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Previously on TJ13:
OTD Lite – 1988 British Grand Prix
The writer of this piece was at the 1988 British Grand Prix. Having camped over the weekend – Sunday morning greeted the weary eyes with heavy rain. Once inside the circuit the cars circulated through the warm up and at the start the Ferrari’s led away the dominant Mclarens. With heavy rain and Senna’s brilliance, he was soon past and disappeared for the afternoon. Not one of his great wet wins but a dominant display nonetheless.
More noteworthy was Nigel Mansell’s stunning drive to second place. On the Friday, he had a torrid time trying to get his actively suspended Williams to work. Patrese, his team-mate trailed the 26th time by a staggering 14 seconds.
Overnight the Williams team decided to make a conventional system once again, Patrick Head: “Its a bodge frankly. We’ve put steel mechanical springs and dampers on. We’ve changed the front struts into dampers, designed some new bits and pieces which we machined up overnight. We did some new pistons for the front struts…”
Mansell’s bravery was beyond doubt and in a new experimental car he raced for the British public to finish 23 seconds behind Senna in a Williams-Judd – simply legendary.
Honda unprepared for their return to Formula One
Mclaren-Honda. To many Mclaren fans, the combination of those names evokes memories of the greatest period in their histories and the renewal of the two giants in 2015 is already being anticipated as a return to the glory of yesteryear. Once again Ron’s team is approaching the mythical land of Avalon but history proves that both Honda and Mclaren have struggled with different projects over the intervening years.
Mclaren’s Formula One team is currently struggling but the ambition is to return to winning ways as soon possible and barely a day goes by that a new top drivers name is mentioned in connection with a future drive with the team. The fact that Jenson Button is of little interest to Ron Dennis is confirmed by the choices he has decided should be leading the team – Fernando Alonso, Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel.
Yet with Mclaren currently the worst performing of the mighty Mercedes engined cars, the named drivers have proven reluctant to leave their current teams for pastures new and if news that is arriving from Italy is accurate, it will most likely guarantee that these drivers will remain with their respective teams for the foreseeable future.
By all accounts, Honda has had some delays with the design of their engine. The Japanese company has still not finalised the layout of the V6 turbo which Mclaren have exclusive use of next year. This in itself is of little importance as Mercedes changed their layout significantly last September, but they had been working on their project for a few years previously, something that Honda has not had time to accomplish.
Honda’s state of the art F1 research centre in Sakura is still under construction but the team is looking at new technical solutions for their design. Honda is aiming for an engine package that targets performance because once the engine has been homologated, the regulations freeze allows development on parts that affect the engines reliability only.
In September technical director, Kazuo Sakurahara and his consultant, Gilles Simon, formerly head of Ferrari’s engines department will decide on how to mount the unit on the Mclaren MP4/29H that Woking is currently building to run track tests.
Honda will be using IHI turbos due to a long collaboration between the companies but the idea is to have the engine recover the maximum amount of energy in the shortest time – similarly to Mercedes’ solution. The turbo’s technology will not be sourced from the automotive industry as these are designed to reduce turbo lag, but from aerospace tech itself as this will allow faster replenishment of the MGU-H and the electric motors will substitute for the initial lag itself.
Honda has followed Ferrari’s lead and will use Magneti Marelli injectors to provide the 500 bar pressure direct injection system for the engine despite Mercedes and Renault using the Bosch system with quite differing results. Further to the delays, Honda’s late arrival to the party means that time is very tight on the design of the engine and have suggested they will be working on the engine in small steps and won’t be taking too many risks.
When Honda dominated twenty five years ago, they found many of their engineers lured away by other engine manufacturers. To avoid a repetition of this, Honda will design their engines in Sakura and prepare the race units in a new facility that is being built in Milton Keynes, close to Red Bull Racing. The building is expected to be ready in time for the 2015 season.
