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Previously on TheJudge13:
An open invitation to all members of the TJ13 community – “What do YOU want to know about our podcast crew?
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 – 2006: Austria decides to take over the F1 world
On this day back in 2006, Gerhard Berger revealed that he had taken control of 50% of the Toro Rosso team by selling 50% of his shipping company to long time friend and personal sponsor Dietrich Mateschitz.
From the under-achieving origins of the Minardi team, funding and what proved to be effective team management brought the Faenza concern into the point finishers and would eventually lead to a certain Sebastian Vettel claiming his maiden victory at Monza two years later.
Of course Berger eventually pulled out of this jint venture and has resurfaced in many other roles in F1 and most recently has been named in connection to take over the running of the Mclaren team as Ron Dennis’ position comes under threat from the different factions at Woking.
Niki Lauda, Toto Wolff, Helmut Marko, Berger and Dietrich – Austria has formed quite an allegiance within the upper echelons of the sport and although Mercedes is a German manufacturer – there would be quite some argument to suggest that it is in fact Austria and not Britain that is the true home of motor-sport over the last five years..
Ecclestone threatens no German GP in 2015
The state of play with the German GP supposed to be held at the Nurburgring was discussed at last week’s strategy group meeting. Bernie Ecclestone claimed he was fighting to ensure the event is not dropped from this year’s calendar though he finds himself suffering from déjà vu, when in 2013 the race deal was finalised just weeks prior to the Nurburgring event taking place.
Hockenheim have apparently indicated they will host the 2015 race, but need time to market it and sell tickets, though they are refusing to pay the usual hosting fee to FOM. The deadline for this agreement is fast approaching
It was suggested by Ecclestone that Mercedes help with the marketing of the race since last year saw a woeful attendance in Hockenheim. It may be by threatening there will be no German GP this year, that Mr. E is hoping the German car manufacturer will find this unacceptable and pitch in with funds to guarantee the event takes place.
However, there is little love lost between Stuttgart and Princes Gate London, and it would not be unreasonable for Daimler Benz to believe that the lack of Formula One marketing over the years by CVC and Ecclestone has lead to the current state of affairs.
Meanwhile, Nissan caused a stir by revealing their LMP1 WEC challenger at one of the USA’s largest sporting occasions of the year – the Superbowl – this year held in Phoenix, Arizona.
NBC Sports described this as likely to be the “biggest splash, motorsports-wise, in the U.S. market this year”.
Meanwhile Formula One lurches from crisis to crisis as yet another team appears to be on the brink of collapse. Force India have a car that is ready to go testing, but is currently gathering dust, whilst crucial parts are withheld by sub-contracted suppliers awaiting payment from Vijay Mallya.
Fernley states why Marussia not approved by Strategy Group
Marussia’s application to return to take part in the 2015 season was denied by their rivals last Thursday. The intention had been to run the 2014 car until their 2015 design was ready for competition but it would have needed the unanimous agreement of all the teams. When it was placed in front of the Strategy Group, Force India were the first to vote against them.
The Strategy Group is made up of the FIA, the F1 Group and Ferrari, Mercedes, Red Bull, Mclaren, Williams and folowing last years results – Force India.
Force India’s deputy team principal Bob Fernley was reported: “Marussia have an obligation to put in a proposal to the F1 Commission and F1 Strategy Groups to be able to demonstrate that they can deliver a programme for 2015. They’re asking for dispensation in terms of running a 2014 car prior to switching over a 2015 car and in that should be all the details of what is going on.”
“The reality is that absolutely no documentation was provided whatsoever. Even the process that was used in terms of the letter that was sent in was not compliant. It should be sent by the administrators and it was sent by one of the former directors of Marussia.”
“So, while it’s a very emotional subject, it also has to go through compliance and due diligence and it couldn’t go through either of those. It just happened to be that Force India was the first team to vote and once one team has voted against, it’s no longer viable.”
Ever the antagonist, Bernie Ecclestone suggested the reason the teams voted against it was because the prize money due to Marussia would then be spread among its rivals. However, whilst some of the team principals have a fine line in subverting the truth, Fernley has always spoken in a frank and honest manner and admitted that although some teams are struggling financially, the only consideration was whether Marussia was in a position to return successfully.
“It’s tough. It would be wrong for me to say we’re all having a wonderful time – we’re having a tough time and costs are rising. The income distribution is very well documented and none of that is being addressed. But we have to separate all the issues out and deal with each thing clinically. The Marussia issue was a separate one and I can understand that on the face of it it looks very harsh, but the reality is the onus is on Marussia to be able to deliver.”
“If it had been us, and it was our last chance saloon, we would have had all the bells and whistles out for a presentation. But we don’t even know who the owners were going to be.”
