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Previously on TJ13:
Perez under fire?
One of the more interesting and out of the ordinary radio transmissions during the German GP was between the Force India pit wall and Sergio Perez.
Gianpiero Lambiase: “Checo, we need you need to lift and coast.”
Checo: “What about the rain at the end of the race?”
Gianpiero Lambiase: “We’re not expecting any…That’s the last time I’m going to ask you!”
Whilst it’s normative for race engineers to express some frustration with their drivers, this last chance saloon rhetoric is unusual.
Recently when on the SKY F1 show in the UK, Otmar Szafnauer picked his words very carefully when discussing the coming together between Perez and Massa in Canada. “Had Sergio not been involved with Massa….” appeared a most balanced appraisal from the Force India’s Operations Manager.
Had this been Horner or Lauda, the tone of the rhetoric may have been different. “Had Massa not taken out Perez…”, for example. Maybe Otmar is just a nice, laid back American guy.
TJ13 reported earlier in the year that a contributory factor in the ‘exiting’ of Perez from McLaren was because of his attitude, which at times bordered on arrogance. This was corroborated when former Mclaren team manager, Jo Ramirez, spoke out on the matter.
“Sergio was just not good enough as a person. He didn’t really cooperate with the team, he was too cocky. His attitude was very bad,” he claimed.“He was unpopular with the engineers, with everyone. I often criticise him in the media, but I do not criticise him as a driver. He’s a good driver”.
Ramirez continued, “It’s such a shame, I was at the Jerez test this year and spent time with McLaren and Sauber, and no one was able to say something good about Sergio. They all say that he needs to change his attitude if he wants to stay in formula one.”
We ran an exclusive story here in 2013 which outlined the decline in Paul di Resta’s popularity within the Silverstone team, following a ruckus between his personal trainer (ex special forces) and one of the race crew. Di Resta backed his personal trainer who Paul directly employed.
Maybe we saw the first signs of another driver failing in the popularity stakes with the Silverstone based team last weekend. Clearly Perez had been instructed to act in a certain manner on a number of previous occasions and failed to comply.
That said, if TJ13 sources are to be believed, Sergio may be racing for Force India (or whatever they become) for quite some time when the new investors are able to buy out Rubrata Roy’s stake.
Lauda eats humble pie
Having become rather jingoistic and partisan by slagging off the McLaren and Ferrari 2014 cars – as sh^t – Niki Lauda appears to have been struck with a sudden bout of remorse.
“I apologize to Ferrari, Luca Cordero di Montezemolo, the president and the Italian fans”, he says. “I called Montezemolo and apologized for the error, which should not have happened.”
Lauda’s revisionist view of affairs is now that, “We really have a great car, but Ferrari is slowly [ getting ] stronger.”
Well most things in life are relative. Stronger, faster, better….
It should be noted, so far there is no apology from Lauda to ex-employer ‘Big Ron’ for describing his team’s efforts as “sh^t” too.
Kimi safe at Ferrari?
Meanwhile in red-land, new team boss Marco Mattiacci is learning quickly how to defend the indefensible. When asked whether Kimi has a future next year with Ferrari following his 10-0 drubbing by Alonso in the races so far this year, Matiacci responded. “You are talking about soccer, ten to zero.
“This is not Formula One………. I disagree totally with your analysis. 10-0 could be tennis, soccer, but not Formula One. I’ve never seen this scoreline [in F1]. Kimi is the driver that we need. We need to make more points, but he is the driver that we need.”
Kimi might believe this is fine and loyal support from his boss. Yet Mattiacci squarely places the responsibility for Raikkonen’s plight on the Finn’s own shoulders.
“I think he knows what he can do better. It’s not up to me; he’s a professional driver who won a world championship with Ferrari. He’s motivated and he knows his area of improvement.
“He can see Fernando ahead and that visibly it’s a tough moment but we are all together in this. He has the upmost confidence and support from Ferrari.”
Oh dear…. Marco has given his driver the dreaded vote of confidence… which roughly translated means in any sport…. “you’re safe for now……but as soon as we have a replacement lined up, you’re out the door”.
Besides the departure of Domenicali and the sacking of Marmorini, Ferrari-land has provided lean pickings for the F1 satirists, who are usually in full anthemic ‘Forza Ferrari’ flow at this point in the season. Maybe it is the utter lack of any hope since day 1 in Jerez – a hope which is then so cruelly dashed annually mid-season – that has forced a measure of pragmatism upon the Italian racing team.
However, if Niki Lauda et al keep rubbing the nose of the Prancing Horse into its own manure, we might just see some fireworks after the hard earned summer break.
Minardi ponders on Hamilton’s future
Niki Lauda is a forthright, often brusque, speaker of his mind and at times can be grating with the way he expresses himself. This may be an Austrian trait because his compatriot – Helmut Marko – has a similar ability to ingratiate himself with fans of Formula One. But whereas Marko speaks only in support of his paymaster, Lauda as a triple World Champion speaks as he finds about the Formula One circus in general.
