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F1all Guy

Tomorrow, in Paris, the FIA’s International Tribunal (IT) will meet to deliberate the case of  Mercedes & the secret tyre test, where the German motorsport giants and the sole current Formula One tyre supplier will face whatever punishment the elected members of the panel choose to dish out.

The IT was created by the FIA in 2010 to deal with matters which fall outside the race steward’s area of expertise, which includes the events following the Spanish Grand Prix earlier this season.

Everyone is talking about what will happen to Mercedes, and to Pirelli. It’s all about punishments and repercussions but nobody seems to have noticed just how much unrest present within the German team right now might be responsible for the whole sorry saga. There have been so many comings and goings from the Silver Arrows outfit, it may have been prudent to fix revolving doors to the front of their factory, the short cut garden leave of Paddy Lowe is an excellent example of how Mercedes have been shifting their staffing around all season.

I’m not going to beat about the bush. Mercedes blatantly want Brawn out, but realistically they can’t push him out like they did with Vice President of Motorsport; Norbert Haug.

Ross Brawn is an incredibly well respected man within the pitlane and beyond. He is a legend of design, who is somewhat eclipsed in recent years by the dominance of Adrian Newey and his well funded Red Bull, but the fact remains that, alongside Schumacher, Ross Brawn was responsible for six consecutive titles and the rebuilding of a Ferrari team which many thought was well past it’s best. This is before we even begin to talk about the manner in which he pulled the smouldering remains of Honda out of the ashes and turned it into a championship winning phoenix with Jenson Button at the helm.

The concern begins in February when speculation about Ross’s future begins to build momentum, causing Toto Wolff (Norbert Haug’s successor) to publicly back the Englishman;

“On the pit wall everything will remain the same,”

Mercedes’ 2012 season was a massive step forwards. Nico had won his first race, which was by no means a fluke, in China and the exit of Michael Schumacher at the season close with Lewis Hamilton filling his empty cockpit, could only bode well for the team in terms of moving towards ‘top four’ status aspirations.

Why would Ross’s position within the team be under threat if under his control the team was now winning?

It all has to do with Daimler, who as the parent company to Mercedes have stated that they only wish to remain backers of the team whilst it remains competitive. No pressure then.. The slump in performance at the end of 2012 was the spark which ignited into a major restructure within the team at Dalmer’s request during the 2012-13 off-season months. As team principle, they presumably saw him as a major cause of the problem and by bringing in Wolff, not to mention Niki Lauda’s increased presence, it suggested a shift in the management structure was imminent at garage level.  There appears to be no respect for technical pedigree for this servant to the sport and much as I dislike Schumacher the Ross’s achievements are unavoidable. What he did with the Ferrari at the tail end of the 90’s was nothing short of a miracle. He doesn’t fit the team, so they want him out, presumably replacing him with Wolff, who says he doesn’t want the job, but who actually believes him?

But Brawn stayed put and the rumours died down, but now with the allegations of underhand tactics by Mercedes for using the 2013 cars to test Pirelli tyres at Barcelona have erupted it has been surprising to see Ross standing up to be charged with sole responsibility for what happened.

“It was my decision to do the test, that’s a fact. Let’s see what occurs at the tribunal and go from there.”

The words ‘sacrificial’ and ‘lamb’ have been banded about a little too freely for this blog author’s liking in regards to this subject. The IT was not born yesterday, it is impossible for them to even consider that the blame for the rule breaking falls squarely on the team principle’s shoulders. There are many, many, factors which I believe prove otherwise; for example, Pirelli Motorsport are just as educated in the rules and regulations as every team currently taking part in Formula One. If Ross Brawn agreed the test, then he did it with Pirelli in the full knowledge that they were breaking the rule too, but what is the rule?

“Article 22.1 states: “Track testing shall be considered any track running time not part of an Event undertaken by a competitor entered in the Championship, using cars which conform substantially with the current Formula One Technical Regulations in addition to those from the previous or subsequent year.”

Put into simple language, you can’t test tyres on a car being used during that season. There is also written specification later in the text that stipulates that the period of time that this testing is not permitted is between ten days prior to the first race of the season and December 31st. So no testing in the 2013 cars. That’s pretty clear, yes?

