#F1 Daily News and Comment: Thursday 11th December 2014


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Previously on The Judge 13:

#TJ13 #F1 Courtroom Podcast: Well that solved entirely nothing…

Voice of the #F1 Fans: Magnussen’s debut season better than thought?

OTD Lite 1979 – Legendary Arnoux-Villeneuve battle

Sergio Marchionne’ Ferrari revolution continues

Boullier – A customer engine cannot win races

Last Hurrah for a Le Mans Legend

OTD Lite 1979 – Legendary Arnoux-Villeneuve battle

There are times when The Grump takes over and despite an intimate love of the history of the sport – there just is nothing to offer for today’s OTD. No races, no birthdays, no deaths… so I have taken writers license and will write about something that brings back the memories of why we all love this damn sport!

The French Grand Prix in 1979 has gone down in history as the first ever Renault victory in Formula One. Jean Pierre Jabouille guided his turbo-charged sled to victory and a place in the record books. Sadly, or maybe happily for the afficionados, the race has passed into legend because of a fierce battle between Gilles Villeneuve and Rene Arnoux.

The why’s and wherefores are not that important – all that matters, for me at least, is Ferrari were competitive and Murray Walker’s voice adds to the drama immeasurably…enjoy!

The Grumpy Jackal


Sergio Marchionne’ Ferrari revolution continues

The challenge of dragging back from the brink of bankruptcy an ailing Italian automotive business and in a mere 10 years transforming it into one of the most profitable auto organisations in the world was truly monumental. Yet Sergio Marchionne is not content to sit on his laurels, now his sights are set on resurrecting Ferrari from its current malaise in the midfield, to Formula One winners again.

The old adage that, ‘the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and expecting different results’ must be picture framed daily reminder to the much lauded industrialist, as he continues to blood let and recruit within the Scuderia..

Luca de Montezemolo proved a successful leader of the Emilia-Romagna racing team, but his latter years at Ferrari and his vision of a Latin led racing team – ultimately failed. His demise was both swift and brutal as the bespectacled man in the woolly jumper unceremoniously evicted LdM from his position of power in a manner that even the ancient senate in Rome would have considered efficient.

Marchionne’s able lieutenant, Marco Mattiacci, also became surplus to requirements and after initiated the cull of comfortabel but under performing managers in Maranello, he too played the wrong poker hand with ALonso and was presented with his exit card.

So, in less than a year, in the style of a football club – desperate to avoid relegation – Ferrari have recruited the long standing Philip Morris executive, Maurizio Arrivabene, as their third team principal in just over 8 months.

Often in the corperate world, to rid itself of the ‘old guard’, a hatchet man is appointed to clear out the dead wood – then when they have completed the task, thy are replaced a another leader who is skilled in the art of healing wounds and building consensus.

Yet the advent of Arrivabene’s reign has begun to bind up the wounds. Nikkolas Tombazis has finally been publicaly ousted and now TJ13 has been informed that Pat Fry, Head of Engineering, is now on a “vacation”. This is a strange time to be taking a holiday from the neighbourhood, as Niki Lauda recognised when he ascended to the throne in Brackley – and cancelled all Christmas leave.

Arrivabene is hardly optimistic for the near future. “When people ask me when things will change on the track, I reply that I do not have a magic wand. In 2015 it would be enough to win a couple of races – one with Vettel, one with Raikkonen,” he told Leo Turini.

Teams at this time of year are flat out as they begin their final preparations for the upcoming tests which begin in Jerez in just over 7 weeks.

Further changes in Ferrari-land include two new race engineers for both Sebastien Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen, which brings the turnover of staff in Marenello to around sixty people during the course of 2014.

Andrea Stella has followed Fernando Alonso to McLaren and his position will be taken by Riccardo Adami who will work with Vettel; whereas the Iceman has David Greenwood taking the place of Tony Spain (or rather Antonio Spagnolo).

