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Previously on TJ13:
OTD Lite: 1985 – Leo and Britney separated at birth
Today Nico Rosberg will be celebrating his 29th birthday, most likely in his Monaco residence where he grew up. With a strong lead in the 2014 championship the birthday cake will undoubtedly be sweeter than normal. The son of the 1982 F1 World Champion, Keke Rosberg, Nico was born in Weisbaden, Germany and despite having dual nationality – Finnish and German – in F1 his nationality is determined by his German passport.
From the age of 10, and under his fathers tutelage, he competed in karting and in 2000 he was teamed up against Lewis Hamilton – who is a few months older than the young German. They would be destined to cross paths a few years later. Winning the Formula BMW title in 2002 he then joined his father’s Euro F3 team for 2003 and 2004.
He was offered a place at Imperial College London for an aeronautical engineering degree but turned it down joining the ART team for the inaugural 2005 GP2 season which he won. When he was signed by Williams, he completed an Engineering Aptitude Test that Williams give all their drivers and achieved the highest ever score.
He made his debut at the 2006 Bahrain Grand Prix and remained with Williams for four seasons until being signed by Mercedes for 2010. Over the course of the next three seasons he saw off the challenge of an aging Michael Schumacher, winning his first Grand Prix in the 2012 Chinese GP. Yet doubt still remains as to his actual level of ability; something that hasn’t been answered by his battle with Hamilton whose talent is being re-appraised.
Giancarlo Minardi’s view of Austrian Grand Prix
Usually Giancarlo Minardi offers a somewhat opposing view to the consensus within Formula One but his musings on the recent Austrian Grand Prix are generally just confirming what everybody sees as the current state of affairs within Formula One.
“Applause should be given to the organisers of this race who brought a huge spectacle to the public in Austria. We witnessed a fine week with Williams dominating the front row and with Mercedes suffering slight problems in qualifying. It’s heartening to see that as ever in Formula One it is easy to fall from a position of dominance. Having said that, one of the Mercedes managed to make full use of its advantage and it was an important victory or Nico Rosberg who’s advantage will be of some concern to Lewis Hamilton.
I do not believe, however, that the misfortune in qualifying was a driver error as Mercedes want us to believe but actually it was a malfunction of the braking system as you can see when the incident is slowed down. It appears that this year the effect of the braking system has been seriously under-valued in the overall balance of performance even though many have had more and less problems with their systems.
With seven placings in the top ten powered by the Mercedes PU106 it was a great race by Fernando Alonso, who took his Ferrari to fifth place showing once again “of what pasta he is made of” It his him who makes the difference and keeps the team in third place in the Constructors championship.
Once again, Renault have suffered more problems at a Grand Prix. Red Bull cannot continue like this and in my opinion have to start looking at a new engine partnership. Vettel’s championship challenge has been compromised and the team had to raise the white flag so as not to destroy another power unit, having already used four units.
Williams have continued their growth and with this podium have moved further ahead of Mclaren and are closing on Force India. With the progress they are making, they could well over-take the Maranello squad. Sergio Perez had another great race and has neutered the ascendancy of Hulkenburg. The Mexican’s gentle use of the tyres allows him to develop interesting race strategies.”
Red Bull Power Unit Rumours Continue
Red Bull had issued an ultimatum to Renault to get their act together until the Spielberg Grand Prix, but the after action report of the Renault powered teams looks more like unconditional surrender than a marked improvement. While Vettel’s car was the only one with terminal problems that can be attributed to the French no-power unit, the other cars were simply too slow to break anything in the first place.
Soon speculation started that Red Bull could be so fed up with their engine partner that they would decide to stop buying a pile of dung for lots of currency and might start to crap on the field themselves with the help of Graz based engine specialists AVL.
While AVL is a big player in F1, who works with several teams, the creation of an own engine department would take years. One of the most obvious stumble blocks is that engine factories are not exactly a commodity that is available in abundance and building a new one takes time that could be better used to actually build an engine.
