The Front Jack Man – Formula One Has Become Too Much About Location

The Front Jack Man

Formula One’s biggest provisional calendar was released towards the tail end of the 2013 season, with a possible 22 races included. It was in the end cut down to 19 as Korea disappeared, India delayed and the New Jersey circuit yet again ‘would be ready for next year’. Russia has come in to make its debut on the F1 scene whilst the popular Red Bull Ring returns after a hiatus of 11 years. As well as this, Mexico is likely to make an appearance in either 2015 or 2016.

However, in recent times there has been a great turnover of circuits in recent years as controversial F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone has taken the F1 circus to destinations such as Abu Dhabi, Singapore, Bahrain, India and Korea. He has also elected to go to the street circuit in Valencia rather than stay in Germany for the race, again for more money…

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F1 – Conspiracy Theorists Do More Harm Than Good

This year has probably been the most divisive season in Formula One since the Senna/Prost era at McLaren in the late 1980’s. That does not mean that the following driver rivalry comes anywhere close to that rivalry. The continued dominance of Mercedes means that one of Nico Rosberg or Lewis Hamilton will win the World Driver’s Championship. That lends itself to one particular problem.

The sheer dominance of Mercedes has led to there being only two serious title contenders this year, as Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg lock horns for this year’s honour. The two previously great mates have seen their relationship turn somewhat frosty as their championship battle threatens to turn ugly. Since Rosberg’s mistake (Yes, it was just a mistake) at Monaco we’ve been constantly subjected to headlines about a ‘psychological battle’, and whilst that will come into it, the psychological battle has barely gotten started yet. The sledging will come in Asia, and only then will we see the strength of each driver.

LHNR

But by far the most annoying thing about what should be a tantalising teammate battle between two magnificent is the reactions on social media of quite a number of conspiracy theorists. There are these such people on both sides, although Hamilton’s corner has no doubt been the most prominent in the social media battle of the bozo’s.

Due to Lewis’ appalling luck in recent qualifying sessions in Germany and Hungary coupled with two retirements this year, a small but albeit well-covered and ultimately now notorious bunch have decided that Mercedes, his own team, are out to get him. This defies all logic of any team top brass. Even that of Flavio Briatore, who infamously asked Nelson Piquet to back into the wall at Singapore to help out Fernando Alonso. The circumstances were completely different, although no less foul than what has been suggested.

Do these people honestly think for one moment that Mercedes would tamper with the brakes? Or cause an oil leak to set his engine on fire? Or make his electrics fail? Some of these people display the same F1 knowledge as a meerkat has about fly-fishing.

It is almost tragic that they follow our sport. Never before this year in all of the fourteen years have I seen anything like this, at anywhere near the frequency. It would be half-understandable if there was any fact behind Mercedes supporting Nico over Lewis. Last year, Nico Rosberg retired three times. Lewis Hamilton retired once. Nobody claimed foul play on the part of Mercedes last year.

This year, Lewis has had two retirements in addition to two mechanical failures in qualifying. Nico has had one gearbox failure in a race situation. The qualifying problems have in all likelihood cost him 16 points, if all of the races had ran smoothly. However, in Hungary it actually served to benefit him, simply because of when the Safety Car came out.

If he had been at the front, he would not have been able to make up ground on German in the pit stops to make the switch from Intermediates to Slick tyres. It will never be known how much Lewis cost Nico when he refused to move over for him, but again it would be foolish in the extreme to suggest it was to solely aid Nico Rosberg. Mercedes jumped the gun in giving the order as Nico was catching very quickly, but they will have been eyeing the race victory, which at that point Nico would have been in the best position to do had Lewis behaved himself. Mercedes were simply looking to get as many Constructors points as possible. Case closed.

It isn’t just one-sided, as a very small minority of Rosberg’s following were irate after his gearbox failure cost him a victory at Silverstone. However, they are nowhere near as frequent as those following the other side of the garage.

None of these people do the reputation of your average Formula One fan any good whatsoever, with outsiders now seeing the conspiracy theorists at work and guffawing with laughter. Those people will look at the conspiracy theorists (And I’m being very kind) and make the assumption that a fair amount of Formula One fans are of a similar vein. With social media, especially Twitter, now playing host to a lot of Formula One fan interactions, that could spell trouble for people wanting to get involved in future.

So, I ask those who claim foul play of Mercedes one thing. Only state so if you have concrete evidence of Mercedes deliberately hampering one of their drivers title chance. Otherwise, you do nothing to maintain the reputation of one of the most peaceful communities out there.

The Front Jack Man – Have The Engine Changes Gone Too Far?

Unless you live in a proverbial cave in the motorsport world you will be aware of the monumental changes that have gone on in the rulebook in Formula One. The biggest of these massive changes happens to be in the engine department, which has been completely overhauled by the bigwigs in Paris.

Gone are the days of the aspirated V8 that had served the sport so nobly, and often reliably, since 2006. In its place is a V6 turbo charged power unit that has more torque than the US Air Force’s fleet of fighter jets. Well, almost. Much has been made of this new power unit we now have, and in particular all of the new technology has led to fears about reliability. And now, apparently, it seems some have been proved right.

