Renault Leaving F1? – Smoke Screen

If only we could read their minds….

Mark the Tape: This is a smoke screen. A convenient one, but smoke screen none the less.

Renault and Red Bull are at odds. Sure, Renault is behind the power curve with their new power-plants. they were last year in the first year f the new rules package, and they still lag behind today. Both speed and reliability are issues. With Red Bull used to leading the pack, this is a mutually frustrating situation. Compound that with the fact that for the second season, Red Bull is struggling (albeit this time only after one GP), which get more upsetting with each GP they do not win.

A wise man once said that power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Well, Red Bull has was very powerful for 4 or 5 years, winning 4 Double Championships in a row. When powerful people do not get their way – tempers flair, words are said, and now the words are out that Renault is tired of the powerful Red Bull team principles bad-mouthing their product and that they may leave F1 because of it.

Renault is struggling with the new rules, as are most teams. Really, Mercedes is the only team that has put the rules to work in a formula that gets power to the ground, and wins races constantly. It’s true – they are THE dominant team. But they have done it by following the rules set forth by FIA, and just simply out working the other teams and doing it better than anyone. This is not a new thing in F1, it has happened many times before. McLaren, Williams, Ferrari, Mercedes, and even other minor teams have had periods of domination. It’s par for the course. But in this day and age of the 24 hour news cycle and information hitting the wires and social media before the conversations are even over, Renault is also facing a Public Relations nightmare. I think they’d like to nip this in the bud.

Yes, Renault has problems, but so does Team Red Bull. Team Red Bull is for the first time facing minor financial woes. Not

Red Bull Racing team owner Dietrich Mateschitz talks to Technical officer Adrian Newey.
Red Bull Racing team owner Dietrich Mateschitz talks to Technical officer Adrian Newey.

that they cannot fund the team, as they surely can, but financial woes in that they are not as prosperous as they once were. that fact in hand, the owner of Red Bull and lower profit margins from his venture into F1 motorsports (along with the fact that he can’t stand not winning!) is talking about pulling out of F1 all together. It has also been rumored and has put word out that the Red Bull developmental team Torro Rosso might be for sale.

Here’s how I think this will turn out. Renault will leave alright. They are going to leave Red Bull, but not F1. Renault will make an effort to buy the Torro Rosso team, solving the financial issues with Red Bull, and re-creating a Renault Works Team – which is what they really want.

You see, much of the money problems that Red Bull current has are about paying for engines from Renault. Since the engines are not performing, my speculation is that Red Bull is refusing to pay – at least in time. So while the “buy out” of Torro Rosso may not make Red Bull flush with cash, it will absolve the mass portion of its debt to income ratio, allowing them to free up funds for engine purchases elsewhere – maybe Honda?

Fernando’s now famous celebration after winning the 2005 World Driver’s Championship for the Renault works team. Will they do it again?

This might take a couple of years, but Renault sees the opportunity to get back into F1 as a works team and do so very near the top of the ranks. Maybe the can win Alonso back for a few twilight years in his career and relive the victories and championship of the past?


When Prost Speaks, We Should Listen

senna-prostAlain Prost is currently an Ambassador for Renault, the embattled designer of the power-plant for the now hapless and disgruntled Team Infinity Red Bull. In spite of his relationship with Renault, a company located in his native France, he is not backing Red Bull’s Team Principal Chriatian Horner and F1 magnate Bernie Ecclestone in their boisterous calls for action against the power of Mercedes.

Prost was quoted by as having said,

prost-renault“I’m not particularly negative,… things have really evolved, though. We’re (Red Bull) reaching the end of a cycle, in a certain way. It’s true there are issues (with the Renault engines), I think and I hope that will be sorted out pretty quickly, maybe within one race or two. People don’t accept it anymore when someone dominates and do a good job. That’s not F1, that’s competition!”

And he should know. Remember, Prost was part of a McLaren Team that dominated F1 for prostyears. In the now famous record setting 1988 season, Prost and legend Ayrton Senna scored all but one pole position and won all but one race. For several years their only competition was each other. There were also periods where other teams like Ferrari and Williams dominated as well.

