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Previously on The Judge 13:
OTD Lite: 2002 – Ferrari’s contrived US Grand Prix finish
On this day – twelve years ago – Ferrari recorded the closest finish in F1 history. Well, at least since the timing system had changed to 1000ths of a second. Just 0.011 separated Rubens Barrichello and Michael Schumacher as they crossed the line. Which in itself would suggest an almighty fight to the line.
Sadly in a season of Ferrari dominance, Schumacher had led the ‘race’ throughout and as they approached the line attempted to stage a dead heat.
Many felt that it was Schumi repaying his team-mate after the Brazilian had given up victory in Austria that year. The team had been vilified after the Austrian debacle and the tirade of abuse continued here. The arrogance of the management of Ferrari seemingly astonished that the public wasn’t taken in by their simple explanations of manipulating events in their quest for glory.
Ferrari’s reputation has never really recovered from those days – thanks Mr Todt – and to many remains an organisation run on a sense of entitlement. Most members of the tifosi enjoyed the success of the team whilst despairing at the contrived nature of the races.
Ultimately, when a team has built a dominant car the best method of publicity is to let the young warriors fight – irrespective of good or ill fortune.
F1 starting to recognise that the cars are too easy to drive
“Today, you could take a young child from school and put him into an F1 car and he would be able to sustain the forces. From the physical side F1 has never been easier.”
Josef Leberer works for the Sauber F1 team but is most famously known for his close friendship with Ayrton Senna and as his personal trainer back in 1990. Following the recent SIngapore Grand Prix he was speaking about the differences between the current F1 and that of the late 80’s – early 90’s and suggested looking at drivers finishing races back then to see how far F1 has come in terms of driver comfort.
“I’m sure many current drivers would like to show their ability in comparison to the drivers in the past, but things have changed a lot on the physical and mental side. Back then drivers would be in pain for days with bruises on elbows, pain in the hands from gear changes and their necks would need rest following a race – it was much harder than today…”
“It’s nice to have young drivers, but I have memories of drivers exhausted at the end of races, sweaty and having pushed their physical limits to almost be fainting by the end of races. Now drivers don’t even sweat anymore.”
Daniel Ricciardo seemingly sings from the same hymn sheet, “From the physical point of view, it is definitely not a walk in the park, but it is easier than it was a couple of years ago. If the cars are quicker they’ll be physically harder to drive.”
Alain Prost also believes that the public perception of the F1 ‘Playstation’ era has lessened the interest in the sport and the time is ripe to make the cars harder to drive.
“I don’t know what’s going to happen with Max Verstappen, but it’s true that he’s going to be able to drive the car no problem, this was absolutely not possible in our time – the cars were so difficult to drive. the first time we went to Portugal it was not possible to make a complete day of testing at all, no way!”
“It was physically really difficult, which is not the case today, I think the speed of the cars during the races and the grip is not very good. It’s quite slow, so you need to have a proper Formula 1.”
The FIA have said they will look at the regulations which allow drivers to become accredited for an FIA super license, though the implication is they will enforce restrictions to ensure drivers aged 17 are no longer eligible – and all this by 2017.
Ericsson to continue with Caterham in 2015 – if they are still competing
Max Chilton is supposedly too pretty and his daddy too wealthy to worry about not being in Formula One with one of the tail-end teams. His performance matters little even if the British media felt it worthy his record of finishing all his races in his rookie season…
Likewise Marcus Ericsson trails round at the back at a speed that should require the safety car lights mounted on his rear wing. His speed is beyond question – the world and any debutant drivers in the other Caterham have already seen that it is classed as ‘SLOW‘ and yet the new Team Principal Manfredi Ravetto claims that Ericsson demonstrated his ability in Singapore.
As a newcomer dealing with a team that is collapsing from within – Ravetto’s demeanour would seem simply staggering as he states they have been talking to Marcus’s management and sponsors about his seat next year “because this year the team has invested in the growth of the driver.”
Then he states the real reason behind Leafield’s enthusiasm for the slowest driver on the grid: “Next year we will be glad to have him back in our car and… make money from this investment rather than see it end up in some other machine.”
Attento Manfredi – don’t let Mr E. hear you can make money from F1 – he’ll decrease your share of the F1 purse even further.
No handbags at Red Bull
Despite the fact that Daniel Ricciardo easily beat his team mate and having taken all three non-Mercedes wins this year, he maintains that this had no detrimental effect on the relationship with his team-mate. Unlike his predecessor, Danny boy has so far had no public spat with his colleague from the other side of the garage.
“We are at a point where I have won three races and he none, yet he relates to me the same as he did from the very start,” the Australian explains in an interview with Channel 7. “We still exchange data and info about the car. He tells me how his daughter is doing and much more. Considering that it is a relationship between motorsports team mates, it couldn’t be better.”
