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Previously on TheJudge13:
OTD Lite: 1971 – PDLR – A mediocre driver
Today, in a quiet corner in Barcelona – Pedro De La Rosa will be celebrating his 44th birthday. A quiet unassuming man who has carved himself an enviable reputation within F1 despite having achieved practically zero in his various dalliances with the sport.
As a race driver with Arrows, Jaguar, Sauber and HRT – he also drove a handful of races for the Woking based Mclaren team after having been their test driver since 2003. Often forgotten in the Spygate scandal that engulfed the team that Ron built, DLR was as responsble for the emails that him and Fernando Alonso poured over prior to the start of the 2007 season. Secret details of the Ferrari systems were tested and developed between the two Spaniards before the FIA stepped in.
As to his various duties as a test driver… is it just me that struggles to understand how DLR, Panis and Wurz were always singled out as the exceptional test drivers of their era? After all, if they were so good, why did Mclaren fail so miserably?
Luca Badoer tested extensively for Ferrari between 2000 and 2010 – contributing to thirteen titles yet not once has he ever been mentioned in the same breath as the Mclaren trio. And possibly this is the biggest clue. Mclaren has the support of a huge number of British journalists who will skew the picture in return for favourable access to the team.
Just in case anyone asks, the best test driver in my memory has to be…
Mclaren provides official statement for Alonso accident
In years gone by the news following Fernando Alonso’s accident in Barcelona would have filtered through the regular channels and would have been featured in a news article in the specialist press. But as it was witnessed over the weekend, rumours and theories have forced Mclaren to issue a statement.
Yet McLaren only have themselves to blame for the speculation surrounding the crash – had they issued a statement promptly, the ‘mysterious; silence would not have existed.
In a world that recognises the cost of everything but the value of nothing – brands have to be very aware of what image is being portrayed and therefore what needs to be offered to the waiting world. The statement addressed a few of the more popular theories that had been gaining a foothold.
“Over the past 24 hours, we have been carrying out a detailed analysis of the damage to Fernando’s car, and its associated telemetry data, in order fully to understand the cause, or causes, of his accident. Even at this early stage, we have been able to reach some firm conclusions.”
“His car ran wide at the entry to Turn 3 – which is a fast uphill right-hander – allowing it to run onto the Astroturf that lines the outside of the track. A consequent loss of traction caused a degree of instability, spitting it back towards the inside of the circuit, where it regained traction and struck the wall side-on. Our findings indicate that the accident was caused by the unpredictably gusty winds at that part of the circuit at that time, and which had affected other drivers similarly.”
Many of the rumours shared on Twitter and countless forums suggested the Spaniard may have been electrocuted somehow and caused him to ‘black out’. Yet the statement is unequivocal in its wording:
“We can categorically state that there is no evidence that indicates that Fernando’s car suffered mechanical failure of any kind. We can also confirm that absolutely no loss of aerodynamic pressure was recorded, which fact indicates that the car did not suffer any aerodynamic loss, despite the fact that it was subjected to a significant level of g-force. Finally, we can also disclose that no electrical discharge or irregularity of any kind occurred in the car’s ERS system, either before, during or after the incident.
“That last point refutes the erroneous rumours that have spread recently to the effect that Fernando was rendered unconscious by an electrical fault. That is simply not true. Our data clearly shows that he was downshifting while applying full brake pressure right up to the moment of the first impact – something that clearly would not have been possible had he been unconscious at the time.”
What does appear strange about this statement is that Alonso downshifted having lost control of the car and was breaking.
The statement continues, “Alonso suffered a concussion during the accident and was taken to hospital for: “a thorough and complete analysis of his condition was performed, involving CT scans and MRI scans, all of which were completely normal. In order to provide the privacy and tranquillity required to facilitate a peaceful recuperation, he is being kept in hospital for further observation, and to recover from the effects of the medication that successfully managed his routine sedation yesterday.”
Despite this calm and measured update from McLaren, Flavio Briatore will fan the flames further having said this morning: “He [ALonso] does not remember the incident, but that is normal. I think tomorrow he will be out of the hospital”.
Understandably the news has brought relief to Fernando’s legions of fans worldwide. For many it appears strange to keep a world class athlete in hospital for possibly 3-4 days for concussion.
Yet surely now it is doubtful whether Alonso will take any further part in winter testing this week, but unless matters take a significant turn for the worst, the double World Champion will resume normal service by the time the F1 circus arrives in Melbourne.
