Engine supply in F1 present and future

BMW, if they were to return, would have to do so in 2017. Mercedes have 4 teams in 2014 with Mercedes AMG, Force India, McLaren and new addition Williams. McLaren will leave at the end of 2014 for Honda. Ferrari have their Factory Scuderia team, but will keep Sauber if they sort their financial problems and add Marussia, both teams taking the whole Scuderia transmission as well as Energy Recovery System. Renault will have Red Bull and for the first time sister team Toro Rosso, Renault will likely pick up Lotus as well.

As for the contracts, Force India and Williams are a 3 year contract, McLaren a single year one with Mercedes before Honda join on a probable 8+ year contract. Red Bull are the “works” Renault team and Toro Rosso in for the same time as their sister team. Lotus look to be taking Renault on for a 3 year deal, but probably offset on a reduction in price in order for Renault to take out a key sponsorship area on the cars as Red Bull will have Infiniti plastered across their cars and to the man on the street makes Red Bull a Infiniti powered car. Ferrari have a 3 year deal with Marussia, Sauber will have a probable deal of same or similar terms. Both Ferrari customer teams will have to take a Ferrari Academy Driver if Ferrari want them to, this means Bianchi progressing through the field at Ferraris beck and call.

As for a BMW return, a Toyota return even. All highly doubtful, the regulations are in place to entice manufacturers back in as a engine supplier yes. However I think it is all a lot of ifs and buts. If anything, Honda are likely to pick up a second customer in 2016 by either a 12th team or another team of the other 10 excluding Mercedes, Red Bull or Ferrari breaching their contract and gaining Honda. If BMW are to return they will have to buy a team and breach a contract to put their product in the back of their car. When new engine suppliers are looking to spend €120m a year on the V6T engines, with as much as half of that coming back in engine supply contracts, I doubt BMW will come back to spend €200+m a year in a Team and Engine side of things, even if they get €30m back in engine supply contracts.

BMW are happy at present with their DTM and ALMS program’s, and rumours persist they are looking at the viability of a MotoGP campaign in 2015 as well. 3 areas of the economy where BMW are doing well, showing off their engines in what is effectively 2 spec series in DTM and ALMS as the DTM chassis is developed by Dallara with a body shell developed by the manufacturer. Motorbikes are doing good for BMW, not Ducatti, Honda or Yamaha well, but are doing well enough for them to look at breaking into MotoGP.

As with the recent Vodaphone/Verizon deal in the USA, monopolies ebb and flow in business, engine suppliers do the same in F1. When the time is right, and when the economy is viable, BMW and Toyota will return.

Stewarding in F1

Stewarding in F1 has always been a tricky thing to get right. They never get it right, always get it wrong! Recently they have had lots of problems with exploiting track limits. I’ve had the pleasure of re watching the 2008 Spa and Monza races, with drivers exploring the limits of chichane cutting. Hamilton was the persecuted in 08 with his incident in a wet final few laps. At Monza, drivers were a bit castrated, many limits being exploited, lots not actually being penalized due to drivers using their brain.

At present, there is lots to do with drivers exploring the limits of the track in overtaking moves and also time advantage. With Monza quick approaching, the most blatant and consistently cut corner will be cut. That corner is actually on exit of Variante Ascari, it actually increases track length by 8 meters! For years Charlie Whiting and his team have always turned a blind eye due to the fact they are going further and not actually gaining a advantage in lap length, however gaining an advantage in lap time in one and a half tenths of a second as it allows drivers to get on power earlier and gain the advantage down to Paribolica.

I was looking at the 2008 cars be almost nailed to the track following the same line. I also thought back to the incident with Button and Vettel in 2012 at the German GP at the hairpin in the final laps. Vettel took advantage on the exit to take the place, he was third at the finish but given a time penalty to take him back to 4th.

At Hungary this year we saw Vettel take position via a similar way at turn 4 or 5 (depending on what chart you look at) over Button, yet in the same race Grosjean did same with Massa. Vettel gained zero penalty and Grosjean a drive through. Grosjean I seldom support in such situations, but I do in this. Vettel I am not the greatest of fans or greatest of haters to.

In this situation of corner cutting the driver should give back the position before the next corner and not attack at the preceding one either. Such was the rule in 2008. As for gaining an advantage time wise or holding position such as Button/Vettel this should have same rule applied. However I would like to see a situation at the tracks that have those new modern wide and long run off areas to do something more. To my eye there is two options, first one is 1 meter off the white line just add a 1 meter strip of grass-concrete or similar, something that will spin the car wheels up and give zero advantage to the driver. The second way is to put some sort of tar or surface that gives so much traction that it damages the tyres, actually rips them apart over a certain speed. Thus giving a race wrecking penalty. Drivers would then have to think about whole overtake and not go for the half overtake and get the thing wrong.

