#F1 Daily News and Comment: Tuesday 17th February 2015

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Mercedes convinced that customer teams are the key

Nothing like a good fight

A forum called the “Strategy Group”

Oops, they did it again…

Another chink in Ecclestone’s armour

You’ve gotta love Ferrari

 


Mercedes convinced that customer teams are the key

The Mercedes engine folk are convinced that their sizeable army of customer teams is a key element in continuing their domination of F1. While Renault and Ferrari engines are only deployed in two teams and Honda just one, the Mercedes works outfit is joined by no less than three customer teams, making four installations in total.

This fleet of eight cars requires significantly more manufacturing of parts than their competitors, yet Andy Cowell, boss of Brixworth engines reckons that the gains outweigh the added effort.

“Because we are always using the exact same hardware specification, we get more kilometers out of it for data acquisition on the road to Melbourne. That means we collect a greater amount of data to help us decide, which specification to homologate and to determine how many tokens to use.”

Some of the data is terrifying, but it helps a lot to know how hard you can push the components when it matters,” Cowell explains whilst emphasising the synergy effects. “It’s a learning experience. Often weaknesses are found out by customer teams before they hit us. That way we can react early, before a problem befalls all teams.”

There are those who have been critical of the scale of operation and spend of Mercedes AMG F1 on the new power units, yet Cowell points out to AMuS, “the rules are the same for everybody, therefore everybody has the same chance.

“I don’t see a reason why our competitors couldn’t build an engine as good as ours.”

Of course playing catchup in Formula One is not a matter of days and months as Red Bull demonstrated, paritcularly given the fact the Mercedes are still pushing forward.

“Of course we are not standing still, but the higher up you go in terms of development, the flatter the curve for improvement becomes. On the other hand we have learned that there are no limits when it comes to Formula 1 engines. We once assumed that the limit for the V10s would be 14.000 rpm. We ended up with engines revving up to 20.000.”

“Ferrari and Renault will aim higher than what we have at present. Honda is a bit of an unknown, but we should not underestimate their ability. We will take a big step forward, but I cannot guarantee that this is sufficient to be better than the competition.”

The simple fact of the matter is, Mercedes have done a better job then Ferrari and Renault, which is why they have a full allocation of customer teams. Its up to the rest to find a way of catching up – or changing the rules of course.

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Nothing like a good fight

In most marriages, there’s a jolly good fight once in a while. The union between Red Bull and Renault has demonstrated this with plenty of public bickering taking place in 2014. From Red Bull’s perspective, the French F1 engine manufacturer delivered a load of very expensive paper weights to Austria last year, when something quite other was required; divorce was threatened, but Renault’s engine chief Remi Taffin reckons that this is now in the past.

“This had more to do with politics than with technical issues,” the Renault man insists. “There has been tension because of mediocre results and the inevitable frustration. Sometimes the communication was difficult.

In an attempt to prevent this recurrence and accusations of infidelity, Red Bull has been declared the ‘de-facto’ works team – though with just the fizzy drinks company’s two F1 teams left as customers, this was not a difficult commitment to offer.

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A Forum called the “Strategy Group”

Today sees the next instalment of the dramatic farce that is the meeting of the F1 Strategy Group. Whilst Force India have run out of corpses to loot, there is little expectation anything fundamental to F1’s survival and development will seep out under the draft excluder.

According to the BBC, Mercedes doesn’t want to change anything – at least until proper market research has been done amongst the fans to establish properly their views.

Ferrari want to go back to the future past and reintroduce V8 engines, though they concede some efficiency would be a good idea suggesting a reduction from the previous 2400cc down to 1900cc. A turbo too would be on offer.

Red Bull (Renault) have proposed a freeze on the hybrid aspects of the engines which is where Mercedes excels and Stuttgart have drawn a red line to protect this aspect of future F1 engines. Renault would like to limit future engine development to the top half of the engine – cylinder head, valves and so on – which appears rather lacking in adventure.

Despite this dithering, Jean Todt attempted to stand tall and demanded engine costs be capped for customers at 5M euros. Having sold the FIA’s birthright to make regulations for a ‘mess of potage’, the Frenchman was quickly silenced as his proposal was rubbished immediately

Formula One has made most mistakes in the book of ‘how to cock up the running of a sport’ – and is well on the way to writing the sequel.

Whilst the new internet and social media is rubbished – or at best ignored due to its inability to generate revenue – we have had car designs so ugly, they make a turd shine and the F1 politics makes a henhouse look civilised.

