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Previously on TheJudge13:
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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 – 1934: Il Grande John- a true sporting legend
It has always rankled me that the only time we hear of John Surtees is when the specialist media seeks out the frail old man and asks him the same tired old questions about someone repeating his accomplishments.
Surtees celebrates his eighty first birthday today and is still the only World Champion to have won on two and four wheels.
He won seven World titles with MV Augusta between 1956 and 1960 in both the 350cc and 500cc classes and was awarded the MBE in 1959. It was a chance meeting with Hawthorn at an awards ceremony in 1958 which sparked his interest in racing on four wheels.
His final year of motorbike races coincided with his first events in cars. His debut was in a Formula Junior finishing behind a certain Jim Clark. He would also finish second in his first F2 race and after a debut in Monaco, finished second at the British GP. His third Grand Prix should have resulted in victory after pole position and fastest lap but his Lotus retired due to mechanical reliability.
“Il Grande John” had been competing for Ferrari in sports-car races and was offered a seat with the F1 team for 1963. The team had been in disarray since a number of engineers and Phil Hill had left and Surtees set to work to turn the organisation around. The following season he made history by taking the crown with two victories in Germany and Italy and four other podium places.
His final victory came in the 1967 Italian Grand Prix with Honda when he slipstreamed past Jack Brabham to win by a mere 0.2 seconds.
It’s fashionable to not consider him in the Top 20 drivers in history. There is always a feeling that he was a biker and not a ‘proper’ racing driver, therefore somehow he was fortuitous in Formula One. And yet his contemporaries included Clark, Hill, Brabham, Moss, Stewart, Ginther, Gurney and Mclaren
Piranha club is alive and kicking
Over two decades ago Ron Dennis famously welcomed Eddie Jordan to Formula One uttering the words, “welcome to the Piranha club”.
Today it appears the members of the club have been on various forms of extended diet and are ready to tear each other and the sport apart to satisfy their own needs.
Force India were originally to attend the first test in Jerez, but run with their 2014 car and the updated 2015 Mercedes engine. They had allegedly found late improvements in the wind tunnel and so the 2015 car would not be ready in time for the first winter test.
Then the Silverstone team announced they would miss the first F1 winter test and COO Otmar Szafnauer claimed this was “saving us 500,000 pounds. The engine and transmission tests, Mercedes can do for us. So we wouldn’t be learning too much.”
Given that to run an F1 team for a year costs in the region of £60-70m, saving £500,000 on testing which is commonly accepted as the best form of learning in Formula One, appeared a strange decision.
The furore over the amount of knowledge Mercedes gained from testing Pirelli tyres for two days in 2013 would imply that the data Force India would have gleaned in Jerez – even running last years car to understand the performance of the 2015 Pirelli’s – was reason enough to justify the spend.
Yet whilst the Andalucian test was in progress last week, Bob Fernley revealed there were further delays in the production of the 2015 VJM08 chassis.
“Given the workload and timescales involved, it’s now looking more difficult to make the first Barcelona test. Everybody is pushing to try to make it happen, but it’s far more likely the VJM08 will run at the final Barcelona test at the end of February. That means we will use the 2014 car at the next test. The mileage on the VJM07 will still allow us to run with the 2015 Pirelli compounds.”
So now Force India now appreciate the value of testing the 2015 rubber in Barcelona, even though it will be with last year’s car.
However, TJ13 can exclusively reveal, the reason we have not seen anything other than a mock up of the VJM08 in Mexico – and the reason we are unlikely to see it anytime soon on track – is because the team do not have access to their own 2015 chassis.
Force India outsourced their chassis production this year, however, the original supplier discovered their CNC machines were out of alignment following a factory move. The chassis was then sent to Formaplex to be re-engineered.
The VJM08 is now still there in Plymouth – in a warehouse gathering dust whilst the company awaits payment for the work they have performed. Further, the mandatory FIA crash tests have not been completed.
TJ13 sources reveal that unless this matter is resolved in the next few days, the VJM08 will also fail to make the second test in Barcelona.
It may appear rather churlish of Force India to veto the return of the former Marussia team so they can benefit from an incremental share of the Marussia 2014 performance payments. Even more so when you consider the teams get their payments for the previous year’s finishing positions paid in equal installments between March and November inclusive.
Yet clearly just under £450,000 a month is important to the survival of the Silverstone team owned by the former billionaire, Vijay Mallya; important enough for them to ensure Marussia did not make it back to the grid – and ensuring the others did not all vote yes at last weeks strategy group meeting.