Motorsport Total have now chucked in their two minor currency units by speculating that one option that would actually make even more sense, would be to just hand over a certain amount of currency to Renault and show their Viry-Chattilon staff where the builders have left the hole in the wall. The German magazine suggests that this would be a win-win scenario for the Austrians.
Now, whether they name the child Infinity or Equipe Taureau Rouge, Renault would officially leave F1 with a lot of egg on their face and the Austrians would enter the fray as a new engine producer, which means they could salvage what the French left behind and use it for 2015, while working on a clean-sheet design for 2016, which they would be allowed to do as a new engine producer. So if they get the timing right with the handover, they could build a new engine that doesn’t have the rumoured fundamental design flaws of the current Renault engine.
Red Bull big-wigs Marko and Horner have criticised Renault openly and uncharacteristically harsh at Spielberg, emphasising the PR disaster that Renault endures this season. Many have criticised the reigning constructors champions for not honouring the partner, who powered them to four titles. But that sort of ‘loyalty’ is misplaced in F1.
In the olden days Didi Mateschitz would just have thrown currency at Renault, let them test till the cows come home and if nothing else helps, Renault would have scrapped the current design and started with a new one after hiring someone, who knows what he’s doing. But except for the ‘throwing currency’ part, all of that is verboten under the current rules.
So, with the engine plagued by bad design decisions and the rules setting in stone that nobody except new engine producers would ever be able to catch up with Mercedes, the Austrians are running out of choices. They either stick with Renault, woo someone who isn’t currently in F1 or they do the job themselves. Since both Marko and Horner have started to burn bridges, the ‘sticking with Renault’ part looks unlikely. You are not going to win a derby by riding a donkey anyway.
With signs increasing that Lotus is going to snatch up the place on the Merc bandwagon vacated by McLaren, Renault would be left with the two Red Bull teams and Caterham as customers. The producers of the most aesthetically offensive car ever are either croaking at the end of the season or they go where the coloured bovines go as they’ve been buying major components from Red Bull all the time.
According to Motorsport Total, Red Bull consultant Helmut Marko has been seen in Viry-Chatillon suspiciously often lately. While that could be linked to the development aid conducted by Red Bull, it looks more like an indication that Red Bull is seeking to increase their influence in Renaults engine department. Engineering matters are not Marko’s main area of expertise. He is mainly engaged in organizational matters and as Mateschitz’s wing man.
A rather interesting name bandied about is Mario Illien. The brainiac behind the clever Mercedes engines of yesteryear was involved in the crack team that came up with the current engine regulations and has worked with Red Bulls designer Adrian Newey before – at McLaren.
“The contact between Adrian and Mario is still very good,” Dr. Marko is quoted by Sport Bild.
Now why would he say something like that…
So much for cost saving then…
F1’s last chance to slash costs for struggling teams has now passed. The FIA’s World Motor Sport Council met in Munich on Thursday, less than a mere handful of days before the end-of-June deadline for rule changes to be made for 2015 without the near-impossible need for unanimity.
With the budget cap proposal already dead in the water, many struggling teams had hoped meaningful cost reductions would be agreed before the final deadline. But the new and powerful ‘Strategy Group’ – dominated by the most competitive and richest teams – has ceded only a handful of minor measures. They were rubber-stamped by the FIA on Thursday.
Engine use has been reduced by one ‘power unit’ per driver to just four in 2015, wind tunnel usage per week has been reduced for 2015 from 80 to 65 hours, the Bahrain winter test has been banned and the personnel ‘curfew’ at races has been lengthened.
Moreover, the use of computational fluid dynamics has been further restricted, teams will no longer be able to use more than one wind tunnel for testing, and two of the four in-season tests have been scrapped.
Many agree that the changes amount to ‘tinkering’, rather than a substantial move to ensure the survival of struggling teams. Roger Benoit, the veteran correspondent for Swiss newspaper Blick, wondered: “Is this the end for Marussia, Caterham or Sauber?”
Indeed, with both Jean Todt and Bernie Ecclestone acknowledging the prospect of losing teams, it is known that detailed talks about three-car teams have already taken place.
