A Daily Round up of Formula One news, inside whispers, opinion and comment. Today,
OTD Lite 1952 – Pironi, a Formula One anti-hero
It seems that thirty three years after his notorious win in the 1982 San Marino Grand Prix – many people still prefer to believe the romantic truths put out there about the victim and the villain of the story. Today, Didier Pironi would have celebrated his sixty-third birthday and would likely have been recognised as a former World Champion.
Yet thanks in part to a re-telling of motor-sport history – he will always be held accountable for a heroes death. Yet this shy, introverted man was a fast and clean racer in the Prost mould. He won his first race with Ligier in 1980 but by 1982 had developed into a championship contender.
He won two races that year and was sauntering to a World Title when he had a career ending shunt during a wet German Grand Prix qualifying session. He would miss the last five races of the year and finished five points behind the eventual champion Keke Rosberg.
A deserving champion no doubt – despite what blinkered historians would like you to believe.
Mosley calls for fairer cash distribution
The cash crisis among the smaller teams in Formula One has been looking for some time. The quadrupling of in engine cost in 2014 exacerbated the problem, but was not the root cause for the collapse of Caterham and Marussia.
The prize fund available from CVC for the F1 teams competing in the 2015 FIA Formula One championship will be around £500m and the average spend per team is now estimated at around £150m a year.
Yet in 2014, Red Bull, Mercedes and Ferrari received just short of 50% of the funding available from CVC.
“I think the money should probably be distributed more fairly,” said the former president of the FIA, Max Mosley yesterday.
Mosley believes the FIA should and could act on the grounds of unfair competition. “Obviously the FIA should intervene if one team were running a bigger engine than the others and that is covered by the regulations. However, the effect of having vastly more money is exactly the same as having a bigger engine.”
However since the formation of the F1 strategy group which the FIA agreed upon in return for $40m, their powers of governance have been severely restricted. TJ13 believes it is not clear that the FIA can act in such a manner as was possible in the days of Max Mosley.
Gary Hartstein amusingly sums up the FIA’s position.
@fia: excellent new web page. To-do list getting smaller! Remaining? 1) run formula 1. 2) 2nd edition motorsport medicine book (bit late!).
— Gary Hartstein (@former_f1doc) March 25, 2015
A mischievous Bernie Ecclestone said in November last, “Personally, I would tear up all of the contracts and discuss the redistribution of money. No problem.”
Yet there is little hope of this happening and the contracts signed are valid until 2020. Further, if as reported by Motorsport.com, Christian Horner was seen laughing and joking about the demise of Caterham and Marussia – then Red Bull will not be tearing up their contract any time soon.
Beware whose polemics you believe
The recent explosive comments from Renault’s CEO, Cyril Abiteboul, have set up what could be a tasty encounter between Renault and Christian Horner at the FIA press conference on Friday.
Abiteboul this week accused Red Bull of ‘lying’ and attacked their guru F1 designer for a lifetime of complaints toward whoever his current engine partner’s have been.
Tonight, F1-Insider claim, Abiteboul was forced to make these statements by the upper echelons within Renault and he apologised in advance to Red Bull for what he was about to say.
F1-insider claim that Red Bull will run the new shorter nose this weekend, despite claims that it has failed the FIA crash tests.
F1-insider.com are ranked lower than the 500,000 most visited website on the Internet and have no track record of ‘F1 exclusive’ scoops. So we should take with a pinch of salt this sites explanation of Abiteboul’s statements this week.
Further, when we consider that Cyril is an infrequent user of twitter, yet he posted a combative tweet before leaving for Malaysia, suggesting the war of words will continue into the weekend of the Malaysian GP.
Red Bull clearly know how to work their PR in many and mysterious ways.
Packing up to Malaysia. Race (round?) 2. pic.twitter.com/RZ6p7Xln1w
— Cyril ABITEBOUL (@Cyroul) March 24, 2015
Honda adamant that they don’t need another team to help
Back in 2004, Max Mosley became concerned that the Ferrari domination was killing the sport. He brought in new regulations for the 2005 season that required the tyre manufacturers to provide race tyres that would be used in qualifying and then throughout the race.
His reasoning was that with Bridgestone supplying bespoke tyres to Ferrari – and only Jordan and Minardi making use of the Japanese rubber – the Italian squad had an unfair advantage. With Michelin supplying the other leading teams they could not respond to the challenge with equal development for their individual teams.
The result? During winter testing Michelin gathered data from amongst Renault, Mclaren, William, BAR and Toyota. By the time the teams arrived at the opening race Michelin had a decided advantage – and it was only the catastrophic Indy event when Ferrari eventually won a race.
Last year on the day the news broke that Caterham were being put into receivership, TJ13’s AJ and JM spoke directly to members of the team. An idea championed by the editorial staff was that Mclaren or Honda would be well advised to buy the floundering outfit and use it as an additional test bed for developing the new Japanese Power Unit – something that obviously never came to fruition.
