Monthly Archives: February 2014

FOTA has been disbanded

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It has been announced today that the Formula One Teams’ Association which was formed six years ago to represent the interests of its members as been disbanded. Sources within the paddock and also with Sky Sports believe that although attempts were made to refocus and even rebrand the organisation in recent times (which at its end comprised seven teams and did not include Red Bull and Ferrari) an agreement failed to be reached.

Personally, I think that the demise of FOTA has not surprised anyone involved within Formula One.  FOTA was created and introduced into the sport in 2008 during a period of particular turmoil in the sport: a worldwide economic downturn precipitated Honda’s exit. This then left engine manufacturers BMW and Toyota to follow suit even though FIA President Max Mosley was also moving to push through a stringent budget cap.

Under the support of FOTA, the teams fended off the latter and instead agreed their own ‘Resource Restriction Agreement’ which allowed the teams to limit costs and expenditure in the sport on their own terms. Although the agreement was never wholly enshrined in F1 rules, aspects of it are now, for example the limits on testing within the sport.

There are plans in place to introduce a new budget cap next year, albeit at a level rather higher than the $40million level Mosley had envisaged back in 2008. But cracks developed within the FOTA as a result of this. It would seem that disagreements over the RRA led to the withdrawal of Ferrari and Red Bull in December 2011, with Sauber and Toro Rosso following suit not long after them.

But despite Ferrari, Red Bull, Sauber and Toro Rosso leaving the association, the FOTA continued but with its unity broke and the remaining teams had a weaker bargaining point when negotiating fresh commercial terms (which is the Concorde Agreement ) with the FIA and F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone.

Currently all the teams currently on the grid in Formula One are tackling with more pressing concerns right now. With the new technical rules challenging them and their 2014 cars in pre-season testing, it has been suggested that the tipping point for the disbandment of FOTA seems to be the recent shake-up at McLaren, where new Racing Director Eric Boullier has been appointed in place of Martin Whitmarsh who served as FOTA’s Chairman, with Boullier who was his Deputy Chairman.

It is also understood by many that the failure of certain teams to pay their membership fees last season was also central to the body’s eventual demise. But for me, I only know a little bit about the FOTA. But for me it is clear to see that FOTA lost all momentum that they had gained when Ferrari, Red Bull, Sauber and Toro Rosso left.

I respect and admire the fact that they carried on for as long as they have but in order to get anything passed within Formula One, you do need the backing not only of the FIA but also of the teams too. The news that FOTA has been disbanded as not shocked me but it has saddened me and now how will the teams view their concerns regarding matters within the sport? We can only wait and see.

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Coulthard: Di Resta may never return to Formula One

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In the middle of this week in an interview with newspaper The Scotsman, David Coulthard fears that former Formula One driver Paul Di Resta may never return to the grid in the sport unless he finds a role for this season. Di Resta was dropped by Force India at the end of 2013 and was unable to find a secure a new drive for this season and instead returned to the DTM series for this season.

Back in January when Di Resta made the announcement that he was confirmed to race in the DTM series for 2014, there was speculation that he would be taking a reserve driver role at the Mercedes F1 Team although no deal was confirmed or signed by either party. In an interview with Autosport, Di Resta stated the following:-

‘I think Mercedes are well aware that that’s where I want to be, and I have their full support. I’m keen to stay involved in F1, and I think I can bring things to a team because I’ve got the experience of being there. We’ll see how it goes, but at the moment there is nothing.’

Not many people were surprised that Di Resta was not confirmed by the Force India team for 2014. Even though Di Resta managed to out-qualify and out race his team mate Adrian Sutil last season, he was sadly not consistent enough in the middle of last season when he needed to be in order to retain his seat for this year.

And that is a shame as I do feel that when Di Resta is on form, he is a talented racing driver with a lot of potential. I do feel that he did perform and deserved a drive in the sport more than Sutil especially who I feel has been very lucky to gain a drive with the Sauber team for this season.