As one might expect, Alain Prost is right, and right even as the Ambassador for Renault to speak out. Where was Team Red Bull in the headlines complaining about unfair domination when they won 4 championships in a row? Hmmm….




Sauber Plays the PR Game Badly

vandergarde3I like Sauber. I remember the days as far back as Jean Alesi, then names like Kimi Raikkonen, Felipe Massa and even Sebastian Vettel spent time with the team scrapping it out with the big boys and really making a show of it at times. The team history reads like a who’s who of F1 with a gaggle of recognizable names, sponsors and team partnerships including big boys like BMW, Mercedes, Petronas, Ford and others. It’s fun to cheer on a small, under-funded team. It’s the whole ‘David and Goliath‘ things – we all like to root for the underdog. Except when the underdog gets infected with the rabies.

In this case Sauber is suffering from the rabies of greed, ignorance and stupidity, and a public relations fail that they just keep making worse.

We all know the story. In brief, Sauber signed to many drivers, and all of them pay-to-playsauber1 drivers. They signed 4 drivers as a matter of fact for just two seats in F1 rides for 2015. In the end, Sauber was forced to choose 2 of those 4 for their drivers for 2015,and wouldn’t you know,m they chose the two that paid the most money to drive.

Up to this point, I have no fault against Sauber. When you are struggling financially, as all smaller teams are, you take money where you can get it, with the hopes that these young drivers with money would turn out to have half a much talent as they had cash. While this is a much debated and sometimes maligned practice, let’s face it – sometimes it pays off. While many pay drivers have gone on to have respectable careers, some drivers that got their start by paying to drive turned out to have fantastic careers: Niki Lauda, Michael Schumacher and Fernando Alonso just to name a few. I don;t even have such an issue with Sauber signing 4 drivers really. You sing what you think is a good deal, and a better one comes along. In life, this is a real bummer and you put a great deal of credence into integrity and ‘doing the right thing’. In business however, the weight of philosophical rights or wrongs is lighter, and so decisions are based more on value and less on morality. But, so sign 4 drivers, taking their money, and then not giving that money back after you no longer required their services is just worng. Not just morally, but legally. At least in the minds of both European and Australian Courts.

Here’s where the PR issues come to the front page.

Motor Racing - Formula One World Championship - Brazilian Grand Prix - Preparation Day - Sao Paulo, BrazilWe all got to see this playout at the track this past weekend at Albert Park. Some news of the Sauber/Giedo van der Garde lawsuit was in our faces each day, with updates coming almost hourly. Sauber was ordered that they must permit van der Garde to drive at the race. In the end, as this has been ground out in the media already, the courts ruled in favor of Giedo van der Garde on every account, and rather than force Sauber to allow him to drive, in a last minute agreement, van der Garde acquiesced on the plea to drive, and putting the fans and F1 in general in front of himself, came to a settlement allowing Sauber to race with other drivers. Good on van der Garde. Here’s what he had to say,

“To push on against this determination might have brought down the team, it would most certainly have wrecked the opening Grand Prix in Melbourne because the team´s cars would have been seized by the court, it may have ruined the careers of two young drivers Marcus Ericsson and Felipe Nasr. Possibly the team´s directors would even be taken into custody.”

However, like the adage goes, ‘no good deed goes unpunished’. After all the dust settled in Australia, Giedo van der Garde released a statement on his Facebook page that explains his side of the story. In spite of his obvious passion in the statement, van der Garde was concise and polite.

To the utter surprise of virtually everyone that has any involvement with Formula 1 Racing, Sauber released a counter-statement. To read it boggles the mind. In part, Sauber says:

“We don’t know about Giedo’s intentions. He may try to present himself as a winner, while we had actually hoped to come to rest after our agreement. Giedo decided to take a different approach – the reasoning behind we cannot understand.”

You can’t understand?? He may try to present himself as a winner?? Are you serious? sauber3Sauber – take note: You wronged this man in every way. Every Court that adjudicated this case ruled in his favor. He IS in fact the winner, and you must pay (unspecified) funds to make reparations in this case. That, by definition of law, makes van der Garde the Winner, and Dauber the Loser. And releasing this sad statement, makes you an even BIGGER loser.

