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Archive for the month “July, 2013”

Rosbergmania

06-21-2013_53This being the week of Rosbergmania, especially in Germany, let’s have a look at Nico’s Dad, Keijo “Keke” Rosberg, in full yellow (ICI Fibres) regalia at Hockenheim, 1984. That’s Alan Henry and Nigel Roebuck in the background; both of them, to this day, remain close friends with Keke. Note Keke’s attention to detail: he was always immaculate.  When he wasn’t in race kit he was usually seen either in a Hard Rock “Save the Planet” leather bomber jacket (long before the rest of the world discovered them) or with something from Etienne Aigner or MCM. Nor is it  difficult to see from where Nico’s yellow colour-coding (helmet, gloves, etc) originates. Continuing the Rosberg theme, how about the shot below for good measure?  I took this at the Kyalami Ranch, South Africa, also in 1984. Alain Prost’s reading L’Equipe; Nelson Piquet Jnr’s Mum, Sylvia, is walking out of picture in the red bikini;  ace photojournalist, Jeff Hutchinson, is thinking about his next story for Autosport; and  Nico’s Mum (also walking) and Dad can be seen to Jeff’s left.

06-21-2013_47

The Racer’s Edge

For those of you who haven’t yet watched our free, weekly, in-depth, on-line F1 chat show, remember that you can enjoy The Racer’s Edge every week on YouTube (Thursday, 7:00pm and thereafter on-demand) or you can download it from iTunes, where we have a high-speed facility for both the audio and video files.  Just enter “The Racer’s Edge” in the iTunes search engine and you’ll see a list of all the episodes.  (Although we also process the show for iTunes on the Thursday of each week we have no precise control of the actual release date. Usually it is within 24 hours of posting.)  Please “subscribe” to our YouTube Channel (as per the widget on the right).  This costs nothing but it allows you to receive regular email updates of all the new content we’re producing – and there will be more and more as the year develops.  Remember, too, that we often produce video not featured on The Racer’s Edge, ranging from interviews with wonderful racing people from the past (for example Mike Beckwith) to young up-and-comers on the way to Formula One (like Stoffel Vandoorne).  I also invite you to leave comments on our YouTube page.  We will read them, reply to them where appropriate – and your thoughts will also help to guide the way we move forwards.

If you are a regular viewer – thanks for watching.  We had just over 121,000 hits in the month of June – and over 80 per cent of you were watching the 60/65min show for 80 per cent of its length or longer.  We were also consistently in the top ten urls on iTunes in all aspects – hits, visits and downloads.  Interestingly, I think, about 50 per cent of you were watching from the USA, which just goes to show what I’ve always suspected:  the American F1 fan is amongst the best-informed in the business!

This week’s show is bursting with interesting people and comment:  as well as chatting away with Rob Wilson in the studio, we talk to Daniel Ricciardo, Sam Bird, Derek Daly and Craig Scarborough.  A lot of fun, a lot of laughs – and lots of detail about the sport we love.

In the meantime – again, in case you haven’t seen it – have a look at the episode below.  We filmed it on the Wednesday before Silverstone at LotusF1’s headquarters in Oxfordshire with the support of Avanade, the IT systems company.   This is a good example, I think, of an F1 partner company using digital media to tell a story that you wouldn’t necessarily see or hear on the conventional platforms.  I enjoyed, too, the chat with Alan Permayne.  Which reminds me:  if you haven’t yet joined the F1 Racing magazine Global Fan Community, then you should do so now.   GFC members will be given exclusive opportunities to ask questions of our featured guests – and to be in the running for some great prizes.  The winner from this interview was Mr Colin Bowett, from the UK.  His question to Alan:  “Do you think it’s odd that Kimi doesn’t do a track walk on Thursdays?”   Some excellent LotusF1 merchandise will now be coming Colin’s way.  You can join the GFC by going to the appropriate link published in the latest edition of F1 Racing.

OK.  Enough.  Enjoy.

Pirelli responds…

I like Pirelli’s response not only to the FIA statement of yesterday but also to the specific tyre problems we saw at Silverstone.

