Since its conceptualisation in the 1950’s and commercial use from 1976 the supersonic aircraft Concorde became synonymous with ground-breaking engineering and innovation which ably progressed human advancement within society. In some cases, like the London to New York City routes, there was the ability to arrive at the destination in a time before you left. All of this was thanks to supersonic travel, a pioneering and tangible use of modern engineering which was lauded as a human triumph, conquering issues with research and solving problems with development. It was an end of an era in 2003 when the flights ceased, due to spiralling costs and aviation industry downturns in the aftermath of September 11, 2001. In this respect, certain parallels can be drawn to Formula One. The sport is the fastest in the world, it is the pinnacle of motor racing, it is pushing boundaries with innovative techniques harnessed toward greater fuel efficiency, however it is coming at a cost. Whilst the chassis, the tyres, the combustion unit, the electronic recovery systems from the turbo and the brakes are truly ground-breaking and impressive, the driving and the racing are not.
The question is, why should Formula One be a trend-setter? There is the suggestion that the regulators need to adhere to the requirements of the world’s motoring manufacturers. They bring the big money and have plenty to sell. However, as we have seen in the past, these big conglomerates tend to abandon ship when the champagne stops spraying. The recent formula was proposed in the wake of the global economic downturn from 2008. People, insecure about their financial or employment positions stopped buying road cars which drove a major rethink at the car industry’s biggest hitters. Renault sold their team, Toyota decided to leave along with compatriots Honda. In a move to incentivise major engine suppliers back into Formula One proposals over a 1.6litre hybrid turbo powered engine unit began, all centred on the road relevance. Manufacturers could research and design prototypes for their new Clio’s, Civic’s, C-Class’s and Aygo’s and place them in the back of an F1 car marketing new technology across the globe. What has happened instead is a very complex unit, barely comprehendible to even the biggest car enthusiasts, which has very little relevance to what is run on the motorways and autobahns of the world. It is much more wise for manufacturers to go into a formula that will at least account for some degree of road relevance, like the World Endurance Championship.
The sport should set a precedence of delivering entertainment from the fastest pilots driving in the fastest cars, lap after lap, not being impinged by an efficiency formula. People sit down in front of their TV on Sunday’s, they go to the racetracks, they travel to other countries in the hope of witnessing a classic race involving the best drivers, the best teams all pushing to the absolute maximum. The public want to see an event, an experience. Sport is most often objectified as an escapism. People fill the stands at a football ground, they play tennis with their friends, they fish by a river, watch F1 on TV all to get away from the realities wrought by working life, more often than not. That’s why polishing a turd of a dull race is never acceptable, people in today’s modern world need to be entertained, and there are so many other forms of activity which can provide more amusement than a race like the one seen in Montreal last weekend. The current efficiency drives are undermining the sport, the engineers, the public and most of all the victories and championships won by the drivers. It is incredibly hard to suggest that Lewis Hamilton gets the same satisfaction from being victorious in a one or two-horse race. It would matter more to him, and make his victories more credible in the eyes of the public, if he is racing against the best drivers in the world in different teams, all in a never-ending pursuit to get to the finish flag first.
It is not the place of the public to stipulate regulation changes, but some facts are evident. Viewing numbers are down, not necessarily on TV (although there is a worrying downward trend appearing), but in the stands. When talking about the experience, race goers can normally exempt a dull affair so long as they’re rewarded with ambiance, sound. Fans get little bang for their ever-increasing buck these days. A decade ago Formula One was still using V10’s, a fast and deaf-defying engine and even the V8’s, which were introduced from 2016 still required ear plugs. They are long gone now, there are many who call such engines archaic. But the new power units are comprehensively quieter and more expensive. It doesn’t have to be that way, what would be wrong in allowing teams to run a V10 engine or placing a hybrid unit onto a V8? The complex innovative nature would still be apparent but the racing cars themselves will still be capable of pushing to the absolute edge, leaning on the chassis and pushing the edge of adhesion to the race track lap after lap. The current V6’s are nurtured not just to preserve energy life and fuel efficiency, but also a fear of breakage. Gone are the days when ‘doughnuting’ was second nature after arriving at the chequered flag first, it has been replaced by a highly sensitive unit which must be cherished with care back safely to the team garage.
