This page will be updated throughout the day.
Please if you are on Twitter press the tweet button below. If you re-write and tweet individual story headlines don’t forget to include #F1.
You may not realise how hugely important this is and has helped grow our community significantly
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 – 2000: When will teams realise nobody gives a hoot
On this day Ferrari launched what would prove to be an historic car. By the end of the year Ferrari had ended their 21 year drought without a champion driver – when Michael Schumacher took the title in Japan.
Ferrari also took their second consecutive Constructors crown but as has been proven time and time again – and still the bean counters don’t ‘get it’ – is that the fans watch for the personalities not the engineering skills.
Between Jody Scheckter and Schumacher there was indeed 21 years, but often forgotten is that Ferrari were constructor champions in 1982 and 1983. So the actual gap between titles is 16 years. Who remembers that Ferrari won the constructors in 2008? Yet most fans would know that’s when Hamilton won his first title.
So yes from a team entrants perspective, the money is paid for their team’s finish but for the average joe the question is which driver is best. In an age when TV audiences are falling, race attendances are struggling and the only man in the circus who’s happy is an octogenarian billionaire – its time for a massive shakeup.
Pah…. in my day….
Alonso and Ron Dennis far mellower these days
The conclusion of the 1969 cult movie – ‘The Italian Job’ – is played out over a little number called, ‘The Self-Preservation Society’. This tune is heartily belted out to the point where the coach carrying the stolen bullion is finely balanced over a precipice.
In the sterile world that Is Mclaren, the notion of music being played in the Technology Centre appears absurd. Yet if we lend our ears to Ron Dennis’ recent liturgy, we could be forgiven in believing Big Ron has taken to playing whale mating tracks prior to sleeping; there has definitely been a warming in the manner he describes his relationship with Fernando Alonso.
Alonso left McLaren in acrimonious circumstances in 2007 following a falling out with Dennis and his rookie team-mate Lewis Hamilton. The Spaniard had allegedly issued black-mail threats to Dennis and furnished the FIA with private emails between a Ferrari employee and McLaren which resulted in a record 100 million dollar fine and exclusion from the 2007 F1 constructors championship.
The intervening eight years have clearly allowed these turgid currents to flow under the bridge and far downstream. “Everyone has moved on and certainly I am mellower,” Dennis told Autosport. “I think Fernando is more mature.”
David Coulthard once wrote in his column that Ron Dennis sells a great dream to incoming drivers and then ‘forgets’ what had been actually agreed. The Scot had no doubt that Alonso was signed at the end of 2005 as a reigning World Champion to join for 2007 with the offer of number one to lead the team. The problem that destroyed the Woking team’s season was that Ron put his young protege in alongside – by then – a double World Champion and allowed them to fight.
Dennis recalls: “The whole thing took on a momentum, and whatever was happening within the team, it was at a time when the environment was a very controversial environment for the sport as a whole and great emphasis was placed on many things that happened. We were perhaps the reciprocant of a climate that F1 had at the time; actually what took place was relatively trivial in reality, but heavily amplified, and everyone got pretty bruised by it.”
Whilst team status disputes had been part of the problems in 2007, Dennis states this was not an issue the second time around.
“I can promise you one thing with Fernando – he never even asked for priority treatment. In fact the opposite, total opposite. He said ‘equality, I accept equality’. He has never asked for a single thing to be inserted in the contract.”
There was of course the amusing interplay between Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso at the FIA drivers’ press conference in Abu Dhabi, when Jenson’s future in Woking was undecided. Alonso was questioned as to whether he would be happy with Jenson as a team mate in 2015. Fernando for once was speechless.
This gave rise to speculation that Alonso’s contract negotiations with Ron Dennis included a stipulation as to who would be his team mate this year.
Yet Alonso himself recently claimed he did not ask for preferential treatment from McLaren – only never to be treated as a number two.
Of course, in recent times we have seen in certain quarters of the media an almost pantomime portrayal of Fernando – as the most dastardly of men – yet the facts demonstrate that other than in 2007 when he was matched by Lewis Hamilton – Fred has throughout his career allowed his driving to do the talking.
Minardi disappointed by F1 teams short-sightedness
Following TJ13’s coverage of the refusal to allow Marussia back into the F1 championship this year by allowing them concessions till their 2015 challenger is ready GianCarlo Minardi has voiced his opinion about the true state of F1’s brutal reasoning.
“This is absurd behavior and very unsportsmanlike. The opposition comes from the smaller teams who are hoping to carve up the share that is due to Marussia but these teams have failed to count to ten before making a decision first.”
