A Daily Round up of Formula One news, inside whispers, opinion and comment. Today,
OTD Lite 1971 – Happy Birthday DC
I have met David Coulthard a number of times over the years. When he raced in F3 initially and during F1 test sessions in England and at charity events. Always a well groomed individual, professional but approachable. And it used to annoy the f*** out of me the way he rolled over and let Mclaren abuse his loyalty.
Forget the two victories he gave up to Mika. I’m talking about the more subtle shenanigans that occurred in the motorhomes around the world. Something that at a psychological level was apparent that he didn’t have the teams full support.
I have a lot of time for the often ignored abilities of Damon Hill. Yet during DC’s time at Williams, considering he was a rookie in a front running car, Coulthard quite often had the measure of his older team-mate.
During the 2000 French Grand Prix when he gave Michael Schumacher the ‘bird’ during the 2000 French Grand Prix – the Scotsman became a legend… and I’m a Ferrari fan!
Anyway, over-sized jaw aside this is another bugbear. When he was winning, DC was a Brit. It was written in the manual “How to be a British F1 journalist”. But in retirement he joins his compatriots, Jackie Stewart and Jim Clark as originating from the Scottish Isles. Shakes head wistfully…
Rosberg – Unfair to suggest Mercedes as dominant as 2014
After winter testing was completed before the start of the 2014 season it would have taken the biggest optimist to believe that anyone could counter the dominance of the Mercedes team.
Even though Red Bull managed to win three times last season it was due to circumstances affecting the Silver Arrows of Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg rather than any pace advantage from the Milton Keynes squad.
Following the recent Australian demonstration run, the fans and media alike are fearing another season of Mercedes dominance. With viewing figures worldwide in decline another repeat of last year will not be welcome.
Rosberg though believes it unfair to suggest that the Brackley teams position is possibly even stronger than last year and are keeping an eye on the vastly improved Ferrari team.
“I don’t think it’s right to say that. Of course qualifying pace was very strong, yes, but more important is the race pace. Especially from Kimi we saw an extremely strong stint. It’s not really fair to say that, I would say. Ferrari especially have closed the gap and are closer than our nearest rival was last year.”
Yet when he was asked if the Scuderia would be closer this weekend he replied: “It’s very difficult to say, it’s early days.”
Button supports the team against Alonso
Fernando Alonso was categorical in his blame for the accident which left him concussed and in hospital for several days. He remained adamant that the steering was to blame and not some freak gust of wind.
Yet Jenson Button doesn’t believe there is any problem with the MP4/30 at all and it would appear that this seasoned F1 driver will prove adept at using any chance to unsettle the Spaniard. After all, the first driver you have to beat is your team-mate.
None of the recovered telemetry data suggests that the car had a problem and although Mclaren have fitted new sensors to the car Button does not believe there is an issue.
When Jense was asked if he had ever suffered a problem in his racing career which could not be explained he replied: “Maybe in karting. We have a lot of sensors on the car and this team is very experienced in incidents and they, as with every team in Formula One, take every precaution possible in terms of safety.”
“It’s one of those things, isn’t it? But after seeing the data and watching the steering trace, my view hasn’t changed from what it had been when I saw the data initially. I feel comfortable getting into the car and driving it.”
“I think there have been enough days and nights of the team looking through the data, and with everything that we have you see nothing in the data. There is no other way of finding any other information in the data, so everything that is there has been looked at and there is no issue whatsoever. But I obviously wasn’t in the car so I don’t know how it felt.”
Let the games begin.
Vettel will not pander to Mercedes PR stunt
Sebastian Vettel is renowned for his sense of humour and rapier-like comebacks. As anybody who saw him put Jeremy Clarkson in his place whilst on Top Gear could attest.
In the Press Conference that followed the Australian Grand Prix, Vettel mocked Rosberg when he spoke of wanting his team’s rival to close the gap. It quite obviously angered Nico and an invitation was offered to Vettel to join the Mercedes team for a debrief tomorrow.
With the Australian TV coverage barely showing the Mercedes team cruising to another 1-2 finish – Stuttgart backed the team’s decision and have used social media and previews for the race to build it up.
Yet Christian Horner always spoke of how highly intelligent the four time champion is and the Ferrari driver saw straight through the gamesmanship.
