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Previously on TJ13:
OTD Lite 1998 – Schumacher charged with dangerous driving
Earlier this year, the international community – and our very own Fat Hippo – stood in disbelief as a ‘frail’ old man subverted justice in Deutschland and paid off a charge of bribery with $100,000,000.
There are plentiful occasions that the general public stands in complete astonishment at what so called ‘judges’ deem as punishment for a variety of crimes. We can merely be grateful that The Judge administers justice on this site in a balanced manner – although I hasten to add that the incumbent of the Podcast shed would probably argue.
On this day in 1998, a German prosecutor decided to announce that Michael Schumacher should stand trial for attempted murder, inflicting grevious bodily harm, coercion and driving offences. These all dated back to the previous year’s European Grand Prix when Schumi clumsily tried to drive Jacques Villeneuve off the track whilst fighting for the World Championship.
The FIA had disqualified the Ferrari superstar from the 1997 championship and ironically told him to front a ‘road-safety’ campaign! In the end, the German prosecutors relented and took no action… But Hey… who said Germans didn’t have a sense of humour.
The Grumpy Jackal
1972 Monaco winner – Beltoise – dies
News arrived late yesterday afternoon that 1972 Monaco Grand Prix winner, Jean-Pierre Beltoise had passed away at the age of 77 following two strokes whilst holidaying at his holiday home in Dakar, Senegal.
Beltoise is most famous for taking his solitary career win in Formula One at the 1972 Monaco Grand Prix with BRM. A successful motor bike racer in the sixties he began his career in cars in 1963 before getting into F1 with Matra in 1966.
By 1969 he was partnering Jackie Stewart in the Ken Tyrrell run Matra team and finished second at that years French GP. During this time he was also racing in sportscars for the Matra team and had his international licence suspended after an accident which claimed the life of Ferrari driver Ignazio Giuntiin the 100km Buenos Aires.
In 1972, he became the first member of an exclusive club by claiming his solitary Grand Prix victory in the Principality – a feat repeated by Olivier Panis and Jarno Trulli in 1996 and 2004 respectively. He retired from F1 at the end of 1974 and switched his focus to sportscars once again and touring cars.
Beltoise married Francois Cevert’s sister Jaqueline and their sons Anthony and Julien followed their father into motor-sport too.
Ecclestone trying to force F1 engine rethink
To many, Formula One may appear to be the drama queen of all sports. There’s always a tale of farce, of biting one’s nose off to spite one’s face and of malevolent greed lurking around the next corner of the track of F1’s journey in life.
Today in Geneva there is a meeting to discuss the engine rules for 2016 and 2017, though it is highly unlikely any decision will be agreed upon until the deadline for such matters is approaching some ten weeks from now.
AMuS is reporting that Bernie Ecclestone is asking for bigger, noisier and more powerful engines which at the same time are less costly. One idea proposed is to standardise the ERS components and increase the fuel flow limits, though the FIA are unlikely to support this idea as it is this technology they believe should be developed and have restricted fuel flow to ensure the combustion engine is not the focus of F1 engineering.
Niki Lauda believes the F1 supremo will fail to get his way and that these ideas will be kicked into the long grass. “Something sensible can only be done if we give ourselves until 2017.”
Meanwhile, Caterham are on a life support machine, with the administrators stating they will not allow the team to go to the Jerez test unless a buyer is found.
One other team is also considered to be in serious financial difficulty at present, so once again, we see the F1 elite debating fairly irrelevant matters in the grand scheme of the sport and fiddling while Rome burns.
One small mercy is we expect the engine manufacturers to agree to only using 4 PU’s per car, due to the newly discovered opportunity to develop the engines in season. Hardly a huge win for peace and harmony as this is in fact what the FIA intended for 2015.
What may be a little surprising, is that many fans will agree with Ecclestone on at least this matter – he believes F1 should have more aggressive looking cars, with bigger tyres and less impact from aerodynamics; cars which are far more difficult to drive than the present iterations of racing machines.
PDVSA in crisis
On Sunday, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro began a trip to China and ‘certain’ OPEC member countries with a begging bowl asking for financial support, as his country reels from crashing oil prices and an economy in tatters.
Inflation in Venezuela is running at 63% whilst 96% of the countries income is from oil exports. The price of oil has fallen more than 50% since the summer of 2014 with disastrous economic consequences for the Venezuelan economy. China has already lent Venezuela some $24bn and is being asked for another $18bn this week.
The South American country’s leadership uses the funds from its state owned oil giant PDVSA to “subsidise unsustainable consumption through its social exchange policy” according to the country’s leading economist, Javier Hernandez. In 2014, One example of this prior to the collapse of oil prices, State Pensions were boosted in Spring 2013 by 10% – and paid for by PDVSA.