The technology is extremely expensive compared to last year’s engine, and this has already led to some concerns in an F1 era where money is already a problem. However, the engine/power unit changes do bring with them more fuel efficiency which in the long run may prove cheaper for teams bearing in mind that the FIA have limited teams to five engine/power units from last years eight. The question remains after almost three full tests though; Are these engines as reliable as the FIA hope they are?

Well, based solely on the evidence of the three tests, no. They aren’t. Yet. Many scare stories have arisen from the three tests, particularly if the team you support has a Renault power unit. Renault acknowledge that they have problems and have reportedly asked the FIA for a delay on the homologation of the engines. This was denied, meaning that no official performance improvement techniques can be made to the engines for the rest of the season. Despite this, for Renault, all is not lost.

The rules do allow engine suppliers to develop the engine in the name of safety and reliability, and this regulation mentions little about improving power output. This could, and probably will be, their saving grace this season. If it can be proved that the new part will aid reliability the update will be deemed legal, meaning that any coincidental power increase would be a side-effect. Given what has happened to Renault powered cars thus far, this, in both areas of the statement, is desperately needed.

Red Bull in particular have hit huge problems this year. We knew they would not be fully up to it in testing towards the back end of last year when they warned that they were behind on their car, but the testing woes have shown the watching public just how badly they were behind. Their testing woes have culminated in their latest disaster, with Sebastian Vettel managing just four corners on day three of the final test at Bahrain. They are not alone in having testing problems. Sauber, Mercedes, Lotus, Toro Rosso, Caterham and Marussia have all lost almost whole days due to engine issues.

There have been many issues regarding testing reliability this, and a heavy percentage of fans have speculated about the amount of finishers in the first grand prix in Australia in two weeks’ time, There have been particular concerns about teams at the back of the grid as well as Renault-powered cars and how likely they are to finish the race. It may also take a long time to fix these reliability issues, meaning we could return to the days of half-grid finishes for a while.

The Front Jack Man – Formula One Has Become Too Much About Location

Formula One’s biggest provisional calendar was released towards the tail end of the 2013 season, with a possible 22 races included. It was in the end cut down to 19 as Korea disappeared, India delayed and the New Jersey circuit yet again ‘would be ready for next year’. Russia has come in to make its debut on the F1 scene whilst the popular Red Bull Ring returns after a hiatus of 11 years. As well as this, Mexico is likely to make an appearance in either 2015 or 2016.

However, in recent times there has been a great turnover of circuits as controversial F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone has taken the F1 circus to destinations such as Abu Dhabi, Singapore, Bahrain, India and Korea. He has also elected to go to the street circuit in Valencia for the European Grand Prix rather than stay in Germany for the race, again for more money whilst dropping largely more popular circuits such as Magny-Cours. The decision to incorporate Valencia into the calendar proved to be a terrible one for all parties except the accountants. Valencia saw many processions excluding 2012, before it was dropped for last year. 

Magny-Cours was largely popular because of it's fast-flowing nature

Magny-Cours was largely popular because of it’s fast-flowing nature

Whilst we’re on the subject of processions, the decision to have a night race in Singapore is another for the bank balance rather than the motorsports fan. Singapore is famed for being almost impossible to overtake on, with it being nicknamed ‘Singabore’ by some fans. The drivers largely like driving on the track, but have complained of the lack of overtaking opportunities. That was brought in for 2008 and remains on the calendar for the foreseeable future. This means a likely two hour procession will remain for years to come because it is in one of the richest areas of the globe. Is this really for racing reasons?

Abu Dhabi is another race that pleases the bank manager rather than the fans. It does have long straights that should in theory lend themselves to overtaking, but the array of 90 degree corners in the final sector mean that only a good DRS system will get you past the car in front. Granted, it does see a lot more action than Singapore and Valencia, but that’s like saying Usain Bolt can beat your ten-year-old sister over a 100m sprint. The track could be improved heavily by removing some of the frankly needless right-angled corners. 

The three examples listed above do not include Monaco. This is because of the history and soul that Monaco has. Drivers love the circuit and respect Monaco immensely, as you do not get a rest and one moment of ill-concentration sees you pay a visit to the barrier. Around a lot of the aforementioned circuits, there are run-offs to make sure this doesn’t happen. These circuits do not have the soul that Monaco has, nor the fear factor, nor the respect. This is what sets them apart from principality.

Monaco's proximity to the barriers make this a universal favourite

Monaco’s proximity to the barriers make this a universal favourite

And what of the circuits that have fallen foul of this? Well, Magny-Cours in France is a real racers track. A fast circuit that does lend itself to overtaking, particularly with a tight, sharp hairpin at the end of an extremely long straight. It could be argued that the French Grand Prix lost it’s place to Singapore as France disappeared the year after Singapore appeared on the calendar. And we all know that Valencia was the reason that the Nurburgring and Hockenheim have to share the German Grand Prix, as the former hosted the European Grand Prix. Now though, Europe doesn’t have designated race. So why not take the opportunity to give both of them an annual race and give the fans something to cheer about? And Imola, which has modernised as Ecclestone asked it to, has not returned either. It makes you wonder as to what Ecclestone’s motives are.

