment on the track – which sounds easy but the road car people are doing a perfectly good job on hybrid anyway, I’m not sure it needs F1 to demonstrate hybrid technology.”
For a generation, his goal was to win races and titles and if technology assisted that aim, it was acceptable. Maybe his retirement from front-line competition has softened his engineering stance and his views are those of a passionate, albeit fortunate, observer.
The fact that he is still part of the Williams Hybrid Power Limited division gives him, possibly, a unique real-world view of the pinnacle of the sport and despite Ferrari, Porsche and Mclaren having unveiled era-defining hyper cars, the real advancements in this technology have been well established with the mainstream manufacturers long before it became fashionable for the snow globe of Formula One.
In regards the Williams recovery he simply stated: “I am very pleased with Pat Symonds and the others who have come in and the drivers are doing a great job. I’m pleased to see the people with a smile on their face. Going into the Williams garage last year was not a pleasure for anybody.”
Sadly at that point the interview ends, although it is unlikely that Patrick Head was asked if Maldonado’s departure was behind the team’s smiles…
Hamilton now accepts Monaco defeat – Lauda (GMM)
Mercedes will impose no “restrictions” on Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg, despite their dramatic falling out in Monaco. Briton Hamilton was furious after the fabled street race, where he suspected his German teammate deliberately ruined his run for pole position. But more recently, the 2008 world champion said on Twitter that he and Rosberg are “cool, still friends, no problem”. Not everyone is convinced all is well.
Speed Week correspondent Mathias Brunner said Hamilton’s social media posting “seems like a bandaid for a blister — it helps but pretty soon it falls off”. And the Daily Mail’s Jonathan McEvoy doubts Hamilton even penned the ‘tweet’ or picked out the old photo of the then teenaged teammates riding on unicycles. “The timing was mysterious,” he wrote, “as only a few hours earlier a Mercedes spokesman said he thought Hamilton was in the air, travelling to North America” for the Canadian grand prix. The same team spokesman insisted that Hamilton “tweeted independently of them”, McEvoy added.
Whatever the truth, Mercedes team chairman Niki Lauda claims the worst of the saga is now over. Asked about Hamilton and Rosberg’s supposed reconciliation, he told Osterreich newspaper: “Lewis has now accepted that Nico won in Monaco and he (Hamilton) was second. There is no shame in that,” said Lauda. “In Montreal we will get together again and discuss everything calmly, and afterwards the fight for the world championship goes on with both of them in equal cars.”
The triple world champion, however, acknowledged that more conflict is likely. “Having two alphas sitting in the best car is of course tricky,” said Lauda. “But at least it makes the races interesting given the superiority of our team.”
Lauda said he is well qualified to help keep the situation under control. “I know a situation like this very well thanks to Mr Prost,” he said. “We let our drivers race against each other without restrictions, because while tension is quite normal, it can also escalate. Then I can get involved as a mentor.”
Lauda tipped the Hamilton versus Rosberg battle to be fascinating this weekend in Montreal. “Nico was clearly faster over the Monte Carlo weekend,” he said, “but now Lewis will be doing everything to fight back, which of course is stressful for us. But for the fans and the sport there can be nothing better.”
Revenues, costs, new teams et al
All the talk of budget caps and cost saving has played nicely for one Mr. Bernard Ecclestone. To a certain degree, this topic is one huge red herring when the real problem lies in how the commercial revenues are apportioned amongst the teams, something Ecclestone controls.
Yet for those involved in the discussions, Ecclestone’s intransigence on the distribution of funds is an unmoveable mountain so from a pragmatic point of view the focus is shifted to cost saving measures.
Ecclestone scoffs when asked about how much money the teams’ receive from FOM, suggesting ‘they have more money than God”. Whilst this may be true for the larger spending outfits, for the smaller teams this is absolutely not the case.
The reason that funding allocation is the primary financial issue facing F1 is because there is a bottom line amount which must be spent, to build an F1 car and take it racing around the world. F1 experts from two teams I’ve discussed this with estimate that floor level of spend to be around $70m.
Yet even this level of cost leaves little left for in season development of the car.
We were all delighted for Marussia in Monaco, a real independent F1 team and amongst there senior staff, they share decades of racing pedigree. Yet such is the cost of F1, this team have already admitted, they have no money in the budget to build an appropriate aero package for Canada.
The circuit in Canada is relatively unique, and so when making choices on where to get the best bang for their buck, Marussia will develop the car where there is benefit at multiple venues. Whilst not ideal, Marussia will probably use the Australian aero parts, though they will likely be slow down the long straight.