“At the moment we have eleven teams and hopefully they stay in Formula One,” said Toto Wolff, boss of the dominant Mercedes team. “But the last 50 years has shown that some teams come, some teams go. If it falls below a critical level, having a third car could be a way of filling up the grid.”
Franz Tost, boss of Red Bull’s second team Toro Rosso, also admitted “the risk is there” that the F1 grid of 2015 will not feature all 22 cars of today.
But as of today, the rules do not allow three-car teams, and the June 30 deadline for non-unanimous rule changes for 2015 will imminently pass.
“No,” Tost insisted. “If it was needed, I would not be surprised to see third cars in 2015,” he is quoted by Italy’s Omnicorse.
Meanwhile, at its Munich meeting on Thursday, the FIA also banned the ugly ‘anteater’-style noses for 2015, and rubber stamped the use of titanium skid blocks so that they are “lighter” and “better contained“. Titanium skid blocks were tested in practice in Austria last weekend, with the aim of spicing up the show with 80s-style sparks.
Standing restarts and the WMC in general
Yesterday the World Motorsport Council met and passed new rules and regulations for various sports plus F1. Going through the decisions they made on F1 is rather amusing but one that is close to most Formula One fans’ hearts is the standing restarts.
Safety Car restarts
Safety Car restarts will now be a standing start from the grid. Standing starts will not be carried out if the Safety Car is used within two laps of the start (or restart) of a race or if there are less than five laps of the race remaining.
This takes care of first lap shunts and ensures you don’t have a 5 lap sprint to the end on fresh tyres (sounds quite appealing though).
When asked Ricciardo said he does not “think it’s that bad how it is,” but added “For spectators, it would be better for a standing start but it’s probably not the most fair idea.”
Alonso though does not think it will have much of an impact saying in Karting they often restart races from the grid. “I did both and it makes no difference, I think, to me, I don’t have any preference.”
That is all good and well but has anyone watched a race halfway through and seen the amount of marbles lying just off the racing line? Does this mean we will get marshals sweeping the grid and up to the first corner or will it be down to sweeper trucks, increasing the costs for the circuit hosting the race? Will this cleaning activity then impact on the 2hr race limit?
Will the teams be allowed to change tyres before the restart and if not, what if someone has picked up damage from whatever caused the race to be stopped? If there is an accident at the first corner after a restart do we then see the safety car hurtle around the track to pick up the race leaders again which begs the question why not just put the safety car out in the first place?
All these rules are being dreamed up to ‘spice’ up the racing and entertainment but how about giving us, the fans, and opportunity to influence the rule making? Would that not create better buy-in from the audience currently being alienated?
Fernandes gone. What for Caterham?
Tony Fernandes closed his twitter account this morning and parted with this. “Goodbye all,” he tweeted. “Maybe I return. Been fun. And damn useful. Speak the truth be brave. Dare to dream, believe the unbelievable and never take no for an answer. Stand up for what you believe, fight oppression and most important enjoy life.”
Followed by, “F1 hasn’t worked – love Caterham Cars”.
Further, the Caterham F1 twitter account has been unusually quiet for the past 2 days.
TJ13 reported exclusively just two weeks ago that the entire Caterham racing operation was close to the end of its cash and there were suggestions the Moto2 bikes may not feature in Barcelona.
Speculation is rife that the team has been sold though the deal does not include the GP2 and Moto2 programme. Regardless, the mysterious acquisition has not been made by Gene Haas or Colin Kolles – both of whom have permission from the FIA to enter new teams.
Fernandes all but bailed on his team back in January when he threatened them if they didn’t improve this would be the last year of racing.
Adam Cooper reports Fernandes telling him some while ago, “It’s [F1] never made commercial sense, but I came into the sport thinking the budget was going to be capped at $40m, and it’s never come anywhere close to that. But I’ve built an industrial division around it, which has made it make a little bit more sense.
We’ll see how it goes this year, but if it doesn’t work, Caterham’s in a good position, and maybe someone else should have a go at doing it.”