All this said, the new regulations for 2016 must be agreed by March 1st, so there may be some focusing of minds today on this matter. Yet even in this context, it appears often doing nothing is advantageous to enough members at the party – for exactly that to happen.

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Oops, they did it again…

The comparisons were inevitably going to be made. A German F1 driver, mildly successful in the past, joins a Ferrari team in utter turmoil.

Indeed it looked like 1996 all over again when Sebastian Vettel scribbled his name on a piece of paper that said “Scuderia Ferrari” in the header. The fact that Vettel has for ever identified the seven times world champion – Michael Schumacher – as his long time hero just adds to the comparison.

Although it was his short-lived predecessor, Marco Mattiachi, who poached Vettel from Red Bull, the current team boss Mauricio Arrivabene seems anything but displeased with the team’s new signing.

“Vettel is a copy of Schumi,” Arrivabene tells Italian journalist Leo Turrini. “I was there in Michaels time. (authors note: as a representative of Marlboro, Ferrari’s long time title sponsor) I lived right in the heart of Ferrari and I admit, sometimes Sebastian leaves me speechless. In certain things, certain patterns of behaviour, he is Michael Schumacher.

Unlike previous incarnations of the team, the Scuderia now also acknowledges the existence of their other driver.

“I believe in Kimi Räikkönnen,” Arrivabene declares. “I believe that the friendship between our drivers will lead to a work that benefits the whole team”

While it may please the tifosi, that Ferrari puts Vettel on the same pedestal that Schumacher left after his first retirement, one cannot help but worry that they are setting up the German for a mighty fall. He hasn’t driven a single race in red yet and it remains yet to be seen how well he has overcome the annus horribilis that was 2014. He wouldn’t be the first to fall because of too high expectations being set and premature praise.

Further, it took Schumacher to the end of his fifth year with the Scuderia before he won a drivers title with the red team – exactly the amount of time Alonso gave the team – whether Vettel will hang around that long remains to be seen.

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Another chink in Ecclestone’s armour

Spot the man with a gun to his head. He’s the one who no longer cares who he offends, refuses to play subservient games any longer, speaks his mind bluntly – and why? Because he’s got nothing to lose.

Speaking to Auto Hebdo, the boss of Lotus, Gerard Lopex,  had this to say. “TV ratings are declining steeply whereas the show on track is exceptional. Why do these potential sponsors never make the leap when they are not really undaunted by the amounts requested in F1? What’s holding them back?

“Is it because of the sport’s archaic management and organisation?”

As TJ13 wrote in ‘The fall of the empire series’, this kind of behaviour during the pomp of the Emperor Ecclestone’s reign would see Lopez out the back door – in as long as it takes to say ‘Adam Parr’.

Yet the power of Ecclestone is on the wane, and given Lopez belief that he’ll get nothing but the bare minimum from Ecclestone and FOM that his team’s contract dictates – why should he care?

The recent lack of growth in TV revenues relative to other sports together with the collapse of F1’s audience – are in fact a fanfare to the commercial disaster Ecclestone is these days to CVC. Gone are the steep growth curves of revenue and asset value and now its a battle to keep 20 races on the calendar each season.

Lotus were late to get to Jerez and to begin their testing, though in the race to be the next most bankrupt team – they appear to be well ahead of Vijay Mallya’s Force India.

Times are changing, the innocent little boy in the crowd has just shouted, “Look – The emperor isn’t wearing any clothes”. Something those not mesmerised by the F1 circus have known for quite some time.

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You’ve gotta love Ferrari

There has been a lot of talk in recent times about improving the F1 show. To those on the outside this may appear to be fiddling whilst Rome burns, but the F1 elite are busy coming up with ideas of how to improve areas of the sport they believe to be of critical importance to its future.

At the last strategy meeting the participants discussed 1000 BHP engines, bigger tyres and cars which were so visually striking they’d take the fans breath away.

The new Ferrari under Sergio Marchionne is attempting to persuade us they are forward thinking and not just whinging in the wings – despite advocating a return to V8 engines of course.

Here’s the latest from Ferrari.com

Would it be possible to come up with an F1 car which not only is technologically advanced, but also captivating to the eye and aggressive-looking? And could this be made without having to overturn the current technical rules? At Ferrari, we believe so. Let us introduce you to the ‘concept design’ that was conceived by our design studio (Centro Stile Ferrari) together with the Scuderia’s aero department.