It remains to be seen if Sergio’s legacy will include a successful rebuild of Ferrari – but perception in Italy at present, is not one of overwhelming reassurance.


Boullier – A customer engine cannot win races

In 2013 Lewis Hamilton made the point that it was easy winning titles when you have a dominant car – which of course makes complete sense. A year ago, Fernando Alonso suggested it negated some of the success of a champion, such as Vettel, were their dominance over a number of years be due to the fact they were driving the best Formula One package.

Considering Vettel’s situation, it is easy to assume that Mark Webber was just a middling team-mate and that Seb’s domination had the full support of the the team. And excluding Multi 21, it was reactions by the management over incidents – like the collision in Turkey 2010 – that cemented most observers views that the Bull Ring Arena was not in fact a level playing field – particularly for the Aussie Bull.

Yet the naysayers often fail to mention, that many of Sebastian’s victories were not followed up by a dominant second placed finish for Mrs Judge’s favourite 5 o’clock shadow.

At mid-season this year, Hamilton seemed to be in a personal battle once again and Nico Rosberg had gained the upper hand. TJ’s Project manager – John Myburgh – made a salient point during one of the early podcasts. If it is so easy to dominate in the bet car, why wasn’t Lewis dominating his team-mate.

In similar fashion we now have Eric – the stand-up McLaren guy – offering his unique point of view on similar matters. “I do not think that you can win with a customer engine. Todays engines are enormously complex and their installation into the chassis has to be designed into both the power unit and the chassis design. You can only do this with a strong synergy between the two sides.”

“The difference between our relationship with Mercedes and Honda is like night and day. When you are a customer team, you get what you are given whereas with a factory unit we are partners and we work closely together with fresh ideas and information

Indeed, given the results of 2014, Eric is right on the mark – but there is still a clandestine fear amongst the Woking fans that the future is not bright. They know that this year, Mclaren were not even competing as the second best Mercedes engined team – and at one point looked as though they would be beaten by Force India too.

Eric was reflective on the welcome he received when joining McLaren this year.“I was very pleased to find such a warm and welcoming team, actually,” he told ESPN on Monday.

“Without bullshit, it’s a team composed of a lot of brilliant people,” then Eric gently inserts the switch-blade into MW’s rib cage adding. “But maybe lacking leadership in the last few years. Now that is hopefully cured, and what pleased me the most is to stop this down spiral which is now clearly coming back up. We went through some painful times but I think the team is back in good shape. The fact Honda is now with us – we will also see some driver line-up change – it is very promising.”

Driver change huh?

The four days of testing in Jerez are critical for McLaren, and Formula One fans will known by the fourth evening in February, whether the revived relationship between Woking and Honda has any hope of starting in a profitable manner.


Last Hurrah for a Le Mans Legend

Time and tide waits for nobody – so they say – and after over twenty years in competitive motorsports, Le Mans serial winner Tom Kristensen of Denmark announced that he’ll hang up the helmet for good.

Fans of the nine-times Le Mans winner with Porsche, Audi and Bentley will have one last chance to see the indefatigable Dane in action at this weekends Race Of Champion on Barbados.

The two-day event started out as a competition among rallye drivers and has morphed into a show event attracting drivers from all kinds of motorsport activities.

The Saturday will feature the “Nations Cup”, druing which drivers are paired up by nationality, wider region or in some cases common theme. The team event has been won a record six times in a row by team Germany represented by Michael Schumacher and Sebastian Vettel, but for obvious reasons, they cannot defend their title. With Schumacher still fighting to recover from his horrible head injuries and most likely never to drive anything again, Vettel decided not to return as he felt he could not attend the event in the right spirit with his long-time friend unable to join him.

Another fixture that is missing is Team Britain, who’s usual party piece was to lose to Germany in the final. Her Majesty’s Island sends two people in skirts instead, as newly minted Williams F1 test driver Susie Wolff teams up with “Crazy D” Coulthard to form Team Scotland.

