UPDATED 15:11 A Daily Round up of Formula One news, inside whispers, opinion and comment. Today,
OTD Lite 2000 – Renault return to F1 again
Having left the sport three years earlier, on this day in 2000, Renault announced their return to Formula One after buying the Benetton team for $120 million. Luciano Benetton had been forced out of F1 due to escalating costs and was more than happy to sell the Enstone concern to the French manufacturer.
Flavio Briatore was announced as the new team principal and set about bringing changes to the organisation that would result in a double world championship for the Anglo?French team in 2005-6 with Fernando Alonso.The drivers were the inspiring duo of Giancarlo Fisichella and Alexander Wurz who managed a grand total of 20 points for the season.
For all his questionable ethics Briatore once again worked his managerial magic as he had the previous ten years – enjoying the notoriety of proving to Woking and Didcot that you didn’t have to be an experienced F1 manager to succeed in the sport. Grumps wonders if Flavio is being lined up for another posting with the Regie when they return once more..
Vettel happy with Ferrari debut whilst mocking Rosberg
A generation ago, Michael Schumacher’s debut for Ferrari ended within 32 laps as the dominant Williams team trounced the field. Sebastian Vettel now following in his idol’s footsteps, made a more successful start to his career dressed in red and stated that finishing third on his Ferrari debut felt like a victory in Australia.
“I think it was a great race for us,” Vettel said. “Of course it’s not a victory but for us today it feels like a victory, it’s a great relief after a horrible season last year to know in general the car is working. People have done a great job both on engine and chassis side so big compliments to Maranello. I have secretly been a fan, now officially I can be a fan and since the day I arrived there is something magic about the place and I feel very happy.”
“I’m over the moon in many ways. It was great on the parade lap to see the flags, I think they’ve been there before but I didn’t pay much attention obviously! The support has been great this weekend. It’s really an honour to sit in the red car and when your head is down and you race and try to push every race you don’t really notice the colour so much. But certainly when the chequered flag came out it was great to see and a great feeling, a great reward for the team.”
There is little love lost between Nico Rosberg and Sebastian following the revelations of the secret Mercedes-Pirelli test in Barcelona in 2013 which Vettel told his team about during the Monaco race weekend.
In the post race press conference, Nico Rosberg was replying to a question about the Mercedes superiority. Having finished second in another display of Mercedes dominance he felt it would be good for the other teams to be closer to them. at which point Vettel decided to have fun with his fellow countryman.
Vettel: “Be honest, do you really hope so!? Seriously? Seriously, they finished 30 seconds ahead of us and you hope that’s it going to be closer. So you hope you slow down, is that what you’re saying?”
Rosberg: “I hope you can give us a challenge because it’s important for the sport and for the fans and I do think about the show. Half of me, or a part of me, thinks about the show because I want to give people a great time watching or on the track. So if you do come a bit closer, that would be awesome.”
Vettel: “That’s fine. My first suggestion, if you don’t mind, could be that your garage becomes public for Malaysia and everyone can have a look. Is that what you’re suggesting? No, I’m joking.”
Rosberg: “You can come if you want. We can invite you.”
Vettel: “Thank you for the invite, I’ll come. Engineer’s room? Debrief, I’ll be there.”
Rosberg was less than impressed by the exchange and attempted to better the four time champion when Vettel said it was disappointing to see his team-mate Kimi Raikkonen retire on lap 40.
Rosberg: “You find it a shame that your team-mate didn’t finish?”
Vettel: “I don’t how much you (Lewis and Nico) like each other but Kimi and myself we get along! So I think it is a shame … At the moment where we are we want to make sure we catch you guys. To do that we need both of us so yes I honestly think so and I honestly didn’t want to see the second car not finish today.”
Fernando Alonso used to play the psychological game to perfection during his time at Ferrari and it seems that Vettel is rapidly acquiring the skills to match the Spaniard. With Hamilton cruising to what appeared an easy victory, it seems that Nico is now fighting on two fronts.