Ferrari legend – Byrne – returns to work in Maranello
From the land that brought you Opera, great food, jaw dropping architecture, fashion houses that rival the best in taste, class and design and cars that ignite every sense; we hear the words of Maurizio Arrivabene’s brotherly love for Ferrari’s legendary designer – Rory Byrne.
“Rory has my utmost respect, especially for that night I saw him eating with the light inside his eyes.” Possibly it is lost in the translation but what the Ferrari team principal is alluding to is the ‘fire in people’s eyes. Arrivabene had spoken with technical director James Allison about recruiting the veteran to mentor Simone Resta and then the call was made to the South African to return once more to Maranello.
“I have to tell you something funny. I spoke with Rory, I’ve known him for a long time. I asked him ‘are you keen to work together with us, with your success, in the future to be a bit more involved?’ Without taking anything away from Simone Resta, who is our chief designer.”
“And you know, I saw in Rory a kind of light. It’s unbelievable, a guy like this of his age, and he’s still enthusiastic like a baby. I was really surprised. One night near to Christmas I went to a restaurant and I found Rory, who was eating very, very quickly, and I said ‘Rory, calm down, where do you have to run!?’ He had to run immediately back to the factory for a meeting with Resta.”
“Rory is working with Simone, he’s giving to Simone as a mentor because of his experience and he’s working on some detail of the car. Most people might think Rory is part of history, I don’t think so. We are talking about the chief designer guru all the time but Rory isn’t one of the guys who didn’t win, he’s one of the guys who won a lot.”
Of course, the sceptics will mock the Italian squad as it was believed that Byrne had worked with Nikolas Tombasiz on the 2014 challenger. Yet part of the revamp instigated by Marco Mattiacci and Sergio Marchionne was to remove the Greek designer and Pat Fry from their respective positions – thereby creating an atmosphere within the Gestione Sportiva of discipline, focus and a new mentatlity.
Having worked with Byrne at Ferrari back in the Schumacher era – Allison knows well the politics involved in the world’s most famous F1 team and Byrne’s reputation will prove a strong ally.
Button about to rain on Alonso’s parade
A few weeks back on the TJ13 podcast, the panel were asked for their opinion in regards the driver battle at Mclaren this year. Practically to a person, the consensus was that if the Mclaren was not a settled car then Fernando Alonso would dominate his new team-mate. But, if the car was a balanced machine then Jenson Button was in with the possibility of causing an upset.
Lewis Hamilton and the Spaniard have proven over the years that they have the ability to drive a car – that isn’t working as well as it should – to potential podiums and wins. This gift allows for outrageous performances that others on the grid wouldn’t be ale to access but if the car’s performance is accessible to their respective team-mates then it makes for interesting viewing.
It would appear at this early stage of winter-testing and marginal unaffected running that Mclaren may well have provided the Brit with a car that will become a thorn in Alonso’s side this year.
“I feel every time when I get in the car everything feels right with the car, but I haven’t pushed this car yet. The car works when you drive it. What’s very positive already is the driveability of the engine has come a long way since Jerez which is great from the drivers point of view.”
“The engine packaging is fantastic on this car, which helps the airflow for the aerodynamics – Prod’s very happy – and that hasn’t caused any issues at all in terms of temperatures and stuff so it’s other issues that we’ve run into that can be solved and not hamper us in other ways which is good. It’s just fine-tuning driveability now which is great, a really nice position to be in.”
Wolff finding Hamilton negotiations difficult
Over recent weeks much has been written about the protracted negotiations between reigning F1 champion Lewis Hamilton and the Mercedes team about extending his contract beyond the end of this year.
With Hamilton having severed his ties with management agency XIX last season it appears that negotiations have become far more delicate than usual, with Toto Wolff admitting that it is proving far more difficult than he imagined it would be.
An article on the Italian Omnicorse website carries an interview with the Austrian and he admits “It is even more difficult than I imagined. I won’t say anything negative about Lewis – he is part of the team. I want him to remain motivated and so therefore I have to choose the words I use with caution.”
“He is a very smart guy but we don’t have any pressure. We know what he wants and he knows what we want and in the end we will find common ground.”
Of course it was only recently that Wolff supposedly used the age old tactic of applying pressure to hasten the talks with Lewis along by suggesting that if an agreement couldn’t be reached, the German team wasn’t lacking in potential replacements with Alonso and Valtteri Bottas being mentioned.
Toto now seeks to clarify this rhetoric. “You have to stir things up all the time but that wasn’t the case this time. I want to maintain a good relationship with Lewis and if you start playing the media’s game you are taking the road to disaster.”
