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Previously on TheJudge13:
OTD Lite: 1979 – Gilles Villeneuve inspires Lewis Hamilton
After the trye shredding collision with his team-mate over the weekend, Mercedes driver Hamilton raced his damaged car back to the pits at speeds that caused some of the back markers to hesitate as they passed him. By the time he had four new boots on his wagon, the aerodynamically sensitive floor was so damaged that he would struggle to catch Grosjean in a Lotus!
Thirty-five years ago, in the Dutch Grand Prix, a display of bravado passed into the annals marked ‘legend’ as Villeneuve tore back to the Ferrari pits in search of a new supply of Michelins. Health and safety hadn’t moved in wholesale into Formula One and drivers were allowed to take risks but when he got back to the pits, he waited patiently for the mechanics to serve him only to be informed his car was beyond economical repair…
The crowds were delighted to watch this diminutive Canadian entertaining them as his car disintegrated around him and at Ferrari he adopted the mantle of “High Priest of Destruction”. His detractors pointed to his ‘reckless’ display at Dijon where he and Rene Arnoux had fought as lions over the last three laps of the French GP and the display on Dutch soil did little to quieten them down.
It’s ironic that after all these years, Villeneuve’s driving standard would not be lauded but penalised in the same manner as Grosjean and Maldonado have been in the twenty-first century. And whilst Lewis worships Senna, it may have served him better to have ignored his natural instinct and limited the damage to his car by not driving a’ la Gilles.
Mercedes in melt-down and in hot waters in the Fatherland
The last two days of bedlam in the courthouse are ample proof that opinions are all over the place when it comes to find the culprit for the lap 2 collision between Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg. But when it comes to the embarrassing farce staged by the Mercedes bosses Andreas Nikolaus Lauda and Torger Christian Wolff, who both declared Nico Rosberg the sole culprit in fairly harsh terms while the subject of their seething was barely back from his in lap and had yet to be given a chance to explain his motives, has been met with universal disapproval back home in Deutschland.
Motor-Sport-Total editor Christian Nimmervoll criticized Lauda harshly. Imagine your goalkeeper misjudges a ball and you lose the game 0:1 and then the bosses acted like Lauda did.
At least for the next few days the Merc bigwigs might wish they had not made so much noise about adopting the new media as it were Tw*tter and Faceborg where Mercedes F1 faced a veritable fecial storm over the conduct of their two anchormen. Especially the immediate public verbal crucifixion of Rosberg was met with little understanding and both had their qualification for their posts questioned in sometimes strong terms.
Meanwhile there seems to be a veritable trench warfare going on at Brackley. After Hungary and now Spa, Lewis and Nico remain friends in the same sense that Vettel and Webber were bestest buddies and a secondary area of conflict is opening up between Niki Lauda and Toto Wolff, while Paddy is too busy being in Lowe with himself. Lauda is openly biased towards Lewis, while Wolff is biased towards Rosberg. Even though Wolff joined Lauda in their rushed conviction of Nico, it was the same Toto Wolff, who publicly called Lewis off for his claims that Rosberg had admitted to deliberately having crashed into him.
“Nico has admitted that he did not back off in a battle. He did not say that he deliberately caused a collision. He thought it was Lewis’s turn to give way and Lewis didn’t. In a heated discussion they both insisted on their differing opinions on the matter. But it was not a deliberate crash – complete rubbish.”
Meanwhile Lewis is poking the bear by shooting his mouth off about more team internals. He revealed that Nico renewed his grievances with the ignored team orders at Hungary. “He said how disappointed he is with Toto and Paddy. And I thought, jeez, that’s been three weeks ago…”
Someone should tell Lewis how long his fanclub’s been harping on about Monaco or how well received it is in most circles if someone leaks details of internal meetings to the press.
Mercedes had the golden chance of making themselves into legends by giving us a full season of Bahrain-style dog-fighting. Instead they stage a veritable soap-opera. It looks like everybody’s against everybody else at Brackley, with nobody commanding enough respect to put an end to these shenigans – or to say it in the imortal words of Gunnery Sergeant Thomas Highway: “It’s a cluster***k.”