It could just be that with Honda’s initial foray back into Formula One being a slow burner – Jenson Button may be the only choice that Mclaren have of having a World Champion behind the wheel.
Ramirez attacks Whitmarsh, Perez, Raikkonen and Silverstone
Jo Ramirez was Mclaren team manager from 1984 to 2001 and worked with some of the best drivers in the world. Niki Lauda, Alain Prost, Ayrton Senna and Mika Hakkinen. He also worked with Maserati, Ferrari, Tyrrell, ATS and Fittipaldi before joining the Woking team. In a recent interview he spoke candidly about a few things in Formula One from his insiders perspective…
Q: You’re a good friend of Martin Whitmarsh is it true that he had to go?
“Yes, unfortunately he made two bad decisions. Mclaren had a winning car at the end of 2012. The rules for 2013 were stable but the engineers convinced him that they should pursue a new design philosophy. The early races showed the car was nowhere. The second wrong decision was Ron Dennis. Ron wanted to convert the 2012 cars to the 2013 rules but Martin they would improve the car and catch up. But with test limits it is simply impossible to catch up and with no podium finish for the first time since 1981, the shareholders and sponsors were not happy… Martin had to go.”
Q: It seemed a strange decision to release Sergio Perez after one season. Something must have happened, he’s a good driver..
“As a driver he’s not bad, he was getting better but Mclaren wanted a new Hamilton, someone who is faster than Jenson Button. Sergio did not meet expectations but at the end he was already faster than Button.His problem was he was snooty. ‘I am now an F1 driver’ We know the drill, his attitude was poor, he was unpopular with the engineers, with everyone in the team… and he was regarded as very arrogant. This year I was in Jerez for the testing, and I spent some time with Mclaren and Sauber, neither team was able to say anything good about Sergio. This is incredible.”
Q: One criticism are the many penalties imposed today in a race.
Yes, too much, Gutierrez was punished for the loose wheel in Austria but it was not is fault it was the teams. This is just ridiculous. Then you come to Silverstone, where you see an incredible accident of a manic, ludicrous Kimi Raikkonen. Okay, he made a mistake and was off the track, you have to take it easy and return to the track, but of course he wanted to waste no time and returns flat out, losing control of the car and there was a huge accident. He could have hurt himself or he could have been hit by Massa and broken his legs or worse but got away without punishment. I thought the driver steward was Derek Warwick and wrote to him, but it was actually Nigel Mansell. Warwick replied: “You’re right, Raikkonen would have been punished”
That’s the inconsistency with these penalties. Raikkonen is a Ferrari driver and makes a catastrophic mistake but he got away with it. If that was Maldonado or Grosjean they would have been banned from the German race.
These safety issues have also been so exaggerated in England. The guardrail was only slightly damaged . The chances of another car striking the same place is rather limited. So they would rather spend a full hour repairing it. A full hour and all the TV viewers were angry. The drivers were also angry at having to wait. I am so glad that I am no longer a part of it. There are so many things nowadays that are so simple and yet so annoying…”
Ferrari seat ‘not the plan for 2015’ – Bianchi (GMM)
Jules Bianchi staked a claim on a Ferrari race seat on Wednesday, setting the pace at the post-British grand prix Silverstone test. Drafted in by Ferrari to replace Kimi Raikkonen after the Finn’s high-speed crash last Sunday, Frenchman and Marussia driver Bianchi looked as impressive as Fernando Alonso had been in practice last weekend in the same F14-T car. Moreover, Bianchi’s 1 minute 35.2 laptime was more than a second faster than Raikkonen – who has notably struggled in 2014 – had managed in Silverstone practice.
Although clearly part of Ferrari’s future plans, the 24-year-old played down the significance of his Silverstone speed, insisting differing wind conditions between the race weekend and the test played a significant role. “But it’s always good to do some good laptimes and to be consistent,” he admitted. “Obviously it is much better to do a good job and a good laptime.” Nonetheless, Raikkonen is firmly under contract for 2015, and Bianchi acknowledged that a race seat with the Maranello team “is not the plan for next year”.
