Latest F1 news in brief – Thursday (Update)

UPDATE Updates shown in red below.

01/30/14

  • Back of McLaren has F1 paddock scratching their head

    Red Bull supplier Renault admits early 2014 'problem'

  • McLaren 'wing' suspension raises eyebrows at Jerez
  • FIA's Whiting says 'clever' Lotus nose is 'legal'
  • Doctors ‘begin process to bring Schumacher out of induced coma
  • Brembo brakes made a billionaire
  • Mercedes F1 boss questions points changes
  • Allison pleased with Ferrari's start
  • Still no sign of 2014 Marussia New
  • F1 row brewing over new nose designs New
  • Schumacher 'waking up process' has begun – manager New

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 rumors 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.

Back of McLaren has F1 paddock scratching their head

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.

The clever Lotus E22 nose was deemed legal and now we may see others copy it

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 asymmetrical, 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'.

Doctors ‘begin process to bring Schumacher out of induced coma
(GMM) There is substance to widespread reports doctors are now trying to wake Michael Schumacher from his month-long induced coma.

The seven time world champion's manager Sabine Kehm played down the "speculation" on Wednesday, after the French sports daily L'Equipe said Schumacher, 45, has entered a recovery phase in which the medical team at Grenoble hospital would begin to ease the anesthesia.

L'Equipe said the awakening process, which could take several days and even weeks, actually began on Tuesday, led by the Grenoble doctor Emmanuel Gay.

The report said Schumacher had initially "responded positively" to the process.

Actually, L'Equipe was not the first to report the story, after the respected Le Journal de Dimanche said on Sunday that the beginnings of the awakening process were set to begin.

And, crucially, the stories were reportedly confirmed by the Grenoble neurosurgeon Stephan Chabardes, according to French radio RMC, and BFMTV television.

Germany's Welt newspaper asked Kehm about Chabardes' reported confirmation, but Schumacher's manager referred only to her new media statement about "speculation".

And Bild newspaper reported that a new memo was sent to all employees at the treating Grenoble hospital, warning them not to disclose information "about the patient M Schumacher".

L'Equipe deputy chief editor Jeremie Arbona, however, told Bild: "We cannot disclose our sources, of course, but they are reliable."

No matter what the truth is, Schumacher's situation remains severe. A leading German neurosurgeon, Andreas Ferbert, is quoted by the newsmagazine Focus: "Dcots put a patient in a coma for three or four weeks only when the condition of the brain is very serious.

"Four weeks is a very long time," he explained.

Brembo brakes made a billionaire
(GMM) F1 braking made one Italian a billionaire.

That is the claim of the financial news agency Bloomberg, revealing that Brembo chief Alberto Bombassei made his fortune by dominating the F1 field, with 7 of the competing 11 teams currently equipped with Brembo carbon brakes.

"One of Brembo's greatest fortunes has been the opportunity to enter the world of racing in 1975, when the company started to supply Ferrari in formula one," 73-year-old Bombassei said.

"This has enabled Brembo over the years to test on the track new technological solutions, which over time have been transferred to road cars and bikes."

Mercedes F1 boss questions points changes
Formula One may need to reconsider its decision to award double points for the final race of the season after a fan backlash, according to Mercedes executive director Toto Wolff.

After Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel eased to his fourth straight title with three races to go last year, F1 tweaked the rules by doubling the points for the final race in a move aimed at keeping fans and TV viewers interested until the season's end.

Wolff said after Tuesday's pre-season testing that F1's strategy group had decided to maintain the double points at its last meeting.

But, Wolff said, "99 per cent of spectators and fans thought it was the wrong move. So maybe it's time to revisit it."

Wolff said that there were "some arguments for" the double points.

"If we have the same power situation you could add some spice," said Wolff.

"When audiences drop, you have to do something.

Several drivers agree with Wolff.

Mercedes' driver Nico Rosberg said "it's not good" as far as fairness goes, while acknowledging "maybe by the last race it keeps things exciting."

Jenson Button of McLaren said on Wednesday he would "have the same points for every race" and compared the double-points scheme to "having more points at your home Grand Prix.

"It doesn't happen so I don't think it should personally but the rules are the rules," he said.

Vettel had already criticized the decision.

Giving double points for the season finale is part of a group of sweeping changes F1 took this off-season, with most focusing on car design and engineering.

Wolff and the drivers spoke at pre-season testing at the Jerez track.

Testing continues in southern Spain until Friday, followed by two more tests in Bahrain. The season opens with the Australian Grand Prix on March 16.

Allison pleased with Ferrari's start
Ferrari's technical director James Allison believes the team has a strong base for the upcoming Formula One season after Kimi Raikkonen showed excellent pace over the first two days of testing in Jerez.

The 2007 World Champion was the quickest on the first day, before finishing behind McLaren's Jenson Button on the time sheets on Wednesday.

Allison is also pleased that the F14 T has been able to finish as many as 78 laps at the Andalucian circuit so far this week.

"I am reasonably happy with what we have seen so far," said Allison told Autosport.

"I don't think there are any killers we have uncovered.

"The fault list is not a short one, it never is with a new car, but we are able to keep going out of the garage and doing the laps.

"Our relative lack of laps compared with the V8 era is not about the fundamental reliability of the package, it is about us making sure we don't make mistakes."

