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JEREZ TEST

Raikkonen was fastest at Jerez - or was he?  All sound and fury, signifying nothing. That is about all that can be said about the four days at Jerez. For the record Ferrari was fastest, McLaren was slowest, and Force India didn’t even bother showing up. Despite some websites and publications using plenty of ink (or bytes) telling you what we’ve learnt or making grand predictions based on the relative performances last week let me give you the one tip you really can rely on. They’re talking bollocks.

  Much like last year, and many years prior to that, the times generated at the first test mean bugger all when it comes to how the grid forms up in Melbourne. Much like last year, Ferrari was fast. Much like last year Renault was unreliable. Much like last year Mercedes was not (particularly fast nor unreliable). Last year, come Melbourne, Ferrari was slow, Renault was reliable (at least in Ricciardo’s Red Bull) and Mercedes vanished rapidly into the distance. Such was the performance differential some suggested that Mercedes completed half the Malaysian Grand Prix before the rest of the field finished at Albert Park.

 

  Does anyone really think that Ferrari have found so much speed that they are now the team to beat? Or that Sauber have the second best car for the coming year? Or that Mercedes have produced a slower car than last year? Or that McLaren Honda are really that far off the pace? In reality all that the Jerez test is about is making sure that your car has all its bits connected to all the other bits they need to be connected to ensure you don’t have the embarrassing sight of injectors firing fuel out of the air-box or the big wheels at the front. 

  And let’s be honest about it,  embarrassing blunders do occur. How many laps did Renault powered teams do last year? Remember McLaren producing a car that Nigel Mansell couldn’t squeeze his fat arse into? History is littered with great ideas that come a cropper as soon as the wheels turn. Or don’t as the case may be. The wingless wonders of the ground effect era (the Lotus 80 and Brabham BT47) that rapidly sprouted wings (and in Brabham’s case became the bog standard BT48), March’s 721 with its polar moment of inertia. The BRM P15. The McLaren MP4/18. The Arrows (Footwork) FA12 Porsche... Eek. But this is what testing is for. Some dung heaps stay dung heaps but some come out the other side as roses. OK it’s not F1 but how about the Porsche 917 as an example? Terrifyingly unstable upon release in 1969. Dominated sports car racing in 1970 and 71 to the extent that the sport’s governing body changed the rules to outlaw them. Or the Lotus 77 that struggled to qualify at the beginning of 1976 but won the final round at Fuji.

  There were though, some things we did learn. Not many and few will have any relevance once the season starts. Renault need to redesign a shaft in the ERS water pump. Badly. Again the Mercedes engines are putting in an ominous amount of laps without any serious problems. And discounting the fastest overall lap times, which can be run with sod all fuel and ballast mysteriously disappearing, it was perhaps significant to note that the fastest three cars through the speed trap on the back straight (Williams, Mercedes and Lotus) were all Mercedes powered. The best Renault and Ferrari powered cars (Toro Rosso and Sauber) were over 4 kph down on the Williams. That could, however, be accounted for by the amount of rear wing/downforce/drag that the slower cars were running which may have also contributed to their better overall lap times as Jerez is about as fast and flowing as the Hungaroring.

   Which is why Force India didn’t even bother showing up. With a desire to give themselves more time to develop and build the car they never intended to have their 2015 challenger ready for Jerez and simply trolling around a circuit that has few similarities with the bulk of the tracks in race usage in last year’s car was seen to be of little, if any, value. When the first of two tests at Barcelona begins late next week we should be able to begin to have the first glimmers of an inkling about understanding the possible potential performance of this year’s contenders. Do I have any real knowledge  yet? To quote Douglas Adams “the thought hadn’t even begun to speculate about the merest possibility of crossing my mind.”

 For full times & results ; http://www.mmmsport.com.au/index.php/the-database/formula-1-races/2010-2019/2015-formula-1

 Sam Snape 10/02/2015

 

 

 

Jolyon Palmer announced as Lotus F1 Team Third Driver

Palmer gets Friday practice gigFollowing from my last article some good news for Jolyon Palmer. The below is a press release from Lotus.

 

 

Reigning GP2 Series Champion Jolyon Palmer today joined Lotus F1 Team as Third Driver for the 2015

 
Jolyon will attend all Grands Prix and Formula 1 tests throughout 2015 for Lotus F1 Team, including driving in a significant number of Free Practice 1 sessions, as well as contributing to the car’s testing and development during the season. Jolyon will also fulfil the role of Reserve Driver.  


 
Jolyon is the first British driver to win the GP2 Series since two-time Formula 1 World Champion Lewis Hamilton. He won the 2014 GP2 title in record-breaking fashion, with the greatest amount of points scored in a season (276) and the most consecutive points finishes (19). Lotus F1 Team’s two race drivers, Romain Grosjean and Pastor Maldonado, are both also former GP2 Champions.
 
