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Years ago there was an Italian racer called Felice Tedeschi, who we used to call Happy Germans, with appropriate artistic licence. I am sure to find a few gleeful Goths and happy Hun today as I am off to the Federal Republic this morning, down that well-beaten path known as the A4 autoroute, by way of Meaux (of mustard fame), Reims (the land of champagne), the Argonne, Verdun (today called “la ville de la paix”, the town of peace) where generations of French and Germans were slaughtered a century ago, and on from there to Metz (pronounced “mess”) and on to the border at Saarbrucken. I’ll probably turn off there and send my way through the Pfälzerwald forest until I get to the Rhine at Speyer, a place that is easy to find thanks to it having a Jumbo Jet on stilts overlooking the town (strange but true). From there Hockenheim is just minutes away, smuggled in its flat forest, with the fans no doubt already ensconced in their tents, with a few dozen beers for company. It will be a happy place this weekend: Germany is celebrating its soccer victories and will be willing Nico Rosberg to win. Lewis Hamilton will be there to spoil the party. Fun, fun.

Schnitzel for dinner!

Mercedes AMG Petronas has announced “a multi-year contract extension” with Nico Rosberg. Rosberg has been with the team since 2010 and in recent years has scored six victories. He currently leads the Formula ! World Championship, although his team-mate Lewis Hamilton is in hot pursuit.

“I am very proud to drive the Formula One Silver Arrow of the modern era,” Rosberg said. “As a German, the heritage of Mercedes-Benz is very special for me, and I am proud to be able to represent the best car brand around the world. It has been a difficult road to get to where we are now – but everybody kept believing and, thanks to the fantastic support from Mercedes-Benz, we are now leading the way in F1. There has been big progress during the past year, building up our structure, management and capability for the future. We have an awesome team and I am confident that we have the right people in place at every level. I’m looking forward to the next years together, when we will keep pushing to win even more races – and, hopefully, championships.”

Team boss Toto Wolff says that the new deal will bring the team “important stability and continuity for the future”.

Improving Caterham

Amid stories of big changes at Caterham F1, with dozens of staff having been let go in recent days, work is now going on to change the aerodynamics of the car as quickly as possible in order to try to snatch 10th place in the Constructors’ Championship from Sauber, or even ninth from Marussia, which would require a ninth place finish. Finishing in the top 10 would guarantee that Caterham would win around $50 million in prize money, which would go a long way towards setting the team on the right path for the future. This is sure to knock noses out of joint but it is clear that the new owners and management know that change was necessary, rather than letting the team go on underachieving as before.

One problem that will not go away, however, is the fact that the team is owned by a Malaysian company. The team can change its licence to whatever nationality it so desires and the name can also change, albeit with rather more difficulty, but the entry cannot be transferred to a different company because it is linked to the company number. The team could try to get the other signatories to agree to change the terms of the deal but this is unlikely to succeed because of the trouble such a precedent could set. That means that for now the team needs to have at least one Malaysian resident national on its board of directors and has to go through the necessary corporate processes in Malaysia. This complicates matters but is not the end of the world. It is conceivable that an arrangement can be found before the next Concorde Agreement (or equivalent) in 2020.

In the interim, it is down to what F1 is all about: producing a better car and scoring points. If the team can do that, everything else will follow.

Setting the scene…

The rumbling that will become the F1 Silly Season have been going on for a while, as everyone in F1 assesses the current crop of cars and then decides what to do to get a better result next year. The driver market always works like a string of dominoes, with one move causing other moves further down the line, so don’t expect too many moves in the smaller teams before the big ones are done. Here is an assessment of where things seem to be at the moment:

Infiniti Red Bull Racing

It has not been an easy year for the dominant team of recent years. The problem is one of engines and the team is hoping that Renault will do a better job in 2015. Sebastian Vettel has not got on with the RB10 and much to the surprise of a lot of people Daniel Ricciardo has done rather better than Vettel. This is not comfortable for him. After Silverstone Ricciardo’s total of points was 98 points and Vettel had only 70 and the difference would be even large if Ricciardo had not been disqualified in the first race of the year. Vettel is contracted to stay with Red Bull until the end of 2015 and even if he wanted to move, it would be tough. This year has meant that there are some question marks about him, while he would question the wisdom of moving to Ferrari or McLaren.

Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team

There is no great logic is the team changing drivers next year. Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton get on OK and the relationship, while edgy, is fine. The only real issue is one of money as Rosberg earns a fraction of the money enjoyed by Hamilton. A new contract for Nico (some believe it has already happened) will sort that out. If the two collide and things get ugly perhaps there will be some movement but rule number one for an F1 driver is: “never give up a winning car”.

Scuderia Ferrari

There has been no real contest this year between Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen. The latter does not like the car and so has generally been slower. Neither one is very impressed with the machinery and after five years at Ferrari Fernando Alonso is tipped to be looking for a job elsewhere. It is an important decision because he’s old enough now to not be in a position to make more mistakes in his career path if he wants to add to his two titles form 2005 and 2006. Logically he should win more but you have to have the right car. Staying at Ferrari is as risky as moving to McLaren, but sometimes a change is a good idea. If Ferrari is looking for a replacement Nico Hulkenberg is the obvious choice although Ferrari has its teeth into Jules Bianchi, so he might be in the running.

Lotus F1 Team

Pastor Maldonado can stay at Lotus as long as his money keeps coming from Venezuela. If it stops, then so does his F1 career. Romain Grosjean has done well enough this year and some think that Eric Boullier might take him to McLaren but that seems unlikely. If the team gets Mercedes engines next year and the engineers have the money to build a good car, the team could surprise in 2015.

McLaren Mercedes

There is a lot happening at McLaren at the moment with some serious pushing and shoving going on in the technical departments. The team wants an inspired driver to follow and the best choice out there is Fernando Alonso. Whether the two parties can find a way to get together again remains to be seen but this seems to be the path chosen. Jenson Button needs to put Kevin Magnussen in the shade more than he has been doing, at the moment it is 55 versus 35 points, so the next few races will be interesting. Honda, which knows Jenson well, is waiting in the wings.

Sahara Force India F1 Team

Sergio Perez and Nico Hulkenberg have been doing a decent job this year with the Force India, which runs with the complete Mercedes drivetrain. The problem for the team is that it cannot much progress without major investment and time. Hulkenberg is waiting for his chance with a big team and has scored a total of 63 points while Sergio Perez as 28. Hulkenberg has been particularly impressive, scoring points in every single race of the season, although Perez gave the team its only podium thus far. Much will depend on money.

Sauber F1 Team

The identity of the team’s drivers in 2015 will depend largely on money unless the team lands a big sponsor and is given free rein to choose its drivers.

Scuderia Toro Rosso

There is a big effort going on to make Scuderia Toro Rosso more competitive, which is a little odd when the team is only meant to be a training ground for youngsters. Some think that this means it will soon be sold. If it remains as a school for Red Bull drivers then Jean-Eric Vergne needs to watch out as Red Bull tends to jettison drivers if they are not lucky. Daniil Kvyat is the current coming man, while the Red Bullies are excited about Carlos Sainz Jr. It seems odd to spend a pile of money on training up Vergne and then dumping him but Red Bull has long had odd ideas about drivers.

Williams F1 Team

Valtteri Bottas has confirmed his potential this year at Williams, while Felipe Massa has had more than his share of bad luck. The team needs to continue on its upward path and that will require more money. If sponsorship can be found then it will be fine.

Marussia F1 Team

Some think that Jules Bianchi is the next big thing but others feel that he has not crushed Max Chilton with sufficient vigour to be a top liner. Bianchi is quick and he did score points for the team in Monaco but he did so with an axe rather than a scalpel, nerfing Kamui Kobayashi out of the way and damaging the Caterham. Is that enough for a Ferrari drive? I doubt it.

Caterham F1 Team

Money will obviously play an important role in the choice of drivers at Caterham but the team knows that success is driven not by money but by results and so will probably gamble on the best available talent and hope that the money will arrive. One can imagine the team taking on Sainz to allow Red Bull to train up another star before he gets into a Red Bull seat of one kind or the other.