Behind the scenes, the FIA are concerned about the viability of certain teams, yet in classic ‘head buried in the sand modus operandi’, the solution to the problem of team’s possibly failing because of lack of finance is to approve new teams to compete in the sport..
We know Gene Haas has been given the green light, but it was only during the past few days he made it clear he would be postponing his team’s entry until 2016.
Adam Cooper has revealed the FIA will announce soon the approval of another F1 entrant, the Romanian-backed FRR F1 Team, known as “Forza Rossa”. Though Ecclestone rather let the cat out of the bag on this when he told SKY UK F1’s Martin Brundle in Bahrain the FIA would be accepting more than one of the applications made to join F1.
Forza Rossa, means ‘red force’ and is the official importer and retailer of Ferrari road cars in Romania. The team is allegedly backed by Romanian cash and and headed up by the Romanian former HRT boss, Kolles.
The fact that Hass has deferred his entry to 2016, is hardly a surprise to anyone who understands the development cycle of an F1 car – and particularly one which is being built from scratch.
What was surprising was that there was any possibility that Haas would be able to get a car on the grid in Melbourne in 2015. Either Haas was utterly delusional, or it was being suggested to him that certain things would be changing soon which would make this possible.
What could have made a 2015 entry for Haas somehow possible would have been an agreement from the teams on regulation changes relating to ‘customer cars’ and common components. The world motorsport council meets in 2 weeks to rubber stamp the regulations for 2015 which must be declared by the end of June.
The very fact that Haas has now decided to defer to 2016 suggests that the FIA will not be pushing through the regulation changes they had threatened and once again the momentum on making F1 affordable for the smaller teams has been lost.
Jean Todt has set out his agenda to deal with the issues of F1 and costs, but so far is making little headway.
Whether Todt will now push through unpopular technical regulations limiting the number of development components each team may bring per annum, is uncertain.
Though we the fans can but live in hope and wonder at where Marussia may be were they given a fair share of the commercial pie of revenue.
Damned if you do, damned if you don’t
There has been some criticism – surprise surprise – of the 2014 Pirelli rubber, specifically that it is not grippy enough. When taken in context these complaints, mostly made by drivers, is pretty churlish given the parameters Pirelli had to work with.
New engines with 4-5 times the torque were introduced this year; Pirelli had no mule to test these beasts and the effect they would have on the tyres and what would the drivers prefer. Tyres which were more grippy but couldn’t handle the demands of the new V6 Turbo engines?
Pirelli on this issue were damned if they did, damned if they don’t.
Pirelli had offered to introduce wide tyres this season, but the teams had resisted the move. This would have compensated for the reduced aero performance of the cars, but as Paul Hembery observes, “At the time, the teams didn’t feel that was necessary and wanted us to keep the tyre sizes the same so we weren’t able to follow that. But we’ve always said we’ll do what the sport wants”.
As the cars aerodynamics improved over time, one way of reducing the speed of the cars was to reduce the size of the contact patch of rubber on which they run. Yet there are voices in F1 who believe that the aero impact of the car design is now too important.
To this end, F1 employs more aerodynamicists than the entire global aviation industry.
Ferrari have been consistently vocal over this issue, specifically that the hundreds of millions spent on aerodynamics translates little into their road cars.. More blatantly, Wolfgang Hatz (head of R&D for Porsche) explained why Porsche had rejected F1 in favour of sports car racing. “The aero, too, is incredible, but so extreme that it cannot result in any development in our road car understanding.”
Those who consider themselves F1 purists, would like to see a re-balancing of the impact of mechanical engineering and aerodynamic engineering in the modern racing cars. This could be done via the technical regulations.
This year we see the fabulous sight of the cars snaking around as the drivers attempt to blend in the power under acceleration, something mostly lost from F1 for many years. This of course is due to the incremental torque the new V6 engines produce, but is also due to the reduced downforce the 2014 cars have.
This reduction in downforce was delivered from simple regulation changes; reduced wing sizes and the cancelation of the blown floor effects due to a repositioning of the exhaust.
The cars are already quicker in a straight line than their V8 predecessors, though are slower through the corners due to the lost downforce. However, by the end of the season, much of the lost lap times will have been recovered as the F1 design engineers are recovering lost downforce race by race.
To prevent another space race in the realm of F1 aerodynamics, the regulations again should be altered to reduce downforce for the 2015 cars, which will go into early iterations of production in the near future.
The diminishing marginal returns that can be gained from aero design will of course require something else to give otherwise the cars will just go slower and slower. However, by increasing the size of the tyres, and other tweaks to the design regulations, F1 would be forced to rebalance its focus back to more traditional areas of mechanical design and away from aeronautical technologies.
