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Previously on TJ13:
OTD Lite: Winklehock leads on Grand Prix debut
The son of the late Manfred WInklehock only contested one Grand Prix – the 2007 European Grand Prix at the Nurburgring. As a Friday test driver and the reserve driver for the Spyker team, he started last on the grid but with rain threatening, his team called him to change to intermediates on the parade lap.
As the rain began to fall he passed all the other drivers as they slithered round and finally came into the pits to take on appropriate tyres. By the end of the second lap he had a lead of 19 seconds and by the end of the fourth was thirty-three seconds ahead….
Sadly it was too wet to continue and so the safety car was called out – unlike Sunday’s recent German Grand Prix. At the restart Alonso committed to some quite brilliant driving and won the race from a smarting little Felipe Massa who felt the Spaniard had been a little too aggressive.
Lauda Watch: “McLaren car… shit, Ferrari… shit”
Mild mannered triple world champion, Niki Lauda, is clearly irked by a number of matters. It may be that the FRIC system Mercedes have been developing for years is de facto outlawed due to other teams bending Charlie Whiting’s ear.
It could be there was a threat of protest from Red Bull and Ferrari when Mercedes decided on safety grounds alone – allegedly – to change the brake systems used by Lewis Hamilton during the German GP.
When asked whether it was fair that the FIA regulations restrict the ability of other engine suppliers to play ‘catch up’ during this season, Lauda was somewhat uncompromising.
“McLaren has the same engine as us and their car is sh*t,” reports El Pais. “Where are they? No where.”
In a clear attempt to make friends and influence people, Lauda continues, “Ferrari are the same…. another sh*tty car”. (Translator’s note: It is difficult to know whether Lauda is referring to Ferrari as ‘another’ example of a sh^t 2014 car in addition to the McLaren MP4-29…. Or whether he means this is the latest in a list of sh^t Ferrari F1 car designs).
“The rules are written clearly,” Lauda adds, “You can’t penalise Brixworth because the others have been stupid.”
Yet Niki has been in the sport a long time and remembers similar years in by-gone eras where a team dominated for a season or two. The McLaren MP4-4 springs to mind along with a couple of Williams F1 designs.
Niki is asked to sympathise with Fernando Alonso’s predicament – stranded in the wrong car.
“I’m sure he’s most frustrated,” said Lauda, “but the money he makes should help him.get over it. Remember Ronnie Peterson? He was the best but always in the wrong place.”
Marco Mattiacci refused to be drawn on Lauda’s description of Maranello’s latest lovingly created prototype racing machine. “For me, Niki Lauda is an icon of the sport, one of the most intelligent drivers of all time…. and I have huge respect for him”.
Should F1 go to Russia?
Most sports fans would prefer to disassociate their preferred sport from politics, yet at times this divide is called into question.
The questions are raised not when sport attempts to bring influence upon a political sphere, but when politics attempts to use sport to justify its position.
The 1936 Olympics were an example of this which is hard to refute. Hitler seized on an opportunity to use the Games to promote his government and ideals of racial supremacy. Such that, the official Nazi party publication called for the banning of the participation of Jews and Black people from the event.
Unlike other F1 writers who are well known, TJ13 was against F1’s return to Bahrain in 2012 – primarily because the ruling family, the Al Khalifa’s, had hijacked the event, publicising it both nationally and internationally under the slogans “UniF1ed” and “Back on Track”.
These were clearly political slogans designed by Bahrain’s political rulers to present the message that the ‘troubles’ which had caused the 2011 race cancellation were now over. Whether this was in fact the case or not is irrelevant, as the use of F1 for any political means is forbidden by the FIA.
Of course, Jean Todt relatively new to his role, felt the course of least resistance was best – and did nothing. Ecclestone admitted the race organisers were in breach of their contract and that he had “asked them to take them down” – the banners that is.
Unusually, Ecclestone was ignored, and the banners and baseball caps were aplenty on race day.
So we turn to Russia and the question whether F1 should race in Sochi this year.
Ecclestone is clear in his views. “I don’t see any problems with that. Were they [Russia] in the World Cup or not? You would have thought people would have tried to stop it, wouldn’t you? Like I’ve said, we don’t get involved in politics. We have a contract with them, which we know they will respect. And we will do the same.”
Of course, this event has been promoted personally by Vladimir Putin, and the question of F1’s involvement with Russia will be raised by many. The charge will be Putin and Russia have aggravated if not created the current bout of killings in Ukraine following the annexing of Crimea.
It appears from the sanctions extended thus far, that it is beyond the doubt of the majority of Western led governments that the pro-Russian ‘freedom forces’ fighting the Ukraine government troops in the east of the country have been armed and assisted by Russia.
