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Previously on The Judge 13:
OTD Lite: 1963 – Jim Clark – A legend wins in Mexico
Jim Clark. Two words that when combined, makes any aficionado of Grand Prix racing dissolve into monochromes, as they remember delicate low slung cars being driven with the soft touch of an artist. On this day in history, Clark’s victory in Mexico would equal the record – of six victories in a season – that Juan Manuel Fangio had set in 1954. The Scotsman would also win the last race to take the record to seven by year’s end.
Yet in the last decade or two, we automatically assume that domination is achieved by a great car, irrespective of the talent behind the wheel. Watching Vettel winning constantly was to believe that his car was the dominant factor. Yet if this were true, why did Mark Webber not consistently finish as runner up?
Jim Clark dominated with the 25 because the combination of driver and car was supreme. The results of his team-mates prove that the car was not the world beater we always assume it was.
Jackie Stewart: “He was so smooth, he was so clean, he drove with such finesse. He never bullied a racing car, he sort of caressed it into doing the things he wanted it to do.”
“Think lightly of yourself and deeply of the world” – The Samurai Jackal
Alonso in deadlock with Ferrari over contract
An intriguing rumour has appeared in Spanish publication ‘Marca’ about a possible reason for the delay in Ferrari announcing the signing of four time World Champion Sebastian Vettel.
Currently, the Scuderia drivers entered for next year’s championship stand as Kimi Raikkonen and Fernando Alonso. The tense situation between the Italian giants and the Spaniard appears to be in deadlock because although Ferrari keep placing deadlines for Fred’s departure he just lets the dates slip by.
Marco Mattiacci received a cool reception from the Asturian when he first joined as a replacement for Stefano Domenicali – yet within months the frostiness had thawed a little with Fernando praising progress within the team structure.
Over the summer the Spanish Samurai began making noises that he wanted to remain with Ferrari because that was where his heart was and anyway, there was a penalty to be paid if he wanted to leave. Sergio Marchionne and Mattiacci made it clear that they would waive the sum and he was free to do as he wished.
In Suzuka, following the Red Bull announcement that Seb was leaving the Milton Keynes squad, Marco and Fernando had a heated altercation and Alonso made it clear he was not going to leave the team so easily. Initially the media thought he had asked to leave the squad something which he later denied.
It appears that he is, in fact, in no hurry to leave the Maranello concern and take up a tenure elsewhere which could be far riskier; therefore his departure is nowhere close to being settled. The Scuderia have assured Vettel that the contract he has signed still stands but first they have to dispatch one of their drivers. The announcement could come in Austin, possibly Brazil or even be delayed until December.
Part of the problem is that to offload the Asturian, Ferrari would need to pay him an estimated €50 million as recompense for the next two contracted seasons – which has similar undertones to what happened when they decided to force Kimi out in 2009 to make way for, ironically, the Spaniard and the Santander sponsorship.
Without doubt, Alonso is recognised as one of the toughest competitors on the track but it remains to be seen how he measures up to one of the toughest business leaders in the corporate world – Fiat-Chrysler boss – Marchionne. Although if the teams have to run three cars…
Lotus already prepared for 2015 debut
Unlike 2014 when Lotus took the decision to miss the first of the winter test sessions, the team is very advanced in their preparations for 2015.
After enduring an abysmal 2014, the fresh impetus of running the leading Mercedes Power Unit has galvanised the Enstone team as they lay the foundations for their upcoming new car.
Lotus will be running a new nose in Austin free practice as has been decreed by the change in regulations for next season. Technical Director, Nick Chester has confirmed that it will only be for evaluation purposes and to get some feedback of the aerodynamic data.
“It will be a design that will feature on the E23 as it hasn’t been optimised for the current E22- it will be an interesting comparison.”
Since the Hungarian GP “all resources have been directed towards the E23 and we are starting to build the first chassis. The transmission has been signed off and we will begin constructing that too. We have spoken with Mercedes about the unit’s cooling requirements and the installation of the engine.”
“Mercedes have been really professional and our working relationship is great. Next year I will have been at Enstone for twenty years and we have always been powered with Renault engines. There are differences between their working practices but to be honest changing manufacturers for next year is far less complicated than it was from the V8 engines to the V6’s for this season. It is an exciting time working through the different solutions.”
Minardi – Critical of current Formula One business model
As ever, Giancarlo Minardi offers a quite unique viewpoint on the current situation that is facing Formula One. As a much respected member of the F1 community and a former team owner, his voice carries a certain authority and whilst at times people compare him unfairly to BBC pundit Eddie Jordan, his wisdom rarely fails to encompass many people’s feeling about the state of the sport.
The ex-Faenza boss writes a column for Minardi.it and this week he offers his feelings in regards to the financial problems that have afflicted the two newest teams that have had to go into administration and how it is a ‘bonus’ to avoid having to travel to the American continents because Bernie has allowed them to.
