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Previously on TheJudge 13:
OTD Lite: 1990 – Mansell – Il Leone wins for Ferrari
On this day, twenty four years ago, Nigel Mansell took his final victory for Ferrari at the Portugese Grand Prix. A similar driver in temperament to Lewis Hamilton he wore his heart on his sleeve and the arrival of the scheming Alain Prost had unsettled the one man Ayrton Senna held in high regard.
Having announced his retirement at the British Grand Prix, Il Leone delivered a sublime drive and subsequently signed a deal to rejoin Williams for the following year. In the meantime Prost attacked both his team-mate and the the team by saying: “We don’t deserve to win the world championship because there is nobody in the team with the authority to give direction and make the strategy to compete with McLaren”
A man who was once described by a British journalist as “a balanced individual. He has a chip on both shoulders!” fought against the system and won. Unbelievable bravery and a consummate overtaker; he brought the crowds flooding in to the circuits with his heroics. “Sir, we salute you”
The Enforcer blames Brawn for Mercedes failures
Ross Brawn has been responsible for winning sixteen world titles. Three with Benetton in 1994 & 95 – eleven whilst at Ferrari and then two with his own Brawn team in 2009. So it would be safe to assume that the man knows how to run a Formula One team that knows how to build fast, dominant and reliable cars.
By the end of 2014, any right thinking motor-sport fan will acknowledge that this year’s two titles should be added to his extraordinary CV and yet Paddy Lowe continues to spout junk to diminish his predecessor’s accomplishments with the Mercedes AMG F1 design. Following the problem that affected Nico Rosberg in Singapore, Lowe has said that this will not be a short term fix.
“I’m not going to pretend it’s good enough because it isn’t. It’s one of the weaknesses that we have. We’re doing a lot of work behind the scenes to turn it around but it’s a long-term project. It’s not something you can hit in five minutes. It takes a lot work. We are making progress but we’ve got further to go.”
“It’s one of the features of motor racing that cars break down. It always has been. The racing car is incredibly complicated these days. The number of things that don’t go wrong in a race is immense. The trouble at the moment is that Nico has seen his championship lead wiped out in one afternoon. That’s really tough.”
It is possibly worth pointing out that since the current campaign started back in March – the Mercedes is recognised as the dominant car. In the first six events – Australia to Monaco – other than Hamilton’s unfortunate reliability in the first event, they finished 1-2 every time.
In the eight races since, they have secured first and second twice, suffered retirements of a mechanical nature on three occasions in races and Red Bull have taken three victories with what is commonly accepted as the least impressive power unit.
With the idiocy permeating the Generals who run the Silver Arrows team, it seems even the ‘Enforcer’ has given in to blithering rhetoric as he guides his troops to further glory. Lest we forget, this was the technical director who oversaw the development of the most woeful McLaren MP4-28 for 2013
Lewis Hamilton has his “Dad” back
During the 2011 season Lewis Hamilton spoke about the bubble that Jenson Button had built around himself which helped his focus during race weekends. With Lewis suffering both on track and with the disintegration of his relationship with Nicole Sherzinger he felt isolated at times. Having taken the decision to move away from his father’s guidance he cut a lonely and troubled figure and would come to define the year as a horrible experience.
Fast forward three years and Lewis appears to be in a far stronger enviroment. “I just feel relaxed, all my family are a real positive beam of light for me at the weekend.”
“I spoke years ago, when my Dad was my manager, and said I couldn’t wait for the day when he was here just as my Dad. And that’s what you’re seeing. And that’s one of the greatest feelings, having him here. Since the first day I ever got in a kart – I remember the day of my first race – I created a handshake with him. I was eight years old and he was there. That’s one of the most special things. He said today it felt like I was eight years old again attending kart race, when he was watching me.”