The fans responded quickly, and viciously. It did not take long for the feelings of the fans to be known:

“There is a tremendous lack of professionalism from Sauber in this post. They are trying to put the blame on Giedo.”

“An expexted comment; take your responsibility, you did things the wrong way. His accusations are completely justified, he is a passionate driver and he thought he had a chance to race with you, since he had a contract. I’ve lost a lot of respect for Sauber, you can’t treat people like this.”

‘You took his money to keep the team alive,then ditched him for 2 drivers with more money,what did you expect?’

‘Your team stole his money (giedo’s, adrian’s, and simona’s) and then act like you did nothing wrong? Are you kidding me? You screwed over two drivers last year because YOUR management couldn’t find sponsorship money, but you blame it on the drivers when they come back asking for what is rightfully theirs? Unbelievable that your management is this delusional.’

And finally this:

“It’s what happens when you sign four drivers for two cars you greedy dicks!

Sauber – you have much to learn, and we are disappointed in you. We expected better.


Raikkonen Talks about Australian GP.

australian-gp_start-t-886x591While much of the F1 world looked on with hope and anticipation to see how all the teams would stack up against the still supreme Mercedes Team, no group of fans were more concerned than the Tifosi of Ferrari.

While a podium finish by new Ferrari team member Sebastian Vettel was a welcomed performance, Kimi Raikkonen’s day was far less fulfilling. Kimi left the race completing only 40 laps ‘officially’ because of a tire issue. While it was clear that the tire was not fastened tight enough in the previous pit-stop, the car was still having trouble. The Iceman explained:

kimi-2014-test“Shortly after the start, someone hit me from behind. Then I felt another contact on my right side, but I don’t think it was Sebastian’s car. The impact activated the anti-stall system and did some damage to the floor of the car. We were very quick in the race, able to catch the Williams and to fight for the podium: but then there were problems at both pit stops. I don’t know exactly what happened, but I know I lost something in terms of downforce. However, my team-mate’s podium is a great result for the team. Already in qualifying, despite my mistake on the quick lap, we knew we had a good car. And in the race, the gap to the Mercedes seemed less than on Saturday. It’s simply that, today, everything happened to me.”



Bernie to Manor: Sorry, Pay Anyway!

manor2Sky Sorts among other sources is reporting that Bernie Ecclestone is demanding that Dauber pay their freight costs both to and from the Australian Grand Prix for failing to participate.

In a sports league reeling from out of control spending requirements to stay competitive, and losing teams to bankruptcy, Bernie refused to lend a helping hand to struggling Manor/Maurussia. In a gallant effort, supported in part by the cash donations of their own fan base, Manor showed up at the Australian GP, but falling short in readiness and cash-flow, were unable to participate in the week’s events. Rather than pay for the shipping costs as is customary for F1/FIA in order to put on their events that earn billions each year, F1 King Bernie Ecclestone has ruled that Manor will have to pay the expenses for their travel – both to and from Australia.

manor3This unsurprisingly unsportsmanlike move by Ecclestone will likely sideline Manor for the next two events.

F1 fans are not surprised, but deserve better from the sport’s leadership. With fans becoming disenchanted, viewership waning, and popularity suffering, this is not a good move for F1 to have made. Sadly, Bernie only sees dollar signs.


Red Bull Disappoints with Threats to Quit F1

bernie-to-mercedesOK, I wasn’t going to say anything because I thought it was just sour grapes. But the news of F1’s team Infinity Red Bull Team threat to quit Formula 1 racing unless there are some rules changes is trending hard in the motorsports world, and is gaining traction.

Before the 2014 Season, team Red Bull was coming into the new rule era defending a 4 year run as Constructors Champion, and with team’s #1 driver, German Sebastian Vettel as a 4-time point Champion driver. But it was clear from day one that Red Bull lagged behind most of the field in being ready to compete at all, let alone defend it’s title. So after struggling all 2014, and finishing with the fewest points since 2009, one can understand Red Bull’s frustration.