Lowe – Mercedes playing it safe this year
After the 2013 summer break, when the Mercedes design team reconvened Ross Brawn took one look at their work and consigned it to the metaphorical bin. His instructions were clear – ‘think outside the box’. The team went away and with the freedom to take risks produced the most dominant car seen for several generations.
The current Mercedes technical boss Paddy Lowe – spent the best part of last year assuring the world that he had taken over a poorly run infrastructure which needed bringing up to date. With the remnants of the Brawn legacy finally removed the Enforcer has led his team this year to becoming risk-averse..
“We went through the process of designing the W06 determined to retain the advantage we had with the W05. We take nothing for granted, we have some great competitors out there and they are just as keen to win as us. We all hate losing in this business, so they won’t be giving up and our motivation in the winter was to push as hard as we can, but the other thing to do is balance risk.”
“Every development you make has some risk, you can’t move forwards without some risk of potentially not getting it right. We were very conscious that we had a good car, and we didn’t want to throw any babies out with the bath water as we took steps to make developments. It’s an evolutionary year from a regulations point of view and the car is essentially an evolution, but we do have to make progress by minor revolutions under the skin.”
“There are lots of small developments. Cooling systems are an example; last year was a big project to get the cooling right with the new power unit and this is our second time around to revisit that and get some of the fundamentals even better than they were. You want to make the development but you don’t want to have any risk in trying to move so far forward that you actually move backwards. There are a lot of projects of that nature.”
One big change in the regulations this year surrounds the nose and front crash structure. With the FIA revising the nose regulations this year to make them more aesthetically pleasing it has brought about fundamental problmes for all the design teams including the championship favourites, Mercedes. Lowe continued:
“With aerodynamics, the nose was a big project and the most significant rule change. We saw a variety of noses out there last year, some of them more ugly than others. I seem to remember at this point last year nose ugliness was one of the big topics, but thankfully that is now probably in the past.”
“We had a pretty good looking nose last year as it happened, and we still do but it’s lower. That’s had an effect on the performance of the car, it’s one of the big setbacks that had to be overcome over the winter. It remains to be seen if other people got hit more on that, because that’s the nature of regulation changes, they can hurt some more than others.”
“That’s a big project, and seeing as the nose is at the front of the car, any change to the aerodynamics at the front has a big influence on the whole car because clearly it creates the flowfield behind it that influences every other component. So, a bigger change than it may seem.”
Ferrari have found their mojo at last – Arrivabene
Last week’s testing in Jerez found the Ferrari challenger sitting atop the time-sheets for three of the four days. The car completed 349 laps in total which compared favourably with the 251 completed just a year before. With a years developments added to gains made in the power unit this year’s Ferrari was around four seconds a lap faster.
Sebastian Vettel has brought to the team a fresh energy and as the Scuderia’s team principal Maurizio Arrivabene acknowledges the squad has found its team spirit and motivation. With the culling of staff – ordered by the new President Sergio Marchionne – and with empowerment given to the design group Ferrari have visibly grown as a collective.
“If one makes a comparison to last year, these past few days of testing have produced encouraging signs,” Arrivabene said. “The team has worked well, both at home and at the track and our drivers did a great job, providing the engineers with valuable feedback.
“But above all, I am pleased that the group has rediscovered its motivation and team spirit. In terms of performance, I don’t think our competitors – one in particular – have shown their true potential over these past days. I think we will only discover the truth about them and about ourselves at the last Barcelona test session.”
Technical director James Allison mirrored his bosses words when he stated: “When you bring a new car to the track, you’re always excited and worried and that is mixed with a profound hope that all the hard work of so many people will be rewarded with performance. We leave this test without having all our expectations met, simply because we would have liked to have done even more mileage and because you always want to be faster.
“However, having said that, given how it went, overall we can be pleased, because we have had a solid start. Now, we are keen to push on with the development work in Barcelona, so as to be ready for the first race in Melbourne.”
Why would Bahrain allow an F1 race in Qatar?
Qatar motorsports chief and FIA vice president for the Middle East, Nasser bin Khalifa al-Attiyah, claims “we are about to sign contracts to organize a Formula One race.”
Speaking to AFP al-Attiyah reveals, “We have completed all the steps and there are only a few details before the official signature.”
This is surprising news for Formula One fans given Bernie Ecclestone’s candid revelations in November last year. “It [a race in Qatar] was an idea I thought would work, but I’ve got a bit of a problem which nobody knows about really but I’m sure they soon will.”
“I made a deal with the people in Bahrain and they said, ‘If we are going to be something new in this area, which we are, will you give us a guarantee you won’t put another race on in the area, in the Gulf?’.