Further, evidence is emerging that Russia supplied the weapon which shot down Malaysian Airline flight MH17.
Is all this really a matter for Formula 1 to consider? After all, it isn’t about the discrimination of Jews and Black people.
The question for many is whether Vladimir Putin will attempt to use his association with global sports stars of Formula 1 to present an image of ‘business as usual’?
This image will have little effect on those in the west, yet the Russian people will see their president accepted by ‘reasonable minded’ educated westerner’s who are happy to shake his hand in friendship and bring their sport to his domain.
These westerner’s will represent to ordinary Russians the fact that the USA and European sanctions against their country are not universally accepted by those who are ruled by Obama and his EU counterparts… which in the final analysis, is indeed true.
However, it may be a more sensitive topic depending on where people live in the world. F1 fans in Holland may feel more strongly than others in Europe where there has been a general air of indifference to the American led sanctions imposed on Russia thus far.
Then again, there are corporate backers of F1 like Malaysian company Petronas. They may indeed feel they would suffer a backlash from their own countrymen should their name appear in Sochi. Ecclestone refused to allow McLaren or Vodafone to remove their company logo from the car in Bahrain 2012 – will the same apply to Petronas?
Bernie Ecclestone believes there will be no issues, and all will be fine. “We shouldn’t speculate as to what could happen. We will honour our contract. Mr Putin personally has been very supportive and very helpful, and we will do the same.”
TJ13 has contacted the UK Prime Minister’s office on three separate occasions since the annexing of Crimea to establish the government’s position on the Formula 1 circus pitching it’s big top in Russia. No answer has been the stern reply.
Well the questions will soon be louder and more frequent. The terrible events surrounding flight MH17 – none less than the disdainful vision of the victims bodies piled up on trucks – has hit many in the west between the eyes.
This war is no longer quite so remote and distant.
Despite what Ecclestone says or believes, there will be questions asked and some turmoil within the F1 teams over the continued decision to ‘take the show to Russia’.
Italy “clutches at straws” again regards Ferrari
“The idiom originated with Thomas More’s Dialogue of Comfort Against Tribulation (1534). It indicates desperation. A drowning man will clutch/grab at anything, even at straws (this is the (older?) usage that means ‘dry grass’ not drinking straws) in an attempt to save himself.”
In Italy, Ferrari is a religion. The populace display as much anger as the publications that routinely report on the state of affairs in Maranello and 2014 has been fodder for the journalists. There is the very real prospect that Ferrari will – for the first time in twenty one years – go through the season without a single victory.
The Silver Arrows continue to dominate the championship battle, practically winning from wherever they start the race and certain Italians have begun the aforementioned ‘clutching at straws‘ by comparing Ferrari to their last winless season in 1993. In actual fact 1993 was the third season that Ferrari had endured a winless year but that is a moot point.
In 1993 Ferrari president Luca Di Montezemolo appointed Frenchman Jean Todt to begin reconstructing the antiquated Ferrari team into what became a behemoth of modern Formula One, dominating in a style that had not been seen before – six consecutive constructors and five consecutive driver titles are testimony to that. Once again, in 2014, Montezemolo is re-living the horrors of a malfunctioning squad that looks likely to finish at best fifth in the table despite the unquestioned driving ability of Fernando Alonso.
So what does Italy do? They make comparisons between 1993 and this year, and similarities vainly offered between Jean Todt and Marco Mattiacci – conveniently forgetting that Todt was a hugely successful motor-sport manager with Peugeot in both rallying and Group C; whereas MM comes from a background where his only obligation was to promote and grow the Ferrari brand in different markets worldwide.
One commendable trait of the new Ferrari team principal is his uncharacteristic honesty in a world of intrigue, politics and deliberate subterfuge and this has been followed by a culling of team personnel who have been identified as too reluctant to take design risks.
Luca Marmorini has already departed the team and has been replaced by Matt Mariz and Lorenzo Sassi who will take over the 059/4 project with the design remit that the aero department will not take precedence over the power unit design, a problem that Pat Fry and Nicholas Tombazis cultivated by chasing maximum efficiency.
The biggest error that Marmorini made was deliberating over the direction of the new 2015 power unit despite the FIA allowing modifications for next season. With James Allison ignoring the 2014 campaign and focusing his attention on next season’s challenger, it appears that Fry and Tombazis may also prove scapegoats within the Italian concern.
And all the while Pavarotti sings “Nessun’ Dorma” (None shall sleep) in the echoing halls of the Gestione Sportiva…
Clutching at straws pt 2 – Renault’s Remi Taffin
Renault’s operations manager – Remi Taffin – has been a busy interviewee this season. Before the season began he spoke of how Renault would be fixing their problems over the coming weeks. By Barcelona the word was that with the upcoming tracks being less power demanding they would be nearer the front and by Canada they were operating at 100% of the engines potential – which made Austria all the more disappointing as Red Bull struggled for pace all weekend.