“It’s a bad blow for F1 and it is a shame these two teams and the four lads driving for them will be missing. The changes in regulations have brought a heavy financial burden on these teams that were already struggling – yet it seems very strange that Marussia who currently lie ninth ahead of Sauber and Caterham – after the points they scored in Monaco with Jules Bianchi – have taken the route to administration. Points at the end of the year become money from the television rights which would make life far easier.”
“Ignoring the top teams, all others are not finding life easy. Then again the powers-that-be should have counted to ten first before making decisions about new power units and double points to avoid finding ourselves in the situation where teams welcome the ‘bonus’ of not participating at a round of the pinnacle motor-sport.”
“The FIA needs to take more control too. It is ridiculous what is happening with Caterham. How can you have rescuers who turn up and disappear just as quickly as a soap bubble.”
“I don’t like the idea of three car teams but if it has to be adopted then it should be used to bring on young talent. But what is of more concern is the declining TV viewers. Could it be that the calendar is too busy? Twenty races means twenty weekends in front of the television and maybe these days that is too much.. because even the truly passionate fans are losing interest in the sport…”
The rules on customer cars at present do not allow as Ecclestone has suggested, one team providing a car ‘good to go’ to a customer. Further, only Ferrari and Red Bull are likely to run a third car at present, so if one more team were to fail, 18 cars in Melbourne would be the smallest F1 field since 1966.
(sourced from GMM with TJ13 comment)
F1 set for three-car teams as more risk collapse
F1 risks sliding into crisis and having to reinvent its very DNA as struggling backmarker teams begin to succumb to collapse. HRT folded in 2012, and now F1’s two other newest teams Caterham and Marussia are in the throes of financial administration.
Organisers of next weekend’s US grand prix look set to welcome just 9 teams to an 18-car grid, unprecedented since BAR-Honda was banned for a time almost a decade ago. “It’s a fantastic sport,” departed Caterham founder Tony Fernandes said on Twitter at the weekend. “Bernie (Ecclestone) has done an amazing job but it needs to relook at itself.”
And former HRT driver Narain Karthikeyan added: “F1 just too expensive and completely unsustainable for minnows.” Max Mosley, the former FIA president who warned of a looming crisis in F1 years ago, quietly pointed a finger at his successor Jean Todt. “It seems that the chickens have come home to roost,” Mosley is quoted by The Times.
For now, F1 and its race promoters will have to cope with a diminished grid as big teams are promised at least two months notice before having to field three-car teams. Dipping below 20 cars is the trigger for the three-car stipulation, giving Ecclestone a buffer so as not risking his contractual promise of at least 16-car grids to the big-paying race promoters. But with Caterham and Marussia looking set to fall, it now appears possible F1 will lose even more small-sized independent teams, particularly after the sport baulked earlier this year at introducing radical cost-cutting or even a cost cap.
“Formula one is not so great that it cannot fail,” Sauber team boss and co-owner Monisha Kaltenborn is alarmingly warning, according to Italy’s La Stampa. It is not only the Swiss team that is worried. Germany’s Auto Motor und Sport claims that Force India needs to make an engine payment to Mercedes by Monday or risk joining Caterham and Marussia in missing the US grand prix.
And Force India deputy boss Bob Fernley admitted more teams are in danger of collapse. “We’ve had three new teams since 2010, and all three have collapsed,” he told the Telegraph. “The writing was on the wall from the beginning. Only five teams have a say in the running of formula one — we’ll lose more teams if we carry on like this,” said Fernley.
If the F1 grid keeps diminishing, three-car entries are inevitable. Auto Motor und Sport said Ferrari, Red Bull and McLaren are lined up by Ecclestone as first in the queue to start supplying third cars. If any of that trio declines, Mercedes is reportedly the next in line. Ferrari and Red Bull have apparently already given Ecclestone the green light, while McLaren for the moment is hesitating, perhaps due to uncertainty about who should pay for the third car — Ecclestone or the team.
Red Bull’s Dr Helmut Marko told Sport Bild he does not see a problem. “We have the capacity at Milton Keynes, and it would also solve our luxury problem of having too many good drivers for too few cars,” he said.
And Karthikeyan, who only drove for backmarker teams in his F1 career, thinks the slowest cars will not be missed. “18 cars in Austin,” he said, “but sadly no one will miss the absentees once the opening lap is completed without incident. That’s the truth.”
TJ13 comment: It is a misnomer to suggest that F1’s DNA is two car teams. Ignoring the pre-war Grand Prix era that was predominantly led by national teams and manufacturers, since the 50’s when the term Formula One was first introduced there have been multiple car teams competing in F1.
Ferrari in the 50’s entered multiple car entries in races and world championships, as did Alfa, Maserati and Mercedes. Of course these are all huge manufacturing companies and they would dominate motor-sport but by the time of the 60’s Cooper, Lotus and other manufacturers would enter multiple cars and this continued through to the mid 70’s.
It was only with the signing of a piece of paper in 1982 – The Concorde Agreement – that F1 became two car teams with every team having to design and build their own cars.