“I think when I was joking with Nico in the press conference the deal was the invite was for all the paddock, now it seems the invite has shrunk to just me. Initially I think it was called off by Niki and Toto, now they’ve told Rosberg yes so I think they are using it now as a bit more of a PR thing rather than a proper invite so the answer is no.”
“I think they tried to use it as ‘Ah yeah, we are so friendly and open to everyone’. Even if I went there, do you think they would really open up? That means I won’t go, because even if I go it’s all staged.”
Williams straightline speed advantage disappeared
The 2014 Williams had the best straight-line speed over all the teams. Coupled with a Mercedes engine they were almost untouchable even when in the DRS zones. In the endless search for greater downforce it appears that Williams have gained on the parts that ‘connect the straights’ and whereas this leads to faster lap-times Felipe Massa is worried it could be costly in the fight against Ferrari in 2015.
In overall performance there was little to choose between the red cars from Maranello and the Martini liveried one. Whereas following the Grand Prix, Massa moaned that the engine in his car wasn’t equal to the works team he is changing his tune now to focus on the team’s efforts.
“I think the only that we see is that we don’t have an advantage on the straight any more. The only thing that Ferrari shows that they have improved massively is the engine, they have a much better system, a much better engine compared to last year, so last year we had a car that we were losing in the corners, we had less downforce than Ferrari, but we were gaining on the straights.”
“For sure, this year the car is much better in terms of downforce and better in the corners, so we already finish in a good way, but how we start we are losing massively. We were compensating the speed we were gaining on the straight, but this time we don’t have this difference on the straight anymore. We need to work as strong as we can because we are fighting with a top team that has a big possibility financially to develop the car. I am really thinking we can do it though.”
Manor fire up their Ferrari engine
It would appear that John Booth has got his wish for ‘a more traditional weekend’. Manor have started the weekend off as they have planned – by firing up their Ferrari engine.
Major software issues stopped the team running their cars two weeks ago and the work has centred on getting the cars ready for Malaysia. Will Stevens is looking forward to running on Friday: “That’s the plan certainly clearly we’re in a much better position than we were in Melbourne so that’s the plan heading in to the weekend, but we’ll take each session as it comes over the weekend.”
“The main thing for the weekend is we just want to take it one step at a time and work our way through the weekend. Like I said, we’re in a much better position than we were in Melbourne, so the main aim is to obviously stick to the run plan and get out and see where we’re at. In terms of expectations we aren’t setting ourselves any, so we’ll take it easy at the start and then see where we end up.”
“We knew heading into Melbourne we were going to take it one step at a time, and everyone here did the best they could to get us out on track. That has continued throughout the last two weeks, and things move quickly in Formula One, which is why we’ve arrived here in a lot better position than two weeks ago.
“Clearly Melbourne was a disappointing weekend, not only for me but for the team as well, but now we’re back and raring to get going.”
Ferrari prepares for Sepang furnace
With the annual visit to Malaysia most of the talk is of the drivers having to endure furnace-like heat and humidity which can result in a loss of four litres of fluid over the duration of a race.
But the teams also have to prepare their cars for the extreme tropical climate which includes cutting holes in expensive carbon fibre bodywork which affects the aerodynamics but allows the engines to function in conditions very far removed from those experienced in Melbourne.
Luca Marmorini, Ferrari’s previous engine designer was dismissed last season when he chose to blame every other department for the engines woes. Marco Mattiacci made it clear in his short time as the team principal that blame cultivated nothing but resentment and he would cut loose anybody that believed otherwise.
He was replaced by Lorenzo Sassi as the chief designer of the Ferrari engines and in the few short months that he has been in charge Ferrari’s Power Unit has been transformed.
Like all the manufacturers, the Scuderia has made changes to their engines too and the SF15-T will host a number of bodywork changes to increase airflow through the car to cool critical items down.
Sassi explained part of the Italian team’s methodology: “For the power unit, Sepang would be a medium-loop circuit, but high temperatures and above the level of humidity make the cooling of components critical. Unlike naturally aspirated engines the turbos have the ability to compensate for adverse weather conditions such as a lower air density thereby not affecting the performance of the engines.”
The team’s engineers will also spend considerable time replenishing fluids made up of water and minerals throughout the weekend. This is essential to maintain both focus and clarity whilst attending to the cars during pit-stops and of course, like the drivers they will also be dressed in helmets and fireproof clothing throughout.