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Archive for the ‘Teams’ Category

It was Alfa Romeo who won the first ever F1 Grand Prix at Silverstone, Ferrari won the second. Will Sunday see the Scuderia claim victory in the final race there? Never say never, but they were not as competitive in Turkey as many had imagined they would be.
Massa pits st.

However for Silverstone they have some upgrades for the car which were tested in a straight line aerodynamic test on Monday by Felipe Massa. The Brazilian was driving a new chassis, which has a lower centre of gravity and is slightly lighter than the previous one, like the chassis Raikkonen has been using for the last two races. The car is sufficiently different that it has required a new crash test.

In addition Massa tried some new parts on the car, including a new front wing and new front suspension designed to get the weight further forward and get more out of the front tyres. This should help them in qualifying, particularly.

The car also has a revised KERS system, which is lighter and one hopes, more reliable. There are also some modifications to the sidepods and wheel covers.

I saw Felipe this afternoon in London and pointed out that forecasts say it is unlikely to rain on Sunday. He was saying that with this car he would not have the difficulties in the wet he encountered last year, as this car should really get the tyres working in the wet.

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This morning in Monaco there was plenty of activity around the ongoing discussions about the 2010 F1 rules and plenty of chat about what was going to happen next.

It seems to be becoming widely believed that Toyota will use this situation to make its exit from Formula 1. They were thinking about it towards the end of 2008, but there seems to be general belief among the other teams that they will go at the end of this year. BMW, which is having its worst season by far in F1, is also said to be reviewing it’s participation.

FIA president Max Mosley was making himself very available to the media and his message was that Ferrari will be staying in F1 “100% sure.” But the sport needs to fill the empty grid slots and that is the area a lot of work is going into.

It was being said that the teams and the FIA had kissed and made up and that it was all going to be sorted out by the May 29th deadline for entries, but team bosses I spoke to on the grid in Monaco sounded a not of caution. “Are you all loved up again?” I asked one, and he replied, “No, but we’re falling in love again.”

The teams say that they would like to start from the point of maintaining the 2009 regulations and go from there in terms of finding a communal way of regulating the costs down to a level around the £40 million Max Mosley wants the budget cap set at, perhaps by 2011. But by then the world will be out of recession, in all probability, and new opportunities will be out there to generate income for the teams.

Mosley, who is still determined to maintain the idea of a budget cap, said, “I can imagine we can take it through one year if possible [with the] higher figure and then go to the full cap in 2011, but that’s something under discussion. This is a possibility.”

“Ultimately, it’s going to have to be that sort of region,” he said. “Just imagine in today’s world, you go out to get sponsorship and you are just an ordinary team, so to raise 45 million Euros is a massive undertaking.

“Everybody can talk figures, well it ought to be this figure or that figure, but if a team cannot raise the money, then there is nothing they can do.”

Money is hard enough to find for the existing teams, look at the amount of sponsorship on the Brawn and they have won five races!!

It seems very hard to imagine new teams being able to raise the kind of money necessary to get into F1. But Mosley insists on new teams coming in, so discussions are centring around ways of helping new teams, with cheap engine and gearbox deals and a possible chassis lease package to allow them to run competitively at low cost to start with. It seems that the existing teams are saying that they would require the new teams to run rookie drivers on that basis.

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On the official Ferrari website there is an extraordinary piece, posted today, which has a major dig at the calibre of teams lining up to join Formula 1 next season under the new budget cap rules. The tone is very disparaging.

Under the headline “Formula 1 or GP3?” the following piece appears,

“Maranello, 20th May – They couldn’t almost believe their eyes, the men at women (sic) working at Ferrari, when they read the papers this morning and found the names of the teams, declaring that they have the intention to race in Formula 1 in the next year.

Looking at the list, which leaked yesterday from Paris, you can’t find a very famous name, one of those one has to spend 400 Euros per person for a place on the grandstand at a GP (plus the expenses for the journey and the stay..). Wirth Research, Lola, USF1, Epsilon Euskadi, RML, Formtech, Campos, iSport: these are the names of the teams, which should compete in the two-tier Formula 1 wanted by Mosley. Can a World Championship with teams like them – with due respect – can have the same value as today’s Formula 1, where Ferrari, the big car manufacturers and teams, who created the history of this sport, compete? Wouldn’t it be more appropriate to call it Formula GP3?”