TJ13 comment: The relationship between the Red Bull drivers could have gone spectacularly wrong, but it didn’t for several reasons. The first is, Daniel Ricciardo does not carry the baggage of history which Mark Webber did. Webber’s relationship with Vettel began in 2007, when an inexperienced Sebastian clattered into the back of his car during a safety car period, yet the very same ‘Kid’ came in two years later, scored the first win for Red Bull and dominated within the the RB senior team.
The second reason us Daniel does not do smack talk. With him comprehensively outscoring Vettel this year, he could have been smug, yet he isn’t and pays proper respect to his team mate. In return he receives the same respect back. Vettel congratulated him for each and every win and even posed for the winners photo’s without pulling a sour face like Rosberg did after Singapore. For all the explosive climate at RB over the last few years, there seems to be an air of harmony in Milton Keynes. Maybe it’s that very climate which makes Vettel cope rather well with what can only be described as an annus horribilis.
(sourced from GMM with TJ13 comment)
Force India turns to Toyota for wind tunnel
Force India is the latest F1 team turning to Toyota’s state-of-the-art wind tunnel in Cologne. It emerged in Singapore recently that Caterham is developing its 2015 car in the Cologne tunnel.
Previously, Ferrari relied heavily on the Toyota facilities amid its troubles with its own tunnel at Maranello. “We haven’t used the one in Cologne for really quite some time,” said technical boss James Allison recently.
Germany’s Auto Motor und Sport also reports that, with McLaren leasing wind tunnel time to Marussia, the Woking based team also uses the Toyota facility. And Force India is now beginning to turn to Toyota. “Our wind tunnel was originally built for 30 per cent models,” said technical boss Andy Green, “so we don’t have enough room around the 50 per cent model.”
From next year, a new cost cutting measure is that each team can only use one wind tunnel per season, so Force India has nominated Cologne. The report said Toyota charges about EUR 100,000 a week for the privilege.
TJ13 comment: So the promised $50m investment from Vijay – made to years ago – and a wind tunnel for the Silverstone team is now finally revealed to be a fantasy.
Wind tunnels are an important part of modern F1 comeptition and Ferrari have had their own share of wind tunnel difficulties. The Maranello facility was repaired, upgraded and recalibrated by October 2013, but previously they too had been using the Toyota tunnel from 2012 and designed this year’s car fully in the Cologne based complex.
Mclaren also have been using the same facility for the last couple of seasons with it would appear similar results.
Of course it could be mere coincidence that these two ‘grandees’ have suffered some of their worst form in a generation – it could be that the people in charge of aero really don’t have a clue – but could it simply be that the Toyota facility has a reputation that has been unjustly earnt.
(sourced from GMM with TJ13 comment)
Ferrari loses legal battle with engineer
Ferrari has lost a legal battle with a disgruntled F1 engineer. For 2012, Briton Steve Clark joined the fabled Maranello team from Mercedes, where he was a highly respected senior technical advisor. It was reported at the time that Clark’s new role would be in charge of Ferrari’s race engineers.
But Italy’s specialist Autosprint and La Gazzetta dello Sport separately report that Clark was subsequently ‘demoted’ to a role in Ferrari’s non-F1 projects, including working on the Italian olympic team’s bobsled design.
Clark reportedly sued the team in the local Modena courts, arguing that the demotion to a role outside of F1 caused “serious harm to his career”. The judge reportedly agreed, declaring that his ‘demotion’ was contrary to his contract. The reports say Ferrari has been ordered to reinstate Clark in his contracted F1 role or an equivalent, which could result in a departure settlement for the 48-year-old Briton.
TJ13 comment: An interesting article which demonstrates the dictatorial vision of the ex-President of Ferrari – Montezemolo. Clark was hired by Pat Fry and Stefano Domenicali to bring his expertise to Ferrari and was moved in the endless games of politics played out in Maranello.
As Costa explained earlier this year, every person recruited – and every decision on investment made – had to pass by Il Padrino – he refused to delegate authority. It will be interesting to see if the new regime empowers its people or disables them because simply – ‘We are Ferrari’
Of perhaps more pertinence is that once upon a time the power in Maranello was greater than the law – effectively. How times have changed..
McLaren expecting a ‘tricky’ Suzuka
Jenson Button appears not to be relishing the upcoming Japanaese Grand Prix in Suzuka.
“I think circuits that have a high-speed nature but not a big change of direction will be fine, like Brazil, but Suzuka could be tricky for us,” explained the British driver.
“It is a shame, especially for the future of this team, that it could be a really tricky race for the team. But we have a few little things that could help us.”
The McLaren has visibly been twitchy through the high speed corners at circuits with those characteristics through the 2014 season, though Jenson’s comments suggesting a disappointing result in Japan will affect “the future of this team” are surprising.
