Given his reign as the FIA president, I'm not sure how Max Mosley would respond to this story in The Guardian. His father, Sir Oswald Mosley, has been named by academics as one of the 10 worst Britons in the last 1000 years. This dubious honour is shared with the likes of Jack The Ripper and King John.
Sir Oswald, a former member of parliament is notorious for founding the British Union of Facists. His second wedding to his mistress, Diana Guiness (mother to Max) was apparently held at the home of one Joseph Goebbels with none other than Der Fuhrer himself in attendance.
According to this entry in Wikipedia, after unsuccessfully trying to advance in both the Conservative and Labour parties in the UK, Sir Oswald " went on a study tour of the 'new movements' of Mussolini and other Fascists, and returned convinced that it was the way forward for him and for Britain. He determined to unite the existing fascist movements and created the British Union of Fascists (BUF) in 1932. The BUF was anti-Communist and protectionist. It claimed membership as high as 50,000, and had the Daily Mail among its earliest supporters."
Fast forward to 2005, son Max Mosley rules the FIA like the notorious Fuhrer and has no competition or challengers within his organization. Who would dare go up against him? The political equivalent of a firing squad awaits such insolence. Not even the racing press speaks so freely against The Man lest their media passes be revoked. I wonder, is Mein Kampf a favourite read of his?
There is even a new Axis, the members consisting of the FIA, FOM and Ferrari (hmmm... these Italians love this sort of thing too don't they?) and the ranks have swollen lately.
Sieg Heil! Sieg Heil! Sieg Heil!
News and views on motorsports
Thursday, December 29, 2005
Given his reign as the FIA president, I'm not sure how Max Mosley would respond to this story in The Guardian. His father, Sir Oswald Mosley, has been named by academics as one of the 10 worst Britons in the last 1000 years. This dubious honour is shared with the likes of Jack The Ripper and King John.
Wednesday, December 28, 2005
The 2006 Formula 1 technical regulations provide an allowance for certain teams to continue the use of V10 engines. This rule was originally provided for fiscally challenged teams such as Minardi that could not afford a supply of the latest V8s. The regulations state that:
"For 2006 and 2007 only, the FIA reserves the right to allow any team to use an engine complying with the 2005 regulations, provided its crankshaft rotational speed does not exceed a limit fixed from time to time by the FIA so as to ensure that such an engine will only be used a team which does not have access to a competitive 2.4litre V8 engine."
This has been a source of controversy as some have argued that the use of V10s, even after subjecting to rev limits will still prove more powerful than the new V8s. Lately, the Midland team (formerly Jordan Grand Prix) is supposed to have commissioned a study comparing the two engine formats that proves such assertions. Despite mandatory air restrictors and a rev limit of 16,500 RPM, the Cosworth V10 will still produce some 800 bhp. Thats about right I would have thought.
No doubt the V8s will be continously developed and by year end I should think they'd claw back a lot of the disadvantage. However, whatever limit they put on V10s, I think the V8s will suffer still in two respects. The first being torque and second driveability.
The idea is that a 2.4litre engine still suffers a torque disadvantage to a 3.0 litre engine. They may be able to claw back the power disadvantage by making the V8s rev ever higher (power being the rate of doing work) but torque is really a function of capacity. The use of air restrictors and rev limiters I should think would not change that.
The 2006 technical regulations ban all forms of variable intake and exhaust manifolds together with variable valve timing and lift. These technologies make the engine's power and torque curve stay constant or at least linear throughout the rev range. Without these I would imagine the V8s are tuned to maximum power and the delivery of that power will occur over a narrower rev range at or near the rev limits. In fact, some of the drivers testing the V8s this winter have made complaints about the power delivery. This is of course, mitigated by modern electronic control units, with some finely tuned gear ratios and vastly different camshafts.
However, very little can be done about torque. Whilst the torque disadvantage will not be apparent on the faster circuits like Spa (if there is a Belgium Grand Prix next year) with the exception of La Source and The Bus Stop but in places like Monaco where the engine potters along at extremely low revs, Toro Rosso will enjoy a huge advantage. They'll be able to punch out of hairpins a lot quicker than the V8s. In fact wherever the engine spends time in the midrange they'll have a grunt advantage. This includes a lot of the Tilke circuits with its numerous hairpins, slow corners and drag races.
If we assume that Red Bull will bring significantly more financing and technology into Toro Rosso and hence produce better aero and chassis, then the combined effect will be quite explosive. This is not necessarily a bad thing mind you for its time the lads at Faenza enjoyed some advantages.
Tuesday, December 27, 2005
The full regulations for the 2008 F1 world championships have been released by the FIA subject to ratification by the World Motorsports Council. A supplemental document released by the FIA also highlights the difference between the regulations in 2008 and those in 2006. I've already made some comments on these a couple of postings ago but an article on RaceFax.com made me look even futher.
Now some of these regulations will already be in force for 2006, especially those governing the engine rules. I'm going to highlight them here for posterity and because the regulations are most restrictive.
- Engines must be 90 degree V8s of 2400cc and must not be supercharged.
- Engines must have two inlet and two exhaust valves.
- The regulations go on to specify a maximum cylinder bore diameter, spacing of cylinders and the height of the crank.
- It gets better. The FIA also specifies a minimum engine weight and even the bloody centre of gravity of the engine!
- They've added regulations governing engine throttle which bans any designs that allows the driver to identify the throttle position or assists the driver in holding a specific throttle position.
- Already in force for 2006, variable exhausts and variable inlet manifolds are banned. But in addition, variable valve timing and lift is also banned! Gosh, from 2006 a Honda Civic Type-R has more sophisticated induction and exhaust. Bloody hell, even the crappy bread and butter Civics they sell in Malaysia have more hi-tech.
- Only one injector per cylinder is allowed. Only a single spark plug is allowed with all other forms of ignition banned.
- The only hydraulic, pneumatic or electronic systems allowed in the engine are for control of fluids, the valve system and throttle actuators.
- Any system, design or procedure to reduce inlet temprature is banned. Does this mean no more dry ice?