This was posted before the Paris court rejected Ferrari’s application for an injunction against the 2010 rules, but it has certainly upped the ante. Ferrari is deliberately provoking the debate, remember on their site last week was a long piece about how “Ferrari made F1 great.”

The FIA’s statement today is as much a response to this latest posting on the Ferrari site as it is to the verdict of the Paris court,

“No competitor should place their interests above those of the sport in which they compete. The FIA, the teams and our commercial partners will now continue to work to ensure the wellbeing of Formula One in 2010 and beyond.”

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Vijay Mallya is bobbing in the harbour on his motor yacht, Flavio Briatore will have zoomed off in his private jet, like most of the drivers but the winner of today’s Grand Prix, was on the Easyjet flight to Luton with his team, Red Bull, Force India, me and a load of sunburned, happy fans.
IMG_0014

Most of them couldn’t believe their eyes that Ross was on the same flight and he had to pose for photos with many of them. His only token bit of elitism – he paid €12 for Speedy Boarding!

Ross has always been a team player when it comes to travel. A number of times in the past when my family has been on holiday in Italy in summer I’ve cadged a lift on the Ferrari charter and Ross and Jean Todt always used to travel with the engineers and mechanics on the same plane. It’s part of the team building ethic, which also includes sending different members of the team up onto the podium, to allow them to feel that buzz and to motivate them to work hard to achieve it again.

Anyway, on the way out on Thursday morning the Easyjet plane was half full of hungover Barcelona fans on their way home after beating Chelsea in the Champions league. Ross got sat next to a guy who must have been 20 stone and who had clearly been in a bar all night.

Tonight he was on good form, relieved to have won another race and to have negotiated through all the potential little problems, surprised that Red Bull hadn’t done more with pit strategy to try to get Vettel away from Massa.

On the plane the atmosphere was good. The captain in his welcome speech congratulated the team for its success and wished them many more. Red Bull guys rolled their eyes..

Brawn has now won 11 trophies in the five races so far and Jenson Button has dropped only four points from a possible 45.

They are making it look Easy.

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Felipe Massa has his tail up today, Ferrari are back in business and he knows that he has an important role in the outcome of the race, particularly at the start, where he lines up fourth on the grid.
Massa portr

Using the KERS system, which will give him an 80 horsepower boost on the run down to turn one, projections show that he should be second by the first corner, but if Button makes a poor start as he did in Bahrain and Kuala Lumpur, Massa will have him.

“It will be hard to pass in one go all three cars,” he says. “However the KERS has shown itself to be very efficient on other races. Let’s hope we get a good start and take advantage of it.”

He is clearly in the fight for a podium, which would be Ferrari’s first of the season.
“That’s the objective,” he says. “It would be a great result, if we think where we were in the first four races.

” Judging from Q2, on low fuel, I’d say that we are still a couple of tenths off (the Brawn and Red Bull cars). It doesn’t sound like a lot, but when you add it up over a race it’s quite a distance. I hope that the next evolutions which hopefully we’ll have in Turkey, will close the rest of the gap, even if it might be a little bit late in the championship.”

The new car, he says, is a marked improvement in a few key areas. The main thing is that it has more downforce, but it’s also more driveable,
“It’s more stable under braking and in the fast corners you can be more aggressive with it, ” says Massa.

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Both Ferrari drivers will have a major upgrade this weekend, but Kimi Raikkonen will have a new chassis which is 10kg lighter than Felipe Massa’s to accomodate him and the KERS system. Raikkonen himself is 10kg heavier than Massa, he revealed today.

Ferrari’s biggest problem has been a lack of downforce compared to the opposition. “The car is handling well, the balance is good, there’s just not enough downforce,” said Raikkonen.

The new Ferrari has detailed aerodynamic changes everywhere. The sidepods are more rounded, there is a new engine cover with new exhaust exits as well as a new floor and a new double diffuser. The engineers have had a lot of redesigning to do at the back end of the car to reposition electronics and hydraulic systems to fit in the new diffuser.

