#F1 Daily News and Comment: Tuesday 25th November 2014

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Previously on The Judge 13:

#TJ13 #F1 Courtroom Podcast: Romanians in the cupboard

Castrol #F1 GP Predictor Summary – Yas Marina 2014


OTD Lite: 2006 – Zanardi tests F1 car again

Driver reunion could make McLaren stronger – Dennis (GMM)

Hamilton wants to keep number 44 in 2015 (GMM)

Vettel has ‘passion for Ferrari’ – Ricciardo (GMM)


OTD Lite: 2006 – Zanardi tests F1 car again

It’s not uncommon to hear that racing drivers are a special breed. Their mental strength borders on granite and we have seen Robert Kubica return from an accident – which could have cost him his arm – and compete at the highest level in rallying; with somewhat better success than a fully able bodied Kimi Raikkonen.

One driver that has truly ignored the fate that lady luck has imposed on him is the indefatigable Alex Zanardi who having lost both legs in a near fatal accident in 2001 has returned with a passion to demonstrate the strength of the human mind. Not only has he completed the 13 laps of his ill-fated Indycar race but he has tasted success as a Paralympian and won races with BMW in WTCC.

On this day in 2006, BMW provided him with an F1 car to test and he turned in competitive times. As always with this inspiration, humour wasn’t far from his thoughts: “I was a bit too big for the cockpit of this car,” he joked, “so we cut something off my legs and made me a little bit shorter. I told the guys it was a much faster job than adjusting the pedals.”

The Grumpy Jackal

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Driver reunion could make McLaren stronger – Dennis (GMM)

Even Ron Dennis is now beginning to hint that Fernando Alonso is set to return to McLaren. In late 2007, when the Spaniard left Woking amid acrimony and the ‘spygate’ furore, a reunion with Dennis even years later appeared impossible. But the impossible now appears to be fact, with Alonso almost certainly having already signed a deal and McLaren deciding only the identity of his teammate for the Honda-powered 2015 season.

“From what I read,” said Alonso in Abu Dhabi, “I’m not the most pleasant person to work with, but the bottom line is that I can usually go back to a team where I worked before.”

Even Briton Dennis is now hinting that the most unpleasant of racing divorces does not mean the parties cannot reunite in the future. “Let me tell you my interpretation,” he told the Spanish daily AS, “because I know where you’re going. We live in a world in which marriage is a big commitment, but sometimes it doesn’t work out. But the truth is that sometimes, when you try to rebuild your marriage, you end up making it much stronger than it was before.

Dennis said a final decision about the team’s 2015 lineup will not be taken until a board meeting in December. It appears likely Alonso’s teammate will eventually be the young Dane Kevin Magnussen, with veteran Jenson Button apparently farewelling McLaren on Twitter by saying “it’s been a pleasure to call McLaren my home for the last five years”.

McLaren junior Stoffel Vandoorne will drive McLaren’s Honda-powered interim car at the Abu Dhabi test on Tuesday and Wednesday.

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Hamilton wants to keep number 44 in 2015 (GMM)

2014 world champion Lewis Hamilton wants to keep his personal race number 44 next year rather than switch to number 1. Traditionally, the reigning world champion in F1 wears the coveted number 1. But a change early in 2014, mimicking the system in MotoGP, meant drivers were able to pick their own number between 2 and 99 to keep for the rest of their careers.

Having run the number 1 throughout the season, outgoing world champion Vettel will now revert to his chosen number 5 to take to Ferrari in 2015. Mercedes’ Hamilton has run 44, and even has the number tattooed behind his right ear.

“44 is my number,” the Briton said this week, after securing his second career drivers’ title last weekend in Abu Dhabi. “I won my first championship with 44 in karting so I’ll ask the team if I can keep it on my car now. Whether the 1 is on my car or not is not important to me.”

British media sources are reporting that Hamilton is close to securing a new $30 million per season deal with Mercedes that could keep him at the team until 2020. Already with a contract for 2015, the dotted line may go unsigned until he has appointed a new management team in the coming months, but he told reporters on Monday that the 2016 contract is “a formality”.

“I haven’t made any decisions of how you go about it, but I currently have a great contract. Ultimately I think not a huge amount will change,” said Hamilton.