V10 engines were taken away from the sport primarily in fear that the circuits could no longer be suitably raced on with the increasing speeds offered from such a high powered engine unit. It may be necessary in this case then to raise the car one inch or more, this way the car will not be as planted to the ground in the dry and will at least make running in wet conditions more feasible. Previous wet races like the 1989 Adelaide and Fuji 2007 Grands Prix would almost certainly never be run today. Modern Formula One cars are hardly capable of running in slightly inclement conditions on intermediate tyres.
The arrival of a seventeen year old to the 2015 grid, and the subsequent ease at which he is driving the car shows that the sport no longer tests the drivers physically in the way it did a decade, or even half a decade ago and is something that many experienced racers have confessed to of late. It may be put down the ever-growing need to ‘lift-and-coast’, when drivers come off the accelerator before a braking point to conserve fuel and brake components and materials. The cars are no longer capable of high speed cornering thanks to the tethering techniques of a smaller combustion unit. Perhaps a re-introduction of power steering may be possible, give the drivers what they want. It would not be so costly or impossible to incorporate it within a chassis and would only offer the benefits of seeing athletes on top of their physical game for one and half hours on a Sunday afternoon.
There are a lot of radical regulation changes being bandied about in and around the Formula One paddock. But is F1 really in such dire straits that it needs to be redesigning cars and introducing refuelling? “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it” springs to mind. It is clear that certain small aspects of the sport are a little broken but it doesn’t require a whole redesign, this is very much the appropriate time to paper over the cracks. Some techniques can be brought forward from the past. Costs will decrease, audiences won’t be mystified by ERS-H and ERS-K processes. Concorde is missed. The capability to build such an outstanding piece of machinery is akin to putting the man on the moon, supersonic travel has never truly been superseded and is rarely forgotten about. Formula One, like Concorde, can garner public interest by pushing humans, F1 drivers to the boundaries in the world’s fastest cars developed and designed to the edge by engineering geniuses. It is perhaps time for the sport of Formula One to head back to the future.
Ross Brawn has today confirmed that he is to retire from Formula One, at a fishing event in Scotland.
The 59 year old was at a fishing competition at the River Dee near Aberdeen when he confirmed his intentions to stand down in Formula One to focus on fishing. Brawn has long been linked with a position at McLaren or Honda since his departure from the Mercedes team last year.
“I’m retiring – it’s not tongue in cheek,” Brawn said. “I’m going to take a year to enjoy the fishing and then see what life brings. I’m looking forward to it but I’ve got no other plans.”
Brawn has long been linked with a position at McLaren or Honda since his departure from the Mercedes team last year. “What they didn’t realise when I was invited here was they had a scoop because the world’s press was trying to find out if I was retiring or not,” Brawn said. “This is the busiest time of the year for Formula One and I said I would come along and open the River Dee.”
The Englishman who was also a candidate for a position at the F1 governing body body, the FIA said: “It’s a fantastic honour to do the ceremonial opening of the River Dee. It’s a river I’ve never had a chance to fish before because it is predominantly known as a spring river and in the spring I’m normally trying to sort out a Formula One car in Spain.
“So February, March and April are never good months for me to go fishing – but this year is different having stopped.”
It is not known whether Brawn is just taking a years sabbatical or whether he is serious about leaving permanently. He has won 16 titles in Formula One, eight drivers’ and eight constructors’.
Red Bull Racing are in trouble. Australian driver Daniel Ricciardo managed just four more laps than he did yesterday. The Australian completed 7 laps in the morning and brought Red Bull’s total laps for the week to 21, a desperately poor number – and one that will justify Lotus’ absence at Jerez. By lunchtime the team confirmed once again that the car would not run, and they would instead pack up early to return back to Milton Keynes. The factory will have to work hard over the next couple of weeks to rectify the RB10’s overheating and cooling issues. It will require a redesign of the whole rear end ‘coke-bottle’ area of the car and Adrian Newey is already back at base re-drawing and re-designing.
“It’s been a very difficult test,” said Team Principal Christian Horner. “We have had numerous Renault issues as well as chassis-cooling issues, which have affected our progress.”
Horner also confirmed that the problems they have can be fixed before the next test in Bahrain in the middle of February, “Despite the lack of mileage, what we have managed to learn shows that the problems should be solvable for the next test in Bahrain. Part of the purpose of this early test was to learn about any issues ahead of the start of the season and there will now be a lot of focus on the dyno over the next few weeks.”
