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Previously on The Judge 13:
Typhoon Phanfone (UPDATE)
OTD Lite: 1965 – Graham Hill wins US GP when men were men
It’s easy to bemoan the youngsters that have filtered into the sport when they have barely learnt how to use a razor – training that Ron Dennis put all his drivers through back in the day incidentally. But there was a time that completing a Grand Prix distance actually meant a race that took two or three days to recover from as muscle and the mind came down from the heightened senses of man’s primitive survival instincts.
On this day in 1965, Hill won his third successive US Grand Prix around the scenic 3.7km Watkins Glen track in Upstate New York; completing the 110 laps in just over 2hr 20mins. Unlike the cars and circuits they have today – which test very little of a driver’s arsenal – the 36 year old moustachioed veteran had the stamina to drive these cars at a time when a mistake could cost a life.
Hill finished 12 seconds ahead of Dan Gurney and 57s ahead of Jack Brabham. Fourth place onwards were lapped. We should rejoice that DRS, tailor made disintegrating rubber and other contrived variables hadn’t been thought of then – just real racing for real racing drivers.
Mainstay of Red Bull garage leaves at short notice
Chief Red Bull mechanic is not present in Japan. The Red Bull garage will have a different feel this weekend as Kenny Handkammer will not be in command of operations.
The man who has overseen the weekend car preparation for Sebastian Vettel’s 4 world titles, along with a couple of loose wheels for Webber, has reportedly left the team at short notice.
Helmut Marko confirms this, “Kenny Handkammer has left the team with immediate effect. He will not be in Suzuka. The decision was mutual”
Handkammer was seen in Singapore sporting a black eye and stitched facial wound, though whether the events surrounding this injury are related is at present just speculation.
This will be a blow to the Red Bull race crew as Kenny was much respected and operated the garage with military efficiency.
There has been somewhat of a hysterical reaction in the F1 paddock to the approaching of Typhoon Phanfone presently lurking off the south coast of Japan. Current weather forecasts suggest the storm is travelling north and may hit land at the southern tip of the western islands of Japan, but it could turn east, towards the mainland over the coming 48 hours.
Discussions have been held between Charlie Whiting and the team bosses suggesting an early start on Sunday may be prudent. The race is due to start 3pm local time.
However, worse case scenarios have Phanfone making land in the southern part of Japan on Monday at the earliest, though winds were high at the Suzuka circuit on Thursday.
Adam Cooper has repeatedly suggested on Twitter that the race organisers should consider running the GP on Saturday to avoid a potential cancellation of the race. This appears, at present, to be an over reaction. The predictions of extreme disruption during FP1 and FP2 have been unfounded.
Of greater importance may be, should Phanfone hit the mainland of Japan near Suzuka on Monday, flights out of the country could be disrupted for up to 48 hours and with Sochi as a back to back race, the pressure would really be on to get to Russia and be good to go for the inaugural Russian GP.
Could it be the F1 gods are giving Ecclestone and the circus a sign, that going to Russia is not such a great idea after all? Further, is the spectre of an early race on either Saturday or Sunday morning, Mr. E’s idea to ensure the road to Sochi and his pal Putin, is kept clear?
UPDATE: GMT 11:49: Any rescheduling of the GP from Sunday to Saturday has been ruled out by the FIA.
Mr E – How to lose friends and influence people
The wind whistling through Suzuka is upsetting more than the delicate aero of the cars today. With reports emerging on Thursday that a certain Bernard Charles Ecclestone will not be regaining his spot on the board of Delta Topco – the unsettled weather reflects all too accurately the state of the sport.
Supposedly, Mr E.’s inability to meet the boards unspecified “conditions” caused their refusal to reinstate him, at least for the moment. He resigned his spot last January to fight bribery charges leveled against him in Germany, though it is reported that some board members found the High Court’s description of him as an unreliable witness in an unrelated court case embarrassing enough to put the kibosh on his return.
As Typhoon Phanfone swirls about the circuit the wildest rumours are putting Ecclestone’s time at the head of F1 at an end. Still, it is likely that he will return, but he may no longer enjoy the freedom he once had to wheel and deal if his enemies on the board succeed in putting a leash on him.