The final lineups are:

Team France
– Esteban Ocon (FRA, Formula 3)
– Romain Grosjean (FRA, Formula 1)

Team Nordic
– Tom Kristensen (DEN, WEC)
– Petter Solberg (NOR, WRC)

Team Americas
– Robby Gordon (USA, Dakar Rally)
– José Maria Lopez (ARG, WTCC)

Team Young Stars
– Jolyon Palmer (GBR, GP2)
– Pascal Wehrlein (GER, DTM, F1)

Team Australia
– Mick Doohan (AUS, Pensioner)
– Jamie Whincup (AUS, V8 Supercars)

Team Scotland
– Susie Wolff (SCO, F1)
– David Coulthard (SCO, Pensioner)

Team Barbados
– Dane Skeete (BBD, Rallye)
– Rhett Watson (BBD, Rallye)

Team USA
– Ryan Hunter-Reay (USA, Indycars)
– Kurt Busch (USA, NASCAR)

The same drivers will contest the individual competition on Sunday. Romain Grosjean is the defending champion, with Kristensen and Coulthard being former finalists. Kristensen has a team title to his name that he won in the 2005 edition partnered with 3-time individual winner Mattias Ekström as Team Scandinavia.

The event will be broadcast in Europe on MotorsTV and Eurosport. And a live stream will be available on the event’s homepage.

29 responses to “#F1 Daily News and Comment: Thursday 11th December 2014

  1. I have a tattoo of (a photo) of villeneuve in that battle. In my opinion the best looking ferrari ever.

    • Great clip – wasn’t expecting to see so many people on-track at the chequered flag…scary! Especially as Villeneuve and Arnoux come round the corner, mid-battle.
      BTW, watch it with the subtitles on. I don’t know what kind of lo-fi robot they’ve got on the speech recognition, but the text is hilarious…
      “short hair shaft way (Jean Pierre Jabouille), the first Frenchman to win the French girls brief (grand prix) in 30 years.”

  2. I think Eric The Believable forgets that a customer engined car won three races this year and about a bazillion last season.
    Strange as it sounds, Red Bulls elevation to status of works team was only declared after Lotus jumped ship to Merc.

    • In my view , 2010 is a better example than 2011-2014. In 2010, Renault was still competing as a Factory team but Redbull won races and the championships.

    • Quite right, FH.

      The other point he failed to consider is that with stable engine regs, the gap between works and customer teams is going to narrow each year.
      Though it is likely to be 2016 before that becomes obvious.

    • red bull has been the de facto works team for some time now. in addition, i think boullier was talking about the new engines after the regulation change.

      • Red Bull was not even de-facto the works team. It was Lotus. Why they did that – no idea. They have been declared the works team by a Renault announcement sometime along this season.

    • Don’t know that you’ve got that quite right Hippo.
      Seem to recall references to it last year of the V8s?

  3. I’m probably thick, but I honestly don’t see the link between the ‘dig’ at Hamilton on a dominant car (irrespective of how weak Myburgh’s argument is, in my opinion) and the comments made by Boullier.

  4. I’m sure all the current engine manufacturer’s are glad that their engines didn’t blow up and overheat as much as those early Renault’s! No one would have been very impressed at having to take most of the year before they finished a race.

    There was an interesting article about Williams in this month’s F1 magazine. They have had four different engine manufacture’s in the last 10 years and the comment was made that you can’t be too radical with your chassis design while working out the characteristics of a new engine. Works teams obviously have earlier feedback about the engine so they can then correlate their chassis, aero and engine earlier which is a big advantage when they are dealing with a completely new engine…

  5. I was told force india raced with the cat ll engine whilst merc won on the cat v version. What that means in HP and drivability I don’t know but it’s pretty obvious the customer teams are hindered and can only win when the stars align. If I was merc spending nearly half billion would I stand by and watch a customer team embarrass the company or would I ask the IT gurus to take a second look at the engine management systemrr of their supplied engines. Radio 4 the moral maze ?

