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Previously on The Judge 13:
OTD Lite: 1996 – Damon Hill becomes champion
It seems scarcely believable that today marks eighteen years since Damon Hill won the Japanese Grand Prix to secure his World title. He held off the attention of rookie Jacques Villeneuve who crashed out when his rear wheel came off but either way – after starting from pole – JV made a poor getaway and was behind the champion elect when he retired.
Hill entered the record books as the first, and to date only, son of a Formula One champion to take the title. But was this all his ability merited? Did Sir Frank sacking him reflect on a career that included a quite sublime piece of driving in the 1994 Japanese race at Suzuka? Did comparison to Michael Schumacher’s brilliance consign him to the label of a hard-working driver that maximised his one shot at the title? Is it even fair that his title is often credited to Adrian Newey in much the same fashion that Mansell, Prost and Villeneuve also dominated in Newey designed Williams?
Yes, he sat in a dominant Williams from 1993 to 1996 but he almost won with Arrows in 1997 and did with Jordan in 1998. A quiet and considered man who deserves far more credit than his place in the various lists currently suggests.
Vettel to use 6th Power Unit in Austin
A source from Germany has informed TJ13 that Sebastien Vettel will not be participating in qualifying for the forthcoming Austin Grand Prix.
Speaking on German TV – barely minutes after finishing the inaugural Russian Grand Prix in Sochi – Seb revealed that he would be incurring a huge penalty by replacing everything PU related and will therefore start from the pit-lane to save mileage on the engine. With the appropriate penalties applied for the use of the sixth item it would have meant the four time champion would be starting twenty first anyway.
Of course with Austin having witnessed Ferrari breaking the ‘spirit of the rules’ to favour one driver over another, many will believe this is Red Bull falling out of love with the young German and making it easier for Colgate Kid to chase the Silver Arrows but that would be to suggest that this hasn’t been an expected outcome for some races anyway.
Without confirmation of where finger boy is going to park his behind next season, it can only be surmised that it will not be Renault powered.
Yellow flags – teams want safety, drivers seek equality
The FIA announced plans over the weekend about a new double waved yellow flag protocol that is to be tested at the next race in Austin with Race director Charlie Whiting suggesting a system that forces drivers to slow down in a yellow flag zone.
Eric Boullier said that the FIA “is planning to test it during free practices in Austin, that’s my understanding, but we don’t have the final go. I know there is a discussion to go and try it, which actually is a good system. It could work.”
Williams’ Rob Smedley offered the view that the physical pit lane speed limiter and the proxy limit used when under safety car conditions could be transferred across and that this technology was “not a great ask for Formula One or the drivers to get used to,” – indeed! TJ13 has strenuously argued this for sometime.
Of course the ‘nuts’ that sit behind the wheel view this from a completely different perspective. Whereas the teams look at the technology involved, the drivers look at the system being fair to all on track. It is more than obvious that if a zone is yellow for a short time only a number would be harnessed by the go-slow enforcement; thereby losing time to other drivers.
Back in 2010, at the European GP in Valencia, Mark Webber took flight after hitting the back of Heikki Kovalainen’s car. A safety car was deployed which failed to pick up the first two drivers – Sebastien Vettel and Lewis Hamilton – who then ran a full lap at racing speed to take advantage as the rest of the field was held up; in effect earning themselves a free pit-stop much to the annoyance of their competitors.
As to the introduction of new safety measures Alonso himself raised a point in a driver’s briefing after having raced on an indoor karting circuit between Singapore and Japan, “..when there was a yellow flag they (the organisers) push a button and the engine cuts, and everybody goes at the same speed.”
“If some kind of system can be done in F1, that it’s the same for everybody, that everybody maintains the same gap, there is no crash, there is nothing to be done, just to go with the limit of the speed, then that is a good thing.”
Vettel agreed: “What needs to be done is to make it as fair as possible. I’m sure we have the opportunity with the current systems and technology. It shouldn’t be a big problem. It’s just about finding the right compromise so everyone is happy – our priority is safety, and after that is the sport, so we want to make it as fair as we can.”
Lewis Hamilton echoed Alonso’s comments about a circuit wide restrictor: “The problem with flags is that you want to be safe, but you want to lose as little time as possible, so you’re on a knife edge with it. So if they put a limiter in that takes the pressure off us from doing anything or cutting our chances of making mistakes.”
The irony of this may be, we end up with a driver operated pit lane speed restrictor switch. This does not fit Charlie’s latest wheeze of “removing the decision to slow down from the drivers. It merely enforces the FIA sporting code definition of the double waved yellow flag principle. Charlie Whiting chose to usurpethis World Motor Sport Council mandate by directing the F1 drivers that under a double waved yellow caution during 2014 Formula 1 races, they would not be penalised if they demonstrated slowing and adding an incremental time of 0.5 seconds or more.
