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F1: 'Embarrassing' Start To Series' Brave New Era Photo:
 
 
TMR Team | Jan, 30 2014 | 2 Comments

Roger Benoit, one of the longest serving F1 correspondents in the paddock, said Tuesday's events at Jerez were "embarrassing".

"I have not experienced a start to a new test season such as that in 45 years in formula one," Benoit, who writes for the Swiss newspaper Blick, told Germany's Bild-Zeitung.

As the new hybrid and V6-powered single seaters - featuring bizarre and often rude-looking nose appendages - broke down, hit the barriers or failed even to emerge from the garages, Benoit said F1 had "pulled its pants down in front of the whole world".

"Why do we always make everything more complicated?" he lamented.

Marc Surer, the expert pundit for German television Sky, agreed: "I had not imagined it would be quite this bad."

Where usually up to 100 laps per day and beyond is de rigueur in F1's era of tightly limited testing, Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen was Tuesday's most prolific runner, with 31 laps in the bag.

And his best lap was 10 seconds off the pace of a normal Jerez test, even though he insisted that "doesn't mean anything".

"We are only learning a new car and driving as much as we can," said Raikkonen.

The bulk of the rest of the field could count their tallies on the fingers of one hand, including the bizarrely double-nosed new Caterham, whose Marcus Ericsson managed only a single outlap in the entire test day.

"If it's slow but beautiful then what's the point of that?" rookie Ericsson said.

At the moment, however, 'ugly' and stationary is the only conclusion to draw from F1 2014. McLaren's MP4-29 didn't leave the garage even once.

Jean-Eric Vergne, in the unseemly new Toro Rosso, managed 15 laps and was happy, "because just getting the car on track was an achievement".

World champion Sebastian Vettel was stranded in the pits nearly all day after mechanics installed one of the new Red Bull's components upside down.

The German did not point a finger at his crew, however, telling Welt newspaper that this year's cars are "like a puzzle" to put together.

"Before, F1 cars were not so close to rocket science like they are now," he is quoted by F1's official website.

Toro Rosso chief Franz Tost said: "When we ran the car at Misano, it became clear how difficult it was to get all the systems interacting with each other."

Red Bull team boss Christian Horner said at Jerez: "There's probably 40 per cent more drawings required to produce the car and therefore that many more parts to be made and tested.

"I don't know how the little teams are coping," he told the BBC.

It is obvious to say that, given the team's former dominance, Red Bull would have preferred the regulations stay the same in 2014.

"It is clear that F1 must evolve and be relevant to the automotive industry," Horner is quoted by Brazil's Totalrace, "but we do need to question the timing of this change.

"There are several cars here without many (sponsorship) stickers."

The boss of one of those smaller teams, Toro Rosso's Tost, admitted that the necessary annual budget had increased by 25 per cent over the winter.

"And that money is only to build a car and perform at about the same level as last year. In short, the situation is difficult," the Austrian told Russia's f1news.ru.

He predicted, however, that the farcical sight of constantly-waving red flags would eventually end.

"I think in Melbourne it will not happen," said Tost. "I think already here, on Thursday and Friday, we will be hearing the fantastic music of the new turbo engines.

"This is only the first test day in January -- there is plenty of time until Melbourne."

Some, however, are not impressed with the milder V6 tones, Nico Hulkenberg admitting Tuesday's proceedings reminded him of a DTM touring car test.

Mercedes' Toto Wolff, however, said early testing is not a good judge, as the engines are not running at full tilt.

French driver Vergne agreed: "I would say that we were trying everything in a 'safe mode'."

Finally, as Tuesday's most prolific runner, the spotlight fell on the taciturn Raikkonen to deliver the verdict on how 2014 feels from the cockpit.

"It's definitely different," he said, "but it's not like night and day."

And what does he think of F1's brave new era?

"The rules are what they are," Raikkonen told the Finnish broadcaster MTV3, "and the cars are built to whatever the rules are. It makes no sense to complain now."

 

FIA's Whiting says 'clever' Lotus nose is 'legal'

(GMM) Lotus' innovative double-pronged nose solution for 2014 has been declared legal by the FIA's Charlie Whiting.

The solution is even clearly assymetrical, apparently only to slip through a loophole in the rules, but whether the 'spirit' of the regulations has been adhered to is less clear.

However, the FIA's technical chief and race director Whiting, who unlike Lotus is present at the Jerez test, said the E22 is "legal".

"The structure has withstood the crash tests and the concept adheres to the letter of the law," the Briton is quoted by France's Auto Hebdo.

"The approach is - without a doubt - different, but it is legitimate," Whiting declared.

"They presented the concept in the summer, and we did not find anything wrong with it. On the contrary, it is a very clever interpretation of the rules," he added.

The varying nose solutions up and down pitlane have attracted many column inches since the launch season began, but Ferrari's James Allison said the design of the very tip of the car is not so crucial.

"There are many concepts that work, and ours is one of them," he said, referring to Ferrari's more conservative solution that has been likened to a 'vacuum cleaner'.

