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Previously on The Judge 13:
Mclaren-Honda’s stuttering start (UPDATE 10:24 GMT AND &15:51 GMT)
OTD Lite: 1958 – The FIA made a decision for the benefit of the sport
In the early 21st century, we have grown accustomed to the FIA being a toothless monolith that fails to make change for the advancement of the sport. Jean Todt repeatedly displays an antipathy to making decisions and it is left to the leech commonly known as Bernie to run the port into the ground.
Yet several generations ago, the FIA approved the use of fire-retardant overalls for the drivers – who counted many amongst them being killed in the infernos that could consume a car after a crash. In fact just weeks before, Stuart Lewis-Evans died from his burns after a crash in Morocco. Ironically a man that was managed by the Suffolk Toad.
The Avon tyre company had pioneered the research into this new technology and despite the fire retardation only functioning when they were dry – the design has developed into the multi branded apparel that the drivers wear today. Of course the danger of fire was and remains extremely dangerous but the progress over the decades has reduced the risk considerably. Witness Gerhard Berger’s dramatic accident..
The Grumpy Jackal
Mclaren-Honda’s stuttering start
Mclaren fans have been holding their breath ever since the announcement that the Woking team and Honda were to go into partnership again. Would the 2014 Honda resemble the all-conquering Japanese outfit from a quarter of a century ago or would they emulate the lacklustre performances of the BAR-Honda era.
Rumours have been floating around for some considerable time that the Japanese are months behind schedule, and that they are approaching the project following the ‘Honda’ philosophy, which is to build towards peak performance.
After the first test run in Abu Dhabi yesterday, it is clearly too early to predict the true level of capability and whilst observers have reported that the Honda PU sounds better than the rest of the field – this in itself may not necessarily a good thing. There was substantial discussion in Formula One earlier this year about ‘noise’ and performance, and the F1 engineers maintained that incremental sound is a result of inefficient deployment of the energy available
McLaren Honda’s morning run was curtailed due to an ERS problem, whilst in the afternoon Belgian driver – Stoffel Vandoorne – completed just three laps. “I think we had some problems with data-logging, but we are still not 100% sure, the team is still analyzing everything. And ‘the same problem we encountered on the second lap, so we hope to find a solution for tomorrow ”
The fault was finally traced to difficulties with the fuel/data exchange. Vandoorne added “First of all, solve the issues we had today and then see if we can get more laps in. Every lap is very valuable because after these two days we will have two months’ time to come up with new ideas for next year. Hopefully we will get in more laps for tomorrow.”
Day One in winter testing in Jerez this year looked like this
1 Raikkonen (Ferrari), 1m27.104s (31 laps)
2 Hamilton (Mercedes), 1m27.820s (18 laps)
3 Bottas (Williams), 1m30.082s (7 laps)
4 Perez (Force India), 1m33.161s (11 laps)
5 Vergne (Toro Rosso), 1m36.530s (15 laps)
6 Gutierrez (Sauber), 1m42.257s (7 laps)
7 Vettel (Red Bull), no time (3 laps)
8 Ericsson (Caterham), no time (1 lap)
McLaren Honda completed just 3 laps yesterday, which is on a par with Red Bull’s performance back in January, so the comparison to yesterday’s running by the other teams is not really appropriate.
Abu Dhabi test day 1
1. Valtteri Bottas, Williams, 1m 43.396s, 80 laps
2. Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari, 1m 43.888s, 81 laps
3. Nico Rosberg, Mercedes, 1m 44.512s, 114 laps
4. Jolyon Palmer, Force India, 1m 45.516s, 37 laps
5. Carlos Sainz, Red Bull, 1m 45.339s, 100 laps
6. Will Stevens, Caterham, 1m 45.436s, 102 laps
7. Charles Pic, Lotus, 1m 46.167s, 89 laps
8. Marcus Ericsson, Sauber, 1m 46.253s, 95 laps
9. Max Verstappen, Toro Rosso, 1m 47.194s, 55 laps
10. Stoffel Vandoorne, McLaren, no time, 3 laps
Ron Dennis despite this start is confident that McLaren will be “strong” in 2015. “As a team and with Honda, we understand the challenges of these new power units and I am in a position to say that we will be strong,”
Whether Honda are at the races or not, Dennis argues the MP4-30 will be a far better car anyway. “You have to realise something: the group that designed the 2015 car is completely different to the one that did the last two.”
It is believed as many as 50 changes have been made in McLaren personnel to the design and engineering staff who work on the prototype vehicles for the following year.
UPDATE GMT 10:24
Once again McLaren Honda hit problems on the morning of the second Abu Dhabi test.
Eric Boullier was honest in his assessment. “Overnight it went very well – a couple of issues, but things we could unplug and run without. We fired up at six o’clock and everything was fine; the car was on the ground ready to run at eight-thirty, driver in”.
As the session began 30 minutes later, the Frenchman revealed, “then something went wrong, which obliged us to take off all the battery pack again.” Today’s problem is apparently different to the one McLaren suffered yesterday”.
Amusingly, Boullier explained, “Electricity is complicated – you plug in and something goes wrong, you fix it, re-plug and something goes wrong somewhere else,”
“We are just chasing, but I understand we are closing in on the problems”.
UPDATE GMT 15:51
Well McLaren have been chasing another set of problems today, which again resulted in no running worth talking about.