With the unfolding disaster of Caterham, the imminent announcement from Fernando, 8 teams 3 cars and the unknown of Sochi looming immediately ahead, it could be that the sport he has run for so long has finally reached the end of it’s use for him. Particularly as FOM stands to lose the commercial rights if Bernie can’t put enough cars on the grid.
But Ecclestone is unlikely to go quietly into that good night and his response to events this weekend should speak volumes about his chances at regaining full control of the sport he regards as his personal playground and piggy bank.
Alfa Romeo F1 return being considered
If you have ever had the pleasure of watching the BBC’s TopGear programme, you will have heard the presenters state that “you cannot consider yourself a petrol head unless you have owned an Alfa Romeo.”
A history which, in the early years of Grand Prix racing, was equal to that which Ferrari have achieved since their inception in 1947. Alfa moved into mass production in the 50’s and graced the tarmac of the world with timeless classics.
Unfortunately since the mid 70’s they have struggled to marry their flair with reliability or outstanding build quality and the army of Alfisti have grown defensive of the company’s merits.
Throughout they have continued to compete in motor-sport in one form or another but several failed attempts at Formula One have meant they disappeared from the grid back in the mid-80’s.
The Volkwagen Group has made continued overtures to buy this iconic brand but Fiat remains steadfast in their support. In the recent Paris motorshow, Sergio Marchionne was asked about Alfa returning to Formula One as an engine supplier by renaming the Ferrari engine to Alfa in the customer cars.
He delivered a quite damning verdict on Sauber, Marussia, Haas and quite possibly on the Montezemolo years.
“I think this is the right thing to do, but first we have to start choosing the strongest teams in F1. We cannot afford to supply teams that languish towards the back of the grid when our rivals supply the better teams.”
It would be a brave man that would suggest that maybe the Scuderia need to get their house in order first but whilst an iconic brand like Ferrari can use their legacy to sell cars, Alfa Romeo have to prove successful.
Re-invigorating the Alfa Romeo brand as the engine supplier for Formula One, may be a smart move on many levels. As a brand Ferrari have only dominated the global space since the relentless success of the Schumacher, Brawn, Todt and Byrne era. Were Ferrari be unable to achieve this again, attributing the PU to Alfa Romeo may deflect some possible brand decline.
Further, Sergio’s relentless march to rebuild the FIAT group is never ending. Alfa Romeo in the mid 2000’s was losing between 300 and 500 million euros a year, around 15-20% of revenue. For the year of 2010, Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne set a global sales target of 300,000, but a mere 112,000 units were sold.
Alfa then set it’s ambition to achieve 170,000 global sales in 2011, including 100,000 Giulietta and 60,000 MiTo, but it actually sold 130,000 units that year. Its medium-term target remains 500,000 units by 2014 including 85,000 from N. American market.
Should Maranello cease to build Formula 1 engines and this production be moved to a revitalised section of the historic Arese Alpha production unit, this would see a Ferrari business – run as an empire by Montezemolo – put firmly in its place.
This would also bolster the Alfa Romeo brand, which is primarily about producing cars for ‘the people’ and not play toys for the rich.
Then again, following Mrchionne’s dismissive attitude toward Marussia and Sauber, a Red Bull/Toro Rosso kind of relationship may be on the cars with Ferrari and Alfa Romeo.
Would we also see the rise of the long dormant Alfisti, who could compete with the Hamfosi and the Tifosi for ‘internet keyboard warrior legion’ award each year.
Sergio Marchionne has not only saved FIAT from similar demise to that which the British car industry suffered, but he is slowly making great again evocative brands such as Masserati, Alfa Romeo and the FIAT 500.
Italian automotive history may one day recognise that this man – Sergio Marchionne – as greater than Enzo, the Agnelli’s and all the rest. He is breathing life once again and putting back the heartbeat into Iconic Italian Automotive production, and doing it with some passion.
Alonso takes a leaf out of Bryan Adam’s song book – Everything I do
“..everything I do is for the good of Ferrari and love of Ferrari.” so replied Fernando Alonso to one of the countless stories whipping up a storm in Japan.
Yet, Fernando also loved Renault enough to sign a contract over a year before his departure to McLaren. Whilst at McLaren his love and support of the team resulted in a $100 million fine and expulsion from the 2007 Constructor’s championship.
