#F1 Daily News and Comment: Friday 13th March 2015



UPDATED 14:20 A Daily Round up of Formula One news, inside whispers, opinion and comment. Today,

OTD Lite 2004 – Ron under pressure again

Hamilton unconcerned by the season opener

Massa – Williams ready to challenge for race wins

Jenson Button happy with new Mclaren

Kimi says wait until round 3 for pecking order

In season engine development

McLaren Honda stare into the abyss

Rosberg ahead of Hamilton

Lauda heavily critical of Kaltenborn

OTD Lite 2004 – Ron under pressure again

With the recent testing shambles collectively known as Mclaren-Honda – and an inappropriate attempt to take back his Formula One team last season – Ron Dennis is once again having to endure increasing pressure on his position within the Woking camp.

Having usurped Martin Whitmarsh from his post over the winter of 2013 – many believed that the glory days would soon return to the organisation with Ron back at the helm. But this would be supposing that there had never been similar situations in the past. Yet back in 2004, with the launch of the ambitious MP4-19 proving an abject failure, the boss was coming under attack from within.

Kimi Raikkonen (Mclaren)

“There are a lot of disillusioned people in the camp, people who have stood by Ron Dennis for many years. Ron has got a real problem on his hands. They could see what was coming – they knew the car wasn’t good enough. They feel Ron has taken his eye off the ball, that he’s too concerned about style and image. He seems to have forgotten the fundamentals and lost sight of the fact that McLaren is supposed to be, first and foremost, a racing team.”

It is, of course, fundamental to any telling of the Mclaren legend to believe that theirs has been a record of glory during the Ron years. But having lost Honda power in 1993 and the genius of Ayrton Senna the following year, the only title glory Mclaren has tasted over the last 24 years is three driver titles for Mika Hakkinen and Lewis Hamilton respectively and one constructor crown. An achievement that is dwarfed by Ferrari, Red Bull and Williams.

Sweet lord, even the Briatore-run Enstone concern has won more driver and constructor crowns in the same period..

The Grumpy Jackal


Hamilton unconcerned by the season opener

It seems remarkable that a year has passed since the dawning of the new era in F1 history opened its account at the Melbourne track. Lewis Hamilton had qualified his Mercedes on pole position but had retired within two laps. Subsequently the public spoke of him being on the back foot after just one race and how this most public of drivers would crumble under the pressure.

Of course over a 19 race campaign, the ebb and flow of the season will highlight different factors within the ‘knowledgeable’ media and yet Hamilton finished his season with eleven victories and his second title.

Approaching the new title race Hamilton appears to be at ease with the world and despite ongoing contractual negotiations has no particular concerns of the first race.

“It’s the same, I don’t see a particular exaggerated importance than any other time. Of course you come here wanting to start on the right foot, as I didn’t do last year. But there’s a long, long way to go so it’s not the most important thing at the start of the year.”


Massa – Williams ready to challenge for race wins

Williams had endured several miserable seasons – over the last decade – when it entered the 2014 season with little aspirations beyond scoring points.

After a slow start with the new regulations, Williams finished the season as the second best car on the grid with the mighty Mercedes engine powering Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas to several podium finishes.

Many observers felt that Williams had failed to capitalise on the opportunites to claim their first win since the 2012 Spanish Grand Prix but Massa believes that it was Williams being conservative as it consolidated its points tally but the team is better prepared for the coming year.

When asked how much better prepared the Grove team is this year, Massa claimed that the team is “100%, even 120%, better. The team is a different team compared to one year ago, but even compared to how they finished 2013. I really hope this team can fight and we can give everything in the best way every race and every moment. I’m working for that and I’m hoping we can show that.”

“I think the team is still growing, we’re still working to improve and not to make some mistakes which we made during the 2014 season. We’re working to get the best out of the strategy, the best out of the mechanics, the pit stops, the drivers, the car, the evolution, development … I think the team is much more prepared. We’re still not as big as some other teams like Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull but I think we’re in a position to fight.”