It all reminds me of Hill vs. Schumacher in 1996. How Hill managed to lose three races to Schumacher in a disastrously bad Ferrari will baffle F1 fans for generations just as people will ask in ten years time how Mercedes managed to lose three races against a guy in a car that is two seconds per lap slower.”
Vettel : grace in defeat
Normally, when racing drivers have a problem that keeps them from extracting the maximum out of their car, they are quick to tell the world about it. All the more surprising it is that Vettel mentioned the unpredictable nature of his car’s handling but omitted to point out that he missed two out of three free practice sessions almost completely – incidentally the two which are usually used to setup the car.
Instead he pinpointed the problem elsewhere. According to Seb it is to be found between the seat and the steering wheel. “Daniel would have overtaken me sooner rather than later anyway. He was simply quicker today. I had a little wobble and he passed me,” he explained when asked about the moment when his team mate left him behind. “I would have probably gotten a ‘nice’ radio request from the team [to let him pass]. But with my mistake I spared myself that particular moment. I’ve done all I could today, but I’m also the first to own up if I made a mistake. The small error that led to Daniel passing me was not necessary, but in the end it didn’t make a whole lot of difference.”
He did however have not much love to spare for Suzie (we are talking about his car not Toto’s wife). “The car was as unpredictable as it had been in qualifying. There’s no denying that I couldn’t keep up with the cars in front of me. As bad as it looks right now – nobody can drive that bad. I’ve been sent upfront and there’s a gunfight going on. Too bad it feels like I’ve brought a wooden stick.”
Yet despite looking forlorn and absolutely devastated in the post-race interview with RTL, he kept up a certain grace in defeat. After the interview he walked over to where Red Bull staged Danny’s winners photo, congratulated his team mate and joined the team in doing the honours for their 3-time 2014 GP winner. He might not be smashing records this year, but he manages to smash the odd preconception about his character.
Meanwhile in Sochi
— Martijn Bink (@NOSBINK) August 25, 2014
(Source: GMM with TJ13 comment)
FIA not likely to investigate Rosberg crash
The F1 world is split over Nico Rosberg’s actions in the Belgian grand prix. Jenson Button, Lewis Hamilton’s former McLaren teammate, thinks the incident that left the 2008 world champion almost 30 points behind the sister Mercedes was questionable at best.
“There was nothing there,” British newspapers quote him saying. “There was no move. It is unbelievable. I’ve always said the person who wins the world championship is the person who does the best job on the circuit, but that does not seem the way it is at the moment,” Button added. “It is a shame it’s not a cleaner fight.” But Button also believes Rosberg – in the first championship fight of his career – is probably also grappling with the high “pressure” of that rare occasion.
Former F1 driver David Coulthard, however, says he would not too quickly judge the “sporting integrity” of the 29-year-old. “You cannot premeditate giving someone a puncture. In my career I probably lost my wing like that 10 times, because you literally cannot see the front of the car,” he told the Telegraph. “The stewards seemed to make the right call, but there should be another avenue or punishment open to them. This is not a normal racing incident.”
Coulthard said Rosberg’s driving was “clumsy” more than deliberate, but “there was an element of stubbornness to what Nico did. He had been slapped in the face by Lewis in Bahrain, he had been slapped in the face in Hungary, and he perhaps felt the need to show he would not be easily pushed around.”
Coulthard said the crash should also be viewed in light of the highly controversial qualifying incident of Monaco. “If it happens a third time? We may begin to consider him a driver in the mould of his former teammate Michael Schumacher, who went to astonishing lengths to win,” said the Scot.
With a more forgiving assessment is another F1 legend, Gerhard Berger. “Sure, Nico was to blame,” he told the German newspaper Bild. “But when two drivers of such calibre fight wheel to wheel, something can happen. It’s been shown that you can overtake at that corner — this was no suicide move. It was a normal racing incident. And whether it happened in the second or the 33rd lap, it doesn’t matter — if you feel you can go past, you try. Nico did nothing other than that, and it’s what the fans want to see,” Berger added.