Il Padrino stated in 2010 that these three new teams made F1 a joke and they would struggle. Of course the likes of Richard Branson used the media to portray Luca Di Montezemolo as an antiquated leader and the new bosses embraced the promised budget-capped F1 – which never came to pass.
Team Lotus, Tyrrell, Brabham, Ligier, Brawn and many others account for a great number of Grand Prix victories between them but they have all disappeared from the F1 landscape – representing just a chapter of the sport. So when Karthikeyan states that no-one will miss these minnows, he is absolutely right.
F1 is safe (GMM)
An experienced F1 recovery vehicle driver in Brazil has defended his Japanese colleagues in the wake of Jules Bianchi’s horror crash. Brazil’s Globo Esporte says Rafael Ricciardi has been driving the vehicle charged with removing stricken cars from the Interlagos circuit near the pit exit for four years running.
Marussia racer Bianchi is fighting for his life after striking a nearly identical vehicle at Suzuka during the recent Japanese Grand Prix, but Ricciardi insisted: “Have no fear, everything is safe. Formula one will never be 100 per cent safe.
What happened in Japan is just part of the risk of racing. In terms of the rules, there was no problem, the procedure that had to be done was done. What happened (with the actions of the marshals) in Suzuka was right,” he said.
“An accident never has one cause, it is always a combination of circumstances. Formula one will never be 100 per cent safe,” Ricciardi added.
TJ13 comment: TJ13 readers may ponder the timing of this individual’s comment and further who may have prompted its media coverage.
However, the technology we will see to protect the “mini sectors” (up to 20 per circuit) under caution in Austin, has been in use all year. Clearly, the new action which will be taken to protect these cautioned sectors taken at the USA GP clearly demonstrates Charlie Whiting does not think – “everything is safe”, otherwise we would merely see the status quo continue.
Certain WMSC rules are enshrined to bring incremental safety, and are in no way within the Sporting Code for whimsical reasons.
If these rules are ignored, then the incremental risk of disaster is inevitable.
So far TJ13 has highlighted 2 substantive breaches by Formula 1’s regulators of the World Motor Sport Council’s bible – the Sporting Code.
Firstly, the enforcement measure used to penalise F1 drivers during the 2014 season – of a 0.5 second slower through the mini sectors than their personal best under double waved yellows – is a woeful and inadequate representation of the regulation as stated by the WMSC. “Slow down… and be prepared to stop”.
Secondly, serious questions must be asked as to why the race was running when Bianchi crashed. F1 cars can only be on track in any session, if a recognised hospital with a trauma unit is within 20 minutes by either road or helicopter from the on track medical centre.
The F1 FIA employees with responsibility to ensure this happens stated that at 10 am on Sunday morning in Suzuka, they believed the journey time to be 25 minutes. This was sufficient in their view to run the race.
The actual journey in the ambulance for Jules was either 32 minutes or even 37 minutes – depending on which source who attended the Sochi FIA briefing you believe.
Whether this affected Jules or not is irrelevant. The real question of why the cars were racing at all is one which must be addressed.
The 20 minute rule in the 2014 Japanese GP, was in fact a measure of the prevailing weather conditions – which both affected the transfer time for the ambulance to the hospital and also the appropriateness of the conditions the drivers faced as they raced on track.
Qualifying farce in Austin
The reason why F1 requires at least 20 cars, may become apparent in what could become a qualifying session of farcical proportions.
Adam Cooper implies he has been informed by ‘a source’ that once the stewards in Austin are informed they have only 18 cars, they will turn to the rule book to adopt the appropriate qualifying elimination protocols.
However, none are laid down for 18 cars, so Cooper suggests he has been given ‘the nod’ that it will be 4 cars eliminated in Q1 and four in Q2.
Sebastian Vettel is about to change his entire PU for a new one, the 6th of the year. He stated n Sochi he would not run in qualifying in Austin, but would fit the all new PU and as the regulations state, then start the race from the pit lane.
The regulation which sees incremental grid penalties for each a 6th component of the PU is introduced will encourage all teams requiring to take a 6th component for the Power Unit – to go the whole hog and fit an entire new PU instead and start in the pit lane.
This avoids a total of 30 place grid penalties being applied which could be apportioned over 2 consecutive races.
Further, by not qualifying, Vettel can set up his car for a higher top speed in the Austin race, just as he did in Abu Dhabi 2012 – when the team chose to break the parc ferme regulations rather than start from the rear of the grid.
So, if another 3 cars follow the Vettel route on this, then once again Q3 would become redundant. We are now presented with the likely farce that will see just one car being eliminated at the end of the first session of qualifying.
Here is the latest comment from Kamui Kobayashi on his facebook page.
“Unfortunately, due to team’s situation, I will not able to race in United States GP and Brazilian GP. I am very sorry for the fans looking forward those races. While I am carefully observing the situation, I will evaluate possibilities and make best choice for my future.”
Comment of the day
As a second team goes under in #F1
Pitpass.com remarked, “Surely, a “let them eat cake” moment for #F1″