As to the basic quality of the FW37: “I think everything we feel in the car is what we expected. Everything we saw from the numbers, from the car, from the wind tunnel, we saw it on the track. I think this is very important, but we also saw a big difference with Mercedes which is not a surprise looking at what they did last year.”

“So this is another big fight which we’re going to have all season, but we’re ready to fight. Forgetting Mercedes – because we don’t know if they’re really far away like we saw in testing or not – so I think we are ready to fight with the others as well. I hope we can take the best out of the car every moment we’re on the track.”


Jenson Button happy with new Mclaren

In a recent TJ13 podcast – when the particiapnts were asked how would Jenson Button fare against Fernando Alonso – only two took what could be the bravest/ stupidest decision by supporting the Frome Flyer over the Spanish Samurai.

Craig showed his undying support for Jenson whereas the Grumpy Jackal believed that if the car was a fundamentally balanced design then Jenson could spring a surprise. After all, over three seasons he was in competion with Hamilton just as Hamilton shared the spoils with Alonso during 2007.

It appears after initial testing that Button may well have the car that his ability desires. It is his belief that the MP4/30 is the best overall car he has driven since he joined the team in 2010.

It is well known that the Anglo/Japanese team have struggled over winter testing with limited mileage and there is little faith that the car will still be circulating when the chequered flag is waved on Sunday afternoon. Yet JB is of the opinion that the car has the basic design of a race winner; just lacking the necessary downforce.

“I feel that this is a good start but we don’t have enough downforce to fight with Mercedes or even a couple of the other teams, the basic philosophy and idea of the aerodynamics and how it works is definitely right. I haven’t driven a McLaren like this before, not in the way that it works.”

“I’m not saying it’s the quickest McLaren I have ever driven, because it’s not, but in the way that it works the basic car is very good and it means we can build on it. The airflow will be very clean, so basically we can just add downforce. As I said, it still needs a lot of work to be competitive.”

“Last year you had a lot of downforce when you turned in and hit the brakes but you lost all downforce at the apex. This car is very different, it does what you hope it will do, which is very important for myself and also for Fernando as far as I can see. Looking at the data, Fernando and I like very similar cars and it does the right thing, it’s just whether we have enough downforce.”

“I have no aim in terms of position, but I believe we can finish the race. You are going to have doubts and it would be stupid not to have doubts when you look at winter testing because we haven’t completed a simulated race distance yet. It would be incorrect for me to sit here and say we are going to finish, but who knows?”


Kimi says wait until round 3 for pecking order

In years past, the dominant teams left Melbourne with confidence that their design would carry throughout the season. For the chasing pack – damage limitation or prevention of dashing their hopes against the rocks was fundamental and hence the real ‘pecking order’ would be established after the oddities of Melbourne and Malaysia had been completed.

Considering his infamous lack of empathy with the girls and boys of the written word Kimi Raikkonen does not think the true pecking order of 2015 will be clear until the third race of the year in China next month.

Ferrari landed in Australia with a fresh direction and renewed hope that the chassis and engine have improved over the teams predecessor.

“There’s no point to guess anything and we will see in three days exactly where we are here,” Raikkonen said. “I think we need two more races when we go into different conditions, different circuits, to see where everyone is. We should get a pretty OK result in Australia but where it’s going to be is hard to say, so I don’t know. I’m not interested to guess where we’re going to be and what’s going to happen. We will see in a few days and just try to do our maximum without mistakes.”

“Obviously winter testing was OK so we feel better overall as a team with how everything has run. I’m sure we are much more ready for this year. Are we going to always get what we want? Time will tell, probably it’s not always going to be as nice as you wish but that’s pretty normal. I think we’re in a much stronger position but we still have a lot of work to do to be where we want to be. That’s part of the game and I think we have to be happy where we are, at least in testing, compared to where we finished last year. We’ve done a good job but we’ll have to wait and see if it’s good enough or how far we are improved.”