That said, the 2014 season started with virtually all the teams critical of the new FIA rules as they pertained to F1. New power-plants meant new chassis design, new aero design – essentially an all new car. Among the teams grousing were Mercedes, who’s team went on to win all but one race that season. However, as the teams began to work out the bugs on their new cars and power-plants, everyone began to get better, and the complaining slowed down as the inevitable was now at hand. Everyone except Red Bull that is. The complaining has continued, ans with 1 retirement  already this year, before the race even started, apparently their embarrassment is too much to bear.

Motor Racing - Formula One World Championship - Brazilian Grand Prix - Qualifying Day - Sao Paulo, Brazil

Red Bull has had enough. Team principal Christian Horner, to Team Owner Dietrich Mateschitz, have expressed that unless the rules in F1 change to go back to a more conventional power-plant and and aero package, that Red Bull will pull out of F1 racing. NOW – even F1 sweetheart and Reigning King of All Things Bernie Ecclestone has joined in this chant, saying about the Red Bull detractors,

They are absolutely 100 percent right,” Ecclestone told Reuters about the need to equalise performance.

Wow. The reveals much. We all know that F1 is half politics. This came to the forefront of the news media when Ayrton Senna said that he knew that Alain Prost used politics to manipulate FIA President Balestre to his favor in arguments against Senna. We also know that F1 is 100% about money – just ask Bernie. When politics and money cross paths, strange things can happen. Red Bull has a lot of money, and they also now have Ecclestone’s ear.

Here’s what this reveals to me:

  • Red Bull are some sore losers. If they cannot win, they’ll quit.
  • Red Bull is spoiled and privileged. If the game cannot be played on their terms, they’ll quit.
  • Red Bull never argued this point about unfair competition when THEY were 20-40 seconds ahead of the next best cars for the 4 years running.
  • Red Bull’s Engineers are not as good as they thought. They could not adapt to the rules changes even after 2 years of trying. If they cannot compete, they’ll just quit.
  • Money can’t buy you everything. they paid more money out than any other team for years, and even after spending all that money, still can;t do as good a job as Mercedes.  so, they’ll just quit.
  • Cheating pays off. Red Bull was sanctioned several times for rules violations in their years of championships. since they cannot figure out how to use their illegal engine mapping system with the new hybrid engines, they’ll just quit.

Poor old Red Bull. Just a bunch of whining quitters.

We’ll see how this plays out, but what a black-eye this fantastic team has become.



Haas to Base F1 Team in US; J.P. Montoya says, “he’s crazy”


All things considered, basing a Formula 1 team anywhere in the United States will certainly have its disadvantages. Looking at the eleven current F1 teams, all but three teams are based in England, and two of those are owned by Ferrari. The lone exception is Sauber, based in Hinwil, Switzerland, and are for all intents and purposes, a development team themselves with only one win and one pole position since the teams inception in 1993. combining the remaining  eight teams, one tactical nuke strike over Silverstone, UK would take them all out.

Proximity to one another has its advantages as teams develop technology, try new chassis designs, write new engine mapping programming and perform wind tunnel testing. Some  facilities and spaces are shared, not to mention the access to several world class, proven Formula 1 racing venues, all just a short drive away. However, that is not the only thing that makes these teams competitive. Contiguousness, while having some advantages, can also make for strange bedfellows, and as we have seen, create an atmosphere of nepotistic narcissism, where  egos and attitudes swap teams like chameleons changing colors.

I am so excited that Haas is getting into F1. I am so excited to have an American team

Penske F1 -circa 1977
Penske F1 -circa 1977

again. It’s been a long time.  1976 and 1977 saw the last two fully America owned F1 teams exit the sport. Parnelli and Penske (respectively) closed up shot and walked away from world’s premier auto-racing league. It’s been 36 years since Mario Andretti  won the F1 Driver’s Championship, the last American born driver to do so. The only other American who can make such a claim is Phill Hill, and that was back in 1961 – over half a century ago. Incredibly, there has never been an American Team with an American driver combo that has EVER won an F1 title. Ever. It’s high time we make that happen. It’s good for America, it’s good for F1, and it is good for F1 fans all over the world  – adding to that world-wide competitive spirit and patriotism that every nation wants to brag about.

