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Susie Wolff gets a promotion
When Toto Wolff’s wife Susie was appointed as Williams’ development driver, a fairly nondescript position within the team, the thirty-one year old Scot got quite a lot of flak for being a mere PR gag and having gained this posting on the ‘casting couch’. Bizarrely the most scathing criticism came from her native Britain.
While it might surely have played a role that her husband is the Mercedes chief of motorsports and was, back then, still a shareholder in Williams F1, the first Lady to drive in an official Grand Prix session since Giovanna Amati’s farcical attempts in 1992 has shown that she’s more than just a ‘trophy wife’.
Nobody expected her to instill the fear of god into Felipe Massa and Valteri Bottas, but her times at Hockenheim and during the ‘young drivers test’ were nowhere near as uncompetitive as her detractors had Nostradamus’ed and in fact even surpassed the expectations of some of the more optimistic observers.
After the exit of Felipe Nasr towards Sauber, Williams ignored the obsession with youth that is rampant in current F1 and promoted Toto’s missus to the post so far held by the Brazilian. As the now official test and reserve driver, Susie will again be driving in two FP1 sessions and two testing days, one more than last year.
Should the unexpected happen and one of the regular drivers needs replacing, for instance because he collected enough naughty points on his license to warrant a one race ban, Susie would in theory be the go-to guy… err… girl to step in, but we’ve seen in the past that the test drivers may get overlooked in such a case.
First Day at Ferrari for Vettel after the dirty divorce from Red Bull
The first days after the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix have shown that the divorce of Vettel and his former team Red Bull was not as amicable as Horner and Marko wanted to make it look to the public. Immediately after they had been informed about the fact that Vettel would activate the exit clause of his contract the Thursday before the Japanese GP, both Horner and Marko told the media where he is going, stealing the lime light from both Vettel and the Gestione Sportiva like bumhurt lovers after a break-up.
That the ‘dream marriage’ between the German and the Austrian team was falling apart had been obvious to anyone who bothered to look since spring. Pointless team orders at China and Bahrain, a stolen win at Canada, use as a tactical guinea pig as well as appalling reliability, or more precisely lack of it, were just some of the things that severely strained the match that once looked like one made in heaven, resulting in a four year double title run.
Probably the ultimate insult however was reserved for his last race, when the team took out the relatively fresh engine (installed in Austin at the cost of a pitlane start) and replaced it with a knackered pre-Barcelona junk heap, leaving Vettel to fend for himself with a knife in a gunfight after starting from the pit lane. While the clearly frustrated Vettel blamed the lackluster showing mainly on himself in the post race interviews, the usually rather Red Bull friendly German broadcasters Sky and RTL did not welcome this decision by the team overly kindly to say the least.
Another facet of this unholy saga is the way they prevented Vettel from testing for his new team in the final test of the year. Marko revealed that they actually had agreed to let Seb test for Ferrari, but went back on their words after protests from the engineering crew, ostensibly out of fear that Seb would take secrets with him. Newsflash guys; One of your best aerodynamicists now works for McLaren and they just showed up at a race with clone of your front wing (albeit a ‘legal’ one). And if Seb has any secrets to take to Ferrari, he will just tell them those secrets a few days later.
There are two possible scenarios. The first one is that this blocking move was one out of spite, a petty retaliation for Seb having the audacity to leave them. That is quite likely, because Mr. Marko recently revealed to Auto Bild Motorsport that they would not have forgiven Vettel, had he switched to Mercedes or McLaren.
A second scenario is that Seb has more influence on car development than he’s generally given credit for. By preventing him from driving a current Ferrari car until February, they restrict his input to simulator experiences.
Having put this all behind him, the German performed his first test for his new employer by now, driving the 2012 Ferrari on a damp Fiorano track. As is usual for drivers changing teams, he wore neutral gear. His mostly white helmet sported a small dig at Red Bull in the form of a sticker: ‘29.11.2014 – my first day at Ferrari’. Doesn’t sound as if Seb took long to overcome the break-up with Horner and Co.
There has been no word yet what the German thinks about the car that Alonso gave him an almighty run for the money in, but as a well known opponent of the new engines, he will surely have enjoyed the V8 engine, another thing he has in common with his childhood idol Schumacher, who had the privilege to run the 1995 car after his switch to Ferrari – the last one with a proper Ferrari engine, a V12, before wrestling the horrible V10 engined F310 for 1996.
Back in the day Schumacher was quoted as asking “How did they not win the championship in such a car?” Considering how the Scuderia was out-developed by everyone and his dog in the second half of 2012, Seb is unlikely to come to the same conclusion.
Porsche planning F1 car?
After the news that Nico Hülkenberg will tackle Le Mans next year with Porsche, articles have resurfaced from Auto Bild Motorsport, who predicted exactly that as early as Oct. 18th, so it stands to suspect that this is not a recent development.
In the same article, ABM also claims that the officially confirmed third car is planned to be an “F1 car”, entirely manned by drivers, who contested the 2014 Formula One season. The names Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button were bandied about as possible companions for Nico. While there is little chance to confirm that, as an inquiry from the Fat Hippo at Porsche went the usual way of ‘we can’t make an announcement at this time’, the signs are there that the rumours might have some substance. Fernando Alonso has paid two high-profile visits to the WEC and the Porsche team this year and amid speculations about his future, Button has spoken favourably about WEC as well.
The third Porsche car will contest the 6h race at Spa and the famed 24 hours race in France. Both dates will not conflict with F1’s schedule next year.
The idea of a car driven by Hulk, the Samurai and Jense sounds like a mouth-watering prospect indeed.
Oh, by the way, Porsche scored their first WEC Pole at Interlagos yesterday, courtesy of some chap called Mark Webber, which will no doubt please Mrs. Judge.
Vergne going to ‘Murricaland?
Having completed his best season for Toro Rosso, Jean-Eric Verne was ousted from his seat at Red Bull’s farm team and seems to have closed the chapter F1 for good. Claiming to have declined offers from other F1 teams, Vergne say he prefers to try getting into a competitive Indycar seat.
In that undertaking, he might face stiff competition from “Swiss Miss” Simona di Silvestro, who after a wasted year at cash-strapped Sauber also looks at returning to the land of guns and over-sized food portions.
In contrast to the Frenchman, the Swiss lady already has a track record in Indycars, including a 2nd place finish with mid-field team KVM, and is a fan favourite with the ‘murricans.