Spa this year brought two other items to the stewards addenda, the car width rule on the Perez/Grosjean and Vergne/Hulkenberg incidents at Les Coumbs. The other thing was the pit entry incident with Maldanado/Di Resta. Ill start with the Maldanado/Di Resta one first, this one is simple to me, you have to be on the side of the defining line after the safety car line in order to pit. If you don’t, you have to go around for another lap, the driver behind will always should have the benefit of the doubt in that matter. As for the incidents at Les Coumbs, Perez was in the right I feel with a good hard pass, what driver hasn’t squeezed another to gain position. The fact that Vergne passed on the outside and squeezed Hulkenberg on the exit of the right hander of Les Coumbs adds weight to my argument. Hulkenberg had to take to the escape Tarmac as to not collide with Vergne. However Grosjean I feel collided with Perez in order to try and gain a penalty over Perez. Yes the rules state you need to leave a car width, but if you take your car off the track on entry to a corner, I feel the rule should be voided.

Stewards have a thankless job, however I think they should have a better set of definitions in front of them, definitions that will make racing safer and also clearer. How to do this, I don’t know. However I am a fan of 9 professional stewards with 3 being at every GP with each doing at least 2 GP as head steward every season. Each steward can’t do more than 2 consecutive GP as well. I’d have two driver steward as well per GP, each out of F1 for at least 10 years. Driver Stewards will only do two GP a year in order to apply diversity. As for penalties, Stewards have 90 seconds to say if it’s being investigated or not, and 3 laps to dish out a penalty. The head steward gives an incident to a steward/driver to acquit guilt, the head steward dishes out a penalty or penalties. It means two incidents can be investigated at once as well. Drivers have two laps to take their penalty, with no right of appeal. This no right of appeal clause will make drivers think about their actions and overtakes the whole way through.

I am a fan of reprimands being used like the yellow/red card system in football. First yellow a 5 place grid drop, second a 10 place grid drop, third and your out for a race. Further more, a 4th reprimand and you take another 10 place drop, a fifth and you spend 3 races out. Red reprimands carry a instant 3 race ban, with a second one carrying 5 out.

Dans Your Man

Red Bull have just signed Daniel Riccardo on a 3 year deal. He won’t trouble Vettel, but will get points for the team and secure the Constructors Title. I’m sure he will be on a fraction of Vettels salary, however will have massive performances, and a nice Constructors Title based payment as it will be his job to be a good rear gunner.

Now all the Dominoes look at Toro Rosso and the likely replacement with Felix Antonio Da Costa.

Then all eyes to Ferrari and Lotus. McLaren and Mercedes are locked out with Red Bull now so all pressure is on Massa, Alonso and Raikkonen.

Things will now get very interesting very quickly I feel.

Monza is a-calling, I can’t wait as it will be my first GP!

Constantly Deflating On Pirelli

Pirelli are into the dark arts, same way Fernando Alonso is into Samurai’s. Pirelli have been hounded since they came into F1, they have been bad mouthed, been told they are inferior and also been told that their product isn’t up to much. Pirelli were given a brief in 2010 by Bernie Ecclestone, and the FIA, reproduce a race that gives a 2-3 stop a race average race strategy modeled on the Canadian GP of 2010 where the Bridgestone Potenzas just wore out the identical way to what Pirelli and their P-Zeros do now.

Enter 2013, new compounds, new constructions and a new weight, all is fine and well from the first day of Pre Season till Bahrain when Lewis Hamilton suffers the first in a long line of delamination’s, punctures or failures; the term varies but to me all are the same just under a different title. Hamiltons puncture at the last corner (Or what I call the last corner) gave him a 5-place gearbox penalty, a tough break. Then came Barcelona, with Paul Di Resta suffering a last corner delamination in Practice, this time no damage to the car and Jean Eric Vergne suffering another at the entry to turn 4 in the closing stages of the race.