After finally completing an installation lap this afternoon, the MP4-20H returned to the pits on the back of a recovery truck
Pascal Wehrlein, Mercedes test driver, set the pace and Marcus Ericsson pumped in the most laps by any driver for his new team for 2015 – Sauber.
Having committed the cardinal sin of putting your new team’s cr into the wall yesterday, Max Verstappen had a solid outing for Toro Rosso and was third quickest overall.
However, he was eclipsed by GP2 race winner this year, Raffaele Marciello, who gaev hope to the Tifosi that 2015 may just turn out better than 2014.
Despite being comprehensively outperformed by Kamui Kobayashi during the Abu Dhabi race weekend, Will Stevens delivered a hopeful 76 laps for Caterham and was 5th quickest overall. Though despite the prmises of a showcase to potential buyers, there is still no news from Acting Team Principal and Administrator, Finbar O’Connell.
Another débutante Richard ‘Spike’ Goaddard was on show today, as he appeared to struggle in getting to terms with the Force India car. However the team tested a “Fan Info Wing” this morning, which may be used in 2015 in an attempt to provide fans with an idea who is driving the car since the advent of what appears to be almost weekly helmet design changes.
Presumably the Info Wing is for the less intuitive F1 observer, as it also displays the typre of tyre compound being run on the car. The wing has been designed by Lewis Hamilton’s father, Anthony.
|3||Max Verstappen||Toro Rosso/Renault||1m43.763s||1.139s||78|
|6||Richard Goddard||Force India/Mercedes||1m44.944s||2.320s||89|
|7||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull/Renault||1m45.151s||2.527s||88|
|8||Luiz Felipe Nasr||Williams/Mercedes||1m45.937s||3.313s||83|
Clearly the past two days have been unhelpful for McLaren Honda, but it is also not a disaster. However, the team must hit the ground running day one in Jerez 2015 and be running comparable mileage to the rest of the field, otherwise the catchup process will mean another long and tortuous year for the Woking team and their Japanese partners.
Alonso mocks Ferrari’s ‘Marlboro Man’ shakeup
Fernando Alonso has wasted no time in strongly distancing himself from Ferrari, where he spent the past five seasons as the fabled team’s ‘number 1’ driver. On Tuesday, the Spaniard appeared to be openly laughing at the Maranello team’s latest managerial shakeup, after Ferrari split with team boss Marco Mattiacci.
Alonso ‘retweeted’ a photo showing him grinning broadly as his friend Flavio Briatore posed with an unlit cigarette in his mouth and an open Marlboro packet as they dined in a restaurant. It was obviously a reference to the ‘Marlboro Man’, as Mattiacci’s successor is Mauruzio Arrivabene, until now a branding executive for Philip Morris. Not only that, it seems that at some point after the chequered flag waved in Abu Dhabi last Sunday, Alonso symbolically ‘unfollowed’ the Ferrari team on Twitter.
Meanwhile, although he was photographed in plain clothes in the Ferrari garage on Tuesday, Alonso’s successor Sebastian Vettel was reportedly unhappy with the Italian team on his first day of work at the Abu Dhabi test. That is because when asked by Germany’s Sport Bild what he thought of Mattiacci’s departure, Vettel appeared to have not been told the news first-hand.
“Is it true?” he asked the correspondent.
The report said Vettel reacted by telling Ferrari he was disappointed to have not been informed about the major shakeup. Finally, when asked by Brazil’s Globo if he will be accompanying Alonso from Ferrari to McLaren next year, the Spanish driver’s race engineer Andrea Stella answered clearly: “Yes.”
Former F1 driver David Coulthard admits he has some concerns about Ferrari’s 2015 driver lineup, despite Vettel and Raikkonen’s combined five career titles.
“Kimi Raikkonen’s return to Ferrari was the worst season for one of their drivers since 1982,” he told the Telegraph, adding that Vettel also “looked a shadow of himself” in 2014. “The German did not like the new formula, he did not like the engines,” Coulthard explained. “That is fair enough, but his mantra seemed to affect his ability to perform.” (GMM)
Bottas’ managers play down Ferrari ‘rumours’ (GMM)
Valtteri Bottas’ managers have played down rumours linking the on-form Finn with a move to Ferrari. Italy’s La Gazzetta dello Sport reported this week that, perhaps in view of replacing its current Finn Kimi Raikkonen in 2016, Ferrari has made exploratory advances towards 25-year-old Bottas in recent days.
With his sixth podium of the season in Abu Dhabi, Bottas actually leapfrogged 2015 Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel to take fourth place in this year’s points standings. In light of the Ferrari rumours, however, Bottas’ current boss, Claire Williams, said the British team is determined to keep its driver beyond next year.
And Toto Wolff, who not only doubles as the Mercedes team boss, a Williams shareholder but also Bottas’ overall manager, is quoted by Turun Sanomat newspaper as describing the Ferrari link as just “rumours”.
Also on Bottas’ management team is the two-time world champion Mika Hakkinen, who told Ilta-Sanomat newspaper this week: “Valtteri will continue with Williams next year. It is still far too early to talk about 2016, but he is definitely heading in the right direction.”
“Valtteri has had a fantastic season,” Finn Hakkinen added. “He has had two second places and four other podiums, which has been ideal to show just what a great job he is doing for Williams.” (GMM)