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OTD Lite – 1949: Niki Lauda arrives to become a legend
It goes without saying that today’s audience for F1 knows Niki Lauda merely as one of the senior bosses of the uber-dominant Mercedes team. They may have seen his character portrayed in the 2013 movie ‘Rush” and questioned what it actually all meant. After all it was nearly forty years ago – and that’s old..
Lauda celebrates his birthday today and although he may have been a Teutonic machine who took advantage of his sheer will and grit to win races and championships – he was also blindingly fast and a ruthless calculating operator.
He first became a legend of the sport for pulling Ferrari out of the doldrums. 1975, 1977 and 1984 would be his title triumphs but overshadowing his career will always be surviving one of the most horrifying crashes ever recorded. From the moment of impact to his return at Monza was a mere superhuman 6 weeks and he lost the 1976 title by a solitary point that year.
For me, Lauda means a totally different memory. He won the first Grand Prix I ever went to – the 1982 British Grand Prix at Brands Hatch. A Ferrari legend? A F1 legend? Both unarguable.. but perhaps even more so – he is a human legend and living proof of the power of the mind.
Change of heart at Ferrari
The mood in the Ferrari camp had been rather understated until recently, with both management and drivers insisting that 2015 would be a transition year with not many expectations other than perhaps coming a little closer to the mighty Mercs towards the end of the season.
But with a Ferrari powered car at the top of the table at the end of all the Jerez testing days and fairly flawless and competitive running at Barcelona as well, Ferrari seems to start revisiting their expectations and talk has been of wanting to win two races in an ideal case. The last season with two wins was 2013.
While the team’s new signing, Sebastian Vettel, told RAI that he’s not much of a friend of putting up numbers, because “in the ideal case it would be more anyway”, he admits that if he were to choose, he’d probably prefer winning Monaco and Suzuka. Apparently there must have been a hint of offense on the interviewers face as he was quick to offer that “perhaps it is better to forego Monaco in favour of Monza”. However Suzuka stays on his wishlist as the demanding track in Japan is his favourite one.
Red Bull backs Manor return
The air is getting a wee bit thin for Force India’s Bob Fernley. Responding to the backlash of negative PR once they vetoed Manor’s return, the FI man was quick to point out that others would have vetoed that move too had they been forced to vote.
With Williams, Ferrari and now Red Bull coming forward, three of the five other Strategy Group teams have contradicted that statement with words and/or actions. Both Claire Williams and Christian Horner have expressed their wish to see Manor on the grid in Australia and Ferrari have been quick to offer Manor a supply of power units, the lack of which was one of the main obstacles for a Manor return.
Now, we shouldn’t delude ourselves into thinking that all those things happen for altruistic reasons. Nothing could be further from an F1 team’s mind set. But there are some things worth noting.
First of all – Ferrari doesn’t gain much by supplying 2014 spec engines. The data acquired with those would be of little use in the development of the 2015 version. Nor does Red Bull have much to gain from a Manor return except that in case of a Force India demise Toro Rosso wouldn’t have to battle it out with Sauber to avoid being dead last. In fact, with rumours of a possible wind tunnel backroom deal between Manor and Honda, one of Red Bull’s rivals would actually profit should Manor succeed. On the other hand, judging by yesterday’s debacle, aerodynamics are McLaren’s least worries at the moment.
In the end it all probably boils down to one thing. Manor is perceived as no danger to anybody but perhaps some of the slower GP2 cars, so it is relatively cheap to show a bit of benevolence and grab a bit of positive PR for a change.
For Force India, however, it is catastrophic news. Speaking to Sky Sports F1, Bob the Builder of (not so fast) Cars insisted their veto had been due to Manor not providing sufficient information in the correct manner and money “had nothing to do with the decision on Marussia“. With the rest of the Strategy Group teams slowly coming forward to hang Force India out to dry, not only does it cast doubt on Force India’s stated reason for sticking the knife in Manor’s back, it also now appears Mallya will have to find other ways of getting more funding into the team.
Why the co-constructor’s idea failed
As we have already reported in yesterday’s test reports (see links at the top of the page), the three midfield teams Sauber, Force India and Lotus have come up with the idea of becoming co-constructors by pooling their resources.
Now, a bit of reality before we say that’s all jolly. That idea first and foremost could mean a truckload of people would lose their jobs as the three teams would combine their three separate design and manufacturing teams into one design team and one manufacturing team. Unfortunately the brutal reality is that the three teams struggle to find the money to employ all the people they are currently forced to have. A joint pool would mean only one wind tunnel needed and only a single set of most production resources.
For the teams it would mean massive cost savings. Perhaps not the 50% percent that McKinsey envisioned as the ideal case, but enough to bring them closer to survival. The result of this co-constructor deal would be a base car that all three start with and then go to develop and upgrade according to their needs, talents and requirements of their respective engine supplier.
Lo and behold – the big teams nixed it and it’s not hard to see why. Lets say Sauber has 45 people in design and manufacturing, FI has 50 and Lotus has 65 – just for the sake of argument. They combine all these people, keep the best 90 of them and sack the rest. They would each start with a car that’s been created by 90 people – for Sauber that’d mean a doubling of man power, while only paying a third of the 90 people (30). Lower costs for double the man power, how cool is that?
And that’s where the big ones have their problem with. Any of those three becoming competitive or – heaven forbid – all three of them is not in their interest.
But before we start bashing them unduly, the biggest problem is appendix 6 of the sporting regulations. Appendix 6 forbids a great number of parts to be delivered to more than one team by any third party supplier. Even more precisely there is also a ban on making technical details of such listed part parts available to a competitor – a rule that seems to have been born straight out of spy gate.
While it would take our resident regulations guru Matt Trumpets to confirm if that’s the case, there is a certain amount of irony in the fact that the man, who is most vocal in listing these particular regulations as the reason for their ‘nyet’ to the co-constructors idea is Ron Dennis – the very same man who had once gotten the stuffing punished out of him for having his team in possession of Ferrari documents.
The big teams would have the clout to have these rules changed for 2016 (until March 1st), but as we’ve already established, they have no interest in doing so. This time however, they can conveniently hide behind the rules.