- The FIA goes on to define a number of materials and alloy/composite compounds. Then it states that these materials are banned. This includes magnesium alloy which if I'm not mistaken is already used in BMW road car engine blocks.
- The FIA then specifies specific materials to be used in the construction of the pistons and valves. Iron based alloys for the crankshaft, camshafts, timing gears, bearings and conrods. Although titanium is also allowed for the conrods.
With the way the FIA structures these regulations, you'd think that simply joining two 1.2 litre Proton Savvy (Renault Clio) engine blocks together will produce a Formula 1 engine. I think that if the FIA are already going to specify standard ECUs and a rev limit of 19000 RPMs then you'd think they'd allow some innovation to appear in the mechanical engine design.
That's not all, even the drivetrain have come under FIA scrutiny. Like throttle, no design permitting a driver to hold a clutch position or identify the position is allowed. Continously variable transmission have been banned for some time now but the FIA is specifying a minimum width for each gear and all gears must be made of steel.
BAR's torque transfer system on the front wheel is banned as expected but any system or design capable of transferring torque from a slower rotating wheel to a faster one is also banned. I'm no engineer but does that mean a ban on Torsen diffs? In which case, some hot hatches in the market would have more sophistication. I suppose these will also exclude electronic diffs.
Is this going to reduce costs? Those who know say that its unlikely. RaceFax gives the example of the Andretti-Green NASCAR team. Despite the most restrictive set of rules in motorsport, this team, arguably the best funded one in the series, is still the strongest one out there. The teams will always find a way to spend the money they have. Controlling costs is not in teams' DNA. Its all about winning.
In addition, with all these restrictions where is the motivation to innovate and come up with new technologies? After all, innovations are equally as likely to come from the smaller teams. Witness ground effects from Lotus or the sliding front wings introduced by Tyrrell in 1990. Exciting products of fertile imaginations from designers wanting to gain the advantage. It seems to me that not only will the FIA fail to control costs but all the money will be spent simply refining existing technologies through test cells, rigs and supercomputer simulation. This I might add merely gives the advantage to the big manufacturers who can afford such things. Innovation on the other hand can be produced by anyone be they a large corporation or a solitary engineer. These rules restrict the ability for such innovation.
I am in favour of some restrictions to Formula 1 technology but I believe these regulations take it a bit too far. I applaud the restrictions on electronics and computer software that augment mechanical systems or to continously fine tune the car according to its position on the circuit and the environment. But surely, there should be scope for innovation in mechanical elements (including suspension and aero) and metallurgy but the FIA it seems is hell bent on eliminating all such things. Just look also at the restrictions on suspension design in the latest regulations.
Its true that sensible restrictions have produced some excellent racing in the likes of Champcars, IRL and GP2. However, here we are speaking of Formula 1, a series that traditionally introduces technology and innovation that is then adopted by the rest of the racing world, especially in open wheel racing. Some of these technologies might even make it on to the road. However, its also true that some of the technology in Formula 1 is prohibitively expensive. Then again, rule stability does allow the backmarkers to evenutally catch up and reduces cost as well.
Monday, December 26, 2005
The Formula 1 headlines in 2005 have been dominated largely by Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen. Even now with the season long over, they continue to make the headlines. Well we know where Fernando is heading but speculation intensifies as to where the young Finn will head off to once his McLaren contract runs out in 2006.
Many are saying Ferrari will be his next port of call. Some like Bernie are saying that he'll be there only if Michael Schumacher retires or leaves Ferrari. Some are even saying that a possibility exists that Kimi would partner Schumacher if the mighty German decides to stay. Bernie is speculating that even Renault is a possibility.
And now this headline appears on Pitpass. According to it, even big budget Toyota is setting their eyes on the Finn. According to the article, Ferrari's finances or lack of it, may put paid to their plans of signing Kimi. And so, Toyota might be one of the teams to be able to afford the undoubtedly large retainer the Finn is demanding.
12 months ago I doubt if Kimi would have demanded such high pecuniary benefits. A recap of his career would illustrate why. Kimi entered Formula 1 along with Alonso and Montoya in 2001. Whilst Alonso had won the World Series by Nissan and Montoya had just come from great successes in Champcars, young Kimi came to it with nothing more than 23 car races and a season in Formula Renault! Despite such lack of experience, his manager Steve Robertson (who also oversaw Jenson Button) had the temerity to recommend the Finn to Peter Sauber.
Such is his talent however, he hardly faced any problems whatsoever and Peter Sauber is known to have been highly impressed not only with his talent but the fact that he simply knew what was going on. Some people may have the speed but to make sense of the fast paced and highly complex world of grand prix racing even on his first test with Sauber, is on the level of genius.
I think its easy then to see why Ron Dennis chose him over Nick Heidfeld. Nick arguably did better at Sauber but that was only down to his relatively vast experience. Kimi showed much more potential. Still, the Finn was no without choices. Apparently Ferrari too made him an offer for 2002 but Kimi would choose McLaren because it offered equal treatment for its drivers.
A winless 2002 was followed by a single victory and runner up in the 2003 championship. I'm proud to say that I had the pleasure of witnessing Kimi's first victory in Sepang that year. Another victory and a diffcult 2004 followed that.
So, after years in Formula 1 in one the most successful teams in the sport, Kimi emerged only with a couple of victories in hand. While most were tipping him for future championship honours but up until the end of 2004, doubts lingered on his ability. Funny how the pundits do that. I remember that even Ayrton Senna after 3 seasons at Lotus with no world championships and only 6 wins to show for it had his doubters as well. These were those who would compare him to Mansell, Piquet and Prost who were taking championships or winning more races. If Kimi was feeling a little frustrated by Woking, it was up until then, staying there was still his best option. This season, given a car befitting his considerable talent, Kimi notched 7 wins matching Alonso. And no one doubts that had he a more reliable car, he would have won considerably more than that.
With those seven wins and being named as driver of the year by many including Autosport, Kimi has truly arrived right smack into superstardom, at the very same time as Fernando Alonso. It seems that with that status, he (or his management) wants the cash to go with it.
