UPDATED 18:03 GMT A Daily Round up of Formula One news, inside whispers, opinion and comment. Today,
OTD Lite 2002 – Ferrari’s F2001 completes its final race on the podium
Back in the day, Formula One teams had the freedom to introduce their new car when the circumstances allowed. If you were part of the chasing pack you would naturally bring the new design to competition as soon as possible but if you had been the dominant force, you could be more selective.
It is perfectly conceivable that the 2014 Mercedes WO5 would have dominated the 2015 Australian Grand Prix but such are the fluid regulations that teams hurry through their latest weapon.
In 2002, on this day the Ferrari F2001 ran its last ever race finishing third behind the two Williams of Ralf Schumacher and Juan Pablo Montoya in Malaysia. The dominant winner of the previous years championship was deemed good enough by the Scuderia to compete in the opening two races – winning in Australia and claiming third here.
Following the race Ferrari felt that the Williams challenge was too strong so they introduced the new F2002 for the Brazilian GP and decimated the field that season. But what a swansong for one of the great designs.
Renault have taken a step back against their rivals
Pre season testing revealed that the Renault power unit was struggling against the might of the Mercedes and the much improved Italian stallions from Maranello. Rumours of discontent amongst the Renault staff at having Mario Illien imposed upon their design team filtered out and seemingly egos were put out of joint.
With the French manufacturer then stating that their use of tokens would be in view of the longer term goals to be achieved – many felt that this would cause ruckus within the Red Bull teams. With two engine failures over the Australian Grand Prix weekend on Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen’s cars, Renault has come under fire.
Cyril Abiteboul has admitted that his outfit needs to get back to some “basic common sense” to solve its issues which include driveability problems and performance which Renault themselves calculated as costing around a second a lap.
“The weekend has been very frustrating,” Abiteboul said. “We know that we made genuine progress over the winter but we could not show it here and in fact we would even seem to have moved backwards. Given the pace at which we conducted our development programme towards the last few weeks of the winter, there may not be lots to change to be able to access these improvements.”
“Now, we need to react, but not overreact, and get back to some basic common sense that has always driven our approach in all these years of F1 engine development. The season will be long, we have the time and the capacity to react and get this very bad start of the 2015 season behind us.”
Red Bull’s team principal Christian Horner did not keep his feelings hidden: “They need to have a clear vision and they need it quickly,” Horner said. “You can see that Ferrari has made a step forward. Sauber – all respect to them – I doubt they have found that much from their chassis between last year and this year because most of it is the same – same front wing and rear wing. You can see that Ferrari has made a good step and Renault at this stage appear to have made a retrograde step.”
Head of track operations Remi Taffin expanded on some of the ssues that the Regie are currently experiencing, “Reliability has been below par, with Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen suffering [internal combustion engine problems. The two are not related and we are already investigating a recovery programme to make sure we do not see a repeat. The biggest issue has been the driveability, which has made it hard for all the drivers to feel comfortable in the cars.
“It affects pedal application and confidence in the corners so has cost lap time and points this weekend. It’s related to the maps, or the way the Power Unit is configured, so while it’s definitely not an easy fix, it does not require a complete redesign. We have got a lot of work to do before Malaysia but equally a lot of motivation to not repeat the same issues we had this weekend.”
Bob Bell returns to his spiritual home
Speculation last autumn was that Bob Bell who had resigned his post at the Mercedes team the previous winter was being courted by Ferrari’s Luca di Montezemolo. Despite Il Padrino’s undoubted charisma, Bell was not impressed by terms offered and declined further negotiations.
When Luca was replaced in October by Sergio Marchionne, once again Bob Bell was mentioned to be negotiating with Ferrari once more about a possible role at Maranello. He was technical director at Renault during their last World Champion winning campaigns and then team principal of the Enstone outfit following Flavio Briatore’s punishment for Singapore-gate. It was always unlikely he would have signed for a role supporting Maranello’s technical director, James Allison.
