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Previously on TheJudge13:
OTD Lite: 1958 – Kidnapping of a champion
The Bahrainian regime is trying to oppose a revolution within its own borders and is broadcasting a story to the outside world that gullible journalists on Bernie’s payroll are happy to propogate. Of course this constant manipulation of facts is seen by the revolutionaries as an antagonistic move and they decide to take stronger action that cannot be ignored.
Lewis Hamilton arrives at his hotel for dinner after qualifying and is escorted away by kidnappers who keep him out of sight for the weekend and the story flies across the globe in seconds. Bringing the whole regime under the closest scrutiny.
Has the Jackal lost his mind? What third class novel is he reading? I am of course bringing an event that happened over half a century ago into some form of modern equivalent. Reigning five time champion Juan Manuel Fangio was kidnapped during the weekend of the 1958 Cuban GP and was safely returned after the event – creating headlines around the world for the Cuban revolutionaries that were fighting in support of Fidel Castro.
Deadline extension for Honda, but possibly less token for development
Being a Honda executive is not really a dream job right now. From that first test in Abu Dhabi after last year’s season closing Abu Double GP – right through to yesterday’s closing day of the second week of testing – whenever the much-heralded reunion of the mighty partners who dominated the late eighties and early nineties showed up on track, it has looked more like a 1992 pre-qualifying of Andrea Moda.
While “seal-gate” on Saturday was pretty much the ultimate humiliation, the Sunday turned out to be downright catastrophic. Not only did the team lose hours of running due to ‘trouble seal Evo III’ only arriving late at night – after less than two hours they were left with a dented car and an even more dented driver. After a shunt that left even seasoned pilots like Vettel scratching their heads as it looked anything but an accident.
While at the time of writing we are still left to speculate as to what exactly happened, at the moment the most commonly voiced opinion is that Alonso was about to pass out and to facilitate at least some deceleration while he blacked out, he whacked it sideways into the wall.
Why Fernando would become incapacitated prior to an ‘off’ is little more than a wild guess. Battery fumes, health problems and electrocution are only some of the possibilities and we await a complete ‘official confirmation’ – though whether that will be the truth, the whole truth and nothing bu the truth – is anyone’s guess.
What appears to be hard to deny though is, that the MP4-30 has more problems than just a wonky seal on Honda’s MGU-K.
Amid all this doom and gloom there was finally some good news for McLaren Honda as their deadline for homologation of the engine has been extended from February 28th to March 2nd. That is, until one remembers that the February only has 28 days, and that this year the 28th is a Saturday.
Further, the final day of testing is March 1st this year so in effect the extension means absolutely nothing.
What may cost rather more is that murmurings in the Barcelona paddock suggest that Honda will get fewer tokens for in-season development than expected.
For those whose F1 eyes were glazed over in January – we discovered that the FIA had left a hair-raising oversight in their rules, that resulted in the situation that Honda, as a new manufacturer has to homologate their power unit on Feb 28th/March 2nd – while Ferrari; Mercedes-Benz and Renault can do that at any time during the year.
Following much gnashing of teeth from Honda, a compromise would be reached that sees Honda receiving the average number of development tokens unused by the other manufacturers at the first race of the season. Speculation and rumour has suggested previously that this would see around 6 to 8 (from 32) development tokens available to Honda. The latest word in pit lane row is the existing manufacturers may have overestimated how many token they would have left over, meaning that the average will inevitably go down.
However, Renault are playing their own relationship games with Red Bull at present and just prior to the Barcelona test Remi Taffin stated that it may be better for Renault to save a lot of their development tokens until later in the year. So who knows what will happen.
Accordingly, McLaren’s Ron Dennis is playing hard ball, insisting that they want the highest number of tokens that any of the manufacturers has left unused following the Melbourne race. Yet Motorsport Total today quote an unnamed FIA source as stating Woking has already been handed a gift with the average token idea – and that there were no grounds for McLaren to make further demands.
One really has to be a hardcore fan to take this. Another season of silver domination is looming and on top of it looks like a year of endless squabbling among the teams.
Williams mocks Ralf Schumacher
Williams, who had planned to concentrate on setup work and race simulations have been frustrated my the myriad of red flags on the final day of testing, which kept interrupting their long-runs.
“All these interruptions have been hindering our progress and are the reason that we couldn’t quite finish all that we had planned,” said testing engineer Rod Nelson. “There were so many red flags, it was almost as if Ralf Schumacher was back.”
Nelson offered no explanation for this rather personal dig at the Williams former racing driver, but in the end he expressed his satisfaction with what the squad had achieved during the second week of testing.
Ferrari running seemingly on schedule
Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel completed 76 laps – totalling 353 km. The primary focus for the test being aerodynamic and tyre tests on both medium and soft tyres. The times never fell below the 1’26 as the Italian squad ran checks on car throughout.
Despite their respective animosity towards each other over the years Vettel was quick to send his best wishes to his fiercest competitor “First of all I would like to wish a speedy recovery Fernando. Luckily we have already received some positive news in this regard, so I hope that will be fit again to test next week.”
In addition, after coming back from his stint that had him witness Alonso’s crash, he immediately rushed over to the McLaren garage, offering his observations to help the Woking squad make sense of what had happened.
