A Daily Round up of Formula One news, inside whispers, opinion and comment. Today,
OTD Lite 1974 – Gordon Murray – Brabham’s design genius
On this day Carlos Reutemann secured victory at the South African Grand Prix when he guided his Brabham BT44 to victory. It was the enigmatic Argentinians first Grand Prix victory in Formula One but this win also proved a milestone for the man behind this design. A true maverick from South Africa named Gordon Murray.
He arrived in England after having been offered a job with Lotus but his arrival coincided with a recession and Lotus had just laid off 60 people – “Then I really struggled to get a job. I was almost out of time when I stumbled, by accident, into an interview at Brabham, where Ron Tauranac hired me as a junior designer.”
Within a year Bernie Ecclestone had bought Jack Brabham’s 50 percent of the team and by the end of the following year he had bought Tauranac out too. Bernie would fire the other designers and promoted Murray to chief designer.
Ecclestone left Murray alone in designing and running the cars: “Formula 1 was an amazing place to be an engineer in the ’70s. That was what I loved about it. You could have an idea in the bath, go to work the next morning and draw the bits, make them the next day, test them the day after, and then race that weekend and go a second per lap quicker. Now you have 200 aerodynamicists working 240 days a year to go half a second quicker.”
Murray would remain Brabham’s chief designer until he left to join Mclaren as their technical director in 1987. During his era Brabhams were always beautiful cars to behold – many of which pushed design boundaries well beyond the letter of the law.
The Overwhelmingly, Deliriously, Overjoyed, Ecstatic, Euphoric (but still slow in a kart) Jackal
Vettel overcome with emotion following debut Ferrari victory
Sebastian Vettel has always been viewed as atypically German. If we believe the Germanic stereotype, there are no comedians in the Motherland and whilst efficient, they are a cold and emotionless race. Yet clearly during the closing laps of the Malaysian Grand Prix Sebastian was becoming overwhelmed by the thought of winning in the Scarlet car.
“I shouldn’t say it, but I don’t know, I was s***ting myself in the last few laps because here and there the thought was coming into my head, I was looking at the top of the chassis, and thinking ‘this is a red car, you’re about to win!’. And then I thought ‘stop thinking about it otherwise you’ll miss the next apex or something’. Real relief to cross the line in the end!”
“A phenomenal day. How does it feel? It feels incredible, to see the guys when I looked down from the podium. I can only recall the victories Fernando had at Ferrari and especially Michael. It’s incredible to become part of this team, it’s something special. It makes me very happy obviously. It’s the first win in more than a year now. I missed not only the champagne but the top step in particular. It’s great to come back after a tough season last year where I just didn’t get on top of the car. This year the balance seems to suit me and has come my way and Kimi’s way more than last year.”
“I’m very pleased, the strategy today was obviously ace. A big thanks to the guys, they pulled in obviously. We were a bit surprised but we saw on Friday they weren’t happy on the medium compound and Lewis was struggling in the first stint so I was able to keep up with him, which I enjoyed a lot. After that I knew I had to deliver, trying to make those tyres last and try and trying to push as hard as I can. Second stint he was chasing me down, which was tough, as he has a stronger second stint but I was able to rebalance the car and have a pretty solid gap the last couple of laps.”
What made the victory perhaps even more special was that Seb grew up idolising Michael Schumacher, who won five consecutive driver world championships at Ferrari beginning in the year 2000. As a close friend of the seven times champion, Vettel refuses to discuss Schumi’s tragic skiing accident but there is little doubt that he was in his thoughts.
“It’s a dream. When I grew up Michael was my hero. For all of us, and I talk for all the kids at the go-kart track in Germany, we were looking up to him. When he turned up every year to shake hands and to look after us a little bit it made our lives. That’s why I think today I probably don’t understand how special it is yet – very emotional.”
Rosberg – Not happy with Ferrari victory
As TJ13 reported last week in the lead up to the Malaysian Grand Prix Nico Rosberg felt it unfair to suggest that Mercedes still maintained a significant advantage over the field. “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.”
When he was asked if the Scuderia would be closer this weekend he replied: “It’s very difficult to say, it’s early days.”
Just two weeks later Mercedes were beaten for the first time in the new V6 Turbo era by both Vettel and the Ferrari team. Whilst Red Bull and Daniel Ricciardo won three times in 2014 – most observers accept that it was the Brackley team losing the races rather than RBR winning.
During the podium interview Rosberg was asked if he regretted joking about wanting the opposition to close the gap for better racing: “No, but all I can say on behalf on our team is : Game on, Ferrari!”
In the press conference for the top three Rosberg elaborated further, stating he only wanted Ferrari to close the gap – “There’s a big difference between get closer and wanting Ferrari to beat us because they’re faster! Massive difference there.”
Vettel, as mischevious as ever, asked Nico if he was happy: “No not at all. Definitely the opposite of happy. But for sure, on behalf of our team, as I said on the podium, bring it on. We’re going to fight back big time.”
Of course there are always reasons for failing to challenge for wins and Mercedes stopping both their cars in the safety car period played against them. Rosberg was then held to avoid an unsafe release and then had further trouble getting through the non stoppers.
