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Previously on The Judge 13:
Andrea De Cesaris – A celebration of an F1 legend
News arrived yesterday that Andrea De Cesaris had been killed in a motorcycle accident on the Rome ring road. With this news following the harrowing accident of Jules Bianchi in the Japanese Grand Prix, motor-sport was left shaken once again.
De Cesaris arrived in Formula One in 1980 with the Alfa Romeo team mid season at just 21 years old. In 1981, with his ever present Marlboro backing he found a berth in the Mclaren team that had been taken over by Ron Dennis who had run him previously in Project Four Formula 2 team.
The season would earn him the nickname “Andrea de Crasheris as he took the record for most accidents in a single season. Every event that the F1 circus visited would feature one of his crashes at some stage. Dennis, unsurprisingly, decided to not renew his contract and he found his next berth in the Alfa Romeo team.
A quite brilliant pole position in Long Beach showed his ability but during the race he was baulked momentarily by Raul Boesel as he came to lap him. Lauda following closely behind waited whilst watching the young Italian waving his fist at the back marker and forgot to change gear. Lauda passed for the lead.
In 1983 he took two podiums and was leading the Belgian Grand Prix comfortably before his engine expired. He moved to Ligier for 1984 and 1985 before being dismissed after a stomach churning accident in Austria. As written in this OTD Lite.
A succession of teams followed including MInardi, Brabham and Dallara before he signed for the inaugural season of the Jordan GP team. His career finished in 1994 after driving for Tyrrell and Sauber and he remains the driver with most Grand prix starts without having won a race.
But if poor reliability hadn’t stopped him, history may well have been kinder to his legacy.
The 1991 Belgian GP is best remembered for the remarkable debut of one Michael Schumacher. Taking an astonishing seventh on the grid his race was over by the time the cars had navigated Eau Rouge. Yet his team-mate, De Cesaris is almost a footnote to this performance.
He qualified in 11th place, just four behind Schumi and would drive an inspired race. Senna took the lead from the start followed by Prost, Mansell, Piquet, Berger and Alesi. Truly a bunch of legendary names to savour.
With various retirements throughout the race, by had distance, Patrese (Williams), Piquet (Benetton) and De Cesaris were fighting over third position. As Alesi’s engine gave up the ghost, De Cesaris passed Piquet for second and began closing on race Leader, Senna.
The Jordan was the better handling machine but lacked the power of the Honda and therefore struggled to get close to pass. To maintain a challenge he tracked the Brazilian closely but his temperature gauges rose and he would have to back off to ccol the engine down. Three laps from the end his engine blew and he retired once again.
Twitter: “All at McLaren send condolences to ex-McLaren #F1 driver Andrea De Cesaris, who sadly passed away today.”
Addio Andrea, may you rest in peace.
Social Media – Jeckyll and Hyde
It was a weekend for social media being the winner and the loser as we saw the good and bad side of this new platform. Formula One fans have bemoaned the lack of social media use by the sports’ officials for some time with those calls falling on deaf ears, until now.
The on-screen encouragement to ‘Join the conversation’ using #JapaneseGP frequently popped up in the bottom left corner of the screen. The instruction was simple, to get more people talking about the sport we love which, in turn, raises the profile of the sport. For all intents and purposes this works as social media will in theory become awash with chatter on the subject.
When used with casual observations of the racing this works to good effect, allowing the many to many interaction that Twitter, Facebook and other media offers. When not able to watch the racing on-track, fans can check their twitter timelines and garner a reasonable idea of what is unfolding even when in the office, on the move, etc.
Not purely limited to while the cars are circling the tarmac, one TJ13 team member was fortunate enough to be browsing Twitter during the small hours of Saturday. Within moments of the news about Sebastian Vettel being broken by the Red Bull management, the world was richer with the knowledge thanks to social media – something that would not have happened nearly as quickly in days of yesteryear.
Immediately, others were informed demonstrating the power these platforms have.
This was a positive use of the medium, however, where there is a Jeckyll there is also a Hyde.