Felipe Massa went quickest of the day on the damp Jerez circuit. The Brazilian was only in his second day of running for the team and he managed to set a benchmark time of 1m28.229, which was almost a second faster than nearest competitor and former team mate Fernando Alonso. The Williams managed to complete 86 laps in the process. Massa said: “I’m pleased with what I have seen in the team this week. For sure it is important to be competitive.”
The Ferrari of Fernando Alonso rounded the track the most times out of anyone with 115 laps without failure. The Spaniard finished the session in second place and the Ferrari is now capable of running seemingly without reliability issues and Alonso was able to conduct longer runs whilst practicing pit stops and launches from the end of the pitlane. The Italian team will be wanting to maintain this performance for the warmer Bahrain test.
Force India’s test driver Daniel Juncadella finished the day in third place after a fault-free day. The Silverstone-based team were hoping to gain more mileage after suffering problems with the car on all three of the previous days running and Juncadella racked up 81 laps setting a time of 1m29.457.
Day 3 pacesetter Kevin Magnussen completed the day in fourth place with a time of 1m30.806. The Dane managed to complete the most laps McLaren have had all test, with 110. Magnussen had a bad end to the day however. With less than an hour of the session remaining he spun the MP4-29 at the Ayrton Senna chicane and stalled the car, bringing out the red flags. Because of the lack of damage to the car, he was able to get out again before the end of the session, but crashed his McLaren into the barriers on the exit of turn 10. The test has proven to be a success for McLaren, who missed day one after failing to set up their car in time. They have the added bonus of a rear wishbone appendage that a lot of teams up and down the paddock will be trying hard to replicate over the next few weeks before the two tests in Bahrain.
Mercedes changed their testing plan in the morning and decided to split driving duties at the lunchtime break in order to allow Lewis Hamilton some more time in the car. Nico Rosberg started off in the morning and completed a massive 91 laps of the Jerez circuit in a little under 3 hours of running. The Mercedes looked extremely drive-able, even in the wet conditions. Rosberg was able to complete something akin to a race stint, he was able to roll around over 40 laps entering the pits three times for scheduled pitstops before leaving and continuing his race stint. Given that the track temperature barely made it into double figures all morning, it will not be representative of any real running as the cars and tyres will not experience these conditions again throughout the rest of the season. But Mercedes will be impressed by its mileage without reliability issues, a major plus before going to Bahrain.
Lewis Hamilton took over in the afternoon and completed 41 laps and set a laptime of 1m30.822. The Mercedes ran without fault all day and managed to complete the most mileage out of all the teams, with a combined total of 132 laps for the day.
Jules Bianchi surprised in his new Marussia. It was the first time the Frenchman had tried the new car and despite only completing 25 laps for the day, he ended up less than four seconds off Massa’s pace with a time of 1m32.222. Marussia had only managed to get their car up and running on Thursday after being unable to piece their car together back at the factory. The team are using Ferrari engines this year, and that could have a say in how well they perform when the season gets underway. The Ferrari and the Mercedes already appear to have the upper hand on the Renault engines.
Adrian Sutil was once again back in the Sauber. The German driver ended up in the barrier on Thursday and with just an hour and a half left of today’s session he spun his Sauber into the gravel just before the last hairpin. The Sauber did manage to get back out again for some more laps before the end of the day. Sutil managed to set a laptime of 1m39.941 and he completed 69 laps. Sauber have confirmed that they are struggling with braking issues this week, attributable to the new brake-by-wire system the teams are using. It explains why the Sauber car has been unable to set representative lap times all week. The Swiss team will hope to resolve their issues to get some proper running underway in Bahrain in February.
Caterham had to call their test to an end with a couple of hours remaining when they discovered a power unit component issue, which is another Renault problem. Kamui Kobayashi was running in the car for Friday and managed 54 laps. The Caterham team have had their issues this week but have come away from Jerez completing 74 laps, 34 more than Red Bull managed across all four days. Not as high as the team would have hoped, but given the Renault issues up and down the pitlane this week, they have made the best out of the bad situation, a point confirmed by Kobayashi, “My first day in the car may have ended earlier than we’d planned after another problem with the Renault engine, but, from where we’ve been earlier this week, it’s very good to have completed 54 laps.”