 

However a month later, nothing has come of those talks with Mercedes and Di Resta. As a result of this, Coulthard has stated that it is imperative that Di Resta finds a way to stay in F1 this season. Coulthard stated the following:-

‘I can definitely see an opportunity for Paul there, because Mercedes motorsport boss Toto Wolff knows the DTM series very well. He knows Paul and brought him in because he knows he can do a job for Mercedes. DTM is important for Mercedes, and they haven’t won it since Paul took the title in 2010.

‘The F1 test/reserve role would be a big chance for Paul. He’s a known quantity. He can drive a racing car and he can drive it quickly. I hope he gets that opportunity. If he doesn’t, it might be difficult to find his way back into F1, simply because of the political and financial nature of the business.’

I agree with Coulthard and I do believe that Di Resta deserves to be in a role with the Mercedes team this year. He out performed Sutil last year at Force India, despite having a lapse in form during the middle part of the season. Di Resta has had a successful and competitive racing history with Mercedes within his motorsport career that would prove beneficial to them alongside his experience that he has gained from his career in the sport so far.

There is no question that if Di Resta was offered the chance to stay in Formula One with the Mercedes team as a Test or Reserve drive, he would grab the opportunity with both hands. He would bring a lot to the team I feel if he gained a role within the Mercedes team this year. Di Resta has shown within his two years of Formula One that if he is provided with the tools and the equipment and has luck on his side, he can perform well and consistently.

However, there are many young and talented drivers in Driver Development Programmes with current teams that are waiting in the wings that are waiting just like Di Resta is for a chance to test and race in the pinnacle of motorsport. Even though I believe that Di Resta is more than worthy to receive a test or reserve role within the Mercedes team, the chances of him achieving this is looking very slim.

And that is a shame for Formula One. Di Resta is a very talented racing driver and has shown when that when he can put everything together successfully, he can deliver and perform well. But will Mercedes give Di Resta the chance that he thoroughly deserves? We shall see.

Sutil: 2014 Pirelli tyres are more consistent

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Yesterday in an interview with ESPN, Sauber driver Adrian Sutil has praised Pirelli and the changes that they have made to their tyres for this season. Sutil has stated that the 2014 Pirelli tyres not only react better on circuit but that their drop in performance is less than last year’s tyre compounds and structures.

2013 saw Pirelli dealing with a lot of criticism throughout the season (especially after the British Grand Prix) as their tyres suffered high degradation and too many blowouts. The tyre manufacturer made changes during last season and solved the blowout issues by reverting back to the 2012 tyre specification with the 2013 tyre compounds.

But it would seem that Pirelli have made more alterations during the off-season in order to ensure that this does not happen again. In his interview with ESPN, Sutil stated the following about the 2014 Pirelli tyres:-

“They are reacting a lot better and more consistently than they were last season. There’s not such a drop in performance, or at least what I can see at the moment. All the laps you do are closer together but they are really hard, construction is of course stiffer than last year, so the tyre is holding on better.

“The most important thing is the tyre is consistent because losing three or four seconds a lap last season just because of the tyres too much.”

It is nice to see that Sutil believes that the Pirelli have taken the right direction with developing the 2014 tyres so far. It would seem to me that Pirelli have learnt their lessons from last season and have taken on board the changes that they needed to make for this season. And it does seem to be a step in the right direction for them as well.

Pirelli have already gained some much needed data from the two pre-season tests already and have stated over the past few weeks that they are more than prepared to change the tyres if the teams need them to which is very encouraging news. However, they would need to make sure if any changes are made to the 2014 tyres during the season take every team into consideration in order to stop a repeat of the previous season.

But the signs so far are looking promising for the tyre manufacturer despite the teams and the drivers currently getting to grips with the new technical regulations that has been introduced in the sport for this year. I think that the tyres will also play an important role for this season and if the teams can use their tyres effectively to their advantage alongside reliability of their cars and power units, we will see which driver and team have got the best out of their 2014 packages over a given Grand Prix weekend.