“Traction has been a big issue [this year], and also when the car is unsettled it is very difficult. In gradual high-speed corners we are reasonably good, but on corners with a sharp turn-in we are nowhere.
We have no initial turn-in, we don’t get it in, and then the rear falls over. The change of direction in high speed is the same. For the first part we are good, but as soon as you change direction and go over the central part of the steering wheel we lose speed.
It has been a weakness, and something that has improved over the year”.
The 2014 regulations have seen a substantial amount of aerodynamic downforce stripped from the cars and it is this which Button highlights has been problematic for the Woking team all year.
“I think it is just a lack of downforce. We started the year knowing we had a lack of downforce but wanting a driveable car – which it is. But the problem is we needed to start pushing it to make it more edgy – and we’ve done that!
But it’s all great planning for next year.”
McLaren have been 3rd or 4th best amongst the Mercedes engine cars for most of the year, and would be detached from that group of teams had Force India had the budget to deliver proper in season development.
2013 saw McLaren fail to score a podium, which was rectified in Australia 2014, however Button does not expect a repeat of this unless others fail. “I don’t think we will be quick enough to get a podium. We could get close enough for it if people in front make a mistake, but I don’t think we will get it [on merit alone].”
But why is Japan so important to McLaren that it may “affect the future of the team”?
Verstappen Japan debut
Franz Tost is known to be one of the most uncompromising of the team principals left in Formula 1. He allegedly got into a brawl with Scott Speed following the 2007 European GP at the Nurburgring.
Speed left the team immediately and Sebastian Vettel famously got his opportunity.
Back in Singapore Tost was his usual grumpy self with plenty to say at the team principal’s press conference. He dismissed the FIA’s proposals for changing pit/car radio broadcasts as, “absolutely not necessary,”
Tost argues, radio is entertainment and information which when shared improves the fans understanding and enjoyment of the sport. “For me it’s absolutely nonsense what we are discussing here because in all the other kinds of sports a coach gives some information, instructions to a football player, for example, on the sideline or wherever.
“This does not mean that the sportsman is not able to do his job, he can do his job, he does do his job, but maybe he can do it in a better way, it’s just a performance improvement. Therefore I don’t understand it.”
During that same conference, Tost revealed to a rather surprised audience, that Max Verstappen had completed a test at the Adria International Raceway and fulfilled the requirements for his FIA superlicense. Further, Tost revealed Max would be driving FP1 in Japan.
Max will become the youngest ever F1 driver when he takes to the grid in Adelaide next March. “I am very much looking forward to taking part in a Free Practice session at a Grand Prix for the first time. It is good preparation for next year, even if it’s not something I could have imagined a few months ago. To already be participating in a practice session is of course a dream come true,” Verstappen said.
“I have actually been to Suzuka before, to take part in a go-kart race on the track that is located next to the main circuit’s back straight. My dad has raced at Suzuka many times and he told me it’s not an easy track to start on.
For me it will be a very valuable experience, spending some time in the car and also getting used to working with everyone in the team, to prepare myself for next year. I am not going there to break any records, I just want to gain experience. I have spent one day driving this track on the simulator, which helps a bit, but it’s no substitute for driving it for real.
My first impression is that it’s not an easy track and for example it looks hard to get the combination right in the first esses. I have one and a half hours to drive there and I’m looking forward to doing a good job, for myself and for the team.”
For JEV fighting to save his F1 career, missing FP1 in Japan is a blow.
Tweeting it wrong
Mercedes conducted a “forensic analysis” of the issue that affected Nico Rosberg’s car during the recent Singapore race. It showed the steering column electronics had been “contaminated with a foreign substance”.
“The contamination was not visible and did not manifest itself until Sunday as Nico went to the grid,” Mercedes said on Twitter.
The timing of the announcement could not have come at a better time for the conspiracy theorists to have a field day, dreaming up all sorts of wonderful schemes from the Stuttgart team. With just 5 races to go, the twittersphere was sent into overdrive when Mercedes tweeted, “To clarify, the contaminant was a substance used in normal pre-event servicing of the component. Not a conspiracy!”
William of Occam would be having a field day with his razor at the moment, given raft of theories abounding at the moment. But loose lips do sink ships and Mercedes team management and drivers have all at times made pronouncements that feed into the current speculative fever.
Mercedes currently appear rather sensitive to the charges, but lies the truth is that as the end of the season approaches and resources are deployed more and more into next year’s project, backroom politics becomes increasingly important to the quest for the WDC. Both drivers have been around long enough to know how to play the game and each is doing their utmost to swing the pendulum in their favour.
Though Mercedes’ PR department may be ruing it currently, the fact of the matter is the current drama is all that stands between the fans and possibly one of the most boring seasons ever imaginable, and eventually they will reap the benefits. Sometimes doing things the wrong way, turns out to be the best way.