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Please use the comments section to ask an opening question for our podcast regulars to answer. Remember, the best answers are often given if the opening question is not F1 related. (Ed’s Note: What have we started!)
OTD Lite 1974- Brazilian GP legend’s sideburns
Forty one years ago today, Mclaren recorded their tenth Grand Prix victory when Emerson Fittipaldi survived a disintegrating Sao Paulo circuit and torrential rains to take his second home victory on his way to his second World title.
Of course F1 was sexier in the 70’s, drivers shared many of the fashions that rock stars sported and these stunning looking cars were both physical and dangerous to drive.
The race start had been delayed as the track was swept of broken glass which the partisan crowd had launched on to the tarmac ribbon. Possible reasons other than the Brazilians natural partying exuberance were the fact that local boy Fittipaldi had qualified on pole but after the start he found himself Carlos Reutemann and Ronnie Peterson.
Emo took the lead from the Super Swede and continued until on lap 31 the race was abandoned due to a monsoon hitting the circuit.
Emerson Fittipaldi – motor-racing legend, double world champion and a friend of the late Ayrton Senna but perhaps most impressive of all – sideburns to rival Elvis Presley!
The Grumpy Jackal.
2015 Winter testing imminent
With the F1 teams in the middle of launching their new contenders for the 2015 F1 season, details are emerging of which of the teams drivers will be driving on the first day of winter testing in just five days time.
Williams’ Valtteri Bottas will be the first incumbent of the FW37 and will run on the first two days before Felipe Massa takes over on the Tuesday and Wednesday.
Ferrari will also be following a similar plan with new recruit Sebastian Vettel taking the reins of the Prancing Horse for the first two days at Jerez before his team-mate, Kimi Raikkonen, steps into Maranello’s new car which has been christened the SF15-T.
Of more interest is Mclaren running Fernando Alonso for the first and third days of the test with Jenson Button substituting for the Spaniard on the other days.
The first test at Jerez is generally a shakedown of the new designs and to iron out any problems the cars may have. Last year, everyone left Jerez knowing that they trailed Mercedes by some margin. This year their rivals will be hoping to be closer to the Silver Arrows and not allow them to dominate the time sheets once more.
That said, TJ13 has learned that only Williams and Mercedes AMG F1 will be running the Mercedes 2015 hybrid development engine, while Force India and Lotus will use the 2014 version of the power unit.
It was only a few years ago that Alonso left all of the first four days to his team-mate Felipe Massa as he concentrated on his personal training regime knowing that this test was not about performance development but systems checks.
Last year, the Asturian was available to Ferrari for testing throughout – with the new systems requiring in-depth understanding. It was also an indication of his will to impose himself over the arrival of the Iceman.
Although he is a new recruit for this season, it would appear that it is more than likely that this most astute driver is singling out Jenson Button as a real threat within the Woking infrastructure rather than simply running systems checks with Mclaren and Honda.
Mercedes likely to maintain engine advantage for some time
The Mercedes team’s Enforcer – Paddy Lowe – has maintained a remarkable silence this winter. With his fellow bosses of the Brackley team – Niki Lauda and Toto Wolff – giving interviews seemingly every other day, Lowe has kept his distance from the microphones.
Of course, in a sense, he is under far more pressure than either of his Austrian compatriots as he is the technical director that replaced Ross Brawn.
With his rhetoric last year suggesting the infrastructure that the big man had left behind was inadequate, the need to restructure the various departments and leading a ground breaking team to further glory was never going to be a difficult ask. But Lowe has a problem.
If the 2015 Mercedes does not carry a sizeable advantage over its rivals, it will be natural that Lowe’s leadership will be questioned. He doesn’t have the two decades of experience Ross Brawn had under his belt.
In an interview last year, Lowe proclaimed: “I’ve taken Mercedes Formula 1 team to the next level”. So any sign that the team has been caught would make a mockery of his comments.
Lowe’s recent track record is hardly inspiring. We must remember he was Mclaren’s Technical Director from 2011 – in other words responsible for two of the worst Woking cars the team has ever produced.