Milan, July 2, 2013 – After exhaustive analysis of the tyres used at Silverstone, Pirelli has concluded that the causes of the failures were principally down to a combination of the following factors:

1) Rear tyres that were mounted the wrong way round: in other words, the right hand tyre being placed where the left hand one should be and vice versa, on the cars that suffered failures. The tyres supplied this year have an asymmetric structure, which means that they are not designed to be interchangeable. The sidewalls are designed in such a way to deal with specific loads on the internal and external sides of the tyre. So swapping the tyres round has an effect on how they work in certain conditions. In particular, the external part is designed to cope with the very high loads that are generated while cornering at a circuit as demanding as Silverstone, with its rapid left-hand bends and some kerbs that are particularly aggressive.

2) The use of tyre pressures that were excessively low or in any case lower than those indicated by Pirelli. Under-inflating the tyres means that the tyre is subjected to more stressful working conditions.

3) The use of extreme camber angles.

4) Kerbing that was particularly aggressive on fast corners, such as that on turn four at Silverstone, which was the scene of most of the failures. Consequently it was the left-rear tyres that were affected.

The only problems that had come to light before Silverstone were to do with delamination, which was a completely different phenomenon. To stop these delaminations Pirelli found a solution by suggesting that the teams use the tyres that were tried out in Canada from Silverstone onwards. When this proposal was not accepted, Pirelli found another solution through laboratory testing, with a different bonding process to attach the tread to the carcass. So the problem of delamination has nothing at all to do with what was seen in Great Britain.

Following the conclusions of this analysis, Pirelli would like to underline that:

1) Mounting the tyres the wrong way round is a practice that was nonetheless underestimated by everybody: above all Pirelli, which did not forbid this.

2) In the same way, under-inflation of the tyres and extreme camber settings, over which Pirelli has no control, are choices that can be dangerous under certain circumstances. Because of this, Pirelli has asked the FIA for these parameters will be a topic of accurate and future examinations. Pirelli has also asked for compliance with these rules to be checked by a dedicated delegate.

3) Pirelli would also like to underline that the 2013 tyre range does not compromise driver safety in any way if used in the correct manner, and that it meets all the safety standards requested by the FIA.

The logical conclusion is that it is essential for tyres with the performance and technical sophistication of the 2013 range to be regulated and carefully controlled by Pirelli itself. In order to ensure the optimal functioning of the tyres, the Italian firm would need real-time data from the teams regarding fundamental parameters such as pressure, temperature and camber angles. While waiting for new regulations that would permit Pirelli access to this data, vital for the development and management of these state-of-the-art tyres, the following measures are proposed for the forthcoming grands prix, in agreement with the FIA, FOM, the teams and the drivers:

1) The use of the evolution of the current tyre that was tested in Canada (and proved to be completely reliable) for the German Grand Prix this weekend. This represents the best match for the technical characteristics of the Nurburgring circuit. In particular, the rear tyres that will be used at the German Grand Prix, which takes place on July 7, have a Kevlar construction that replaces the current steel structure and the re-introduction of the 2012 belt, to ensure maximum stability and roadholding. Given that these tyres are asymmetric as well, it will be strictly forbidden to swap them round. The front tyres, by contrast, will remain unaltered.

2) From the Hungarian Grand Prix onwards, the introduction of a new range of tyres. The new tyres will have a symmetrical structure, designed to guarantee maximum safety even without access to tyre data – which however is essential for the optimal function of the more sophisticated 2013 tyres. The tyres that will be used for the Hungarian Grand Prix onwards will combine the characteristics of the 2012 tyres with the performance of the 2013 compounds. Essentially, the new tyres will have a structure, construction and belt identical to that of 2012, which ensured maximum performance and safety. The compounds will be the same as those used throughout 2013, which guaranteed faster lap times and a wider working range. This new specification, as agreed with the FIA, will be tested on-track together with the teams and their 2013 cars at Silverstone from 17-19 July in a session with the race drivers during the young driver test. These tests will contribute to the definitive development of the new range of tyres, giving teams the opportunity to carry out the appropriate set-up work on their cars.