Arrogance

At the Rochester Institute of Technology in Henrietta, New York, there is a plaque on the wall that warns students to never let themselves be carried away by their own egos. “Take a bucket and fill it with water,” it says. “Put your hand in up to your wrist. The hole that you make when you leave it, is the measure of how much you’ll be missed”. OK, not great poetry but these are wise words and rather similar in tone to General de Gaulle’s pointed remark about the graveyards of the world being filled with irreplaceable men. Times moves ever onward and empires rise and fall. It was ever thus. If one applies this thinking to Formula 1 it is clear that Ferrari needs Formula 1 rather more than Formula 1 needs Ferrari. The Italian super car manufacturer is a good brand to have in F1. The red cars incite passion, just as once the powder blue Bugattis did, but do no longer. Ferrari does not advertise its products, allowing the sport to do that on its behalf. In addition to providing incalculable free advertising, the sport pays the Italian team for the privilege of having its red cars running around in the midfield. It is wrong and will remain wrong until someone comes along and fixes it.

This underlying imbalance in finance is the root cause of many of F1′s stresses and strains. If all the teams were treated in a similar fashion, with their importance based on their results alone and none of them being favoured by a commercial rights holder who cares only about profit margins, then there would be a great deal more opportunity for unity and growth. Injustice is divisive. To hear that Ferrari boss Luca Montezemolo is now going around saying that it is his duty to fix the sport is galling. Yes, he can fix the sport if he gives back the estimated $120 million that Ferrari gets each year BEFORE any prize money is divided between the teams. That would be a good start. Then he could get his team performing on a level that does not make Ferrari fans feel awkward and finally, when he has achieved all of this, then perhaps his voice would carry more weight. All that he is achieving at the moment is annoying people who love the sport.

If he does not like what he has now – to which at some point he must have agreed, because Ferrari has also had veto rights to the rules for almost a decade – then he should do the right thing: pack up all the red paraphernalia and post it to Le Mans, where the Automobile Club de l’Ouest would laugh when the Ferrari begging bowl was thrust towards it.

Montezemolo has been banging on about the new rules all season and all it has caused so far is a red face. He complains that the drivers are being held back by fuel limits and tyres. Has not racing always been about driving to the limits of the rules and/or the equipment? It has never been about equal equipment. Did Ferrari dominate in the summer of 1961 because it had the best drivers? Why are the Mercedes not being held back by the same things? F1 is still about the best man winning in the best car.

The problem for Montezemolo is that Ferrari might have one of these but it certainly does not have the other. And the chances are that by the end of the summer it will have lost the former as well. It is deeply arrogant for Montezemolo to suggest that he knows the answers to fix F1. Firstly, the sport is not broken and a man in his position should not be saying it is. In other sports such a remark would result in a fine for bringing the sport into disrepute; secondly, it is not his job to fix F1. There is an international automobile federation that exists to perform this task and if the FIA is not doing that job then it should be replaced a regulator that will. Ferrari is a competitor, not a regulator. Thirdly, if he wants to find a fix then he must accept a better solution in economic terms as well as revamping the rules to suit what his engineers can achieve. Finally, he should remember that no-one likes a whinger. If you are on the top of the pile in F1 then you might win sufficient respect to get people to listen to your views, but spouting forth from the midfield is not the best way to get things done. in fact, it only draws attention to your own failings.

There is no doubting that larger wheels can look pretty good but on the other hand, the larger the wheels and the tyres the heavier they are and thus the more effect they will have on performance. Tests show that as wheel/tyre combinations get bigger, acceleration and fuel economy suffer often quite dramatically with a 10 percent drop in fuel economy between using 15-inch rims and 19-inch rims. Formula 1 has used 13-inch rims for the last 20 years and this is now out of step with the industry which tend to use 15-inch rims with lower profile tyres. In theory this means that a tyre company has less scope to apply the technology learned in F1 to road car tyres. This is not strictly true but it is clear that if one can market tyres that are the same size as those used in F1 there are likely to be more sales. There was talk a year or so ago of Michelin coming into the sport but the French company said that it wanted to increase wheel rims to 18-inches after the first couple of years.