Sunday saw the bad side of social media and highlighted the absolute need for having a central source of Formula One information. The tragic events that unfolded following Jules Bianchi aquaplaning into the stationary recovery vehicle attending to the recovery of Adrian Sutil’s car which had also aquaplaned into the barriers left many confused, worried and speculating as to Bianchi’s health.
Those who had even a grain of information of the incident were offered the attention of a worldwide audience at the tap of a button. Information was unsecure and unverified from many as #ForzaJules trended on all continents. The dangers in this situation are obvious, as there are those cretinous individuals who will stop at no length in search of their 5 minutes of fame.
In this instance, the requirement for a central source of information is paramount to the effective communication of sensitive information. Whatever people think of the incident itself, the fact it has happened cannot be altered as the inevitable knives are sharpened looking for something and someone to blame.
In a new world where data transfer is instantaneous, FOM has a responsibility to move with it for the safety of delicate information. If the dwindling TV audiences are not enough, maybe an incident like Bianchi’s should act as wake up call to those at the top of the series. Forget promotion and growth, at times like this leadership is required from those at the top.
The question that lingers is will Formula One Management and the FIA listen, or will the issue once again be brushed under the carpet?
Safety under microscope following tragic scenes at Suzuka
Anyone who uses social media will have received or seen images from Suzuka. The TV pictures have to date not been released which would show how the accident happened although Sutil claims that it was similar to the trajectory that his car took when he aquaplaned off the track.
Martin Brundle spoke with measured tones as he watched the scene unfold, having experienced this terrifying journey himself twenty years ago. If F1 is going to applaud itself over twenty years of safety, surely it is about time that these antiquated tractors are either update or removed completely. There will be discussions over yellow flags, safety cars and drivers keeping to a delta but is this really the only way that the sport can progress – through reactive measures.. .
Update: A contributor found this picture and sent it in. We cannot confirm that this is the tractor unit that Bianchi hit but the coloured barrier to the right and blown tyre would suggest its genuine. In addition, the bent skid plate bears marks of a collision – which we all hope was caused by the roll bar of the car hitting it…
One picture was circulated, to a surprising amount of righteous indignation by people on twitter. One person commented, “You must have been near the scene. Shame on you”.
Taki Inoue reposted the picture and received a tirade of abuse.
“Why post the picture? show some dignity”.
“It’s really disrespectful to share photographs of a guy fighting for his life in hospital. Jesus”.
“Absolutely. There are family members and friends of him on here. I don´t think they need to see that! It´s bad enough!”
“Where is your brain!? you really think Jules fans wants to watch these kinds of pics? You should remove it”.
The list of similar comments goes on and on and on…
However, this is not a graphic or gore indulgent picture depicting someone in severe distress. Any distress is inferred in the mind of the readers.
In fact for this writer, having seen a number of pictures of the car following Bianchi’s extraction, this particular shot was of great relief. Other photographic evidence implied Jules could have suffered injuries as severe as a partial decapitation. Clearly here, his helmet is mostly in tact, though the sight of the roll bar completely missing is truly frightening.
Further, it is important due to the appropriate/inappropriate censorship by FOM of the TV pictures, that public comment can be made on the safety standards as presided over by the FIA.
Roll bar crash tests obviously do not accommodate the possibility of impact with a digger removing a stranded car, which ripped the structure completely away.
Of course not every accident can be prevented and Motorsports are dangerous, however, a number of circumstances surrounding this crash will definitely will affect safety protocols for F1 from hereonin.
Sutil suggests fading light may be to blame
TV camera technology is simply staggering. In a football stadium, the bright light of the sun is filtered so it appears normal on TV. In a tennis arena as the natural light fades, the camera pick up the merest hint of light and once again make transmission around the world a secondary consideration.
At times, over the years, races have been set in the Far East and Australia to start at times that are better suited to European tastes. Considering Bernie wants a World Championship with exotic locations paying him millions in hosting fees, the TV schedules are set around the historic centre of F1 – Europe.
The camera technology used makes the event appear as though it is mid-afternoon but as this picture shows, the cars returning to the pits after the red flag are in anything but light.
Adrian Sutil believes that the fading light and worsening conditions made it practically impossible to see the track surface properly.