Paul Hembery, Pirelli’s motorsport director, said: “What happened at Silverstone was completely unexpected and it was the first time that anything like this has ever occurred in more than a century of Pirelli in motorsport. These incidents, which have upset us greatly, have stressed the urgency of the changes that we already suggested – which will be introduced during for free practice in Germany on Friday. We would like to acknowledge the willingness of the FIA, FOM teams, and drivers to act quickly to find an immediate solution to the problem. In particular, the adoption of winter tests, arranged with the FIA, that are more suitable for tyre development and the possibility of carrying out in-season testing will contribute to the realisation of tyres with increasingly improved standards of safety and performance. I’d like to re-emphasise the fact that the 2013 range of tyres, used in the correct way, is completely safe. What happened at Silverstone though has led us to ask for full access to real time tyre data to ensure the correct usage and development of tyres that have the sophistication we were asked to provide and extremely high performance that has lowered lap times by more than two seconds on average. While we wait for a change in the rules, we will introduce tyres that are easier to manage.”

Low pressures and high camber angles have been standard practice up and down the pit lane – and it’s interesting that Pirelli condoned the swapping of tyres, left to right. The kerbs are the kerbs, though, as the BRDC’s Derek Warwick said recently. The  early-race on-boards of Lewis Hamilton, which I have seen, show that he uses only a tiny amount of apex kerb at T4. Fernando Alonso uses more – maybe a foot more – but conversely had no problems. It could be, of course, that the “safe” line at T4 was Fernando’s but it’s also interesting to note that Daniel Ricciardo, for instance, never touched the T4 apex on any of the on-boards I viewed. 

On Pirelli and glass houses…

The FIA today announced that the  Young Drivers’ Test at Silverstone on July 17-19 would be opened up to regular F1 drivers “to allow teams to use drivers they deem fit to carry out tyre development work in a bid to solve the problems we saw at the British GP”.  Even more significantly, the FIA says it will seek approval to “change the Technical Regulations to allow modifications to the specification of the tyres during the season without the unanimous agreement of all competing teams”.  This, I think, is to be applauded, bearing in mind that Pirelli wanted to revert to Kevlar constructions after the first Bahrain incident and were forbidden for doing so by the teams, who could not come to a unanimous agreement.  (Lotus and Ferrari were going well at the time and understandably did not want to see any major construction changes at that point.)  It also seems likely that the ridiculous (current) requirement for Pirelli to define its 2014 tyre specification by September 1, 2013, will be re-written.  Less comforting is the closing threat in the FIA statement today: “the FIA has asked Pirelli for an assurance that there will be no repetition of the tyre problems at this weekend’s German GP or at subsequent grand prix (sic).”  I may be reading too much into it, but that to me sounds like a governing body potentially wanting to discipline a tyre supplier – the only tyre supplier that would step into the void left by Bridgestone – for making future mistakes.  What would happen, for example, if Sebastian Vettel in Germany this weekend suffered exactly the same sort of tyre failure that took him out at the first corner at Abu Dhabi in 2011? Does anyone outside Red Bull Racing and Pirelli know exactly what happened on that occasion?  Judging by the number of different opinions in the pit lane to this day, I think not.  Surely the role of the FIA at this time – when Pirelli have been subjected to massive criticism from all quarters – is to re-assure the F1 tyre supplier that it has the support of the people who matter.  Pirelli have made mistakes – and will continue to make mistakes – because that is the nature of the F1 business.  Indeed, it is the nature of life.  I make mistakes – plenty of them.  The F1 teams make mistakes. The drivers make mistakes. And so, come to think of it, does the FIA.  I seem to recall some FIA fuel rigs under-performing a few seasons back – and who ratified the regulations that are now being changed mid-season?  Of course Pirelli have had a bunch of problems – but then so did Michelin back in 2005, at Indianapolis.  I think it’s interesting that a number of F1 people who now dream of a Michelin return were the same people who refused to race at Indianapolis that year (when some sort of race could have been put together to save Michelin’s face in its biggest market) and who in 2006, at Monza, openly accused Michelin of cheating.  Pirelli spend several hundred millions of Euros per year supplying tyres for F1;  they don’t have to do it – and I’m sure that at present they wish they weren’t doing it.  In the absence of Goodyear, Bridgestone and Michelin, though, the alternative three years ago was for the F1 industry to produce its own tyres, with the vague hope of a sponsor branding the sidewalls.  Instead, Pirelli stepped up to the plate and everyone breathed a huge sigh of relief. In my view, it now behoves the F1 industry to stand squarely behind Pirelli, to give them the scope they need to do the job and not to threaten them with some sort of discipline if/when something again goes wrong.

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