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Previously on The Judge 13:
Caterham’s doors closed in Leafield (UPDATE) 22:05 GMT)
OTD Lite: 2006 – Schumacher’s final victory closes a legacy
Of all the circuits that Formula One visited, the Chinese venue had presented Michael Schumacher with his leanest pickings to date. In 2006, Michael’s arrival in the Far East followed the announcement at Monza that he was to retire from the sport at the end of the campaign and mixed conditions in qualifying relegated the German to sixth on the grid.
The race was a slow-burner with the Renaults scampering away in the lead and Schumi holding on gallantly but as the track dried the Ferrari gained pace and a tyre change for Alonso crucified the Spaniard’s race as he couldn’t get heat into his fresh rubber.
As he took the flag for the 91st time in his career, the signs were that the last two races of the season may contribute to another Schumacher title. However, a blown engine in Japan scuppered this ambition.
This was followed by an incredible recovery in Brazil from almost a lap down to fourth by the chequered flag, which proved to many that Schumacher was calling it a day far too soon.
As a special advisor to Ferrari for the following seasons – it would have been interesting to know if he regretted his decision as it was likely he would have won the 2007 title far easier than his replacement and the 2008 season would most also have likely culminated in another championship to add to the German’s record.
Unfortunately, now we will never know..
Will the change in regulation increase Merc’s advantage?
The FIA have announced a change in the nose regulations which will impact most teams next year. From 2015, no longer will F1 cars be adorned with the aesthetically challenged noses that have dominated this year.
All cars will carry the solution that Mercedes and Ferrari have run this year rather than the ponderous appendage and the results of early tests from their rivals has shown up some surprising data with negative results in terms of their efficiency compared to their current solutions.
Red Bull’s chief designer, Rob Marshall, explained: “We were surprised by how much w have lost in this area” This was echoed by the Technical Director of Force India, Andy Green who explained: “The first wind tunnel test we conducted showed a loss of 20 downforce points in comparison to our current nose. Mercedes and Ferrari have a big advantage because these shorter noses require a lot of expensive crash testing. The whole concept is a complete change for the aerodynamic direction and we are working hard to understand the subject.”
Which would seem to suggest that both Mercedes and Ferrari have been losing fundamental performance with their designs. Whilst this may be encouraging for Ferrari recovering some of their loss to the others – it is perhaps more worrisome that Mercedes could be even further ahead.
(sourced from GMM with TJ13 comment)
‘Faster’ cars would make F1 ‘harder’ – Coulthard
The best way to make F1 cars harder to drive is to make them faster. That is the view of retired grand prix veteran David Coulthard, following reports the sport’s governing FIA is concerned the challenge of driving an F1 car today is ‘too easy’.
That view has intensified recently as the age of F1 rookies, for instance the newly seventeen year old Max Verstappen who will drive on Friday at Suzuka, plummets dramatically.
“The FIA … is said to be examining ways of making F1 cars harder to drive,” correspondent Kevin Eason wrote in The Times. As drivers have become younger and leaner, F1’s leaders are worried that the sport is no longer the highest examination of driver talent, skill and strength,” he added. It is part of why the FIA has suddenly clamped down on so-called ‘driver coaching’ over the pit-to-car radios, to end the appearance that the cars are even being piloted by remote control by engineers and boffins.
But Coulthard, whose own F1 career began just as the great Ayrton Senna’s so tragically ended, thinks the FIA is wide of the mark to think radios are to blame for the sport’s problems. “It (the clampdown) seems to be the answer to a question that no one was asking,” he said in a column for the F1 sponsor UBS.
“I wasn’t really aware of any grumbling,” said the 43-year-old Scot, who today is a pundit for British television. “In my opinion, if you want to make the cars harder to drive, make them faster. It is ironic that they are trying to find ways of making life more difficult for the drivers when the actual cars are slower than they were back in 2004,” added Coulthard.
The former McLaren and Red Bull driver even thinks the radio clampdown is counterproductive, as it removes one of F1’s “technological advancements” only to replace it with “another layer of bureaucracy and red tape”.