Daniil Kvyat has had a terrible week. He was unable to get any running in on Wednesday as the car never left the garage for reliability reasons and today the Russian only managed 9 laps setting a time of 1m44.016. Kvyat ended the day bringing out the red flags after stopping out on the track with Kevin Magnussen. It is very probable that Toro Rosso are having the same issues this week as the Red Bull team, on account for their similar chassis and engine partner.
What we have learnt?
- Mercedes have the edge. Their power units have completed a combined 875 laps in four days at the Jerez test. Ferrari power units have managed 444 laps and Renault just 151. All the teams have completed a total of 1470 laps over the four days.
- Mercedes have had great reliability for the laps they have done, they have completed six times the amount of laps the Renault has achieved. The Ferrari too had managed good reliability but did have to stop a few times on circuit with small problems. The Renault powered teams have had a torrid time. Completing 151 laps is not what they would expect and they will need to go away and fix the problems they have had in Jerez in time for Bahrain.
- Red Bull are in trouble. Just 21 laps for the week is not what the champions were hoping for. Cooling problems with their Renault Energy Recovery Systems will require a chassis redesign.
- Formula One got quieter. The new 1.6 V6 turbos still generate an impressive sound, but the noise is nowhere near to that of the V8 or V10 era.
- Pirelli may well have sorted their problems. Despite the cars not running at full pace and track temperatures being so long, the Pirelli’s held up and have not had any issues or complaints from any drivers. The hotter climate of Bahrain will prove to be a larger test for the tyre company though.
- McLaren have a trick up their sleeve. The team didn’t run on Tuesday so we never got a glimpse of the rear suspension fairing they are running in order to generate more downforce. Teams up and down the paddock will now look to copy the idea.
- Mercedes have a good base on which to build their car. Good high and low speed cornering and a solid engine is a great first step.
- Lotus haven’t missed a thing. With Renault suffering so many problems and plenty of their rivals not getting much mileage in, the Enstone based team have not really missed too much. They will have to hope for a quick car straight out the garage in Bahrain though to ensure they don’t lose out too much to their competitors.
- And of course, it all means nothing. We can’t read anything into the times, we don’t know who is running what program, with what fuel or how hard they are pushing on the track. Maybe we will begin a glimpse of the real pace in Bahrain on the 19th of February…
McLaren rookie Kevin Magnussen finished day 3 of the Jerez F1 test on top of the timesheets. The Danish driver took over from team mate Jenson Button at lunctime. His time of 1m23.276 was the quickest of the week so far. It was four tenths quicker than second placed driver Felipe Massa in the Williams. Lewis Hamilton came third with a time of 1m23.952 in his Mercedes. Former team mate and morning runner Jenson Button did a time of 1m25.030 which was the quickest time of the morning session before he handed over to Magnussen. Fernando Alonso was in fifth in his Ferrari with a time of 1m25.495. Nico Hulkenberg set a time of 1m.26.096 in his Force India. The times then dropped off significantly toward the back of the field. Jean-Eric Vergne had an unreliable day and ended some 6.6 seconds off the pace with a time of 1m29.915 which was marginally quicker than Adrian Sutil’s Sauber which managed a 1m30.161. Caterham’s test driver Robin Frijns completed 10 laps but did not set a laptime. Marussia managed to take to the track for the first time in their new chassis with Max Chilton behind the wheel, the Brit only completed 5 untimed laps though. Red Bull called an end to their day in the early afternoon with gremlins striking Daniel Ricciardo throughout the day. The Australian only managed to lap the circuit twice, with the RB10 breaking down 5 corners into its first run of the day. Testing resumes tomorrow.
Day 1 of the first ‘new era’ F1 test in Jerez was a day of unreliability, new sounds and minimal running. Minimal running indeed, on day one the combined lap total for the field was an astoundingly underwhelming 91 laps, the standard amount for just one car in one day last year. In fact on the first day of testing in 2013, all the cars managed 657 laps and in 2012 they managed 711.