Yet PDVSA is facing a huge cash flow crisis at present together with suffering from a large debt burden.
In a country which is completely reliant on imports for basic goods such as food and medicine, it is questionable whether suffering Venezuelan’s will continue to support the annual spend of around Euro 30m by their government to fund Formula One driver – Pastor Maldonado.
Maldonado dodged the bullet of having his funding cut in 2014, following the death of his family friend and patron, President Hugo Chavez, and so far appears unaffected by the chaos back home.
However, were Lotus to lose this 30m Euro sponsorship, TJ13 sources reveal this would tip the fragile balance of sustainability at Enstone and see the team go under fairly swiftly.
Genii investors in 2013 were forced to almost double their initial investments to clear debt and ensure the ongoing viability of the Lotus F1 team following the collapse of ‘investment’ deals involving Mansoor Ijaz.
However, whilst Venture Capital investors are used to losing their gambles on rolls of the dice which go against them, they rarely continue to throw good money after bad in the hope it will come good.
Russians starved Marussia of cash
Accounts published by the administrator of the Marussia team tell a stark tale indeed.
Kevin Eason wrote in the Times – October 2013, “the team’s investors – led by Andrey Cheglakov – have moved to clear £130 million [$199.3 million] worth of debt to put the team on an even keel for the coming year”.
Of course the inaugural Russian F1 GP was around the corner and without this cash injection, Marussia would have been unable to continue, because these unsustainable levels of debt would have forced the company’s creditors to cease funding the business.
A few months earlier, Lloyds Bank Venture Capital arm – LDC – had sold its stake in the Banbury based Formula One racing team to Marussia, the Russian sports car manufacturer.
In what appears to have been a ‘get out of jail almost free’ deal, LDC shipped out the team with $199 million of debt and converted some of its equity into a $20 million loan. This secured loan is still outstanding according to the administrators.
So Marussia began 2014 in a hopeful economic position, with promises from Russian ‘investors’ that they would predominantly fund the team for the coming year.
In 2013, the team had run on a budget spend of $99 million.
However, revenue from the Russians in 2014 collapsed to just $38 million and by running up credit again, the Banbury racing team eventually produced a $45 million annual loss.
But if we look behind the numbers, interestingly they reveal that the Banbury team were not reckless or wasteful in their spending, but were operating in 2014 on a similar budget to that of 2013. Just over £60m, which is apparently less than should be possible given the fixed costs of competing in Formula One – and the huge $20 million jump in the costs of the engines.
Clearly, as the international sanctions against Russia began to bite and the Russian GP approached – the cash for Marussia dried up from the Russian ‘investors’ – leaving the team high and dry.
Marussia were left owing unsecured creditors around $48 million and secured creditors around $20 million.
However, should they find a buyer and make the grid in Melbourne – the first of 9 consecutive monthly payments totalling $52 million (prize money for finishing 9th in 2014) will be made by the F1 commercial rights holders to the team.
Yet, even were a buyer to cut a deal with creditors of around 50 cents on the dollar, this would leave the new owners of the team and potential sponsors having to provide around $80 million to take the team racing in 2015.
Marussia have proven that to set-up up and establish an F1 team – given the current spending necessaries in Formula One – requires pockets much deeper than those of most wannabe millionaire backers.
As Ecclestone remarked when he first commented on the Haas F1 team proposal: “A billion would last a new team owner four years. I’ve spoken to Haas but I don’t know what they are going to do. It’s America, so I don’t know.”
Haas total wealth is estimated at around $750m by Forbes.
Verstappen to be crowned champion in 2017
As if the pressure of being the youngest ever rookie in Formula One wasn’t enough, it would appear that Max Verstappen’s father, Jos, has big plans for his son: “Many think Max will be the new World Champion but this is ridiculous but I hope he is in the next three years.”
“This season will be all about getting miles under his belt and gaining experience and of course there will be occasions that he parks the car in the gravel but I hope people will support him and not use his age against him.”
Though Max is hardly likely to deflect the huge interest in his son when a patron – such as Helmut Marko – claims the young Dutch star is the new Senna. Results will be expected.
There are expectations in certain quarters that Josh is capable of podium finishes with the Toro Rosso this coming season, but Verstappen junior has his feet planted firmly on the ground, “I’m no magician” he states, explaining he expects the team to be at best fighting for positions amongst the lower points scorers.
That said, there are one or two bookies who will take a bet that Verstappen will be the first Toro Rosso driver – since Vettel – to win a Formula One race in 2015.