In season engine development

Honda have 9 engine development tokens to use during 2015. The 2014 engine manufacturers have declared to the FIA how many changes they have made to their engines.

The tokens remaining for each of the 2014 engine manufacturers is

  • Mercedes 7
  • Ferrari 10
  • Renault 12

This means Honda have between a quarter and a third of the 2015 engine tokens available for them to develop their engine. Though at present, all their energy will be focused on getting the current layout to to function properly and be capable of finishing a Grand prix.

Meanwhile the long and protracted divorce between Red Bull and Renault grinds towards its inevitable conclusion. Daniel Ricciardo failed to run at all in Friday afternoon’s session, inciting twitter quips suggesting the Australian has inherited Vettel’s car.

Whether Ricciardo’s engine is ‘out for the count’ or not is unclear at present. Were this to be the case, it will be a very long season for Red Bull’s lead driver with just three power units for 20 races.

Daniel Ricciardo suggested after the session ended that the engine is ‘fixable’ but only because they didn’t “push it” in FP2.

The irrepressible Dr. Marko was not backward in coming forward he reveals at short notice a big pow wow has been organised for after the weekend.

“We have a meeting on Wednesday in England. Those in charge of Renault are not yet here, they’re coming tonight, but it cannot be like this.

“We are promised again and again ‘Next time it will be better, the test results are encouraging’.

“But if you have an engine failure after 50 kilometres, that is incomprehensible.

“We wanted an improvement and we have taken a step back. The gap to the top now is frightening.”

Sebastian Vettel may be smiling to himself having made the move to Ferrari, who look to have made a large step forward whilst his old team are on the slide. Vettel was third quickest in FP2 followed closely by Kimi Raikkonen.

The question must be – is this Friday Ferrari? or are Williams going to have a tough time in qualifying tomorrow?


McLaren Honda stare into the abyss

The turmoil of the reunion between McLaren and Honda continued in Melbourne during the free practice sessions. The team were three seconds off the pace and once again a lack of running frustrated the engineers.

“I have no goals in terms of [qualifying] position”, remarked Jenson Button following the close of business on track . “The important thing is to make sure we maximise everything we have and then look at timesheets in qualifying and the race, see how we fared, and how much work we have to do.”

Kevin Magnussen who is deputising this weekend for didn’t help matters when he put his car into the wall after just four laps in the afternoon session. The damage was extensive and he didn’t run again.

With Manor F1 unlikely to run their cars this weekend, Jenson who has won in Australia three times, manned up and stared into the abyss.

“I am hoping it won’t be the last row of the grid. Hopefully 20 cars will run. It won’t be easy and we all know it. We are working as one and we are not pointing any fingers. We are just solving the problems as we go. Hopefully we will be competitive sooner rather than later”.

Signs of desperation from Button, who seriously believes unless Manor take to the circuit, he and team mate Magnussen to be at the back of the grid.

This is now becoming a disaster for the most historic British F1 racing marque. Red Bull’s woes at the start of the 2014 season pale into comparison when compared to the desperate situation McLaren find themselves now in.

Finishing the race on Sunday with even just one car, is probably now as good as it will get for the Woking outfit.


Rosberg ahead of Hamilton

Clearly this is the case when you look at the headline times. Yes it was just by a tenth, but in the race for pole position even less of an advantage is all it takes.

Both drivers complained about the setup of their cars in post session interviews, though Lewis looked less happy than his German rival.

On the race simulations where Hamilton often had the edge in 2014, Rosberg today had the better runs. In FP2 Rosberg’s simulation saw him break the 1:31 barrier, whilst Hamilton failed to achieve this. The German was also regularly under 1:32:2 something Hamilton struggled to match.

With some 1000km less in testing, has nico got the edge in understanding what the W06 can deliver? Or will Hamilton repeat his performances of 2014 which saw him step it up by the end of FP3?