“The two ‘Cinderella teams, Caterham and Marussia, have fallen by the wayside and the grid has become smaller. As a result of this the last row on the grid is being fought over by teams with a sizable budget and with far more ambition than the previous occupants and by this I mean Suaber, Lotus and Force India. Being last on the grid will have repercussions in terms of image and there will be commercial consequences which will only come to light afterwards.”
Minardi continued: “This reminds me of what happened in the 1996-97 seasons when I defended the rights of the very small teams. I argued that without these teams participating with their great passion but with limited means – hoping to somehow find the financing for the future – the last row of the grid would therefore become inevitably the large manufacturers.”
“This situation happened again in the 2000’s and you found that manufacturers could not take years to expand and achieve positive results. They have commercial objectives and their short-term image is very important and what happened? Well year on year we lost almost all the manufacturers that had once been involved.”
Marussia have hit back at Force India’s criticism of their communication with the strategy group being ‘not compliant’ and ‘lacking substance’. It appears Force India were unaware that prior to them succeeding Lotus (1/1/15) onto the revolving seat at the strategy group, this body had given its approval for Marussia to run a 2014 car in 2015 – with specific stipulations.
“I was surprised to hear some of the comments made…”, commented Graham Lowden. “Particularly regarding an application we were said to have made to yesterday’s meeting, which I can confirm was not the case.
“We did make a request on 17 December last year and we have been working since to satisfy the requirements subsequently communicated to us, specifically complying with all the Regulations, aside from the exempted articles.”
“The comments also mentioned that issues of compliance were raised, that it was felt that our application lacked substance and contained no supporting documentation to reinforce the case for offering special dispensation. Again, we did not make any application to yesterday’s Strategy Group meeting and nor were we asked to.
“Instead, we are proceeding with our clear process regarding compliance and building our operation. We are doing everything possible to adhere to the process set out for us to return to the 2015 grid. This is a fantastic good news story for the whole sport and we just want to go racing.”
“Subsequent to this application, the team was informed on 5 January 2015, that the Strategy Group felt that two teams – Marussia and Caterham – should be permitted to race a 2014 car in the 2015 championship. The letter stated that the Strategy Group agreed that the car should comply with all of the 2015 technical regulations, with the exception of four articles, those articles being Articles 3.7.9, 15.4.3, 15.4.4 and 16.2. The team can confirm that the modifications to its 2014 car would meet this stipulation”.
“The team has been busy preparing its 2014 cars such that they comply with the stipulations of the Strategy Group and at the same time it is pressing on with the development of its 2015 car to ensure it can supersede the 2014 car as soon as possible.
“The team has a significant number of staff already working on both its 2014 and 2015 cars. It also has the benefit of being able to recruit further staff very quickly from the rich pool of experienced and talented F1 personnel who were left unemployed following the closure of Marussia and Caterham and due to job cuts made by other teams in the sport.
Force India will have earned no friends through this process. Even were it the case that they were ‘the first to vote’ and because unanimous agreement was required, their ‘no vote’ was enough to temporarily scupper the return of Manor Racing. It was politically naive of Fernly to vote against the ‘Marussia’ return and would have been easy for him and the Silverstone team to pass the buck further down the line.
These are the actions appear to be those of a desperate team, whose chassis two days ago was in a warehouse on the south coast gathering dust – awaiting payment from their millionaire owner for it to be released to go testing.
Williams far more likely to be challenging for victory
Williams surged from 9th in 2013 to third overall in the WCC with arguably the second fastest package to the winners Mercedes AMG F1,
Felipe Massa now believes Williams is ready to win races this year. The team’s resurgence is not by way of co-incidence and in part due to the severing of their ties with Renault to take on-board the new Mercedes power power unit. But as the saying goes ‘Lucky? Yes, and I find that the harder I work, the luckier i get’
With a pole position and the pace to challenge Mercedes at various circuits in 2014, many F1 observers felt that the team failed to capitalise on the possibilities of a race win.
Felipe gives his thoughts on the matter. “Yes, I think so, not many races, but I think at least one. It’s a different team, a much better team, much more prepared, more experienced – everything is different. The team is a lot more prepared and in much better shape compared to how we started last year. I mean we had a good car, we had a fantastic season, the development was great but I think the team is a lot more prepared which is good.”
Pat Symonds paid tribute to Massa’s return to form in the second half of the 2014 during the Jerez test and Felipe explains why this was the case. “I’m just more comfortable inside the team. I saw so many things last year here that we needed to change, it was not so easy just to sit and say a lot of negative things we need to change – it takes time. A team doesn’t change from one day to the other. But I think the team has changed a lot and it has been because of really good growth in so many different areas.
