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Previously on The Judge 13:
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
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.
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.
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.