All is fine and well, apart from some senior teams wanting a change in compounds and construction for what they say as safety grounds, and I thought it was down to performance grounds that Lotus, Ferrari and Force India seemed to agree. My argument was, same with those teams, is that if you have fast degrading tyres, design your car around them appropriately, reducing peak down force and working on mechanical systems to help the tyres, stop overheating or wearing out that lap or two earlier than your rivals. If that means developing a car that is two and a half tenths slower a lap but means you pit 3 times to your rivals 4 it will mean you win by 2 to 5 seconds over a race distance depending on the track and simulation you use. This strategy has been played out a bit this year with Raikkonen scoring a win in Australia in a cool but dry race and in Bahrain with Di Resta narrowly missing his first podium with battles with Raikkonen and Grosjean. Lotus and Force India seemed to have the handle on the Pirellis. Ferrari also seemed to have a handle as well with the way Alonso dealt a master class in China and at his home race in Spain. The teams agree to test a new rear tyre in Canada, but cool and damp conditions thwart the testing, most teams agree they learnt something but not a great deal.

Along comes Silverstone, the first genuine track with lots of high G loading corners, reports of cuts come out on Friday, Perez has his first delamination in FP3 on Saturday, nothing herd of after it, just a few TV highlight reels in Quali on the incident with it generally being called frightening and Perez being praised over his reactions.

Race day, Silverstone, all is fine and well, the F1 circus is like a swan again, serenely going about its business pre race but paddling like fury under the waterline. Red lights out, Hamilton leads and Vettel is P2, until the lap 12 to 14 area when in the middle of the Wellington straight, you see him wobble and then the rear left explodes and near disintegrates. Lap later; just coming out of the loop, Massa suffers what looks like a puncture however he spins. Both drivers get back to the pits, albeit both rejoin the race and finish, Hamilton scrabbling a point. Now, still first pit stop window, Jean Eric Vergne suffers his delamination down the hanger straight, narrowly avoiding taking out both Lotus on the way with debris almost hitting Raikkonen in a Massa Hungary 09 style incident. The race is now under a Safety Car Deployment, most drivers pit and all told to take it easy on certain turns, teams look resigned to pitting every 10 laps if needed. Second SCD of the race after Vettel pulled over after a transmission fault, under the restart, after Maggots & Becketts, Perez suffers delamination number 2 of the weekend, cat like reflexes from him and Alonso narrowly avoid a second large accident.

The fallout is all about how can this happen, and the consensus is all about low pressures of tyres, some were running them as low as 16psi. Other measures were talked about, cambers (Similar to Spa 2011 where teams were running cambers at -4 degrees static) and tyre swapping. Tyre swapping where teams were swapping lefts to rights and vice versa as the steel belt was directional, and reversing the direction saw the teams gain a life advantage on the tyres.

The young driver test at Silverstone the teams were given the option to run race drivers for tyre testing only, most decided to do so for one day at least wit one race driver or a few for a half day. The consensus was that the new tyres worked and were good, Mercedes AMG didn’t attend due to a secret/private tyre test after the Spanish GP, but had data given to them from probably their engine partners and Pirelli as well. They went on to win the Hungarian GP, a hot GP with Hamiltons first Mercedes win. However they have some sort of device to manage temps now.

Summer break comes and goes, now F1 is at Spa, the track that will test your car to the maximum. Chassis, Engine, Transmission and Tyres all get tested. In Friday Practice, there was 3 punctures or cuts, Alonso, Vettel and a un named Williams driver

My reaction is that F1 needs to go back to the regulations, camber needs to be static, not end of straight and I also think there needs to be a stipulation that the floor needs to be at least 50mm, but id recon that 70mm to 100mm away from the wheel on any face of the wheel. For the rears, however the front tyres would be free to a point with them being allowed -2 degrees, the rears would be allowed -1.5 tops. As for pressures, id makes them 21 or 22 psi, or have them closer to road car pressures in 30 psi, I know I run my car at 36 front and 39 rears, but generally 30 is more close to average.

I will say Pirelli are looking for a needle in a haystack in the tracks, however I will say they should look at Le Mans technology, where tyres are now getting very puncture resistant due to the gravel that they use, however they still occur, one every other hour on average.

Pirelli seem to want to spend time and money on getting the tyres, they need to spend the time in 3 areas, firstly making them wear out better chemically and nor by plain out wear, but the tyre should yield enough performance for 5 good laps at full pelt then move into a stage where they wear chemically and then start to wear out mechanically. Second, punctures and minimizing them, I’m sure this can be done with a good bit of R&D in constructions and such. As for the third, this is performance gap in compounds, having a large enough gap so that teams can use the options in Quali and the primes in the race. Ideally have 3 sets of prime and 4 of option in order to give the drivers a chance in both to do the best they can. However, until the tyres can be brought closer to ideal and the sporting regulations get a review as well, the bed F1 lies in is what it is and what F1 can do with them.  Pirelli followed a brief and got on with it, teams complained and got their wish, now they seem to want further change and reviews. F1 needs to keep the baby in the bath water and not throw the baby out with the bath water, and the teams need to hand over more control to the FIA and Pirelli. God knows what will come of 2014 at this rate with its more powerful engines at peak horsepower and extensive torque curve.