TJ13 comment: When a driver at Ferrari is under-performing, the media speculates at length about who will replace him. Massa in 2012 suffered this and when Ferrari retained him for the following year wide-spread astonishment ensued. Everyone had been convinced that Ferrari Academy drier – Sergio Perez – would be signed up. Yet Il Padrino told the press that Perez was not ready yet.
Martin Whitmarsh took his own counsel and signed him up as a replacement for Hamilton, but all Perez had actually shown at that stage was he could look after his tyres when all around were losing theirs. Mclaren have shown with Hamilton, and this year Magnussen, that they will take a gamble on talent but Ferrari have generally signed established stars.
The last relative unknown was Felipe Massa, who was managed by Nicolas Todt. If the name sounds familiar it is because his father is FIA president Jean Todt’s son. A little nepotism works wonders for your contracted driver and after a single season with Sauber, he became Ferrari’s test driver in 2003. Even then he was sent back to Sauber for a further two season and also additional testing with Ferrari before Todt signed him to support Schumacher.
Ultimately, De La Rosa was always going to drive so as to establish a real-world experience for the simulator work he conducts and if Raikkonen had not been injured, he would have driven on the other day. Bianchi’s next ‘Ferrari guided’ move would be to an established mid-field team, like Sauber to further cement his career.
CVC Mackenzie backs Ecclestone in court (GMM)
F1 owner CVC’s chief Donald Mackenzie on Wednesday gave Bernie Ecclestone a boost. Mackenzie, CVC’s co-founder and chairman, has not always seen eye-to-eye with F1’s controversial ‘supremo’, and has even warned that Ecclestone risks expulsion over the Gerhard Gribkowsky bribery affair. On Wednesday, Mackenzie was called as a witness in the Munich trial.
He backed Ecclestone’s defence. Prosecutors claim 83-year-old Ecclestone bribed the now jailed Gribkowsky to the tune of $44 million so as to sell the sport to a preferred buyer and retain power. But Mackenzie said Ecclestone in fact never asked that part of CVC’s deal would involve keeping him as chief executive. “At no point did he ever say that he expected that,” he told the court. In fact, Mackenzie said, Ecclestone had told him: “If you want me, then I might be available. We showed him a services contract because he never showed any interest and did not negotiate,” German reports quote Mackenzie as testifying.
Mackenzie also backed the claims of Ecclestone’s lawyers about Gribkowsky’s character, depicting him as “arrogant and very self-confident“. And he also denied that Ecclestone was happy if CVC bought F1’s commercial rights for a low price so long as he would remain in power. Mackenzie recalled when CVC, during negotiations, valued the rights at a billion dollars. “He (Ecclestone) began to laugh heartily and said I should not waste his or the shareholders’ time,” he said. Mackenzie said Ecclestone later slid a piece of paper across the table containing the words: “2 billion“.
McLaren busting budgets set to rise
Of course there were a number of teams against the budget cap principle which the FIA was committed to – well was once committed to. These same teams have made discussions over cost cutting difficult to navigate.
At one time McLaren may have been up for reigning in the superior spend of their old time rivals Ferrari, but the sands of time have shifted, and Big Ron is one of the most vocal against budget caps and even cost cutting.
The reason for this is many moons ago, Dennis realised, the only way to finance a modern F1 racing team was to copy the Ferrari model. Finding a Mateschitz type character would be no good for McLaren, as their world wide marketed brand would dominate the historic British racing marquee.
So Dennis begged and borrowed in excess of $500m to establish the modern facilities at the MTC which houses McLaren electronics, McLaren applied technologies, Mclaren racing and the road car division.
In 62 weeks, McLaren built their state of the art automotive production facility then in 3 short years sold 3,500 cars. Their global dealership network is targeted to number 100 by the end of 2015 and the group will turnover will be over a billion in the next financial year.