Nasr overwhelmed by his F1 debut
Following winter testing many observers questioned if the Sauber team had been running light to appeal to new sponsors. After what was an appalling season for them in 2014 their new car appeared quick and topped the time sheets in Jerez.
Following one of the best drives of the Australian Grand Prix, Brazilian Felipe Nasr admitted he was slightly overwhelmed when he crossed the line to finish fifth on his F1 debut.
Nasr admitted to holding back the tears as he crossed the finish line: “Of course. It was a unique feeling for myself, I couldn’t ask for better. It was a dream come true and I want more, I will keep searching for more.”
“Surprisingly I was calm from beginning to the end, even when I was sat on the grid. I think the team made me prepared for it. That’s what I was happy for – I was not seeking information; it all came as I expected which only shows the team gave me good preparation.”
“Turn 1 was very confusing. We had three cars wide next to the other and I cannot see where we could have done it different, there was not enough space for everyone. We had some contact with the Lotus and luckily did not have any damage and could continue the race.”
“I had a very good restart getting one of the Toro Rosso cars and then had a clear track in front of me so concentrated on getting the tyres as long as I could, making sure we could have gone through our strategy as planned – which worked. I think I had a great car in my hands, I was impressed by the car we had an able to keep the Red Bull behind. The strategy went well, the pit stop went well. The final stint on the primes were quite consistent and again we had a lot of pressure from the Red Bull and we were able to cope with it.”
Massa fears Ferrari and wants Mercedes parity
As Felipe Massa heads into the twilight of his career he has become more vociferous in his statements to the assembled media corp. Having failed to convert a third place grid slot into a podium finish he suggested that the Mercedes works team has an engine advantage over his Williams.
“We’re pushing hard with the engine which I’m sure has some improvements that we can have and are pushing to have, because for sure the difference is too big,” he said. “So I really hope that we really have the same engine, which I really don’t see why we don’t have.”
“Why would Mercedes help Ferrari? So we need to have the best they can give, and we will work on that. On the car we know that every race and whatever points you’re not getting, it counts.”
“If we don’t have the same engine – which I cannot say 100% because it’s very difficult to say – but if we don’t have it then we want to have it because it’s not nice that we don’t have it.”
Beyond the questionable logic behind his belief of a power deficit to the Silver Arrows – Massa has little doubt that Ferrari has also found a big gain in performance from its power unit too.
“Who finished fifth? Sauber. From where they were last year and not having any money to put in the car. It’s a team that doesn’t invest so much in the team and they just improved a lot which I think is coming from a different part.”
“If you see how we finished the season and how they are now, it’s a big step, for sure.”
“Apart from the lap time you just look at the speed. At the end of the year we were 10, 12 or 15kph quicker than Ferrari, now they are similar and maybe even a little bit better than us.”
Kaltenborn gets vote of confidence
Under fire Sauber team principal Monisha Kaltenborn has received the backing of Peter Sauber – the founder and chairman of the Swiss company.
Kaltenborn signed two new drivers for 2015 whilst the existing test driver, Giedo van der Garde, and 2014 race driver, Adrian Sutil, also had valid contracts also to drive for Sauber in 2015.
Having spent most of the week in the Supreme Court of Victoria, Sauber were unable to run their cars in the Friday morning practice session while they awaited a ruling from Justice Croft.
Rookie Felipe Nasr drove a stellar maiden GP for the team, finishing 5th and having scored no points last year, Marcus Ercisson coming home 8th ensured the team remarkably got both cars home inside the top 10.
Speaking to the German media, Peter Sauber gave his beleaguered CEO a vote of confidence. “Without Monisha Kaltenborn there would be no Sauber. I would not have bought the team back 6 years ago if she had not offered to be a participant”.
“It was a joint decision, and for me I was very, very lucky to have her in this position”.
The Swiss legal system and the Australian court have both upheld the right of Van der Garde to drive for the team and the matter will rumble on into the Malaysian GP and possibly beyond.