“I don’t know what Dad thought when we started. I was good but I don’t know if he thought that in 20 years time we’d be winning the Singapore GP. I try to imagine his mentality, getting four jobs to get the money to get a crap kart together, to respray it or try to bend it back to shape because it was the oldest kart in world, trying to get some fuel because we had spent all the money on tyres. Going through all that to now be at the pinnacle of the sport, I’m hugely proud of my family, so it’s really cool for dad to be here. I’ve gotta stop there – I’m getting emotional!”
Ferrari’s 2015 Power Unit has been tested already
Following what can only be described as a catastrophic year in terms of results, Ferrari have recently run the 2015 power unit codenamed 059/4. The design team have found another 40 bhp over this year’s design but have the ambitious goal of finding another 60 bhp before the homologation freeze in February.
The inherent errors in the basic architecture have been recognised and addressed with the new version – which is being overseen by Mattia Binotto’s engine department with chief designer Lorenzo Sassi working hard to bring Ferrari back to the head of the field.
James Allison has requested a configuration that is less extreme than the current design; including moving the oil tank from inside the gearbox to the classic configuration between the chassis and the engine – thus improving the weight distribution and traction qualities of the new Maranello challenger.
Despite Ferrari, Renault and Honda seeking to open up the engine freeze rules next year, the teams are aware that this is not a given so everything is being scheduled for completion by the time the homologation freeze comes in at the end of February.
What is undoubtedly helping the Ferrari design team are the specialists who have arrived from both Mercedes and Audi – technicians who have been responsible for their previous companies respective hybrid systems.
Allied to this is the work that continues at Shell who have not been able to use a new fuel they have developed because of reliability issues with the current power train. This new chemical technology has been formulated from the lead of Petronas, Mercedes’ fuel supplier, which makes the fuel denser and brings about benefits in efficiency, power and volume.
With Ferrari having been promised no restriction on budget, it remains to be seen if these improvements allow for more than an occasional visit to the podium…
F1 ‘not what it used to be’ – Lotterer
Le Mans stars Andre Lotterer and Mark Webber have made less than flattering comparisons between their sports car machines and the modern F1 racer. In their musings, today’s formula one does not fare well. For instance, reigning Le Mans winner Lotterer made a one-off appearance for Caterham at Spa this year, but then reportedly turned down the chance to reprise his effort at Monza.
As a young Jaguar tester, Lotterer came close to building a full career in F1 but he admitted to NBC that although he “didn’t make it, I have a very happy and beautiful career“. Lotterer, 32, said working at Le Mans with Audi is “amazing”, but he also races in Japan’s premier open wheeler series, Super Formula.
“Then on the other side, I have the purest and fastest race cars around the corners in the world, in Super Formula,” he said. “They’re so precise, and you don’t want the race to end. The cars do exactly what you want. The combination of both things, sporting wise, are really good.”
He acknowledged that Super Formula cannot compete with F1 in terms of its media profile. “For people who don’t know that much about racing, many think it (F1) is the only thing. But in terms of racing, F1 isn’t what it used to be anymore. I got to feel that when I did my race. There’s not much grip from the tyres and not much downforce in the corners. You can’t go flat out. But it was still a good experience,” Lotterer added.
He hinted that he did not look into extending his 2014 flirt with formula one due to the modern shape of the pinnacle of motor sport. “F1 could be another challenge but at 33 years old, you want to go into a good challenge,” said the Belgian-raised German. “What I mean by that is that you’re in a team for 2-3 years, well funded and with everything healthy. But apart from the top 3-4 teams, nobody can offer you that in F1. So 7-8 years ago there were more manufacturers, but now is not the right time,” he explained.
Also contemplating the difference between sports cars and F1 in the past days has been Mark Webber, the 13-time grand prix winner who left the grid to join Porsche at the end of last season. “One of the biggest differences between F1 and a prototype is the downforce,” he is quoted by Spain’s El Confidencial. “The other is the tyres. The Michelin (at Le Mans) is a real racing tyre, a tyre that everyone can enjoy, while the Pirelli in formula one is for show business,” said Webber, 38.