Gerard Lopez, Chairman and Team Principal, Lotus F1 Team:
“Jolyon is a fantastic talent and a very credible driver to fulfil the role of Third Driver at Lotus F1 Team. Romain and Pastor are both GP2 Series Champions, so we know what a fantastic proving ground GP2 provides. For Jolyon to have enjoyed such a successful season as he took his title last year shows his superb potential for the future. We are looking forward to seeing him in team colours and behind the wheel of our 2015 car, the E23 Hybrid, which represents an exciting new era for Lotus F1 Team.”
 
Jolyon Palmer:
“I'm delighted to be moving into F1 with Lotus F1 Team this year as Third Driver and I'm very grateful for the opportunity they have given me. My goal has been to become a race driver in a competitive F1 team for 2016 and Lotus F1 Team is a great opportunity for me, particularly with Mercedes engines now. To be able to learn with a major F1 team by working closely with them in every area and getting a lot of mileage in the car is the best way possible, as Valtteri Bottas proved. I am delighted to be joining Lotus F1 Team at such an exciting time and my objective is to earn a long term future with them.”

 

Courtesy of Lotus

When the music stops

 

  When the music stops and the fortunate few have taken their seats there are always those unfortunates who are left standing with no-where to go. Their dream of a career in the global lime-light has evaporated and most turn their sights to careers in other classes that they once saw as beneath their self deluded God-given right. Some are truly unfortunate and have had a promising career cut short or hopefully at best, just interupted while others have had their time to prove themselves and are either past their sell-by date or only proved that they were never really going to make it. For others, it must be said, that their very presence was over-optimistic at best. At least they all lived the dream for a while. There are those that, despite all the promise, talent and success never get to start a Grand Prix, mostly for reasons other than promise, talent and success. They all feel hard done by and aggrieved that those with obviously less talent have a seat and one or two are actually correct in that belief.

  One that falls into the latter category is Jolyon Palmer. The son of Jonathon Palmer, one of those who had a lengthy but unfullfilled career in Grand Prix racing, Jolyon has moved through the junior categories winning in every series and thoroughly dominated the GP2 series in 2014. He achieved it all just through shear bloody talent (and a lot of hard yakka obviously) without any huge financial backing or the support of manufacturer (I include Red Bull there) junior programmes. He arrives with all this success at just the time when the smaller teams that he would have probably gotten a break in have fallen by the way-side due to the stupidity, self interest and greed of those who "own" the sport. If he is REALLY lucky he might pick up a test role with one of the remaining smaller teams but short of dropping off the F1 bosses radar and racing in sportscars or the US, there is not much on the horizon for the poor bloke.

   Bernie may not feel that the "minnows" add much to the spectacle but they have always been the nursery, the finishing school, for some very good drivers and one or two of the greats. Would we have seen King Fernando without Minardi? Niki Lauda without March? Nelson Piquet without Ensign? Alan Jones without Hesketh, Hill, Surtees and Shadow? Rosberg (Keke) without ATS, Theodore and Fittipaldi? Senna without Toleman? And they are just the champions.

   The list of winners that began their careers at Minardi for example, an almost perenial back-marker team, is impressive. Michele Alboreto (in F2), Alessandro Nannini, Giancarlo Fisichella, Jarno Trulli, Fernando Alonso and Mark Webber. When you add to that list others that have had a glittering career in and away from F1 such as Anthony Davidson and Marc Gene (who just won the World Endurance Championship for Toyota), Christian Fittipaldi, Ukyo Katayama, Pierluigi Martini, Gianni Morbidelli, Roberto Moreno, Jos Verstappen and Justin Wilson you can begin to see just how important this little team from Faenza was. Then of course it morphed into Toro Rosso and has produced both Sebastien Vettel and Daniel Ricciardo in recent times but they can no longer be described as a minnow.

   It may well turn out that Jolyon is no better than his dad and would not turn out to be the champion in the making that he currently appears, but without a small team to take a punt on him we may never see if he is another of the greats. Not only will that be a loss for Jolyon, it will be a loss for the fans and the sport as a whole. He certainly deserves to feel a little aggrieved as one of the drivers that he gave a drubbing to this year in GP2 has just been signed to drive with Sauber after placing third in the championship. But then Felipe Nasr comes with a lot of Brazilian cash. And talent, and perhaps Felipe will prove himself and that he deserves to be there. But on current proven form, Jolyon deserves to be there more.