I think if McLaren had produced the goods and he had won the championship this year, in all likelihood Kimi would not be entertaining any thoughts of leaving Woking. But this year as in 2003 and 2004 has been yet another frustration and the Finn is fast losing his patience with a team that to me, has been letting its drivers down for a long time ever since Mika Hakkinens final two seasons.
However, is Ferrari really the best option? If he were to share the team with Michael Schumacher, he'll face a monumental task gathering support to himself. If Michael, Ross Brawn and Rory Byrne aren't there, then in all honesty I think it simply wouldn't be the same winning team. Given also that Ferrari are strapped for cash, it doesn't seem wise. In fact, staying put at McLaren seems to be the best choice.
If Renault does stay in Formula 1 in the long term, then at this present moment, it would seem a good idea to join them. However, I feel this team could be dominated by the two big spending Japanese teams Honda and Toyota even if they did stay in the long term. I have a feeling by 2007 these two teams will be a major force and the only team I do see staying apace with them is McLaren. Red Bull, despite signing a superstar engineer recently have got a lot of work to do. Their task is still harder than that of Toyota and Honda to make it to the top step.
Still for Raikkonen, it must be nice to have lots of options and lots of people knocking on your door. Its nice to have money of course but any serious driver's priority would really be all about the best option for winning championships. At moment, I think Kimi should give serious consideration about being Alonso's partner in 2007 even if the money won't be as much as he'd hope.
Thursday, December 22, 2005
The FIA has just made this press release announcing the 2008 Formula 1 regulations. As expected, the FIA has made cost cutting their priority for these new regulations. Some would call it the dumbing down of Formula 1.
But here's a real gem from Mad Max: "The real argument in Formula One is not about sports governance or even about how much money FOM gives the teams. It's all about costs." To the casual observer, this man is simply the business. To those on the inside, time and again the FIA president chooses to ridicule to deflect attention. Yeah Max. Like those 2006 V8 engines are saving the teams a whole load of dosh.
Reflecting Ross Brawn's words last week, the rules have been shaped to "ensure than an independent team with ordinary commercial sponsorship (ie a budget in the order of $100 million - still a vast sum of money in the real world) can compete with a car manufacturer prepared to spend in excess of US$300 million." Still think the FIA and Ferrari aren't in league?
Furthermore from the press release: "“One manufacturer is spending a sum greater than half its total annual dividend. This is unsustainable and sooner or later the shareholders will notice." This statement was to support the notion that manufacturers were spending limitlessly in an unsustainable fashion. Dividends doesn't matter much. Its earnings Mr Mosley. Berkshire Hathaway and up until recently Microsoft issued no dividends at all. Didn't damage their share prices at all. Its all about profits and earnings. That made increases in shareholder wealth not the damned dividends.
Right then on to some specific new rules introduced:
- "New technologies which give a team an advantage for one season but which are then adopted by all teams for subsequent seasons at significant expense will be banned after the end of the first season" Going to have a hard time policing this one I think.
- "The rear wing is split in two." Most experts think this concept won't work but Mr Mosley can dream. If it really goes in, then expect it to be dropped in 2009. Or sooner because its going to be massively unsafe.
- "Limitations on possible “interesting” areas of aerodynamic research." Oh my god. There has got to be some limits to these limitations on innovation. This is Formula 1 after all.
- "Engine to be subject to a rev limit of 19,000 rpm, with a possible increase to 20,000 rpm in consultation with the competing teams." Fully agree with the Establishment on this one. In fact I think the limit should be even lower than this and they should allow for any number of cylinders in an engine. If the FIA wanted to save costs then imposing a lower limit could have independents being competitive on old engines.
- "A standard electronic control unit for engine and gearbox to be used at all times in Formula One." Highly contentious but I agree that this is one of the best ways to control costs. Standard ECUs, standard sensor suites equals less data for computers to calculate and fine tuning (for power) will be more difficult. Whilst some argue that bespoke engines can't be made, this simply isn't true. I'm sure fuel mappings can still be customized according to individual engine makes but the number of parameters determining the maps and its number are limited.
- "Tyre pressures may be adjusted by the driver while the car is moving." Good.
- "Maximum wheel diameter increased to 640mm front and 710mm rear, with maximum widths of 365mm front and 460mm rear with slick tyres." The FIA states that the reason for this is to counteract the loss in downforce by enhancing mechanical grip. Slicks were always a good idea and if the bloody FIA didn't introduce grooves, testing costs would not have been so astronomical.
- "Only permitted materials may be used to construct the car." F***k's sake. But okay, I suppose it'll help the little people.
- "At least 5.75% (m/m) of fuel must be from biological sources." Interesting. A nod at least to the environment, whatever impact a small number of racing cars have on it. Hmmm... but couldn't the oil companies use some "specially formulated" biological fuel mixture with the effect of tremendously boosting engine power? Think toulene "rocket fuel" of the 80s.
- "From 2009 each team may make only two changes of bodywork after the start of the season." This one is so wrong it really hurts. So basically, if you've buggered your aero at the start of the season, you're going to hurt all the way till the end. Thats just plain silly. This means that if a team has a tremendous aero advantage resulting in dominance on the track, you can bet that no other team will have a chance of catching up. We already have mid-season testing restrictions, a limit on development of this sort would be highly detrimental to the spectacle and to competitiveness.
- "It is intended to allow systems for energy storage and recovery (hybrid systems) from 2009, provided this can be done without causing budgetary difficulties for any of the competing teams." Why not promote hydrogen internal combustion engines instead?
Apart from these the FIA will be pushing for sporting regulation ammendments at the World Motorsports Council (WSMC) in 2006 including:
- Single tyre manufacturer. Oh bugger. Why do they need to waste time with the bloody WSMC? Its all kangaroo. You just know they members of the WSMC will bend over forwards to Max on this one.
- "three - Event engines." Crap. They've already got rev limits, why do they need this one?
- "four - Event transmissions" Good for the independents I suppose but see below.