The former Lotus man added that the complicated rules changes were the reason for the lack of running during the first two days in Jerez.

"The point of these first two days is to get running, get the car programmed with the gazillion of numbers that you need to make it do its thing, and to make sure that the really basic building blocks of the car are correct," he added.

"That includes stuff that is straightforward but completely fundamental to this car like doing all the things for cooling properly.

"There are a lot of different fluids in the car and they all have to be cooled, and that is really extremely important to allow us a foundation for the next two days of testing and the next two days before the season starts."

"On the noses we've already looked at dozens and dozens of noses of all different shapes and sizes," he said. "Like any other part of the car that is free for us to develop we will keep looking at it because we do.

"Why the [current] nose? Well if you look around you in the pit lane you will see that there's a different nose on every car and there's not too much similarity between any of the cars. The reason for that is the nose rules allow quite a lot geometrical freedom and you go off exploring that freedom.

"The reason there isn't a single solution is it's not actually that sensitive an area, so there are lots and lots of different solutions that work. I came from another team before that has a very aggressive solution; I worked on that with the team and this car has got another solution but there's really not much in that. They're just things that are good to talk about because they are right up at the front of the car."

Allison said the packaging of the engine is far more important to the performance of the car and he believes Ferrari has done an "exquisite" job.

"The engines – if and when you guys get to see them when they're not completely covered in heat shields – you'll see that they are incredibly busy compared with the things that we've been used to looking at in the last few years," he said. "This car has been rather exquisitely packaged by the team that worked on it more than two years ago and brought it to this point. So it's very neat, very small and when you've got that much mechanical complexity to fit in then making it in a small package is very neat.

"On the aerodynamic side of course we are doing what we've always been doing which is looking for downforce, trying to minimize drag and trying to make sure that that downforce is deliverable to a track in a way that is drivable.

"The overall philosophy of the car is, on the power unit side, that everybody has got the same amount of fuel; whoever can make the engine most efficient will have the most power, so the engine guys have been working long and hard for that. At the same time they've been aggressive and bending over backwards for us on the chassis side to make sure they produce an engine that is packageable, that allows itself to be cooled with radiators that are manageably packageable on the car. You see our car has got quite a neat cooling package."

Still no sign of 2014 Marussia
(GMM) Deep into the penultimate day of testing at Jerez, and Marussia's 2014 car is still yet to see the light of day.

Having solved a niggly technical glitch at the factory, the backmarker team rushed the unseen MR03 to Jerez on Wednesday.

On Thursday morning, the launch press release went out, as Marussia said on Twitter the car was preparing to make its debut on a "cool but clear morning".

Hours later, the car – dubbed "pretty" by team boss John Booth – still has not been seen.

It is yet another sign that the ultra-complicated rules for 2014, featuring turbo V6 engines and powerful 'ERS' systems, has caught out even the smartest minds in global motor racing.

World champions Red Bull and Renault's problems seemed also to have persisted on Thursday, when Daniel Ricciardo made his debut in the troubled RB10 but was soon standing trackside next to the smoking car.

"Tactically we're taking the 'less is more' approach," Red Bull joked on Twitter.

This time, however, engine partner Renault was not to blame.

"This (problem) is our own responsibility and has nothing to do with the power unit," Dr Helmut Marko, watching Thursday's proceedings at Jerez with his boss Dietrich Mateschitz, told Germany's Auto Motor und Sport.

A big crowd has gathered at Jerez on Thursday, mainly to see Spanish hero Fernando Alonso drive the Ferrari for the first time.

The red car duly stopped on track.

F1 row brewing over new nose designs
(GMM) The FIA is reportedly unhappy with some of the nose solutions that are currently collecting test laps at Jerez.

Germany's Sport Bild reported on Thursday that a major row is brewing in southern Spain, after top teams Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull unveiled cars with mainly conventional low noses for the new season.

But other teams, notably Force India and Toro Rosso and co, have been attracting phallic descriptions of their 'anteater' thin noses.

Those with the more conventional noses argue that, while the thin noses may comply with the letter of the regulations, they pose a spear-like danger to rival cars in collisions.

Sport Bild said the top three teams want the FIA to re-write the rules to disallow the thin noses on safety grounds.

But the publication said it knows that FIA president Jean Todt is preparing to take the small teams' side.

Germany's Auto Motor und Sport, on the other hand, said the governing body has launched an investigation, aiming to conclude whether some teams have "gone too far" with their 2014 noses.

And the report said even the low-nosed Red Bull and Mercedes teams are being put under the microscope, since the very tips of the noses are almost paper-thin, with the actual crash structure located much further back — and higher, contrary to the intention of the new rules.

"This fills the letter but not the spirit of the regulations," an FIA source was quoted as saying.

Schumacher 'waking up process' has begun – manager
(GMM) Michael Schumacher's manager has now confirmed reports doctors at the Grenoble hospital are trying to wake the great German from his month-long coma.

Earlier, Sabine Kehm dismissed the reports that Schumacher's anesthesia was being gradually reduced as "speculation".

But she said on Thursday that she only refused to comment then "For the protection of the family", because the news could only be confirmed "once this process (of awakening) was consolidated".

"Michael's sedation is being reduced in order to allow the start of the waking up process which may take a long time," said Kehm.

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