Ecclestone is currently in trouble anyway in Germany, where he faces charges of corruption having won a damages case against him in the High Court. Giving his verdict, the judge branded him ‘unreliable’ and concluded that he had paid a bribe to a German banker. He could well topple from his position, meaning that Formula One could take on a new direction. Locations might not be the determining factor when the CEO of a circuit discusses with the FIA and FOM. Perhaps then, glitz and glamour could be matched by the shining lights on the track.

Minardi – Everyone’s second favourite

For F1 fans over the age of 16, the name Minardi brings back fond memories of a small Italian based team lacking in funds and overall speed but more than making up for this in spirit. It is for this spirit that they became well respected by the whole paddock and fans alike, and in the end they gained many fans for their determination if not their pace. Fans were somewhat saddened when they were sold to Red Bull to become Scuderia Toro Rosso for 2006.

Minardi started out in 1979 in various formulae until 1985, when they first made their move into the F1 circus. During their first season, the Faenza team ran the just the one car having elected to use the V8 from Alfa Romeo. The season was not a success with Pierluigi Martini failing to score a point and only being a classified finisher thrice. Over the next seven years, their fortunes picked up and they were a mildly successful mid-grid team. In 1990 they secured their only front row start at the US Grand Prix with Martini taking second on the grid. This came a year after Minardi’s first race of leading a lap, an honour again bestowed upon Martini. Minardi’s best finishes of fourth place were taken by Martini, twice in 1991. Christian Fittipaldi also took a fourth place in 1993, before Minardi’s fortunes took a turn for the worse as the number of small Formula 1 teams started to decline. As a result, they quickly fell to the back of the grid.

Pierluigi Martini's 1985 Minardi. This was Minardi's first season in Formula 1

Pierluigi Martini’s 1985 Minardi. This was Minardi’s first season in Formula 1

In 1994, Minardi faced a battle to survive with owner Giancarlo Minardi selling over 85% of his stake in the team to keep them afloat. Their money woes hit performance on the track, and their points return slowly declined. They got five points in 1994, with Martini scoring four points with two fifth places and Michele Alboreto taking sixth at Monaco. Pedro Lamy scored a point in Australia of 1995, before the team went on a four year lean spell ended by Spaniard Marc Gene in 1999 Luca Badoer was running inside the points in the same race but retired with a broken gearbox. Minardi slowly regressed further, and off track problems including owner Gabriele Rumi getting cancer during a troubled 2000 season.

Minardi's signing of Gaston Mazzacane was an indication of their financial struggles at the turn of the millenium

Minardi’s signing of Gaston Mazzacane was an indication of their financial struggles at the turn of the millenium

Minardi had by this time started using pay drivers such as Gaston Mazzacane, who had connections with big business in his native Argentina. Mazzacane was never really on the pace and was dropped for 2001, with the team having been bought by charismatic Australian businessman Paul Stoddard. Alex Yoong signed for 2001 on the back of heavy sponsorship, if not being signed for his talent. Yoong was often over a second off the pace set by teammate Alonso or Mark Webber during his one and a half year tenure at Minardi, before being replaced by Anthony Davidson. The 2002 Australian Grand Prix played host to one of F1’s greatest fairytales, as Mark Webber profited from a first corner pile up to take fifth on his debut in F1, sparking jubilant scenes at the blunt end of the pit lane. Throughout 2002 Webber continued to mix it with bigger teams in qualifying whilst Alex Young was dismally off the pace. Webber left to join Jaguar for 2003, whilst Dutchman Jos Verstappen and British prospect Justin Wilson took over the mantle.

Both drivers performed admirably but failed to score points in a car that was well off the pace. Neither driver came close to scoring points although a mistake at the rain-soaked Brazilian Grand Prix blew Verstappen’s best chance of points. Both drivers left for 2004, and Minardi did pick up another fortuitous point as Zsolt Baumgartner profited from crashes during the US Grand Priz including the one that broke Ralf Schumacher’s back. Baumgartner took a solitary point to outscore teammate Gianmaria Bruni. Minardi’s final season saw them pick up seven points, all coming during the infamous US Grand Prix where only the six Bridgestone-shod cars were able to take the start after a row about the safety of Michelin’s tyres.

Mark Webber was a success story for Minardi, with the Australian going on to notch 9 wins.

Mark Webber was a success story for Minardi, with the Australian going on to notch 9 wins.

 

Energy drinks tycoon Dietrich Mateschitz then bought the team to run as the sister team to Red Bull Racing, themselves only formed in 2005. It marked the end of a 26 year era that saw the spirited squad produce drivers such as Mark Webber, Fernando Alonso, Jarno Trulli and Giancarlo Fisichella. Over the years they scored 38 points from 345 races. Minardi were a team with unrivalled character, and represent one of Formula One’s success stories. Both the paddock and the fans have missed them ever since they disappeared.