“I said yes. Typical Ecclestone handshake deal with the Crown Prince.”
Bahrain has been on the Formula One calendar since 2004, though in 2011 the race was famously cancelled due to civil unrest in the country.
Of course the Ecclestone deal with the Crown Prince has already been varied with the Bahraini’s agreement. Abu Dhabi was welcomed into the Formula One family in 2009 and has now established itself as the venue for the F1 season finale.
However, the Abu Dhabi race is at the other end of the calendar to the Bahrain event and as such will impact the attendances very little.
Yet the flaky nature of certain aspects of the F1 calendar in recent years must be of constant concern to Ecclestone and CVC. Both India and Korea have withdrawn from Formula One and Germany appears to have a bi-annual crisis over hosting its event.
Therefore, a country clamouring to host F1 that has gazillions of currency units to spend on international sporting events, will be a matter of priority on Ecclestone’s agenda.
Any further race in the Middle East must be slotted in either at the front or back end of the season, due to the extreme heat in the region over the summer months. This would mean a Qatar F1 event would compete directly almost certainly as a back to back event with either Abu Dhabi or Bahrain.
So why would the Bahraini’s agree to this?
Having hosted 10 seasons of Formula One, Bahrain has failed to establish itself as a ‘go to’ destination to watch the sport. Official numbers released suggest around 50,000 fans attend each race, though unofficially this number is reportedly about 25-30,000. So it may well be the Bahraini’s believe they can extract from the Qataris a contribution towards the cost of hosting their own race.
The again, maybe this is an indication that the first gulf state to host an F1 race is about to withdraw from the sport. The Bahrain Tilkedrome is not a favourite with F1 fans though a trade which sees Sakhir replaced by Qatar’s Losail circuit will be cause for celebration – as this is trading cheese for cheese – and not even a soft cheese for pungent blue.
Cause for Ferrari caution
As the TJ13 crew reported from Jerez last week, the Williams car had been quickest through the speed gun. Autosport have now published a list of the fastest speed each car achieved.
1 Felipe Massa (Williams-Mercedes) 307.6 km/h
2 Nico Rosberg (Mercedes) 307.6 km/h
3 Pastor Maldonado (Lotus-Mercedes) 306.8 km/h
4 Max Verstappen (Toro Rosso-Renault) 303.3 km/h
5 Marcus Ericsson (Sauber-Ferrari) 303.3 km/h
6 Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari) 300.8 km/h
7 Daniil Kvyat (Red Bull-Renault) 294.2 km/h
8 Jenson Button (McLaren-Honda) 277.6 km/h
Once the hype over the Red Bull ‘dazzle’ livery had died down, Ferrari grabbed many of the headlines last week by being quickest over a lap on 3 of the 4 days at the Jerez test.
Yet this list reveals even running an engine with a restricted top speed dictated by Renault, the Toro Rosso driven by new kid Max Verstappen was faster than both Ferrari powered cars through the speed trap at the end of the back straight. In fact, just McLaren were slower than Ferrari and they openly admitted they had no intention of running anywhere near full chat for the entire test.
Ferrari were clearly a happier more untied bunch of people in Jerez and all this since the blood letting massacre of Maranello in 2014.
Happy people make for a more cohesive team in the long run, which should in turn make for better decisions, a better car and a better engine.
Yet, this Ferrari engine was birthed in the dark days of in fighting and civil war and certain change happens slowly in Formula One – particularly when it comes to highly complex hybrid engines. This was demonstrated perfectly by Renault in 2014 when the French Power Unit manufacturer required 20 weeks to fix the issues they discovered during the first winter test of the season.
Ferrari’s saving grace will be the loophole discovered by James Allison which means no fixed date is set by which they must homologate their engine and freeze its design for the rest of the season. Yet the quick lap times will give Ferrari people a feel good factor.
The reality will be evident in the Barcelona test 2.
Alonso to Sue
Fernando Alonso is to sue over his inclusion in the ‘Falciani List’. This list has been published in a number of European Publications including The Guardian, Le Monde and El Confidencial and includes high profile individuals accused of tax evasion in their home countries.
The revelations included the information that Alonso had $42m in four accounts with the bank, however, unlike other members of the list, Alonso was a resident of Switzerland at the time.
Sources close to MARCA claim that Alonso has always paid tax where he has been resident. “Fernando lived there and paid (tax) there. He never had anything in Spain since he upped and moved to England with everything he owned.”
Others on the list have gone on to settle outstanding taxes such as Valentino Rossi ($30m).
During his Formula One career Fernando Alonso has been a tax resident in Switzerland, Spain, the UK and now he resides in Dubai.