- "weight penalties for early replacement of engine or gearbox." The net effect of this is rather similar to the current 10 place penalty. Depending on the size of the weight penalty, some cars might be rendered uncompetitive especially if its close up front. The fact of the matter is specific life engines and gearboxes are so artificial, penalizes the driver and just makes the championship poorer as witnessed this year.
- "testing restrictions." Err yeah Max. Tell that to your darlings at Ferrari.
- "a limit of two cars per team at an Event" And if there's a crash?
My thoughts are that there are some good rules in here but there are also some very poor ones like CDG and long life engines and boxes with attendant penalties. Then there's the limit on bodywork changes in the season which can lead to the death of any excitement. Some other rules limiting "interesting" aero innovations and limitations on new technology use are vague and I foresee will lead to a great many arguements. Thats probably why Max has been filling the Court Of Appeals with some slick new lawyers. Oh bugger that, the FIA always wins the interpretation anyway so why bother?
And hence back to the main issue. The FIA can argue costs all they want but without transparancy and proper governance, with independent arbitration, costs will keep on rising no matter what these cronies do. But of course, Max and Bernie don't really want that now, do they?
More comments available at GrandPrix.com.
Wednesday, December 21, 2005
The reaction to the shock announcement keeps on coming. Not long after the announcement, former McLaren driver Martin Brundle of ITV called it a coup for McLaren. His reaction was very similar to that just recently made by also former McLaren driver, Niki Lauda except the tone adopted by both were vastly different.
Martin Brundle hails it as a triumph for McLaren, which it really is. For many reasons, including destablising the competition, putting McLaren in a better frame for their negotiations with Kimi and the bragging rights of having a world champion (or potentially two by 2007) in their fold. However, Niki Lauda thinks that ultimately the timing of the announcement is bad for both incumbent McLaren drivers Raikkonen and Montoya and for Alonso as well. "Montoya now has to perform in the knowledge that he is only McLaren's third choice," says Niki.
Briatore meanwhile is protesting his innocence, claiming he had no knowledge of the transaction. In which case, people are asking, should he be able to claim a cut of Alonso's McLaren income? But if he did know about the whole affair, the wouldn't it have been a conflict of interest as he is simultaneously the CEO of Renault F1 and Alonso's manager?
People suspect there's more than meets the eyes and indeed, now we have Bernie absolutely livid at the news. To quote Bernie: "I know how things have gone, but I cannot reveal the details. On top of that Ron Dennis is Briatore's worst enemy, he spited him by exposing things publicly in order to make it difficult for him."
We must wonder what were those details that he could not reveal. And when he says he knew how things have gone, did he have foreknowledge of Monday's announcement?
My theory is, firstly, its no secret that Bernie and Flav are good mates. And for sure, Bernie is out to defend his mate.
Secondly, I think Bernie likes to "arrange" things in Formula 1. Looking back in time, it was Bernie who arranged Jacques Villeneuve Formula 1 debut with Williams, Mansell's 1994 Williams comeback and arranging Mansell to go to McLaren in his ill-fated 1995 season. This is wild speculation but I'm guessing he wanted Alonso to stay with Renault or at least with Briatore. Perhaps he could then have Flav arrange for Alonso to stay in "his" Formula 1. But now, Mr Dennis has totally buggered that plan, Alonso is with a GPMA team and Bernie is pissed.
Third, Ron Dennis really couldn't give a flying fig about Bernie's plans after all the crap Bernie himself threw at him in the late nineties. Basically, Bernie suckered both Ron Dennis and Frank Williams over their share of the proceeds from the sale to Kirsch. (Read the RaceFax.com article entitled: Following Formula 1's Money Trail)
In the aftermath of the Alonso shock, Bernie proclaims that Kimi is certainly off to Ferrari, at least once Michael Schumacher leaves. However, he states that Michael's retirement is not assured but he feels that Michael will not be driving any other car. If Michael stays put, Bernie says that Kimi may be off to Renault!
More reaction to Alonso's move on PlanetF1 and Formula 1 blog.
Significantly it seems, McLaren today have signed Gary Paffet, this year's DTM champion to be a test driver. Now Gary is a serious driver with the endorsement of none other than Mika Hakkinen himself. Both drove for Mercedes in the DTM this year. Of course, Gary makes no secret that he wants a race seat. McLaren I think are covering all their bases nicely. If both Montoya and Raikkonen leaves in 2006 for whatever reason, there's not going to be any shortage of capable drivers ready to take their place.
Posted by Qwerty at 11:07 pm
Monday, December 19, 2005
This piece of news gave me a shock for a couple of reasons. First, the last place anyone would've expected Alonso to go was McLaren and second, unlike the Sauber-BMW-Williams deal, no word of this emerged anywhere in the mainstream press. So, Big Ron scores twice in the last one week. First, the Vodafone deal and now this huge surprise with Fernando Alonso. I have a feeling these deals may be linked. Perhaps Vodafone wanted Fernando in the team. Fernando himself is only saying that he wanted a fresh challenge to win the world championship again with another team, having secured his dream this year.
So now the questions and speculations. We know for sure someone in the McLaren team will be vacating his race seat. Who'll it be and where will he go. Lets start with Juan Pablo Montoya. In case anyone's forgotten, he has only recently joined the McLaren team this year and whilst the relationship went through a rough beginning, nevertheless Juan Pablo I thought did well towards the end of the year. Should 2006 be hist last year for McLaren, I'd be very surprised because I'm pretty sure he'll be on top of things from the start. And should he leave where would he go? Surely not to Williams. Can't see him at Renault. Ferrari?
In fact, the person everyone seems to be expecting to leave is Kimi Raikkonen. There were plenty of rumours during the 2005 season that he had signed for Ferrari in 2007. Could the rumours now be true? Kimi is one of my favourite drivers. He's got speed, talent and he hardly makes mistake. To see him driving for the cads, its a thought thats pretty hard to bear. But all the signs seem to be that the young Finn will be wearing scarlet.