Lowe of course is not responsible for the engine design and building work that takes place at Brixworth and the Mercedes’ customer teams appear confident there has been a step forward in the capabilities of the power unit.
Force India technical director Andrew Green has no doubts of the engines improvements. “From the data we have it’s definitely got better from last year, and I’m expecting another step in the middle of the season too. We’re excited about that.”
Lotus CEO Matthew Carter was impressed by the Enstone team’s new working relationship with Mercedes. “Having Mercedes is a huge opportunity for us,” said Carter. “We don’t know what Honda is going to be like, but Ferrari and Renault are obviously looking at doing changes later in the year – which means there will not be that much early on. That could give us a bit of a big advantage earlier in the season.”
If all this is true, then the Mercedes power unit will continue to be the benchmark by which the others are judged – but if Williams is appreciably closer to the Stuttgart works team – questions will be asked of Lowe’s capabilities on the car design front.
HP joins forces with Sauber
Sauber announced yesterday that they had entered a new sponsorship agreement with computer giant Hewlett-Packard after losing their ties with NEC.
HP are helping Sauber to develop a state of the art super computer to be used primarily in the field of computational fluid dynamics. CFD is an area that all the teams are investing heavily in – as real-time limitations of wind-tunnel usage begins have an impact.
Monisha Kalternborn: “We are very pleased to be working with a prestigious brand like Hewlett-Packard. The high technical expertise of Hewlett-Packard HPC Competence Center has allowed us to develop a high-performance computer that is based on the most innovative technologies of Hewlett-Packard. This will improve our performance in the area of CFD. “
Marcel Borgo, Managing Director of Hewlett-Packard Switzerland: “Formula 1’s peak performance requires both human and technological inputs. Hewlett-Packard is very happy to support the Sauber in the High Performance Computing and in so doing to strengthen the team. This is key to helping Sauber’s development team gain a crucial advantage on the track. “
Ericsson wins Sweden’s top driver Award
In possibly one of the most surreal award ceremonies in living memory – Marcus Ericsson won Sweden’s ‘Driver of the Year’ award this past weekend.
Ericsson was routinely beaten by Kamui Kobayashi and in a one off drive at Spa – WEC driver Andre Lotterer out-qualified him by a second.
Without doubt 2014 was a difficult season for the 24 year old Swede. Caterham struggled throughout the season due to financial difficulties – which eventually caused the team to enter administration – missing the American and Brazilian Grand Prix.
At the American event, Marcus and his sponsors decided to transfer their millions in the direction of Hinwil and he signed a deal to drive for the Sauber team.
So as Britain celebrated double World Champion Lewis Hamilton’s rise to glory, Sweden forgot about their true superstar – Ronnie Peterson – and gifted the award to a man who’s best result was an 11th place in Monaco.
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Wolff continues to fuel speculation
TJ13 has previously commented on the different treatment offered to Lewis Hamilton by Mercedes, when compared to how Red Bull and Ferrari have previously treated their star drivers.
Toto Wolff spoke publicly just after the new year about Alonso and Bottas being possible replacements for Hamilton next year, should the team and Lewis be unable to agree a new contract.
Speaking to Bild, Toto Wolff again is re-enforcing this position by stating. “It is always useful to be prepared for all eventualities. Alternatives are always important. But they are alternatives, not priorities,”
Previously, Toto had stated that there would be a meeting immediately following the Abu Dhabi GP, but both parties have since repeatedly sent out the message that no talks have yet taken place yet.
Toto is however positive about the future with Hamilton as he repeats, “Towards the end of last season, we didn’t want to disrupt Lewis’ focus. Now he is back from holiday, we will sit together in the near future,”
“I can say, both parties want to extend [Hamilton’s contract term]. For us, Lewis and Nico are the best and strongest driver combination and therefore we have no reason to change anything.
“Lewis is feeling good in the team and we give him the best car. All this suggests a common future.”
Speculation will regularly continue until a deal is resolved, which is why Ferrari and Red Bull kept these conversations about their star drivers behind closed doors and resolved them long before they became a topic of interest.