So it proved as Bell has taken up a consultancy role with the Renault concern who are conducting studies into both the Enstone facility and that of Toro Rosso’s expanding factory. Bell and Cyril Abiteboul were both in Faenza recently as Renault Sport began discussion with Red Bull about purchasing the Toro Rosso concern for the return of the French giant.
Alonso training in Woking simulator for return
For a man who didn’t receive any concussion Fernando Alonso is taking some time in his recuperation. Eric Boullier was speaking over the weekend about the return of the Spaniard and seemed somewhat exasperated by the constant question – will Fernando be in Malaysia?
Eric Bouillier’s response was quite telling “I have answered that question over a 100 times over the weekend and every time I have replied it’s decision to be made by the doctors. I don’t know if the tests will be in Paris or in Switzerland but it needs their all-clear for Fernando to participate.”
What is possibly harder to answer is that having seen the current Mclaren-Honda package – is the Spaniard in any hurry to climb back into his car to compete against the Manor team..
Either way, Alonso has been booked in to Woking’s simulator from Tuesday until Friday to prepare for the race in Sepang and was in close contact with the team during the recent shambles of a race weekend – offering then ‘support and encouragement’.
Given the fact that Jenson Button had to run at vastly reduced levels to just to complete the race distance in Melbourne, the Anglo-Japanese package is clearly struggling for speed. With the Malaysian GP being run in tropical heat and humidity – it may serve the Spanish Samurai to recover fully before making his 2015 race debut – although missing another race, irrespective of its significance could well promote darker conspiracies about the injuries the double world champion has received.
— Fernando Alonso (@alo_oficial) March 17, 2015
They may have to turn down the top speed a touch for realism 😉
The FIA’s magic bullet to stop Mercedes
Yesterday, Bernie Ecclestone backed calls from Red Bull’s Christian Horner for the FIA to use the appropriate powers at their disposal to allow Ferrari, Renault and possibly Honda to catch up on Mercedes engine development.
Toto Wolff’s response was to the point. “If you try to beat each other and perform at the highest level and then you need equalisation after the first race – you cry after the first race – that’s not how we’ve done things in the past. I think, ‘Just get your f***ing head down, work hard and try to sort it out’.”
Wolff quickly added, “I didn’t mean the F-word in relation to him [Horner].”
Bernie claimed there was a regulation ‘inserted by Max [Mosely] and “put in when he was there [FIA President] that in the event that a particular team or engine supplier did something magic”, the others would be allowed to catch up.
Today Adam Cooper suggests that the rule to which Ecclestone refers maybe Article 2.5 of the Technical Regulations, which states.
“New systems or technologies: Any new system, procedure or technology not specifically covered by these regulations, but which is deemed permissible by the FIA Formula One Technical Department, will only be admitted until the end of the Championship during which it is introduced. Following this the Formula One Commission will be asked to review the technology concerned and, if they feel it adds no value to Formula One in general, it will be specifically prohibited. Any team whose technology is prohibited in this way will then be required to publish full technical details of the relevant system or procedure.”
This appears rather a stretch, since nobody can pinpoint the actual technology which Mercedes is deploying that specifically creates their advantage.
Mercedes AMG performance advantage is most likely derived from a combination of their engine, software management systems and the chassis combined. This hardly fits the ‘magic component’ idea which the regulation was intended to catch.
Further, the remedy provided in the article above is to prohibit at the end of the season the offending technology which will be thereon prohibited.
“Dear Toto, Niki and Paddy. Under article 2.5 we have taken the decision to ban your Power Unit for 2016
Charlie and Jean”.
Tweet of the day
Anyone else notice the wolf whistle heard over the F1 world feed when the camera lingered on Carmen Jorda in the garage last weekend?
— Motorsport.tv (@MotorsportTV_UK) March 17, 2015
Have Sauber settled?