German GP is dead
“The German Grand Prix is dead at the moment,” Bernie Ecclestone stated at the weekend. “It won’t get replaced if it doesn’t happen. As with any race, if it is cancelled it is cancelled. There’s not much we can do.”
Two years ago, the Nurburgring race organisers required a last minute deal to be brokered just weeks before the German GP was due to be run.
With a crowd of just 50,000 attending the 2014 German GP, it appears Ecclestone is no longer prepared to subsidise the event.
There had been suggestions that Daimler-Benz, the parent company of current F1 world champion team Mercedes AMG F1, would step into the breach. This did not happen.
Niki Lauda refuses to lay the blame at Ecclesone’s door. “It’s up to the organisers to make it a whole weekend event, as Austria, Silverstone, Spa and Melbourne are able to do so well.”
There has been a Formula One event in Germany ever since the championship was formed in 1950 – with the exception of 1955.
Ecclestone supports ‘equalisation’ of F1 engines
Unsurprisingly, Bernie Ecclestone has backed Christian Horner’s call for the FIA to allow an ‘equalisation’ catch up programme for the non-Mercedes engine manufacturers.
In the season’s opening race, the Mercedes cruised to victory running nowhere near the qualifying pace they had demonstrated.
“They are absolutely 100 percent right,” Ecclestone told Reuters. “There is a rule that I think Max (Mosley) put in when he was there that in the event…that a particular team or engine supplier did something magic — which Mercedes have done — the FIA can level up things.
“They (Mercedes) have done a first class job which everybody acknowledges. We need to change things a little bit now and try and level things up a little bit.”
F1’s supremo claimed this was not about stopping Mercedes from winning but to allow others more flexibility. “What we should have done was frozen the Mercedes engine and leave everybody else to do what they want so they could have caught up. We should support the FIA to make changes.”
Horner however recalls, “When we were winning, double diffusers were banned, exhausts were moved, flexible bodywork was prohibited, engine mapping was changed. Anything”.
Newey added, “With Mercedes, nobody says a word”.
Ecclestone’s problem is that Jean Todt has demonstrated he is not prepared to take unilateral action as president of the FIA – he prefers consensus. This means any such proposal will have to come before the strategy group where Mercedes, Williams and Force India are unlikely to agree.
Further, Ferrari’s team principal Arrivabene said yesterday. “Our job is to attack Mercedes on track”, observed Arrivabene, “not to change the rules”.
Ecclestone furious with Manor F1
Incredibly, Manor F1 racing made it to Melbourne for the opening race of the 2015 season, but failed to get their cars out of the garage all weekend.
Graham Lowden was questioned on several occasions over the weekend as to whether Manor F1 cars would run. He was clearly careful with his responses and when asked why the team had bothered to come to Australia by Ted Kravitz, Lowden claimed they had made more progress than had they “stayed at home”.
But Bernie is not happy. “We should have never ever, ever allowed Manor to do what they’ve done. It’s our fault,” he told Reuters. “I predicted this would happen.”
“They had no intention of racing in Australia. Zero. They couldn’t have raced if someone had gone there with a machine gun and put it to their head. “It was impossible. So they had no intention. We’ll have to see now.
The regulation on participation demands, “an undertaking by the applicant to participate in every Event with the number of cars and drivers entered.”
The stewards summonsed Manor F1 to explain why they had failed to complete any running during the weekend happy that “all reasonable endeavours” had been made to get the cars on track.
The Australian Press were stinging in their criticism for a processional race with too few cars running and this may be the occasion for Ecclestone’s comment.
Some are suggesting that Ecclestone wants Manor out of the sport, however, having watched a processional race in which only 11 cars were classified, the need for Manor to take to the grid this year is more prevalent now than ever.
Bernie is furious and Manor F1 who will now have to pay for their transportation to and from Australia, which is normally covered by FOM travel. “They are not competing so they have to pay for that.”