“In regards our tests today, we focused on reliability, completing some long runs and testing different parts. We were not able to complete everything that we wanted, but at this stage of winter testing we always have some teething problems to deal with. Overall, I can confirm my feeling with the car is good, and am looking forward to next week’s test.”
Simone Resta, Ferrari’s chief designer summarised the work done by the Maranello team: “Overall, over these four days we have followed the original development program. We have also brought forward aerodynamic measurements as a function of the elements that will be developed in the wind tunnel, as well as tests of hardware and structures – and in conjunction tested different tyre solutions.”
“Throughout the program there have been pauses for planned replacement of parts when they have reached the end of their cycle. We have tested many parts as in a race simulation but havn’t completed a race simulation yet; but this has always been in accordance with our plans. The drivers have confirmed a good feeling with the car and the set-up work has served to improve these feelings, but also to adapt to the weather conditions that varied continuously. “
The question, why Vettel spent most of the afternoon in the pits, was left unanswered by Ferrari’s statement.
Mercedes fires arrows across the opposition’s bows
1:24,321… A time that sent a shiver through the opposition but one that Nico Rosberg was not impressed by. “You may think that our time is a great time but according to our calculations it wan’t really – in relation to the times of the last few days. There was a lot of wind today, and the car did not behave consistently. It was changing from corner to corner which caused problems with the set-up. It took longer than we expected but we collected some useful data.”
In spite of everything, the W06 completed its program although at one point the team had a small concern with their gearbox. “We thought we might have to change the gearbox, but with a thorough cross-checking of data, we realized that everything was as it should be. I’m really very confident. We have a great team, but we continue to keep an eye fixed on our rivals who are always very strong. It is not yet entirely clear, but I think we are in a really good position.”
As to the oppositions fear of another Silver Arrows rout? Romain Grosjean set his best time on the SuperSoft – whereas the 2014 runner-up set his on the Pirelli medium compound.
The Usher’s Caption Competition
for an alternative view on F1, follow TJ13’s Usher
Who needs engine development tokens?
There is a lot of mystery around what engine manufacturers can and cannot change in their engines outside the agreed development tokens and as part of the ‘in season development exemption’ under the guise of ‘safety’ and ‘cost reduction’.
An engine manufacturer wishing to make a modification to their homologated engine during 2014 had to apply to the FIA. Were the proposed change one which was obviously within the ‘allowed criteria’ then the FIA would grant it directly.
However, if the proposed modification appeared to be in a ‘grey’ area, then the FIA would circulate the application amongst the other manufacturers for a ‘peer review’.
TJ13 spoke to a representative from one of the power unit suppliers in Jerez, and discovered during the 2014 season they had made engine modifications between most – if not all of the races.
Following the second F1 winter test in Barcelona, Chris Medland of F1i.com has published an interview with Honda’s motorsport chief, Yasuhisa Arai.
Arai was asked whether Honda had a plan for their season long development of their F1 engine: “I don’t know how many tokens we have! It depends on the other teams. Someone might say they have spent everything so we have no tokens. It depends on the other teams.
“We have planned development not depending on tokens. We have a plan to improve every day, day-by-day, week-by-week.”
This revelation appears to support the information TJ13 gleaned in Jerez. Clearly, there is plenty of scope for in season engine development which can be used during the year as ‘modified engines’ without requiring the use of engine development tokens.
Whether this is within the spirit of the idea of a homologated engine is questionable.
Yasuhisa Arai also appears to rule out supplying Manor Racing with a 2015 Honda engine. When asked whether Honda would supply another team in 2016, he replied: “If someone comes to us … but it’s a very difficult question because I am wondering can we prepare for supplying a second team during the season? I don’t know. We concentrate on this season with McLaren as one team.”
Finally, there is hope for fans of the Woking team as Arai reiterates his belief that Honda and McLaren have worked on an intergrated approach between the car and the engine which is very aggressive.
“Our design is part of a very tight package for aerodynamics and it’s a very good design, but some sealing parts have some not so good quality so that’s the seal problem we had. [On Saturday] we got another part and put it on the car and made it run very well.”
Honda are on schedule to homologate as requested, though what we see in Melbourne will obviously not be the final story for this reborn partnership.
Vettel intends to break helmet restrictions
The grand announcement of unanimous agreement in Formula One land over anything, is worthy of headlines. Last week, we learned that the teams, the FIA and FOM had agreed the drivers should wear only one helmet design for the entire season.
This new rule followed FOM failing to persuade the teams to provide more space on the cars for bigger driver identification numbers to be displayed. The teams refused on the grounds that this would provide less space for paying sponsors.
Whether this rule has been properly thought out or not – we will discover in the near future. Yet, as with all rules, they tend to be open in some way to interpretation.
Simply put, what is ‘the design’ of a helmet? Are exact colour hues included? What if a driver varied a colour hue? Would anyone notice?
Quadruple World F1 Champion, Sebastian Vettel, has donned over 60 different helmet designs since he entered Formula One and he intends to defy the new regulation.
“It seems in these difficult times, they [silly rules] are the only thing that people can agree on,” Vettel told the assembled media on Saturday.
“The plan was to calm down a little bit. I don’t know what is the penalty. If it is a little fine with money for charity, then I am happy to keep changing my helmet.”
It could be that the spirit of how to approach a regulation has been branded into Sebastian’s soul during his time at Red Bull Racing.