The sports imminent new owners Liberty Media, have suggested that future prize money allocation rules could change – and that Ferrari could also lose their financial privileges from the dividing of the F1 pie. The takeover from Liberty is expected to be completed this month, with the future direction of the sport now being thrust […]
After the news of F1’s return to 2015 qualifying system, Sebastian Vettel spoke of his belief that F1 should return to naturally-aspirated engines.
“I personally think the current power unit regulations are too expensive and it would be beneficial for all the teams and the whole sport to go back to something normally aspirated,” Vettel said.
Vettel’s opinion is very much contrary to that of Ferrari, who last year vetoed a cost cap proposal for engines. It will appear strange to profess, but one could speculate that the sentiments of team personnel of how well Vettel gels with the infrastructure is merely little more than corporate jargon. Many have viewed Vettel’s establishment within the Ferrari team to be similiar to that of Michael Schumacher’s reign; however, the management structure could not be more different.
Mauricio Arrivabene’s official role is listed as “Team Principal”; a position where he manages the team in accordance to the orders of President Sergio Marchionne within the Scuderia hierarchy. This differs greatly to Jean Todt’s role during the Schumacher era, where he performed the role of General Manager, with greater freedoms granted by then-Chairman Luca di Montezemolo. It is important to realise that Arrivabene’s influence only stretches as far as race day operations of the engineers during race weekends, whilst Jean Todt had controls on the general direction of Scuderia Ferrari within Formula 1 in his reign.
The Michael Schumacher era was infamous for the German being able to command orders to the likes of Todt, Ross Brawn and team personnel to cater every one of his whims and desires. Schumacher was never seen or heard arguing with his team, due to their incredible close bond not seen before or since. When Schumacher left Ferrari in 2006, the golden formula was disbanded, lending far greater control to Luca di Montezemolo and placing Stefano Domencali as Team Principal. This management structure, along with their next prized superstar Fernando Alonso, have since been disposed, but a need to improve the Prancing Horse’s sporting brand has ended any hopes of “Driver Power” ever re-emerging. Controversy over team orders incidents- 2002 Austrian & 2010 German Grands Prix still evoke F1 fans with embitterment.
Sebastian Vettel therefore cannot command the same power as Schumacher could in his time as Ferrari lead driver. Vettel does not have a “Number 1” driver clause written into his contract, leaving the Prancing Horse to pair him with a young hotshot, with Max Verstappen speculated to be an option should he part ways with Red Bull. Vettel was notorious for his excellent politicking within the Red Bull hierarchy during his four WDC era, often finding ways to encourage Adrian Newey to design chassis tailored to needs.
At Ferrari, Vettel is paired with a close friend in Kimi Raikkonen. Many outsiders view this as a favourable situation for Ferrari, however, it may prove detrimental to Vettel, as his willingness to share data with Raikkonen is passed onto engineers, who may share this data in coming years with potential new team-mates of Vettel. When Raikkonen retires, Vettel will be pulled out of his comfort zone and he need to combat a team-mate who is likely not to care much for his contribution to Ferrari.
Vettel’s statement of which he believes costs should be cut, contrary to Ferrari’s desires to remain free to defeat the opposition through financial power, is one which may come back to haunt him if results begin to deteriorate.
F1’s Procrastination over 2017 Regulations
With just four months remaining before teams head to their 2017 chassis drawing boards this summer, F1 Strategy Group are nowhere near close to submitting their technical regulation proposals to F1 Commission.
The consensus amongst drivers is that adding more downforce is absurd and making cars wider (therefore heavier) is further pushing F1 away from its “halcyon” days of light 600KG cars fitted with loud V10 engines.
In my opinion, the most important technical change that needs to happen is the reduction of the front wing. It is a foremost priority for the sport to improve the cars’ ability to follow each other closely. Nothing puts fans off more than seeing cars who clearly at least a second quicker than the defending car in front, unable to find a way past due to the turbulence of the car in front causing their tyres to lose grip in braking zones.
It is absolutely pivotal for FIA to put their foot down and demand teams to agree to a reduction of front wing sizes in order to attempt to improve the quality of races for consumers immediately.