On Monday, it also seemed as though team boss Toto Wolff was not ready to negotiate the new deal anyway, having partied deep into Sunday night. “Definitely for me it (negotiate a contract) would not be the best thing for me to do,” the Austrian joked, while Hamilton revealed that he drank mainly watermelon juice to celebrate his title.

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Vettel has ‘passion for Ferrari’ – Ricciardo (GMM)

Daniel Ricciardo, the new de-facto number 1 at Red Bull, says he can understand why Sebastian Vettel is heading to Ferrari. It has been suggested that, after winning four titles on the trot, German Vettel could not cope with being comprehensively beaten by team newcomer Ricciardo in 2014.

But Australian Ricciardo is not sure it is quite as simple as that, even though “the team duel probably didn’t make Sebastian’s decision any harder”.

“He didn’t have the year he wanted,” Ricciardo also told Germany’s Sport Bild. “But we mustn’t lose sight of reality either. He has won four world championships with Red Bull. Would a fifth with Red Bull be as satisfying as one with a new team?

“I know how great his passion is for Ferrari,” Ricciardo explained. “Not just with F1 but also the road cars. He is a fan of the brand and its products. So I think it would have happened sooner or later.

The fact that it has come sooner for Vettel, however, means he is arriving at Maranello amid great turmoil. Stefano Domenicali, Luca di Montezemolo and now even Fernando Alonso and Marco Mattiacci have all fled during the course of a disappointing 2014 in red. The turmoil moved Ferrari’s new president Sergio Marchionne to seek to reassure the team’s staff in a letter this week that was leaked to Italy’s Autosprint.

“I understand your disappointment at the end of a season that we would all like to forget,” he wrote. “But, as often happens in life, it is the dark moments that push us into phases of renewal and rebirth, so today we have the opportunity to start a new chapter in the sports history of Ferrari.”

Marchionne said Vettel is the right choice to replace Alonso, and not just because “Sebastian and Kimi (Raikkonen) are united by a great friendship in life. We all know how important it is at this time to have a healthy team spirit,” he added, “coming from people who believe strongly in the project and want to share their commitment, sacrifices and achievements.”

Marchionne warned that the road faced by Ferrari beginning in 2015 “will not be short nor easy“, but that change “should not be feared”.

“Progress is made by those who decide to break habits and choose not to be the result of the past, but one of the causes of the future”, he concluded.

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55 responses to “#F1 Daily News and Comment: Tuesday 25th November 2014

  1. Re merc deal: staying until 2020? Is that such a good idea given how much things could change between now and then? He’d be better off extending for another 2/3 years, maybe opening up the oportunity to win a championship with Ferrari, thus being the third team to drive for and winning with them as well. It would be the perfect situation and I expect ferrari to have improved by then.

    • I don’t believe this 2020 nonsense, come on, and even if that were true, we know that contracts do break, look at Alonso. By that time, 30mil a year might not be big money. So that’s another element of not wanting to commit till then. Moreover, how would Rosberg feel if that happened? He would immediately see that Merc’s future in Lewis, not Lewis and Nico. He might even see himself as a showstopper until Bottas arrives, it might really play a role in his mentality for next year.

      And I agree. I can see Ferrari being Hamilton’s next stop, especially if Vettel doesn’t succeed there. If Vettel does succeed, then Lewis will probably go back to Macca after Alonso retires.

      • I’d expect Vettel to be at Ferrari for long term and willing to spend 2+ years to develop a winning team and car that suits his style. Follow schumis path, except that he’s got 2 more WDC already. He’s a few years younger than Lewis so has more time to wait. I somehow don’t see Vettel interested in other seats like Macca. He already has enough wins so he can focus on winning with Ferrari or not at all.

        • Granted, Vettel is 2.5 years younger, but that’s not that much. I don’t think that Vettel would walk out, but Ferrari may decide to bring someone else in. Don’t forget they kicked Schumi out to bring in Kimi, paid off Kimi to bring in Alonso and have now pushed Alonso out (you may argue he walked out) to bring in Vettel. If Vettel doesn’t succeed in the next 2-3 years and are not closer to the title I won’t be surprised in they push him out to bring in Hamilton, Rosberg, Ricciardo, Bottas, whoever will be hot property at the time.

