A Daily Round up of Formula One news, inside whispers, opinion and comment. Today,
OTD Lite 2008 – Jean Todt resigns from Ferrari
It’s a difficult call for any true Ferrari supporter when asked about their memories of Jean Todt with the famous Italian team. He of course brought about a change in the Italian culture that permeated throughout the organisation and transformed them into the greatest force F1 had ever seen.
But at what cost?
Enzo Ferrari’s mantra was that Ferrari cars won races – the drivers lost them. This mantra had held true ever since Enzo had run the Alfa Romeo works team back in the 1930’s. Yet within a handful of years of Todt’s assignment, Ferrari had been tarnished with the infamous number 1 & 2 driver policy.
To this day, the fans believe that Ferrari have notoriously always upheld this policy – even suggesting that Raikkonen was sacrificed for the glory of Vettel in Australia last weekend, despite Kimi not once having been ahead all weekend.
So for this Grumpy Ferrari fan, I say thanks for the snoozefest that Ferrari brought to our TV’s and circuits back in the early 2000’s.
P.S. Thanks Mr President for the cynical manipulation of the team’s drivers as you chased bigger numbers.
P.P.S. And thanks again for the ridiculous rules that govern our sport and your apathetic leadership of the crumbling gentlemen’s club known as the FIA!
Hamilton joins the chorus of Red Bull criticism
Red Bull’s threats issued by Helmut Marko and Christian Horner that the fizzy drinks company could pull out of Formula One at the end of the year, has received an unprecedented response.
With the predictable exception of Bernie Ecclestone, Red Bull have received no sympathy and a fair measure of criticism and ridicule for their demands for the rules of Formula One to be changed.
Ferrari’s team principle responded to Horner’s call for the rules to be changed: “Our job is to attack Mercedes on the track, not to change the rules.”
Yesterday, Jenson Button questioned the integrity of the Milton Keynes team: “Would Red Bull be upset about it if they were the team out front by one second? No.”
On Tuesday afternoon, Lewis Hamilton was interviewed on Australian daytime TV. When asked about Red Bull’s threat to quit F1 he replied, “It’s very interesting to hear that when they dominated for four years, big time.” Hamilton reflected on the first year of the new rules and observed, “They [Red Bull] didn’t do so bad last year”.
In fact Red Bull were second in the constructors’ championship and their new driver Daniel Ricciardo was the lead driver placed behind the Mercedes pair in the drivers’ championship.
However, a disastrous start to the season together with a Renault engine which looks significantly behind the revised 2015 Ferrari power unit, it appears Red Bull could struggle to finish even third in the constructors’ championship in 2015. This would have a significant knock on effect in terms of the prize money they receive.
During the Red Bull’s dominance of Formula One, Sebastian Vettel suggested it was for the other teams to try harder and stop “dangling their balls in the pool”.
Lewis Hamilton has more constructive advice for Christian Horner and the fizzy drinks company’s hierarchy. “So you’ve got to hire some better people I guess. Ultimately it’s a test and a challenge of evolution, of innovation and we’ve hired great people too – and we’ve done a great job and we weren’t complaining when they were doing.”
This suggestion is particularly stinging since Adrian Newey announced this year’s car design would be his last full time project in Formula One and Red Bull lost his number two, Peter Prodromou to rivals McLaren.
Renault blame Red Bull for problems in Australia
It’s no secret that the course of the Renault – Red Bull relationship has never run smoothly.
In the glory days, Renault felt that the Red Bull publicity favoured Infiniti and that as the brains behind much of the air blowing technology, which Newey was able to utilise to great effect, they received too little credit.
Following criticism of their French engine partner early last year, Autosport reported: “Red Bull has already begun recruiting engine staff to help lead a new division that will offer support to Renault’s own engineers at Viry-Chatillon”.
Christian Horner added, “We are looking to bolster areas that we have strength and Renault have weaknesses in. We are looking to the areas of strength that we have: whether it be simulation, or modeling. It’ll be working hand-in-hand with Renault rather than independently of Renault.”
TJ13 reported prior to Jerez, that Red Bull was behind schedule and that the full blown RB11 would not be ready until the start of the European season. Yet at the same time Red Bull have been relentlessly pushing their engine supplier and their staff in Viry have been forced to quicken the development race.
Now Renault Sport F1’s CEO, Cyril Abiteboul, reveals that over the winter, “Red Bull has taken us on a ferocious race in development. And these changes caused problems at Melbourne. This is what we will focus on upon when returning to the factory before heading to Sepang.”
