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OTD Lite: 2005 – Alonso wins first World Championship
“I won the championship with maybe not the best car, so I am proud of what I did. The fact that I have taken over the title from Michael Schumacher is a bonus. I came from a country with no tradition in F1. I had to fight my way alone. I have only had the help of two or three people in my career, no more.” So said Fernando Alonso in a message that has often been repeated throughout his career – he carries the car.
It seems scarcely believable that today is the ninth anniversary of Fred’s first ever World title. His drive to third place at the Brazilian Grand Prix secured him the spoils and confirmed him as the youngest ever winner – beaten of course by Sebastian Vettel in 2010. He followed this up with his second championship the following year and has since endured barren years for the ultimate prize.
Of course, without his public disintegration during 2007 – he could have been a three time champion. With that secured it would have been likely that he would have remained at Mclaren for 2008 and been the youngest ever four time champion. As a new challenge he may have accepted the drive at Ferrari and with a sound strategy call would have emulated Fangio’s five titles by the end of 2010. A little less misfortune in 2012 would have meant he only trailed Schumacher in the ultimate winners list by one crown and at a mere 31 years of age would have had some years to ply his brilliance for further success.
As with any “what if” the realities are somewhat different. This year marks the eight season since his last title, and throughout the history of the F1 drivers championship only Niki Lauda has a comparable break between honours having won in 1977 then again in 1984 – albeit with a sabbatical from 1979 to 1982 in between.
Eddie Irvine back at Ferrari
Eddie Irvine was back in Maranello for a visit recently for the first time since he left the team in 1999. An outspoken and opinionated Irishman – some of his comments would have made Eddie Jordan blush and yet he seemed on his best behaviour, “It’s fantastic to be here after such a long time and it’s really surprising to see how much things have changed since I was last here.”
“I saw a lot changes everywhere, such as the work on the historic cars, which is a passion of mine, that’s really incredible, as is the level of technology now used in the production areas. I’ve got nothing but nice memories of the four years I spent here, even if in the beginning it was a disaster because of all the problems we had with the car. Ferrari was an incredible opportunity and a great honour, that any driver would want to experience at least once in his life.”
When Irv the swerve was asked his opinion about the latest chapter in the sport – he spared nothing: “I always watch the races, even if I’m not particularly keen on the new things like the boost button and the DRS, the fact the noise has gone and having races in countries with no motor sport tradition.”
An unlikely Ferrari driver but perhaps the perfect foil for the workaholic Schumi, he enjoyed a healthy wage at Ferrari for allowing himself “to be beaten over the head with a cricket stump every two weeks” – as to next year, “Ferrari needs to take a step forward and I’m sure they will – next year will be even more interesting”
Cosworth’s new chapter about to begin in F1
TJ13 reported some months ago that Cosworth was looking at re-entering Formula One once more. Sources from within Brackley confirmed that approaches had been made by two companies to entice the Mercedes engineers away.
One would have meant relocating to a country where opera, food and wine are a daily pleasure whereas the other would have meant a detour on the Northamptonshire traffic system of just eight miles.
As ever, differing views on the news emerged in the comments sections with sceptics needing written proof signed in blood and DNA samples acquired before accepting an element of truth.
In Northampton, a new factory is being built at the cost of $12 million to be called the ‘Advanced Manufacturing Centre’. This will be used to design high performance engines and associated electronics for Cosworth.
This is all part of an expansion by Cosworth to design and build a new innovative F1 power unit to the current F1 rules. The relaunch of the company will likely be funded in part by the British Government due to the company expecting to create an additional 70 new jobs.
The idea is to produce a low-cost power unit that could be supplied to the smaller teams or even replace an existing engine manufacturer should one decide to leave the sport. Rumours persist that Bernie Ecclestone is the guiding force behind the brands return as teams struggle in the current hostile economic environment.
Cosworth has already built a prototype with which to attract the funding but is now head-hunting engineers to join the ranks
(sourced from GMM with TJ13 comment)
Cost issue could end ‘freeze’ relaxation talks
Toto Wolff says F1’s struggling teams would be the victims if a push to relax the engine development ‘freeze’ is successful. As Mercedes continues to utterly dominate in the first season of the turbo V6 era, behind-the-scenes discussions have turned to allowing struggling rivals Ferrari and Renault to catch up.
“If we look at this year’s season we’re seeing that there’s such a big disparity between the different engines,” said Monisha Kaltenborn, whose Sauber outfit is using Ferrari power and having the “worst season in the history of the team”.
For cost-cutting purposes, F1 operates under strict engine homologation rules, more commonly referred to as a ‘freeze’ that severely limits performance development. Under the existing rules, engine makers will be able to change up to 48 per cent of their 2014 ‘power unit’ design ahead of the next pre-2015 homologation.
But Mercedes’ rivals, notably Ferrari, are pushing hard behind the scenes for even more freedom.
The current ‘freeze’ operates on the basis of allowing engine makers to exchange a certain number of FIA ‘tokens’ for performance-related design improvements. Ferrari is arguing for at least eight more tokens to be available to teams for a mid-season design tweak. Predictably, field-leading Mercedes is not happy with the idea.
