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Previously on TJ13:
OTD Lite: Mexico 1990 – The Best Overtaking Manoeuvre Ever?
On this day twenty four years ago, the global audience held their breath as Nigel Mansell in his scarlet red Ferrari swept round the outside of Gerhard Berger’s Mclaren into the notorious Peraltada corner.
Berger had attacked Mansell’s Ferrari into the first corner with just three laps to go. His late braking move forcing Mansell wide and Berger pulled away, but any observers could tell just from the physical movement of the red machine that Berger was being lined up for a sacrifice.
With Mansell putting the Austrian under huge pressure, he began jinking left and right behind the Mclaren as they approached the final corner his surprising drive around the outside elevated immediately to legendary status. And for once Murray Walker was rendered speechless – “and…and…and”
Rosberg withholding setup information from Hamilton
In 1995 Johnny Herbert was the Benetton team-mate of reigning World Champion Michael Schumacher. At times early in the season he ran the German champion close on times throughout Grand Prix weekends and Schumacher, with the assistance of Briatore, banned Herbert having access to any of his telemetry and set-up information.
Before that, in 1987, Nelson Piquet withheld technical secrets he had found during practice and qualifying to scupper his team-mate – Nigel Mansell. Such had been Mansell’s superiority over the Brazilian in 1986, that Piquet used every trick in the book to counter Mansell’s natural ability. Initially he called his wife ugly in a Brazilian edition of Playboy; it was in the same interview that he dubbed Senna the ‘Sao Paulo taxi driver’ and referred to Senna as gay. Piquet’s actions proved his inherent lack of class.
In 1988 and 1989, F1 witnessed what is generally accepted as the most acrimonious team-mate battle in history. But despite their hatred of one another, Senna and Prost continued sharing information as they understood that only this would continue to develop the car beyond the reach of the opposition.
In recent races, we have witnessed the competition getting closer to the dominant Mercedes. Merc have been running into problems which have forced them to concede a little speed in the interests of reliability. Yet it was only a handful of races ago that most seasoned observers didn’t believe they could be caught this year. With a little more belief, Williams could well have taken the race to Mercedes.
It would of course be easy to suggest that the Red Bull Ring favoured the Mercedes powered cars, long straights, huge stops and acceleration from low speed corners abound but the third round of the championship was at the similarly demanding Bahrain circuit where the Mercedes finished almost half a minute ahead of the competition after being released from a safety car period.
Reports on the German site AutoBild are suggesting that Nico Rosberg has been withholding some of his set-up information from Lewis Hamilton and will sandbag until the last minutes of qualifying before unleashing his true speed and potential.
For some time, observers have been questioning if Rosberg has the inner steel to be a champion or is he just ‘too nice’ to counter Hamilton’s ‘streetwise’ attitude. For all of Rosberg’s cerebral approach, Hamilton has his natural ability to counter it and if you listen to Lewis, he doesn’t need the two hour debriefs that Nico does as he extracts the pertinent information and then buggers off.
Toto Wolff is not happy over the less than transparent attitude that is developing between the drivers: “We need the knowledge of the entire group to learn and only when we do it openly. It’s about exchanging ideas on what makes the car faster and how we can further develop it. It cannot be just in the last moments of qualifying that the speed is released in the car. It also goes beyond just the driver rivalry, it also applies to the teams within the garage.”
It’s evident that since Monaco, Rosberg has been keeping certain aspects of his car setup to himself until the last moments of qualifying by which time Hamilton cannot respond. But the German makes no apology: “we share all data, but of course I try to keep a few secrets for me. It is quite normal” Yet when at McLaren, Hamilton may have done something similar as he once quipped he have “a few surprises” for Jenson when qualifying came around.
Lewis spoke earlier in the season about having to learn a number of secrets, last year, about the Silver Arrow which Rosberg knew instinctively from having been with the team for some years. It would appear that there are still some secrets that he has not been privy to if Rosberg’s recent form is indeed because of intra-team subterfuge.
Villeneuve attacks Raikkonen, Red Bull, Ferrari….
His Formula One debut in Melbourne Australia was preceded by one of the heaviest testing schedules that any rookie has ever had. A podium place was won but with the car at his disposal – it could easily have been a race win to equal the long held record of Baghetti.
He would go on to win four races that season and fight for the championship, only to come back stronger and win the title the following year. And then the start that shone so brightly, seemed to dim slightly and began it’s journey to fading away.
A few years later, Jenson Button joined his team and challenged the belief that he belonged to the highest order – which would be a problem as Button had never truly demonstrated that his talent belonged in the elite either.