So regardless of Brawn permitting the test to take place, Pirelli knew the cars being fitted with the rubber were 2013 spec, which the IT must raise against Paul Hembery during cross examination tomorrow in Paris.

Also, Ross Brawn is not the top of the Mercedes totem pole, far from it in fact. Much as Ron Dennis would have reservations about the actions of Martin Whitmarsh, it is not plausible to think that Wolff would simply allow this breach of regulations to happen without having something to say about it.

Finally, the last man to be implicated in the saga, Charlie Whitting. In Monaco it was speculated that the Race Director and FIA Safety Delegate knew about the test and had given it his blessing to take place. It could be argued that in terms of his responsibility to protect drivers from potential injury he would be in favour of the test going ahead, given the number of tyre failures which had taken place in previous races. However, Charlie, as an FIA employee, should be more aware of the rules and regulations than anybody.

Taking this all into account it is ridiculous to accuse Ross Brawn of sole responsibility, he simply could not have authorised that test, breaking that many rules, directly under the noses of the sport’s governing body.

He isn’t that stupid, so could it be that this whole situation has been constructed by a devious team looking for a way to remove an incumbent which, if they were to go through normal methods to relieve themselves of, would cause international outcry from within the sport and fans alike.

I have a horrible feeling that’s exactly what is happening and am pretty certain it’s going to take a miracle to keep Ross Brawn’s backside on that pit-wall in 2014.

 

 

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Schumi the way to go home.

It’s been a difficult seventeen years onboard the Michael Schumacher rollercoaster. From deviously  evil genius, to laid back mellowed out grandfather of the grid, he’s been one of the constants in my Formula One lifetime and, in a turnabout to my previous opinions, I’m going to be sorry to see him go.

My formula one watching career is only surpassed by Michael’s driving, I joined the television circus in the summer of 1995, I was fourteen.

My first memories of Michael are of arrogance, aggressive self belief to the point of narcissism. He was hard faced, he didn’t care about anyone except himself, both on the track and off it. He strutted about the paddock, exuding importance (unsurprising given that this was his second Championship clinching year) and I hated him.

Michael Schumacher celebrating with team principle Flavio Briatore
– Daily Telegraph

He became as sinister to me as childhood baddies, the man who would crash into his competitors to end a race on his terms. That meant he didn’t know if he could win surely? Was he as self assured as his gait suggested? I watched Damon Hill’s title year from the relative safety of behind a pillow, but that year he was safe, the Ferrari F310 was abismol, and the only real challenge came from Indy Car transfer student Jacques Villeneuve, who’s hopes ended on three wheels in the Suzuka gravel. Schumacher finished a lowly, yet thoroughly respectable (given the equipment) third.

Just as you thought it was safe to head out onto the racetrack however, he was at it again! The 1997 season saw Michael get back to his old tricks once more; as he battled Jacques Villeneuve for the title. This year was a little different to 1994, it was not Adelaide and the points weren’t stacked in his favour. With the eyes of the world watching him, he took a swipe at the Williams of Villeneuve around Estoril’s ‘Dry Sack’ corner. From behind my cushion (for the second year running) I slammed my eyes shut and waited for Murray to confirm my fears; that Jacques was out of the race. The opposite occurred, and karma seemed to have finally come back to haunt Michael, his wheel’s spinning uselessly against the gravel. He was beached, and deservedly so.

Over the years, Michael has won and won, over and over again, I was sick of him. Of course I know that if I had been a logical fan without the furious passion that thought he was a cheating scumbag things would have been completely different. He is a great of the sport, the Championships speak for themselves, and what he did with the late nineties, early noughties Ferraris was a feat only a few men could have performed. Think about this season, everyone’s praising Alonso for the way he handles his car, the 1997 F310 was a pig on wheels!

Cue the U-turn.

The Michael Schumacher of 2012 is modest, chilled out and ready to apologise when he makes a mistake. Since his return there hasn’t been one sniff of a win on the horizon, eeking out one podium in Valencia – despite me wishing it in 2011 at Canada.