Wolff told Auto Motor und Sport: “It would be stupid of us to argue that we have the best engine and so nothing else interests us. On the other hand, we must raise the question of costs. Eight tokens would cost tens of millions of euros,” said the Austrian. “Who should pay, if not the customer?”
It is here that relaxing the engine ‘freeze’ will meet considerable objection. The cost of renting engines from Mercedes, Ferrari or Renault for customer teams – some of whom are struggling merely for survival – has already gone up considerably in 2014 compared with the old V8 regime. “We’re paying about 20 million pounds for our engine in a period when we’re trying to control costs in formula one,” said Mercedes customer Williams’ deputy chief Claire Williams.
Even Kaltenborn, whose struggling Sauber team would benefit from a stronger Ferrari engine, is not keen on the idea of a ‘freeze’ relaxation if it means her bills are higher. “We do support the idea that development of an engine is allowed within certain given parameters,” she said, “but it not necessarily leads to the fact that we, as customers, should actually bear the costs for that.”
TJ13 comment: Dis-information is a thriving parameter of the business world. As Claire Williams suggests, it costs the Williams team £20 million annually. As it would Force India and Mclaren too. Part of the reason Lotus is moving to a supply of Mercedes engines is not only are they a better unit than the Renault – they are far cheaper too.
Mercedes reputedly spent in the region of 500 million to develop their engine – which some reports suggest is double the others spend. Yet they have not passed this cost on to their customers. What Ferrari and Renault are asking is for an FIA to actually show some common sense and allow the manufacturers freedom to develop their designs until there is parity – much like the V8 era – then introduce a freeze.
As ever under the Todt regime, F1 stumbles headless- and ball less – into another situation that they could have avoided. The introduction of a series of new technologies which could only be tested on track for twelve days before the season began, restrictive homologation rules which came in at the end of the February – it’s actually a miracle that there have been so few failures.
Vettel admits he’s struggling
Quadruple world champion Sebastian Vettel admits he is struggling to get to grips with the RB10. “Every time I want to push or make something happen, it just doesn’t,” explained Vettel. I think it is a characteristic of this year’s car in combination with the downforce we have, with the tyres. It just maybe doesn’t give me yet what I want in a certain area of the corner”.
Clearly, the RB9 drove like it was on rails, with a little help from some counter intertuitive driving techniques, yet Vettel is candid. “That is not an excuse, because in the end I have to get the best out of the car. We’ve done a lot of progress but there is a lot we can do better.”
Less down force and a huge increase in torque means Vettel is feeling a steed under him that is significantly less predictable than previous Newey designs, so Seb has had to adjust his driving style which he admits is “tricky”.
“Obviously you drive the way you think is quickest, whether that means you have to hold back or you have to push, it depends on the situation. It is not that straightforward this year and it is not always consistent, so that is the tricky bit”.
The 2015 Red Bull car is the last of the Newey full time designs and the big question will be, whether before Ade sails off into the America’s cup sunset, will the final Bull he produces endeavour to assist Vettel more, or is Ricciardo the future?
Ecclestone’s plan to reduce race ticket prices.
The only income a race promoter has left from hosting a GP is now the ticket receipts, programmes and maybe some income from concession stall rents.
Promoters pay Ecclestone hosting fee’s for the privilege of being part of the F1 circus which range from $8m (Monza) to $60m (Korea) and of course Monaco pay sweet eff all.
There are other costs which the promoter suffers around the health and safety piece along with any track upgrades required by Charlie Whiting. These however pale into insignificance when compared to the hosintg fee.
So, the maths is simple. Ticket prices are set as they are most significantly to take account of the hosting fee.
Toto Wolff revealed in Monza that the teams had raised the issue of ticket prices with Ecclestone, though there was no indication of how the discussion had gone. Toto did state, “I guess it is pretty clear what needs to be done to fill the grandstands in the traditional races such as Hockenheim and Monza.”
Ecclestone has countered Wolff’s assertion. “Has he told you how? You should tell him about reducing what they want for racing, and then we can reduce the fees.
That is the problem. We collect money for the teams – the teams get 70 per cent of the revenue that comes from the promoters.”
Ecclestone is not convinced the lack of spectators at certain events is due to high ticket prices. “With sport, there is so much of it – and only so much time – that everything has lost a little bit,” adding, “it’s the same thing with the promoters.”
There we go then, problem solved.
Then again, why didn’t Ecclestone throw his weight and the commercial rights holders’ 6 votes behind the 6 votes from the FIA on cost capping at the strategy group?
Further, the smaller teams are struggling to build a car and bring a handful of developments to it throught the season on the funds they have. A fairer distribution of money is also required, which will tighten up the field and enthrall the crowds even more.
Is someone speaking with forked tongue?
Spain tells Alonso to leave
Spanish National publication Marca has run a poll. The question was simple. Should Alonso leave Ferrari?
So far with over 16,000 votes cast, over 84% respond yes, and the comments beneath section is fairly amusing. ‘Arrogant’ and ‘Pathetic’ are used to describe the great Ferrari brand, and the consensus is Alonso has given them his best, now it’s time for him to get the car he deserves.