In the history of bromances, Briatore, Symonds and Piquet Jr took the wrap for his loved up2008 victory in Singapore and then he dutifully left the Renault team and continued being in love with Ferrari, a team that he once claimed held no affection for him at all. His dream had been to emulate Ayrton Senna by winning a title with McLaren.
Of course a five year courtship with Ferrari has returned sporadic silverware and this Spanish matador has been enticed by the bright lights elsewhere. Whether his next chapter starts next year or soon after, it appears his love has only ever been for himself.
Nurburgring circuit received illegal aid – European Union
The Nurburgring circuit has been found to have violated European Union laws in relation to funds which were used to develop and maintain the circuit. Between 2002 and 2012, aid was granted from the Rhineland-Palatinate region in support of the legendary German track in the amount of € 456 million.
This huge amount of money did not prevent the circuit incurring huge losses and was finally put up for sale and bought by the Capricorn Group earlier this year for more than € 100million.
Despite Capricorn’s problems they are suffering with repayments to the banks, they have been cleared of any obligations to this colossal amount that has to be paid back; as their purchase was made with full transparency and therefore are not responsible for the money which was used to redevelop the facilities belonging to the Nurburgring.
Circuit of Wales – be warned.
Is Vettel about to join his former Italian engineer
Sources in Italy have heard that Riccardo Adami has left Toro Rosso and is heading in the direction of Maranello. Though his name means nothing to the majority of F1 fans, his pedigree over the last six years could be significant.
He worked for Toro Rosso as a race engineer on the pitwall in 2008 and oversaw Sebastien Vettel’s first ever Grand Prix victory. More recently he has been working on the Red Bull Technology simulator – which is used by all the Red Bull team drivers…
Luca’s last stand
Away from the wild winds, driver drama’s and torrential rain forecast in Suzuka, a rather nostalgic moment – though a touch embarrassing – was being made at the Paris motor show.
Luca de Montezemolo was giving a relaxed press conference, most likely his last as Ferrari president. Sections of the Italian media are angry at Il Padrino’s ‘eviction’, though this is tempered by a resigned sense of destiny which recognises the weaknesses within an otherwise highly successful reign by Luca Cordera at the top of the world’s biggest brand.
Whilst showing little emotion, there appeared to be some pent up frustration or anger on display from de Motezemolo, as he recounted tales of times where he had ridden into town as the saviour of the Ferrari name.
Fiat were on their knees in 2002, such that they were forced to sell 35% ownership in Ferrari to a Mediobanca.led consortium for 775.2 million euros. At the same time, Ferrari sold another 5% to Mubadala (the investment fund of Abu Dhabi), and Luca explained at length that this deal was due his network of good relationships.
“In that year, the Ferrari was essential to Fiat …”, said Montezemolo. This was clearly a dig at Marchionne and the Agnelli family who had allowed the business to be forced to its knees. Il Padrino couches himself as the knight on the shining white horse.
Suddenly, Sergio Marchionne wandered onto the set where de Montezemolo was holding court, and the atmosphere changed in an instant.
Marchionne politely requested that he could sit next to Luca with a winning smile.
The outgoing president of Ferrari’s demeanour changed according to AutoSprint, from passionate and frank to measured and formal. Clearly the heavyweight of power was present, chin rested on his upturned palm, as he listened to Il Padrino’s tales from yore.
Unbowed, Luca questioned to the listeners whether this was the right time for a “relay race to the presidency” on the eve of “a historic moment as important as that of the quotation of Ferrari-Chrysler … “.
Oops. Slip of the tongue Luca? Marchionne corrects Il Padrino, “No, not Ferrari-Chrysler, but Fiat Chrysler”. Il Padrino attempted to cover his tracks quickly adding, “It’s a slip because I always am ready to speak Ferrari …” .
Maybe it wasn’t a slip, because Montezemolo moves on to discuss the newly introduced Ferrari 458 open special , the spider displayed at the show, “Do not call the last of Montezemolo’s Ferrari’s”, he said. “But rather the last Ferrari Ferrari “.
Of course for Il Padrino, the prancing horse will never again be the same without him.
When asked about Alonso, Marchionne was quick to deflect attention and hiding behind the fact he only takes office on October 13th. His sharp retort was “ask Luca, it’s a matter for him”.
