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Previously on TheJudge13:
OTD Lite: 1976 – Birth of Mrs Judge’s favourite
1976 was an epic year in Formula One’s history. With the legendary battle between the dashing James Hunt and the acerbic Niki Lauda, Formula One moved from the monotone back pages into the glorious multi-coloured medium of television.
With his near fatal accident and remarkable recovery, Niki Lauda assured his legend whereas James Hunt led a populaton wilting under an extreme summer heatwave into rapturous applause as he secured the title during a live satellite transmission from Japan.
On this day, on the other side of the world, a baby was born in Queanbeyan, New South Wales, Australia who would go on to become one of the most popular drivers in Formula One in the twenty first century. A rugged real-life Desperate Dan blessed with stubble that had its own shadow at 00.15 – never mind five o’clock, Mark Webber defined what Aussie Grit was about.
Outstanding performances in a terrible Jaguar brought him an offer from the fabled Williams team at a time that they were in decline. In 2007 he joined the fledgeling Red Bull outfit where he would remain a front runner until he retired in 2013. With nine victories and a championship challenge in 2010, as he once remarked; “Not bad for a number two.” The ultimate accolade following his retirement was being honoured with his very own month – Webbuary..
Mclaren struggling to attract top drivers to the team
The future of Mclaren drivers Jenson Button and Kevin Magnussen are not secure beyond the end of 2014. With Ron Dennis returning to the helm at Mclaren, Boullier has told his drivers to accept the situation despite the lack of clarity on their future – something that Button described at the weekend as an “unusual situation“.
Boullier expanded on the team’s reasoning: “I guess it’s unusual because we are coming out of August and not having a firm commitment from the team, we are working on the strategy for the driver line-up for the next years. For me it’s important to say years because we are looking for three years and maybe five years.”
“It’s true with Ron being back since January and me being new to the team we have asked for a little bit more time than necessary, but we can afford this time. Even if it is uncomfortable for the drivers, which I understand, we have to put our priorities first.”
Over the recent months rumours have been flying around that Mclaren had spoken at different stages with Fernando Alonso, Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel. Honda, the team’s new engine partner is investing heavily for its return to Formula One and has targeted one of the recognised ‘star’ drivers as essential for next season.
The problem, this year, has been that with Mclaren using the same power unit as the dominant Mercedes, the rapidly improving Williams team and the mid-grid Force India, their lack of comparative pace and development has effectively left any of the aforementioned drivers unwilling to commit to the Woking cause.
When Ron Dennis took over control of Mclaren in 1981, he was saddled with Andrea De Cesaris and John Watson. For 1982 he enticed Niki Lauda back to the sport and put into action the development of his own engine with Porsche designing the Tag-Turbo which dominated the sport in 1984-5 with Lauda and Alain Prost. By 1988, Mclaren had become the number one team and Senna had joined. The writing was on the wall when Senna offered his services to WIlliams for 1993 for free, yet would negotiate a race by race contract with Mclaren for his services.
Phillipe Alliot, Martin Brundle, David Coulthard were some of the incumbents during an era when the greatest driver drove for the competition and although Mclaren courted Michael Schumacher, he preferred the challenge of racing for Ferrari.
Hakkinen won a couple of Newey designed championships and by the time of his retirement it was junior drivers with potential that Mclaren could encourage to join the team – even Juan Montoya joined in a fit of pique after feeling snubbed by Williams. But left in similarly dramatic circumstances.
Unusually in 2007, double world champion Alonso joined the squad after being “honeymooned’ by Dennis and had alongside him the mercurial Hamilton. Yet by season’s end he had left, preferring the uncompetitive Renault to another season with the team. Over the last few seasons, Mclaren has bled engineers and top quality drivers for reasons unpublished and once again they are left scraping around for drivers to commit to the cause.
In the never-ending saga that is the title sponsorship of the team, an exclusive contract with an ambitious partner that will only last for two years and a team in the middle of another rebuild – having not been Constructors Champions for sixteen years – Mclaren may have to rely on two drivers who have not been signed up for next year yet or possibly to be replaced with Grosjean – who Boullier manages.
Mercedes lost out to RB again
The track isn’t the only place where Mercedes is getting beaten by those pesky Austrians. They also lost the race for the services of Max Verstappen. Toto Wolff seems to harbour no hard feelings though, as he acknowledges that without a farm team, Mercedes simply can’t compete with the RB offer.