Time will tell….

How F1s Prize Fund Could Make Sense

There are rumoured to be 3 F1 teams in financial difficulty, Sauber is the one that is in the headlines at present with a figure of €80m to €120m of debt depending on where you get your figure from. Lotus and Marussia are also in financial trouble as well, Marussia is less well known to what extent, it is said that they operate on a budget of €75m, they can operate the team on €73m for the season with €2m for updates. Lotus are known to be anywhere up to €150m in debt, with all but €35m being long term investor debt, and this is a known as it came from Gerard Lopez. It is also believed that Force India is operating a tight ship with finances tight with the team operating just in the black, as a check on the team for 2011 shows they operated with just €200,000 left at the end of the year, however they had €7.5m at the bank and €50m in liabilities, which was later obliterated with investment of €100m to Sahara, €50m to clear debts and €50m over 4 years to improve facilities and equipment like the Simulator that the team now has. The Force India team ate now looking towards further upgrades like a new wind tunnel. This leads to a question, how could F1 become a viable business, and how could F1 support itself better.

I am a firm believer that the present F1 business model is flawed, the present attitude of ill spend two pounds of your one is wrong. Looking to other sports where giants of the game did such a policy has now put Scottish Football in the Intensive Care Unit for many, many years as Rangers went into administration and later liquidation and the NewCo route with the club going down 3 divisions from the Scottish Premier League to the Scottish Football League division 3. Scottish Football was unsustainable in this format, trying to compete in the Champions League with the big European Giants like Barcelona and then within 4 days competing with the likes of Berwick, the only English team in Scotland in a cup competition.

However, if you follow Hadrian’s Wall and end up at Newcastle, you can join up to the multi billion pound English Premier League, where there is a collective bargaining agreement from the very inception of the EPL, where every team gets a equal share of a percentage of the prize money, for 2012/2013 every team got £33m, with QPR getting £800,000 in prize money for 20th place and Manchester United getting £15m for becoming champions. The EPL teams also receive a income for live TV matches as well, for the bottom 4 in the EPL was £5.8m and for Manchester United is £13.8m. It leaves Manchester united with a overall pot of £61.4m and QPR with a pot of £39.6m. With the EPL taking £2.28b from Sky for 116 matches a year and £738m on 38 matches per season for 3 years, which is an massive £6.5m per match for 154 matches per year. The EPL have a 3 year deal for £3.018b without highlights packages added in and overseas rights to the likes of Asia as well.

The prize fund for the EPL will be about £1b every year for the next 3 years, with 40% being given to the teams equally, another 40% in TV money dependant on team finishing position and the other 20% in prize money using a fixed formula. This leads me to the point, if F1 can generate €1b a year from TV revenue and from the race promoters as well, the teams would be in good health and not really need to be dependant on Pay Drivers.

Lets surmise that each race is worth around third of the cost of a EPL match to show, with each broadcaster bidding €45m per season for a full season and €22m for a half of the races live every season and the rest of the races with 60 minute highlights, F1 could get €67m every year from every nation that covers F1. However, the deals could be less if FP1, FP2 and FP3 aren’t covered live as some countries will only want to cover Quali and the Race. If there are 50 countries that want F1, but only 20 want the full experience with practice sessions with two broadcasters as well, it would equate to €1.34b a year and the rest making up €660m for single broadcaster coverage for Quali and Race coverage, it would make F1s annual pot of €2b for TV quite a decent fund. However, include Radio deals and other new e-media rights and such, F1 could get another €200m there as well. And if each race promoter gives €35m on average per race, F1 could get €700m there as well for a 20 race deal, and if F1 even makes €100m in merchandise and other commercial aspects in the likes of the official F1 timing app for instance, it would make a neat €3b pot for F1 as a whole.

Now, here is the difficult part, the split, with F1s rights being owned by CVC, id make the Collective Bargaining Chip like this, simply 48% of the yearly turnover to CVC, 48% to the F1 teams and 1% to the FIA, and another 1% to a fund that goes toward mechanics that have fallen on hard times and such due to injury or whatever.