“It was quite difficult. In the end we got more rain and it was dark, so visibility was getting less and less and this corner was a tricky one the whole way through, you couldn’t see where the wet patches were and that is why I lost the car and it really surprised me. Bianchi’s crash was the same as what happened to me – he had aquaplaning but just one lap later.”
“Following the accident involving Jules Bianchi during yesterday’s 2014 Formula One Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka Circuit, the Marussia F1 Team would like to acknowledge the huge outpouring of support and affection for Jules and the Team at this very difficult time.
With regard to the communication of information concerning Jules’ medical condition, we will respect, and be guided by, the wishes of the Bianchi family. Together with Jules’ care, they will remain our highest priority. Therefore, we would ask for patience and understanding with regard to further medical updates, which will be communicated in conjunction with the Mie General Medical Center in Yokkaichi, where Jules is being treated, when they feel it is appropriate.
Representatives of the Marussia F1 Team and Scuderia Ferrari will remain at the hospital to support Jules and the Bianchi family”.
Wurz says lessons will be learned
The newly elected chairman of the GPDA has given an interview with ORF where he shares his thoughts on the incidents in Suzuka.
When asked about Jules Bianchi’s present condition, Wurz replied, “I have no new information about the accident. We have heard he [Jules] crashed sideways into the tow vehicle and that the roll bar has torn away. As to how the accident occurred, I have no information.”
According to SKY’s Craig Slater, Jules Bianchi is not breathing for himself since the operation. However, Alexander Wurz reveals, “Very shortly after the collision, he was still conscious but then become unconscious. He was breathing for himself and it was not necessary to resuscitate him. Whether this is a good or bad news, I cannot judge, because I’m not an expert.
Following the incident, there was initial outrage that the medical helicopter was unable to fly. The rules laid down by the FIA state if the medical helicopter cannot fly, the cars cannot be on track.
However, Alexander Wurz confirms it was a medical decision made by the doctors to transport Bianchi by road to the hospital, which was 10 minutes drive with a police escort.
Further, Wurz refuses to be drawn when asked should the safety car have been released once Sutil’s car had hit the barrier. “Hindsight is always smarter. But you have to say one thing, the FIA has always seen safety as most important this year. You have to now analyze whether more could be done and if someone is to blame – but we must wait and see. One thing I have learned during the work I’ve done with many organisations on safety is that you cannot draw premature conclusions. We must wait until we have all the facts together first, to obtain a judgment and secondly, so as to learn from the accident.. . “
In conclusion, Wurz affirms his commitment to an ongoing improvement in asafety for Formula 1 drivers and track officials alike, however, as a racer he known, “motor sport is dangerous and always has an element of risk, because cars travel at high speed and if you lose control you are like a ballistic projectile, an uncontrollable energy.”
To sell of not to sell F1
Private Equity firms generally like to invest in a project, get out within 3-5 years having made a multiple of 4 times their investment.
Of course many investments go belly up and so the investors lose their shirts.
CVC bought the commercial rights to F1 in 2005, so 9 years is an eternity in their world of corporate finance. Of course a failed attempt was made to float the sport on the Singapore Stock Exchange, though the global credit crunch scuppered that idea.
In the meantime to mitigate their risk, CVC have sold their stake down to just 35%, part of which may have been due to the potential ramifications should Ecclestone have been found guilty of his bribery charges this year.
Bloomberg reported last week that CVC were once again looking to sell their stake in Formula One, with the likely buyer being John Malone of media network Liberty Global which owns Virgin Media.
The Telegraph today however reports CVC are in no hurry. “I don’t think anything has changed,” Ecclestone is quoted as stating. “I think Malone still wants to do something. It’s incredible to me why people take so long to do something they say they want to do.”
Ecclestone implies that it may even be too late for Libery, “I don’t think CVC are going to pursue a sale actively. Not by the end of the year for sure.”
The 2013 figures have just been revealed for Formula One, showing an increased profit of over £300m, on revenues of £1 billion.
Corporate hospitality revenues were fairly static at around £53m, whilst advertising and sponsorship revenues grew by some £32m due primarily to deals done with Rolex and Emirates. The net profit from these activities plus £3m profit from GP2/3 of £3m is around £145m. The rest of the £315m profit is from TV deals and race hosting fee’s.
