UPDATED GMT:11:00 A Daily Round up of Formula One news, inside whispers, opinion and comment. Today,
Renault – First leads on troublesome engine parts
Daniil Kvyat’s RB11 has had three Renault engines for lunch in as many races. That means the young Russian will start collecting grid penalties as soon as his next and last allocated unit detonates – and given the current average half-life of a Renault V6 Turbo hybrid… will be 10 minutes into the second free practice at Bahrain.
Renault’s Cyril Abiteboul announced that Renault has identified a flawed piston design as one of the main culprits. Unfortunately Renault reckons it will take six weeks to fix, which means the Red Bull teams are in for yet more pain and shredded components.
It will be interesting to see if the recently established truce between the Austrian owned company and Renault will survive that long. Red Bull has already fallen well behind in the constructor’s championship.
The once all mighty Infiniti Red Bull Racing have 13 points from three races; are a point ahead of Sauber and 106 points behind Mercedes who top the table.
All this means they are set to lose a lot of Bernie money this year in addition to paying millions for clearly defective engines.
Just one year ago, Forbes magazine reported. “In just the past five years Red Bull has gained an estimated $1.6 billion in AVE from F1 which alone offsets the $1.2 billion it has spent on Red Bull Racing.” This did not include the cash spent on Toro Rosso, “believed to be around $484 million”
“With this level of return it may seem hard to imagine Red Bull quitting,” commented Christian Sylt.
How time flies even when you are not enjoying yourself.
Italian Moderator sacked for insulting Fernando Alonso
To say Fernando Alonso’s year started badly, is a monumental understatement. At times he must have felt like a Honda executive watching the 2009 Australian Grand Prix – as the newly badged Brawn car romped to victory.
In Sepang this year, we could have expected a 2012 style – thousand yard stare from Alonso as he was forced watch the top step celebrations by the man who not only relegated him twice to runner up ‘honours’, but is now driving his old red car which served him so badly for the past five years.
This all happens following an attempt on Alonso’s life by his new and not so trusty steed in Barcelona testing, which forced the Spaniard to sit out the 2015 Australian Grand Prix. The resulting lack of track time under Alonso’s belt was evident in Malaysia and China where he struggled to beat his team mate, fellow former world champion Jenson Button.
As if that wasn’t enough to cope with, Fernando faces a huge withdrawal from his bank account of affection. Mercedes’ Niki Lauda was the first to criticise, stating Alonso’s overbearing ego and negativity was a factor in Ferrari’s worsening luck in recent years. Switzerland’s Mark Surer, long-time F1 pundit for Sky Germany agreed with Lauda, saying that “when Alonso won, it was always entirely his doing and when things went wrong it was always the team and the car’s failure”.
Similar sentiments have since been voiced by Emmanuele Pirro, Gerhard Berger and Jean Alesi. The latter, now an ambassador for Pirelli, taunted the Spaniard with the acerbic comment that he must have fainted again (a reference to Alonso’s test crash) when he was lapped by his former Ferrari race car on its way to a third consecutive podium position.
One of Fernando’s critics, Sky Italia’s moderator Paola Saluzzi, issued a critical tweet which unsurprisingly now has consequences.
Alonso @ScuderiaFerrari his memory came back and he remembered how big of an #arrogant and #jealous man he is #youimbecile
Not exactly something found in a journalism text book – even an Italian journalism text book. Despite later deleting her tweet and apologising, Saluzzi has been has been suspended indefinitely by Sky Italia and Alonso refused to speak to any of the broadcaster’s journalists in China.
It appears that he has left a lot of disappointed people behind in Italy.
Monisha Kaltenborn is a fortunate woman. Not only was she spared the indignity of being imprisoned in Australia, but her ill considered conduct that jeopardised the Sauber team’s survival appears to have no lasting consequences.
Peter Sauber’s only comment on the matter was: “I don’t want to talk about this shit.” He does not seem to be planning any changes in the team’s management structure.
In what can only be described as a ‘pot…kettle…black’ moment, the once apparent saviour of Caterham and Forza Rossa fame, Collin Kolles, criticises the Sauber management reminding the world that the consequences of Monisha’s penchant for signing drivers is not yet over.
In a lengthy interview Kolles observes that Sauber had not signed four, but six drivers – Sutil, van der Garde, Gutierrez, Bianchi, Nasr and Ericsson.
Gutierrez was dealt with by giving him to Ferrari in a bizarre exchange for partial debt relief. Bianchi was signed on the day of the Japanese Grand Prix, but just hours after signing, the Frenchman crashed tragically and both Sutil and Van der Garde were cynically sacked by SMS in breach of their existing contracts.
The initial storm might have died down, but Peter Sauber needs to take a good hard look if he really can afford to leave the running of his team to someone with such questionable business competency and ethics. Kaltenborn would have struggled to retain her job in most companies around the world, and the issue is dormant, but will surely raise its head to embarrass Sauber again in the future.
Had Kaltenborn been employed by Mercedes, the company’s compliance rules would have mandated an immediate dismissal, optionally followed by a lawsuit for damages caused by business misconduct.
Has W06 update cured Mercedes Achilles heel?
On paper the Bahrain race could be another where Ferrari is able to challenge the Mercedes. As in Malaysia the temperatures will be high, the track surface is rough and degradation will punish the rear tyres of the cars.
But in a post-race interview with German broadcaster RTL Lauda dismisses that Mercedes will suffer the same fate as in China. The Austrian claims that the aerodynamic update of the W06 – mainly front and rear wing – have cured the rear wheel degradation problem. Grinning, Niki observed that the Bahrain race is run in the evening, when temperatures are falling rapidly.
Not one to mince words, Maurizio Arrivabene responded: Don’t worry, will make you swallow your mirth.”
Game on – maybe this will be just like the old days when team bosses didn’t like each other very much.
FIA Press Conferences Bahrain 2015
Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes), Pastor Maldonado (Lotus), Sergio Perez (Force India), Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull), Will Stevens (Manor), Max Verstappen (Toro Rosso).
Maurizio Arrivabene (Ferrari), John Booth (Manor), Eric Boullier (McLaren), Monisha Kaltenborn (Sauber), Rob White (Renault).
Expect a fairly dejected Sergio Perez as he now realises Force India’s new VJM08 is on the never-never, and McLaren will be fighting to relegate them to battle with Manor F1.
First time back for Monisha Kaltenborn since the debacle in Australia, hopefully she will face questions on where the team found the money to pay off Van der Garde – since their excuse for tearing up Giedo’s contract was because they were short of cash.