This leaves €1.44b to CVC and the F1 teams, and €30m to the FIA and €30m to the fund. Ill come to the FIA first, they need €150m a year to operate with all their campaigns like the Action For Road Safety one, which they can ‘tax’ the teams and drivers for their team licence and driver super licence as well to make up the €120m they need as well. Next the Mechanics fund, €30m a year should be enough for this, however the fund should not be there to support mechanics and engineers who have fallen on hard times due to Alcohol, Drugs or Gambling. Im thinking about those guys who cant work due to being diagnosed with a terminal or immobilising illness or have been involved in a accident at home or at work. As for CVC, they take 48% straight off the top, that’s theirs, and their profit, no ifs and buts, give it to them and keep them sweet.

Now, the F1 teams split. The politically volatile element. Id propose that the teams all get 40% of the €1.44b split between all the 12 teams, as id have a 12 team grid, equally, with a fund of €576m fund with each team getting €48m with no questions asked in effect. Next, the 20%, the 5 teams that have been in F1 the longest due to their history getting a Historical payment, a fund of €288m is now available, this id split in a rather bizarre way with 40% going to Ferrari and the rest being split equally between Williams, McLaren, Lotus and Mercedes. Why these teams, Ferrari as the team with the longest richest history, McLaren and Williams as they have been the next instrumental in the sport, and have comparable history as well. Why include Lotus and Mercedes, Lotus because the team dates back to the Toleman days and is the 4th longest team that way and Mercedes on the fact it dates back to the Tyrell days on the Chassis front and they also date back to 1993 on the Engine front as well. That would give Ferrari, £115.2m and the rest with €172.8m split 4 ways with €43.2m going their way.

Next the prize fund, the12 teams would be balanced in decently fair way for the remaining €576m, 11th and 12th would get €13m each, as they should be penalised to a point for bad performance over the year, and would give them a minimum budget of €61m per year, meaning they would have to take on a pay driver or two in order to make a difference to their budget. Now there is €550m left, with a percentage split, would give the placing as follows:

P01 = €93.5m – 17%

P02 = €82.5m – 15%

P03 = €71.5m – 13%

P04 = €60.5m – 11%

P05 = €55m – 10%

P06 = €49.5m – 9%

P07 = €44m – 8%

P08 = €38.5m – 7%

P09 = €33m – 6%

P10 = €22m – 4%

It would bring team budgets to a really good level, for Ferrari, it would make them the largest in terms or non commercial budget, with around €245m for 2012s performance, but it would give Marussia €61 for 2012s performance. Red Bull would be €141.5m, for non commercial budget. Sauber would have above €100m for non commercial budget as well, which is an increase on their overall budget of €95m for 2012.

It would mean that teams could run on a decent base budget, however, the steps in prize money would be significant enough that competition would be fierce enough for the constructors to do better with their budgets. If F1 teams take €75m to run a team for a year, for a P11 team that is, the prize pot would be enough to get a team 82% of the way there, then you could take a couple of pay drivers at €18m and €12m, to increase their budget to €91, which is enough to allow the team to run a small, decent and well formed development plan for the year, even tailoring their cars to a specific track type in order to be really strong at those tracks in order to gain that P10 place, or even that massive leap to P9.

At the top end, it would mean that teams like Ferrari, Red Bull, McLaren and Mercedes can run their teams really aggressively with a good non commercial budget and with commercial budget, you could operate a top team for anywhere from €220m to €300m. Some teams overall may be able to run at a profit, depending on how well their commercial departments can work the best commercial deal in regards to sponsorship.

However, I will elope to the point that I did come to earlier on, the FIA and how they can get the rest of their money for their campaigns, that would be to have a FIA Team licence that starts at €500,000 for the bottom 8 teams and €1m for the top 4 teams. With €20,000 a point, that leaves the teams being ‘success taxed’ to the tune of €40.4m if you have a 20 race year with 101 points (using present points system) per race available. Red Bull would have to pay €9.2m in points tax and €1m in entry, a fair system for being successful I think. That would bring the FIA €48.4m extra, to add to their €30m, that’s only €78.8m on the way to their target of €150m. Another chunk of the rest would come from the Drivers Super Licence, €500,000 for the top 10 the preceding season and €200,000 for the rest, with the drivers also being ‘Success Taxed’ to €10,000 a point for the top 10 and €5,000 a point for P11 in the drivers championship and below. That would bring the FIA about €100m from F1, the rest of the €150m should come from other formula and other forms of FIA governable motorsport.