Caterham have been having a year of woe. Closest rivals Marussia appear to have trumped them for 10th spot having landed 2 historic points in Monaco. This means the last tranche of F1 prize money will go to Booth, Lowden and the boys and not to Leafield. Then the much lauded Alpine deal with Renault fell through earlier this year and the F1 car with its Renault engine looks impossible to drive.
MP Motorsport, Holland’s GP2 team, is rumoured to have shown some interest in Caterham F1 in the past month, so whether the fabulous Dutch Orange sported in days gone by by the defunct Arrows and Spyker teams will replace the glorious green – who knows?
MP Motorsport also participate in the NEC Formula Renault 2.0 championship and in the Formula Renault 2.0 Eurocup.
Other suggestions are that an Arab consortium has bought the team and Will Buxton believes the Russians are coming.
Following the FIA Motorsport Council’s revelations yesterday and the absence of any meaningful cost cutting for 2015, Swiss F1 correspondent Roger Benoit commented, “Is this the end for Marussia, Caterham or Sauber?”
Less than 12 hours later, Fernandes declares his hand.
Tony Fernandes joined the sport when there was talk of a budget cap being set around $40-50m and has the dubious record of being the man who has spent the most on a Formula 1 team for a return of no points.
Last month it was revealed Fernandes was reputedly looking for some $600m for the Caterham Group as a whole, which appeared a ridiculous valuation.
There is of course the outside possibility that Fernandes has not been able to sell the F1 team and has cut of the cash supply meaning it will fold forthwith.
Fernandes announcement this morning is hardly one of a man confident he has sold a business on to someone who will take it higher and further. Just a tweet goodbye….
Today saw the running at the Goodward festival of speed of the 2011 McLaren F1 car. Interestingly, it was clad in the 2014 livery – so no PR for Vodafone. Clearly there was bad blood at the end of that relationship.
Renault surprisingly bullish for 2015
TJ13 commented earlier in the week, the ‘leaked’ stories about Renault F1’s engine facility in Viry, France being up for sale was most likely the beginning of a PR battle from Renault to unfreeze the engine design regulations.
Remi Taffin, head of Renault F1 track performance, has this to say today, “The engine for this year, as with Mercedes hardware, is fixed so there is not much we can change to be fair. We have oil and fuel which we do develop and can do and can introduce of them until the end of the year, and the rest is software. It’s a fair assessment to say where we are now is all about optimising what we’ve got. We’re not going to start having 10% more power at the next race by changing the hardware – it’s not possible.
Maybe we will get a few percent from fuel or oil and software will help us maximise our performance every single weekend because it’s fair to say we still haven’t got everything under control, at any race we’ve still had to tune stuff … Now it’s a matter of trying to make things consistent and go through things weekend by weekend”.
Interestingly, 2015 is not all doom and gloom from Taffin.
“The development [this year] is one thing but we are developing the engine for next year already … It’s not that we are more focused on ’15 than ’14 but its just that for ’15 we’ve got the freedom to develop our engine, to get some new parts in, basically nearly everything. In 2014 its all fixed so it’s a bit hard to change the hardware with the rules. We do as much as we can on what we can change.”
Legge up for Formula E
British racer Katherine Legge has become the first female driver and the 11th in total to be confirmed to race in the new all-electric FIA Formula E Championship after signing for the newly rebranded Amlin Aguri Formula E team.
The 33-year-old former Champ Car racer becomes the first of the team’s two drivers to be announced which has since changed its name from Super Aguri following a new sponsorship deal with leading independent insurance company Amlin.
Legge joins previously confirmed drivers Daniel Abt and Lucas di Grassi at Audi Sport Abt, Sam Bird and Jaime Alguersuari at Virgin Racing, Bruno Senna and Karun Chandhok at Mahindra Racing, Nick Heidfeld and Stéphane Sarrazin at Venturi, Franck Montagny at Andretti Autosport and Jarno Trulli at TrulliGP.
