Charlie Whiting strikes again
Not to be outdone, F1 has had its own version of “Dieselgate” this weekend.
At approximately 6:00AM Local time, one of the maintenance trucks in Russia drove nearly the entire way around the circuit leaking what has been described as either diesel fuel or Hydraulic fluid. The damage to the track is extensive, with the largest problem being at turn 8. Four hours later, the crews were still working on cleaning up the mess, and Charlie was forced to start FP1 under a red flag. Due to Sochi hosting both a GP2 and a GP3 race this year, the FIA was unable to push back the start time, which limited the first practice to just an hour.
Once the drivers got out on track post cleanup, their reaction was less than positive. Sebastian called the track conditions a “mess”, over the radio. There was a mix of dusty oil dry spread across most of the track, and the area around turn 8 was completely soaked with oil and water. The track was so wet in spots that it forced the first cars out to run on Intermediate tyres. Several drivers ended up spinning off the track including Massa, Raikkonen and Hamilton.
The problem is that fuel and Asphalt do not mix. The corrosive nature of gas, diesel, and hydraulic fluid dissolves asphalt.
Water will only wash away so much, but once the bitumen that holds the asphalt together is dissolved, the surface will start disintegrate. This forced the maintenance crew into a perpetual cleanup mode, and kept dropping the days lower level cars practice sessions further into the day.
By the time the GP3 session was run, it was nearly night in Sochi.
There is absolutely no way this should have been allowed to happen. The combination of rain and low visibility from darkness were major contributing factors to Jules Bianchi’s accident in Suzuka last year.
It may not have been Race controls fault that the truck dumped the fuel, but once it happened, Charlie is responsible to make sure the track was safe to run on from that point forward. Putting the GP cars out in the dark, on a wet track that had a large amount of fuel dumped on it earlier in the day, was a recipe for disaster.
This situation once agin proves that the Charlies priority is to make the sesssions happen, not protect the safety of the drivers.
When will the GPDA finally stand up for the lives of their members?
Further fractures at RB
In the span of a single season, Daniel Ricciardo went from an also-ran in the back marker team of Toro Rosso, to a potential championship driver with Red Bull. His unquestionable pummeling of Sebastian Vettel last year, in addition to his 3 race wins, put his name firmly on the lips of every F1 fan, with quiet breaths of certain titles in the future.
Daniel is a product of the Red Bull young driver program, having been brought up through formula Renault, before winning the seat at Toro Rosso in 2013, and then getting the bump up to RB after only one year. Ricciardo has been very open about his debt to Red Bull, and the trust they put in him after such a short time, especially since he was promoted to lead driver after the surprising move of Sebastian to Ferrari, which is quite remarkable.
This year, in spite of all the problems RB has had, Daniel has been very supportive, never giving any sign of negativity, never bad mouthing the team, or Renault. He has been the perfect representative of a struggling institution, though no one would blame him if he had been even slightly critical of the goings on.
But now, even Daniel is starting to see the walls caving in, and he was being more open about both his future and that of Red Bull on Thursday.
“I haven’t thought about the negative potential outcome of it yet, I’m still pretty positive. It’s good that Dietrich has set a bit of a deadline because we have got to know what we are doing and if we are going with ‘X’ engine then we have got to start designing the car and all the rest of it. We can’t wait until Christmas, so we will see in a few more weeks if we get a decision or an outcome. I’m still positive as long as we have still got time on our side. It’s not the end of October yet, so I’ll remain positive and if we get to the end of October and nothing has been sorted then I’ll for sure start having my eyes and ears a little bit more open about what else is going on. I think we will get something that is decent enough to convince us to stay in the sport and that means giving us a chance to win.”
Friday Daniel was even more candid.
“Obviously I want to be racing, I want to be on the grid, but if someone said you’re going to be racing but you’ll be running 16th, then maybe I don’t want to be racing. If they[Renault] can prepare something better than they have this year to give us a chance to fight further up the grid, it is one of the better options for now. We still can’t rule out anything, but we do want something competitive… just to run around and make up numbers is not what we are about and as a driver I am not really interested in that. A few manufacturers keep saying no, so obviously the options are getting less and less. It is getting more difficult now [but] we will try and find a solution. Of course I want to be racing and it will be a shame if we are not racing. I am still optimistic we can find a solution but it seems like nobody wants to give us an engine.”
This could be considered the first crack in the RB drivers wall of certainty. It essentially sets a deadline for RB of the end of the month. Either RB can make Ricciardo some guarantees with regards to Engine supply, performance and competitiveness, or he will look elsewhere.
But where can Daniel go?
There are only a few seats available for next year if RB and TR pull out. The second seat at HAAS is still open, and Romains signing onto that team surely gives it a whiff of potential, or says that Lotus/Renault is in such bad shape that even a team that doesn’t exist yet is a better opportunity. If Gene could pick up Ricciardo, it would be the coup of the century for an F1 team, and give Ferrari a superstar lineup to choose from when Kimi inevitably retires.
There is Lotus and/or Renault, if it actually happens, which it probably won’t. And as I said if it is so bad their that even Grosjean didn’t want to stay, is that a situation Daniel really want’s to get involved in?
Manor would be another option, putting him in a Mercedes powered car, but in one with very little potential to advance over the course of the season. But again, it would put him in line to get a Mercedes seat when the inevitable divorce of HAM-ROS happens after 2016.
There is always a seat at Sauber, provided Daniel is able to bring a large enough check, though that would probably not be a problem. Sauber would be a last resort.
Daniel’s best option is for RB to swallow the shit sandwich they served themselves, and make peace with Renault, though it may be too late for that.
Ricciardo’s biggest problem if it all goes to hell, is going to be Verstappen. With only 1 or 2 slightly competitive seats available next year, they will be competing against each other for the drive, and Max has got momentum, age, and a lorry full of cash behind him right now. Ricciardo’s smile only goes so far.
Mercedes offered it’s customers cheap engines
Coming to light now in the wake of Red Bull’s engine woe’s. Apparently Mercedes offered it’s customer teams a ‘b-spec” engine prior to the 2015 season, that would have been about 7 Million Euro’s cheaper and about 3-4 tenth’s slower. The reduced stress on the unit supposedly would have allowed the customers to get away with using only 2-3 PU’s over the course of the season. None of the customers were willing to buy this power unit however.
Of course this is mainly political posturing. In order for Mercedes to do this, they would need the FIA to change the homologation rules again for 2016, which is not guaranteed.
Red Bull again threatens, oh you know…
Speedweek magazine is operated by Red Bull, so put on your fizzy glasses before reading. It also appears to have been published more than two weeks ago, but has just been picked up by sky as a headline today.
Consumer Reports tests VW diesel in cheat mode
Second Major crash at Bathurst
This time it was the Aussie Racing car class, driver Damien Flack.
At time of Publication the driver was heard to be conscious, but further details of his condition are unknown.