Dennis reckons they’ll be selling 4,000 cars a year with a turnover of $2bn in 5 years.
Big deal! Lots of companies have made cars, lost money and gone bust so what’s to say this wouldn’t happen to McLaren? It could well do. Yet the profitability of McLaren car production is reputedly excellent due to secret new production techniques which slash weeks of labour time from the end to end car construction.
TJ13 categorically stated in December 2013, that McLaren would not race with a title sponsor in 2014. Specifically that there would be no stop gap deal until Honda arrive on the scene. Yet Dennis has declared the McLaren racing team would have its biggest budget ever this year, some $300m.
This is being funded from existing sponsors, Vodafone early exit sponsor penalties and from within the McLaren group cash and from Honda who are reportedly topping up the shortfall from Vodafone.
“We are not in a position where we are struggling to get money, we are perfectly fine, and with Honda coming on board, even more so,” confirmed Racing Director (self anointed team principal) Eric Boullier.
“For this year we’ve had our biggest ever budget and next year that is going to increase, so there are no worries.”
So much for cost cutting. So much for Jean Todt and his bold 2nd term FIA presidency defining reforms..
Though Eric, ‘the helpful’ explains to us mere mortals how the cost cutting and increased budget circle can be squared. “Cost cutting and budgets are different.” insists Boullier. “If we want a £500million budget but spend only £100million then that is our problem, so they are different topics.”
There is no sign McLaren will significantly improve this season – as yet, though Button’s performance at the British GP provides those in Woking with a glimmer of hope. Hope that the team may claim a spot above Force India in the constructors’ championship before the end of the season.
Yet if money talks and Honda get it right… who knows, maybe 2015 will see another team as dominant as Mercedes is this year.
When a philosophy becomes a problem
The FIA trumpeted a new era of road car relevance and green credentials when specifying the design of the new F1 V6 Turbo engines.
Electric power from the MGU-H is unrestricted, as it was believed this would encourage the engineers to focus on developing this new technology rather than attempting to design ever increasingly sophisticated combustion engines.
The FIA believed these boundary pushing technologies in the field of hybrid power would then filter their way down into road cars – thus giving F1 a relevance to road car manufacturing which has been lost for some time.
To this end, the regulators have had a degree of success. The ICE (Internal Combustion Engines) of the three manufacturers are believed to be similar in performance, however, the hybrid power Mercedes is delivering is thought to be between 110-140BHP more than its rivals.
However, the original philosophy has proven problematic. Not in terms of pushing hybrid boundaries, but to the great global show that is Formula 1.
Hence, sources (probably deliberate leaks) close to the FIA are today suggesting there is consideration being given to restricting the flow of hybrid power for 2015.
Of course some kind of squaring of the circle will be required by the FIA in terms of its philosophical U-Turn, however this should be no problem for then genius minds who reside in the Place de Concorde.
Let’s hope Honda haven’t spent a hundred million or two on developing something which will never see the light of day – or they may not be at all amused.
What the FRIC?
The recent and almost definite ban on FRIC suspension systems announced by Charlie Whiting on Tuesday has met with a relatively stony silence from the teams.
Eric, ‘the helpful’, Boullier informed us yesterday McLaren would be unaffected, Max Chilton ran his Marussia yesterday at the Silverstone test without their FRIC components and was pleasantly surprised at how good the car was.
“It didn’t feel as bad as I thought,” Chilton admitted. “It will depend on what circuit you are at. At Silverstone it didn’t seem to take a huge amount of balance away from the car and by the end of the day we kind of got it back to where it was so it was actually quite an encouraging sign.”
Max does think it will hurt some teams more than others though. “I hear the Mercedes system is very complicated so it could affect them more.”