Mercedes were the first on track with Lewis Hamilton and the Englishman managed to keep plugging the laps in all morning, he was the only consistent runner to talk about. The Mercedes gave us the first glimpse of what the 1.6 turbo charged V6 hybrid power unit sounded like, and it is actually impressive. Over the past year many have worried about the sound the new engines will generate, fearing it will sound too weak or too quiet. But it is in fact still loud and very ‘throaty’. It has a deeper resonance, much akin to the 1980’s turbo F1 era. There was even a brief moment where Hamilton was readying himself for a run but instead of leaving his garage he managed to stall his car. The stall allowed us to hear the turbo unit whirring away, something which very much resembled a jet engine or perhaps just a vacuum cleaner, have a look and listen here:
The Mercedes had looked reliable too, until Hamilton put it in the barrier at Turn 1 after his front wing suffered a failure, dislodged itself and placed the number 44 car into the armco. The damage to the suspension and the front wing was irreparable. Mercedes had only built and brought one wing to Jerez and decided to call their day to halt in the early afternoon. They are to fly a reinforced front wing out to the test in time for tomorrows running. Hamilton completed the day in second place. A video of his crash can be found here:
Kimi Raikkonen got Ferrari’s session off to a poor start when the Finn stopped on track on his very first run. After returning to the garage and spending a couple of hours rectifying the issue, the F14T was back on track and lapping consistently quicker with each effort. Raikkonen slowly seemed to get to grips with the new ‘torque-ier’ feel of the car and managed to end the day up the top of the time sheets in P1. Although Raikkonen’s best time was over 9 seconds slower than last years pace around the Jerez circuit. Kimi said: “We had a lot of new things to learn today. Even if we would have liked to do more laps, I think that for a first day it was alright. Now we have a lot of work ahead of us, but all in all, we are pleased with our first day.”
Valtteri Bottas managed to give the Williams its first run with just an hour of the session to go, the team had been putting the car together in the garage for most of the day. Despite only completing a few installation laps and only 7 laps altogether he still managed to get to grips quick enough with his car to go P3. It is of course not known how much fuel cars run with, but at this stage and with the complexities surrounding the new rules for this year every running is highly irrelevant. Teams are just aiming to get through this test reliably.
Sergio Perez gave Force India their first run out after unveiling their new car to the press earlier in the morning and finished out in fourth place. The Mexican tallied the fourth largest amount of laps completed, with just 11. He completed a number of laps late on in the afternoon after stopping out on track just an hour into running on his first install lap.
Jean Eric Vergne was at one stage in the morning the only serious competitor to Lewis Hamilton. The two drivers were the only ones pacing around the circuit early on. The Toro Rosso brought out a red flag in the afternoon after stopping on track between turns 4 and 5. With just an hour and a half of the session to go, the car wasn’t repaired in time and never made it back onto the track.
Sauber ended the day bottom of the timed laps. Esteban Gutierrez managed 7 laps with a best time of 1m42.257 some 15 seconds off Raikkonen’s pace.
Red Bull had been having problems with their rear suspension all day long but Sebastian Vettel managed to drag the RB10 out for its first run with just 15 minutes of the day left to go. He only completed just 3 installation laps without a time.
Caterham had hoped to unveil their car before the session got underway in the morning, but a suspected engine mounting issue meant they had to delay their launch until mid-afternoon when the problem was sorted and Marcus Ericsson could complete a lap. The Swede only managed one installation lap before coming into the pits and calling it a day. Caterham will be hoping for more running tomorrow.
The Marussia will be expected to take to the circuit late on in tomorrow’s session after a problem was sorted out back in the factory and the car was sent on its journey down to the circuit this morning. Lotus were the other team not present in the pit lane and they will not be testing their new car until the Bahrain tests next month.
The McLaren MP4-29 didn’t even leave the garage, team members working all night and all day on sorting out its issues. McLaren said: “The car was predominantly affected by electrical issues during the day. The subsequent dismantling, inspection and re-installation of several major components ultimately meant we were unable to conduct any running today.” Mechanics will be working overnight once more as they will be looking to start their running in earnest on Wednesday. Although it does look like the day is to begin with some mild precipitation, not ideal for any information gathering.
World Champion Sebastian Vettel said: “There’s no impression of the new car. I could not even get full throttle yet!” Seemingly nobody was able to plant their foot to the floor all day long, in a day where data running and making sure all the new bits work is king. Indeed in the early afternoon Mercedes’ Toto Wolff said that the sound of the cars do not quite yet sound as good as they should. He said that the engines are currently running around 9,000-10,000rpm, some way below the 15,000rpm limit. The Austrian said we should expect to hear a better noise from the engine when the turbo kicks in a lot more after 10,000rpm.
But of course it is completely senseless to jump to any conclusions about any times from this test. Many teams are mooting Jerez as a large shakedown test with the serious running to happen in Bahrain next month.