Lauda heavily critical of Kaltenborn

Never one to duck an opportunity to comment, Niki Lauda has heavily criticised Monisha Kaltenborn. When asked his opinion of the latest legal judgement, Lauda quipped, “Its not the first time the lady doctor has lost a case against Van der Garde. That says it all.”

The former F1 world champion described Kaltenborn’s choice of action as ‘strange’ adding, “agreements must be complied with”

Lauda suggested it was a case of ‘negligence’ on Kaltenborn’s part, concluding, “the misconduct of a team must not show the rest of Formula 1 in a bad light. I was hoping that the season would begin without trouble. Well I was wrong”

Meanwhile Nico Hulkenberg said he was “not very surprised” by Kaltenborn’s behaviour. He explained why, “Because I was part of the team and I know what goes on there.”

Jenson Button, Felipe Massa, Sergio Perez and other drivers have all given their support to the action Giedo van der Garde has taken.

29 responses to “#F1 Daily News and Comment: Friday 13th March 2015

    • At first he said it took him by surprise and later that it was his mistake. Perhaps he realised it was a mistake after seeing the data. or maybe something else?

      Jenson had a half decent FP2 considering all of the recent issues and latest expectations for Macca.
      It is strange to hear crofty say that they are within the 107% rule.
      Good job Ferrari so far

    • So easy to lambast someone judging just from one picture, isn’t it? What if the whole thing was Lewis’ idea? Then it wouldn’t matter really. What if Lewis is allergic to latex? What if they run out of noses? I’ll wait for a reason (if there is one) before I judge.

    • I think it’s a ‘he recruited them to wear it’ kinda thing, but still, he could have put one on as well. Can’t remember if others put them on in that situation for Red Nose Day.

  1. The way Renault is treating Red Bull makes you think the that the only way Renault can keep a presence in F1 is if they have their own team because Red Bull, and Toro Rosso too off course, will try to dump Renault at the first chance that comes along

      • Constantly promising improvements and eventually delivering too little. Comparing these engines the Renault has noticeably less power than the Ferrari’s. After the first Free Practice session and one of the Red Bull engines has to be completely replaced, the engine has not even ran a full GP. And when you look at the development tokens Renault have left it is clear that the Renault has improved the least from the engines that were present in 2014. Starting one year behind is one thing but going backwards the next year is unacceptable for any team that wants to battle for the title.

        • They had noticeable less power than the Ferrari and Williams/Merc last year and finished 2nd. Also it’s not a certainty that Ricciardo’s ICE won’t be repairable.

          Let’s see how the season unfolds before hitting the panic button and blaming Renault for letting Redbull down. Also it’s for that very same reason they’re looking to jump ship, because when everything is a nice and perfect, it’s Redbull’s doing.

          • Last year I had the impression the difference between the Ferrari and the Renault was not that big and the Renault was maybe even more powerful… but that could have been just my impression. Anyway I agree that it’s too early to start hitting panic buttons and the Renault engine could still improve a lot further up in the season but looking just from Red Bull’s perspective they again start a season down on power and reliability. Ricciardo’s engine might be salvageable but it doesn’t give Red Bull a lot of confidence for the rest of the season.

            And I completely agree that Renault has just as much reason to want to move away from Red Bull as Red Bull has to want to move away from Renault. And looking how eager Red Bull (read: Horner) is in giving out thanks to anyone not working for them it would be best if Red Bull build a provide the money for a Red Bull labelled engine.

          • One COULD argue that the jolly Marko is being a little selective with his comments (but that couldn’t be true, could it?). I’m not saying that Renault are doing a bang-up job, but one could also point to the “new” RB failing two crash tests; plus that we are led to believe that their real new car won’t appear until Europe which kind of matches Renault still having 12 tokens to use.