Today Williams have sent out driver Valteri Bottas, presumably in an attempt to play down the whole FRIC ban issue. “For some teams yes [it is an issue] but not for some others. We will see, I don’t really know what is going to happen, we will see. Whatever the decision is we will be OK with it, I don’t think it’s going to be the key for the season or anything like that.”
So Williams, Macca and Marussia are all cool with this FIA change of direction mid-season. Bottas does though concede. “Maybe some teams could be more affected than us, I would say.”
I’m sure there was a glint in his eye when he made that last remark….
And then there were 8.F1 teams left to hear from – well 7 really as Toro Rosso’s Franz Tost will say what Red Bull tell him to say.
Nobody at Caterham has a clue what FRIC is so that leaves 6.
Sauber can’t afford to waste money on extra hydraulic fluid – down to 5.
What will Red Bull, Ferrari, Mercedes, Force India and Lotus think of all this?
C’est la vie? Or, grand désastre.
TJ13 will bring to you a mini-series on the views of Charlie Whiting, Formula One Race Director, Safety Delegate, Permanent Starter and head of the F1 Technical Department.
Wow!!! – all those titles – looks like he’s the busiest man in F1!
This writer discussed the issue of lapped cars at a safety car restarts with Charlie toward the end of last season. It was suggested to him that lapped cars should be forced to drive through the pits and rejoin the rear of the snake of the rest of the field behind the safety car.
I’m not sure Charlie understood the point as he commented it wasn’t ‘fair’ on them. At the British GP, Charlie was again pressed specifically over the huge loss of time, getting the lapped cars to overtake the safety car and circulate until they rejoin the rear of the snake.
“We have to go back to the reason for having it [the safety car] and that is to provide clean restarts. My personal view is that it is a price worth paying. If we look at this year’s Bahrain Grand Prix, I don’t think we would have had such a good end to that race or the final bit of that race wouldn’t have been as good if there had been four or five lapped cars between the cars on the lead lap. I think that was vindication of that rule”.
It is clear that the Formula 1 race director is not only incapable of innovative thought process, but can’t even be bothered to see how other sports deal with this situation – which in F1 is ludicrous.
An Argentinian moment to remember
Lauda calls Whiting’s position on FRIC ‘absurd’
When the technical directive regarding the FRIC suspension systems was issued this week, there was a smack of smugness and smart arse conniving about the manner in which the matter was addressed.
“Having now seen and studied nearly every current design of front-to-rear linked suspension system, as well as reviewing future developments some teams have shared with us, we are firmly of the view that the legality of all such systems could be called into question, particularly with respect to compliance with Article 3.15 of the F1 Technical Regulations.
“As these systems, in one form or another, have been in use for some time we are inclined to permit their continued use for the remainder of the current season, however, we feel we would need the agreement of all participating teams to take this approach. We would therefore be very grateful if you could indicate whether you may be in a position to agree with such an approach.
“Failing this, we would have to consider making a report to the stewards about the non-compliance of any car fitted with a system which appears to allow the response of the suspension at either or both of the rear corners to drive the response of the suspension at either or both of the front corners (or vice versa).”
A directive is supposed to give direction. FIA directives are predominantly instructional.
This ill conceived missive is a minefield of political opportunism based around whether the team’s can agree or not on the matter.
If the teams fail to agree, the FIA has indicated they will be open to protests from one team about another’s FRIC system.
Niki Lauda believes it is ridiculous the teams have been invited to make a unanimous decision on FRICs. He describes the FIA’s meanderings as ‘the rules of absurdity’ and Niki demands FRICs be declared by the FIA either ‘legal or illegal’.
Lauda snipes at the timing of the FIA’s intervention on this matter. “Still, of course, we must ask why a system that was legal for half a season is to be suddenly banned?” Adding pragmatically, “We do not want to continue to invest in a technology that is guided by the rules of absurdity,”
The dithering and indecisiveness of Jean Todt appears to be now spreading throughout the FIA, something which will make regulation and enforcement of the rules nigh on impossible.