The car is expected to feature modifications to the front and rear wings. Neither driver wanted to say what the expected gain is from this package, but it will need to be a minimum of half a second to get them closer to the front of the field. “I hope we can improve more than the others so we can step forward, ” said Massa. “We have good numbers, so I hope we improve very well.”

Most teams have brought updates which should be worth between two tenths and half a second, depending on the scale of the project.

Brawn GP has its first major update of the season with a new floor and new engine cover among other modifications. Meanwhile Renault has been delivering boxes into the paddock this afternoon in a very public way. New rear wings in bubble wrap and boxes of parts were wheeled through the paddock just after lunchtime to be fitted to the cars before practice tomorrow.

With no track testing allowed during the season, this will be the first time any of the teams will be able to get a sense of what effect their updates make on the track and how much they help lap time. It’s going to be fascinating to see who’s up and who’s down.

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Kimi Raikkonen will be in Regents Street, London this morning, opening the new Ferrari store. It’s a big site, I went past it yesterday and it’s full of Ferrari branded goodies.
kimi-a1

It’s amazing to think that it’s a year since Raikkonen last won a Grand Prix. He dominated the Spanish GP last season from pole, but since then he’s failed to make the top step. He would probably have won in Canada if he had not been hit in the pit lane by Lewis Hamilton and he was on target in France until his exhaust started burning a hole in the bodywork of his car.

“It was one of my best weekends with Ferrari, ” he says on the Ferrari website. “Pole, win and fastest lap. A driver never loses his taste for victory and I want to try it again as soon as possible.”

Raikkonen did a great job in Bahrain, squeezing the absolute maximum out of the Ferrari there, putting to rest any doubts about whether he still has the motivation. He was unlucky at the end not to nick fifth place off Rubens Barrichello.

There is the spectre of Alonso in the background, with well-informed Italian colleagues assuring me that an agreement is in place with the Spaniard, just as it was with Kimi for almost a year before it became public in late 2006. The deal is for 2011, but may be brought forward to 2010 if Kimi underperforms or wants out early. The president of Santander bank was very high profile in Bahrain, spending a lot of time around the Ferrari area. The Spanish bank is due to come on stream as a sponsor of Ferrari next year, having left McLaren following the failure of their relationship with Alonso.

Spain will be a important weekend for Ferrari, with the updated car expected to give them more of the kind of performance the front-runners have had so far. A quarter of the season has gone already, however.

Some Italian papers are saying that based on the performance this weekend, Ferrari will decide whether to press on with development of this car or throw more effort into 2010, as Brawn did last year. But I’m not so sure about that. For a start, the scale of the aerodynamic rule changes for next year is nothing like what it was for this year. But also team boss Stefano Domenicali pointed out after the race in Bahrain that when you are Ferrari, “You don’t write off a season, ” however badly it might be going.

Meanwhile Felipe Massa is keeping the faith. He was in Rome the other day doing a road safety campaign, following in the steps of his mentor Michael Schumacher,

“I hope things will improve, ” said Massa. “I hope we can have a different championship now. We have to keep working, things don’t come to you for free. In the team there is still a lot of faith. The team is very united.”

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Yesterday I met with Max Mosley for a long interview which is in today’s Financial Times.

He was in London briefly following this week’s world motor sport council meeting where the £40 million budget cap was voted through.

I posted yesterday on the letters exchanged between him and Luca Di Montezemolo Ferrari president. Ferrari are very angry about the budget cap plans and the ‘two tier’ system which might see two classes of car racing in F1 next year. Montezemolo’s letter hints at a possible legal challenge to the plans.

I asked Mosley whether F1 could survive without Ferrari.

“It could,” he said. “It would be very sad to lose them. They’ve been in the sport since the start, but if it’s a choice between that and a situation doomed to failure and which would collapse F1 …  We are not going to bend over backwards to keep them.”

Mosley described the budget cap move as “by far the biggest development in my time in the sport”.

He is confident though that this is a time for action, not for wait and see, as the economy struggles to recover from global recession and cars companies are losing £1 billion a month. But he accepts that it might go wrong and that this summer could see a damaging stand off between some teams and the FIA.