   Another that deserves to be there somewhere is Kevin Magnussen who in better times could have been farmed out to one of the minnows by McLaren. After a fairly impressive rookie campaign he is entitled to feel a bit hard done by in having to take a step backwards to the test role as McLaren finally decided that King Fernando would be mated with the 2009 champion Jenson Button. To be honest it would have been pretty tough on either of McLaren's incumbents to be ditched as Button's performance in more than doubling Magnussen's score was far better than the car deserved in 2014 and which ever driver got the raw prawn was never going to get another drive in '15 due to the late announcement of the team's decision.  The only silver lining for Kevin is that he has been kept on the pay-roll and is presumably there to step back into the seat when Jenson's time is up. Or if the three car per team rule is activated as per my previous suggestion, I gotta say I was pleased that Ron confirmed my suspicions on that when they finally announced Jenson's deal. However asuming that King Fernando and Button see out at least two seasons as team mates and Kevin does hang arround hoping, where does that leave Stoffel Vandoorne who is also running out of series to progress through as a McLaren junior team driver?

   Whether you think they are deserved or not you can mostly see the logic in most of the team's line-up choises;

 Mercedes would have been insane to change.

 Red Bull could possibly have the most exciting pairing next year with Kvyat joining Ricciardo and promoting from within. That's what junior teams are for after all.

 Williams would not want any more change after many years of disruption and have gotten themselves back towards the front with a very effective pairing of one young champion in the making (Bottas) backed up by a very capable experienced almost world champion (Massa).

 McLaren have gotten the bargain of the year with Alonso and one of incoming engine partner's favorites in Button to ensure some stability in a year of transittion. Magnussen waits in the wings.

 Force India are very happy with their current pair with a potential great (Hulkenberg) more than abley backed up by Perez who has his occasional superb moments.

 Toro Rosso are also promoting from within with Verstappen and Sainz sharing rookie seasons in the hope of following in Vettel/Ricciardo/Kyvat's footsteps to Red Bull.

 After a shambles of a year Lotus could not have hoped to get better drivers than their existing pair with Grosjean being potentially from the top drawer & Maldonado bringing in a shit-load of petro-dollars while being pretty handy on his day (see Spain 2013) himself.

Saubers recent "ishoos" mean that they need cash as much as talent so their pairing of Felipe Nasr and Marcus Ericsson is probably the best compromise they could come up with.

 The one that I wonder about is Ferrari. In the midst of sacking an awful lot of their senior management and technical staff they have chosen the two drivers that seem to have struggled the most with the latest generation of Grand Prix cars. Vettel simply never got to terms with the lack of rear grip that these turbo cars have (and no blown difusers) and was blown away by Ricciardo while Kimi did no better against a King Fernando who himself was slowly losing his passion for anything red as the year progressed. Sure they are both world champions and given the right car can easilly be again. But neither of them showed any progress from seasons start to end and they are in a team where the design staff are in a huge rebuilding phase and will, in all probability, not supply that all conquering car. In terms of development they don't even like the same things in a car. Vettel likes the rear end to be planted and is less concerned by the front end due to his corner entry style while Kimi can't (and this year didn't) cope with a car with no front end feel. His butt and sensative right foot can sort out the rear end so long as the front is planted. They'll both be pulling in different directions with an unsure design team and so I forsee a very lean year for the fans of the prancing horse.

 Mind you I have also been known to be wrong. Really! It's true……….I remember once back in 1976 when…..

 

Sam Snape

 

29/12/2014

 

 

Musical vanishing chairs

  The music is playing. The chairs are waiting. The players all, world champions, contenders, also rans and hopeful newcomers alike, prance about in ever more frantic circles. The music stops. The chairs have mysteriously vanished. The players all look startled, anxious, perplexed. The conductor says some composers will have to provide extra chairs. The composers claim that the conductor and his masters take too much of the wood for them to make extra chairs. The players are nervous. Will there be a chair for them in the next game?

  While some of those seats have recently, and in some cases somewhat surprisingly, have been settled, there are still many  drivers contending for an ever decreasing number of drives next year. Prior to the Friday night before Sochi not many, Christian Horner included, had any inkling that Sebastian Vettel  would be quitting Red Bull for Ferrari. There were many rumours swirling about that King Fernando was unhappy at the Scuderia and was sniffing around Mercedes just in case… Then that door slammed firmly shut with Rosberg being confirmed for next year and beyond and that left McLaren and it's new Honda engine as the only real alternative. And McLaren have not yet confirmed either of it's current drivers for next year, so queue another nervous former world champion. Button's future is seemingly intertwined with that of King Fernando. Or is it? Will McLaren have two world champions on their books? A situation that would leave Kevin Magnussen, a driver that they have spent a small fortune on bringing through the junior formulas and into his fairly impressive debut season, dangling in the wind. Or does it?