In the meantime, Ron Dennis is singing praises about his young protege Lewis Hamilton, the Formula 3 Euroseries star. Though Ron believes that Lewis will not be breaking into Grand Prix motor racing in a McLaren but should Hamilton blitz the field as he did in the Euroseries then one can imagine Ron Dennis will keep him under consideration for a 2007 race seat. And if that be the case, then both the current Silver Arrows drivers will be leaving this time next year.
Who will replace Alonso at Renault? In fact, there are rumours rife that Renault will not in fact be around by then. Or that at the very least 2007 will be its last season before pulling out. Speculation is that Mark Webber, a Flavio Briatore managed driver will be filling the void.
Ron Dennis made an interesting statement during the announcement: "Our aim for next year remains absolutely clear to everybody within the team – we want to win races and be in a position where we might have two Formula One World Champions driving for Vodafone McLaren Mercedes in 2007." Wonder if that means that the two drivers will have to slug it out to keep their seats or perhaps McLaren will definitely be backing just one of the drivers for 2006. Will Renault now throw their weight behind Giancarlo Fisichella for 2006 in an effort to prevent Alonso running away with the number 1 in 2007?
How does all this affect Herr Schumacher? If indeed Kimi is Ferrari bound for 2007, does this mean that he'll be leaving for retirement? Or is there something more to the stories linking him to Red Bull. When Ron Dennis speaks of two world champions, could he have meant the inclusion of Michael Schumacher in the team?
In the meantime, Renault have expressed their dismay at the news. Some other reactions can be found here on GrandPrix.com.
The news of Alonso's signing will have created many questions that I'm certain will be answered in the coming weeks.
The reason why I haven't said anything about the latest testing results at all is that there's just no way to gain any accurate indications about 2006 until next year when all the 2006 spec cars are ready. Up until now we've all got modified 2005 and even 2004 chassis in the case of Ferraris fitted with development V8s and restricted V10s. The tyre manufacturers and the teams are just feeling their way in. So whether its Montagny or Schumacher going fastest is irrelevant at this stage. With 2006 bringing in another round of major rule changes, we can only know for sure a couple of weeks before Bahrain. After all, the F2004M looked quite good in the winter world championship this year but come Sepang, it was (happily) a couple of seconds off the pace.
These new V8s have such vastly different power characteristics. Its one thing to have lower brake horsepower and torque but the power delivery is also vastly different as well. Some speculate, we're looking at a narrower powerband than is usual with the 3.0 V10s. I'd think Renault would finally migrate to a seven speed transmission rather than persisting with their traditional six gears.
I'm not so sure that Toyota have gone down the right route with their TF106. Its front end was developed in 2005 and fitted to the TF105B. Its rear end is new for 2006. Well, with the differences in power characteristics, wouldn't it have been smarter to develop it all as one package once the V8s have had more running? Granted they've been testing their V8 far longer and harder than most teams during the season but surely it would have been wiser to wait until next year to finalise the design. Oh well, I surely hope Mike Gascoyne and Toyota get this one right. In any case, chief designer Gustav Brunner has now left Toyota. Speculation has it that he and Mike Gascoyne did not get along. In any case, I've thought of Brunner as quite a talented designer but at his advanced age he's out of fresh ideas. Witness 2004 when mid-season he simply ran out of ideas to develop the car. Not good in a sport where standing still means getting left behind. Money buys a lot in Formula 1 but not apparently all the ideas.
As we all know, Vodafone has decided not to continue its backing of Maranello and will now be the title sponsor for McLaren. Well done to the marketing folks at Woking for pulling this off. If I'm not mistaken Ferrari were quite confident of extending their deal after its end this year but now has the egg thrown firmly in their face. Annus horribilis indeed for the folks in red. Thrashed completely everywhere in 2005. Well, not to worry Bernie will always think of something for them. Like even more payments.
Now its also common knowledge that Vodafone is also a sponsor for Michael Schumacher. With Vodafone now Woking bound, some speculate that Michael will follow suit. There are of course the denials in the press. But wasn't it a couple of months ago that Herr Schumacher was seen with "friend" Norbert Haug in the pits twice in some apparently deep discussions? With lawyers present as well. Hmmm......
But most disingenuous statement of the week goes to Ross Brawn esquire, who calls for budget cuts across the board in Formula 1. It is the poor that asks for quarter when it comes to fiscal matters. And Ferrari, now with the loss of Vodafone and with parent Fiat in financial meltdown, are getting poorer by the minute. Funny how in previous years, when the kitty was full, they cared not for the plight of the poor whose balance sheets were definitively in the negative. But now of course, they sing the Max Mosley FIA party line. Oh and dear Ross, I'm sure Toyota and Honda's inflated spending were caused by their new windtunnel and team accquisition costs respectively. Confuse asset acquisitions not with operational expenditure. Year on year it is (or was) Ferrari that spent the most, everyone knows that. And yes, if Fiat still spent lavishly on its precious jewel and Vodafone still paid to be associated with Red then you can bet Ferrari will give bugger all to budget cuts.
Again, the issue of cost cutting. It just isn't going to happen. You can bet McLaren will be spending every last penny of that Vodafone sponsorship in an effort to extract the maximum advantage whatever rules the FIA proposes. It just goes somewhere whether this be to better facilities or simulation, the money will be spent. Those who have it will find a good use for it and will if they do things right, gain the advantage on the circuit. Even if that advantage buys them mere thousandths of a second. The only way to reduce budgets is to reduce sponsorship and thats not going to happen. There's just no way.
Having read this article on F1Racing.net, I was lead to RaceFax dot Com, a truly great website that focuses a lot on the inside scoop into the world of Formula 1, Indycars, Champcars and MotoGP. I seriously suggest all you serious fans of Grand Prix motor racing to pay the website a visit. Unfortunately its not free and its articles are available only to subscribers. However, you do get a 30 day trial to which I signed up for.
There are some amazing content in there that talks about both the business and technical sides of the sport. The feature articles on it are of exceptional quality with a mixture of inside knowledge and intelligent analysis and reading between the lines. Some of the things you discover in there are very enlightening especially to those (including yours truly) who are mostly fed by the mainstream racing press, who in turn only report the stuff that the teams, Max and Bernie want you to read. I doubt it very much, but I wonder do these guys have FIA media accreditation?