Pirelli threatens to withhold tyres from Caterham
Caterham could be left stranded without tyres ahead of the forthcoming Japanese grand prix, according to the Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf. The report said a source close to F1’s official tyre supplier has “unofficially confirmed” that Pirelli is warning Caterham it must urgently make a payment ahead of the Suzuka race early next month.
Backmarker Caterham almost collapsed mid-season following the withdrawal of support of founder Tony Fernandes, who sold the team suddenly to a mysterious group of Swiss-based Middle Easterners. “I believe our team was not set up to race in Silverstone,” one of the new bosses, Manfredi Ravetto, confirmed in Singapore. “This is the truth. Since new ownership came on board, I think we managed not only to race in Silverstone but also to arrive to Singapore. I must say it’s not a very easy task,” he admitted. “The financial situation is not one of the easiest,” said Ravetto. “We inherited a situation which was more than critical.”
It is rumoured the situation was so critical that Christijan Albers, who became Caterham’s team boss after the takeover, quit once he realised that debts could not be paid. De Telegraaf claims Pirelli “is one of the main creditors” of ailing Caterham. “The paddock is buzzing with rumours that Caterham will not be in the paddock at the end of the season,” it added.
Wolff offers to sacrifice his body in Mercedes cause
The melodrama which has become the Mecedes narrative is both surprising and unsurprising at the same time.
It is surprising because as Wolff declared last week, the image of the team has indeed morphed from one of steady efficiency into a Lewis-ism – ‘heart on the sleeve’.
Post race rants minutes after the chequered flag in Spa would have been an anathema in the Brawn era, and since Hungary the rhetoric from Wolff is creating the impression of a team in permanent crisis.
As argued previously, Mercedes have created the conspiracy narratives by the way they have behaved in public, which is great for copy, but hardly the image a Formula 1 team would wish to cultivate – and one surely Stuttgart is most unhappy about.
This is unsurprising given the history of Lauda’s previous foray into team management and Wolff’s complete lack of experience at the sharp end of a global sport.
Once again, Wolff gets his hands on the karaoke microphone and begins to wail out an unprepared tune.
Commenting on the issue of reliability, Wolff states, ‘We have a great team dedicated to quality, and I’m really proud of that department. Despite that, it’s even more astonishing we continue to have these issues”.
I guess it takes time for the whole group to come together and time until we stop suffering from these DNFs which are unacceptable for us as we have had four of them now.
If we could do anything more to stop the DNFs then we would do it. I would break my arm again!
It’s just unimaginable that Dennis, Brawn or Domenicali would consistently stir up such melodrama. Stuttgart need to take note before the honeymoon of change in pecking order is a long and distant memory, and Mercedes AMG F1 are a permanent laughing stock.
Alonso and, Maranello’s shifting sands
Fernando Alonso has had a quite year by his own standards. No requests for a Newey designed car for his birthday, no public tweaks of the year from the dearly departed Il Padrino and no sniping Samurai wisdom mind games on twitter.
Yet Alonso’s behaviour at times is most revealing if you read between the lines. He was dismissive of Marco Mattiacci when he was appointed; repeatedly stating he had no F1 knowledge and would have no effect on the Scuderia for a long time.
Well, in terms of the latter, Fred couldn’t have been more wrong. Alonso never perceived it would be remotely possible that Luca de Montezemolo would be gone by the Autumn after serving 23 years in Maranello. Fred and Luca had a relationship which was most Latin in its nature. Passionate, but spat filled, yet there was indeed a love and deep respect between the two.
Following the assassination of his former boss and friend, Alonso appeared uneasy throughout the Singapore GP weekend.
Even the most hardened sceptic of superstition, would be hard pressed not to feel a chill wind following Il Padrino’s exit from Ferrari and the death of his friend and backer – Santander president, Emilio Botin – all within a week.
The stars have most definitely been realigned, and for Fernando that is not a good thing.
