Posts filed under Formula 1

Here Come The 2015 Cars - Updated

With the first Winter Test of the 2015 season just 7 days away it's time for our first peek at this year's contenders.

  • Williams was first out of the gate with their car revealed on January 21st.
  • Force India has revealed their 2015 livery - but not their car design.  Also on the 21st, the team will miss next week's test in Jerez.  It's expected that their 2015 challenger will be revealed at test 2 in Barcelona on February  19th.
  • Shortly after this was first posted - Lotus released images of their 2015 competitor.

Here's the rest of the reveal schedule:

  • McLaren's FP4-30 - January 29
  • Ferrari's SF15-T - January 30
  • Toro Rosso STR-10 - January 31
  • Mercedes F1 W06 - February 1
  • Sauber C34 - TBA
  • Red Bull RB11 - TBA

This year's pre-season test schedule:

  • February 1 - 4; Jerez, Spain
  • February 19-22; Barcelona, Spain

February 26 - March 1; Barcelona, Spain

Posted on January 26, 2015 and filed under Formula 1.

Another Fine Mess You Have Gotten Us Into

This week Formula 1 finds itself once again embroiled in a controversy that it doesn't need to, a controversy that could have a pretty significant impact on the sport, but is so complex that most folks have a hard time understanding just what's going on.

In a nutshell - the rules state that teams aren't allowed to develop and improve their engines during the racing season.  Mercedes did so well in 2014 that Ferrari and Renault have both been pushing to get this rule waived, arguing that they can't catch up to Mercedes due to the restrictions on development in place.

After reviewing the rules as they were written for the current engine Formula, both Ferrari and Renault have discovered that they are worded a bit vague.  So vague, that they could be interpreted that there is no restriction on engine development after the start of the 2015 season - an interpretation that Race Director and Chief Rules Interpreter Charlie Whitting agrees with.

Unless you're a new manufacturer to the sport - and then you can't develop your engine in 2015, you're stuck with following the 2014 rules.  Once you submit your engine to the FIA for scrutinizing (aka homologation) you can't change it.  Honda, who is returning this year is a bit upset over this new development and has complained to the FIA.

Still following along?

Between seasons, manufacturers can only upgrades specific components of their engines.  For the duration of the period where the current rules are in effect, the number of components a manufacture can upgrade each year decreases...  For example, (and these numbers are hypothetical for illustrative purposes) going into the 2015 season, teams can only upgrade 16 components, into 2016 - 12 component, etc...  

Still with us?  Because this is where it gets screwy..

If you're Mercedes, Ferrari, or Renault, there's a natural progress here, and more importantly every one of your competitors is playing by the same rules.  Unless you're Honda, or another new team...  The way the rules are currently written and instituted - the first year you're in the sport you're stuck with the 2014 rules for the development freeze, the second year you're in the sport you're then bound by the same upgrade restrictions as the rest of the field...   In other words, based on the current implementation of the rules - Honda must submit their engine for homologation at the end of February, and then can't develop their engine any more because the rules says that as a new team they need to do this just like all the teams that competed in 2014.  However, in 2016 Honda is limited to only being able to upgrade the same number of components as the rest of the field in 2016.  At no time does Honda get the same chance to upgrade their engines in 2015 as the rest of the field.

The whole intention behind the restrictions was to control costs in the sport.  By eliminating in season testing and development of the engines, development costs are constrained.  Less testing and development, less cost.  By constraining the costs you're creating a more level playing field across the grid, smaller teams with smaller budgets don't need to pour money that they don't have into in season developing and testing.  But the rules need to be applied evenly across the grid.  A new manufacturer needs to be able to participate at the same level as the rest of the grid.  The rules interpretation that Charlie Whitting and the FIA appear to be implementing this year, even it is inadvertently being done because the rules were writing poorly, don't layout an even field.  

FOM and Formula 1 can't afford to give the impression that they're not making a level field.  After loosing two teams from the grid, Formula 1 needs to attract more teams.  If Formula 1 handicaps Honda by following the rules as they are currently interpreting them then they are discouraging teams and manufacturers from coming to the sport.  There has been an increasing level of chatter over the last few months that a member of the VW group - either VW our Audi, could come to Formula.  But if Formula 1 handicaps a new team and forces them to compete at a disadvantage  then they're also discouraging others from entering the sport.  How do you attract new teams and new manufacturers when you also tell them that they'll be competing at a disadvantage compared to the rest of the grid?

The thing is, this is a controversy that Formula 1 shouldn't find itself with.  Providing a level playing field across the grid seems like something that would be obvious.  But apparently to the forces that rule F1 it isn't.  This is something that the FIA should be weighing in on.  So, where is the world motorsport governing body?

Posted on January 10, 2015 and filed under Formula 1.

Prove Me Wrong Finbarr O'Connell

Today was day 2 of the Marussia fire sale with more parts, computers, art work and team wear being liquidated.

And while this is going on we wait for defacto Caterham Team Principal Finbarr O'Connell to produce a deal that will save the team from the same fate.  O'Connell has said that negotiations are ongoing with three different perspective buyers, and that the accountant believes that the concession he got from Formula 1 allowing new team owners to run the 2014 chassis in the 2015 season will be enough to attract a buyer and return the team to the grid...

But in all honesty, what would a new owner be buying?  Motorhomes, chassis, assorted parts and computers mostly I'd expect.  There can't be much staff left in the organization - much of the staff was laid off in the late summer/early fall, and given the state of the team it's unlikely that there are many of the rest left at this point.

From a staffing perspective - finding drivers and marketing folks shouldn't be hard for a new owner...  But how do you attract skilled technical personnel back to this team?

More than that, the team would have a car that wasn't competitive in 2014, that has had minimal if any development over most of 2014 and none into 2015?  How likely is it that a car that was 4 seconds a lap off the pace at the last race of the season and had no development work done in the off season will even be able to make it out of qualifying and meet the requirements of the 107% rule in order to actually race? 

Then there's Formula 1 in general.  The guy who is responsible for marketing F1 and for the overall survival of the sport believes that the failure of both Marrussia and Caterham is because they both needed to spend less.  That same person has also said that he's not interested in increasing the sport's presence on social media or even marketing the sport to younger fans "because they don't have any money." The sport has a financial structure that pays teams not just based on their level of success but on how long they've been in the sport and are willing to stay in the sport. So with all of that - why would anybody even want to get involved in Formula 1, let alone purchase a failed team and the prospect of running a car that even if it does qualify won't be remotely competitive?

As much as I want to see Caterham rise from the ashes, I just don't see it happening...  So, prove me wrong Finbarr O'Connell...  Please...

Posted on December 17, 2014 and filed under Formula 1.