Speaking to L’Equipe, Abiteboul added: “We have to ask ourselves questions as to how we have allowed this to happen and forgotten our traditional working methods. We’ve been producing F1 engines for 37 years now. We know what to do.”
Renault was in the process of developing enhancements for their engine in the days prior to the Australian Grand Prix. Red Bull demanded Renault provide them with this latest power unit evolution for the season’s opening event, even though it had not passed through the usual test bench phase.
When asked about the future and the rumours Renault are considering buying a ‘works team’, Abiteboul commented: “Toro Rosso is still a possibility. It could be the solution as to whether we do more F1 or not. But before thinking about chassis development, we have to make sure the engine issues are resolved”.
The relationship between the French engine manufacturer and the quadruple world champion chassis designers is clearly at an all time low. Abiteboul reflects, “We’ve won together but today we’re not comfortable. Until now, we’ve followed their lead and listened to them.
Perhaps today they are realising that chassis and engine design are worlds apart and that each of us should do what we do best.”
Force India’s Fernley sheds no tears for Red Bull
Last year as the teams arrived in Austin for the US Grand Prix – Sauber, Lotus and Force India spoke of potentially boycotting the race due to the inequitable distribution of TV monies placing them under huge financial difficulties.
Of course, Bernie Ecclestone was always going to play hardball with his financial payouts. The big four teams of Mercedes, Mclaren, Red Bull and Ferrari all declared that there was ‘nothing to see here‘ and that nothing could be done because their share had been negotiated some years before. Therefore the minnows were left to struggle along in the wake of Caterham and Marussia entering administration.
Before the start of the 2015 season even began, Sauber were involved in a court dispute with Giedo van der Garde. Lotus have had to pay monies up front in regards their Mercedes engine supply and Force India’s boss Vijay Mallya can only travel with special court permission following his catastrophic mismanagement of the business his father had left him.
Force India’s deputy Bob Fernley made few friends earlier this year when in a Strategy Group vote he elected not to support the Manor/Marussia application for the 2015 season despite Marussia having submitted all the required paperwork back in December.
With Red Bull vociferously attacking their engine supplier – and demanding the FIA to change the rules because their pram has lost one of its wheels – other teams’ senior members have voiced strong opinion about the hypocritical nature of the Milton Keynes based squad.
Bob Fernley now joins the list of Red Bull non-sympathisers.
“The four big teams, including Red Bull, were adamant nothing needed to be done, and now Red Bull are getting squeezed a bit, and probably coming under pressure from their owners. The reality is now setting in — welcome to the real world. You can’t blame Mercedes for doing a good job. Everybody else has the same opportunity.”
With the Red Bull team constantly attacking Renault, Fernley is equally adamant – “Is it entirely Renault? Their sister team – Toro Rosso – performed reasonably well in Australia and with two young guys in the car.”
Manor to race in Malaysia
Manor F1 suffered the ignominy of spending an entire weekend in their garage at the Albert Park circuit, as they were unable to get their cars running on track.
This attracted criticism from Bernie Ecclestone and TV pundits including Martin Brundle. Manor have also been fined the costs of travel to and from Australia by F1’s Supremo, because they were unable to take part in the weekend.
When asked whether the team had any intention of competing in the season’s opening race, team principal John Booth had this to say. “I can understand people being cynical, but if that was the case we wouldn’t have brought 30 tonnes of equipment, 40 people, fulfilled our contracts with all suppliers – Pirelli, Ferrari, whoever – with our best endeavours to go round and round a circuit.”
That said, had Manor not appeared in Australia, they risked exclusion from the 2015 F1 championship as Bernie Ecclestone made clear the week before the event.
Booth also revealed that another day would have been sufficient for the team to solve the problems preventing their cars appearing on track.
When asked whether his drivers will appear in practice for the Malaysian GP weekend, Booth replied: “Absolutely. We’re in a massively different place now than where we were at the start of last week.
‘The progress was colossal, just not quite enough, but now we’ll get to Malaysia on Monday, start setting up at the circuit on Tuesday, and for sure we’ll be ready to run on Friday.”
Given the attitude from Ecclestone towards the team’s ‘no show’ in Australia, this response is rather predictable and necessary to avoid further sanction from the commercial rights holder.
The number of cars starting the Australian Grand Prix was the smallest since the debacle that was the 2005 F1 race in Indianapolis. As such, Ecclestone should be delighted that Manor F1 are pulling out all the stops to ensure there are 20 cars starting the majority of the races on this year’s F1 calendar.