No, this isn’t about Lewis Hamilton but rather another divisive figure from Formula One – Jacques Villeneuve – the 1997 F1 WDC.
The opinionated Sky presenter was asked about his thoughts on the current F1 season and was quite ‘controversial’ in his views – although it remains to be seen if he is just living up to the caricature the press invented of him…
Do you share the opinion of others about these new power units? “These aren’t F1 engines. Ok, they don’t alter the show because it’s great when Hamilton and Rosberg battle it out but these should be extreme, the first turbos had 1,200bhp plus and the drivers had to fight the cars but now there are road cars with more power than Formula One and that is clearly wrong.”
Tyres? “Teams have learnt from last year and the Austrian track doesn’t really punish the tyres. If tyres suffer graining there are two options to take, be very gentle with your inputs so as not to spin the tyres or be ultra aggressive which leads to tyre consumption. The problem is that most graining affects the rear tyres which is more difficult to eliminate. Some of the drivers complain about it others do not…”
Raikkonen looks to be one of those suffering? “For him, the gas is either fully open or nothing. He is having a series of spins as though he is in Formula 3. If he can’t drive in F1 anymore, he should go home. He is a very experienced driver so he shouldn’t be making excuses at every grand prix like a rookie does. He should take two or three races to change how he’s driving, and if he can’t, that’s a problem. You can’t go on like this when you’re a world champion. You have no right to make excuses.”
Villeneuve also thinks Red Bull is beginning to turn its back on Sebastian Vettel. “He is a four-time world champion, but now Red Bull is treating him like they treated Mark Webber. They seem to have decided to focus on Daniel Ricciardo. Now they want to ‘kill’ Sebastian because he’s not right for the Red Bull image and why should the glory belong to Vettel and not the team, thats why in my opinion they are not treating him fairly. Of course — you can’t have another season like this. Even Helmut Marko has started to criticise him. When you lose the faith of the team and the politics starts to weigh heavily, you’re finished. He should consider a change of team.”
But there’s no opportunities at Mercedes and Ferrari, and Mclaren isn’t a tempting proposition either? “Who said there is no place at Ferrari? Who imagined Raikkonen returning to Formula One or that he would re-sign for Ferrari? No-one, yet there he is at Maranello. In 2012 Alonso carried the team and was enjoying the challenge but last year he became tired of working for no success and its obvious he’s no longer enjoying his driving. He is waiting on the team to improve he cannot do it alone. Austria was interesting as you are starting to see James Allison’s direction taking effect, it wasn’t a track that would suit Ferrari yet the result wasn’t too bad and this may re-motivate Fernando.”
Jacques Villeneuve – the Snoop Dog – of Formula One. Once a serious player now a sold-out has been?.
Williams settled for Mercedes defeat – Smedley (GMM)
Williams settled for defeat to Mercedes in Austria, despite dominating qualifying at the Red Bull Ring. Chief engineer Rob Smedley told Spain’s EFE news agency that the Grove team was “not without problems” as it returned to the podium with Valtteri Bottas’ third place behind the two Mercedes. Some analysts criticised Williams for not pursuing an aggressive enough strategy for victory in Austria, but Smedley says that was a deliberate approach.
“We had to manage the car’s systems, including brakes, tyres and other things. We had to be sure of finishing in third and fourth places, so we decided not to do anything risky to compete with Mercedes that could have meant we finished fifth, sixth or even lower,” Smedley explained.
Indeed, Williams’ big haul of points in Austria meant the Oxfordshire based team leapfrogged its grandee rival McLaren for fifth place in the constructors’ standings. Smedley insisted: “If we had reacted to (Mercedes’) first stop, our cars would not have finished the race. Mercedes had their problems,” he added, “but I don’t think they were going at full speed.”
Finn Bottas says he is not disappointed with his first F1 podium, insisting Williams can now build on the momentum. “I don’t think this is a fluke result,” he told the Finnish broadcaster MTV3. “The team has done a great job in bringing performance improvements to the car continuously. This is just the beginning,” Bottas promised.
TJ13 comment: It is known that Williams have a deficit in downforce this year and as a result have a car that has the efficiency of a bullet. The fact that the dominant Mercedes was overtaken by Bottas out of the first corner demonstrated this clearly. Following two circuits were downforce is not a pre-requisite to performance, Silverstone will give a better indication of the Grove teams developments.
Prodomou early release
Only time will tell whether the wheels will fall off the Red Bull Racing F1 challenge with the retirement of Adrian Newey. The 2015 car will remain under his auspices though beyond that who knows how much input he will actually provide.