What does muddy the waters, however, is what Rosberg might have let slip in Mercedes’ post-race briefing. Hamilton and team boss Toto Wolff both indicate that Rosberg admitted he maintained his line to prove a “point“. That might tweak the interest of the FIA, who have the power to open an investigation even after the fact.
But former driver and regular F1 steward Derek Warwick told British radio that even though Rosberg’s driving was “silly“, it is “an internal problem” for Mercedes rather than “a problem for the FIA or the stewards“. And an FIA spokesman told the Daily Mail: “The FIA will not intervene in this issue. Only a ‘new element’ that would have appeared after the results became final could justify us opening an investigation. A comment alleged to have been made in an internal briefing and later denied by the team itself does not constitute such a ‘new element’,” he official added.
What is clear is that what was left of the tattered relationship between Rosberg and Hamilton is now probably irreparable.
Asked if the pair can be civil for the rest of the 2014 battle, Mercedes team chairman Niki Lauda told Welt newspaper: “When I think of how the meeting went on Sunday, I doubt it. But this is precisely the task of the leadership team now — to establish this relationship again.”
Whatever the outcome, Bernie Ecclestone is happy. “What it has done is created a lot of interest,” he told the Indian news source PTI. “That is very good for the sport.”
TJ13 comment: It can be illuminating reading between the lines of driver statements. Button for example is disappointed that it’s not a cleaner fight on track, which sums up his career and fortuitous title perfectly and possibly explains why Honda are looking to get one of the true superstars aboard.
As a TV pundit, DC has to follow the sycophantic rhetoric that F1 access demands and whilst he makes a great point that there are more broken front wings than there are punctured rear tyres it’s interesting how he makes comparisons between Rosberg and former team-mate Schumacher. His comatose injuries forgotten, Schumacher’s history is back as a valid counterpoint – and yet it seems nobody has spoken to Keke Rosberg about his son’s driving style this year.
After the 2006 Monaco GP, Rosberg was one of the most vocal about how Schumi was a cheat and should have been thrown out of the championship – yet here is his son who, depending on which nationality of media you choose to listen to is cheating his way to the title..
(Source: GMM with TJ13 comment)
Ecclestone still fighting with German bank
Bernie Ecclestone remains at legal loggerheads with the Munich state bank BayernLB. When the sport’s supremo controversially yet successfully settled with German prosecutors for $100 million, he had at the time also made an offer of $25 million to the aggrieved bank and former F1 shareholder BayernLB. The offer was turned down because it was not high enough. But “If the overall package is right, we wouldn’t be closed to it,” BayernLB chief executive Johannes-Joerg Riegler said last week.
Earlier, BayernLB had been seeking $400 million, but F1 business journalist Christian Sylt said a spokesman confirmed the bank wants an amount similar to the $100m criminal suit settlement. “Perhaps the $25m doesn’t match with this settlement structure and perhaps somebody has to think about it because the state prosecutors in Germany got $100m,” said the bank spokesman.
Ecclestone’s lawyer says no. “We are not prepared to make a new offer,” Sven Thomas, describing the original proposal as “sensible“, told Sylt and the Telegraph newspaper. “BayernLB have rejected the offer, as expected. At the moment we don’t do anything. We wait to see what they are going to do.
“If they try to sue, they shall have no chance at all. I don’t think they will try to sue,” Ecclestone’s lawyer added.
TJ13 comment: The biggest problem for BayernLB is that a German media company Constantin Median took Mr E to court for alleged losses from the sale to CVC. The judge ruled that although Mr E had entered into a corrupt agreement to steer the deal towards CVC, it was not undervalued as a result.
With the court case in Germany having finished ‘unsatisfactorily’ for many within the sport, the Suffolk toad has left a free man but of more importance, an “innocent” man. The chances of suing him through a court system is highly unlikely to achieve the sums the German institute is chasing.
But Mr E’s team is following a tactics used by salesmen throughout the years, when you reach a point in the negotiations to close the deal, an offer is made and then you STFP – Shut the f*** up!
Minardi throws up new driver/team combination
After his theories last week in regards the movement of drivers within the Formula One teams, Giancarlo Minardi added to his initial theories following the controversial accident between Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg.