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Minimal changes give the car a look that is way different from what have been familiar with so far. Our challenge was to create something that was – to put it short – better looking. We value your comments on that.

untitled

“Minimal changes – without having to overturn the current technical regulations” – REALLY???

Fundamental to this look is the loss of open wheel racing, as the trim around the wheels and the width of the side-pods creates this illusion if not enclosing the wheels entirely.

There are huge issues around the design of the front of this car from a safety perspective which the FIA have been attempting to regulate into front end design over the past few seasons. Further, the front lower wing overlapping the front tyres resolves what has been a problem Ferrari have managed less well than others – air flow around the tyre.

These may be fussy and off the cuff observations, but there are many that could be made of a similar nature.

More importantly, a car like this would in fact require a huge change in the regulations. It would be like throwing up the cards in the air once again – and seeing who comes up with the best solution.

A whole new set of regulations might appear to be all too convenient for a team who failed miserably to take advantage of the last mega change – for 2014 – and are at best second in engine design and further back in the current pecking order as far as the chassis is concerned.

And once again, the costs of a whole new concept of F1 car will be punitive to the smaller teams – and maybe see off, a couple more from the sport.

“Level the playing field once more and give us another go” – is certainly one interpretation of the message behind this PR stunt.

Presumably Ferrari will once again conduct some sort of unscientific opinion poll which will see overwhelming support for this giant red herring and present this as the voice of F1 fans – to whoever is listening.

But it does look impressive – and Ferrari sponsors are getting a lot of extra eyeballs.

All this on the day that ‘Brand Finance’ declared Ferrari had slipped from the number one global spot to number nine. They are replaced at the top by Lego and sit also behind the fizzy drink known as Red Bull.

“The brand’s power has been ever so slightly blunted. Ferrari’s racing team brand, Scuderia Ferrari, has now gone several years without an F1 title and last season struggled even to mount a challenge”.

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33 responses to “#F1 Daily News and Comment: Tuesday 17th February 2015

  1. just my thought

    the actual F1 state is just a reflex of our world’ state, in politics, in terms of society, et al
    the world is getting more and more pointless, retrograde, absurd, and F1 just reflcts this

    I like to think, more as a wishful thinking than anything, of how F1 would be if they had kept the 2002 rulebook for 5 or 10 seasons, how many teams we would, or could have, and even if the F1 state of affairs would be so shallow and appalling as it is now … just a thought

    • and when I say “rulebook”, I do mean the whole thing, including the 10 point system, the 1 hour qualifying, the free tyre choice and its allowance, the spare cars, and also the refuelling

      the only things I would change, out law traction control as they did in 2007 or 2008, use the standard Control Unit, suppress all that [then] common aerodynamic gadgets hanging on the car, and of course, limit the in season testing sessions, otherwise every rule would stand as it was in 2002, as stated

      • Frankly, I think the ban on testing is what killed F1. Teams no longer can catch up and many a people lost their jobs. The test teams where the breeding ground for the latter race engineers and many test drivers were more than just token employees and were properly prepared for the day they might be required to step in. That’s the biggest mistake F1 has done.

        • I’m not sure that argument can stand up. During the seasons of limitless testing, the pecking order still remained the same and the racing was just as boring and crap as it has now (except 09, 10 & 12). So even from a performance basis and brin able to catchup, nothing changed. Test drivers back then were no different than what we see now, because they rarely if ever got a chance to race.

          Also what about cost? Is that not one of the reason why in season testing and the spare car were banned in the first place? Force India recently said it would’ve cost them £500k to do the recent test in Jerez, now imagine how much it would cost to run a test team now? The incremental cost to the smaller teams would twice what it is now.

          Testing didn’t kill F1, if anything it prolonged the life of a few smaller teams. What’s killing F1 is the FIA’s inability to grow a pair and actually put both Bernie and the teams in check and actual do their jobs and RUN the sport without being dictated to.

          • Fortis, my friend, you really need to brush up on your F1 history knowledge. Ferrari caught up to Williams by bounds and leaps through a sheer testing marathon in 1997.
            And here is a short list of drivers, who were test drivers and then called up to race on short notice:

            – David Coulthard
            – Mika Häkkinen
            – Robert Kubica
            – Sebastian Vettel

          • Hippo i was a mere casual viewer in the late 90’s (Started watching the Schumi v Mika battles), so my history beyond that is lacking.