TJ13 commented last Autumn the announcement of Newey’s right hand man returning to McLaren was a clear indication Newey’s time of departure was nigh, and following protracted efforts by RBR to retain Peter Prodromou, he has finally been released to begin work with his old employer.
Peter will begin officially working for McLaren in September, though it would be inconceivable had he not already had a few “chats” about ideas and concepts for the 2015 McLaren challenger.
Dennis comments, “We’ve got Peter Prodromou joining us in September so that will be a big step, it will bolster our revitalised aero team, so I’m not concerned about aero performance next year, it will come right.
“We’ve got a steep curve with Honda, but at the end of the day we were with them for five years [between 1988 and 1992] and won 50% of the races. So I’m not worried about getting there with Honda, it’s just going to be a bit challenging at the beginning. This is motor racing, it goes up and down, you’ve just got to keep your head down and keep working.”
However, Dennis said McLaren are not giving up on 2014..
“We never write anything off. We’re going to fight until the last grand prix, that’s in the nature of the team. It’s certainly not a write off. I’m very much aware of what’s coming down the road and we’ve just got to get developments on the car.
“The regulations are relatively stable for the next couple of years and you have to have constant performance. There is no opportunity to stop and take breaths, you’ve got to be developing and try and come to terms.”
What a difference a resignation makes
Christian Horner appears to be speaking sense today.
Following an FIA directive from 2013 to examine the matter of costs in F1 and deliver meaningful proposals for cost cutting, the teams have achieved the sum total of zero on the topic after numerous meetings and discussions.
In a frank manner, Horner tells Autosport the only way to deliver meaningful solutions in this area is for the FIA to stand up and be counted and the teams to be excluded from the process.
The first step on this road Horner advocates is excluding the teams from their current position of influence over the regulations. “The FIA should write those, together with [commercial rights holder] Formula One Management,“ says Christian. “Then the teams have the choice, when they enter the world championship, whether they enter or not.”
The matter then becomes simple Horner advocates, “They sign up to those rules.”
This is the only sensible solution because, “you’ve got too many vested [interests] in there. You’ve got Ferrari, you’ve got their historical position, McLaren, and you’ve got a different position for Red Bull or Mercedes.
So you’re never going to get everybody in line.”
Cynics may suggest Horner has changed his tune now that Adrian Newey will no longer be designing Red Bull racing cars. Less complex design regulations allowing allow a smaller latitude for competitive advantage will not then hurt the Red Bull design team – minus Newey – as much going forward.
Either that, or this sudden burst of impressive reasonableness from Horner could be his first hustings effort as he looks to replace the embattled Bernie Ecclestone.
For the record, TJ13 reported some weeks ago that the FIA despite the teams input would be driving cost control through the 2015 regulations to be revealed following the FIA World Motorsport Council’s meeting this month.
Where next for Renault?
Alain Prost wants to see Renault return to both building engines and chassis and entering a full F1 works team into the Formula 1 championship. He argues, Renault ducked this decision based on the loss of revenue they would receive from 1 customer team – some 20m Euro’s a year.
Renault are the third most successful engine designer in the history of F1, behind Ferrari and Ford who of course dominated F1 for nearly 2 decades with the famous cost effective DFV motor plant. They have 166 wins to Mercedes 105 and Honda’s 69 – whilst Ferrari top the pile with 222 and Ford are ten ahead with 179.
Yet all is not well for Renault. Whilst the strict regulations on F1 engine design will allow some manoeuvre for 2015, concerns are growing this hybrid powerplant will never match the potential of the Ferrari and Mercedes offerings.
Renault consistently complained over the lack of commercial recognition they received for the V8 engine which partnered Red Bull Racing to 4 consecutive world titles so now the weekly bad press must be hurting the French company even further.
Today, German F1 correspondent, Michael Schmidt, claims he has information suggesting that that the Renault F1 engine facility at Viry-Chattilon is for sale.
The cost to Renault – after contributions from customers – is 50m Euro’s a year, which is being questioned by the Renault powers that be. Renault is not a global brand unlike Infiniti and therefore the value they get from F1 exposure is less.
Niki Lauda has allegedly weighed in his two penneth, suggesting a buyer for such an organisation based in France may be tough due to working regulations. “In France, they work 37 hours a week,” he said. “In England it is 43.”
TJ13 sources earlier this year suggested in fact the disparity between UK based workers sent to assist Renault at Viry-Chattilon was even greater than this – more like 50 hours to 35 hours.
Jenson on the cusp
There’s a number of stories doing the rounds this week suggesting Jenson may be out of his McLaren car in 2015, mostly due to the poignancy of Silverstone being up next – and hence it could be Button’s last British GP.
