A Daily Round up of Formula One news, inside whispers, opinion and comment. Today,
Toto Wolff: My wife has reached a crossroads
Williams test driver Susie Wolff has completed the first of two planned appearances in free practice last Friday. Unlike the Judge the team was quite satisfied with the performance of the first Scottish girl in F1 since a lady named Jackie won a few races back in the early seventies.
The Oban born finished the practice in 14th position, nearly 0.9 of a second slower than team mate Felipe Massa in 8th position. Unlike the Brasilian, however, she drove a Bahrain spec car without the aerodynamic upgrades to compare the impact of the new parts. And a good portion of that gap she blames squarely on herself. “I had a bit of a moment, when I nearly lost the rear into turn three. I lost three and a half tenths there. That’s quite frustrating.”
Wolff admitted that the appearance was a difficult balancing act between her own ambition to show her mettle and keeping in mind that she was driving a borrowed car. “I had to think of Valtteri. That means I had to push for my own interests, but had to make sure I wouldn’t risk an accident. Damaging the car would have compromised his weekend. That means I couldn’t go as hard as I would have liked as bringing the car home in one piece had priority.”
It’s a constant for all of her few official appearances, that Susie was often running programs that didn’t allow her to go for a fast lap time and a cynic might say that Williams does not have too much of an interest in making her look too good. Else the signing of Adrian Sutil might make them look a bit daft. I hope that’s only my cynic self speaking though.
Her solid showings notwithstanding, her husband and Mercedes motorsports manager Toto Wolff agrees with the general opinion that currently his wife is quite a long way from getting a serious shot at a race seat. Mercedes customer team Force India would be an option, but the winter tests and the lineup for the upcoming 2-day test make it obvious that the Germans prefer to place their own prodigy Pascal Wehrlein in that seat. The young DTM pilot was in Barcelona and commented the second free practice for Sky Germany.
An opening at Lotus is unlikely as long as Pastor keeps causing less damage than he brings money, and Susie Wolff isn’t quite desperate enough to consider a seat at the woefully uncompetitive Manor squad.
“She has to decide if she wants to continue warming the bench in F1 or if she wants to race,” Toto confirms, but there aren’t too many options, at least within the Mercedes family, with which Wolff was already associated before she met her husband. The 2015 DTM lineup is complete and joining the GT program would be a little late, at least if she wanted to participate in the prestigious races, like the 24h of Nürburgring.
Realistically, if Susie really wants to show her worth as a racer, WEC or DTM 2016 look like the best option. She could for instance take over Wehrleins cockpit should Mercedes decide to install the 20 year old at Force India. Unless Mercedes want to apply for an exemption, the young German would lose his super license if he doesn’t start at least 5 GP this year.
An outside chance could be Indycars. Danica Patrick, Sarah Fisher and Simona di Silvestro have proven that women tend to get a fair shot and decent material in the highest tier of American openwheel racing.
Barcelona in-season test lineups
There’ll be test drivers galore at the first in-season test that kicks off today at the Circuit the Catalunya. Like in the winter tests, Mercedes junior Pascal Wehrlein (pictured) will be on double duty, for Force India on Tuesday and for the mother ship on Wednesday. Several regular drivers will be missing and both Force India and Ferrari rely completely on their backup brigade.
TJ13’s Fat Hippo will cover the two testing days live today and tomorrow.
|Mercedes AMG||Nico Rosberg||Pascal Wehrlein|
|Ferrari||Raffaele Marciello||Esteban Gutierrez|
|Red Bull||Daniil Kwjat||Pierre Gasly|
|Williams||Felipe Massa||Alex Lynn|
|McLaren||Oliver Turvey||Jenson Button|
|Lotus||Pastor Maldonado||Jolyon Palmer|
|Force India||Pascal Wehrlein||Nick Yelloly|
|Toro Rosso||Pierre Gasly||Carlos Sainz jr.|
|Sauber||Marcus Ericsson||Raffaele Marciello|
|Marussia-Manor||does not participate|
FIA to introduce an accident database
Most in the Judge’s courtroom were very critical of how the FIA handled the aftermath of Jules Bianchi’s horrific shunt, especially the shambolic “investigation” that was little more than a thinly veiled attempt at exonerating themselves.
