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Previously on TheJudge13:
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Ricciardo gone hunting (GMM)
Vettel’s new engineer (GMM)
OTD Lite: 1991 – Schumacher debut heralds a new talent in F1
Bertrand Gachot had been imprisoned for two months for spraying a London cabbie with CS gas during an altercation. Mercedes sportscar driver, Michael Schumacher was ushered in to the vacant Jordan seat for the 1991 Belgian Grand Prix and another chapter of motorsport history was launched.
On this day, Schumacher started his first Grand Prix from seventh on the grid at a circuit he had never driven before. His team-mate, the vastly experienced Andrea De Cesaris, could only manage 11th in qualifying. He had caught the attention of the F1 teams and following his brief drive for Jordan was signed by the Benetton team.
His debut lasted barely half a lap before his clutch gave out but his ability was already beyond question. Which surprised many in the Mercedes establishment who felt his two young Mercedes compatriots, Heinz Harald Frenzten and Karl Wendlinger, were faster drivers compared to Michael. Proof if any were needed that at the top level, the psychological make up is as important as actual ability.
Wolff – Nico didn’t crash into Lewis deliberately
After the Belgian Grand Prix, a meeting was held in the Mercedes motorhome between Toto Wollf, Niki Lauda, the Enforcer and the two drivers Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton. Reports in the media have sensationally reported what Hamilton told them that Rosberg has deliberately maintained position to crash into his team-mate.
Considering both Austrians were vocal in their condemnation of Rosberg shortly after the race had finished, when Wolff spoke to press after the briefing his stance had changed considerably.
“Nico said he wanted to keep his line – he wanted to make a point by keeping to his line and believed that Lewis would have left him the room – obviously something that didn’t happen. There followed a very lively discussion between us but it is not true he deliberately tried to crash. But it is still a foolish thing to have done.”
“Ultimately the final standings do not change and as far as I’m concerned the accident is still unacceptable. But Nico was not willing to take the escape route to avoid the collision which is not good.”
“We had a collision on the second lap that could have been avoided. Nico wanted to attack and he shouldn’t have but it showed he was not willing to give up position. I’m sure with the benefit of hindsight, Nico would not repeat what he has done.”
Comment from a second editor:
The handling of the incident showed that Mercedes pushed out the wrong guy at the end of last season, when Brawn walked away. Lauda’s conduct was downright unacceptable and showed that there is much more manipulation going on behind the scenes than the general public is supposed to know.
But the cover was blown by Lauda, the cantankerous Austrian masquerading as ‘F1 Expert’ on German channel RTL. When someone in the comments shows too much of a bias towards a driver, he’s quickly labeled a fanboy. According to that logic, Mercedes is partially run by a rabid Hamfosi as Lauda does not even try to hide his bias towards Lewis Hamilton.
When the Brit disobeyed a clear teamorder in Hungary – something that was plainly obvious to the world by having the team radio replayed to the world audience – Lauda went ahead when asked about Lewis’s actions and stated that he would not make a comment on a drivers’ decision without having talked to him privately. Half an hour later he had changed his tune and blasted the own team for giving a team order in the first place.
What a difference four weeks make. The national anthems had barely stopped playing on the rostrum and Lauda was already barking into every microphone he could get hold of that it was all totally Nico’s fault and how unacceptable it all was from a team’s perspective. Since we had seen where Nico was all the time, there is no chance that Lauda had spoken to Rosberg privately. There seems to be a clear double standard here, especially as Lauda’s statement contrasted sharply with what the stewards had decided. There is nothing more bizarr that witnessing Christian Horner defending Nico Rosberg, while the drivers’ employer publicly blasts him before he had the chance to explain himself.
Apart from the shambolic management, Mercedes are running into a big problem. Realistically, only one of their drivers can win the title – Lewis. We have to keep in mind that Mercedes F1 have to have their budget approved by a board of directors and those will ask rather uncomfortable questions about why they hired Lewis for gobs of money when the much cheaper employee could get the job done just as well. Like many Lauda & Co had expected Nico to be there or thereabouts, but certainly not thirty points ahead in the championship standings. The fact that they have extended Nico’s contract, but not Lewis’s yet makes it clear that in Merc’s world Lewis wins the title and Nico does so after the Brit’s departure. They didn’t expect Nico to grow a pair and try to do it this year. There is fireworks to come.
Alonso lost hybrid power during Belgium GP
That Fernando Alonso is recognised as arguably the finest driver of this generation is beyond dispute. In countless polls of the public or people in the paddock he generally is seen as number one. To the point that recently he said he would rather more titles than the respect of everyone.
But with Alonso there is also a penchant for the dramatics. In 2012, with his staggering campaign almost bringing him his long sought after third title, he began to believe his hype and generally played up to his out-driving his steed into positions it didn’t deserve to be.
His recent comments after Germany stated that he had problems with his car and was having to brake 300 metres before corners, yet he was fighting Ricciardo throughout the latter laps of the event. What nobody asked was if young Danny was having to lift off at that distance for similar reasons. An F1 car can stop from 200mph in considerably less than a 100 metres, so surely the Spanish Samurai was easy prey and in Britain he had had problems with his car and fought a ‘healthy’ Vettel to the flag.