Mercedes have decided they will not run their FRIC suspension in Germany the weekend after next. Then we will see whether a move clearly intended to destabilise the clear F1 championship leaders will have the desired effect.
Red Bull, who are believed to have the next most sophisticated system are also believed to be dropping their FRIC suspension for the German GP.
However, the challenge has been issued by Lauda to the FIA – to stop creating confusion, govern properly and cease playing games.
Ecclestone looking to buy F1
After denying outright that his constant criticism of the sport this year – and the F1 engine sound particularly – was an attempt to drive down the price of F1 so that he could buy it back on the cheap (an interview during the Bahrain GP)….. it appears Mr. E has changed his mind.
Bernie Ecclestone admits he is interested in buying F1 from CVC. “I have spoken to Donald Mackenzie and I am looking at it,” Ecclestone told the Daily Express. “It is possible, although one or two other companies are interested and I would not enter an auction. Age does not make it impossible. I feel no different to how I did 40 years ago”.
Despite the grand claims from CVC and Mr. E, Formula 1 would probably only achieve a value of around $6bn – not the $10bn hoped when a float on the Singapore Stock Exchange was planned.
In fighting spirit, Ecclestone declares, “I have a contract with the company, not the shareholders. I have seen some rubbish about being pushed out but there is no-one lined up to take over.” That said, Ecclestone was forced to resign as a statutory director from a number of the myriad of companies interlinked with FOM (who own the sport) following Judge Newey’s damning opinion of him as “untrustworthy”.
Bernie believes F1 and its modus operandi has become too corporate. “The past couple of years we have been running the business as if CVC were going to float the company. So we have run it like a public company, which has limitations. If I bought it I wouldn’t think of that. I have always been used to doing things on the spot and, with a public company, it is always about board decisions”.
So F1 is set for some ‘back to the future’ then folks.
The good old days when for Bernie, a mere shake of the hand seals the deal…, ‘my word is my bond’ and the motto ‘mors aut honorabilis vita’…. could once again be returning.
…… Gone Fishing…… whatever that is………..
Mercedes test car without FRIC?
Having completed just 5 laps on the second day of Silverstone, Lewis Hamilton had an innocuous spin at Stowe corner and wasn’t seen again for around 5 hours.
Lewis did make it out in the afternoon and completed a further 42 laps, though he had mixed feelings about the days running.
“It wasn’t an easy day today; we had great weather but unfortunately had some problems at the start of the day which meant we lost some track time,” Hamilton said. “The guys did a fantastic job to get the car ready again and we were able to put together a few successful runs.
At the end of the day, we were going to do more important runs but the red flag came out. It could have been a lot worse as it could have been raining or we could have even done no laps, but some of the things we’ve tried in the car feel really positive.”
Following each afternoon stint, Lewis’ car was given the attention of a remarkable number of engineers, before being set up to go again.
Mercedes will hope the day’s final time sheet is not a reflection of their best efforts without the sophisticated suspension technology – and that their rivals were not trying out the same practice.
Day 2 Silverstone Test: 8th Jul;y 2014
1. Jules Bianchi, Ferrari, 1m 35.262s, 89 laps
2. Daniil Kvyat, Toro Rosso, 1m 35.544s, 55 laps
3. Kevin Magnussen, McLaren, 1m 35.593s, 91 laps
4. Giedo van der Garde, Sauber, 1m 36.327s, 84 laps
5. Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, 1m 36.680s, 47 laps
6. Valtteri Bottas, Williams, 1m 37.193s, 40 laps
7. Max Chilton, Marussia, 1m 37.359s, 77 laps
8. Daniel Juncadella, Force India, 1m 37.449s, 52 laps
9. Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull, 1m 39.410s, 76 laps
10. Charles Pic, Lotus, 1m 41.906s, 39 laps
11. Julian Leal, Caterham, 1m 42.635s, 51 laps