            What i am trying to say is, if they had continued with limitless amounts of in season testing and 3rd cars, the cost would be too great for the smaller teams and that was part of the reason why it was banned.

            So that’s not what has really killed F1, because had they continued doing so, the grid would only be filled with factory works teams, because they would be the only one that could afford the cost, just like we are seeing now.

            As for the test drivers, those were all pretty much destined to get a full time drive at some point (not too sure about DC), not sure how many of today’s test drivers will get the same chance.

          • Todays test drivers will hardly get a chance, because even after a year at the job they have no track time whatsoever apart from the simulator. When Häkkinen was called up to take over from Andretti in 1993 he had thousands of kilometers experience in driving the car, enough to enable him to outqualify a certain Ayrton Senna at his first race for McLaren.
            The costs for testing are ridiculously cheap in comparison to what their posh motorhomes and the expensive simulators cost. In fact, back in the day small teams like Minardi used tests to sell their seats. They were actually making money with testing.

          • agreed fortis. what’s killing f1 is the distribution of funds, the move to pay per view and the lack of marketing. it’s not about the show. sport is sport, sometimes it’s exciting, sometimes it’s not. there are tons of absolutely boring soccer games but people are not constantly trying to improve the show and complaining about it. and i wouldn’t say the racing is crap, the last couple of seasons had a lot of good races. what f1 needs to do is to stop talking down it’s own product, get rid of bernie, reform it’s finances and keep f1 free to air. if they want to insist on pay per view, they should establish an additional internet based subscription service. if they want to know how it’s done, they should look at what the nba is doing. it’s very simple, but requires people in the paddock to get their heads out of their …

        • the ever changing rulebook was the reason, I think, main example being this latest rule change, spiked the costs

        • I do think they should allow more in season testing, but not unlimited (as Ferrari, Red Bull and McLaren would just pound around tracks 24/7 all year round). I think the FIA lost sight of the benefits of in season testing in terms of getting young drivers ready for F1 should the opportunity arise. Simulation works but parts being tested in the real world tends to be crammed into practise sessions or the few in season tests that do happen. But the young drivers who get a test role don’t often get to drive the car as it tends to disrupt the race drivers preparations for a Grand Prix if they have to give the car over to a young driver with cash.

          Things won’t change in F1 until Bernie and I dare say Todt is gone, and it might turn out to be a rebuild job. Social Media wise ? It’s more about getting fans involved in the sport, the more you can engage the more who might be tempted to spend money on F1 and related brands.
          TV wise ? I do tend to think F1 could copy the WWE Network in terms of the live elements (access to all those extra camera’s Charlie and co have) and also having on demand content. Plus Free to air as well on traditional tv. F1 is not the Premier league and will never get the same silly amounts of money as the broadcasters are willing to shell out globally. I expect BT sport might have a punt on F1 when the rights come up for renewal.

          • Mercedes are so far ahead, testing would probably just increase the advantage, given they have more customer teams thus would gather more data on the power unit and related items that go with it.

      • I am not so sure about refusing any real testing.
        Can you imagine if it was a new passenger jet that had been designed. It is all new parts and technology, a lot of it quite innovative. But, all they are allowed to do after they have designed and built it is to taxi about on the runway a little. Then next, fill it up with passengers and off you go, hoping for the best.
        Not a recipe for success I fear. 🙂

    • And the next question is when fingers start pointing at HoLaren. Is it the power unit? Is it the New-Newey chassis design? If I was a betting man I would say Australia.

    • Day 2 of filming – https://twitter.com/McLarenF1/status/567607645696442368/photo/1

      Anyway roll on Thursday when we’ll either get confirmation the filming days were just that – Promotional images of the car or if the development power unit is still spluttering (lots of conflicting reports about yesterday). I think the race configuration power unit is due to debut in the final test. That’s the crucial part of the pre season tests for McLaren Honda, if that fails to run properly then it’s going to be quite a tough time for McLaren Honda in the early races.

  2. Anyone else notice in the Ferrari pic, that the drivers head/helmet is streamlined with the bodywork of the car?

  3. The issue I take with most of the “cool” F1 concept designs is that most of the time, the car on drawing seems to be in some kind of an identity crisis. It’s saying “when I grow up, I want to be a closed wheel sports car”. Uhm, no thanks.

    • Sure you got this on the right page?…….
      I’ve seen a more recent one of Fred holding a mike and saying something about a dark place……

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