But Pirelli need to make ensure that old issues do not resurface and they have produced tyres that will provide us with the racing that we crave but also peace of mind and providing teams and drivers with the element of safety. And at the moment, the signs are looking very promising for the tyre manufacturer.

Will Pirelli add more spice with their 2014 tyres and compounds to a Formula One season that is the most, open and challenging in recent years? I believe that they will. The season opener in Melbourne cannot come quickly enough!

Button backing London GP bid

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In an interview with the media this week, McLaren driver Jenson Button believes that a Grand Prix around the streets of London could become a reality in the near future. The British Government have announced a consultation on motorsport events that are closed-road within mainland Britain. The consultation is due to run for six weeks through to the 10th April.

It would seem that the primary objective of this consultation is to introduce a way for the likes of events such as stage rallies, sprints and hill climbs that would take place on limited British roads. This would introduce the prospect of Formula One heading to London a little more likely.

There have been plans to introduce a London Grand Prix 20 months ago by British Grand Prix sponsors Santander. Santander 20 months ago introduced a 14 corner, 51.km circuit which incorporated landmarks such as Buckingham Palace and Trafalgar Square.

Even though there would be logistical issues to deal with if the Grand Prix took place, Button stated to the media his hopes that this idea might be brought to life in the near future. Button stated the following:-

‘When I first saw the plans for a London Grand Prix, I knew they were ambitious, but fantastic. The thought of a race through the capital’s streets was only a dream when they initiated the project, but this week’s changes to the law bring the idea a step closer to reality. When you really picture what it would look like its truly mind blowing.’

I would have to agree with Button. For London to host a Grand Prix through its own streets would be fantastic. Not only would the drivers enjoy the challenge that the circuit would present, but it would also attract a new audience and existing fans to the Grand Prix and also the sport.

Button further on with the interview that he would be happy if the race made it onto the calendar in the near future. Button added the following:-

‘You could create such a unique Grand Prix through the streets of London- the roads are naturally very wide and long so straightline speeds would be high, and you could create a real blend of corners. When you combine all of that with the world-famous monuments that would feature in the backdrop you can see why it would be an awesome addition to the calendar.

‘The dream has taken a step closer this week, and I’d love to see this amazing concept finally happen.’

It would be hard not to disagree with Button. The London Grand Prix would be an amazing addition to the Formula One calendar. The circuit would certainly present the teams and drivers with a real challenge and also be able to take in some of London’s fantastic scenery and tourist spots. I really hope that they are able to make even further progress on this and that it will be added to the calendar in the near future.

After the change in the law was announced this week, The Motor Sports Association (MSA) who have campaigned long and hard for Britain to follow the lead taken by many overseas countries who have staged closed-road events for years has welcomed the news.

In an interview with the media MSA acting chief executive Rob Jones stated the following:-

‘This is the news British motor sport has been waiting for. It represents an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to change the landscape of our sport, allowing local communities across the country to host motor sport events and enjoy all the excitement and economic benefit they bring. However, to make that vision a reality we need everybody involved in our sport, from competitors and volunteers to clubs and organisers, to respond positively to the government consultation before the 10 April deadline.

‘The government’s enthusiasm for closed-road motor sport, and its launch of a public consultation, is the culmination of years of hard work behind the scenes. We now have to demonstrate the support that exists for closed-road motor sport around the country.’

It is great to see that the British Government are finally starting to take the idea of a Grand Prix in London seriously after many years of hard work by the MSA. I believe just like Button that it is a fantastic idea and I am behind the idea of it.  This Grand Prix will no doubt attract many British Formula One fans to come to the Grand Prix alongside the existing Grand Prix currently held in Silverstone.