“It was the best decision from his point of view. They [Red Bull] offer a long-term deal, which we cannot offer. We could only offer GP2, a few tests and maybe a few outings as Friday test driver. Since we are quite happy with our drivers, we would have to think of ways, how to give him track-time and if such opportunity doesn’t present itself, the whole program is useless.” (The interview obviously happened before Spa 😉 )
The subject of Mercedes’ failed hiring attempts has meanwhile had his first taste of an F1 car. Just over a month before his seventeenth birthday, the Dutchman tested a demo version of the RB7 painted in Toro Rosso colours at the Oval at Rockingham. It was a short shakedown though as they only performed some runs up and down the pitlane mainly for exercises to acquaint the youngster with the complicated steering wheel and – undoubtedly – to explain why it has neither a touchscreen nor an installation of candy crush.
Verstappen is slated to make an appearance in the fancy-frocked RB7 at the VKV City Racing Event in Rotterdam on Saturday and Sunday.
Meanwhile at Brackley
— MERCEDES AMG F1 (@MercedesAMGF1) August 26, 2014
Bernard E: Do they have money?
It hasn’t been too long that Mr. E considered F1 done in Europe. But one thing he’s still considering is a Mediterranean GP – in Greece of all places. On 30th May, Formula One Licensing, one of the many companies in F1’s web of companies and subsidiaries secured the trade mark “Formula One Mediterranean Grand Prix”.
Recently returned to his job full-time after bribing his way out of the bribery charges brought against him, he confirmed to CNN that the topic is still on his to-do list. “The Greeks want that. They want me to talk with their PM with their Mayor. We have to find out if they have any money.”
TJ13 comment: No, Bernie, it’s not what the Greeks want. The Greeks want something to eat, health insurance and a job, because most of them have neither of those. And if they have any money, it’s coming from Germany, France and the other Eurozone countries that haven’t yet ruined their economy. It’s the Greek politicians, who want it. The same ones who ruined Greece in the first place.
Lewis Hamilton always puts team first
In Hungary three weekends ago, the team asked Lewis to not hold up Nico Rosberg who was on a more aggressive strategy. This was followed by “let Nico past on the main start/finish straight”
Hamilton maintained his speed and told the team “I’m not slowing down for Nico“. Rosberg asked again why he had not slowed down for him and after the race commented that it was “obviously not good.” But the leadership in the Mercedes team changed tact after the race and said Hamilton had acted correctly because Rosberg did not get close enough to him.
Hamilton himself stated that: “I was in the same race as him. If I’d let him past he’d have had the opportunity to pull away. I was very, very shocked that the team would ask me to do that to be able to better his position. I wasn’t going to ease off and lose ground to Fernando or Daniel to let him overtake. I can’t express the pain I feel over the issues I’ve had in the last couple of races. It’s very, very difficult to swallow.”
Following the summer break and a chance to recharge both body and mind after what has proven a dramatic and highly pressured season – Hamilton has come back more reflective and has changed his stance in regards his obligations to the team.
After the Belgian race, the BBC carried an article in which Hamilton has promised he won’t retaliate against team-mate Rosberg when the F1 circus arrives at the historic Monza circuit. “I have to make sure we’re not racing wheel-to-wheel” so as to avoid any further conflict.
“I will always put the team first and I won’t take anything into my own hands. The weekend was damaging. I don’t know how I’m going to get back those 29 points, but what I do know is I’ve a great group of people behind me. The poor guys on my side of the garage have had quite a lot of bad races.”
And on Sky Hamilton was asked about the his reaction to the incident on the second lap, ” I don’t have a reaction, I think. This year, the team have allowed us to race and we’ve been good at racing wheel to wheel close. I think I heard someone say it was inevitable we were going to crash one day; but I don’t feel today was that inevitability”
“I took the inside line and braked very deep otherwise he would have come around the outside into that section. I still made the corner on my normal line and then I got a big thud. He was in my blindspot I could see quite far behind me I knew that he was behind so I continued my line… I thought for sure there’d be an investigation.”
“I’m mostly gutted for the team – and of course for myself because I lost points and that makes my championship harder – but I’m really convinced this weekend that the team said ‘Okay, now we’ll allow you’. I don’t know why they suggested that – we already were racing hard with each other – but they said ‘Now we want you to be able to race’ And I don’t know how literally he took that because for me the priority was still for the team to finish”
Immediately following the race both Toto Wolff and Niki Lauda placed the blame upon Nico’s shoulders, absolving Hamilton of any wrong-doing and yet when Rosberg was asked about the post race team meeting, he replied: “Its important for us, in the more difficult times, to really discuss and reason. And I think as a team we’re always managing to do that because we have a very strong leadership with Toto and Paddy foremost and then with Niki who’s helping out. And I think that is the advantage that we have this strong leadership.”