I think this would make the FIA stronger, CVC would be happy with their cut and the Teams would be able to concentrate on the good of the sport, whilst competing to the highest and fiercest level they can. However it would leave one person out of a job, and out of power, the man that for some wouldn’t have made F1 the global power it is now out of a job, Bernie Eccelstone. The man who has been the power broker for the past 20 to 25 years in F1. And the reason I think that F1 cant move onto the next level, the man who still wants the prestige. Until a succession plan has been worked out, or something happens that Mr E cannot do his job, F1 I think will remain fractured, splintered and damaged.

Until opinions are changed, and chess pieces moved away from the current stale mate, F1 cannot become a sport based around success to become a viable business model that sponsors will actually want to come and invest in. F1 is the third most Globally attractive sport for sponsors behind the World Cup and the Olympics, and it is these things that F1 needs to compete against as F1 isn’t just competing against its own, but in the global market of all other sports. And then and only then will F1 be judged accordingly and not just a rich boys sport for the chosen few.

Ferrari into LMP1, with Sauber and a bit of Wind

With the recent comments by Luca Di Montezemolo on F1s reliance on Aero it has raised a few questions. Is F1 too reliant on aero now the same way that up until 2007 it had became really too reliant on electronics as the McLaren Electronics Systems SECU came into place in 2008 to ban Traction Control. Up until then teams had two ECUs, one for the chassis side and the other for the engine side of things. The V8s still run their engine ECU, but interfaced with the MES ECU as well, BMW lost 45hp overnight in 2008 with the ECU change, however by the end of 2009 when the left they had all of that back and eventually reached a rumoured and estimated 810Hp.

Now the problem in F1 is that there is a reliance on aero, which id like to see addressed by giving the teams more innovation scope in the mechanical side with a limited, and managed return to active ride suspension. Id like to see drivers being given the option of tuning their cars on the track, however id allow the drivers to do 20 ride changes a race, with a twist of a rotary on their wheel. With say 6 being the most neutral height and 12 being the highest and 1 being the lowest, with each increment being half a millimetre, with the cars having a minimum ride height of 25mm from floor to ground in a static form at the T tray and 40mm at the rear. It would give the cars a 6mm sweep.

Less of what i want now, more back to topic.

Ferrari are regarded to be looking at a LMP1 project for Le Mans and the World Endurance Championship. The cost of this would be about €220m if they were to do a two car push along the lines of Toyota. Audi spend an estimated €400m on their charge and Porsche are to spend €1.4b over their LMP1 programme that will last an initial 5 years with year 1 and 2 being the most expensive. Even though Audi and Porsche are part of the VW Group, both have different ways of working and different ideas of how to work.

Now to the wind, Ferrari have been moaning loudly for the past 3 years now about not winning and Aero being too much of a dominance in F1, alas their cars have been lacking to the dominant Red Bulls, not by much, but enough so that Webber and Vettel have mopped up the most wins over the last 3 years, McLaren with Button and Hamilton next and Ferrari with Alonso last. Only Mercedes and Lotus have made a dent from the other teams. Its arguable that Force India could have had a victory or two as well, and Maldanado at Spain  2012 is the only black mark against the top 5 teams in reality.

Ferrari, if they were to have a LMP1 program, would probably be booted out of the Toyota facility as they could pass on ideas from their F1 guys to their LMP1 guys. And yes, Ferrari have their own tunnel, but it was built for 50% scale models and not the present and more accurate 60% scale models.

This leaves Ferrari a problem, where else to go for their 60% scale models, and the latest idea that has been floated is Sauber, renting their tunnel to Ferrari for free. Or at least for Sauber to say to Ferrari, we owe you €19m, how about you use our tunnel and you forget the debt. This would be a easy out for both parties here as Ferrari could be giving Sauber their last engines at Spa for the remainder of the season, and no V6T engines in 2014. When at present estimates, motorsport tunnel time is up to €80,000 an hour, it would get Sauber out of the financial hole with Ferrari quite easily and quickly.

However this leaves Sauber in a bit of a quandary. Audi uses Saubers tunnel for their 60% scale models before they step an idea onto full scale testing at the most advanced wind tunnel in the world for automotive uses. The Audi tunnel is more or less used for full scale cars now as they can use the tilting and rotational roiling road that with the tunnel that can heat the air to +45C and cool it to -30C as Audi test their cars im massively varying conditions.

If Sauber want to get out a mess financially, by using their tunnel to help Ferrari correlate their data as Ferrari seemingly have correlation problems, it could wind up their customer in Audi. Audi may want to use another tunnel now as to keep things private.

Its commonly know that Tunnel sharing takes place in F1; Marussia use McLarens, Caterham use Williams, Toro Rosso use Red Bulls with Force India possibly having access to the Mercedes tunnel as Force India use a tunnel in Brackley. Lotus are the only team left out of the sharing.