Pic Big Wheels“The 13-inch tyre is no longer relevant to the everyday road user,” says Pirelli’s Paul Hembery. “While 18-inch tyres would be a big step for Formula 1, there are many other motorsport series that already use this size. So there’s scope to go even bigger than that in Formula 1 in years to come. In order to underline F1′s role as a test bed for future mobility solutions, we believe that it benefits everybody to have as close a link between road car tyres and competition tyres as possible. However, we’d like to emphasise that this move is not something that we are actively pushing for, as our role in Formula 1 is not to instigate changes. Instead, it’s to help teams and drivers make the most out of the equipment, regulations and resources they have at their disposal – whatever they decide that framework is going to be.”

Thus the Pirelli test of 18-inch tyres this week at Silverstone was an interesting experiment. The tyres were run by Charles Pic, with the Lotus.

“It was a very early evaluation test and the different tyres and wheels affect the aerodynamics of the car quite a lot, but you could certainly feel that the tyres felt different to those we’re used to on an F1 car,” he explained.”

The objective of the test was to give Pirelli some initial loading information as well as for everyone to see what the cars looked like in this configuration.

“The new tyres looked stunning fitted to the Lotus,” Hembery said. “These are just a prototype concept, but if the teams decided that they wanted us to proceed in this direction, we have the capability to carry on development in this area and come up with a production-ready version in a comparatively short space of time. We’ve heard a lot of opinions already and we look forward to canvassing other opinions in the coming weeks and months. Even though performance wasn’t by any means priority here, the new tyres still behaved exactly in line with our expectations, so we’re clearly potentially at the beginning of a huge development curve, with the wheel and tyre size rules having remained unaltered for many years.”

The key technical advantage of an 18-inch tyre is a stiffer sidewall that helps maintain the structural rigidity of the tyre and also makes it easier for the tyre to maintain a constant pressure – as there is less actual air inside the tyre.

The reality is that if the wheel size changed, the cars would need to be completely redesigned because of the impact of the tyres in the airflow around the cars. The cars are generally changed from year to year so this is not necessarily a problem but it will mean that the philosophy of design will change as engineers try to find the downforce that will be lost with such a change.

“They are more reactive and nervous and on top of that you lose a lot of aero,” Pic said. “It is not even like you are on the aero you use at Monza, it is even less. The combination means you are five or six seconds off the pace.”

HypetexFormula 1 has been creating spin-offs for years as the technology and expertise are applied to other industries. In recent times several of the teams have turned to this idea and have been making money commercialising their F1 assets. A new independent company called GPFOne has just launched a product called Hypetex, which seems to have huge potential across a wide range of industries, including automobiles, motorsport, marine, aviation, cycling, fashion and design.

The concept is very simple. Carbonfibre composite materials have always been black in colour. The materials are used for a wide range of activities these days but must always be painted. The paint adds weight to the product. Thus creating coloured composite fibres is a good way to improve efficiency and to create a new look. GPFOne has developed the world’s first coloured carbon fibre composite materials, offering exciting opportunities in the future with the “light, bright, bold and strong” properties.

It has taken seven years to develop Hypetex, with the expertise coming from F1 composite engineers, notably Harry Street, who has been around F1 for 20 years, starting out with Pacific GP, before spells at Prodrive, Honda Racing F1/Brawn GP and Force India. The company is led by entrepreneurs Marc and Stephen Cohen. They have signed a deal with the Formula One group for the production of F1-branded goods and to use the sport as a platform to draw attention to their product. Items made from Hypetex were on display at an industry forum at Silverstone, called “Driving Technological Change within British Manufacturing”, organised by the Northamptonshire Enterprise Partnership, in the days before the British GP. The event looked at technology related to materials and composites, power train efficiency, energy capture and aerodynamics, fluid mechanics and heat transfer.

“If Hypetex wasn’t so thrilling I wouldn’t put my name to it,” said Bernie Ecclestone.

The company believes that there is a huge market for its expertise and hopes to became a big new player in the industry. The global demand on carbonfibre composites is reckoned to be in the region of $15 billion, with an annual growth rate of at least seven percent. The strongest demand comes from the aircraft and aerospace industries, wind energy and the automotive and military sectors.

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