In this current economic climate, this must just be what Formula One needs in order to attract and maintain audience figures around the world which have dropped by 50 million in 2013. As there is no doubt that if a Grand Prix took place in London, this would also help the British economy and also help London’s tourism figures substantially. But it would also help Formula One grow further and expand into new and exciting opportunities that many fans like me would not have imagined to be possible.

I really do hope that the British people and British Formula One fans back the idea of London having a Grand Prix in the near future as I do truly believe the Grand Prix will happen and added to the Formula One calendar sooner rather than later.

Coulthard: Button “needs a big 2014 season”

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Yesterday in an interview with the British newspaper Metro, David Coulthard believes that Jenson Button will have to perform during the 2014 season if he wants to finish ahead of new team-mate Kevin Magnussen. Coulthard who is a former McLaren driver himself has stated he believes that rookie driver Magnussen looks like the “real deal”.

In his interview with Metro, Coulthard said the following when asked how the British drivers on the grid would perform this year:-

‘The UK is well represented at the present with Lewis [Hamilton] and Jenson. They are two different personalities and Lewis looks to have the brightest future at the moment. Jenson is more experienced but may need a big year just to stay ahead of the challenge from exciting young Danish driver Kevin Magnussen at McLaren. He looks the real deal.’

Coulthard does have a valid point to an extent. I do believe that from I have seen from Magnussen so far from the pre-season test has been positive. I have been impressed by the form and performances that he has put in and he may surprise a few people with his form this year.

In terms of his views on Button and Hamilton, as much as it pains to me to write this, Coulthard may have a point. Hamilton might have a bright future in the sport, but I do believe that Button could also still stay in the sport until 2016 if McLaren would like him to stay driving with the team.

Let us not forget that Button is the most experienced driver on the grid and has been racing in Formula One since his debut with Williams in 2000. Button has achieved what many drivers have not been able to and has won a World Championship in 2009 with the Brawn GP and achieved 15 Grand Prix wins so far in his career.

When Button is given the right resources and everything comes together in a Grand Prix weekend, for me, he is one of the best drivers out there. Button quite simply is a born racing driver. His driving style and pace is consistent, reliable and competitive just like drivers such as Hamilton and Vettel.

He has proved time and time again when he has the car underneath him that he can deliver.  There is no question at this current stage of the season; the signs are looking positive for McLaren so far. They have so far consistently challenged in the top five in the timesheets during the pre-season tests and have managed to gain valuable track mileage when others teams such as Red Bull and Toro Rosso are struggling.

In my view, I personally feel that 2014 will be an important year for Button without question. McLaren have with the partnership of Button and Magnussen currently I believe have the perfect mix and balance; experience and new racing talent. Button will no doubt impart his experience gained in his career towards Magnussen and Magnussen will also provide the same to Button.

I will admit that the future of Button may not be as secure as it would have been a few seasons ago. With the McLaren team announcing earlier this year that they have signed Stefan Van Doorne as a new addition to the McLaren Young Driver Programme will have been noticed by Button.

I believe 2014 will be an important year for Button. Despite all the personal hardship that Button and his family are going through at this difficult time, I believe that this will only spur him on to make sure that his 2014 season has the best start he can possibly can.

In my view if McLaren build on the promising foundations that they have managed to achieve so far, there is no question that not only will Magnussen will perform but also Button too. McLaren have two talented drivers within their team who will not only work together for the team but will also be competitive and try to out-perform each other as well.

Do I think Button will perform in 2014? I believe that he can to the best of his ability. Will he manage to keep his McLaren seat for 2015? I really, really hope so as Button in my eyes fully deserves to keep his seat for 2015.

Smedley confirms his move to Williams

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It was announced early this morning by the Williams team that Rob Smedley will re-unite with former Ferrari driver Felipe Massa after joining the team as Head of Vehicle Performance.  Smedley’s new role at the Williams is more senior than that of race engineer, which he performed on Massa’s car at Ferrari which means that the pair will not be working as closely together as before.