Is Alonso to replace downbeat Button
With Alonso telling NBC that he would not be driving a Mercedes powered car next year – discounting the possibility of a sabbatical – it leaves only two options for the Spanish Samurai. Mclaren-Honda or, staggeringly, staying at Ferrari..
“Look the most important thing is Jules. We hope that when we arrive in Austin we have received good news. As to my future is not important and as I said in Japan, my future is already set – or already set in my mind for some months. Now we are finalising everything, it is not a big thing. You need to be patient, you need to wait a little bit. I cannot say anything until everything is completely done but it’s good and I will do the best for my future and the best for the future of Ferrari because it is the team that I love. When you know it you will say ‘it was so obvious you will do that'”
Jenson Button qualified 4th in Sochi and his demeanor in respective TV interviews afterwards seemed decidedly distant – something that was picked up by the BBC’s presenters. After qualifying fourth – his best dry weather grid position of the year – he stated “We were strong but then this morning we were nowhere. The important thing is we kept our heads and had a much better car in qualifying. It’s difficult for everyone out there in terms of are you going to get your tyres working for timed laps and also with the temperature, so it was nice to get that lap in.”
After the race he seemed similarly troubled and once again Suzi Perry, Eddie Jordan and David Coulthard wrestled with the question, what was wrong with Jense.. could it be sayonara to the Frome Flyer.
With one of the most unusual ‘silly season’s’ in progress, it is making for fascinating viewing for when the dust settles. Today also represents the departure of Il Padrino and the coronation of Sergio Marchionne and undoubtedly many of the mysteries will be clarified in the forthcoming weeks before the circus arrives in Austin, Texas at the beginning of November.
(sourced from GMM with TJ13 comment)
No team orders as Red Bull concedes title for Ricciardo
Red Bull has decided against boosting Daniel Ricciardo’s slim championship hopes by making departing Sebastian Vettel the team ‘number 2’. After a difficult weekend in Russia, Australian Ricciardo is now a distant 92 points behind championship leader Lewis Hamilton — with only 100 more on offer over the final three grands prix of 2014. “Daniel would have to win all three,” Red Bull chief Christian Horner is quoted by Auto Motor und Sport, “and the Mercedes drivers not finish.”
“I think it’s just between Lewis and Nico now,” he was quoted as saying elsewhere. When running behind the seemingly Ferrari-bound Vettel on Sunday, Ricciardo pleaded over the radio early in the race that he could be driving quicker than his teammate. It was the obvious request for a team order.
“Looking at the championship standings,” Horner explained afterwards, “team orders at this point don’t make much sense.” Red Bull’s decision to part on the best possible terms with Vettel might be an order right from the top, with team owner Dietrich Mateschitz having groomed the four-time world champion from boyhood.
Billionaire Mateschitz told Salzburger Nachrichten newspaper on Sunday: “Vettel is now excluded from all developments that we are doing for next year’s car. But that doesn’t mean that we are going to give him inferior material to Ricciardo. He will be treated identically in all of the remaining races,” he insisted.
TJ13 comment: Of course it is perfectly natural that as drivers move they will receive no data on the next season’s car although with the complex nature of these cars and the rate of development – it is questionable just how much they would carry over. Whatever, it has been a seasoned practice for decades.
“…He will be treated identically in all of the remaining races..” The Vettel fan will automatically ask if this is relative to his first five years with the team where he has been the favoured son generally or in relation to his annus horibbilus of 2014 where anything that could go wrong has done. Although the cynically minded would question why has RBR been providing inferior material most of the year…
It would be simple to suggest that with Daniel aboard the Red Bull express, the team lost interest in their quadruple champion but at times it has seemed that as with all driver projects that are run by the rabid Helmut Marko – once you have reached your sell-by date you have limited days as a fixture.
TJ13 believes as a result of Red Bull’s programme and the remuneration (or lack of) they paid to their 2 and 3 times world champion, over the next 5-10 years, the life span of an F1 career – even for a successful driver – will be drastically shortened to around 4-6 years. Teams will spend their cash on cars, not as Ferrari did this year… 64M euros on drivers.
Lauda watch – A tribute to Mercedes
A once regular feature has fallen by the wayside during 2014. Much of the reason for this is because the Toto Wolff media diary, has scheduled vast quantities of Tot’s consciousness to be released on a daily basis. Yes, hard to believe Niki has been somewhat eclipsed in the media spotlight.
That said, Lauda does most of his pontificating on German TV, where he deftly switches hats between independent F1 commentator and Mercedes AMG F1 propaganda merchant extraordinaire.
TJ13 tweeted it’s congratulations to Ross Brawn minutes after the chequered flag fell and was surprised to hear the following comment from Lauda.