Lauda has made no secret of his support for Lewis this season. With a team seemingly in disarray at all levels he has been Hamilton’s ally throughout and his throwaway remark about his “helping out” reflects on how Rosberg views him. As to strong leadership, TJ13 has been stating for some months that without Ross Brawn at the tiller – the Brackley team would self destruct.
(sourced from GMM with TJ13 comment)
Vettel made ‘many mistakes’ in 2014 – Webber
Mark Webber’s honest clarity has been missed from the formula one paddock in 2014. Amid the typical PR-speak, the Australian – having left Red Bull and the paddock for semi-retirement and Le Mans – was always relied upon for a blunt assessment.
On his former teammate Sebastian Vettel’s troubled 2014 season, for instance, Webber told Austrian broadcaster Servus TV this week: “Vettel is having problems with the new rules. He has improved, but from the first race you could see he was making many mistakes,” Webber added.
But Vettel himself, whilst not denying he made mistakes, thinks bad reliability has been the headline of his struggle in 2014. At Spa, he even said it is “unfair” to directly compare him with Daniel Ricciardo this year, because the Australian has had a clear run with the sister RB10.
Now, Vettel tells German television RTL: “People see the raw result and have their opinion. But they don’t always see what is really going on. We have had so many technical problems; burned up so many engines and wasted many components.”
“Daniel has performed very strongly, there is no question,” said the four-time world champion. “But I think the races he won, we would have also been able to win if things had gone a bit differently.”
For that reason, he said he is not beginning to question his own talent. “It’s not as if you forget how to drive over a winter and suddenly start doing everything wrong instead of everything right,” said Vettel. “The hunger is still there and I think we have a good chance to fight for the world championship if we position ourselves better.”
TJ13 comment: Alonso was prophetic when he suggested late last year that Vettel’s success would be questioned when he didn’t have a dominant car any longer. It was always to be expected that birthday boy Webber would rejoice at his hardships this season, but for many neutral fans his humility and natural likeability has shown through despite having a season from hell seemingly.
Whether he remains with the Buckinghamshire Austrians or leaves to pastures new, a humbling season could very well be the making of his eventual legacy in the annals of F1 history.
(sourced from GMM with TJ13 comment)
Verstappen tipped for Friday debut at Suzuka
Max Verstappen made his debut in a formula one car on Tuesday. The well-connected Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf claims Red Bull, having newly signed the 16-year-old son of former F1 driver Jos Verstappen, has targeted October’s Japanese grand prix as a potential first official outing for Max in 2014.
That is despite Toro Rosso chief Franz Tost saying at Spa that Verstappen’s first Friday practice outings will only be in “Austin, Sao Paulo and Abu Dhabi”. But Red Bull may now be speeding up the teenager’s already-accelerated F1 programme even more.
“Max is in England for a brief introduction,” Max’s father Jos is quoted as saying. He is referring to an outing for Verstappen at Rockingham, at the wheel Red Bull’s title-winning 2011 car, in Toro Rosso livery. It is a shakedown ahead of a forthcoming demonstration event in Rotterdam. “It (the Rockingham debut) is not a test,” Verstappen’s father said. “Today (Tuesday) he is driving back and forth on the straight to get used to a formula one car.”
Red Bull’s Dr Helmut Marko confirmed: “Everything went well. Max did everything right, but I expected nothing else. When you talk to Max, you realise quickly that he is a confident young man who knows exactly what he is doing,” he told Bild.
But even Red Bull’s very own Sebastian Vettel, who made his F1 debut as a teenager, has described Verstappen’s age and experience as “borderline”. “There is some sort of limit and Max is very young,” the German said on a visit to Sochi this week to try the new Russian grand prix layout. “I guess he should go to school, but he is not going to have much time for that next year! He already has a lot of racing experience, and his talent is obvious,” continued Vettel. “So why shouldn’t he be in formula one?”
TJ13 comment: With the Formula One landscape changing, dissolving into a new dawn, the players get younger and the viewers turn away from what was once a challenging sport. Adrian Newey has spoken recently of the lack of education that the non successful karters will suffer, Vettel mentions his age as borderline and Villeneuve has attacked the Superlicence qualifying criteria.
In years gone by drivers had what was known as ‘self belief’ which carried them through different trials on their ascent and journey into F1 and adulthood. In the 21st century that term has changed to ‘entitlement’ as though they deserve a place on the Playstation grid. There are no apprenticeships anymore just instant results and with Formula Three carrying none of the prestige it did over the decades, basing Max’s ability on a weak field may prove crippling to his career.