  6. I maintain that McLaren’s woes are not down to being a costumer team in this new engine era
    2012: massively incompetent. Threw away a title shot
    2013. V8s and an utter disaster. Nowt to do with the new engines.
    2014. Only just managed to avoid being the worst Mercedes car. Williams did much better.
    2015…. McLaren incompetence plus what I believe will be a bag of nails in a blender spells a horrid year.

  7. Macca picture posted.

    Honda exec – JB – KM – FA – Ron

    Sooo, JB next to the Honda exec and Ron next to FA. Don’t read too much on this, it’s all about PR and trying to convince us that Fred and Ron are best buds now.

  8. Am I the only one who is disappointed that K mag was dropped to a reserve driver role in favour of Button for 15?

    In his debut season with unlimited testing Button only managed to get 50% of Ralf Schumacher’s points tally of 24 with Williams. Very Similar to K Mag’s points tally % this season, that against Ralf who many would not consider a particularly quick pedaller.

    These days with restricted testing, rookies normally struggled in their 1st year in F1, then vastly improve in their 2nd year. Look at Bottas, who was outraced by Maldonado 9-5 in 2013 when both finished the race. Based on his 2014 season, you could hardly judge him on that year, but many are with K Mag against a much “better” team-mate in Button. Hulkenberg after his 1st season at Williams was also outscored by almost 50% against Barrichello, and Danny Ric, vastly improved in his second season at Torro Rosso.

    It appears by dropping him to a “nothing” role for 2015, McLaren are missing out on letting K Mag develop during that all too crucial 2nd year where he can hit the ground running, with full works support, a years experience in the sport from 2014 and arguably the strongest team-mate on the grid from who he can learn from.

    On top of that, Vandoorne will surely have another years experience in GP2 in 2015 with the aim of winning the title. If he achieves that, what next for K Mag? As Stoffel will be raring to get the second McLaren seat in 2016 fresh from championship glory.

    It just confuses me, as at the end of next season, McLaren will be in an identical situation with Button and K Mag both vying for 1 seat along with Stoffel who will feel he deserves it if he becomes GP2 champion.

    But that is just my opinion.

    • It’s all about power. On the red corner, you have Honda/Alonso/the Qataris, on the blue corner, you have Ron/K-Mag/Vandoorne. Very simply, Ron has been sidelined!

      • I understand that Ron’s power is fading at McLaren, he is losing the battle against the shareholders and his position is precarious in the sport, but he is still a racer, and knows talent when he sees it.

        I don’t often agree with his views, but for the long term future of the team, K Mag was surely the best option, with the view of bringing Vandoorne in when Alonso retires in 3 years time (probably).

        For now it will be rosy for 1 year when Button with his experience will help the team compile the data they need and develop the car (cough), but what about 3-5 years down the line? McLaren could potentially ruin two great prospects careers before they have even begun due to a lack of seats. Race time and experience is crucial to a rookie in this day and age. Ricciardo got it, Bottas got it, but it seems K Mag will now be robbed of it and will be sidelined and forgotten about.

        At a combined age of 67, it’s more like the pensioners club at McLaren for their drivers next year haha!

        • You want the most experienced drivers at your fingertips when you are developing a new engine/power train. McLaren are probably looking at Vandoorne as the future, but he could probably do with another year in a lower formula followed by a stint at a smaller F1 team before he moves up to McLaren. Few drivers can be thrust into a big team and perform as expected. The last driver to that for McLaren was Lewis. Ron’s power is probably fading, but we seem to be at a point where a younger generation is taking over i.e. Claire Williams taking on more and more of her father’s role in the last few years.