“When we started this Mercedes team together Ross Brawn, Paddy Lowe, Toto Wolff and myself – it was hard work. But in the second year we came from second to first”.
Due to his extensive daily exercises in verbosity, Toto faired a little better in the ‘credit where credit’s due’ honorarium.
“The foundations of this success were built by Ross and he played such an important role in the team to prepare this success,” said Wolff.
“We have been able to continue that work, making the right decisions, putting the right resources in place and putting the team on an upward slope; today’s achievement is the result of that. Well done to every single member of the team in the UK and Germany for this world championship.”
Clearly, in “Niki’s World”, reality only exists when his magnificent presence is manifest in person, and all else is perception and supposition.
Niki also made it clear in two public interviews that “Lewis is flying home with me”, though he stopped short of awarding Hamilton the accolade of ‘bestist driver ever’, clearly because Niki himself would be wearing that crown.
It would be amusing when Ross Brawn rocks up in Woking, were the McLaren Honda partnership to do to Mercedes what Mercedes have done to all others this year.
Despite having the most uber dominant car for over 20 years, the Mercedes management have regularly appeared to be in complete disarray – or as Toto says, “wearing their hearts on their sleeves”.
The pressure on the Mercedes trio – the leprechaun, the oversized Ballerina and omniscient mind – from a decent competitor in 2015, may prove to deliver more off track entertainment than Sochi.
Despite Toto’s inane attempts at honest introspection – “making the right decisions” – true followers of the sport know the racing between Rosberg and Hamilton has been neutered extensively, and we may all be denied the grandstand finish to the drivers’ championship for which we hoped.
Rosberg appears keen to deny Mercedes AMG F1, the footage they crave of the cars dicing with each other as in Bahrain. That said, the strictures placed upon the race strategies of the drivers makes a first corner lunge all the more desperate an affair, which deny us the wheel to wheel battles we enjoy.
In fact, the memorable photograph of two Hybrid W05’s together on track, to the casual observer may look as though one of them is on fire.
Well done to Mercedes on winning their first and the 2014 F1 constructors; title.
Unfortunately, at the same time they lost the respect and support of the fans who wanted Mercedes to end the Red Bull era of Domination.
Winning more races than his team mate (which cannot be overturned now) will make Hamilton a worthy champion, though the stench of secretive “Deutschland discipline” will hang as a pall over the year of Formula One racing in 2014 as part of the historic record.
Pirelli cock up Brazil tyre compound selection
TJ13 reported last week, the tyre compound selections Pirelli have made for the final three races of the season.
The Italian company have selected tyres at least half a step softer than in previous years for both Austin and Abu Dhabi. The same selection of medium and hard has been made for Interlagos, Brazil.
This is in effect a step harder than previously, as the 2014 rubber compounds of super soft, soft, medium and hard, sit a little on the harder side when compared to their specifications for 2013.
Alonso glad of some respite from the relentless questioning over his future states, “I think it is surprising what [compounds] they have selected for the last few races, especially Brazil.”
Massa, developing the stereotype of the paddocks angriest or most outspoken driver is nigh on apoplectic. “Interlagos has never been a track where you need the hard and medium. It would even be possible to drive there with soft and medium or even super-soft and soft if you’re conservative, maybe.”
Massa argues the choice by Pirelli to take the hardest compounds to Interlagos since their return to the Sport in 2011 is in fact dangerous. “It is completely unacceptable. It could be cold, it could be damp, I think it could even be dangerous on the hard tyres. I don’t understand the decision”.
As we saw in Sochi and Austin (2012), new asphalt takes time for the embedded stones to become properly exposed above the pristine rollered new condition in which they are laid. This initially creates a lower grip circuit and there is also significantly lower tyre degradation.
Nico Rosberg had been astounded all weekend in Sochi over the fact the teams had not seen a surface like this all year.”The tyres just don’t wear out”, he said following FP2.
Interlagos has begun a renovation programme insisted upon by FOM for the extension of their contract to host an annual F1 race. This year, the entire racing surface has been re-laid, and should hence offer similar properties to Sochi and Austin (20120).
Lower grip tyres than in 2013 in a location where the surface will be lower in grip than in 2013 together with likely damp and cold, do not appear a rational choice as Massa observes.
‘Felipe baby’ has apparently got tough and collared a Pirelli representative to demand an explanation. “He said I’m right,“ says Massa. “I said they need to change it and he just said that he cannot make the decision. So I asked him to go to someone who can decide!”
It appears F1 is going through one of those brain fade phases at present. When questioned about Massa’s comments, Paul Hembery of Pirelli replied, “Historically, we always take hard tyres there”.
Historically TB was a global killer.
Though due to an apparent oversight, Hembery admits, “Now there is new asphalt so we’ll check again. If there are technical reasons to go softer, we’ll talk about it.”
