Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Germany, for FRIC sake, now what?

Hello all how are you?

Right, sorry I didn’t write up the British GP, there were a couple of points to talk about weren’t there. Chief of which was the social media world going off in a collective bloat of self-righteous indignation over Kimi’s “accident”. Great were the number of tea cups that must have trembled as ‘AngryLad343 of Whitstable’ took to the internet and twitter to rant at anyone that happened to be passing by. “Kimi was a disgrace to the profession of driving and ought to be made to sit on the naughty step for at least the next six months” they all raged.

Right, so Kimi leaves the circuit to avoid hitting the other back markers, perfectly acceptable. Big crash or a bit of off roading, easy choice really. Then he re-joined the circuit and carried on, except he didn’t see the rain gully which pitched the car 3 foot in the air and delivered him to the nearest wall. The red faced loons would have it that Kimi failed to re-join the track in a safe manner. He should have slowed down (which, the FIA pointed out, he did do) and he should have avoided the gully!
Taking an unconventional racing line there lad

Now I don’t know how many replays you watched in the hour it took to fix the barrier the Ferrari had bounced off. But from the TV camera vantage point two foot above Kimi’s head, I failed to spot the gully in the slow mo replay. Run it at full speed and the car is in the air before you realise he’s off the track. Added to the fact he was looking to his left to see if was safe to get back on track and he didn’t stand a chance.

The FIA said, “Well, he was just doing what all the drivers would have done. Re-join the race and get on with things. So … we don’t see any problem there”. Then I suspect they went to the circuit owners and had a word about tyre walls in front of exposed barriers and maybe covering up some of those rain gullies. “No harm, no foul and all that” they said, “Yes it was a shame that Massa had been taken out and Max was lucky to be alive. But really… it was just a first lap racing accident, caused by no one expecting a car to go off there”. Trotted out the old favourite “lessons will be learned”, and headed back inside for another round of pink gins.

But these days, the keyboard warriors are never happy with a shrug and a logical conclusion. So spent several days dissecting the FIA’s words and reaching the conclusion that Kimi was in fact a monster, a danger to everyone including himself and they could do a better job anyway.  But by then, everyone who hadn’t built themselves into a towering rage of self-importance had wondered off to discuss the FRIC problem.
A red faced loon recently.
FRIC or Front Rear InterConnected suspension, is the new mass damper system to be banned. Back in 2006 Renault had the best car by a country mile and Alonso was walking away with the title. So Ferrari, in a very public hissy fit, threw all its toys out of the pram and complained about this new-fangled mass damper system the Renault had been using for a number of years. The FIA shrugged, rolled its eyes to heaven, picked up the toys and told Renault that its clever little system was a moving aero dynamic device and thus now all of a sudden, illegal.  No amount of pointing out that it had been fine for the last year or so made any difference. Ferrari were suddenly a lot closer to the Renaults and only narrowly missed stealing the title that year.

Jump forward to 2014 and Mercedes have the best car by a country mile, Ferrari are being beaten and Luca is throwing toys, blankets, milk bottles, dummy and FIA rule book out of the pram … do you see a pattern here ? This time it’s interconnected suspension. Which allows the car to control the ride height in and out of corners and improves the stability of the car when its braking, it’s been a staple part of F1 cars for at least three years. Redbull perfected it a few years back and with the blown diffuser delivered four world championships. Pretty much every team has some sort or FRIC system which was why there were so many raised eyebrows when the FIA said it was banning the system. Once again under the catch all “It’s a moving aero device” rule. It’s believed that the Mercedes and Force India systems were the best, worth half a second or so per lap.

 At first there was much throwing up of hands and “Mon due” comments. So the FIA said .. “oh alright, from NEXT year it’s banned, BUT only if you can all agree on the plan”.  But then McLaren of all people said, “Well, if it’s illegal we’ll turn ours off and protest any team that runs a system in Germany ….”. Which caught everyone on the hop. Mercedes, just to prove how cool they were said, “Ya, vee vill do ze same ya. Bring it on svinehonts”. And Redbull figured that nothing else was working for Vettel so they might as well give it a go. With those three playing brinkmanship the rest of the teams had to follow suit.

Will it make a difference ? Well to Mercedes probably not, they’ve got a good two second advantage despite the suspension, so I think baring accidents they’re nailed on for the win this weekend. As for the rest of them, it’s hard to tell. McLaren obviously had no faith in their system so they’ll be much the same as before. Redbull were happy to turn theirs off so still best of the rest. Williams and Force India will probably be the big losers this weekend, they had a package that was delivering consistent result and when you mess with a successful package it can take time to get it all back on song.

But what about Ferrari ? … well who knows. They continue to implode as the silly season for drivers starts in earnest. Rosberg has just signed on the dotted with Mercedes for another three years and Lewis isn’t going to leave a winning team anytime soon. Danny boy has impressed everyone at Redbull so he’s safe and Vettel, knows no one else would put up with is questionable attitude to team orders. Which leaves Ferrari the last of the big boys right now with two drivers that don’t appear to want to get in the car, let alone race till the end of the season.

 There are so many rumours flying around Alonso at the moment. A seat at McLaren is his for the taking, lead driver in a new Ferrari Le Mans LMP1 squad, Williams to fire Massa and replace him with the Spaniard. He was very vocal about the short comings of the red car at the start of the season, for which he got a very public slap from Luca, since then he’s kept it pretty quiet. But the body language speaks volumes.  Luca Di Montezemolo is kicking up a fuss about how F1 is rubbish now and the cars sound rubbish and the points are rubbish and the FIA are rubbish and is going to left to him to sort it all out. No mention of sorting his own team out you’ll notice, its everyone else’s fault. Domenicalli was the glue that was holding it all together for the last few years and now he’s gone, it is all just falling apart.

 Personally I think Alonso will hang on at Ferrari for another year and then go the LMP1 to Le Mans route. Any driver worth his salt knows the greats have to have that on their CV, Webbers shown him the exit strategy and its now just a question of whether Ferrari  builds him a car or he joins Porsche. Though Nissan are coming to the party next year and they need a whole bunch of hot shoes with nothing to really prove. How about a development year with Nissan in the WEC, sound plausible ? Its sounds more plausible than Ferrari building a winning F1 car next year.


So this weekend then … Mercedes yes, Redbull with Danny, Bottas is on a roll so top five at least. McLaren might surprise. Hulkenbuerg is pretty much nailed to fifth and sixth, is Button is on form the Hulk will be seventh. Alonso will haul the dying beast into the top ten and Torro Rosso will make the numbers up.


Down the back, Caterham will be last, the carcass has been reanimated and a new troop of idiots parachuted onto the pit wall. Only Sauber will keep them company with lots of rumours from the foreign press that Sutil has been fired. There’s been no official statement about this as yet so it’ll be interesting to see who turns up in grey on Friday.  Max continues to be rubbish but Bianchi is being linked with Kimi’s seat for next year, so he’s doing everything he can to look cool and Italian.


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