“You don’t win the championship if you are good in just one area; you need to win the championship by being good in most areas. Everything is more complete and we can fight in much better condition than we were last year.”
The TJ13 crew in Jerez, were very impressed with the Williams package and though they were miles down the pit lane away from the mainstream media scrum, their was a consistent air of busy efficiency and confidence about the way everything was done.
Having spoken with key pit crew members, they appear to have been marched up the hill to believe big opportunities await in 2015.
AHJ predicts Red Bull will have a tough time this year.
Briatore – Alonso not concerned by so little running
It goes without saying that Flavio Briatore is not much in the paddock. His punishment for instigating a crash to benefit one of his drivers has forever tainted his reputation and perhaps also that of Alonso by association.
Add to this his close association with Bernie Ecclestone and all this counts against him with the British media saving little time to put Briatore in his place.
Yet when Flavio joined the F1 circus in the late 1980’s, he regularly propounded the view that the sport should also be entertainment for the viewer and not just a problem solving exercise for the engineers.
The Italian media regularly quote Briatore’s current views and of course his current connection with the sport is via his managerial duties for Fernando Alonso.
Briatore reveals Alonso’s state of mind having just run a mere 38 laps for his new team in Jerez.
“I spoke with him and does not seem to be overly concerned. Having problems at the start of winter testing is normal. It ‘s more important to be able to talk about a good result after the GP of Melbourne then after the Jerez test. The tests are used just to see if there may be problems.”
Of course as an Italian, Flavio will always have a place for Ferrari in his heart and he offers the tifosi a few words of caution following the red team’s headline grabbing lap times in the recent Andalucian test.
“Of course, everyone wants to see a winning Ferrari and, after the difficulties of last season, would be fabulous. But we must remain cautious, the true values do not know up to Melbourne. However, it is positive that Ferrari has already been able to do more than they achieved in this test a year ago and hopefully will understand more in the next test. But one thing is certain: the Mercedes is ahead of all the competition.”
TJ13’s Andrew Huntley-Jacobs spoke on the eve of the final day in Jerez with engineers from Brixworth, who were amused at the hype over the Ferrari lap times – suggesting the silver arrow has a lot ore in hand for Barcelona.
F1 division 2
If nothing else, Bernie Ecclestone is a survivor; and to survive the most tumultuous of external environments, adaptability is a key requirement.
Ecclestone does a finance ‘health check’ of the Formula One teams in the autumn of each year, and in 2014 he discovered what many had been predicting for months and years. Two F1 teams were on the brink of collapse and others were steps not miles behind them.
There was talk of 3 car teams from around Monza, and the willing and helpful Christian Horner joined the chorus stating as late as November: “I hope that Marussia and Caterham get their act together. If not, and we had to run a third car, we would be in a position to. But we will need to know pretty quickly – it’s already November”.
However, almost 2 months earlier, Eric Boullier of McLaren had revealed to build “the chassis and the logistics of the third car… the people around it…. we would need about six months’ notice.”
Someone wasn’t telling the truth.
Well three car teams fell by the wayside as did Caterham and Marussia, leaving just 18 cars at present to take the grid in Australia two months from now.
Yet there are commercial agreements in pace with race promoters and TV companies where should the number of cars attending a Formula One weekend fall below a certain number – the contracts with FOM become void.
Speaking to SKY F1 in Austin, Ecclestone appeared nonchalant about the number of cars on the grid. “It could go down to 14. If we lose another two teams that is what will happen. I can’t predict if it won’t or it will. But if it is 18 no drama at all.”
However, with Force India’s rejection of a plan which would allow Marussia to return to the grid in 2015 and the Silverstone outfit themselves apparently strapped for cash and unable to release their 2015 chassis from a warehouse in a southern British port – the number of teams in Melbourne cold in fact be 16.
Ina desperate bid to ensure this doesn’t happen, Bernie Ecclestone presented a plan to the F1 strategy group last week which would see him provided a start-up fund of 15m euro’s for anyone wishing to enter the 2015 in a ‘B’ division competition.
This plan would see the Caterham fans favourite F1 consultant, Colin Kolles, prepare a chassis based upon the 2013 Red Bull car and Flavio Briatore would offer a V8 engine produced at Mecachrome.
The strategy group rejected this proposal, leaving Ecclestone with little choice but to ensure Force India make it to Melbourne – and as insurance probably the re-birthed Marussia too.
F1 division 2 at present seems dead in the water, though with the aptitude abilities of Bernie Ecclestone in play – who knows what the next plan could be.