Pirelli recognise this and Paul Hembery is most accommodating when he suggests, “If they [the teams] want us to go up to the old, super-wide tyres we’ll do that; 15-inches, 20-inches – you tell us what you want and we’ll have a go at it. But you’ve got to decide what you’re trying to achieve.”
This approach to designing and building F1 cars is hardly revolutionary – in fact more it is more restitutionary. Further, it may attract more manufacturers back to the sport which at present is heavily dependent and politically beholden to just a few.
The Vettel learning curve
Having suffered from repeated taps of the gavel in 2013, fans of Sebastian Vettel may be surprised that TJ13 has not produced many column inches on the plights of the youngest ever quadruple world champion.
Firstly, for those new here, we don’t write from petty personal points of view, and whilst we may hand out a good kicking – metaphorically speaking of course – from time to time, we neither have the time nor the inclination for self justification.
So Seb’s struggling in 2014. He lies in 6th place in the F1 driver standings and pretty much any last vestige of hope he had of winning a fifth world title this year has been extinguished even in the mind of Vettel.
‘Aha’… the Vettel naysayers mock. ‘See, we told you so… as soon as Sebastian doesn’t have the best car… he can’t win’.
Whilst that sentiment is impossible to quantify, it ignores the reality which may be even worse; at present Seb’s struggling to beat his relatively inexperienced team mate. Vettel is not racing against a veteran of the sport with 15 years experience like Webber, but a kid from a pretty rubbish team – albeit associated with Red Bull.
Ricciardo scored 10 points in his debut season and 20 points in 2013, yet he has already amassed 54 points in 6 races this year. This tally would have been significantly more, other than for the arrogance of his team masters in Australia, which means it is now Alonso who stands third behind the Mercedes pair at present, and not Ricciardo.
In Jerez, Vettel was visibly upset with the car and engine package he was handed, and reports soon began to circulate that Sebastian was not hiding his emotions regarding his new chariot and horses.
Yet Sebastian refused to be defeated by the situation and vowed the team would be in the hunt for titles this year. A podium in Malaysia would have brightened Vettel’s spirits and the belief that somehow guru Ade would turn things around once again seemed more than possible.
However, since then it’s been on the whole a tale of woe for Vettel. Out qualified time and again by Ricciardo and plagued with gremlins and failures which have been particular to his RB10 alone.
Sebastian has just not adapted his driving style to the new era of F1 car. He became the master of counter intuitive driving techniques so that his car could blow hot air into all the right places on the backside of the RB10’s predecessors.
All that is now gone. F1 cars are no longer going around corners as though they are attached to train tracks and the Renault engine is vastly down on power when compared to the Mercedes.
However, a young Sebastian Vettel also once drove for Toro Rosso, won their only ever race in F1 and raced in a car that didn’t have blown anything worth talking about.
Yet Sebastian is learning and learning at a very quick rate. Learning to not be first; learning that he has lost again to his team mate, learning he may go a whole year without being first in an F1 race. Vettel clearly had learned to bite his tongue in Monaco when he was about to issue a tirade of abuse over his car’s DNF,
And Sebastian will learn to master the driving style of the new F1 cars. However, following 4 years of domination at the top of his sport, Sebastian is facing maybe the biggest test of his character right now.
This is a battle both of a physical and mental nature and first up Seb needs to claw his way back to parity with his teammate … then to beat him.
Vettel is used to the enemy from without, but now he has an enemy within. It’s not Seb and the team against the world anymore, but Sebastian against a part of himself – his beloved Red Bull Racing who are delighted with Daniel.
Yet as Winston Churchill once said, “Success is not final, failure is not fatal; it is the courage to continue that counts.”
This year’s drivers’ title is gone for Sebastian and as Red Bull’s woes persist and he struggles to even make the podium, Sebastian Vettel will learn a huge amount about himself.
Like an older world champion boxer facing the new young guns, Sebastian has to learn to dig deep again, feel the pain which is all character building for him, all of which will make him an even better driver and a better individual.
It must seem like light years since Vettel stood for the umpteenth time victorious on top of the podium; inferred he was winning because his team had the best work ethic. In fact, the irony of the current 24/7 effort of the Red Bull team busting their balls and still barely making a dent in Mercedes massive lead will surely not be lost on Sebastian. Maybe the ‘balls in the pool’ comment is even haunting him daily.
Yet the reality of life is no one wins forever – and this is the first time that reality has really hit home hard with Sebastian since he landed his first world championship so many moons ago.
It’s now all about how you react.
F1 thought for the day
And for those of you who do not use twitter, or don’t understand the power of Hamilton’s appeal. Here were the first 11 minutes responses… following Lewis making this post.