Once again, during the Belgian race, Alonso suffered further problems which he had to overcome with his unquestionable brilliance. A defective battery brought about a five second penalty which caused his placing being outside the top three. “Without this penalty, I could have got on the podium with ease. With Hamilton out of the game, we could have aimed for the podium. We had a good pace – Raikkonen fought until the end for the podium. Unfortunately my car wouldn’t start and our top speed is our weak point so we knew we wouldn’t be able to overtake.”
Now Alonso revealed his true problems that he had to overcome. He had lost the use of the hybrid systems which accounted for around 140bhp less. “Also throughout the weekend we had fuel flow problems too. Things are improving slowly because the parts we fit are making a difference but with Monza coming up, the circuit does not make our life easier – all those long straights.”
Or in non samurai influenced language: Kimi only finished ahead of me because I had a penalty, no straightline speed and my power unit wasn’t behaving as it should.
Ricciardo gone hunting (GMM)
Daniel Ricciardo has declared himself in the hunt for the 2014 world championship.
Before the title war between Mercedes teammates Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg exploded in Belgium, no one would have bet against a dominant victory for one or the other of the silver-clad duo. But as their personal battle spilled into on-track carnage at Spa-Francorchamps, Red Bull’s surprise newcomer Ricciardo grinned through the melee to secure his second consecutive race victory.
It was the Australian’s third win of the season and his career, and a look at the drivers’ standings shows he is now only 35 points behind Hamilton for second.
“The fact that Daniel only has one win less than Nico is really remarkable,” said team boss Christian Horner.
Closing down the 64 point gap to championship leader Rosberg is more unlikely, but it cannot be forgotten that the winner of November’s Abu Dhabi finale will secure no fewer than 50 points. It is enough of a concern for Mercedes that, after Sunday’s clash, the dominant Brackley based team is rethinking its policy on standing team orders.
As was expected, Mercedes’ engine advantage shone through on the long stretches at Spa-Francorchamps, but Red Bull’s Renault-powered car also looked quick in a straight line on Sunday.
“I guess on TV you could see that the rear wing was pretty simple, there wasn’t much to it,” said Ricciardo, “but obviously it was a good package here and we’ll see if the Monza wing can get any smaller!
“Monza we know will be tricky again but obviously the package we brought here was pretty racy, and then I think Singapore and Suzuka will be pretty good for us,” he added.
Ricciardo acknowledged that winning the championship is a long shot, but he insisted he will keep pushing anyway.
“If I’m within fifty (points) coming into Abu Dhabi then it’s still mathematically possible — we’ll keep fighting.”
The added bonus for Ricciardo is that he has achieved his success alongside none other than reigning quadruple world champion Sebastian Vettel, and his demeanour on Sunday indicated he is yet to feel the weight of the growing pressure.
“I’m enjoying it more than ever,” he said. “Each race that goes on I’m having more and more fun.
“The in-team battle has, let’s say, gone really well. I think the team has been really pleased and I’ve been pleased so we’re in a good place.”
German television commentator and former driver Marc Surer echoes Ricciardo’s claim that the title cannot be ruled out, but he also acknowledged that overcoming the might of Mercedes’ dominance is unlikely.
“That would be amazing,” he said, “and I almost can’t imagine it. Of course, if it carries on like this and looking at the (double) points situation for the final race, then it is possible. But I don’t think so.
“There will be races again where Mercedes will clearly dominate, driving all alone at the front of the field,” added Surer.
Vettel’s new engineer (GMM)
Struggling world champion Sebastian Vettel will get a new race engineer for the 2015 season.
This year defending his fourth consecutive drivers’ title, the German has notably struggled in 2014 alongside new teammate Daniel Ricciardo.
Australian Ricciardo drove through the Mercedes shenanigans on Sunday to win his second consecutive race — his third of the season and his career.
In contrast, and earning many multiples more millions, Vettel has yet to break through this season, and at the drivers’ circuit Spa-Francorchamps he finished fifth and almost a minute behind the sister car.
Vettel complained afterwards of a probable car defect, telling German reporters he felt he had been sent into “war with a wooden stick”.
But that is not necessarily why Vettel’s race engineer Guillaume Roquelin, known affectionately as ‘Rocky’, will no longer be in that role with the 27-year-old in 2015.
“These are restructuring measures to improve the team,” Dr Helmut Marko told German television Sky at Spa, responding to the reports about ‘Rocky’ that emerged on Sunday.
Team technical boss Adrian Newey is stepping back after Christmas, but Red Bull will not directly replace him.
“I think that at the track in Paul Monaghan, ‘Rocky’ and Simon (Rennie) we have three very able technical people and I see no reason why they shouldn’t be able to take those decisions,” Newey had said earlier in Belgium.
Germany’s Welt newspaper claims the promoted ‘Rocky’ will be replaced at Vettel’s side by Gianpiero Lambiase, currently Sergio Perez’s engineer at Force India.
Marko said: “Sebastian knows who is coming — he was involved in the talks.”
Meanwhile, despite being nominated by DTM driver Timo Glock for the now-famous ‘ice bucket challenge’, Vettel has turned it down.
“I think I’ll skip the shower and just give a donation,” he is quoted by the Swiss newspaper Blick.