  Remember that Bernie's contracts with the circuit promoters includes guarantees regarding minimum numbers of entries and agreements for the major teams to supply third cars if the numbers drop too low. With both Caterham and Marussia both going into administration it is close, if not at, the point where Bernie will have to request at least two or more teams to run third cars next year. Despite the noises made by the administrators it is unlikely that any buyers will be found for the deaply indebted teams, considering the level of debt and the current distribution of the money that comes into the sport. Even the two new teams that are due to enter the championship in 2016 are more likely to start from scratch rather than buy out the existing debt. And there are at least two, if not three more teams teetering on the edge. Lotus, Force India and Sauber have plenty of rumours surrounding them and their financial health, or lack thereof.

  A worst case scenario, if not probably very likely but who knows, would be that five of the current entries do not show up next year. That leaves just six teams and twelve entries. Even if they all supply a third car that would only bring the numbers up to the eighteen that we had at Austin. Four car teams anyone? There is little chance that some of the six could even afford a third car and almost certainly none could afford a fourth. So one way or another Bernie is going to have to come up with some way of getting more of that money that is flowing out to the venture capitalists that he sold the sport to to go back to the teams, especially the smaller ones that are on the edge. Even then it may well be that Ferrari, Mercedes, McLaren and Red Bull, the current big four, will be asked to run a third car.

  So, is the reason we are still waiting to hear where King Fernando ends up is that he is waiting to hear if there will be a third Mercedes for him next year. Is the reason McLaren has not announced who they are dropping from their line-up, asuming King Fernando has indeed signed that mythical contract with Honda, is that they will not be dropping anyone after all? Then again there has been no announcement from Ferrari that King Fernando is actually leaving so will they have three former world champions in their line-up?  Could he end up at Red Bull?

   Just a thought. None of this may happen and King Fernando signs for the vacant Toro Rosso seat. That's probably not very likely, but neither is the latest rumour that Alonso wants to buy Lotus with Santander dosh and bung Ferrari engines in the back. Considering how Ferrari's engines have performed so far I suggest that this option is even less likely than the other scenarios listed above.

BUT….To quote Murray Walker, "if, if,if, F1 is if spelt backwards".

Sam Snape

31-10-2014

Esteban Ocon to test Lotus

Lotus F1 Team Junior driver Esteban Ocon will test a two-year old Lotus F1 Team E20 as part of his ongoing development programme and as a reward for winning the FIA Formula 3 Championship in his rookie season.
 
Eighteen year-old Frenchman Ocon – who has been part of the Lotus F1 Team Junior programme since 2010 – took an unassailable lead in the championship standings this past weekend in Imola meaning the title is his with three races yet to run.
 
Over the course of his season to date with Italian squad Prema Powerteam, Ocon has achieved nine wins and twenty-one podiums. He currently has 454 points with nearest rival, Max Verstappen, on 368. Ocon has also secured the Rookie title, currently with 558 points to Verstappen’s 448.
 
Ocon will drive the Lotus F1 Team E20 – as used by Kimi Räikkönen to win the 2012 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix – over the course of two days at the Circuit de la Comunitat Valenciana Ricardo Tormo on October 22-23. Ahead of his test, he will be conducting a simulator programme at Lotus F1 Team’s Enstone base.
 
Gerard Lopez, Chairman and Team Principal, Lotus F1 Team:
“Esteban is a tremendous talent for the future. He has shown himself to be a superb driver as part of our Lotus F1 Team Junior programme, we are proud of him and he truly deserves to be given every opportunity to take his career to the next level. To that end he will start testing in the Lotus F1 Team simulator at Enstone this week ahead of driving the E20 at Valencia later this month.”
 
Alan Permane, Trackside Operations Director, Lotus F1 Team:
“Part of the job of Lotus F1 Team is to consider future drivers through our Lotus F1 Team Junior programme, which has evolved from the longstanding and successful driver development programme run out of Enstone. Esteban has really shone this season so it will be rewarding for all to see him in our simulator and then out on track in the E20.”
 
Esteban Ocon:
“I would like to thank Lotus F1 Team and Gravity Management for this superb opportunity. The support and back-up I have been given since 2011 has enabled me to win the FIA Formula 3 Championship against some strong competition and I can’t wait to get started on the next step of my training. To drive a Formula 1 car has always been a dream of mine, so I can’t wait to get started.”

 

Supplied by Lotus
 

RUSSIAN GRAND PRIX

A dreary and featureless race

At a dreary and featureless circuit

In a soulless concrete Olympic precinct

 Ruled by a thug

 Formula 1 should never have gone

 The bikes didn’t - to their credit

 ‘Nuf said

 Sam Snape

 14/10/2014