Bernie “detonates” the bomb according to Italian Press
For anyone who has had the pleasure of visiting Italy – it is a country that seems to run on passion, pasta and prosecco. To non-Italian speakers, folk in shops and restaurants appear to be about to wage war on their neighbour as they shout and wave their limbs about in reply to some verbal affront.
In fact, they are merely replying to a question like – ‘do you want parmesan with that?’
Venture further afield and passion is reflected in the form of art and architecture. Visitors throughout the ages have marvelled at the splendour of the natives imagination. Opera buffs gaze upon unintelligible singers, dying a dramatic death with every breath – and the show doesn’t stop when the fat lady sings.
TJ13’s very own Adam Macdonald visited Monza last year and left spellbound by the Autodromo where the atmosphere has a tangible quality. This is reflected in recent articles from Italian publication ‘Omnicorse’ where the journalists nurture a dramatic sense of wordplay, to report what is in actuality, the mundane of Formula One.
Though now, Omnicourse is suggesting Mercedes have their huge advantage because Brackely’s engineers worked more closely than others with the FIA as the new engine regulations were drawn up. By all accounts Bernie E has now ‘fired a bomb‘ or ‘acted as a detonator‘ to unleash a storm on the silver arrows.
The corroborating circumstantial evidence is that Charlie Whiting and Ross Brawn are close friends, yet the writer strangely ignores the fact that Brawn and Todt worked closely together for some years at Ferrari.
Ecclestone stated yesterday: “The people of Mercedes were in close contact with the FIA when they defined their concept. They had a massive advantage last year and they should be reined back this year.”
With a true Italian style for the dramatic, Omnicourse calls for the head of Jean Todt, should these revelations prove to be of substance.
The only question remaining is why only now has Mr. E has decided to voice his concerns. “Another violent conflict between F1’s promoter and the Federation appears to be looming” concludes the article.
Williams certain customer Mercedes unit not equal to works unit
TJ13 reported on Monday that Felipe Massa had claimed that the Williams car couldn’t be running the same engine as the works Mercedes team. Now comes further rumours which appears to support the Brazilian’s claims.
All teams who have dominated Formula One for a period of time have been subject to criticism as fans become disillusioned with the lack of fight for glory.
So Mercedes is under attack from a cynical Red Bull, a potentially slanderous Mr. E and now from one of its customer teams. Williams’ technical director, Pat Symonds, has added his concerns to those of Massa’s and is asking that Mercedes makes adjustments to the power of the PU106B to defend against the resurgent Ferrari team.
With Mercedes having used a number of their allocated tokens, Williams is asking why their unit is not as powerful as the works team. According to Symond’s calculations the differential is around 3/10ths a lap slower.
The implication is that Mercedes is happy to take risks with reliability of the ‘works team’s’ engine but is being more conservative with their customer teams who require their engines to run for 5 race weekends.
However, following their data analysis Williams’ is adamant they now want the latest configuration of the PU 106B.
Honda’s new President not a fan of F1
Italian sources last year stated that Honda was around six months behind with their Power Unit design. Many observers believed this to be misinformation and an attempt to convince Fernando Alonso to stay at Maranello.
On the evidence of winter testing and the first race in Melbourne – Honda were and are in some trouble.
As the meritocracy of Formula One and its distribution of funds has decimated the smaller teams, we see the inevitable has come to pass. A big team at the bottom of the pile, a situation Ron Dennis described as ‘abhorrent’.
Honda’s fundamental problems lie with their underestimating the preparation required. Their Research Centre at Sakura with it’s digital research benches is nearing completion. The current technicians have no F1 experience and are assisted by ex-Ferrari engine designer Gilles Simon.
Without question, Simon’s designs and solutions are ambitious, but Honda are struggling to implement them. Add in to the mix the extreme and tight packaging demands of the Peter Prodromou designed MP4/30 chassis and the result is the car has enormous cooling problems.
Rumours persist that during winter testing Honda had just one operational power unit which required extensive rebuilding after each one of the reliability issues suffered. A lack of spares together with the inexperience of the Japanese engineers meant Mclaren’s help was sought – but the Woking team had few ideas of how to progress.
Of more concern to the fans of Mclaren could be that new Honda President – Takahiro Hachigo is not a fan of Formula One.
Hachigo replaced Takanobu Ito in February this year, following five separate airbag related fatalities in Honda cars and a disastrous recall of 20 million vehicles.
Whilst Ito was passionate about a return to F1, Honda’s traumatic re-birthing process could persuade Hachigo this is an expense the company can ill afford.