 

McLaren 'wing' suspension raises eyebrows at Jerez

(GMM) Unseemly nose solutions are attracting all of the obvious attention early in 2014.

But, behind the scenes, engineers are far more interested in what is lurking at the rear of McLaren's innovative new MP4-29.

Germany's Auto Motor und Sport calls it an "ingenious trick", explaining that designers for the great British team have used the rear suspension to mimic the now-banned wing profiles beneath the main wing.

"It will be interesting to see if Charlie Whiting is responsive," the report said.

"If he does not object, the competition will have to catch up quickly."

A report on F1's official website said the McLaren solution "is considered legal by the FIA", but rival teams are likely to protest loudly.

That is because of how difficult a complete re-design of entire rear suspension layouts would prove.

It seems the likes of James Allison and Adrian Newey, perhaps the most respected technical brains in F1, were caught by surprise.

"All I've seen are some blurry pictures," Ferrari's Allison said, "but I would like to know more about it because it does interest me."

Red Bull's Newey seemed to doubt the legality of McLaren's solution.

"I have not seen the photos," he said, "but as it is described, it sounds as though there are eight suspension elements, where only six are allowed.

"Moreover, there are clear rules for the width of the suspension."

Auto Motor und Sport said the FIA gave the McLaren "the green light" last summer.

Suspension aside, Jenson Button sounded confident the Woking based team is set for a much better season, after the podium-less calamity of 2013.

"The basic car itself is where we want it to be," said the 2009 world champion.

Button is less happy with his own condition, having sat out the last three weeks of his usually intense physical training with a knee infection.

"I'm not as light as I will be at the first race, but I'm definitely going to lose another kilo by race one," he said.

Button was also upbeat about F1's new era, saying the torque of the V6 engine made it feel almost as powerful as the awesome V10s of last decade.

"I imagine that by the end of the year, we will not be much slower than at the end of 2013. Maybe two seconds," he said.

Unlike the troubled Renault-powered teams including Red Bull, Ferrari is also enjoying a solid start to 2014, with Allison saying there is "no killer in the car!"

"It is important that we have made no fundamental errors," the Briton told Auto Motor und Sport. "At the moment we can do what we want to be doing."

Mercedes-powered Force India's Sergio Perez is slightly less impressed with his start to the season, saying the V6 engine is "difficult to drive".

"The cars have so little grip that it's almost a little scary," said the Mexican, "but everyone here is having problems.

"I assume it will be quite different in Bahrain," he added.

 

Red Bull supplier Renault admits early 2014 'problem'

(GMM) Renault, engine supplier to reigning world champions Red Bull, has admitted it has kicked off F1's radical new V6 era with a significant problem.

"Obviously we do (have a problem)," the French marque's Remi Taffin told reporters at Jerez on Wednesday.

World champion Sebastian Vettel had left the southern Spanish circuit with only a handful of laps under his belt with the title-defending RB10, while key Mercedes and Ferrari-powered rivals collected far more mileage.

"Annoying!" Red Bull's Dr Helmut Marko told Bild newspaper.

"The problem is in the communication between the two KERS systems," he explained. "So, like in a computer if the hardware and software are not working with each other."

Also struggling are Renault's other F1 customers, including Toro Rosso, the Red Bull sister team whose new STR9 failed even to emerge from the pits on Wednesday.

Caterham is the other affected Renault team.

"The (Renault) cars sound like rattling lawn mowers," said veteran F1 correspondent Roger Benoit, in Blick newspaper. "Renault was even thinking about not coming here."

Taffin, however, is confident the problem can be fixed.

"We've got the parts, we have the people, we have the means to solve the problem," he insisted. "We are confident that tomorrow (Thursday) morning at 9am, our customers will take to the track.

"This is high technology, which is why we have to be cautious. But I am happy with the solution we have found," added Taffin.

Crucial track time already lost, however, Red Bull is now having to look ahead to the second test in Bahrain.

Team boss Christian Horner played down the impact.

"Our expectations coming into this test are purely system checks -- the proper testing will be in Bahrain," he is quoted by F1's official website.

Horner denied that Red Bull is already pushing for the Jerez test to be extended into Saturday, but there are also rumours Renault is paving the road for a delay of the FIA's 'power unit' homologation deadline.

"We will be relying extremely heavily on our engine partner," admitted Horner.

 

Higher top speeds expected in 2014

(GMM) The engines may be smaller and quieter, but formula one cars will actually be faster in a straight line in 2014.

That is the expectation of Force India's technical boss Andy Green, when contemplating the mammoth rule changes over the winter.

Not only the engine rules have changed, but the FIA has also dramatically reduced the amount of downforce.

But although downforce levels were similarly attacked in 1998 and again in 2009, Green said that the huge changes for 2013 are "crucially different".

"The downforce loss is in the same region and is quite significant," he told Germany's Auto Motor und Sport.

"But this time the drag has also been dramatically reduced, where in the past the drag stayed the same while downforce was going down."

Asked if that means top speeds will be higher in 2014, Green agreed: "Yes. I expect the cars to be about 15kph faster."

 
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