Smedley first engineered Massa’s car during the 2006 season and they successfully forged one of the most familiar working relationships in Formula 1 between the driver and engineer. The radio messages from Smedley to Massa have become particularly well known within the sport.

For example, the radio message to Massa from Smedley at the 2010 German Grand Prix is the most famous. Smedley’s comment of “Fernando is faster than you” to Massa when he was leading the race from Alonso.

At the time, team orders were banned from the sport. During the 2010 season, Ferrari considered at that stage that Alonso looked the better prospect for the World Championship and the team were looking towards Massa letting Alonso pass him, which he did and Alonso won the Grand Prix. As a result of this decision, Alonso last the championship that year to Sebastian Vettel at the final Grand Prix in Abu Dhabi and the FIA lifted the ban on team orders starting in 2011.

The Williams team have described the Smedley’s role of ‘Head of Vehicle Performance’ as:-

‘a newly created position which will strengthen the trackside team whilst also supporting the development work back at the factory to help bring more performance to the car throughout the season.’

The announcement of his switch from Ferrari to the Williams was not unexpected nor a surprise to us all. There have been many stories linking Smedley to Williams first appearing towards the end of last season after Massa announced last November that he would be racing with the Williams team for this season after departing Ferrari after eight years of service.

However, his linking up with Massa again is in fact a more of a coincidence. Talks between Smedley and Williams began early last summer and a deal was agreed before Ferrari decided to replace Massa with the return of Kimi Raikkonen at Ferrari for the 2014 season.

It is expected that Smedley will begin work at Williams in April and “will be supported by Race Engineers Andrew Murdoch, who is engineer to Felipe Massa, and Jonathan Eddolls, who remains with Valtteri Bottas in 2014.”

It would seem that so far Williams are not only enjoying some positive signs on track with their current car the FW36 in pre-season testing but also with the latest developments that have been announced by the team over the past few weeks to the media.

Already at this early stage of the season, the Williams team have already made positive steps to improve on their joint worst season in the sport last year when they finished ninth in the Constructors Championship.

They have managed to secure the services of Massa who will bring much needed experience gained from his time at Ferrari to lead the team this year. The team have switched from Renault power to Mercedes power for this season and the benefit is starting to show potential for them already.

The Williams team have reorganised majorly their technical side of their operations in response to this and have managed to recruit Technical Director Pat Symonds who has a vast range of experience and success within the sport. Last week Williams announced the signing of Felipe Nasr as a Test Driver for 2014 who has impressed the paddock last week at the test in Bahrain by running over 80 laps.

Yesterday saw the Williams team announce that their Development Driver Susie Wolff will be taking part in two Practice Sessions at the British and German Grand Prix this year which is great news for Formula One. And now the news that Williams have managed to secure the services of Smedley will have no doubt strengthened the team even further and we are so glad to see the partnership of him and Massa back together in Formula One.

This year Williams have already it would seem to be shown that they have put all the measure in places in order to make sure that 2014 season will be more competitive than the previous season. They managed to secure the services of some talented and motivated individuals who will no doubt push the team currently to be the best they can be while also be planning for the seasons ahead.

If Williams has put everything together within the team and build on what they currently have achieved, the signs are looking good for them currently and also in the future. Williams just need to make sure that they provide both Massa and Bottas with the tools to be competitive, 2014 may just be a competitive year for the team. And I really do hope that it is as Williams absolutely deserve it. They really do.

Riccardo: We still need more time

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In an interview with the media, Red Bull driver Daniel Ricciardo has admitted despite their disappointing test in Bahrain last week, he and his team are in a battle against time to have a competitive car before the start of the 2014 season in Australia.  The reigning Constructors’ Champions had a disappointing time at the Bahrain test last week, where both Sebastian Vettel and Ricciardo struggled with reliability.

Vettel did not leave his garage at all on the first morning of testing and only made an appearance on track 45 minutes before the session was called off. On the second day of the test, Vettel had a much better time of it and completed 59 laps in his RB10. Ricciardo’s time in the new Red Bull car were cut short by technical issues on days three and four, during which he only completed 28 and 15 laps respectively.