“Rosberg has signed a contract extension with Mercedes but there were three drivers who were unhappy with their current situation. Hamilton, Vettel and Alonso. The recent statement by Alonso of loyalty to the Ferrari team has removed one of the contenders for a seat at Mclaren but Vettel and Hamilton remain in play.”
“From Japan, a very strong movement has been suggested to me by Honda who want to recruit the Newey/ Vettel pairing. At Spa-Francorchamps, Mr Ecclestone approached Vettel as he has done with other drivers over the years in an attempt to spice up the show.”
All of this is known and of little surprise although Newey was never likely to return to Mclaren where he spend some of his most fruitless years designing silver lemons but it shows to a degree how worried Honda have become of the current technical set-up at Mclaren.
Mr E has always had a great relationship with Vettel and he has been known to move the pawns, sorry drivers, around the chess board so as to make the show better but Minardi’s next statement was fascinating because it displays the ruthlessness of the Red Bull organisation. The team have seemingly been less Vettel-centric this year and with Ricciardo having proved his ability:,
“Red Bull have also accomplished an important marketing ploy and acquired a potential new talent. It had been taken for granted that Carlos Sainz Jr would be in F1 with Toro Rosso but if Vettel moves to Honda, Kyvat will be promoted to the Red Bull team alongside Daniel Ricciardo and Sainz Jr will team up with Verstappen.”
“Red Bull is a brand that is focused on the young consumer and the arrival of a new face, Kyvat, could be an interesting marketing move. It has been some time that I have suggested that the four-time World Champion should accept a new challenge and once the first more has occurred the rest will follow like dominos.”
“As to Hamilton, although he has been defended by Toto Wolff for the first time, he is more unhappy than ever after the contact with Rosberg, Are the strategies changing within the Mercedes team? Well, a new pretender looms on the horizon, a certain Valtteri Bottas – who has shown his value on the track and lest we forget is managed by…Wolff.”
To add to this ‘silly season’ – Twitter rumours suggest that Grosjean will be leaving Lotus at season’s end which may suggest he is Woking bound to team up with his manager, and former team boss, Eric Boullier and another that is gathering momentum is that although Ferrari have declared their drivers for next year, there may well be a significant announcement at Monza in regards to the Red team.
But to everyone’s most loved/ most hated figure – Bernie is unlikely to want to lose the most talked about driver in Formula One – but corporate Germany doesn’t appreciate the way the team is being viewed by the diminishing world wide audience.
Could Ricciardo really sneak in and win the title?
Fernando Alonso was asked after the Belgian Grand Prix if he believed that Ricciardo was still in the hunt for the 2014 World title. He replied, “No I don’t think so. Obviously he is doing an amazing job and he’s surprising everyone but the Mercedes advantage… in qualifying they were two seconds clear. But if any of us could do it, at the moment it’s only Ricciardo”
Colgate boy had expressed after his third victory that he had not ruled out fighting the Mercedes drivers for the title but many believe the Silver Arrows are just too strong. Except maybe…
They have had reliability issues in the last few weekends, and although their qualifying advantage is enormous, the remainder of the field closes up on a Sunday when race strategies chime in.
Historically there has also been occasions that a seemingly improbable situation turns in favour of the outsider. In 1986, the dominant Williams-Honda combination was markedly the best combination of the year. Alain Prost drove some sublime races that year to keep in contact with the main protagonists and triumphed as Nigel Mansell’s rear tyre disintegrated and team-mate Piquet stopped for a pre-cautionary stop at the final round.
More recently Alonso fought a bitter campaign with one of this year’s contenders – Hamilton. At Mclaren the relationship dissolved into open warfare until Kimi Raikkonen with a seventeen point deficit and just two races remaining collected the necessary twenty points from two victories and secured the 2007 title.
With the improvements that Paddy’s reign has introduced to Brackley and Red Bull pushing the three pointed star harder than ever, mistakes are creeping in. With DR 35 points behind Hamilton and a further 29 from Nico, the odds are most definitely against him winning the title, but a couple of inter team accidents and a Constructors title almost sewn up, could mean all gloves off with the two increasingly bitter rivals.