The last two Grands Prix I have been to have filled me with a weird sensation when he’s driven past. I found myself feeling particularly honoured to be sitting beside the track while he drove past. I suddenly seem to appreciate him more, because to me he’s proved that there was a human being underneath all the controversy.

A calmer, happier, mellow Michael these days

Thanks Michael, it’s been an experience.


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Boo. Hiss. The F1 villain returns..

It’s been a while hasn’t it, since we had a true bad guy in Formula One? Of course recently we’ve had the the frustration of Maldonado and his every increasing tally of penalties, or Grosjean and his first lap drama in Spa. Incidents like this tend to unite the community, rather than divide it.

Enter Lewis Hamilton. Since the tender age of fourteen the McLaren wonder boy, hand raised by Ron Dennis into a world of fast cars, flashing bulbs and big deals. Since the departure of Heikki Kovalainen, and his replacement by 2009 World Champion; Jenson Button, the Woking outfit became a team all Brits could have faith in. On paper it was an incredible coup, two recent World Champions, a reliable car with a competent, world class team behind it? What could go wrong?

It has been four years since Lewis’s last lap charge around ‘that’ corner at Interlagos, while the Massa family jumped for joy in the Ferrari garage. What has he achieved? Jenson Button and Sebastian Vettel have taken the sport to it’s current point and Lewis appears to have achieved little to nothing to emulate his past successes.

It was without surprise then, when I was rudely woken by a noisy fiance at 6.00am, that I read the initial tweets about Lewis jumping ship to the ‘real’ Silver Arrows. So began the shocked comments, voiced dismay and eventual altercations in the aftermath of his 10.30am announcement.

- Getty Images

The problem with the Formula One fan community, is it thinks that they can make a difference. Sadly they’re wrong. This isn’t the Camp Nou, you can’t join the McLaren fan club with any hope of making the decisions. This sport is run by money and success, and the unhealthy, unpredictable relationship they share. Lewis Hamilton will not stay at McLaren just because a grandstand full of red cap wearing members of the public stamp their feet and pout. He is in this business for the wins and the pay cheque. At McLaren the winner’s champagne has gone flat, and the trophy’s – however many he can scrape out of the 2012 season, – will mean nothing if that ever elusive World Driver Championship win doesn’t come his way.

So what’s in it for him? Why not stay where he is? The money is the same, we all heard Martin Whitmarsh speak about an offer which matched Mercedes challenge. The car is good, both drivers are winning.. wait. Both drivers are winning? Ohhh.. yes, there’s a problem. Nothing like a competitive team mate to keep one of a driver’s eyes on his back. Fernando Alonso doesn’t have that problem, and look at how he’s slicing up the points. As McLaren have already proved with the nightmare pairing of Prost and Senna, two number ones isn’t really that great for business. Felipe Massa may well lose his saddle on that prancing horse, but you can damn well expect the next guy to be just as meek and helpful. Fernando will always be faster than you.

- David Ramos/AP via The Guardian

So Lewis will bounce Herr Schumacher out of Mercedes. It’s not a bad thing, the old boy’s seen better race days, and I’m sure he’d agree it’s time to drive an armchair. He can’t hurt anyone with one of those. Rosberg will make a much more suitable side-kick for Lewis, he know’s what it’s like to win, but unlike other first time winner Pastor Maldonado, hasn’t tarnished his reputation with a series of unprofessional faux pas. Nico has his head back down, working hard for his team. Lewis has worked with him before in GP2, and was practically overcome with happiness to see the German win. They’re friends already, but how long will that last?

Which brings me to the fans. I myself? I don’t give two hoots where he goes, along as he works hard and achieves. I am his fan as long as he ‘goes for the gap‘, as Ayrton Senna would say, and when he no longer tries, I will forget him as easily as I did Jacques Villeneuve. The fans seem to think otherwise, there is real-life anger and resentment at this choice. They believe him to have betrayed them, their team and their country! He’s signed for the Germans, my goodness, get the tins hats out, it’s bloody World War III! When the dust settles, and they realise that with Sergio Perez in a race winning car their Sundays are even more exciting, they won’t even remember this week.