In a season that Ferrari is hugely disappointed with their car, they have still run close battles to the Red Bulls at the last couple of races – well Fernando Alonso. If as some suggest, the RB10 is the class of the field in terms of chassis design, then the handicap of their engine is truly staggering.
Young Remi studied at the same institute as Mclaren’s technical director – Racing Director – Eric Boullier and offered the French companies point of view from Germany.
“It is good to the Red Bulls have the flexibility and mobility they need to compete and win positions on the track. The new software introduced in Germany has proved valuable in this area and we intend to exploit it even more in Hungary where the interaction with the new Total fuel will be fully optimised.”
Taffin continued, “We also need to work on reliability before Hungary. We had a perfect weekend in Germany and problems were relatively minor but some of them had serious consequence….”
As yet, TJ13 hasn’t received word from Daniil Kyvat in regards to his Renault engined Toro Rosso going up spectacularly in flames, but Vettel remarked, “I think it’s not the last word on this. There are reasons why it did not work out. Whether we find out in a week it’s hard to say – for sure it was a disappointment as we had hoped for more. The big step didn’t work out.”
Hamilton contract negotiations
TJ13 commented during the Monaco GP weekend, that it appeared strange Mercedes were not making noises about extending Lewis Hamilton’s contract. Both Vettel and Alonso have had contract extensions offered to them more than 2 years before the expiry of their current deal.
Whether they like it or not, by failing to open negotiations with Lewis, Mercedes at that time raised questions over their commitment to retaining his services beyond the end of 2015.
Toto Wolff now reveals, the Brackley based team are “sitting together and negotiating with Lewis about a multi-year contract.”
It would now be normative in F1 land, for an announcement to follow fairly quickly that in fact an extension to Lewis contract has been agreed. Hopefully Toto Wolff understands the subtext of contractual negotiations with F1 drivers and isn’t just hoping this matter will disappear into the long grass over the summer break.
Vettel turns off German fans
Katja Heim, circuit adviser involved in the 2014 German GP race promotion, has defended the small crowd in Hockenheim in 2014. It was better than the 45,000 at the Nurburgring in 2013, but then Hockenheim is always more popular.
In a fairly explosive comment which could have legal implications, Katja apportions some of the blame to Sebastian Vettel for the drop of interest in F1 in Germany.
“It certainly didn’t really help that Sebastian in his frustration about the new Formula 1 and his car gave loads of interviews about how bad Formula One is now and that it’s not worth going to watch,” said Heim.
Vettel described the new F1 hybrid Formula as “shit” in pre-season testing.
“As a four times world champion from Germany, people believe him more than they would the sales people. So if he says there’s nothing any more for the fans, it’s not Formula One like it used to be, that was 100 percent quite damaging.”
For those who believe that Vettel is the ‘virtual love child of Bernie Ecclestone, his attitude and consistent complaints against the new Formula 1 regulations were hardly surprising.
Ecclestone has been consistently critical of the new regulations, and the FIA have added credence to his claims by asking the engine suppliers to create amplified exhaust sounds.
Mercedes boss, Toto Wolff agrees with Heim’s assessment. “We’ve talked the sport down at the beginning of the year and we are all to blame, or many of us [are]. The last couple of races were really good to watch; lots of overtaking everywhere, so the sport is in good shape. We have to analyse properly why there are not more spectators in Hockenheim”, adding rather lamely, “It’s a shame.”
The race promoters may feel it is rather more than ‘a shame’, since they have recently been threatened by Ecclestone that their F1 contract may be terminated – unless they increase the hosting fee to FOM.
Seeing as Germany currently doesn’t host a round of the FIA WEC series, maybe Hockenheim will consider it a better option to promote in the future than Formula 1.
Then again, this could all be part of the Ecclestone master plan to buy back F1 from CVC at a knock down price.
That said, this week Ecclestone has done another of his many U-Turns (flip flops) which add to the general sense that he can’t remember what he said previously. 3 weeks ago, on the matter of him buying back F1, Ecclestone told the Daily Express, “It is possible, although one or two other companies are interested and I would not enter an auction,”
Yesterday, Mr. E was quoted by the Telegraph as amusingly stating, “I wouldn’t want to pay what it is worth. Not that it is not worth it but it would be a lot of money. It’s a big thing to hang around your neck at my age.”
Toto Wolff concludes by questioning the commercial rights holder’s handling of F1’s marketing and broadcasting. “Is there a general trend that people just have many more options in what they do in the digital world? I don’t have an answer because from the sporting side all of us are doing it right.”
Clearly the 83 year old who runs the sport does not understand the new digital age and has dismissed it as a fad, previously asserting, “people will go back to watching television”.