Never one to shy from the spotlight, Montezemolo was quick to answer the question – or not. “Alonso.. for me… he is the best driver in the world, especially in the race. He has never pulled back.
His future? He’s talking to Mattiacci,
I think we should find a compromise between Alonso’s requests and those offered by Ferrari.
The important thing is to have a good atmosphere in the team, there is a contract, they ( Alonso and Mattiacci) are talking about it and trying to find the best solution. But a quick solution is not important, the matter for concern should be to have a good race in Japan.”
Whatever is said of de Montezemolo, has has been loyal to friends and those close to him, and in his last public appointment, he covers Alonso’s back from a backlash of criticism and bile when he leaves Maranello.
Further, when Alonso leaves, it is Marchionne’s doing – as Luca makes clear – not that of the out going president.
Interestingly, Marchionne was quizzed on how often he speaks with Marco Mattiaci. Sergio revealed, “We talk often but mostly communicate by text because we are always at the other end of the world from each other.
But it is not that he (Mattiacci) is always there to just monitor what they do. It’s a bit more like the restaurant ordering the chefs to make a sauce; they do not continually go into the kitchen to check the ingredients or how the sauce is cooking”.
So Marchionne calls the shots on the Alonso strategy, and Marco Mattiacci ‘makes it so’, we can deduce.
(Source: Alberto Sabbatini)
Honda favour a relaxation of the in-season engine development rules
During the Friday press conference, Honda’s head of research and development – Yasuhisa Arai – states, “Our target is very clear. This season, the Mercedes is top of top, so next season we shall achieve that same competition or power. Everyone understands that and wants to exceed that power. Lots of work.”
There have been questions raised over th amount of data Honda will be able to collect from supplying just 2 engines to one team. Arai is not concerned about this. “Our partner is very strong and I think one of the best teams. Of course that means just one team’s data, but maybe that’s enough, I think.”
Honda and Mclaren are confident the standard they have agreed, is set at the right level. “So we already discussed with our partner and set a target and already we have agreed whether the target is good or not. Then finally, maybe in March 2015 we will be in a good position.”
Arai admits that so far, there have been no serious expressions of interest from other teams wishing to run a Honda engine from 2016 onwards, though he dismisses this as a normal wait and see approach to how 2015 develops.
Interestingly, the Japanese F1 engine manufacturer is open to a relaxation in the in-season engine development regulations. “From the engineers and many fans, they and we want to keep the competition,” says Arai. “So in a season, to develop the many parts and to keep the competition is very important, just from engineering and fans’ side”.
Some may see this as a lack of confidence from Honda, however, McLaren have had an entire season to analysis the strengths and weaknesses of the Mercedes power train and this will in no doubt have fed its way back to Japan.
New GPDA Chairman
Ex-Formula One racer Alex Wurz has today been appointed chairman of the Grand Prix Drivers Association (GPDA), replacing Spaniard Pedro de la Rosa.
McLaren’s Jenson Button and Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel will remain as directors of the body that represents the majority of F1 drivers. Lewis Hamilton is one driver of ote, not part of the GPDA.
Sebastian Vettel gives his two penneth stating, “Alex will be a great GPDA Chairman. He is one of the most experienced drivers I know, full of positive new ideas, and he has seen so many different aspects of the sport throughout his career.”
Wurz first statement as GPDA chairperson has a grand rhetorical feel about it. “We know our history, we know what heroes like Stirling (Moss), Niki (Lauda) and Jackie (Stewart), Michael (Schumacher)and Ayrton (Senna) have all helped create.
With the support of Jean (Todt) and Bernie (Ecclestone, the teams, the media and most importantly with the backing of our fans, the GPDA will now aim to become a more dynamic and positive influence for the future of our sport.”
Alex is involved in a number of projects regarding road safety and driver education and training. Together with his father he founded his own company “Test and Training International”, a leader in the field of road safety and driver training, working closely with the FIA since 2011 as an operating partner of the FIA Institute Young Driver Excellence Acadamy.
Wurz’s Formula 1 career spanned 13 years and 70 races, though 7 of those were as a reserve driver. Alex never won a race or secured a pole position and his best ranking in the WDC was 8th in 1998 when he drove for Benetton.