Similarly, Giancarlo Minardi has acquired a reputation for speaking his mind but maybe as a former team owner his words are a little more measured. His previous views in regards the state of punishments for the drivers appear to have been heeded and he rejoiced after the recent German Grand Prix with the stewards becoming more lenient in their handing out of punishments for what many consider mere racing accidents.
“Hockenheim was a race full of over-taking and duels and it seems the stewards have finally realised that for the sake of the show they have to give more freedom to the actors – in respect that we have to allow for racing contacts which are a trademark of the show.”
“The embarrassing domination of Mercedes allowed a cake-walk for Rosberg but Hamilton entertained with breath-taking over-taking on his way to claiming a podium and there was an exciting duel between Alonso and Ricciardo. It was a Grand Prix that took revenge on all the negative talk earlier in the season.”
Minardi was the first to voice concern over what he believed was Red Bull’s traction control last year in Singapore and has offered revelations in regards to possible returns for BMW and Cosworth. The latter gaining ground with news that many employees at Brixworth have been approached by the neighbouring engine design facility.
Following the conclusion of the German race he offered, once again, a possible new direction for the Mercedes squad which with regular speculation about Mclaren speaking to an unhappy Hamilton may shape the future of the two parties.
As TJ13 suggested during the weekend of the Monaco GP, Minardi now corroborates the view,”It’s significant that there has been no extension offered to Hamilton and in those circumstances Hamilton may well be looking for a new berth in 2015. Besides, with Bottas threatening the fourth place of Alonso, the Finnish is highly sought after and his manager is a certain Toto Wolff”
Which brings us back to Lauda. Much was made earlier this year about Lauda flying Hamilton back on his private jet after the Chinese Grand Prix leaving Rosberg to take a regular flight. The Austrian has also been a vocal supporter of Lewis and has stepped in often to state that Hamilton would recover from his various misfortunes.
Wolff has kept a public calm with matters regarding various team fall-outs, but he has not held back when suggesting he had better things to do than attending stewards meetings because his drivers are playing games with each other.
Whether the German manufacturer would prefer a German World Champion or not, it would appear that it is not only the drivers at war within the Brackley camp. Lauda was responsible for the signing of Hamilton back in 2012 and he took responsibility for decisions and investments after Mercedes confirmed him as non-executive chairman.
Wolff came into Mercedes in January 2013, to take over former Mercedes boss Norbert Haug’s role. He retained his 16% share of the Williams team, but of more significance he also owns 30% of the Mercedes F1 team and it was he who enticed Paddy Lowe to join the Silver Arrows after originally having agreed terms with him for the Williams team.
Of perhaps more significance in the Machiavellian background shuffles is the fact that Wolff also co-owns a sports management company with Mika Hakkinen – they look after several drivers, one of which is Bottas – and Hakkinen’s manager when he was competing was a certain Keke Rosberg…
Alonso could be free to leave Ferrari – sources (GMM)
Fernando Alonso could be contractually free to walk away from Ferrari. Technically, the Spaniard remains under contract to the struggling Maranello team until the end of 2016. “I’m sure he is very frustrated,” Niki Lauda told the Spanish newspaper El Pais earlier this week. “But he can’t just go to McLaren because he has a contract that he can’t get out of unless he’s sacked. Sometimes you choose a car and you’re wrong.”
Mercedes team chairman Lauda, however, may be incorrect. There are at least two recent examples of drivers with solid Ferrari contracts who did not wear red the next year. Ferrari said in 2004 that Rubens Barrichello would drive for the team in the “2005 and 2006 seasons”, but the Brazilian actually raced a Honda in 2006. And Kimi Raikkonen famously took a sabbatical in 2010, after Ferrari bought out his contract to make way for Fernando Alonso and Santander.
Now, Italian media sources say Alonso might not necessarily drive a red car in 2015, even though Ferrari reportedly wants to extend the deal even further. The sources, including Autosprint, say Alonso could be free to go at the end of this season due to a contractual performance clause, requiring Ferrari to finish at least third in the constructors’ championship. In Hockenheim, Ferrari fell behind Williams for that position. Autosprint cited German sources in saying Alonso, 32, has already made contact with Mercedes.
Meanwhile, in the wake of speculation Ferrari might oust the struggling Raikkonen ahead of 2015, boss Marco Mattiacci insisted the Finn is a “driver that Ferrari needs for next year”. That also ties in with the information of the respected Ferrari insider Leo Turrini. “Maranello has not the slightest intention of questioning Raikkonen’s contract,” he said in his Quotidiano blog. On the other hand, Turrini claims Alonso “has not yet responded to the proposal for the extension of his contract”. And not only that, “Ross Brawn will accept a role only as an external consultant”, he added.
TJ13 Comment: It should be noted that unlike the report implies, it was Ferrari’s decision to release the drivers. Barrichello remained at Ferrari in 2005 and made way for Felipe Massa to join the team and Raikkonen took a sabbatical because Ferrari had grown tired of his apparent indifference and, quite frankly, his poor performance in relation to Massa.
