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Previously on TJ13:
OTD Lite: 1949 – Birth of a gentleman driver – Patrick Tambay
Today marks the 65th birthday of one of the true gentlemen of our sport. A Parisian by birth Tambay ascended the traditional French motor-sport ladder until making his Grand Prix debut in 1977 whilst in the process of winning the Can-Am championship with Carl Haas. A few outings with the Ensign team would lead to a full drive with the Mclaren team who had mysteriously allowed Gilles Villeneuve out of their clutches.
Fed up of the teams poor performances he returned to Can-Am and duly won his second title before being enticed back by Theodore and Ligier for the 1981 season. A close friend of Villeneuve – he confessed to a lot of soul searching when Ferrari offered him the number 27 seat after the Canadian’s death and in his 4th race for the team carried the squad to victory after Pironi’s dreadful accident.
In 1983 at Imola – starting 3rd on the grid as Villeneuve had the year before – Tambay took an emotional victory in front of the tifosi claiming that Gilles had been with him throughout. Released by Ferrari for 1984, he soldiered on with Renault for two seasons before rejoining Carl Haas in the Beatrice-Lola F1 team before retiring from F1 for good.
Gandalf Wolff – One PU to rule them all, one PU that binds them
The Red Bull Ring is made up of 3 long straights. Of course there exists corners to tie these all together but what was critical for the Mercedes powered teams, and Mclaren, was that with heavy breaking followed by a sustained period of acceleration, this circuit was tailor-made for the Mercedes Power Unit.
With seven of the top ten finishers powered by the German powerhouse it’s not surprising that the advantages of this unit were highlighted but news has emerged that Williams may have thrown the opportunity of a win thanks to what would appear a conflict of interests.
Mercedes boss Toto Wolff still owns a 10% share of the Williams F1 team and his wife Susie is getting seat time at the Grove team. What’s the big deal? It would seem that Wolff was the main man behind securing Williams a supply of the Mercedes PU106 engine but perhaps more significantly, Pat Symonds and his design team have been furnished with recommendations of how to exploit the power unit best.
These include the fact that Williams has also placed selected pieces of the power unit into the chassis ‘a la Mercedes’ an idea which cannot be copied by other teams without huge expense.
In 2013 Williams were barely better than either Marussia or Caterham and finished the season with five points to their tally and 9th in the Constructors title. All this whilst running the dominant V8 Renault engine.
Symonds arrival brought about changes with the coanda exhaust system which was thrown away completely and suddenly Williams moved forwards. Barely eight months later and Williams are challenging for race wins – or they would be if Mercedes allowed them to.
According to Omnicorse, Williams is not allowed to challenge the Mercedes team, even when the FW36 can keep up with the Silver Arrows, which some believe partially explains why Williams did not react to the earlier Mercedes stops which gave them the crucial undercut?
If this is true, it’s a tragedy that Frank Williams has been reduced to a support act in his battle to survive in Formula One; this was the man who told Honda where to go when they wanted Saturo Nakajima to drive for the team in 1986, or when BMW were looking to buy a significant stake in the early 21st century – Frank made his intentions clear there would be no sale.
So is Toto partial to a bit of ‘match fixing’? Wolff has spoken publicly about being nervous when his drivers are racing – whereas Lauda embraces the battle. That said, it’s not a bridge too far to believe Toto is controlling – or at least attempting to control – the antics of Mercedes competition too.
Horner backs embattled Vettel to ‘come back’ (GMM)
Christian Horner has backed Sebastian Vettel, amid suggestions the four time world champion could be losing the support of the Red Bull team. Typically-forthright 1997 world champion Jacques Villeneuve this week said he thinks that, amid Vettel’s struggle to keep up with new teammate Daniel Ricciardo this year, “Red Bull is treating him like they treated Mark Webber. Now they want to ‘kill’ Sebastian because he’s not right for the Red Bull image,” said the French Canadian, amid rumours McLaren has made an early approach to Vettel.