A hungry and desperate Piranha does – what a hungry and desperate Piranha gotta do.
However, should the Silverstone team fail to make it to the grid by race three of the 2015 season, other Piranha’s will be feeding from the spoils of Force India’s 2014 performance payments. It would be ironic were the Mallya owned F1 outfit be forced to request they be allowed to run with a 2014 chassis – because they can’t get their hands on their 2015 version.
Symonds – Bottas has the champion’s mindset
Over the last few months TJ13 has published several interviews from the Williams technical chief Pat Symonds. A repeated theme has been that Symonds believes Valtteri Bottas to be an F1 champion of the future.
“What I’ve seen in the great drivers I have worked with I also see in Valtteri. He regards it almost as a right to be champion. There are other traits in the so-called ‘champion gene’ – like attention to detail and work ethic. These things don’t come easily. In Valtteri I see all these things that I saw in the others over the last 30 odd years. So I have all the hopes that he will be a champion.”
“Actually there are several factors: not just the desire to win – everyone here has that desire to win – but some of them have that burning passion, the absolute belief that they can do it. I think that right now there are drivers out there who are damned fast, but they doubt themselves at times – and the minute a sportsman doubts himself he is already defeated.”
Yet Symonds does not stop there and explains how he has genuinely been surprised and more than satisfied by the recent form of Felipe Massa.
“With Felipe it is much more interesting assessing him. A lot of people know that Felipe was capable of winning a championship, because he very nearly did in 2008. After an accident in Hungary a lot of people thought ‘well, okay Felipe, what a shame’.”
“What we found at Williams is that we have awakened him – and it is not beyond possibility that if we build a good enough car, then Felipe can also win. In the latter part of the 2014 season he was a revelation. It was a Felipe that we haven’t seen in years.”
Button says he has “unfinished business” with Honda
Every Mclaren fan is hoping that the resurrection of the Mclaren-Honda partnership will be a re-enactment of the late 80’s when the partnership dominated Formula One. Whereas the non Woking fans will be praying that the Honda that turns up will be the same corporate entity that was entered as manufacturer between 2006-2008.
Jenson Button took his maiden victory at Hungary in 2006 but the following two years were a disaster for Honda, “We didn’t get the results together in ’07 and ’08,” Button said. “So there’s a lot for us to achieve and to put right, if you like, of working together. There is a lot of unfinished business.”
Over four days at the recent Jerez F1 test, the team completed just 79 laps – this followed a similarly poor test in Abu Dhabi three months ago where the team of engineers struggled with many of the same problems.
The man from Frome though remained as positive as usual and explained where the Japanese were currently with their package: “They have their targets, and they understand what other people are getting out of their engines, and the strengths and weaknesses of those cars. It’s not like the engine had been driven for three years before the test, and as you know in Formula One, the cars are only just ready for the first run in winter testing.
“Everything arrives at the last moment because you are trying to get everything out of the car and engine before you arrive at that test. I’m sure it baffles a lot of people when you see a car turn up at the first test and drive out of the garage at 11am and not 9am. Why couldn’t you start two hours earlier? It’s because you are always trying to maximise the winter and arrive at the first test with the best possible package, and that’s why it sometimes starts a little late.”
Which of course would explain why the reigning World Champions – Mercedes – completed nearly 600 laps over the same period and rolled out of the garage at the earliest opportunity.
Ferrari still have huge amount of work to complete
Ferrari President – Sergio Marchione – gave an interview in New York recently which suggested the team should be cautious rather than be intoxicated by the headline times from Jerez.
Apparently, no one at Ferrari is under any illusions over the team’s performance at the first winter test and whilst SF15-T is demonstrating progress over the 2014 it will be some time before the Scuderia can quantify whether they have closed the gap to the competition.
Team principal, Maurizio Arrivabene, was clear when the car was unveiled that he believed it will take Ferrari two to three years to be consistent contenders for victory and titles. Marchionne continued this cautious rhetoric that has flowed from Maranello since he replaced former President Luca di Montezemolo,
“I am encouraged by the results of the new Ferrari but there is still some way to go. It’s one thing to do a quick lap but another entirely to do an entire race. I have great confidence in the squad but I am not expecting miracles. The Barcelona test will be the ultimate proof of what we have done so far.”
Hippo Rant Light: Fernley blames Force India problems on Caterham and Marussia
As if their unethical behaviour of late wasn’t enough to make them the biggest pariah in F1 for the present, Bob Fernly appears to want to dig their lack of popularity hole even deeper. In an interview with the Press Association, Force India’s deputy team principal now takes a swipe at Caterham and Marussia for creating problems for his team.