What is certain is that if the decline in F1 viewers and race attendances is not reversed and new fans attracted to the sport, all the F1 purses from the commercial rights owner to the FIA and the teams will become ever smaller.
Will double points decide the 2014 WDC?
The much disliked double points for the final race in Abu Dhabi is beginning to loom on the horizon, increasingly likely to decide the F1 drivers’ championship.
The problem for Lewis Hamilton is that he is in the best car – by far – but so is his team mate.
If we assume race reliability is equally distributed at 100% across the two Mercedes drivers, between now and the end of the season, Lewis could win every race – but Nico will be second.
This gives us a points tally going into the season finale of….
Assuming equal race reliability being 100% for each driver, this is the absolute best scenario Hamilton faces.
Roll this forward to the end of the European season, but now say Rosberg wins 1 of the three remaining races (Hamilton 2nd). This gives a pre-Abu Dhabi tally of..
For the remaining 6 flyaway races (assuming the Russian GP goes ahead), now say Rosberg wins another 1 from those 6 races with Hamilton 2nd….
A win for Rosberg then ties the points in the driver standings, with him having won 3 out of the remaining 9 races from hereon….
It could well be squeaky bum time in the Arabian Desert in November and the majority of F1 fans may be outraged by a rule change..
Renault engine design for 2015
Renault examining the option of adopting the Mercedes F1 engine concept for 2015.
The French manufacturer has previously played down the impact of the split turbo German design, which has the air compressor and turbine at opposite ends of the engine.
There are thought to be aerodynamic packaging advantages to this solution along with reduced turbo lag.
Renault’s head of track operations Remi Taffin says, “For sure we are looking at a different solution, we will explore all the solutions”.
Taffin appears to have lunched – long – at the Place de Concorde as his following statements are confusing to say the least.
“If I knew [which design we would operate] it would be wrong, because I should not know now what we are doing. It’s being developed”.
That said, even though 48% of the components can be redesigned, Taffin believes the engine will not be a radical departure from the represent philosophy. “It’s not very different. The basis is quite similar but we can change a lot of things”.
When we discussed the V8s in the past, we used to say the last engine was very similar to the one from six or seven years ago. But 90 per cent of the parts were different – although if you looked at them they were quite similar.
It will be the same for us going into next year. You will see some difference for sure, but there are no dramatic changes for 2015.”
This press release is not yet believed to have passed scrutineering in Milton Keynes and received the Red Bull waxen seal of approval.
Mexico is go, go go
Mexican promotions company OCESA is reported by ‘the Reforma’ to have signed a 5 year deal to bring Formula 1 back to Mexico from 2015.
There is still a huge amount of work required to bring the old Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez up to the standard required by the FIA, though a certain Mr. Tilke is currently working on the project.
The Mexican GP was on the calendar from 1963-1970 and from 1986-1992.
Gustav Hellmund, a friend of Ecclestone, was responsible for the reintroduction of the race in 1986 and it is his son Tavo who has been much of the driving force behind the efforts to restore Mexico once again to the F1 calendar.
Hellmund Junior masterminded the early phases of the Circuit of the Americas, though a subsequent dispute saw him cut out of the eventual deal done between Texan billionaire, Red McCombs and Bernie Ecclestone.
Tavo is a bullish character and when talking about the Mexican project in 2012 he enthused, “The sky is the limit. It could potentially break every Grand Prix attendance record.” That said, in 2011 some 150,000 people turned up to watch their man Sergio Perez drive an F1 demonstration in Guadalajara
Ecclestone initially ruled out the idea of returning to the old Grand Prix circuit due to costs, though later conceded, “It just needs sorting out a bit.”
The upgrade was estimated two years ago at around $60-75 million, though $100m has been mentioned more recently as a realistic capital spend.
Tavo believes, “The track needs a facelift, but so many of the right components are in place. I think it’s totally the right time. No one wants to waste the opportunity of having these (Mexican F1) drivers.”
The former parkland circuit is a shadow of its former glory and the city since 1990 has enveloped what was once a more remote location. Residents will have to be relocated and the infrastructure to and from the circuit upgraded if Tavo’s claims of record breaking crowds are to be accommodated.
Hamilton to get therapy
Following his smash in Q1 at Hockenheim where his car recorded some 30g of impact, Lewis is of to get some attention.
“My knees are no problem,” he said, “but my back and my neck have been the issue really.
I do need some physiotherapy as my back is in more pain than normal. But I’ll be ok, I’ll get some work done this week.”
Lewis believes he also need another kind of therapy to change his fortune as he joked, “maybe I need to go and visit some Indians, or rub the Buddha belly. I’ll try all the different religions to see if I can get some luck,”