The normally media savvy Spaniard has been rattled of late by the Italian media who have consistently been suggesting he is demanding exorbitant sums of money to extend his contract with the Scuderia.
“So when all these things come from Italy, it’s not really clear what the purpose is. It’s sad when it comes from Italy, or they create these rumours for some strange purpose, which is not helping Ferrari.”
Tin the time of Montezemolo, Alonso would have laughed at this media speculation, recognising that it would strengthen his hand in terms of negotiating power with Il Padrino.
Yet Alonso is now concerned, almost trying too hard.
“I respect Ferrari a lot and I try to create a good atmosphere in the team with the guys – from going out to dinner to playing basketball, playing poker, whatever – to ensure we are united,” Fernando revealed. ‘It’s what we need, and it’s what people expect from us driving for Ferrari”.
Believe who you will, some say Alonso is free to leave should he pay a fee of 30m euro’s, others believe there are performance related release clauses.
Only the lawyers truly know, but the latter makes more sense when considering Alonso’s repeated assertions over how far behind him Kimi finishes in races.
The latest of these oblique observations was following the Singapore GP, where Kimi finished in 8th place anhd Fernando made clear in more than one interview, “the other Ferrari is 45 seconds behind”.
TJ13 tweeted on Saturday that Honda were making a massive effort to persuade Alonso to join McLaren for 2015, and so even if there was no release clause, they would pay the 30m in the blink of an eye.
The Alonso to McLaren story is gaining traction with James Allen writing today, “according to Italian colleagues, Ferrari doesn’t want to give Alonso some of the guarantees he is seeking”.
Throw into the mix that Marco Mattiacci has persistently asserted that the Ferrari line up for 2015 will remain the same, yet when asked again in Singapore his response was, “”Fernando will continue. For the moment — yes.”
This echoes the kind of rhetoric we were hearing from Alonso in Belgium when he told Sky it was not his intention “at the moment to move”. That said, he was againing straining to impress on those listening, how much of a team player he is.
“There has been a lot of talk since last summer but from my mouth there never came any interest to leave Ferrari or any words saying l would join another team. There was a lot of speculation, which is not disturbing but it created a little bit of tension and stress. Yet you also feel happy and proud that the best teams have an interest in you and say so in public.”
The sands have shifted monumentally in Maranello in recent times, and Fernando is nervous.
It just may be when you get what you’ve thought you’ve wanted for such a long time, it’s not quite as rewarding as you previously believed.
BREAKING: Lawrence Stroll seeking to invest in Lotus and asks Briatore to bring Alonso to the team. Mercedes engine deal is secured for Enstone and merely requires the appropriate funds transfer.
Cash rich Billionaire Stroll was linked with Sauber, but it appears he now believes a team in ‘Motorsport’s Valley’ is a safer bet.
Alonso returns to Enstone – now that would be a story. Though unlikely, seeing as Lotus problems are not easily solvable with sheer cash. Many good people have left over the past 12 months and may take years to re-recruit proper replacements.
This writer believes the no brainier is a straight swap between Mercedes and Ferrari – Fernando for Lewis.
This solves Mercedes management headache which at present sees Lewis refusing to play their politics game.
Lewis can claim he was part of the rebuilding in Maranello, and would add to his legacy as the first black driver to ever drive for the Scuderia.
Give the kids a chance
Get peddaling son. Get 300km under your belt and you can get an FIA superlicense.
Oh and just because we can…. coming soon at Paris show…
Martin Brundle grid talk
There was an amusing moment before the race when Martin Brundle wanders up to Ecclestone and Horner who were chatting together on the grid.
Some Singapore bigging up ensues. Christian decides to get amusing and says to Brundle,
“Shame your too old to drive here – you would have loved it”.
“Shame you weren’t quick enough to get into F1…. (awkward pause – adds quickly) but you did it a different way (more split second awkwardness) …Well done (patronising voice and pat on the shoulder).