Following on from the test in Bahrain last week, the Red Bull rookie admitted that the team needed more time on track to work on ongoing technical problems if they are to challenge for a podium position in Melbourne in less than three weeks time. In his interview, Ricciardo stated the following:-

“I guess we still need more time. We have four more days coming up and hopefully we can maximise those. I have to say that on the run we did today the car did feel better. But unfortunately another problem arose and we couldn’t exploit that potential. I hope we can do more running next week.’

Over the past few weeks, Red Bull has surprised everyone generally with their poor start to the 2014 season. The team have experienced problems with their cooling on the RB10 alongside problems with the Renault Power Units and Energy Recovery Systems that have been well documented within the paddock and also through the media.

Ricciardo has a valid point though. Red Bull just need some more time just like the rest of the field to get to grips with the new challenge presented by the new technical regulations for this season. There is no doubt that the signs showed by Red Bull last week have taken a slight step in the right direction for them despite still struggling to gain sufficient track mileage that they would like.

Ricciardo further on in his interview stated that despite the problems they are trying to fix at the moment, the signs of progress with the RB10 are showing slowly. He stated:-

‘Obviously, I would have liked to do more this afternoon but we still have tomorrow ahead of us and it’s important to be ready for that. The car is definitely making progress though. It’s coming together bit by bit. We’d love a big chunk all at once but that’s not the way it works, so we have to be patient. But it is coming and we’re heading in the right direction.’

Despite everything, it is still pleasant to hear that Ricciardo is remaining positive about things at Red Bull at the moment. Of course it would be understandable for the team and also him to be worrying and have concern about their current lack of performance throughout pre-season testing. Ricciardo just like every other driver on the field understands that this year will be a continuous and steep learning curve and that patience and hard work will be rewarded sooner rather than later throughout the 2014 season.

The final pre-season test at Bahrain this week is Red Bull’s final opportunity to test the car’s reliability and Ricciardo is pleased that he gets a first crack at the Bahrain track when the third and final test starts on Thursday. Ricciardo said the following:-

‘I’m happy I’m doing the first two days. At this stage we just need laps and I’m just looking forward to get back in the car.”

Ricciardo will no doubt grab the opportunity in the final pre-season test to see if they can try and get to get a further understanding of their issues with the RB10 before the start of the season in Melbourne in a few weeks time. At this current stage, Ricciardo has managed to gain maybe not enough track mileage that he would have wanted but I believe he will try his best to try and build on the foundation and data he has already given the Red Bull team.

Alongside Ricciardo stating that Red Bull need more time to get on top of their issues, Red Bull race engineer Andy Damerum has also revealed that the team will have an updated car at the third pre-season test. Damerum stated the following:-

“We’ve made some very good progress, particular on day two, but we’ve also had a number of problems that have again held us back.  The engineering team will head back to Milton Keynes now to plan the next moves and we can only look forward and try to get everything in place for the next test.’

I do believe that as a result of last week’s test at Bahrain that Red Bull have taken some slight steps in order to try and work out through the issues that they have with their car. Of course Red Bull will be worried about the performance of the Mercedes team and the rest of the Mercedes-powered teams on the grid, but at this early stage of the season, it is far too early to tell if they will be competitive in a few weeks time in Melbourne.

But as I have stated in previous blog posts on Jones on F1, I believe if any team can fix these issues, it is Red Bull. Red Bull in my view has one of the best Technical Directors in Formula One in Adrian Newey who has all the experience needed to turn this around into a positive. The fact that they will be using an updated car this week in Bahrain shows the hard work, commitment and dedication from the Red Bull team in order to try and get their 2014 season off to the best start that they can possibly can.

Will Red Bull be able to put everything they have learnt from the first two pre-season tests and have a strong and consistent showing in the final pre-season test this week?  We can only wait and see.