Notes from the Singapore paddock
- The Romain Grosjean-Felipe Nasr first-lap shunt at Monza (Romain’s right-front hit Felipe’s left-rear) was indeed a “racing accident”. It turns out that when Grosjean’s Lotus was hit from behind by Nasr’s team-mate, Marcus Ericsson, the resultant impact/deceleration was enough to activate the anti-stall on the Grosjean car. That’s why he then had no control and collected Nasr. I asked Romain if this anti-stall-kicking-in-mid-corner thing was something he’d experienced before and he said he had: it’s become an integral part of this current era of technology and I’m not sure if it’s a good thing. I can see why the cars need anti-stall but Romain agreed with me that in the pre-anti-stall days the incident at Monza would have resulted in all three cars continuing relatively undamaged. As it was, we had a “racing accident” – 2015-style.
- Speaking of Nasr, he’s been having a lot of trouble with his Brembo brakes recently – specifically with managing the temperature windows. With Ericsson racing Carbon Industries on the other Sauber, Felipe is also switching to CI for Singapore. Daniil Kvyat, meanwhile, was surprised to hear this, bearing in mind how quick he has been on the Brembos. More than anything, I think, it shows how difficult it is for a team to run two different brake types within the same garage. Nick Chester of Lotus was saying that “finding brake temperature windows” is primarily all about brake ducts – “which sounds simple until you remember that ducts not only play a massive role in aerodynamics but are also very expensive and time-consuming to make, given all the aero research that goes into them.” Is this a good thing, I ask? I don’t mind getting excited about a new wing or something but brakes to my mind should be about stopping power. Ducts? Difficult to get massively excited about their inner workings but it explains why low-budget teams like Sauber find it so hard to get the cars to stop.
- It’s official: Ferrari have confirmed that Kimi’s poor start in Monza was indeed “finger trouble”. Having said that, Kimi replicated the start sequence a hundred times in the simulator a few days later – and was perfect every time. He would have hated that, too, because he likes working in a simulator about as much as he does wearing a tie. He’s still unsure of what happened but it all points to him not releasing the first clutch paddle…and initiating the anti-stall. Sergio Perez owned up to having made the same mistake in practice – and Romain Grosjean said that he still spends a lot of time thinking through the start procedure the night before a race. It’s still that complicated.
- I said on video after the Italian GP (www.youtube.com/peterwindsor) that Kimi’s re-booting process seemed to be pretty quick but the word from the Singapore paddock is that it was actually surprisingly slow: all that’s required is a quick flick of the clutch lever and you’re away. I guess in Kimi’s case he also spent a few seconds wondering whether the nightmare could really be true…
- Valtteri Bottas has confirmed that he “just happened” to leave the garage ahead of Felipe Massa in that final qualifying run at Monza. Bottas gave the tow to his team-mate – and the rest is history. My bet is that Valtteri will be a bit more selective about who he has running five seconds behind him come Monza, 2016, but this is really something he should have thought about before the race week. No honest race engineer is ever going to prevent one of the team cars helping the other (in qualifying) but the driver has a different set of priorities – ie, he wants to beat his team-mate more than any other driver on the grid. Most of today’s F1 drivers have managers for their contractual and financial affairs but, to me, this sort of issue should also fall under the remit of “management”. If a personal manager isn’t going to remind the driver about something like this, who is?
- Daniel Ricciardo told me that “getting the brakes to work at the correct temperature” has been a major factor in the recent, improved performance at Red Bull-Renault. I say this because so much of the chat these days is about the Renault engine and very little of it is about Brembo. Singapore is going to be a big test for the brakes – but then Monza was, too, and they worked well there on the RB11. Daniel has been preparing for Singapore by cycling in a controlled-temperature environment (stationary bike!) and is of course looking forward to the weekend: “I sweat so much here it’s ridiculous. When I got out of the car a couple of years ago there was so much fluid in the seat that boys thought I’d had an unfortunate accident or something. I wouldn’t resort to Nico Rosberg’s extremes but I need to make sure that the front of the balaclava acts as a sweat-soak..” Nico’s extremes? Apparently he’s tried sanitary pads on his forehead…
- Sergio Perez reports that the Mexican GP is a sell-out and that the temperature is definitely rising. (A lot of the tickets were bought by touts, but then it was forever thus in Mexico City.) No pressure on him, then? “I love it,” he chortled. “The place has gone crazy. I never imagined that F1 could be so big in my country.”