After rising through the junior single-seater ranks, in 2005 Legge competed in the Toyota Atlantic Championship winning the series opener at Long Beach and ending the season third overall. Later that year she made history by becoming the first woman to test a Formula 1 car since Sarah Fisher (2002) with Minardi. The following year she signed to drive in the 2006 Champ Car season and became the first woman to lead a lap in the series’ history. After a second year she switched to the DTM series enjoying seasons with Futurecom TME and Abt Sportsline. In 2012, Legge moved to the States to make her IndyCar debut, remaining in the US for a second season although this time competing in the American Le Mans Series.
Legge said: “For me this is a really exciting opportunity. The car is fantastic, it looks amazing and it will be very quick. Racing through the streets of the world’s leading cities will be an incredible experience and I think it’s a great chance to bring racing to the people. We will be driving in their cities on their streets.”
Team Principal Mark Preston said: “Amlin’s corporate expertise and our racing experience makes for a potent combination. Formula E will be a very exciting and demanding championship and I think it brings an interesting new dimension to the sport. This is as much about strategy as it is about driving fast – its playing chess at 220 km/h.”
Charles Philipps, CEO of Amlin, said: “Amlin has always been focused on developing winning strategies using a combination of experience, expertise and data analysis – and this skill is equally applicable to insurance and motor racing. We are serious about racing and serious about winning.”
Formula E is the world’s first fully-electric race series and claims it is designed to appeal to a new generation of motorsport fans, whilst accelerating the interest in electric vehicles and promoting sustainability. Competing entirely on city-centre circuits – with races in China, Malaysia, Uruguay, Argentina, US, Monaco, Germany and the UK – it uses cars capable of speeds in excess of 150mph (225kph). Its 10 teams feature some of the leading international names in motorsport including Alain Prost and Michael Andretti, along with high-profile environmental supporters including Sir Richard Branson.
Alejandro Agag, CEO of Formula E, added: “I’m delighted to welcome Katherine to the FIA Formula E Championship and also Amlin who have shown their commitment to sustainable mobility and to the FIA’s new all-electric race series. It’s fantastic to have our first female driver too and we very much hope she is the first of many to join the championship.” (FIAFormulaE.com)
Driver responses to safety car standing restarts
Romain Grosjean says, “I don’t know if they will let us change tyres on the restart or not, but if they don’t safety is going to be tricky, because the tyres may be old and cold.
We need to improve the show but maybe in a different way.
We drivers are the first ones that love the show and love overtaking, but we don’t want any dangerous things.”
Well Romain, the plan is for the cars to simply return to the grid and restart the race – with no tyre changes or work allowed. Otherwise we’d merely have a red flag thrown instead of the safety car.
PR compliant Jenson Button believes standing restarts will improve the spectacle, though suggests ‘mayhem’ may ensue. “It will be tricky for all of us to keep the car pointing in the same direction off the start and it could cause mayhem.
It will make for better TV but there perhaps needs to be a rule about the tyres.”
Rob Smedley thinks the transition will be simple and there should be few mechanical knock on issues. “It’s not like the old days when your clutches were fragile – everybody has fairly robust clutches now,
You might lose performance in that second start, because you do have clutch wear, but everybody will be in the same boat.
It’s Formula 1, so everyone will work on making their restarts better than everybody else. It’s the nature of the competition.
We will face technical challenges, but all the teams are big enough to get around that.”
What about the disadvantage to the race leader who may have built up a significant lead? “It’s probably not the most fair idea,” says Ricciardo.
“It may be more exciting, because there’s a bit more variability with a standing start, but for me that’s a bit too artificial.
If it goes to the standing start you could go down to third or fourth. That’s just a bit too much of a disadvantage for someone who has earned the lead in the first place.”
Championship leader, Nico Rosberg believes things have just gone too far. “I understand that the start is one of the most exciting times for the fans, but that’s going too far with things.
I like the pure racing, the way it’s been for the last 50 years. It should stay the way it is now.”
Four times world champion, Sebastian Vettel agrees and suggests the end may not justify the means. “It is not as if the racing this year has got any more exciting than in previous years.
F1 has always been the peak of motorsport, and you want to make sure that the fastest driver is winning – so you need to create a formula that gives room for a driver to show his skills.”