“If you are trying to make big changes things can go wrong,” said Mosley. “We may have a very damaging conflict, it’s possible, but we are prepared for that. We’d tough it out. We’ve got very little room to negotiate, but the message I’m getting from the board of two or three of the manufacturers is that if you can keep us in F1 so that the cheque we write is not more than €25 million, you can consider this a pretty permanent arrangement.”

In recent years the manufacturer-backed teams, like Honda, BMW, Toyota Mercedes and Renault have fuelled an arms race of costs, but the boards of those car companies take a different view, according to Mosley, especially now that the economic picture has deteriorated.

“We have contacts with the boards other than through the teams. The teams spin to the board. The CEO hasn’t got the time, knowledge or expertise to question it. But now because they are all [short of money] to throw away tens of millions on F1 is not acceptable.

“I hope and think that when a team goes to its board and says, ‘I want to go to war with the FIA, because I want to be able to spend £100 million more than the FIA want me to spend, then the board will say ‘Why can’t you spend £40 million if the other teams can do it?’ “

Mosley believes that Formula 1 has “gone down the wrong track”, with the emphasis on endless costly developments, rather than genuine innovation.. He believes that the budget cap reverses that trend.

“The cleverest team is going to win, not the richest. It’s manifestly fair because it litterally is the one who makes the best invention who will succeed, Invention is cheap, it’s refinement that is expensive and F1 is now refinement orientated. It’s probably our fault for allowing rules to develop in such a way that refinement is the means of progress rather than invention.“

* Tomorrow I will post the second half of the interview, with some interesting observations from Mosley on Ron Dennis, an explanation of how the cap will be policed and thoughts on how long it will stay in F1.

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In response to the letter Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo wrote on April 28th to the FIA president expressing concern about having two classes of F1 car and about a possible legal challenge to the budget cap, Max Mosley wrote back the following day.

He quotes FIAT boss Sergio Marchionne, with whom Montezemolo works closely and his belief that in an economic crisis such as we are in at the moment, only an extreme response will do,
“We are just going to slam the brakes on, cut everything back to essentials. It may be painful, it may be ugly. But if we want to do the right thing for this industry let’s do it now. Today my gut instinct is to be truly Draconian.” These are Marchionne’s words.

Mosley's letter to Ferrari

Mosley's letter to Ferrari

Mosley points out that the car industry is in serious difficulty and that F1, as an extension of it, is extremely vulnerable. Honda’s departure was a wake up call and another manufacturer could leave at any moment.

“If we are to reduce the risk of the Formula 1 world championship collapsing, we have to allow new teams in. We also have to reduce costs drastically. The matter is therefore extremely urgent.”

Responding to Montezemolo’s legal threat over rights that have not been respected Mosley writes,
“The only radical elements are those needed to close the gap that would otherwise exist between a low-budget team and other competitors. Thus if Ferrari chooses to continue with an unrestricted budget, the new regulations will not deprive Ferrari of any rights…I do not accept that these proposed regulation compromise any commitment that has been given to Ferrari in the past, unless Ferrari would somehow argue that it is entitled to prevent new competitors from emerging at a time when the sport itself is in danger.”

He ends with a flourish, “We are confident (as are our accountants and lawyers) that a budget cap will be enforceable. The cleverest team will win and we would eliminate the need for depressing restrictions on technology, which the existing teams are discussing with a view to reducing costs. I hope Ferrari will take the lead in agreeing the cost cap mechanism, thus freeing its engineers to work and preserving its shareholders’ money.”

Mosley has always wanted three things; to see the playing field levelled so small teams can compete with big teams, to have full grids and he has always felt that the costs were out of control, long before the credit crunch hit the global economy.

What he has done here, along with his technical strategy guru Tony Purnell, is to take advantage of the car industry’s troubles to create a window for killing those three birds with one stone. The two class F1 is not ideal for anyone, but Mosley is calculating that no manufacturer will go for the uncapped option it because it would be unjustifiable to shareholders.