The Spanish fans have clearly lost faith in Ferrari, and it wouldn’t take much reading between the lines from Mattiacci’s recent comments, to believe that 2016/17 is the earliest he believes the Scuderia may enjoy a resurgence.
TJ13 has been informed there will be an announcement over Alonso’s future in Japoan.
In the meantime, Italian bookmaker Tuttosport has Alonso around 2 to 1 to leave Ferrari this year, at 1.9.
And for Alonso to arrive at McLaren, the odds are 1.5
In track and high level field and field events where motion sensors are built into the starting blocks, should an athlete move before 0.10 seconds has expire – following the firing of the gun – this is deemed a false start.
This figure is based on tests that show the human brain cannot hear and process the information from the start sound in under 0.10 seconds.
In Monza despite Lewis Hamilton’s start mode failing it transpires he started his launch process before he knew the lights had gone out.
Charlie Whiting reveals that his reaction time to the lights was 0.05 seconds. When asked what the limit was to define a false start in F1, Charlie Whiting replied, “There is no minimum time. You’re allowed to gamble & risk a penalty.”
That said, when the FIA stewards completely miss a car lining up to start the race, way beyond its grid mark – and require another team to point this out – you can never be quite certain about what ‘Charlie says’.
Here’s a new one and some relief from the Hollywood/Britney debate. Do the TJ13 members of the court believe F1 should have a minimum reaction time allowed at the start of a Formula 1 race? If so why?
Not enough time for 3 car teams
Following the tweet from Adam Parr during the Monza GP, Eric Boullier was asked about F1 teams running three cars, and appeared surprised by the question.
“I think he’s being a bit provocative. We all know anyway that Formula 1 is going through a transition time; with the car manufacturers in the last decade, budgets have literally gone through the roof and now we are in a different economic situation and there is some transition. So there is potentially a couple of teams which may suffer [because] of this and I don’t know if they will still be on the grid”
Eric’s opinion was, “But I don’t think we’ll go to eight teams and three cars per team next year and definitely not in such a short-term notice. I think everybody is aware of this and I think F1 is aware of that as well.”
Having had some time to be brought up to speed by Ron over the discussions occurring within the Strategy Group, Eric feels a little better prepared now. “I think the driver is the easiest to get on board, you know? And the chassis and third car logistics and people around – we would need at least six months’ notice.”
Of course there is only, 5 months and days before lights are out in Australia 2015.
Yet there was always a clause in the Concorde Agreement, which meant the teams could be asked to run 3 cars, should the grid fall below 20 cars.
Eric believes, “I think at the end if one day we are called and asked to help F1 and run three cars we have to.”
Well that’s not quite true.
Of course the teams now have bi-lateral agreements with Ecclestone/FOM s the Concorde Agreement was never re-signed. The clause there states the teams are obliged to run a third car, but only if they can afford to.
Toto Wolff revealed at the weekend, the cost of a third car is in the region of $35m.
The saving Ecclestone would make from losing 3 teams would be in the region of $130m, and for the grid to be once again no less than 20 cars, this would require 4 teams to put up their hands and volunteer.
Of course, Ecclestone would gladly use the savings to fund these 4 extra cars, because should the grid fall below 20 cars, the FIA would cancel the 99 year long commercial agreement, and CVC and Bernie would be out of F1. 3 teams failing = 6 cars out, 4 cars funded by Bernie/CVC.
So it was hardly surprising at the weekend, that Ecclestone had this to say. “I think we should do it anyway. I would rather see Ferrari with three cars or any of the other top teams with three cars than having teams that are struggling.”
Of course Ferrari have a sweet deal under Ecclestone’s premiership, which no other teams have. They are paid 2.5% of the revenue received by F1, for in effect being historic.
If four teams to go under, Bernie could be in serious trouble.
Rosberg used retirement as a learning experience
During the Belgium GP, Lewis Hamilton realised his car was damaged such that he would not be able to drive to a points finishing position. Yet the team kept him out from the first time Hamilton suggested calling it a day over the car radio for some 20 odd further laps.
The team finally made the call to retire the car.
In Singapore following his pit lane start, Rosberg ploughed on to his first pit stop, on the off chance that a change of steering wheel would resolve his problem. It didn’t.
Following the race, Wolff declared, “we decided to retire the car”. Yet the on-board footage from Nico’s car clearly shows Rosberg waving his hands in a cutting motion to the attending mechanics, calling off their efforts.
The pit stop crew are all able to hear the team radio clearly, and the instruction given to retire the car would have been heard by them. It appears strange had this decision been made by the team and communicated across the radio, that Nico would bother to wave as he did.
Of course Rosberg and the pit wall team may have decided fairly simultaneously the game was up, then again with Mercedes, you just don’t know what is true any more.
Nico revealed having climbed from the car, “I just decided rather than going home I’m going to try and see if I can pick up anything that might become useful in the next couple of races,” according to Adam Cooper. “Did I learn anything? Of course. I’ve never watched the other car live in a race, I’ve never watched the pit wall work together during a race this year, there are a lot of insights that I got.”
The mind boggles, we’ll leave it to the courtroom to speculate as to what Rosberg learned.