It appears inevitable Pirelli will change the tyre selection for Brazil, though expect Paul Hembery to find some way of explaining away the cock up made by Pirelli in failing to consider the new circuit surface at Interlagos.
Caterham cars not coming home
The Russian GP saw many strange events, one being a bemused Kamui Kobayashi interviewed during the race following his retirement. Natalie Pinkham asked the Japanese driver why he had been forced to retire. His response was unusual. “I don’t know”, said Kamui.
Kobayashi revealed he was having the time of his life out on track and the car felt “great” and when pressed by Pinkham again why the team had forced him to retire the car back into the garage, a bemused Kamui chuckled and said, “I don’t know”.
In a subsequent interview with BBC radio 5 live, Kobayashi appeared to be more forthcoming – or better briefed. He now stated, “Nothing wrong with the car. The team asked me to stop the car to save mileage. We have a lot of mileage limitation to avoid things going wrong with the parts. This is why I get message from top management.”
In his post race round up, Ted Kravitz revealed that Caterham had informed him the issue was with the brakes overheating. On top form, Kravitz commented, “its what the team say, so we have to believe them”.
As TJ13 predicted in our exclusive feature prior to the Japanese GP entitled, “The Caterham Scam”, we revealed the race cars and equipment would not be returning to the UK despite the three week break between the Sochi and Austin race weekends.
The cars which raced yesterday in Sochi, together with all the kit required to service and maintain the vehicles over the race weekend – along with some spares – have been sent to the Colin Kolles facility Greding, Germany.
This is clearly to avoid the winding up hearing scheduled for Caterham Sports Ltd on November 11th 2014.
Vettel Exit from Red Bull – Matteschitz understands, Marko lies
There‘s a marked difference in Sebastian Vettel‘s behaviour lately. Had he taken his horrible season so far with unexpected grace, the patience seems to be wearing thin for the soon-to-be dethroned reigning world champion.
While the German had mostly abstained from criticising his team, even for blatant errors (or perhaps even deliberate slights) like the ridiculous strategies at Canada and Monza, it appears that it becomes more and more difficult for him to hide his frustration, even though he has clearly closed the chapter “Red Bull” in his career.
Like his childhood hero Schumacher he is on very friendly terms with RTL’s interviewer Kai Ebel, probably better known to the English speaking audience for his outrageous clothing style. If you see a man, who looks like his clothes have been selected by Ray Charles, jostling for position with Martin Brundle during the pitwalk – that’s Kai Ebel.
Whenever he’s not on the podium – something that happened often enough this year – Vettel usually gives his first interview to Ebel. The interview at Sotchi was telling in two ways. First of all was he speaking in uncharacteristic short and clipped sentences, omitting the little quips he normally laces his speech with – a clear sign that he was barely containing frustration and anger.
After explaining tersely that he didn’t consider his team’s strategy call particularly fortunate, he brushed the just-finished race aside and, without having been asked for it, delivered an outlook on the next race that was oozing sarcasm.
“Next race will be tricky. I don’t think I’ll be particularly busy on Saturday. I think I’ll sit out qualifying, because we start from the pitlane on Sunday anyway. The rules are really fancy this year in this regard. Since we are on the limit as far as mileage is concerned, we’ll have to wheel out an additional engine and there’s no point in wasting miles on trying to qualify somewhere between 1st and 20th if you start from the pitlane anyway.”
In a later interview with Motorsport Total he described the five engines per year rule as ‘completely brain dead’ and revealed that they had planned to take the penalty in Sotchi, where the car was hopeless anyway. But Russian customs prevented any new parts from being flown in.
Meanwhile team owner Dietrich Matteschitz offered an understanding reaction to Vettel’s decision to leave the team. “Sometimes it’s just the right time for a change of scenery. The nimbus of Ferrari, the chance to be part of bringing Ferrari back to the top – I have all understanding in the world for that decision.”
Motor-mouth Dr. Helmut Marko is not quite as magnanimous and reveals that the team knew since at least the summer break that Vettel was talking to other teams. “Towards the end of the summer break the signs got more and more obvious. We urged him to activate the release clause immediately or have the clause stricken from the contract. His management declined both options.”
Really Dr. Marko?
First of all, Vettel does not have a management. He negotiates all his deals himself. So it was Seb, who declined, not some un-named manager. Secondly, he had no chance to activate the release clause as that was tied to his championship position on Sept. 30th with still three races to go until then and the theoretical chance to still reach 3rd in the standings and thereby nullifying the release clause. Unless of course Mr. Marko already knew at that point that Seb would not fare well in the races ahead. Still, from a legal point of view there was no way to activate the clause at that point.
It appears that things have gone truly sour between Red Bull and their former flagship driver. The pit-radio conversations for most of the weekend have been frosty at best and the strategy they ‘chose’ for him would probably not serve as a sign of the team being still willing to ride out the contract in style.