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DATE News (chronologically)
03/11/12
f1
Montezemolo: F1 has become an airline industry
Luca Montezemolo
"Formula 1 is too much by the aerodynamics. We build more airplanes than cars." This was Luca Montezemolo's reaction to a question posed by Germany's Auto Motor und Sport in 2011.

This year, after a poor opening test program for the Scuderia, he is not the happiest of motorsport legend presidents. Speaking in Geneva at the launch of the new Ferrari F12 Berlinetta he said, "I hope that the predictions about us are wrong. And if they are true I will want to know why this has happened and how many seconds it's going to take to put it right."

At the same time he bemoaned the sport's absolute dominance by aerodynamics and how little of the intense research and multi-million pound spend lavished on F1 cars can be applied to road cars.

And worryingly, I agree with him. Agreeing with Luca's view is something I never ever do, it's like enjoying an episode of Shameless or thinking 'cyclists, they're all very sensible'. But he's right.

When the intense brain power of the collective intellectual might of the F1 grid are all focused on where they can position the exhaust outlets to get as much gas as possible sucked towards the diffuser, and engines are mapped to induce misfires in braking areas so that the average F1 car sounds like a two-stroke, grass-track motorbike, you've got to think something's wrong.

The new rules for 2012 were supposed to stop F1 designers from employing exhaust gases to boost the downforce of the car. But like heroin junkies cut off from their supply, they are trying their very hardest to scrape the last bits out of the jar and employ the small fraction of exhaust gases left to channel. Yet at the same time they need to seem really casual about it. Because Charlie's banned that kind of thing.

Red Bull came to the first test with one exhaust configuration and have now swapped it for another, McLaren have too. The Red Bull one - if you ask everyone but Christian Horner - is pushing the boundaries of the rules.

"It comes down to what 're-ingested exhaust gas' is really and that's a question for Charlie," said Ferrari technical director Pat Fry, referring to the FIA directive issued by Charlie Whiting to help designers know what they could and couldn't do.

Whiting stated that any exhaust designs that re-ingested or redirected exhaust flow for principally aerodynamic reasons would not be permitted. The latest Red Bull exhaust outlet looks like it pushes that restriction to the very limit. If they get it past scrutineering in Melbourne, then all the teams will apply that approach. Ferrari already had a version of the concept but couldn't get it to work as they'd like.

"I think it's the obvious direction to go in," said Fry. "We gave it a shot; we didn't quite get it right. The issues we had, we weren't going to solve for at least the first four races, so that's why we had to back up and change course.

It will be interesting to see if Red Bull have got a Plan B, just in case the design gets the thumbs down in Australia. Teams can overnight parts to Barcelona for testing; getting stuff from Milton Keynes to Melbourne is a far lengthier task if the scrutineers say it's not within the rules.

According to F1 technical journalist Giorgio Piola writing in Gazetta dello Sport, Ferrari and one or two other teams are considering rebuilding their chassis so significantly - to take advantage of repositioned exhausts that push the rules - that they will need crash testing again.

This represents a huge consumption of resources and all to pick up and craftily channel some exhaust gas.

So it's not surprising that Montezemolo is getting a bit agitated. First he gets lumbered with engine rules he doesn't like, now a lot of expensive fussing around what is increasingly being described as 'the coke bottle area'.

Luca's initial glory years for Ferrari - the mid-1970s - was a time when the Ferrari Flat-12 engine dominated and he's long been railing at F1's future adoption of 1.6 liter V6 turbo engines (in 2014). His response. "We are not building motorcycles. The challenge is to make an eight- or twelve-cylinder engine economical."

He didn't win the argument with Jean Todt, no doubt seeing no application of small turbo engines in his range of supercars such as the highly desirable new Ferrari F12 Berlinetta, the most powerful road-going Ferrari of all time with 730+ horsepower and a 6.3 liter V12 engine.

His frustration might also be compounded by his political ambition. What better way to launch his 'liberal centrist' party, Italia Futura, than to have a winning season or two with Ferrari. At 64 years of age the clock is ticking on his political career. He made a gesture by naming the 2011 Ferrari the 150 to celebrate 150 years of Italian unification, winning again with Ferrari, the national team, would also help show he's a winner.

So when he sees the Ferrari losing ground to the aerodynamically savvy Red Bull team, it's not surprising he gets a little vexed. Why isn't Adrian Newey devoting his immense skill and ingenuity to designing planes that are more fuel efficient or propellers that harness more of the wind's energy instead of fiddling around at the back of the engine cover, in the 'coke bottle area', to gain an extra 2kph through Degna 1?

Now you might say that F1 has always been like this, spending vast sums of money on aspects of technology that can't be transferred elsewhere. And you'd be right. It's just that this intense focus on one tiny part of the car has highlighted the intellectual waste more than ever before.

Let's hope in Melbourne Charlie Whiting gets angry and puts a stop to this endless exhaust finessing. It really is time to go racing. Planet F1

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