The new season kicks off in just two weeks’ time and the political turmoil within F1 is already reaching boiling point, with conflicting opinions over qualifying and the halo. Here is a run-down of the championship contenders and how they will fare over this season:
Mercedes AMG Petronas
Predicted constructors’ position: 1st
Success for the Silver Arrows appears to be ominous once again and barring any major mishaps, a third consecutive driver’s and constructors’ world championship should be the bare minimum. The Brackley-based squad accumulated a mammoth 3054 kilometres in testing, with just a single mechanical failure suffered on the morning of Day 3 on Test 2. Consistently fast times on the soft and medium tyres indicates a continuance of the team’s regimented formula for success. Lewis Hamilton suffered a slide in form after sealing the WDC in Texas last season, but modifications in the new W07‘s setup should help the triple WDC avoid a difficult start to this season. The Briton complained of developments to last year’s W06 lacking a positive front end towards the end of last season, but his relationship with the Mercedes head management of Toto Wolff, Niki Lauda and Paddy Lowe remains as firm as ever. Nico Rosberg needs to maintain the form he displayed in his three race winning streak from the end of last season, but his frosty relationship with Hamilton remains a gripping contention. With no signs of their rivalry ameliorating, their prospective championship battle with the Ferrari drivers may intensify their feud and inflict catastrophic acrimony upon their management.
Predicted constructors’ position: 2nd
The Maranello boys completed a radical overhaul of their design and engineering philosophy for their 2016 challenger SF16-H. Pre-season testing indicated Ferrari have halved the gap in terms of both qualifying and race pace, with Kimi Raikkonen‘s fastest laps being 0.2-0.3 seconds behind Mercedes. The Iceman’s reputation has sharply declined in the past two seasons, but with many anticipating 2016 to be his final year of F1, many believe the congenial Finn will surmount one last hurrah for the WDC. With this year’s car reverting to a push-rod suspension, many believe this will help both Raikkonen and his illustrious team-mate Sebastian Vettel. In spite of a spectacular return to form last season for the quadruple champion, Vettel is still doubted by some and he must prove he is not inferior to Hamilton or Fernando Alonso. A strong championship challenge for the German therefore is an absolute must, as his stable friendship with the Iceman and the management of Mauricio Arrivabene, Sergio Marchionne and James Allison will be vital. Doubts, however, remain over the reliability of the SF16-H and how this will afflict both drivers’ seasons. In addition, if Ferrari overtake Mercedes in raw pace, then question marks over their technical partnership in conjunction with the new Haas team may be raised by Mercedes.
THINGS TO WATCH OUT FOR:
- As Hamilton and Vettel do not carry the same considerable advantage over their team-mates Rosberg and Raikkonen as Schumacher and Hakkinen (driving for McLaren-Mercedes) enjoyed over Barrichello and Coulthard 16 years previously, a dramatic swing in fortunes may result in Nico and Kimi leading their teams’ championship challenges towards this season’s conclusion
- Rosberg will need to be careful to avoid making the same PR gaffes when he tried to joke with Vettel about inviting Ferrari to the Mercedes during the post-Australian Grand Prix qualifying of last year. In addition, his attempts to slur Hamilton with accusations of selfishness when he claimed the Briton was “driving too slowly” during last year’s Chinese Grand Prix is something he needs to avoid doing again
- Hamilton needs to avoid allowing his personal life being as much of a topic of gossip for tabloids as before and avert temptations off the tracks
- The Mercedes management may impose team orders upon their drivers if Ferrari are able to pose a real challenge
- It is unlikely either team will introduce a new B spec of their models, as work on the new regulations for 2017 will gradually steer away part of their technical department’s focus
- As a four-way battle for the WDC may ensue, Mercedes must be careful to avoid the pitfalls which McLaren suffered during 2007, where tensions between Alonso and Hamilton and team principal Ron Dennis led to Spygate. This led to McLaren’s exclusion from that season’s constructors’ standing and Raikkonen pipping both adversaries to his first WDC by a single point
- Ferrari will need to seize advantage of circuits of which the SF16-H maybe strong at, particularly venues such as Sepang and Marina Bay. Souring temperatures upset the optimum operating range for Mercedes’ W07, but benefited Ferrari’s SF15-T last season
- Political turmoil over Ferrari’s technical partnership in conjunction with Haas
- Complaints from the Mercedes and Ferrari drivers when they attempt to lap the Manor and Haas drivers, who will use the same specification of engine this season. This means the straight-line speeds of the backmarkers will be near-identical to the factory outfits.
PREDICTED WORLD DRIVERS’ CHAMPION:
With his occasional woes and questionable lifestyle being a topic of contention, Lewis Hamilton will have no one to blame but himself if he fails to enter the quadruple world champions’ club this season. Rosberg and Vettel will run him close all year, but doubts over their outright talents will remain. Raikkonen will contend for race victories occasionally, but he will not feature as a serious championship contender.