But it looks as if the top motorsports authority is now willing to implement measures to improve the safety of racing tracks around the world. The FIA plans to create an accident database, similar to the one available to all air travel authorities around the world. All national motorsports authorities will have access to the database, hopefully enabling them to react to accidents in a way to avoid similar incidents on tracks under their jurisdiction.
Here’s a few pre-emptive suggestions the FIA can instruct their members are no-no’s
#1 Don’t start races when the eye of a tropical storm is about to pass across the circuit
#2 Don’t allow the cars to hurtle around the track whilst people are working on stricken cars 15 metres from the asphalt
#3 If there are rules in place to ensure hospital transfer times must be respected – don’t flaunt them just to take the race sponsors mula.
#4 Tell the race series commercial rights holder to f%^k off if he tries to insist on a race being run when the conditions are blatantly unsafe.
Ricciardo in no rush to re-sign for Red Bull
Daniel Ricciardo is hedging his bets and refusing to sign for Red Bull Racing for 2016. Dietrich Mateschitz has threatened to leave F1 and is demanding either a Renault resurgence or an Audi replacement for the French power unit.
Understandable, this will be somewhat unsettling for the Aussie, who was the only non-Mercedes driver to win a race in 2014.
As to the contract itself, “We’re talking about it,” Ricciardo told Sky Italia, “but it depends on how things go this year”.
Over the weekend, Helmut Marko criticised the Red Bull Racing drivers, stating their Toro Rosso counterparts were “doing a better job.” Hardly conducive to contract extension talks.
Ricciardo knows he could get a drive elsewhere and it is his point scoring alone that has kept Red Bull racing from sitting 8th in the championship – behind Sauber, Toro Rosso and Force India too.
Daniel reveals his future at Red Bull is dependent on how the team progress from hereon in. “We will have to see what happens over the next few months and work hard to make sure we have better performance,” Daniel reveals.
A lesson in history – Porno-Ralle and Hard-Cora
More and more news has come to the fore regarding Lewis Hamilton’s illustrious life style. The champion traverses the paddock wearing impressive gold chains that make Mr. T look like someone who’s dependent on food stamps. Today Lewis has been kicking a sheep’s bladder with people from something called ‘Arsenal’ in London and recently visited a brawl in Las Vegas while – on the side – is regularly writing music songs and occasionally in his busy schedule winning F1 races.
Toto Wolff has confronted the press, saying that Mercedes will not interfere with Lewis’s activities as long as they have no detrimental effect on his performance on track and does not clash with the interests of his employer and its sponsors.
The champ is obviously not too concerned about how divisive his conduct may be among F1 fans, but Lewis can be under no illusion that his plentiful ‘spare time’ activities are not subject to public scrutiny. That’s the trade-off that comes with being paid obscene amounts of money for the privilege of driving a car really fast 19 times a year.
Ten years ago, Ralf Schumacher, younger brother to Michael, and his wife Cora learned the hard way that ‘private’ transactions away from the main business of Formula One can make you the butt of other people’s jokes quite quickly.
Late in 2004 the German F1 driver decided to invest in Beate Uhse AG, a company specialising in sex toys, lingerie and pornographic movie productions. The business was created by World War II Nazi pilot Beate Uhse.
Comedian Stefan Raab coined the nicknames “Porno-Ralle” and “Hard-Cora” for the Schumacher pair and even produced T-Shirts bearing the names. Even though Schumacher terminated his ill-advised investment and even won a lawsuit against Raab, this nickname still sticks with him to the present day.
Lewis should think on. His music career is something he takes pretty seriously, but if it results in him attracting the satirist attentions, we may be remembering the champ for more than his F1 exploits.
‘Piff Hammy’, ’50-Points’, ‘Eazy-44’ or ‘Merc-Slim’ are not so insulting, but would not be too interesting a legacy for one who wishes to emulate the great Ayrton Senna.
While Lewis is familiarising himself with a bladder other than his own, his biggest rival was preparing to collect valuable track mileage during today’s first Barcelona test day. As Spice Boy Horner famously said, “when you run an F1 car, your always learning something”.
There’s still time to hit the studio when his time in F1 is over, or at least do it like the two chaps below…
Kimster and Finger Boy feat. Dave Greenwood