But Red Bull boss Horner has tipped the team’s reigning four-time world champion to bounce back, essentially blaming the bulk of the 26-year-old’s struggles on “bad luck”. “Sebastian has had an incredible amount of bad luck this year,” he told the Austrian broadcaster Servus TV. “Three times he’s failed to finish but he’s had many more technical problems than that.” Despite Vettel’s struggle simply for a functioning car, Horner says the German is dealing with the situation “incredibly well“.
“Many other drivers would have their heads down, their motivation would be gone. Not him. He works harder and pushes the team even more,” he added. “When the tide turns, the results will come back,” said Horner.
According to F1 legend Niki Lauda, however, a major element to the Red Bull situation in 2014 has been Daniel Ricciardo, who surprised the entire paddock with his rapid rise among the very best drivers in formula one today. “He is a massive talent that has reached a very high level in a very short period of time,” said the triple world champion, who is Red Bull rival Mercedes’ team chairman. “He has everything it takes to be a world champion in the future,” added Lauda.
FP1 and FP2 safe
Midfield F1 teams do not develop young drivers because they believe it to be a necessary part of their ongoing activities, they do so because it usually raises some cash
Nico Hulkenberg will sit out FP1 at the British GP as Dani Juncadella will make his F1 debut for Force India.
Juncadella has already gained some track time in an F1 car during pre-season testing in Jerez and also at the in season test following the Barcelona GP.
Yet for a driver there is something extra special about taking part in an F1 weekend. “I am delighted and ready and I’d like to thank Sahara Force India for this opportunity,” Juncadella said. “This will be the first time I take part in an official Grand Prix weekend session, so it will be a very special day for me – I’ve been waiting for this moment for a very long time and it goes to show that hard work and determination can get you there!
This is also the team’s local race, which makes a day I will never forget even more special.”
There were suggestions that FP1 be abandoned at F1 events in 2015 to cut costs, yet this was a pernicious suggestion from an unsurprising source, designed to embarrass somehow the smaller teams for whom incremental track running is usually undesirable.
Thankfully, it appears FP1 and FP2 will be retained for 2015, though the timing and length of the sessions may be affected.
Horner denies RBR to build engines
Christian Horner has added his denial to reports Red Bull could end its F1 engine crisis by building its own turbo V6.
Amid the reigning world champions’ obvious frustration with Renault in 2014, the story of a ‘Red Bull engine’ intensified when Dr Helmut Marko admitted last week that it was a possibility.
But team owner Dietrich Mateschitz this week issued a clear denial.
Boss Horner now follows suit.
“Red Bull is a chassis manufacturer and we have no ambition to become an engine manufacturer,” he told the Austrian broadcaster Servus TV.
However, the rumours are not likely to stop there. Despite Red Bull’s 2016 contract, the team is not committing to running French power beyond next year.
And off the back of the very latest reports that Renault could sell its F1 facility at Viry and pull out of the sport, the new rumour is that Lotus could be considering a switch to Mercedes power for 2015.
For his part, Horner said Red Bull is pressing ahead with Renault for now.
“We have had meetings to discuss what needs to happen. At the moment there is a big difference — Mercedes have done a great job,” he said.
He said the basic problem is the interaction between Renault’s combustion engine and the energy recovery systems.
“It is not working harmoniously,” said Horner. “The fact is that it is not easy to recognise any progress.
Engine re-equalisation imminent
Scenario. Renault withdraw from F1, fire sale their Viry engine production facility assets to ‘A.N. OTHER’. ‘A.N. OTHER’ then ‘designs’ a ‘new’ F1 engine, and enters it under the name ‘A.N. OTHER’ in 2016.
It didn’t take long for the…. ‘Renault engine production facility for sale’ rumour to morph into something akin to the scenario above.
Adam Cooper speculates today. “It’s worth noting that Dr Marko has been spending a lot of time at Viry recently. The suggestion is that Caterham boss Cyril Abiteboul, respected by Red Bull and previously a leading light at Viry as Deputy Managing Director of Renault Sport F1, might return to oversee any restructuring”.