Anyway the website isn't without its own speculations and hypotheses. Some of which are truly eye popping but they do present their arguments in an untypically considered and thoughtful fashion.
Some of these speculations include:
- The FIA in the shape of Max and FOM with Bernie are deliberately messing things up with all the rule changes and proposals to drive away the manufacturers. Its close to something this editorial on PlanetF1 stated about the new proposed 2008 rules. Its bound to drive the manufacturers up the wall. RaceFax argues that it is Max's intention to do so. For years lawyer Max and used car sales (con) man Bernie has given the team bosses (previously independents like Ken Tyrell et al who are racers first, businessmen second) the run around. Now they have to deal with these manufacturers and their high priced lawyers. An entirely different kettle of fish and unlikely to be easily bent to their will.
- The reason why the GPMA has not released any concrete rules and regulations is because they have already drawn it up but are in no hurry to reveal to Max. The reason for that is that they are indeed already committed to a separate series in 2008 and can see no point in participating with Max's brigade in formulating the rules for that season. The recent World Motorsport Council's decisions to support Max's proposals for the 2008 rules with scant attention or comment from the GPMA teams is offered as proof.
- The proposed Centreline Downwash Generating wing is complete bollocks and merely a smoke screen to divert attention from the real commercial and governance issues at hand. It is nothing more than a napkin sketch from the FIA technical team who only recently acquired AMD assistance and Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) technology. The fact of the matter is the Technical Working Group (comprising tech bosses from the teams) rejected the wing proposal for 2007. In 2008 it is alleged, they couldn't be arsed anyway since they're going to bail out of the FIA World Championship.
I get my printed copy of Autosport more than a month late here in Malaysia but reading the very latest I have, it is true that more than one technical director and aerodynamicist has rejected the concept sight unsound. If Max seriously wants to push the concept, it is highly unlikely to bring about more overtaking. If anything it will make matters worse because all that turbulence on the rear wheels is not going to make those two tiny wings work at all. Any downforce you might have in the front wings (in the FIA sketches 2005 vintage items) are going to move the centre of pressure of the cars way forwards to make the cars wildly oversteer.
As RaceFax.com states, its all smoke and mirrors from Max to demonstrate publicly at least to fans and sponsors that he has "the show" at heart and only he can guarantee the future of Grand Prix racing. In fact, the CDG in my view is Max's technical incompetence at its worse.
There are lots of other stuff on the website, too numerous to mention here and I won't because RaceFax.com tells them far better than I ever could.
If you are a serious fan, then you have to at least take a look. This is important stuff and affects the quality of racing you will see (or not) in the future. Oh and if anyone of you have subscribed to it, could you please give me a copy of the Concorde Agreement? I'm just dying to know whats in that confounded document.
Friday, December 16, 2005
After some speculation throughout the tail end of the Formula 1 season, its now official, Michelin will leave the sport at the end of 2006. No doubt the final straw came after the October meeting of the F1 commission where it was voted that Formula 1 would revert back to a single tyre supplier come 2008. Now it seems that the FIA have got the wish a little earlier than that.
In the Michelin press statement announcing their withdrawal, Michelin cites the lack of competition in a homogenous environment and "the result of profound differences between Michelin's long-standing sporting philosophy and the way Formula One is managed by the regulating authorities, which no longer provide a clear and sustainable environment to justify long-term investments." Yee Ha.
This of course prompted a retaliatory statement by the FIA. The final paragraph of which reads: "A single tyre supplier will undoubtedly make Formula One fairer, safer and less expensive for the teams but, above all, it will avoid a repetition of the problem which arose at the 2005 US Grand Prix."
Beeatch. True, Michelin made an expensive and embarassing error there. Also true that Bridgestone did essentially the same mistake in Brazil 2003. And its probably correct to say that a single supplier will at least lead to a reduction in costs. But fairer? Fairer for whom? Ferrari? One of the reasons why a lot of teams bailed out on Bridgestone was because of all the special treatment Maranello demanded after Goodyear's withdrawal in 1998 and it received. This happened even in 1999 when all teams ran the Japanese rubber. Apparently the FIA has some strange definitions of fairness.
Michelin made one mistake. And to my memory thats the only mistake they've made in their entire history of the sport stretching back to the 1970s. They apologised and recovered to whitewash Bridgestone this year. But Max Mosley's incompetence will cost the teams and fans far longer than that. It has no remedy save for his resignation.
In truth, Michelin's grievances with the FIA stretched to 2003 when the FIA changed the rules (or at least its interpretation) mid-season at the behest of Ferrari and Bridgestone.
Bridgestone must be sitting pretty. But what for? As this article on GrandPrix.com states, the promotional value for Bridgestone is vastly reduced with no competition.
And so, we bid farewell to Michelin at the end of 2006. But before they leave, I hope they give an encore to their magnificent performance in 2005.
Monday, December 12, 2005
Following my post several days ago, two articles have emerged Pitpass here and PlanetF1 here speculating on the on-going GPMA/FOM battle.
Interesting to note that PlanetF1 thinks that money was the main motivation for Williams joining Bernie's bandwagon but according to Pitpass Williams' signature on the new Concorde was not really about the greenbacks.
Pitpass does however, bring up the issue of Ferrari's special treatment and the major point of contention, i.e. transparency in all aspects of the sports governance. I think even those signed up with Bernie (except perhaps Ferrari) that it is an issue that needs to be addressed. After all, even the hard-up would want to have a better knowledge of how decisions come to be made. They're still spending millions. And during the weekend of the Malaysian Grand Prix, even those that today are siding with Bernie signed a petition addressed to Ferrari calling for a reduction in testing in line with previously agreements.
The PlanetF1 editorial makes a brilliant point about competitiveness. If a breakaway series were to be run today, the GPMA teams would make a far better show of it than the Bernie brigade. The manufacturer teams are more evenly matched. In addition, their large war chests makes B-teams a distinct possibility. Especially, if B-teams could buy current technology there would be plenty of solid racing all the way round the field.
