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Till divorce does us part…
The marriage between Red Bull and Renault was once a very happy one. The French bride fulfilled every wish of her dashing Austrian’s beau. No matter what kinky plays of engine mapping was his desire, it was catered for by his willing partner. But woe betide he who fails to complement his wife.
It wasn’t before long that Renault grew tired of the arrangement that can be summarized in two sentences: If it’s a win – it’s all Red Bull. If it is a defeat, Renault is to blame. Even more so since the Austrians did not make too much of an effort to promote their engine supplier.
Meanwhile the atmosphere in this relationship is seriously strained. Renault have been publicly pilloried by their biggest customer for the bag o’ balls they delivered last year and Red Bull has demanded a massive improvement for 2015. Renault restructured, hired Mario Illien and accepted additional expertise from Graz based company AVL. Both measures, as word has it, did not exactly happen entirely voluntarily. Although there is no confirmation of that from either side, one is inclined to think that the frequent visits of Dr. Helmut Marko to Viry Chatillon were not for sight seeing purposes.
The winter tests have not been what Red Bull had hoped for. Adrian Newey likes to pack things so tightly he would make a killing at a tetris tournament, but the Renault unit still radiates too much heat for that to work reliably. Frequent defects disrupted the testing days. Remi Taffin explained that with the use of older spec components, but he might want to prepare for having a better excuse at hand when RB asks him about which part of ‘pre-season testing’ he needs an explanation for. Promising new components, that have never been tested is a rather peculiar way to reassure a customer, who is displeased already.
But the heat is only a small problem in comparison to the main deficiency of the Renault unit – its power delivery. The power comes in a ragged fashion, as opposed to being evenly spread over the whole rev band and obviously some of the promised additional horses have sadly escaped into the prairie, too.
Since Renault seem unable to remedy that problem, Red Bull has taken more and more of the development off the French’s hands. In the aftermath of the less than convincing winter tests the programming for energy management will now be done by the Austrians and after straightening out the 2014 version themselves they already do much of the R&D on the electrical side.
This growing loss of competences puts Renault at RB’s mercy. And they can’t really expect the Austrians to give more credit to their supplier when they have to do half of the job themselves anyway. After Ferdinand Piëch shot down Audi’s F1 ambitions Red Bull is running out of options. It looks more and more like the appearance of the Red Bull engine is no longer a question of ‘if’, but rather one of ‘when’. Having taken already many tasks away from Renault, their expertise is not getting smaller.
And they may just as well know that this is the only way. Not wanting to be a customer team, the other three PU’s are no option for them, and Renault is not going to take this public humiliation for long, especially as now Renault heavy-weights like brand ambassador Alain Prost are calling the return as a full fledged works effort ‘inevitable’.
And Prost is the one who can convince Renault boss Carlos Ghosn of it. However, if Renault wants to go through with that, they need to act soon, unless they want to spend another two seasons with a not-quite-so-liked customer.
For Red Bull there are two possible options. They could either develop the engine completely by themselves, for instance by taking aboard Mario Illien, or they could go back to the roots and return to their first engine manufacturer – Cosworth, who had developed a prototype engine for the current engine formula, but stopped further R&D because of lack of potential customers.
RTL reduces Formula One coverage
German broadcaster RTL is going to reduce the amount of airtime it will give to its formula one coverage. While race and qualifying will still be shown in full length on free-to-air TV and as a free livestream on their website, the pre-race and post-race elements will be reduced by at lest 30 minutes per race weekend. News coverage in in follow-up shows, like “18:30” will be shortened as well.
The private broadcaster explains this with the heavy loss of viewership. In 2014 the viewer figures dropped by seventeen and a half percent and were worse than before Schumacher’s first title in 1994.
RTL has been showing F1 since 1991 and their contract is the longest continuously running one of any broadcaster worldwide. Since starting in ’91, RTL has paid 1.1 billion euros for broadcasting rights. The contract that is running out after this season has so far not yet been extended.
Priorities: Swearing first
New team – new language. Sebastian Vettel, who was often commended for his grasp of the English language will not find that talent to be a big asset at his new team. The the lingua franca in Maranello is, ever was, and will ever be Italian.
Thankfully the German has a bit of a head-start on that as the situation was quite similar at Faenza based Toro Rosso. “He actually understands it quite well,” Maurizio Arrivabene is quoted as saying by Motorsport Total. “But he prefers to just listen, because he thinks he’s not perfect enough to speak freely. In that regard he reminds me of Schumacher, he was exactly the same perfectionist.”
Arrivabene is quite aware of the unique circumstances of his drivers lineup as both Seb and Kimi have a past of using, let’s say, less than lady-like language in interviews. But the team principal is still able to joke about it.
“The swear words were the first he learned,” the Italian explains and exhibits no ambitions to enforce a language code. “It’s important though that we allow ourselves to have a little fun once in a while. That makes the drivers relaxed and improves the team spirit. That is important in a phase when all have to work hard to catch up.”
As I write this, I’m cackling over the mental image of Seb and Kimi being “relaxed” in the Ferrari motorhome, providing a linguistic experience that one would expect in a road-side truckers’ joint. At least those pit-to-car radio calls will be interesting. We might see a lot of asterisks in the translations.
Fat Hippo’s Rant Lite: Stop whining and do something about it!
Hippo Rant Lite articles are comments made by the author and do not necessarily represent the opinion of the TJ13 staff as a whole.
Much has been written about the plight of the new teams and we’ve covered that extensively. I would go as far as claiming that we have shown a lot of sympathy for the situation that F1’s minnows find themselves in. But I’m growing thoroughly sick of it, as the whole lot of them is pretty good at whinging, but when it comes to doing something about it they just go back to caring about nobody but themselves.
Manor have shown the way. Despite the odds they fought on and have not tried any underhanded tactics to secure their unlikely survival. The others? B*tch, Please!
I’ve said enough about Force India, it doesn’t need repeating and Monisha Kaltenborn is getting bitten in the rear-end by her own shady approach to driver contracts.
My colleages on the TJ13 team like to joke about my alleged crush on Sauber’s principal, but the truth is, I would not exactly be labelled a gentleman for what I would say to her if we met. Instead of treating Sutil, Gutierrez and van der Gaarde like something she scraped off the sole of her boots she should have teamed up with FI and Lotus and not backed out of their threats to boycott Austin.
Alas, an empty phrase from Ecclestone that he retracted as soon as they were out on track, and the lot soldiered on. And instead of begging for money pre-Melbourne, how about just not bloody going there? Let Ecclestone cope with just 14 cars on the grid! You have the right to miss up to 3 GP’s – Manor made it work in their advantage.
So, instead of completely shedding any remnants of dignity that you might have left: Don’t beg – demand!
It doesn’t take many instruments to make a noise:
Ford trolls Ferrari at Geneva auto show
This one came in from TheUsher13 this morning. Doesn’t need much words…