“If someone offered you the chance to get rid of internet banking and go back to just making all your transactions the old-fashioned way, via a cashier, would you accept? Of course you wouldn’t,” said Coulthard.
“It would be a retrograde step; wilfully ignoring technology that already exists and that everyone was perfectly happy with anyway. As for the drivers I spoke to in Singapore last weekend, some were for it, some were against it, some were not fussed either way. I think that just about sums this whole issue up. It’s all a bit of a nothing,” he added.
TJ13 comment: Ultimately there are many people who have watched F1 dumbing down year on year and whilst the racing can be exciting at times, with the introductions of DRS and fall apart tyres there’s a feeling amongst the hardcore followers that F1 has begun chasing the fickle entertainment crowd,
As DC mentioned but didn’t elaborate upon, many of the current lap records were set back in 2004 and the drive to keep F1 speeds in check has led us to the current cars. As the great Villeneuve once suggested, big tyres, less aero and huge over powered cars… now that would be a spectacle considering we enjoy the powerslides we get currently for three or four metres!
Honda PU’s big reveal
It is hardly surprising that before the mayhem of track walks and FIA press conferences begin in Japan tomorrow, Honda has chosen today to give a ‘reveal’ of its power unit designed for the 2015 McLaren F1 car.
Of course, this will not be an exact replica of the architecture used by Honda, because there would still be time for rival engine manufacturers to ‘steal’ design ideas.
The man in charge of Honda’s Formula 1 project, Yasuhisa Arai, had this to say.
“Working toward Honda’s F1 participation starting in the 2015 season, development of the power unit is entering its prime phase at our R&D facility in Sakura (Tochigi, Japan), where we transferred our automobile motor sports development earlier this year.
In addition to conducting simulations, we have moved onto the next stage where we conduct full-fledged bench tests of the engine while connecting the turbocharger and energy recovery systems.
In the meantime, our racing operation base in Milton Keynes, United Kingdom, has become fully operational.
At this time, we are unveiling an image of our power unit that is under development.
The whole team is concentrating on this development, getting ready for the forthcoming start of F1 participation in six months.”
In time TJ13’s tech experts will bring us a more detailed analysis of what we are looking at, however, despite the consistent rumours that Honda are months behind schedule, Arai appears comfortable in explaining where Honda are up to in terms of their testing schedule.
Initial reaction suggests Honda have utilised a similar concept to Mercedes by placing the Turbo at the rear of the ICE (Internal Combustion Engine) and the compressor at the front. The MGU-H then sits between the V.
Somers however suggests Honda may have adopted a half way house approach with the compressor within the V and set higher than the Mercedes. This gives the advantage of having a shorter drive shaft which should be stronger and more reliable.
Yet the secret of Honda’s strength will not be their power unit alone, it will be the sympathetic nature of both chassis and PU to the requirements of each other. After all 8 cars are running the dominant Mercedes PU this year – but only 2 are running away with proceedings.
“There is obviously a lot of work behind the scenes with our new partner for next year,” Eric Boullier commented in Singapore. “We have not exactly defined when and where we will test first, to be clear about some discussions and rumours. There is a lot of work going through and, to be honest, as per the original schedule, everything is fine so far.”
The issue of whether Honda McLaren would test in Abu Dhabi following the season’s final race showdown, was due to contractual arrangements with Mercedes. Brixton have now relinquished their control and granated the new F1 engine/team partnership the opportunity to test the Honda power unit at Yas Marina Circuit should they choose to do so.
Toto not completely certain over 2015 driver lineup
Team boss Toto Wolff is not 100 per cent sure Mercedes will head into the 2015 season with an unchanged driver lineup.
With Nico Rosberg already under contract into the longer term, his teammate Lewis Hamilton is among those drivers speculatively linked with a sensational switch to the new Honda era at McLaren beginning next year.
Recently, a slight disagreement between Briton Hamilton and Mercedes became apparent after Wolff indicated talks for a new contract beyond 2015 had been “frozen”.
“Well, I haven’t said that I was freezing anything,” the 2008 world champion said last month.
It is rumoured Hamilton might be tempted to leave Mercedes if his teammate Rosberg, with whom relations are already intensely strained, wins the 2014 title.