“As you know we’ve recently started working with Toyota’s wind tunnel at their facility in Cologne. However, the Toyota people had agreements with Caterham, and quite rightly until they could resolve their Caterham issues we could not move in with our contract. We didn’t get the go-ahead until early December, so we were behind schedule before we had even started.”
So had Caterham’s got on with the job a failing more quickly, then Force India could have delivered their programme more efficiently. Hardly the best planning from the Silverstone team.
Further, the 50 million currency unit Mallya promised over three years ago would have solved the problem – had it ever materialised.
Fernly adds: “On top of that we’ve had a few issues with suppliers because they’ve obviously been hurt very badly by the Marussia and Caterham demises. They wanted payments up front, which hurt us cash-flow wise, and for one minute I don’t blame the suppliers at all. I would do exactly the same if my financial position had been hurt very badly. But it hasn’t helped us and has meant we’ve had a few slow downs in different areas.”
Oh my word! The suppliers expected payment? What has the world come to? In what world is Fernley living?
Unlike Marussia and Caterham Force India has been pocketing gobs of Money from Bernie for the last few years, but obviously still find themselves strapped for cash. Well that’s what having crooks for shareholders does to you. One has been in jail for almost a year, the other is in acute danger of finding himself there soon and yet Fernly is surprised at the creditors attitude towards the team?
Implying his team’s current problems are primarily the fault of Marussia and Caterham is a simply preposterous notion from Fernly.
“Would you lend this man a penny?”……
…..is the sign hanging behind the desks of 17 Indian Banks CEO’s – as a reminder of the error of their ways.
Further, anyone considering advancing Vijay or his enterprises any credit – is most likely applying the inverse of the following maxim.
“A bank will lend you money if you can demonstrate you don’t need it”
The Usher’s Caption Competition
for an alternative view on F1, follow TJ13’s Usher
Williams backed Marussia bid
Bob Fernly would have us believe that Force India were not the only ones who would have voted against the return of the former Marussia team to the F1 grid in 2015. It was just that a single no vote would scupper Manor Racing’s application and Force India had the misfortune of going first in declaring their position.
Today, Claire Williams has revealed to SKY that Williams would not have voted against Manor Racing competing with a 2014 car, whilst they completed work on their 2015 entry.
“We made it very clear in the Strategy Group that we would vote for them to be able to use the 2014 chassis this season. Unfortunately it hasn’t happened, but Williams want a competitive line-up on the grid and we want to help the smaller teams.
Williams understands the pressures of not being one of the privileged few who have a war chest to burn on Formula One spending wars. Claire adds, “And I think we’ve demonstrated that and are always pushing cost control in Formula One”.
The Grove Deputy Team principal is candid and admits there is some self interest in Williams pursuing cost control “that’s to save the smaller teams that are really struggling, the likes of Marussia and Caterham, but also the middle teams as well at the moment that are facing some serious issues.”
Hamilton’s new contract: part VIII
TJ13 Jerez members were told in Jerez, that discussions with Lewis Hamilton over his new contract had begun and were progressing.
Toto Wolff updates the Press Association on the matter explaining, “It is always beneficial to have a clear situation, for the driver and ourselves. Therefore we should aim to finish the discussions before the start of the season.”
In the case of imperfect knowledge or a full explanation for an event, it is better to believe the simplest explanation possible.
This of course would be that Mercedes and Lewis just haven’t got round to finalising matters on a contract extension to see him race for the team beyond 2015.
Yet Toto Wolff claimed the week before the Abu Dhabi GP that a meeting was scheduled for the Monday following the race. TJ13’s Andrew Huntley-Jacobs had it confirmed in Jerez by a senior manager within the Mercedes AMG F1 team – that this meeting never took place.
Another individual closely connected with Lewis also revealed to AHJ that the British driver had been out of the UK mostly since between the final race of 2014 and the first winter test.
So lack of opportunity is presently the simple explanation for the outstanding nature of this vitally important matter.
Yet we have heard Toto speak on the issue of Hamilton’s contract more than once previously this year and the names of Alonso and Bottas were then suggested by the Austrian as possibilities to replace Hamilton in 2015.
We now have another soft deadline by which Lewis’ contract extension is expected to be resolved, that said, Wolff does carefully offer the caveat that Melbourne is not a firm deadline because, “we don’t want to put him or us under pressure”.
Surely if this new self-imposed soft deadline passes, we must start to assume, the Occam’s Razor principle no longer applies.