“It was the plan from before the race if there was a safety car on that lap then we box. I think we didn’t expect so many people to stay out, probably, and I also didn’t expect to lose so much time in the pit stop waiting for people to go by. The pit lane is so wide we thought we could go alongside.”
“Those were the problems, and then just getting through the pack afterwards was very difficult and cost a lot of tyre degradation so that really put me on the back foot. I tried to fight back as much as possible but couldn’t quite get back to Lewis, although I had lost a lot from that pit stop phase. I’m happy I got very close to Lewis but not enough to attack or anything.”
Malaysia confirms race contract till 2018
In recent months negotiations between the Malaysian Grand Prix organisers and Bernie Ecclestone had reached a stalemate and the threat of losing one of the best tracks on the calendar hung in the balance.
The previous race contract was set to expire after yesterday’s race but following Sebastian Vettel’s historic victory at Sepang Malaysian prime minister YAB Dato’ Sri Mohd Najib announced that the race will remain on the calendar for the next three years. As part of the contract going forwards Petronas – Mercedes’ title sponsor – will remain as the title sponsor of the race.
The first of the Tilke dromes – it still remains arguably the best of his designs and 16 years after its debut in 1999 remains a unique challenge to the drivers and engineers who endure extreme weather conditions unlike anywhere else the circus visits throughout the year.
Though as TJ13 noted lasy week, it appears the organisers refused to sign the longer term deal Ecclestone wanted, and opted for a relatively short three year extension.
Raikkonen’s damaged floor slowed race pace
That Kimi Raikkonen is happier with the 2015 Ferrari is beyond doubt. During Friday his race pace was arguably stronger than Vettel’s yet for the second race running misfortune put pay to his ambitions in the race.
After qualifying 11th due to the wet conditions during qualifying and then getting hit from behind on the first lap by Felipe Nasr – he had to complete an entire lap with a puncture and dropped to the back of the pack.
Ferrari’s technical director James Allison explained: “When those tyres break they usually mangle up the cut out on the floor, and that’s an extremely sensitive aerodynamic area. It was not enough damage to make him anything other than the fourth quickest car out there, but it was enough damage to mean that tyre degradation was not quite at the same level as Sebastian’s because his downforce was lower. It was a good effort for him punching his way through the field like he did.”
“Obviously we had quite a lot bad luck in quite a few places this weekend but there’s not much I can do when I get touched from behind and it is what it is. Luckily there was a safety car and we had okay speed, we had some damage with the tyre flapping around on the floor but like I said we did the maximum that we could. Obviously for the team it’s a pretty good result, they got the win. It could have been better but obviously the team with what we had today we did the maximum.”
He continued: “I got a very bad start, just wheelspin off the line and then in the first corners I just didn’t really get very good positions and lost some places. Then I gained a few places in one of the corners and obviously was passing people but then I got a puncture at the last corner and had to do the whole lap. Luckily we had a safety car so that helped, but then I don’t know what the guys in front of me were doing because they weren’t going at full speed to catch up with the second last car so we were like one straight behind and I was asking if I could pass them.
“I don’t know if there was some confusion with the Sauber in front of me because then he started going at full speed but we couldn’t catch the back of the people. So that didn’t help either but obviously I think we did the maximum we could after that.”
Mclaren drivers grasping for positives
Jenson Button was racing for position within the top ten when his ERS system failed on lap 41. Team-mate Fernando Alonso had actually reached 8th before a similar problem had afflicted him twenty laps before. But both drivers felt positive about the pace of their cars in comparison to the other midfield teams.
“It’s nice to see other cars out there for so long,” said the Briton. “We were quicker than the Force India and the Sauber was there at the same sort of pace and the Lotus wasn’t that much quicker. So it was a little bit of a positive surprise and it’s also quite interesting to see our strengths and weaknesses compared to those cars.”
Alonso missed the opening round in Australia following a concussion he sustained in Barcelona last month and spoke about the progress made by the Anglo-Japanese partnership.
“I have mixed feelings, I’m happy to be back and very happy with the progress that the team has made in two weeks. Watching the race on the TV in Australia, we were very far off – four seconds in the race and just one McLaren running alone at the back. Here we were much more competitive in qualifying, running with everyone in the race and it’s a very nice surprise. Not finishing the race is never a nice feeling, so let’s see if we can improve next time.”
“The pace was surprisingly good, we were running with the pack and even catching the Red Bulls at the end before the pit stops. It was a nice surprise and hopefully in China we can make another step forward. These reliability problems are normal and without winter testing, what you normally find in winter testing we have to find in the first couple of races unfortunately. But we need to accept maybe some retirements and we are ready to do so. Definitely it has been a very nice weekend and a very nice surprise to see the improvement from Australia to here. If we keep this rate we will enjoy success very soon.”
As TJ13 published over the weekend, with Mclaren having their two worst consecutive qualifying weekends of their history – which follow on from the disappointing 2013-14 seasons – the only way to progress is upwards. Yet hearing the Spanish Samurai – one of the best drivers on the grid – matter-of-factly state the Woking team’s position is humbling: “We were out of sync with some pit stops with the others, but maybe tenth with one point was possible. The real positive thing is that we were able to run with everyone else and we were not the last two cars fighting with each other. This is the first step we had to do and it’s good that we’ve made it already.”