There’s a reason that this blog is titled  American Tifosi.

Let’s face it, Hass has an uphill battle. So uphill that Juan Pablo Montoya calls Hass “crazy”.

“If he wants to set up a team here in the United States, I think that’s crazy,”

Juan Pablo Montoya with Williams F1 in 2002

But consider the source. Juan Pablo is a motor-racing journeyman who has had seats in American open-wheel cars (both Indy and CART Series), F1 series cars, and now drives in the US NASCAR Series, going fast, turning left, and typically finishing in unimpressive positions on the grid. After-all, there is a reason the word “former” appears before his name when talking about driving in F1.

American racing enthusiasts are ripe for the picking. The Indy car series is growing rapidly in popularity, compared to the years in languished after the CART/Indy split and having little to no TV revenue or exposure. The single F1 event in the US held these last two years in Austin, TX draws sell-out crowds and brings people in from all over the US – and the world!  I say kudos to Hass, and look forward to cheering for a US team, even if they do languish behind a bit – which I don’t think they will.

With the new rules for 2014, now is the perfect time for Haas to get involved. With the experience Haas has in U.S. open wheel racing, and great success when teamed with Paul Newman of the Newman/Haas days, Gene Haas is probably the most prepared motor-racing man in America to take on this task.  His pockets are in fact deep, his experience rich, he is mechanically talented and has an American drive to perform that comes from good old-fashioned American Ingenuity.

I will not venture into the realm of arrogant stupidity and say that Haas will be up to speed with the regular podium finishing teams by 2015, but I can hope. I’d like to se America back in F1, F1 would like tthe American fan base to grow, and I’d like to see Juan Pablo eat a big fat plate of crow.



FIA Abandons Spending Cap for F1

OPED: F1 Today North American Editor Tom Spithaler

fiaflagThis is an intricate topic. I like the idea of spending cap to allow the smaller teams to be more competitive. That’s the utopian in me coming out. F1 has advanced so much technologically over the last 40 years that back in the 60’s and 70’s. Back in the day, most organizations that has the gusto to get involved in Formula One racing could do so, if they had reasonable backing. Guys that had an idea they wanted to test could sign-up, buy a chassis one place, a motor at another, add their new fad improvement and test it on the track all season against other teams doing the same thing. Granted, there were the obligatory ‘works’ teams from Mercedes, Ferrari, Lotus and the likes, but they were frequently beat by the Tyrell’s, Brabhams, and BRM’s of the world, doing it all out of pocket (before the big sponsorship deals came along) with blood, sweat and tears invested more than anything. Sure, sometimes their ideas were bad and teams went bust. But if you wanted to get involved, you could, and many did. And let’s be honest – it made for some GREAT racing.


On the other hand, a spending cap limits technological development, and the teams that do have the means to bring about rock-solid technology like reliable semi-auto transmissions, power steering, traction control, active suspension and more (yes, many have been outlawed along the way), couldn’t do so. I like that F1 brings to the table the best motor racing engineers in the world, and that it becomes a put-up or shut-up proposition. After all, bragging rights are only good when you are the one bragging, right?

Answer; I’m torn. I’m not sure which way to go with this. My suspicion s that FIA feels the same way, and because they have not been able to come up with an equitable method to control spending, they’d rather do nothing, than do something and get iot wrong. Why? Because there’s too much money at stake, and the public is already second guessing the rules changes that have been implemented for this season. Under scrutiny for engines that sound like wind up tops, why take a shot at changing more rules now?

Here’s what I’ve settled on as to why teams cannot afford to do what they did back in the 60’s and 70’s and join in the fun with F1. In the “golden years” technology was affordable. Now it is not.

Technology back then was building a batter, strong, springier part. It was changing the design on the intake or exhaust manifold to develop more horse-power. It was designing better brakes, that cooled faster. It was going with the tire company that offered the compound that best suited your card. It was locating your spoiler sin different, sometimes God-awful places to try and get cleaner air over your car for downforce. Now it is spending a million dollars to pay some software developer that has no interest in auto racing, and has never heard an F1 car roar down the straightway to write a program that better controls fuel flow. It’s about $10 million on wind-tunnel testing. It’s about discovering new materials that can take more heat, developing lighter materials that are equally strong at half the mass. All of which cost developing teams tens if not hundreds of millions of dollars.