Reports are circulating that Sauber have come to an agreement with Giedo van der Garde.
Having sued the Swiss team for breaching his contract to drive for them, van der Garde has a number of legal rulings behind him to support his cause.
In what appeared to be a gracious move, the Dutchman dropped his application for a contempt of court order to be awarded against Sauber, which allowed the team to race and their cars finished 5th and 8th.
Rumours are circulating that the settlement agreed between the two parties will be around $16m. This is an eye watering amount of cash for Sauber to have to pay. Yet behind this deal will sit guarantees. One such undertaking may include equity transfer to Marcel Boekhoorn, who funds Gideo van der Garde’s racing.
This kind of deal will send shock waves around the F1 teams because in recent years driver contracts have not always been given the consideration they deserve.
Sauber now find themselves in the ridiculous situation where they’ve ditched a driver for one who brings more cash – but the cost of getting rid of van der Garde is surely higher than the incremental cash brought in by his replacement.
Button casts aspersions on Red Bull legitimacy
It feels like Groundhog day. Having completed the first race of the season, Red Bull are again suggesting the current regulations will be the ruination of Formula One.
In 2014 it was the fuel flow regulations being called into question, now it is Mercedes engine dominance which will apparently be the death knell of the sport. An unhappy Helmut Marko remarked following the chequered flag in Melbourne, “These rules will kill the sport.”
Yet there is little sympathy for Red Bull’s plight. Ferrari have raised their and their team principal believes, “Our job is to attack Mercedes on the track, not to change the rules.”
Jenson Button has joined the fray: “There’s nothing really to ban because it doesn’t look like Mercedes are doing anything other teams aren’t doing, they’re just doing a much better job of it”.
The British World Champion then rounds on Red Bull for what many believe to be dubious prior activities. “In those days with the bendy floors and the bendy wings it looked like Red Bull were pushing the limits in the grey area. But when you look at Mercedes, it doesn’t look like that. It’s a very rounded car. And amazingly strong. But as soon as people do a better job than anyone else they’re slated for it”.
Red Bull were thrown out of qualifying at the last race of the 2014 season, for blatant cheating as their front wing was found to have a design feature which caused the wing to flex illegally.
Button concludes, “Would Red Bull be upset about it if they were the team out front by one second? No.”
Lewis Hamilton picked up on this theme speaking to the Guardian. When he was told of Red Bull’s demands that the FIA level the playing field, Lewis smiled and revealed: “I was sitting next to Sebastian after the race and I said: ‘Sebastian, you did this for four years. You were 30 seconds ahead for four years.’ So I know what it feels like.
“Back then he had no one behind pushing him. At least I’ve got my team-mate, who I was really racing. I don’t remember that ever being the case [with Red Bull].”
Hamilton makes a coded reference to the view that Webber was not allowed to challenge Vettel, something which came to a head when the team failed to discipline their world champion driver for disobeying an instruction. Vettel was told to hold station in Malaysia 2013. He attacked and overtook Webber, who had been instructed to turn down his engine to the end of the race.
Christian has that Alonso feeling
— Alistair Harwood (@dinklebaga) March 17, 2015
Hockenheim refuse to host 2015 German GP
Bernie Ecclestone claimed at the weekend, “at the moment” the German GP for 2015 was dead.
Today it died a little more as Hockenheim circuit boss Georg Seiler confirmed they would not be hosting the race.
“Ecclestone has had talks with both Nurburgring and Hockenheim about hosting this years F1 event in Germany, but Seiler reveals, “We no longer have a chance to host a Formula 1 race here [this year].”
During the horse trading, Ecclestone had asserted that Hockenheim would in fact stage this years race, presumably in an attempt to get Nurburgring promoters to sharpen their negotiating pencils.
The high water mark of 20 F1 races held in the 2013 season looks as though it will go unchallenged once again this year, as it is highly unlikely that Nurburgring will agree a deal either.