Sauber have a real issue if Ferrari are to use their tunnel as if Ferrari do try LMP1, and its possible as Luca Di Montezemolo has one thing missing on his CV, a LMP1 and ought right victory at Le Mans, Im sure they would want to use the Sauber tunnel as well, the tunnel that for some is regarded as the best in F1, and the tunnel that was used by Audi to win Le Mans in 2011 with the R18. Im sure that until Ferrari find their issues with their Tunnel, Ferrari will take that option for the Sauber Tunnel for both their F1 attack and their LMP1 car if Luca di Montezemolo decides his ego and needs a further boost as it was taken in 2011 when he started the Le Mans race.

Lets face it, the F1 V6T technology for 2014 will have a pretty good chance of being able to being transfer LMP racing as well. One thing is for sure, with all this new tech around, F1 and Sports Car fans have a lot to be cheerful about, not lest we forget the driver market in both.

Anyways, here is a youtube video of the Sauber wind tunnel.

Dominoes Falling – Silly Season Talk

At the moment there is only about half a dozen drivers certain of a seat in F1 for 2013, Vettel at Red Bull, Alonso at Ferrari and both McLaren and Mercedes drivers. The rest have a lot of uncertainty around them. Ill start at Red Bull, the dominoes for Mark Webber leaving for Porsche LMP1 programme next year have started a list of about 5 drivers being lined up for the seat, both Toro Rosso drivers, Ricardo and Vergne, with Ricardo having the “Chosen One” looks gazed toward him. The other 3 are Raikkonen, Alonso and Hulkenberg. Raikkonen has long had an associassion with red Bull from his Sauber days, although he wasn’t allowed personal sponsors at McLaren the Red Bull link surfaced at Ferrari in 2007 till the end 2009 when he was often seen with a Red Bull drinks bottle on the top of his chassis and in his hand when doing the pre race track parade. Kimi also had strong Red Bull sponsorship in WRC in 2010 and 2011, at Lotus he has been seen with their energy drink sponsors drinks holder.

As for Alonso, Im sure his Samurai Warrior inside him is using a little bit of the Art Of War in order to strengthen his place at Ferrari or remind them about something. As for Hulkenberg, Helmut Marko is a fan, however I think he wont be in the seat at Red Bull for 2014. As for who I guess will be in the RB10 for 2014, id guess it will be a Vettel and Riccardo partnership as I feel that Raikkonen wont commit to the PR days, as at Lotus he only has to do a handful per year, and only when suitable to Him. I also feel that Riccardo is a great brand fit, he is something different as a personality as well, he is known for his love of heavy music and attended the 2013 Download Festival to see his friends Parkway Drive play, this is a key market that Red Bull could do a cross over with. He clearly qulaifys well, however does go backward in the race to 2013 form, however when he was at HRT in 2011 he had a knack of going forward.

As for the STR domino that now falls, it will no doubt go to Felix Antonio Da Costa, who proved he was fast in the Silverstone Young Driver test in both the STR and Red Bull. No doubt that STR will try and team him up with Jean-Eric Vergne for 2014 as to provide continuity with the V6T power-trains coming into play for 2014. No doubt STR will try and get Sainz Jr and Kvyat having about 3 or 4 FP1 drives as well. No doubt that Red Bull will keep Buemi as their Reserve driver for both teams.

That line of Dominoes sorted, next up is the Ferrari line, I expect Massa to be booted from the line up in 2014 as Luca Di Montezemolo will want Ferrari to have a strong partnership for 2014, as Massa has been dominated yet again by Alonso, I doubt he can come back in the final half of 2013 as he did in 2012. He is exposed at present. As for replacements, I can only see two, Paul Di Resta and Kimi Raikkonen. Kimi again will feature here, however for the same reasons as Red Bull, he wont commit to the PR days, and no matter what the pay is, he wont do it is my guess. This leaves Di Resta, the best of the rest in the first half of the 2013 season, he should have had up to 20 more points to this stage in the season, and he has shown a more mature image and with a feel for the tyres, he could just be what Ferrari are after, and he does do PR days. Yes Ferrari have a driver in Kobayashai, but his recent crash in Moscow in a F60 i think have just ruled him out of a gamble.