“I was asked who would I choose if Lewis went elsewhere and I said that it was unlikely but in my opinion Fernando and Valtteri would be obvious choices. Ultimately if you have belief in a relationship you do not need to play these games – even though F1 is a business”
The Usher’s Caption Competition
for an alternative view on F1, follow TJ13’s Usher
McLaren title sponsor dead in the water for 2015
McLaren Honda have just released the 2015 replica team apparel via the McLaren shop. The timing of this is not particularly late and at the first and second winter tests, many of the team personnel wear the previous years clothing.
The range of clothing, accessories and sizes is complete and the likelihood of adding a significant sponsor to this range is unlikely – though not impossible.
In the past two seasons, it appears McLaren have done a U-Turn away from bright and striking colour schemes, to a more minimalistic – some may say drab – look.
How do you like you F1 team clothing?
Problems with Renault engines’ driveability
Christian Horner believes the current Renault PU offering is more powerful than last year’s iteration. However, whilst it does have more power, the distribution of torque is uneven.
Helmut Marko tells to AMuS , much of this can be solved with software changes – something Red Bull staff were sent to Viry to assist with in 2014.
“Then we will have eaten into a large part of Mercedes lead,” adds the Red Bull consultant.
It still remains that Toro Rosso have had far less problems with their Renault installation.
Further, is the Mercedes lead Marko refers to – the one at the end of last season – or the one which is at present unknown until after day 12 of the winter tests?
Alonso wanted out of Ferrari years ago
For many F1 historians, it may have seemed Fernando Alonso’s persistence with the red team may have been based upon the timescales it took Michael Schumacher to turn around the leviathan that is Maranello.
Schumacher won his first title with the red team in five years after moving to Ferrari.
2014 was Fernando Alonso’s fifth year with the team.
Yet according to Felipe Massa speaking to Formula1.com, Alonso may have had enough after just a couple of seasons with Ferrari. “I think Fernando tried to leave the team two or three years ago, even when I was still at the team, but he couldn’t”.
Of course, now the notion is widely held that Il Padrino’s efforts to retain the Spanish driver’s services year on year, in fact held the team back. Their utter failings were masked by Fernando’s ability to score points with a car few other were capable of.
Even Flavio Briatore today reckons “I believe the change of drivers was appropriate,” for Ferrari. “Vettel brings something different to Ferrari and helps to motivate a group that, in terms of management, is completely new”, the Italian tells RAI.
TJ13 is leaning toward the view that Ferrari has been somewhat showboating in the tests so far, however, in just 6 more days’ time – the gulf yet to cross for the Italians will be a lot more clear.
Formula E Berlin unveiled
Organisers of the new all-electric FIA Formula E Championship have today unveiled the circuit layout for the Berlin ePrix on May 23 2015, sponsored by leading logistics company DHL.
The 17 turn, 2.47km circuit will be built within the ‘Apron’ section of the Tempelhof Airport, located in the city-centre. Designed by Rodrigo Nunes, it is the setting for the eighth race in the inaugural Formula E season.
The announcement was made during a press conference held at the former airport and attended by Formula E CEO Alejandro Agag, CEO of DHL Express Europe John Pearson, Berlin Senator Cornelia Yzer, members of the press, together with the championship’s two German drivers; Daniel Abt (Audi Sport Abt Team) and Nick Heidfeld (Venturi Team). During the event, guests could also view the Formula E race car, as well as enjoy a lap of the circuit in a fully-electric BMW i3 and a hybrid BMW i8 by Daniel and Nick.
Today also saw tickets for the DHL Berlin ePrix go on sale with general admission (standing) priced from just 10 euros if purchased before April 30, rising to 19 euros thereafter, with children aged six and under going free (if accompanied by a paying adult). As well as a full day’s racing, all tickets will give fans access to Formula E’s eVillage – or fan zone – featuring a variety of off track entertainment including eBike stunt displays, interactive stalls and a driver autograph session. (Formula E)
‘Halo’ Safety solution instead of closed cockpits
Following the terrible accident Jules Bianchi suffered at the 2014 Japanese GP, there were renewed calls for closed cockpits, though the FIA rejected this in the summary report published from their ‘expert panel’s investigation’ into the incident.
At the latest meeting of the F1 technical working group, Mercedes have produced a solution which provides the driver’s head with incremental protection. It is an oval shaped ‘halo’ that encircles the helmet of the driver and attached to the front of the cockpit beyond the steering wheel.
Michael Schmidt writes, “less respectful voices are calling it ‘the toilet seat'”.
AMuS have provided the following graphic to illustrate the intended impact of the ‘halo’.