Autosport this week spoke with the Honda boss about if having another team would have helped towards a faster development of the new engine. However, Honda’s F1 boss – Yasuhisa Arai believes otherwise:
“I don’t think so. We are one team, we work with McLaren. We already have enough data to develop in a good direction. If we supplied another team to get more data, that data would make no difference to us. McLaren’s experience is very helpful, and two champion drivers Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button bring good knowledge from the track.”
Contrary to what had been reported during the initial press announcement of the reunion of the two former partners – no exclusivity arrangement had been made between Woking and Honda for 2016 and onwards. Yet with the current level of performance being delivered by the Honda technicians, Arai’s next words would not come as a surprise to anyone.
“Right now we don’t have any offers from the other teams, but of course if some teams ask us to supply engines we can consider it, but right now, nothing. We are joined with McLaren. We are not anti supplying more teams, but we wouldn’t proactively go out looking for more. We don’t do it this way. That is not our intention.”
It remains to be seen if Honda’s self belief is warranted or not – but it appears the other manufacturers who have been at the forefront of F1 engine development for over two decades believe otherwise..
Doohan shock FIA steward for Sepang race
In what seems an unusual decision the FIA have announced that 500cc motorbike legend Mick Doohan will be the race steward for the upcoming Malaysian GP.
The usual selection comes from drivers who have competed at the highest level – irrespective of results attained. Nigel Mansell was the 1992 World Champion but others like Derek Warwick, Emmanuele Pirro and Mika Salo – amongst them – have raced in F1 and other world recognised series.
The question remains – what does Doohan bring to the party? As a bike racer he was practically unbeatable aboard his dominant Honda and would control races and decimate the field. But bike racing is a vastly different sport in which the riders make so much more difference.
It remains to be seen if Mick adopts the ‘bikers’ mentality and casts away the usual obscure reasoning that permeates F1 decision makers.
Hamilton to celebrate 150 GP’s using Mercedes power
Could it be that Spanners, Fortis and Hippo will be supporting the Emilia-Romagna team sooner rather than later? Either way, Hamilton reaches a landmark this coming weekend. If the Grand Prix follows what Manor’s John Booth calls ‘a traditional weekend‘ then Lewis will be celebrating his 150th Grand Prix. Incidentally all powered by the Silver Arrows engines.
Mercedes’ boss Toto Wolff may have been using humour when he announced that Lewis Hamilton had signed a contract with Ferrari… a LaFerrari for his car collection. Yet this seemingly innocuous purchase may well have stronger undercurrents.
Enzo Ferrari was notorious for ‘selecting’ who could buy his cars. Irrespective of their status he would treat them with disdain and would deign who he would meet when they visited Maranello.
After his death, his selective policy of who could purchase the hypercars that were produced by the factory continued. The minimum requirements for being allowed on the list for the F50’s, Enzo’s and the latest LaFerrari was to either be a contracted Ferrari F1 driver or you had to have at least five Ferrari’s in your collection.
Ferrari engine a big improvement claims Kaltenborn
With a winter test that proved the team was heading in the right direction and with Melbourne proving the red cars had returned to the front of the grid the Ferrari squad arrives in Malaysia buoyed by recent results. The Scuderia’s Technical Director James Allison was circumspect when talking to the Ferrari.com website: “Normally, we assess the tracks based on two parameters; the level of aerodynamic downforce required and the power needed from the power unit. And if one looks at just these two parameters, Sepang is very similar to Melbourne.”
“Therefore, the car’s competitiveness ought to be similar. However, in Malaysia, its much hotter and more humid and this is a factor that stresses both the car and the tyres. Furthermore, usually a sudden storm can require an immediate change of strategy: everyone is constantly monitoring the weather, but reaction time is always vitally important.”
Allison alluded to the heat and humidity of the Sepang track and the team’s chief designer – Simone Resta – also offered his thoughts on the challenge that awaits the red cars when they take to the track: “We have various demands to manage: reliability and performance, the latter both in terms of the power unit and the aerodynamics.”
“We are still in the early stages of the season, therefore we need to establish an accurate understanding of our true level: in Melbourne, we managed a good top speed, which could be very useful on the two long straights of the Malaysian track. At the moment, our pace is pretty good too and, at a circuit like this, where tyre degradation is very high, it could prove to be an advantage for us.”
Of course after the starring performance of the new Sauber and Felipe Nasr in Melbourne – much credit has gone to the new Ferrari powerplant which is generally thought to have gained a second a lap or more over the winter.
Sauber’s Monisha Kaltenborn believes “it is a very big improvement. They have really done a good job and I am pleasantly surprised.”
“You need that kind of powertrain, it’s never just a lone car, it has to be the right package.” and Monisha believes that the step made by Ferrari is the most significant factor in Sauber re-emerging as a strong midfield team after a point-less 2014.\