            If the Red Bull should have to retire for anything not related to Renault’s contribution, it will be interesting (especially if the TR’s finish ok). Early days yet…

  2. This is really bad press that Renault is getting. In the fizzy drinks’ glory days they rarely got a mention for the success. Now whatever failure of the team is attributable only to Renault. Agreed that they are behind. It goes to show that your real friends are indeed revealed in tough situations. (though its a business relationship here)

  3. Ok I’m holding out some hope here, it appeared like Mercedes advantage of 1.5s+ from last season might only be about half that. If that’s the case we may well see some other cars win this season for reasons other than reliability…

    • I am crushing your hope here. We’ve not begun to see what Merc are capable of and this is the exact pattern that would turn up last season. It wouldn’t look to big a gap till Nico and Lewis got to the actual racing (or one of them didn’t make Q3 for whatever reason) and then you’d be like, oh man it’s not even the same game they are playing.

    • From Friday times, the gap is frightening, and it sent shivers down my spine. I may be wrong, but can’t remember Friday FP1 topped by the Merc boys in 2014. In Melbourne 2015, they were *1sec* ahead of all else. And 1.5sec ahead of non-Mercs. I think we’re in for a REC 5, as in F1 2015.

      From what I see, CVC has no product anymore. Between Caterham/Marussia folding (I still don’t believe in their renaissance, don’t tell me that Ferrari don’t have the source code to their engine or that Marussia had access to the source code—the nerve!—, and I seriously doubt they’ll be anywhere near 107%), Sauber/FI on the brink of folding (and from the noises I hear, it shall be before the season is over), Lotus teetering on the brink for several years already, McHonda completing a handful of laps, and Merc cruising in the car pool lane…

      There is no product anymore. Ferrari made no progress (only Red Bull and McLaren went backwards). Renault is still melting. Honda are getting a shellacking. Merc rules dominant, while all the insignificant flies are dying.

      Kolles, Ijaz, van der Garde, Marussia folding, FI on Marussia… All these are the sound of F1 grinding at a very certain speed into the ground. Bernard and CVC are ramming the sport into the ground, it seems, and we all delight ourselves into throwing rocks at Tony or Monisha.

      Sauber are dying and kicking and screaming, while being strangled by Bernard, and everyone and their hippo are taking turns at kicking them in the nuts and throwing rocks at them… mostly because they can. While somehow Bernard and McKenzie get a free ride in this….

      So very aggravating…

      • The gap between the front and previous midfield is now ridiculous. At the end of 2013, Caterham and Marussia weren’t even 4.6 seconds behind the front runners. That’s the gap between Sauber and Mercedes. These new engines, whilst I like them, have killed the sport. The midfield teams being 3 seconds off the pace is ridiculous.
        If you have no money in this new formula you can’t even get close to the big boys. Circa 2014 the gap between top and low midfield was roughly 1.5 seconds!
        The sport will be dead before the end of this season I feel. Good job Mercedes by taking the spending war to another level there’s not going to be any F1 left to dominate. The short sightedness of the rich teams is unbelievable. Did they not think there wouldn’t be any lovely cash if there wasn’t a race series anymore. Idiots the lot of them.

      • Still I rise to think that it is all Bernie’s plan. Devaluate and buy back, sell again etc.

        If he isn’t around, his daughters will be.

        Times are changing and the risk of it all is that people really stop caring, that the devaluation sticks around and that it all falls down.

  4. McLaren Honda are where I expected them to be almost dead last, it’ll be interesting to see how long it takes them to get the power unit running reliably enough to really push it. As for Alonso ? He’ll jump in the car as soon as he passed fit to do so. He won’t like being at the back of the grid, but given what he said before the season started seems he was prepared for the very worst.

    Anyway I can’t imagine what Dr Marko would say if Honda gets it’s act together and ends up with a better power unit than Renault by the end of the season. That would likely be the death knell for the Red Bull Renault partnership. Though if Red Bull is going to produce it’s own power units (perhaps with Cosworth) then they should take a look at the woes of McLaren i.e. it could be sometime before they are anywhere near the front.

  5. Hey, are all these quotes from Kimi taken from team PR sources or other published text – or is he actually being heard to utter this many words at once, seemingly answering the media’s questions w/ verbosity that he’s never been known for?

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