          The difference between Riccardo and KMag ? Riccardo was given a chance to develop at a smaller team before being moved up. He made his mistakes at Torro Rosso, then hit the ground running at Red Bull and rode his luck to win races. Bottas will likely move upto Merc at some point in the future, so he’ll have had a similar path. Now if Jenson fails to perform ? KMag could be shunted into the seat at a moments notice.

          I’ve never thought F1 has become too easy, if anything it requires a different set of skills to make the most of these complex beasts we call F1 cars. Skills which young drivers need the time to develop and get on top of, so they can then concentrate on race craft.

          • Even if that affects the teams performance further down the line though? All you hear with McLaren and Honda, is that it is going to be a long term partnership which will hopefully bring a lot of success, however this driver line up is very short term in it’s approach.

            I just don’t understand why you would waste a young talent like K Mag for a year, when 12 months down the line, McLaren are going to be in the exact same situation with their drivers.

            I agree that Stoffel will spend another year in GP2, with the hope of winning the championship this time around. The reason that Lewis was the last rookie in the sport to really hit the ground running, was that he had 10,000+ kms in the car before the season even started in 2007 and had unlimited simulator work at his disposal. This is something that all rookies in this day and age simply cannot use to get up to speed in F1 with, due to the testing restrictions in place. He was essentially the last man to take advantage of that luxury before the new regs came in.

            That is kind of what my point is though, why should we judge K Mag’s first season so harshly at a historic top team in the sport, with all the pressure that brings, when statistically his rookie season in F1 compared with others of similar stature was pretty much on par with them.

            Your last paragraph in my view sums up everything why K Mag should have been given the shot. It does take time to develop that specific set of skills for these modern cars, and that is why we have seen a rookies second season be a much more positive and encouraging one, where they can focus on their racecraft, but instead K Mag will not have that and have to sit and watch on the sidelines with minimal seat time available.

          • I think in the short term the pairing of Alonso and Jenson should work fairly well. Perhaps McLaren are playing it safe by going with Jenson so a rookie like K Mag or Stoffel don’t upset Alonso. Jenson has enough experience to deal with the complexity of being Alonso’s team mate.

            And rather than view things negatively, if the Honda and McLaren partnership works, then once Alonso and Jenson are out of the picture they’ll have some hungry young drivers ready to step up to the team and more experienced drivers wanting a McLaren seat. But that’s getting a bit ahead of time.
            2015 may well turn out to be a development year for McLaren and Honda. So my expectations are set fairly low. I would dearly love it if McLaren and Honda hit the ground running and can challenge Mercedes right away. Purely for the look of shock on Paddy Lowe and Totto’s faces. Though I kind of doubt that will happen.

            Ideally you want McLaren and Ferrari to drag themselves out of the doldrums to set up a rather competitive title fight between Alonso, Vettel and Lewis with Jenson and Nico sniffing around.

    • I was quite gutted for KMag but ultimately I think it’s the right decision. Button proved he’s still good enough at the end of last season and Magnussen went missing a bit. Whether or not he just had a poor run of form compared to the start of the season or Button just really outclassed him I don’t know.
      I’m looking forward to how Jenson he gets on against Alonso. If he can give him a run for his money like he did with Hamilton it would prove a lot of the naysayers wrong.
      Honda obviously want to have as strong a line up as possible next season just incase their engine’s pants!!
      Fingers crossed Magnussen gets another chance in the future. I don’t think one season is ever enough to prove your ability. Don’t forget as well the majority of the tracks were entirely new to the young lad as well. Give him a year in GP2 and see where he is after that

    • The fact that Kmag has been bumped down to reserve driver, in someways says that Jenson could be out after 2015.

      • Apparently he’s signed a “multi year” contract though. I like the idea of Honda buying Marusssia and having them as a ‘B’ team, like Toro Rosso, that’s been mentioned by others.

        Think that makes a lot of sense, Honda get more engine data, McLaren can keep their two exciting rookies happy and there’s still everyone’s favourite underdog in the pit lane.

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