          • Ferrari are already in talks with Bottas for 2016 as a replacement for Kimi

  2. Can’ wait to see what that Honda engine looks like! Fingers crossed it’s good news and can offer some competition to Merc.

  3. RE Driver re-union

    Similar quote by Alonso when asked as to whether he’d ever go back to Ferrari.

    “I don’t know,” Alonso said when asked if he could return to Ferrari. “More or less I know the questions you will do normally but I did expect this one so I’m not prepared to answer! At the moment it’s not an option because if you say bye-bye it’s not because five minutes later you think you might come back. I went from Renault to McLaren, then I came back to Renault. I went to Ferrari, maybe I’ll come back. It seems that people that work with me give me one door open, which is different to things I read about being difficult to work with. At the end of the day the places I work I can usually come back to so that’s a good sign.”

  4. Interesting (and disturbing) take from Autosport on why Mattiachi was sacked:
    http://www.autosport.com/news/report.php/id/116930/why-ferrari-dropped-mattiacci

    “I am fully committed to ensure Ferrari maintains its position of influence in the governance of F1,” Marchionne wrote.
    That ability to influence F1’s corridors of power appears fundamental to the change.
    It is believed that Mattiacci was not as close to the still all-powerful Bernie Ecclestone as other Ferrari bosses had been.
    There are even suggestions Mattiacci rubbed Ecclestone up the wrong way with his approach to Ferrari’s revival and his demands for wider F1 changes.
    You only need to ask former Williams CEO Adam Parr about how a team risks isolation if one of its chiefs does not get on with Ecclestone.
    In Arrivabene (pictured with Ecclestone above), Ferrari has someone who not only knows how Ecclestone works, but has been one of his closest allies for decades via his role with long-time F1 sponsor Philip Morris (Marlboro).

    So, an apparently effective manager is canned in favour of a pedlar of death, because he happens to have Ecclestone’s ear ?

  5. If Redbull are refusing to release Seb from his contract early, then why is he in the Ferrari garage during testing?

    • Because there is no regaulation that says a Red Bull driver cannot enter the garage of a rival team? He’s not allowed to drive for them or wear their team gear, but he can visit them anytime he wants and surely he’s more welcome there than in the RB garage while they’re testing 2015 parts 😉

      • Well based on the pics, he looks like he’s doing more than just ‘visiting’.

        Yes there’s no regulation that says otherwise, but he’s still contracted by Redbull… 😉

        • Be assured, the Bulls would say something if they weren’t okay with it. He is out of his contract in a few days anyway. Their only interest was to prevent him from driving a Ferrari during the test.

    • OK, now I’m going to be slated for what I’m going to say. But I remember when Lewis 2-3 years ago he likened his style to Senna’s and Alonso’s to Prost’s and then there were all those opinions flying around saying Lewis is like Senna, Alonso like Prost, Vettel like Mansell, etc, etc.

      All nonsense of course. None of Lewis/Fred/Seb are exactly like Senna/Prost/Mansell. Having said that, as things stand and with still some time till they retire, you would say that (and now I’m going to be slated) just as Senna and Prost were the top 2 closely followed by Mansell, the same occurs with Lewis and Fred, closely followed by Seb.

        • In my “victims of circumstance” adjusted league table:
          Schumacher – 5
          Damon Hill – 2
          Alonso – 4
          Hamilton – 4
          Vettel – 1
          Raikonnen – 0
          Button – 0

          • That looks absurd. You made some attempt to entirely subjectively correct for the superiority of cars in some years. But that’s not “victims of circumstance”. That’s just random.

            For instance, there’s nobody who would’ve challenged Button in 2009 other than Vettel, yet Button loses his title and Vettel only ends up with one title on your list. One can only guess who you gave that one to…

            So yes, random.

          • @Fat Hippo – Yes, I made up the Vettel 1 win, just to keep you happy.
            @KimKas – alas, Senna was no more from the start of my league
            @Auq – yes Vettel got that one, it was a toss up between Vettel or Barricello; and I thoght I should give it to Vettel just to keep the Uber fat Boss of this forum happy.
            @Paul – Massa, he never deserved a title. Just like Raikonnen, the two of them did not get their wins/points of their own accord. The two of them played a team game. Applying the same logic, then maybe i should also have taken away one or both titles from Hakinnen too, as he was helped by Coulthard.