The Daily Mail reports that Jenson is “a tenth or two” shy of McLaren’s hit list of 2015 drivers. Though what the hell that means is anyone’s guess seeing as you can’t compare Button’s time to anyone other than Magnussen.
Eric Boullier however recently hinted a new deal may be on the cards for the elder statesman of the F1 grid – then again, information from Eric must be taken with a pinch of salt as he is frequently sent as a lamb to the slaughter to spout the party line – regardless of the truth.
When questioned over 2015, Ron Dennis commented in Austria that “We are not looking to finalise our driver line-up now,” which in fact could mean anything in Big Ron speak. “Now” could mean – that minute, today or even something else, such is the pedantic nature of the McLaren supremo.
On the surface Jenson appears fairly phlegmatic about it all. When questioned as to why McLaren hadn’t already secured his services, he drawled, “I don’t know why they wouldn’t. It is just the way it is for a big team — we will leave it to the last moment to make a decision or to talk about contracts”.
At times its best to let sleeping dogs lie, which is possibly why Button reveals, “It is not something I have pushed. I am sure if pushed to sit down and talk about it, we would, but I am not pushing because when it happens it happens.”
Yesterday we compared the form of the “Ice” and “Fire” pairing at Ferrari, so let’s look at the numbers for the McLaren duo.
Jenson has finished ahead of his rookie pal at the chequered flag by a count of 5 to 2, as Magnussen had a DNF in Bahrain. The Brit has also been ahead of his team mate for 293 laps whilst young gun Kev has so far managed just 195 laps as the lead McLaren in a race.
Qualifying is a dead heat. 4 each. Yet a closer examination of these numbers reveals that by averaging each driver’s qualifying laps for the 8 races to date, Jenson is a whopping 0.309s behind Kevin Magnussen.
Maybe it is this statistic that ‘the source’ is referring to when suggesting Jenson is “a tenth or two” shy.
More like a tenth or three and a bit.
It’s NOT the silly season!!!!!
SKY say today, “Formula 1’s ‘silly season’ has officially commenced amid fresh reports that McLaren have made a ‘tentative’ approach to Lewis Hamilton about a return to the team where his F1 career began”.
NO IT IS NOT THE SILLY SEASON SKY!!!
The silly season was a term coined in an 1861 Saturday Review article, and came to represent an actual period on the calendar when UK politics was in summer recess. At that time, there was of course no daily parliament business to report, so newspapers with little to write about published frivolous stories of dubious origins.
Can this notion be applied to sport? Fine by me.
However, the principle is the same – so in F1 the silly season would be when F1 is in recess, during August or over the winter break between seasons.
Just because something is written and appears a bit fishy, doesn’t mean anyone can self proclaimed the advent of the silly season.
Further, If the story is a ridiculous piece of fiction, it begs the question why Sky feel the need to report it whilst suggesting it was a load of tosh in the opening paragraph. SKY would definitely benefit from someone with an ounce or two of journalistic experience joining their F1 offering – and a few less rambling ex-F1 drivers (Johnnie!!!).
Anyway, rant over….
The Telegraph report today that, ‘‘The team [McLaren] have opened very tentative dialogue with Lewis Hamilton, in case the psychological scars of this year’s title fight at Mercedes become too great.”
Similarly. the Mail writes, “There has been contact between McLaren and Lewis Hamilton about a possible return to the team that nurtured his genius”.
Excluding the possibility of plagiarism, the timing of these two publications revelations is interesting.
There is little evidence that Big Ron and Lewis had a shindig in Austria to revel in the good time(s). So how has this story come about?
The same way TJ13 at times gets a story. Someone with enough credibility has approached both publications and revealed enough to convince them this tale is worth publishing.
Who could that be?
At other times with a close driver title battle occurring between two different teams, it would be easy to believe one team is attempting to destabilise the competition. Clearly this is not the case here.
So excluding the possibility this is a genuine attempt by McLaren to recruit Lewis, why the revelation?
Here are some options.
Lewis is not happy with the way Mercedes are treating him, so his PR people are threatening Mercedes to sort themselves out and show Lewis some more love or he’s offski.
The once baby faced blue eyed boy of F1, Nico Rosberg, has indeed become the devil incarnate and is attempting to destabilise Lewis’ relationship with the team, by inferring he is a short term only member – and he Nico, is the future.
Then again – it could all be about a picture….
Sky F1 rather naughtily posted this picture along with their piece – the inference being it was taken in Austria.
It was not…
In fact it wasn’t even taken this year… SKY have nicked this from someone else and cropped it.
So TJ13 sleuths, over to you….. when and where did this picture originate?