This leaves a hole at Force India, as I think Still will stay at the team, I think its down to two candidates, Jules Bianchi and a GP2 driver in James Calado. One is known to the team, and the other impressed at the Young Driver test at Silverstone. The team has always had a good policy of promoting youth, they promoted Still in 2007 when it was Spyker to a race seat from a Friday seat in 2006, they also did the same with Di Rasta in 2011 after impressing in a FP1 seat in 2010 and the young driver test in 2009 when he was up against American JR Hildebrand. James Calado would get the nod for me, however id give him 4 FP1 drives before the end of the season, Brazil, USA, Japan and Korea for my guesses.

That’s that line of dominoes all down and in place, now to Lotus, its all down to Raikkonen, I think he will take a 1 year offer here, as Ferrari and Red Bull I guess will look else where, as they want their pound of flesh in return for a decent wage to PR contract. This leaves one more domino here, Grosjean. Can he see out the year at Lotus without getting away with murder and keeping the seat for the rest of 2013 and 2014. Its known he is seeing a physiologist, however quick he seems to be, can the Lotus team afford all those lost opportunities in points? That is the question, no doubt that if Grosjean was at the standard of a Rosberg he would have kept the team in P2 in the Constructors Table this year, now that Mercedes have taken this, I cant see Lotus taking this back. Who can replace him? I will suggest Hulkenberg, as I think a Raikonenn and Hulkenberg partnership will compete with the rest of the top 5 teams.

So with McLaren, Red Bull, Mercedes, Ferrari, Lotus, Force India and Toro Rosso all solved, the next seats to be prised will be at Williams, Sauber, Caterham and Marussia.

Williams will, to my guess, stay with Maldanado and Bottas, however with Mercedes AMG power next year, id think they will offer Susie Wolff a handful of FP1 drives, my guess is she will get 6 as a decent guess. However, id like to see Wolff maybes show a little race craft and see if she can be put in a WSR car for a season.

Sauber all depends on finances, if I were Sauber, id try and grab Massa or even Grosjean as a lead driver, with the Russian money that is behind Sergey Sirotkin leading somewhere, who knows. They have massive debts, and rumour has it they could fold any time. This is a mess I just cant fathom. Its a line of dominoes that I just cant seeing fall. This may be the death of a F1 team, the first one proper non manufacturer backed team since Arrows to my stance. Im sure the Lawyers will be getting their money here. My guess is that if Sauber fold, there will be a new FIA tender process for 2 new teams to enter as full time entries. However if I was to have my way, id have 2 single car entries in a F1 Asia/Euro/Americas Series style thing as well. But that’s for another blog entry. But I can see 24 car grids being the absolute optimal in F1. I will have one caveat, Caterham and Marussia may be monitoring this situation as if Sauber do fold, both teams will be in for at least a €35m windfall from FOM prize money, and this will be huge for both teams.

Now for the still named two new teams, Caterham and Marussia.  First Caterham, I think retain Pic, he is showing to me that he is worthy of a seat in F1, however a second season with the same team is the acid test, however Van Der Garde I think is showing signs of improvement, and flashes of brilliance in Monaco in a wet Quali session, I just think that Caterham may be looking to reinstate Kovalinen into a race seat for 2014 as the team now realise a good driver who will be able to feed the team what they need to act on to make the car better, and the fact they lost continuity in feedback to develop the car has harmed them in 2013. The fact that the CT04 will be the first car designed without upheaval of moves to new facilities or excuse X or Y and the Renault/Red Bull rear end will be massive plusses for them. Also lets see if that Leafeald facility has any magic left in it as it was the one that the BGP001 was conceived in with Super Aguri.

Now Marussia, the team that some think shouldn’t be around, I don’t think that way, I think that way. Every sport needs a minnow, a would be giant killer. The team has a Ferrari power-train deal for 2014 and have the McLaren Wellness/Tunnel deal as well. All this stands them in good stead, and id keep the same driver pairing in Bianchi and Chilton, the reason is that they will have allot on their plate with the V6Ts and all else that will go on next year with the aero challenges, and for a team of their budget, they need continuity. Both drivers need a similar test to Pic, a second season in the same team to see how they develop.

McLaren and Mercedes are status quo, Button and Perez will be a stronger pairing next year, id expect Perez to start pushing even more, but McLaren will be more or less developing a car over 2014 for the start of 2015 for Honda will probably happen. And Mercedes will stay as is as Hamilton is contracted for next 3 years and Rosberg next 2, and either would be stupid to jump ship as the 2014 Mercedes could just be the title winning car if they produce a chassis as much an equal to the engine, as they have been working to make both the most lethal combination in F1 since the Ferrari domination years.

Next will be reserve and development drivers, that will be another topic, some of which I have touched on, and the even sillier season with tech directors and designers.

2014 is shaping up.