If we consider this is an all time profit high for CVC, who have already banked £2,6bn from the sport, after buying the commercial rights for £573.8m from its investment Fund IV and a £653.7 from Royal Bank of Scotland loans.
TJ13 believes, but cannot confirm, that a further £1bn in loans has been leveraged against the future revenues of Formula 1, and paid out in dividends to the shareholders. This would bring the indebtedness to over £2bn.
However, it is difficult to see how values of £3-6bn can be seriously touted by CVC for the sport, as valuations for business of the order of 10 and 20 times multiples of profit would require a far higher predicted growth curve than Formula 1 at present can demonstrate.
New races in Mexico and Azerbaijan are due to come on stream over the next 2 years, however, recent history suggests that Ecclestone has struggled to make an absolute net gain in the number of events on the calendar, as new venues come on board.
Further, for 2015 Mr. E now has the headache over the German GP once again, as the failed sale of the Nurburgring leaves it in no position to host the race, unless again the fee is waved by FOM as in 2013.
Despite Ecclestone’s sanguine assertions that CVC are relaxed about when they sell F1, It may simply be, CVC have highly overoptimistic valuations they expect Malone to meet, and Liberty Media are just refusing to pay too high a price.
Honda teaser video
Apologies, Honda have not provided the facility for this be embedded
Villeneuve calls for Safety Car rule change
Following Jules Bianchi’s accident in Suzuka, former F1 World Champion Jacques Villeneuve has called for changes in the safety car protocols. “The rules have to be changed concerning the safety car. When I was racing, and afterwards, I was always saying that any time there is an accident there should be a safety car”.
Villeneuve believes that following the safety car reduces the opportunity for drivers to make decisions on how fast they should drive through yellow or double waved yellow flag sections of a circuit.
“There should not be room for judgement. If someone has to go out to pick up a car stranded on the track, it’s simple. Accident – safety car, and that’s it. It should have been like that for years. America has had that forever.”
Jacques’ argument is the FIA have become impotent in their decision making
“The problem now is every time the FIA send the safety car out all the media and fans complain, saying they destroyed the race. So now they second-guess themselves. It’s a lose-lose situation. Yes, sometimes it does slow the race down a bit, but at least you avoid cases like today, and you avoid the human aspect of having to make a decision”.
Sympathetic spinning is a commonly known feature of motorsport from karting upwards and Villeneuve argues this makes incidents at the same point on the track even more likely. “Quite often people spin when other cars have spun and they just miss them by inches.”
Finally, Jacques questions the drivers’ responses to seeing yellow flags, whether single or double waved. “I never really like just having yellow flags. You do slow down, but how much? And you could have a puncture, or a suspension failure. I’m amazed something like this has never happened before. I think we’ve just been lucky before”
Slower is indeed safer, but Villeneuve is ignoring the fact that the safety car effect may not have been influential in Jules case, due to track position. In fact he argues well that there should be a stronger response from the drivers to yellow and double waved yellow flags together with proper punishment for those who transgress.
This is not to say Jules accident is his own fault, because drivers will drive to the limit of their technology, experience and the rules which allow them to go racing.
Sutil surveys the scene
It is a small wonder Adrian Sutil appeared shell shocked as he spoke to F1 reportrs on the eve of the Japanese GP as these pictures reveals
With Bianchi still in the car, and miraculously alive thankfully.
A video of the incident was briefly posted on YouTube before FOM removed it. The JCB digger had backed up 10-20 years with the stricken Sauber in the air and a marshal dangerously balancing it on a wire track side of the Sauber.
The JCB still reversing had just left the gravel trap and was crossing a service road which appeared to run at around 90 degrees from the barrier towards the track.
Bianchi’s car comes at high speed (apparently a lot quicker than Sutil’s prior to impact) into the frame, travelling along the concrete/tarmac road and not in the gravel, and the left hand side of the Marussia car travels underneath the counterweight balance at the back. It did not collide laterally, but close to 90 degrees of the direction of travel of the JCB recovery vehicle.
The speed and force of the impact lift the JCB into the air and rotate it through the direction of travel.