The advantage of the above scenario is that the strict engine design restrictions currently facing Renault would be removed. The FIA homologation regulations do not provide protection from the transfer of engine design and development intellectual property by a third party.
Cooper continues, “A brand new power unit – perhaps badged as a Red Bull or Infiniti – could then be homologated for 2016. In theory it would be several steps ahead of what the regulations would allow Renault to update should the company simply continue with the current unit.
This new engine would not be designed by the team that produced the current Renault, but will instead be a product of the new Red Bull technology centre, which will be overseen by Adrian Newey. His old pal and Ilmor founder Mario Ilien is expected be part of the process, and it won’t be hard to draw on ex-Mercedes/Cosworth personnel in the Milton Keynes/Northampton area”.
Despite Christian Horner’s rejection of the idea that Red Bull are likely to build their own engine, this does not preclude the possibility of someone else building an engine ‘on their behalf’.
Ferrari and Mercedes will be furious should something along the lines of our scenario occur, but the FIA is powerless to prevent it.
Yet we’ve been here before.
The V8 engines were introduced during 2006, however, having been allowed to develop the engines throughout the year the various manufacturer’s specifications were frozen for 2007 to keep development costs down. The engine designs used in the 2006 Japanese Grand Prix were those to be used for the 2007 and 2008 seasons, but were limited to 19,000 rpm.
Over that time, it was believed that Ferrari and Mercedes exploited cleverly the regulations allowing design changes to improve reliability, to also deliver boosted engine power output as a side effect.
Renault complained, so the FIA agreed to allow Renault to re-tune its engine in 2008 to help bring its performance up to the level of its rivals.
Renault were still down on power, so again in 2009, they requested another opportunity to ‘equalise’ the power of their engine.
Christian Horner was outspoken in Monza. “The FIA has all the information they can see where the differences are on, I don’t think it is a coincidence that you have three Mercedes-powered teams that dominated six out of the top seven places in qualifying and looked dominant again here in the race today.
So, the FIA I am sure, they have all that information to hand, but it is always the danger of a freeze that you can freeze in a competitive advantage.”
This time the FIA weren’t playing ball. In a statement issued after the FIA World Motor Sport Council hearing on Monday, the governing body said: “Following suggestions that there is a differential between the performance of engines used in Formula 1, the World Motor Sport Council has decided that should this be the case, and should the teams wish to eliminate this performance differential, they may be allowed to do so by reducing the performance of the more powerful engines. However, no engine upgrades will be allowed.”
History appears to be repeating itself as a disappointed Horner commented following the Austrian GP, “Seven cars in the top ten have a Mercedes engine. That says it all,”
The likely source behind the ‘Renault engine plant for sale’ stories, is in fact Renault. And this is the first steps in a lobbying process which will begin to pressurise the FIA to allow the French engine manufacturer to make incremental power plant modifications over and above those regulated for – in an attempt to again ‘equalise’ the F1 engines…. as happened during the V8 era.
Ecclestone boot boys?
Much has been said and written over the years about F1’s self styled supremo, Bernie Ecclestone, yet in Munich this yesterday, Gerhard Gribkowsky revealed he believed there was a sinister side to the Formula 1 boss.
Documents revealed Gribkowsky asked his secretary to contact the head of German intelligence agency, BND, following suspicious sightings of individuals following him and mysterious knocks at the door.
The ex German banker claims all this occurred during a time when Ecclestone was pressurising him to use his influence with the German bank Bayern LB, to act as Ecclestone instructed.
A witness close to Gribkowsky told the Munich court, “I thought it was strange that he [Gribkowsky] talked about it [the alleged Ecclestone threat] so often.”
Bernie and boot boys? Not a story published before to this author’s recollection.
Whilst only having to attend court 2 days a week may have seemed a good wheeze at the time to Bernie and his lawyers, the elongated nature of this trial is doing nothing to improve either his or Formula 1’s image.