If Alonso has a performance clause within his contract, which was triggered by the results in Germany, then he becomes a free agent in regards to any future moves which could explain why LdM and Mattiacci were trying to extend his contract until 2019 when he went to Maranello immediately following the British Grand Prix.
But as TJ13 has speculated in recent weeks, Alonso not extending his contract will signal to Ferrari that they have to change their driver focus for the future and Ross Brawn had already been confirmed as a consultant only. In the wake of Bob Bell leaving Mercedes last winter, and the arrival of several engine experts in Maranello over the past months, it may be that Ross Brawn’s consulting expertise is already in play.
Brawn’s insistence on a consultant role only, is coherent with his views on team leadership at Mercedes. It was Brawn who delivered the recruitment of personnel, built the infrastructure and presented Stuttgart with the W05 wrapped in a pretty bow on a plate – as sole decision maker.
The poison which Mattiacci will attract as he scythes through Maranello, wielding his ruthless blade of intolerance with ineffectiveness, is not something conducive for a long term leader attempting to build a positive future.
A blast from the Mexico past
Having won the previous round at Watkins Gen, Jochen Rindt entered the 1969 Mexican GP with high hopes in his Lotus Ford. Graham Hill had broken both his legs and the Lotus team decided not to replace him for the race at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez in Mexico City.
For the second race running, Bruce McLaren failed to make the start and at the off, Jackie Stewart took the lead, hunted down by the Brabham pair, Sir Jack an Jacky Ickx.
Rindt was in fourth, though any hope of repeating his win in the US was short lived as he retired on lap 21 with suspension issues.
But what a good looking car….
FIA Press Conference Schedl: Hungarian GP
It appears Bernie’s belief that people will just go back to watching F1 on TV regardless, is reflected in the driver line up for this event.
Thursday, July 24, 1500 hours local time (1300 GMT)
Marcus Ericsson (Caterham), Esteban Gutierrez (Sauber), Kamui Kobayashi (Caterham), Pastor Maldonado (Lotus), Sergio Perez (Force India), Jean-Eric Vergne (Toro Rosso)
Friday, July 25, 1600 hours local time (1400 GMT)
Eric Boullier (McLaren), Christian Horner (Red Bull), Monisha Kaltenborn (Sauber), Vijay Mallya (Force India), Marco Mattiacci (Ferrari), Claire Williams (Williams)
Please, please, please… someone ask Mallya, how his crony Rubrata Roy is doing after 4 months in jail during the New Dehli summer – and whether his Sahara company has any money to contribute to the team!!!
Likelihood of that?
Two F1 races in Germany
In his usual divide and conquer style, Bernie Ecclestone set the cat amongst the pigeons last month when he suggested he wanted to do a long term annual deal with the Nurburgring race promoters, suggesting Hockenheim would be out in the cold.
Hockenheim duly protested, stating they have a contract for another two races in 2016 and 2018 and would not be forced off the F1 calendar.
Ecclestone responded, muttering that Hockenheim needed to get real and cough up more cash for the FOM treasure chest if they were to remain in his privileged club.
Robertino Wild, the new Nurburgring ring chief employed by the circuits new owners, Capricorn, has today rather magnanimously responded to the effect that Hockenheim’s deal should be respected.
Wild tells Bild, “Bernie Ecclestone and I want to complete our deal over the next couple of months which establishes Formula One for the long-term at the Nurburgring.”
This is rather disingenuous as the new owners are prevented under clauses in the sale contract to enter into contractual deals until January 2015.
Regardless, Wild adds, “This will be done by accounting for existing obligations, with respect to the Hockenheimring.”
So, despite the fact that Hockenheim, which attracts significantly larger crowds historically than the Nurburgring, suffered its worst attendance in years, there may now be two races on alternating years in Germany – one most likely given the title, ‘The European GP”
If cost saving is the plan for F1, maybe Bernie could organise a “Super F1 weekend”, where the cars race in Spa on Friday, Hockenheim on Saturday and at the Nurburgring on Sunday. After all it’s a mere 322km and takes just over 3 ½ hours to complete the trip.
Mmm. What happened to Bernie’s mantra of keeping Formula 1 exclusive. Oh well, all can be sacrificed on the altar of more cash for FOM.
For those involved in promoting races and scheduling the F1 calendar, it appears to be a pre-requisite to posses fewer brain cells than an amoeba.
Big bucks on offer for Vettel (GMM)
‘The Sport’ said Mercedes sees the reigning world champion as a potential new teammate for fellow German Nico Rosberg beyond 2015, after Lewis Hamilton’s current contract expires.
And Red Bull’s Dr Helmut Marko, who has Vettel under contract until the end of next year, said McLaren has made the four-time title winner an “outrageously” high offer.
“Of course they target him,” Marko added.
Fascinatingly, Mercedes’ Toto Wolff did not deny the German marque might be interested in Vettel.
“This world is too competitive to want to go into our plans in the public,” he said.
“We are talking about a handful of top drivers. All the best teams fight over them.
“We try to build a picture of how the market moves until we come to our decisions,” Wolff added.