Lotus on road to recovery
Lotus’ Alan Permane has identified the loss of key figures from the technical group at Enstone in 2013 as the technical reason for the teams poor form in 2014. With the loss of James Allison, Kimi Raikkonen and Dirk de Beer the Enstone team had to conduct a major reshuffle and it compromised their development plans throughout 2014 too.
“With all respect to Nick (Chester), James was absolutely a team leader and losing him was a blow. We lost Dirk, our head of aerodynamics and ultimately these are all good people. They are not irreplaceable but it takes time to replace a group that worked well together.”
“The aero department had been together for 5 or 6 years and developed some great solution and to have this broken up shook things up a little – but we have a large wind tunnel and a good base at Enstone and there’s no reason why we should not be competitive again.”
“There were 3 or 4 significant aerodynamic problems with the E22 which we couldn’t change but we know where the problems were and have rectified it for this year. Already the wind tunnel figures show gains in the wind tunnel, so we are very confident. “
“We won’t say we will be fighting with Mercedes or Red Bull, their organisations have almost double the people we have, but we’re confident we will be in Q3 regularly and fighting for podiums”
Of course, even the Mercedes powered McLaren who struggled all last year with chassis problems – managed to fight for podiums finishes – so having ditched Renault, its not unreasonable to believe that Lotus drivers Romain Grosjean and Pastor Maldonado will have a far more productive year than in 2014 – where the team secured just 10 points.
Williams Announces New Technical Partnership with Dtex Systems
Williams has embarked on an ambitious transformation of its digital estate over the past 12 months to make sure that the company has the right software tools to remain at the pinnacle of Formula One and advanced engineering consultancy. Since the establishment of Williams Advanced Engineering, the division of Williams that harnesses Formula One derived technology and know-how for commercial customers, it has become a business imperative to ensure that client data and intellectual property (IP) held by Williams is fully protected. As a Formula One team, Williams also places a premium on ensuring that its latest technological innovations for the race track are kept away from competitors.
Speaking about the new partnership Graeme Hackland, IT Director at Williams, said; “Whilst keeping your Formula One innovation away from your competitors has always been important, it is since we created the Williams Advanced Engineering division that protecting this IP has become even more critical. When you are entrusted with multiple customers’ data, proactive auditing of how data is handled becomes critical to prevent data loss.”
“A new IT security model was required and with the Dtex software tools, our Formula One data and Williams Advanced Engineering customer data is now fully auditable and encourages data owners to take accountability for their data. Dtex were selected by Williams for their easy to install, low footprint micro-agent and comprehensive reporting capability for data use at rest, in motion or being printed; application and software license tracking and most importantly for the ability to baseline user profiles and then identify abnormal behaviour.”
Mohan Koo, Chief Executive Officer of Dtex, added; “Williams is a very special partnership for Dtex – not just for the prestige associated with one of the most decorated teams in sporting history, but also because Williams Advanced Engineering has harnessed the high value IP created by Formula One and applied it to real-world technology requirements. For this reason, Williams provides a fantastic showcase for Dtex to demonstrate how IP protection can be achieved in a highly competitive environment, where restrictive security controls would stifle innovation.”
Championship position 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th 6th 7th 8th 9th 10th Future FIA F2 Championship 60 50 40 30 20 10 8 6 4 3 GP2 Series 50 40 30 20 10 8 6 4 3 2 FIA F3 European Championship 40 30 20 10 8 6 4 3 2 1 FIA WEC (LMP1 only) 40 30 20 10 8 6 4 3 2 1 IndyCar 40 30 20 10 8 6 4 3 2 1 GP3 Series 30 20 15 10 7 5 3 2 1 0 Formula Renault 3.5 30 20 15 10 7 5 3 2 1 0 Japanese Super Formula 20 7 10 7 5 3 2 1 0 0 National F4 championships certified by FIA 10 7 5 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 National F3 championships 10 7 5 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 Formula Renault (EuroCup, ALPS or NEC) 5 3 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Interestingly, the FIA has loaded the bases in favour of its own F2 championship, such that coming 1st, 2nd or 3rd in this category will accrue enough points in just one year for a driver to qualify. A driver achieving this and having delivered another year in any of the categories scoring no points will therefore receive an F1 superlicense.
GP2 is the next most favoured series, because either a first or second place would entitle the driver in one year alone to accrue enough points to drive in Formula One. However, were a driver to compete in GP2 in their first year of single seater racing and win the title, they would be prohibited from entering GP2 the following year (winners not allowed to compete again), but also be unable to drive in Formula One – as they require two years single seater experience.
Under this system, Jenson Button, Fernando Alonso, Kimi Raikkonen and Daniel Ricciardo would all have been refused F1 superlicenses when they were granted.