          • So in essence it’s just to stir sh|t and provoke flames. Well, Auq has already picked apart the ‘logic’ of your list. Two titles for Hill, that alone is laughable enough and a sign of not even remembering the appropriate years.

          • even if hill had two titles, they would be worth more than the four seb hast right now, sadly. however, i am eager to see if he can prove me wrong with his upcomimg walk to canossa !

          • I don’t know what it is with your pathological hatred of Vettel, but you should see a doctor with it. It appears rather obsessive to me.

          • Even as a fan of Hill from when I first followed F1, I know that Vettel has been at the top level (2011, 2012, 2013), while Hill only won because of the Williams, same for JV.

            Senna losing pace pre-retirement could have done just as well, if not better, than both of them, and probably carried off the titles with a superior car, like Fangio did to Moss, despite Moss having the upper hand on pace from 1956 onwards, as Schumacher would have done from 1994.

          • In modern times, we would have since Schumacher, Hakkinen getting close to him, Montoya getting close to him, maybe Ralf at times, but with Alonso at the top for so long now, Hamilton joining him..

            Raikkonen and Vettel reached peak pace also, but just for not as long. This still places their peaks above Hakkinen, JPM, and Ralf, who are thus just ahead of Kubica, Rosberg, Massa and Button.

            It’ll be interesting to see if Hulk and Grosjean can join them or get stuck in the heights of Webber or Heidfeld, just below again.

      • I would actually put it as Piquet, Prost, Senna on the top level, Berger behind them, and Mansell behind Berger, which I think many people would find controversial.

        But, they were team-mates in 1989, when Berger was at his best, and Mansell probably just past his. Mansell never paired with Senna, but de Angelis did both, and he fell between them….

  6. Oh verstappen off to a bad start? Slowest and a crash? Cmon boy the dutch expect more of you!

  7. McLaren only managed to get 3 timed laps on the board today at the Abu Dhabi test with their interim car the, MP4/29H1x1 maybe 1 or 2 installation laps too but that is it. Not looking too spectacular, I was hoping to have some hope to hold tightly and build my excitement over winter, but…….I’m not feeling too full of hope right now though.

  8. What’s the consensus on Mercedes – Hamilton negotiations; hardball or roll over and tickle?
    I’m expecting the former…..

    • I think Mercedes will play hardball and Lewis will agree to take a big pay cut and maybe extend his contract to end of 2017.

      Lewis has apparently said he is no hurry to sign:
      “I definitely don’t feel like I’m looking for a new challenge. When I joined this team, I said I wanted to be a part of something that was growing and building towards the success the team had before. I feel that this is just the beginning. There’s another year to go so there’s no rush but this is my home, I feel very happy here.”

      • I think Mercedes will play hardball and Lewis will agree to take a big pay cut

        Quite unlikely, IMO.
        They didn’t with Rosberg, and its improbable that they want to destabilise the team in such a manner.

        As much as anything, F1 is a marketing exercise for them, and an unhappy Hamilton would not help that.

    • Now that Hamilton has his 2nd title, I expect he’ll at least want an extension of 1 year, possibly 2. Realistically, next year’s Mercedes will still be the class of the field but perhaps not by as much as it has been this year.

      I’m not sure about how things will go money-wise but Hamilton makes plenty from marketing activities as it is so I expect that he would take a title-winning car over more money. Although Hamilton has won this year, with his level of talent the expectation is that he should win more titles to help him make up some of the deficit on Vettel for instance.

      • ” Now that Hamilton has his 2nd title, I expect he’ll at least want an extension of 1 year, possibly 2. ”

        Yes, I agree. Hamilton has shown that he can race and beat team mates who are not “no.2 drivers” [*] and it would do him no harm to add one or two more racing and beating his highly rated team mate Rosberg.

        [ * Unlike Schumi, Alonso, and Vettel who can’t abide having equal status drivers in the team. 😉 ]

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