Sure, Bernie has the so-called "crown jewel," Ferrari but lets face it, if Ferrari (or should we say Michael Schumacher) were to dominate, more and more fans would lose interest. Witness the aftermath of the 2004 season on viewing figures. Bernie's signatories save Williams are unlikely to make a sustained challenge on Maranello. Unless of course, Red Bull can make full use of their recent signing Adrian Newey.
The story continues. However, I do think that a breakaway series is unlikely (at this time) but I think its a possibility that Bernie would have to give a lot more concessions and not all of which are pecuniary. Transparency and fairness are definitely on top of the agenda.
Saturday, December 10, 2005
More than one publication and Formula 1 website has mentioned NASCAR as a series from which Formula 1 should learn and emulate. For a site thats on the face of it, dedicated to Grand Prix racing, GrandPrix.com is absolutely in love with NASCAR. Do a search on their website for the keyword NASCAR and there's absolutely tons of articles written about or mentions them good old boys. GrandPrix's latest article on NASCAR can be found here. Am I missing something about GrandPrix?
What a lot of people seem to want is for Formula 1 to expand and gain a greater foothold in America. NASCAR seems to be doing the business over there and some people seem to think that Formula 1 should emulate some of its good points. With all due respect to NASCAR and its fans but to hell with that. Formula 1 doesn't need to be like NASCAR. Its a little too World Wrestling Federation for my taste. All that fiddling with the regulations to make the racing close is a little too artificial in my book. Its the same thing I have against the current WTCC rules with all that complicated weight penalty regulations. NASCAR goes beyond that to make things equal.
I've always voiced out that Formula 1 fans deserve to be treated with respect. And the FIA should be listening to folks like us. But somehow all the rah rah of NASCAR seems like overkill. Its all business of course and NASCAR's antics does the trick of attracting massive crowds. The constant fan pampering works. It brings them and their cash in and with it comes massive sponsorship from corporations that can't seem to get enough of bombarding consumers with their branding and "messages." And all that thanking of the sponsors from the race winner. Oh for f**k's sake.
Formula 1 should remain a "pure" sport. To make things more competitive, simply lay down a good set of rules and bloody well stick with it. NASCAR seems to have rule stability but they like to tweak the penalties on a race by race basis to make it fair. The FIA by contrast does not normally tweak rules over a season but insists on changing the rules year on year. Unless of course they're trying to help Ferrari as they did in 2003, carefully "reinterpreting" the rules to shove the advantage back to Maranello.
Of course, the FIA's way costs the teams a helluva lot more cash. If the rules were stable, the smaller teams would be able to catch the major players within a few years. The big boys would be so close to each other, we'd see more of Suzuka style action. They way its going right now, you seriously doubt whether Mad Max really has cost cutting in his mind.
Going back to Formula 1. What Bernie, the teams, manufacturers and the media want of course is for Formula 1 to break into the largest free market economy in the world. Bernie wants more TV revenues. The teams want the massive advertising sponsorship of America's corporations. The media want to sell more magazines and get more Google ad revenues from visitors from the states. The media likes to use the word greedy to describe Formula 1. Guess what? They're all part of the same conspiracy.
Let NASCAR be that and Formula 1 be itself. The difference is culture. The rest of the world has as much understanding of NASCAR as a drawlin Southerner has of Formula 1. Which is pretty much bugger all. So just pick which one you'd rather watch and leave it at that. For I hope that Formula 1 does not dilute itself to capture a market that for 10 years couldn't give a two fingered salute about it. After all, there are plenty of Formula 1 fans worldwide who'd never give up watching it. Keep em loyal to you Bernie. Stop trying too hard chase new ones.
NASCAR does however remain an object lesson to domestic series the world over on how to run a championship. Take Malaysia for example. Now just because Sepang holds the title Sepang F1 circuit doesn't mean it can afford to be aloof and arrogant. Formula 1 is a class of its own that has no equal in the world outside America. Its attraction is the drivers and teams that are simply at the pinnacle of the sport. Fans will come automagically.
Its different with domestic racing series. You have to work hard to please the fans. And be in no doubt that these fans need pleasing. For otherwise they couldn't care less about your precious series with its "gentlemen" drivers that collectively have less wheel ability than Alonso's toenails. And without them, the championship quickly loses the chance to bring in ever greater commercial sponsorship in order for the domestic series to survive and thrive. Without that growth, you can't attract new drivers into the sport. Bloody hell, you'd even lose the old hands. And that ladies and gentlemen means the end of the series.
I mean, just look at the Malaysian Super Series and the MME crowd attendances. Pathetic. The racing establishment ought to spend more time improving the spectacle for the people in the grandstands not puckering their lips to kiss the arse of politicians and businessmen or cutting some billboard deal.
The racing establishment in Malaysia should look to the example set by NASCAR. Lets face it. No championship created here will ever be the next Formula 1. But by looking at NASCAR's example, perhaps a racing industry can thrive in Malaysia, once again. For that to happen, the cash needs to flow in. It starts with the fans. Wake up for god's sake.
Posted by Qwerty at 2:24 am
Thursday, December 08, 2005
CVC Capital Partners, with investments in Kwik Fit, The Automotive Assosication, Dorna and a host of other manufacturing, media businesses among others, have now acquired around 85% of the shares (up to last week when JP Morgan also sold out)in SLEC. And thus, through some complicated shareholding structure, controls the commercial rights to Formula 1.
Bernie sold his remaining shares in SLEC to CVC or more specifically Alpha Prema, the company that now holds the SLEC shares. In turn he's used the proceeds to buy into Alpha Prema. Bernie also retains excutive control over the sport. Beyond their investments, little is known about CVC. Apparently, even the investigative resources of UK's The Times unable to break through the veil of secrecy. Truly a "private" equity firm and perfect for one such as Bernie who values discretion.