Wolff has also warned that if the pair cannot find a way to work together effectively, Mercedes might need to rethink its 2015 lineup.
It is a theme Austrian Wolff appears to have returned to in the days before the Japanese grand prix.
He told Germany’s Sport Bild that the Brackley based team’s driver lineup for 2015 is only “99 per cent” guaranteed at this stage.
“You have to hold something back because exceptional circumstances can always arise. In life, nothing is ever 100 per cent for sure,” said Wolff.
He insisted yet again that contractual talks with Hamilton have indeed been frozen for the time being.
“On both sides we had the desire and decided to postpone the issue, because the championship is so intense,” Wolff said.
“Rather than be discussing commercial issues, we want to get to the end of the season. And then the first thing we will do is sit down with Lewis and hopefully everything will be in the bag for the years after 2015,” he added.
Comment: TJ13 has continually asserted the continual verbal flow of consciousness coming from Toto Wolff is most revealing – however, it is indeed the sign of a rookie F1 team boss who never knows when to be quiet.
Simona de Silvestro’s F1 hopes dashed
Simona de Silvestro has left the Sauber team, according to Speedweek. She was allegedly due to drive FP1 at the US Grand Prix weekend in Austin,
“Simona’s driving programme will not continue for financial reasons,” revealed a faceless spokesperson for the Swiss F1 team. Everyone who has worked with Simona over the past six months is very disappointed. We are currently examining other possibilities.”
It appears Sauber have failed to deliver on their promises and the testing Simona ran at Fiorano was eventually paid for by her management and not the Swiss team. At this event, the 2012 Sauber was not liveried as usual, but simply displayed “Clean Air Energy” and the logos of U.S. power plant owner Entergy and the nuclear power plant builder Areva.
Having failed to land a deal with Canadian billionaire Lawrence Stroll, Sauber are in dire financial straits. At present they are likely to receive over $10m less in FOM funding than they had this year, to compete in the 2015 season.
Caterham’s doors closed in Leafield
TJ13 was informed this afternoon that Bailiffs and the Police were called to the Leafield site, the home of Caterham F1. The staff were instructed to turn off the servers and leave the premises immediately.
This follows previous visits both last week and this from the Bailiffs, who were seeking on Monday to arrange for the removal of the autoclave. Old Lotus framed shirts were removed from the premises today.
John Iley informed sceptical staff to return as normal tomorrow, when the problems would be ‘ironed out’.
TJ13 reported an emergency meeting of the staff of Caterham was held on Monday, where it was repeated again that the problems the team were facing were due to ‘surprises’ (unpaid bills) left behind by the previous owner Tony Fernandes.
Apparently the Caterham team owe an 8 digit sum to a range of suppliers, mainly Renault and Red Bull for engine and gear box supply.
The 2013 cars were removed from the facility on Monday, though the mainstream media were informed this was to facilitate an F1 demonstration in Jerusalem. One concerned member of staff questioned whether this was in fact true, as show events require the attendance of just one car.
The race team were reportedly fed by other teams during the Singapore GP weekend, though no clear explanation for this has emerged.
Of course, were the Caterham outfit to fold, and a new team lined up to enter Formula One in the future – say offer, 10 pence in the pound for the assets of the company, this would be a most cost effective manner of acquiring the necessary equipment and even Intellectual Property for the 2015 car, to eventually go racing.
The mysterious nature of the new ‘Swiss based Arab’ investors has led those with questioning minds to believe not all was well with the alleged sale of the business by Fernandes before Silverstone.
Caterham Team Principal Manfredi Ravetto asserted at the Singapore GP that the new investors wished to remain anonymous because they had no interest in publicity, just ‘making a profit’. Formula One teams on the brink of collapse and due no monies for next year from FOM – do not fit this profile.
It has been suggested to TJ13 that in fact the formal transfer of the shares in the company which holds the racing license for Caterham F1 was never completed, due to disagreements over whether the debts of the team should be paid up by Fernandes or the new owners.
Should the team be wound up, it is convenient that there is no one publicly to hold to account. Fernandes claims to have sold the business but to whom we do not know.