If F1 were 50 years ago what it is today, you’d have never seem Jackie Stewart going airborne over the crest of the hills of Nurbergring. We’d have never seen the likes of so much of what is now precious F2 history. We saw that because people who loved the sport at heart, could get involved. i miss that in so much of the sports world now.

My heart of hearts wants to see a spending cap. Everyone wants the underdog to win, but in today’s F1, the underdog can’t even get on the track until he pays his $15 million fee to FIA to get a license to compete. We cry for Chaterham and Sauber and Maurussia. Next year we might see a US team return to F1, a team that has a great history in open wheel racing in Haas (of the Newman/Haas teams), but Bernie seem hell-bent on trying to price them out of the arena, publicly belittling them in front of the world motorsport community in the way only Bernie can.

While the debate will go on about a spending cap – and rightfully so, one improvement that bernieandprinceFIA and F1 can make right away, and that most of us can agree on, is the sacking of Bernie Ecclestone.




FOTA Re-Birth?

claire_williams1Formula 1’s Strategy Group can fill the void left by the Formula One Teams’ Association (FOTA), according to Williams’ deputy team principal Claire Williams.

FOTA, created in in 2008 with the goal of giving F1 teams a united voice when dealing with commercial rights holders and the FIA, was disbanded at the end of last month.

Its strength was significantly undermined in 2011 when Ferrari, Red Bull and Sauber decide to leave.

Williams suggested FOTA had not managed to adapt to F1’s new demands, and feels the Strategy Group will be a good replacement for the teams’ body.

“I think FOTA when it initially came out had a very different [mandate], it was initially established for particular reasons but F1 has changed, the landscape has changed in the sport,” Williams said.

“It is a shame and we always need a platform for teams to come together and discuss issues whatever they may be in order to find a common ground and solution.”

claire williams2
Claire Williams

“It being dissolved is a shame but it changed and teams came out of it, which is a shame, as you need in a sport all the teams talking together in one group. If you don’t have that, is the body still relevant?

“But we have the Strategy Group now, which is comprised of the five teams and the FIA and FOM, and it is doing a good job. It is very conscious in the work it is doing to try to improve the sport now but also to protect it in the future.”

The Strategy Group was created during the 2013 season and it’s made up of 18 representatives from the FIA and FOM, plus Ferrari, Red Bull, Mercedes, McLaren and Lotus.


Vettel could exit amid Red Bull crisis – Marko

Vettel could exit amid Red Bull crisis - Marko

Could this be the end for Vettel at Red Bull? Such is the talk in the paddock as we head to Australia for the first round of the 2014 F1 Championship. reports:

Red Bull needs to up its game or risk losing Sebastian Vettel.

That is the admission of the team’s always-blunt Dr Helmut Marko, as quadruple reigning world champion Vettel prepares to either retire or finish outside the points as the 2014 season kicks off this weekend in Melbourne.

Marko admitted to Germany’s Bild newspaper: “If our disastrous state does not change soon, I could not blame him for thinking about a change.”

Vettel, 26, sat down with his mechanics in Melbourne on Tuesday for his traditional pre-season dinner, where he named his uncompetitive RB10 car an unspectacular ‘Suzie’.

Marko told Sport Bild magazine: “After the test in Bahrain, we would be happy if we finish in the points in Australia.

“We know that we have a good car,” he added, “but we’ll only know if the engine is good if we get it to work properly.

“The decisive factor is the new software that our engineers wrote for Renault.”

The undoubted favourite for the Albert Park opener is Mercedes, and F1 chief executive Bernie Ecclestone on Tuesday tipped Lewis Hamilton to win the title.

But 1996 world champion Damon Hill told the Daily Mail: “I would warn Lewis not to underestimate Nico (Rosberg).”

Read more here:
Vettel could exit amid Red Bull crisis – Marko.