No one yet appears to realise the carnage the cars will face who start on an often visible carpet of marbles once the race has been running for a while. Will this encourage drivers to mess around trying to lose a place to ensure they are running in a position with an odd number, when their team believes a safety car is likely?
Test-Gate 2014 is closed
After the shambolic winter testing speculation was rife before the Australian Grand Prix whether the Renault powered cars would hold together long enough to make it out of the pit lane and people began discussing the possibility of the reigning constructors champions being eliminated in Q1.
The greater the surprise was that while most of the Renault cars registered in the speed trap as glaciers, one of them, at the hands of Danny Ricciardo, found itself on the front row and refused to follow its sister cars example of having itself for lunch. He was later disqualified for a fuel meter offense, but the next time round it was the other car to finish in the one-two-threes.
Since walking the plank and burning witches at the stake has become a trifle outdated, despite people suspecting witchcraft, it was inevitable that the cheating allegations would start and someone, who was too modest to tell his name, wrote an anonymous letter to FIA, letting them know that Toro Rosso had conducted an engine test with engine specialists AVL in Graz, Austria, just six days before Melbourne.
The nameless person also claimed that the inside of the building had been fairly windy and therefore it had been an illegal wind tunnel test. The fact that the tested car had been stripped of its wings and engine cover during the test was sadly lost in translation.
The FIA nonetheless opened an investigation into the case, probably fuelled by the suspicion that STR might run an oversized Formula-Ford car, and have now closed it again with someone having scribbled “didn’t find anything wrong with it” on the file cover.
You can tell nothing is to be found, when even those who would profit most from Red Bull getting caught red-handed say there’s nothing to it. A week ago Toto Wolff told Sport-Woche. “We could see nothing that would be against the rules, since the car had no wings anyway.”
The PR people are racking their brains for a new advertising strap line – because a Red Bull without wings… is to them… an anathema.
Nico: ‘No secrets here’
Toto Wolff admitted following the Austrian GP that he was concerned that his drivers were withholding information from each other; information that would push the team further forward.
“Yesterday [the team] had a bit of a moment. After P3 we weren’t in good shape and the atmosphere wasn’t like in the races before. We see that it’s getting very competitive, that transparency is suffering a little bit and we need to make sure that this is not detrimental to the team.”
Clearly the inference would be that it is Nico Rosberg withholding information since he turned the tide of Hamilton’s four straight wins in Barcelona.
Rosberg denies being secretive and tells the Telegraph, “It’s all open – the data, everything, is open,” said Rosberg. “It’s just that sometimes you are not going to put it on the table, and say, ‘Look here at what I’ve done’.
If I find a little bit of an advantage somewhere then I’ll keep it to myself. But in the background we’re racing for the Silver Arrows. Everything is free because the team need to be strong, and we’re strongest when we work together, and we do work together. But at the same time we’re fighting each other, so whenever we can have a little bit of an advantage over the other then we’ll take it”.
Following the Spanish GP, the media was awash with stories suggesting Hamilton would dominate his team mate and that the Brit had all the momentum in these years drivers’ title race. Yet in three short races, everything changed. Rosberg is now 29 points ahead of his team mate and it is Hamilton who is desperate to turn the tide in Silverstone.
“It’s good to know I have the momentum fully on my side”, says Rosberg. “Definitely good, and I need to prolong it as much as possible. There will inevitably come a point where Lewis will pull it towards him again, so I need to make the most of it for now.
I need to try to keep it as long as possible and keep going because I’m on a good run at the moment. It helps my confidence to have the recent results behind me – the qualifying results, race results.”
Nico’s assertion that he is withholding nothing is rebuttal directed directly at Wolff, but also the latest in the mind games being played between the Mercedes drivers.
Hamilton played the ‘I’m hungrier for success than Nico because I’m from a poor background’ card before Monaco, and now it is Rosberg who’s piling on the pressure.
Lewis is facing a must win weekend at his home GP, or he risks the team calling off the driver race in the near future.