Other drivers failing to make the grade would have been
Marcus Ericsson, Will Stevens, Max Chilton, Giedo van der Garde, JEV, Charles Pic, Paul de Resta, Jerome D’Ambrosio, Karun Chandook.
Both Toro Rosso drivers would be ineligible this year, with only Felipe Nasr amongst the 2015 rookies would qualify.
In recent times Formula Renault 3.5 has been a popular route for drivers entering Formula One due to its relatively inexpensive costs, however, GP2 now becomes a far more favourable route given that just a third and firth place consecutively is enough to qualify, whereas in F3.5 this would have to be a first and third at worst.
The thinking behind LMP1 being deemed inferior experience to GP2 and merely on a par with Formula 3 is not clear.
This should also make it more difficult for pay drivers to make it into the sport, which for some may appear a good thing. However, there will be a ‘free practice’ superlicense which requires no points to be accrued but the driver to hold an FIA Grade A license.
Rules for comeback drivers have been introduced too. A driver must have completed at least 5 F1 races in the previous season or 15 races in the past 3 years. Schumacher would have failed this test when returning to Mercedes
Also of note, Formula E does not appear on the list at all, which appears strange, given the FIA’s commitment to funding this form of racing.
All this means the opportunity for Formula One teams to select promising young drivers from the junior racing categories has been diminished. Now the hopefuls must also be successful in their relevant championships.
Lewis in trouble again
Following his title triumph in Abu Dhabi, Lewis Hamilton attended the 3 day Monza Rally Show in November. He posed for a picture with the young and scantily clad ‘Monster Energy Girls’ – who promote the similarly named energy drink.
Last night, some six weeks after the event, Lewis posted the picture to his Instagram and twitter accounts – though it mysteriously disappeared about two hours later.
Trouble in paradise?
Surely being flanked by 3 fine specimens of womanhood on either side with two more knelt at Lewis’ feet wouldn’t make the relatively ancient 36 year Honolulu born pop star jealous?
But this may not be Lewis’ first faux par in the eyes of Hammy’s celebrity girlfriend, as he was recently played a song recorded by Nicole whilst live on radio – which Lewis failed to recognise.
‘At the Monza Rally Show a couple of months back with the @MonsterEnergy girls!’
Drivers making Q3 in 2014
- 19 – Rosberg, Ricciardo
- 18 – Alonso
- 17 – Hamilton
- 16 – Bottas
- 15 – Magnussen, Massa
- 14 – Vettel
- 13 – Button, Raikkonen
- 8 – Kvyat, JEV
- 7 – Hulkenberg
- 5 – Perez
- 2 – Grosjean
- 1 – Sutil
Magnussen was the highest placed rookie, beating McLaren’s choice Button for 2015. Kevin Magnussen will not be taking part in any of the Friday practices in 2015, as Ron Dennis said – his career is on ‘Pause’. Unless of course McLaren complete the purchase of Caterham.
Bad news for Kimi and Sebastian
Ferrari’s much anticipated 2015 car – codenamed ‘666’ last autumn – will retain the pull-rod suspension system the team introduced in 2012. The pull-rod suspension system was first seen on a Brabham Formula One car designed by Gordon Murray back in the 1970’s and it has the advantage of lowering the centre of gravity of the car.
However, this was not the reason Pat Fry gave at the time for re-introducing an old idea last used by Minardi. He suggested the system was a little lighter, though the wins from this are not worth the trouble caused – so it was assumed that some aero effect was being chased – hence the reason for Ferrari’s decision.
The downside of the pull-rod system is that it is harder to work on and so fine tuning becomes more time consuming and therefore less adjustments can be made in the same amount of time as on a push rod design.
A number of F1 commentators suggested throughout 2014 that this was the cause of Kimi Raikkonen’s woes. AutoSprint author Roberto Chinchero observed, “Raikkonen consistently complained over the lack of precision at the front, which is a characteristic of the pullrod suspension. And the Finn’s style is not so different to that of Sebastian Vettel, who also thrived with a precise and responsive front end,”
A push rod system is attached to the upright and this allows adjustment which sees the load being transferred across the car as the driver gives steering input – effectively ‘lightens’ the front wheel. So the car can be made to work better in both high and low speed corners simultaneously because the car is softer and more compliant in the low speed corners but loses less of its mechanical stiffness through the high speed turns.
Conversely, the pull-rod system Ferrari use is connected to the wishbone, and this in itself limits the total amount of tuning which can actually be achieved. In layman’s terms adjustments for the low speed corners hurt the handling of the car more in the higher speed turns with a pull rod configuration.
Eyebrows were raised by the F1 technical intelligentsia at the time Ferrari introduced this front suspension system, and it may be a legacy of the departed – but not dearly loved Pat Fry – that Maranello’s 2015 challenger retained the pull-rod system.