Meantime, Kolles has been forcing ahead the development of the 2015 car, such that the tub has been designed and is good to go.
Caterham issued the following statement this evening
“There have been unfounded and unsubstantiated rumours concerning actions against 1MRT, the entrant and owner of CaterhamF1.
An action was threatened yesterday against a supplier company to 1MRT. This company is not owned by 1MRT and it has no influence over the entry of CaterhamF1 or the entrant.
Also contrary to uncontrolled rumours, all operations are currently in place at Leafield and the race team is doing its preparation in Japan.”
What Caterham say is technically true and they pulled this same stunt over the staff redundancy claims. The company which holds the racing license is a shell company, and is used for nothing else other than to hold the F1 entrant documents. There were other companies in the Caterham group structure under Fernandes where the factory assets sat along with the liabilities left by Fernandes.
This all adds to the confusion over which company(ies) was/were actually sold by Fernandes, and whether or not that sale of all the Caterham assets and liabilities were completely transferred.
Further, tonight a Croydon based company who are “High Court Enforcement Officers (HCEO’s) have tonight placed the following information on their website.
“By order of The Sheriffs Office, authorised High Court Enforcement Officers, we hereby announce the impending sale of goods seized and removed from a Formula One team.
The goods include but are not limited to:
- Caterham F1 test car (2013)
- Caterham F1 car parts (due for Japan 2014)
- Full size 6 DOF motion platform F1 simulator
- Caterham F1 steering wheels
- F1 wheels with tyres
- High quality drilling & machining equipment
- Caterham & Lotus F1 memorabilia
- Various pit lane equipment including jacks, pumps and starters
- TVs, monitors and other goods and equipment
We can confirm the goods have been removed from the Leafield enforcement address and are in secure storage.
The goods are to be sold by public auction to the highest bidder.
Sale by private treaty may be permissible with leave of the court.
The date and location of the sale are yet to be confirmed but early indications are mid-October at a UK location. Interested parties should firstname.lastname@example.org to register their interest”.
Williams preview the Japanese Grand Prix
FRIDAY 3 – SUNDAY 5 OCTOBER
RACE 15 OF 19
The drivers love the high speed challenge of Suzuka Circuit. It’s fast and narrow, and it punishes mistakes because there is very little run-off. There are few better places to watch a grand prix car on the limit than through the Esses at the beginning of the lap. The high-speed changes of direction are stunning to watch, but that’s not all. The undulating rollercoaster of a lap includes Degner 1&2, Spoon and 130R – all memorable and challenging corners.
The Japanese fans leave an indelible impression too. Rain or shine, they fill the grandstands and cheer politely, often giving the drivers and teams gifts. All this adds together to make the Japanese Grand Prix one of the most memorable of the season.
According to Rob Smedley “Japan is one of the last remaining old school tracks. It is incredibly important to get the cars set-up right and very difficult for the drivers to get the perfect lap. The track is one which tests all aspects of the car and so is very tough to get right.” He continues with some key points for the weekend, “Tyre management is key, so we hope we have done all of our homework and getting on top of track conditions throughout the weekend will directly affect qualifying and the race. I personally enjoy Japan, the fans are immensely enthusiastic about the sport and incredibly welcoming of the teams.”
Felipe Massa also has kind words for this iconic circuit “Japan is one of the best circuits on the calendar.” He goes on to explain why drivers enjoy this track so much “The first sector is amazing and the elevation changes really add to the excitement of the track.” As for his feelings about the team he says “We have good momentum at the moment and our car will hopefully be better than in Singapore. The Japanese fans are some of the most passionate fans. On a Thursday in the rain the stands are still full. I also love Japan and look forward to seeing more of the country.
Valtteri Bottas says that “Suzuka is my favourite circuit on the calendar. The high speed corners make it a very special track to drive and a lot of fun.” He to makes mention of the enjoyment the drivers get from this great track by adding “For a driver it’s quite a challenge with no room for a mistake, but it’s fast which just makes it even better to drive. You need good downforce and stability which could bring the field closer together. One thing all drivers say about Japan is just how amazing the fans are, and I am looking forward to seeing them again and hope they enjoy the race.”