Meanwhile the five independent teams, Williams, Red Bull, Toro Rosso, Brawn and Force India all welcome the budget cap at the £40 million level because to them it means survival, profit and the chance to compete against the big boys. It’s Christmas for them.

The teams formed their association, FOTA, to represent their rights, but here FOTA is in big trouble because the five independents are on a collision course with the manufacturers, so Max has also achieved a fourth aim, to undermine FOTA.

Many people dislike his methods, but think about it this way, if F1 didn’t exist and you were Ferrari or any other manufacturer and someone came to you and said, “I’ve got a great idea for a racing series; we’ll have 17 races in key markets around the world, great TV package giving your brand a media value in the hundreds of millions per year and it will cost £40 million and it capped, so you can innovate within that figure and beat the others.”

I’m sure if you started with a clean sheet of paper, in other words, you might well go for it on that basis. But it’s hard to see the Mosley/Purnell vision for F1 because we come from an era of £200 million budgets. But why does it need to cost £200 million to win?

Shouldn’t Ferrari continue to win races? If you have something very good and you distill it to its core strengths, you end up with something sensational. So surely the 350 best people at Ferrari must be the equal or better of the 350 at any of the other teams?

One of my readers, Martin Samm, made this very valid point today,
“What I (as a member of Joe Public) want is a series of interesting/exciting races – I dont care if they spent 40 million or 200 million, as I’m sure they’ll be as cutting edge as ever regardless; engineers tend to be cunning like that!”

Martin also points out this is all happening at a time when races are being won by two independent teams, Brawn and Red Bull. Most people find this very refreshing and a good thing for F1.

It’s really hard to know which way to go on this one, because it represents a huge cultural shift in F1. You can see Ferrari’s point and they believe that they have right – and the law – on their side.

The way is clear for a summer of messy legal challenges, which would throw 2010 into chaos. Ferrari will not go quietly on this one and they have gathered the other manufacturers around them for a council of war. They make the engines, of course, so the independents are dependent on them.

That is why Cosworth is sitting on the sidelines, waiting.

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Although Ferrari is refusing to comment on yesterday’s budget cap announcement, some letters between its president Luca di Montezemolo and FIA president Max Mosley have come to light.

These show Ferrari’s concerns and hint at arrangements between Ferrari and the governing body, which Ferrari feel have not been honoured.

Montezemolo ; Legal challenge to cost cap?

Montezemolo ; Legal challenge to cost cap?

On April 28th Montezemolo wrote to Mosley and other world council members,
unhappy that budget caps had been put on the agenda of a meeting which was called to hear the McLaren case.

He wrote, ” I have always been concerned about its introduction (cost cap) mainly because I consider that there are serious technical difficulties in making sure that any cap can realistically be monitored.

“There are..doubts as to whether or not two categories of teams should be created which will inevitably mean that one category will have an advantage over the other and that the championship will be fundamentally unfaor and perhaps even biased. In any event this would create confusion in the public’s mind, which would seriously lower the value of Formula 1.”

This is a view shared by all the F1 teams, that having capped and uncapped teams operating to two different sets of rules is unworkable. FOTA will discuss this at its May 6th meeting.

But Montezemolo then goes on to remind Mosley about the deal, which he signed in 2005 to commit Ferrari to F1 until 2012, the one which broke the idea of a manufacturers’ breakaway series and for which Ferrari allegedly received €100 million.

Montezemolo’s point is that under the Concorde Agreement the FIA “cannot pass or amend any regulation without it being approved by the F1 commission.”

When Ferrari did its secret deal and signed up to 2012, it demanded and was granted “all rights under the previous Concorde Agreement will continue to apply until 31 December 2010, exactly as if the Agreement itself remained in place.”

The language then gets quite legal, and Montezemolo says he ‘insists’ that the FIA respect the agreement they made.

Presumably this is a coded message that Ferrari would launch a legal challenge against the cost cap. The problem there is time. It would take months and that would delay the 2010 rules being published, which would throw the series into chaos.

Ferrari would only launch an action like that with FOTA backing, but that will be hard because half of the teams in FOTA agree with the cost cap, which guarantees not just their survival but that they will be able to compete with the big boys and make a profit at the same time!

I’ll post on Mosley’s response separately.

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