Heck, to be honest, if I were a billionaire tycoon, this is the route I'd go down as well. Not for me the American style stock market listing with its attendent weight and constant public glare into my financial affairs.
Interesting to see the timeline of the buyout.
24/07/2005 : Hutchinson Whampoa linked to Formula 1 buyout. This was quickly dismissed by Bernie. With all due respect to mega tycoon Li Ka Shing, I doubt if Bernie would have really wanted Chinamen to run Formula 1. Excellent businessmen of course the Chinese but I think a little too calculative and naive about the success factors of the sport. Rather like the banks you might say. And you know about dealing with the teams right? It takes a certain touch to it which Li may not understand. And moreover, the teams may not understand him. Its a culture thing.
30/08/2005 : Some speculate that the teams were involved with in a USD 1.5 billion bid for Formula 1.
31/08/2005 : Bernie says F1 is "not for sale," in this article in F1Racing.net amid speculation that Formula 1 is to be flogged off for a billion bucks. Yet another denial this year that eventually was proven to be true!
17/10/2005 : Bernie says he'd like Formula 1 to be publicly sold. Well, in the future it just might given CVC's modus operandi of first acquiring companies and then flogging them off at a profit.
1/11/2005: Bayerische Landesbank, who together with Bernie eventually sold the first tranch of shares to CVC, urges peace in our time. Perhaps to sweeten the deal?
18/11/2005 : Jean Todt, John Howett of Toyota, Nick Fry and Bernie allie, Flavio Briatore meets up with Bernie Ecclestone in Monaco to discuss the future of Grand Prix Racing. The Pitpass article here indicates its not about Bernie or even more money The major point of contention is that the manufacturers are simply not happy about the sport's governance by the FIA. Perhaps to allay CVC's fears regarding the breakup of Formula 1 as we know it. If Toyota, Honda and Renault are still willing to jump in with Bernie then all is not lost.
25/11/2005 : Bayerische Landesbank and Bernie sell their shares to Alpha Prema, the controlling company owned by CVC.
6/12/2005: Despite some resistance, JP Morgan sells off their shares to Alpha Prema.
Now, a couple of weeks after the CVC announcement, Frank Williams has just signed up to the 2008-2012 Concorde Agreement effectively siding with the FIA/FOM Establishment and joins Midland, the two Red Bull teams and of course Ferrari.
I'm speculating that the CVC deal and Frank's agreement are related. Make no mistake, now with BMW gone and with them free engines and cash and the exit of title sponsor HP, Williams are strapped for cash. Witness their recent massive car boot sale and the fact that they're considering Narain Karthikeyan as a pay driver for testing. For testing???!!! I'd heard of rent a car drivers who got to race but this bloke is paying for the privilege to test!
So the coffers being less that what is was in previous years, Frank and Patrick has had very little choice but to agree with Bernie and sign up to the Concorde. As Frank said in February, he couldn't afford to be too hard nosed about it because unlike Ron Dennis at McLaren, racing is all he's got.
This is an interesting point. All the GPMA members have got other activities besides racing. They're all in the car manufacturing business. Even McLaren's got other businesses aside racing and its profitable as well. Witness the results of their latest financial statements. They've made some good profit. All the GPMA folks can afford to play hard ball.
Williams' predicament is rather like Ferrari's. Lets not forget that Ferrari are in fact also a "manufacturer" backed team. In its case, its backed by Fiat who effectively bankroll the Formula 1 operation. Some of Fiat's bankers might be unhappy with this and with Luca di Montezemolo for splashing cash they don't have to Ferrari but the Agnelli family that controls Fiat have secured Luca's future there. But, Luca is no fool and Fiat cannot afford to throw money at Ferrari's Formula 1 team they way its done in the past. And so, they did a deal with Bernie to secure more for themselves.
This is precisely what Frank has done for Williams. As Patrick Faure of Renault said last week, Formula 1 stands on the brink. Its future will be decided in the coming weeks.
A major team in Williams has decided to go with Bernie. I think Toyota and Honda actually want to go with Bernie if only the issue of governance and especially rule stability can be resolved. I think the Japanese are very pragmatic and they know what they're in Formula 1 for. Marketing and a way of challenging their young engineers. Screw the money they don't really need it. They're both highly profitable companies. But the FIA is driving them beserk with all these rules changes.
Renault are in a very interesting predicament. Boss Faure sides with the GPMA. Team principal Flavio is Bernie's mate. But CEO Carlos Ghosn, many think will want out of Formula 1 totally by 2008. The current Enstone and Viry operations could be flogged off. In which case, it would make sense for the next (private?) buyer to want to side with Bernie as well. They too, just might sign for Bernie if they can be assured that the FIA will behave themselves. More thoughts and opinions on GrandPrix.com.
Mercedes and BMW are the only ones left then. But I doubt if BMW had planned to invest in a team competing in a two team championship.
I think with Williams on Bernie's side, the GPMA members will follow suit eventually. I think the only reassuarance they need is that Bernie will do something about his joined at the hip buddy Max. To that end it seems that the FIA have revamped the Court of Appeal, perhaps as a response to repeated public and team opinions that it is well and truly a biased kangaroo court. Asides that and commenting about CDG wings, Max has been rather silent about the whole CVC and Williams issue.
In the final analysis I have only a couple of things to say. First, they may be about peace and compromise at this moment in time but you can bet come 2010 or whenever they talk about extending the Concorde, there will still be more arguments and I can just bet we'll all be here again at that time.
Secondly, if the teams and manufacturers can agree then that's great because there's going to be only one Formula 1 and its something I've followed for the last 22 years and would be sad to see it go. However, I'd hate it if those prima donnas at Ferrari are once again given special treatment either in financial or political terms that result in an unfair advantage on the race track. If its equal treatment to all teams big and small then fine. But to offer Ferrari more financial rewards even if they come in last in the world championship is just bullshit.
The GPMA is (was?) a good way of fighting for a more equitable championship. If they can achieve that without a breakaway championship then all the better. I hope we see the end to the FIA and Bernie being Ferrari's stooges. If Max goes or changes his silly tune then all the better.