peterwindsor.com

…chance doesn't exist; there's always a cause and a reason for everything – Elahi

Archive for the tag “Sahara Force India”

2014 F1 ReWind – P10, P9

The drum roll continues as we nominate P10 and P9 in our 2014 Top Ten F1 rankings. I’m sure you won’t agree with the list through to P1 but – hey – isn’t that what we still love about motor racing? There’s always something about which we can disagree…

2014: what the drivers will feel

There are a lot of unanswered questions out there when it comes to 2014. We can go on for as long as we like about the technical details but it’s difficult, at this point, to know exactly how it’s all going to settle. The teams aren’t sure, which means the drivers aren’t sure – which means that we, the fans, can’t be sure either.

We can but push, however, and to this end I sat down last week with Rob Wilson to talk about the driving fundamentals that may or not be relevant to 2014. We were joined on line by Tom McCullough, the very talented pit lane engineer who worked in IndyCar and then at WilliamsF1 before joining Sauber towards the end of 2012. Having helped to turn that team around mid-season, and secured some consistently strong results with the driver he first met at Williams – Nico Hulkenberg – Tom is now joining Nico at Sahara Force India for 2014. Here’s how the conversation went:

Notes from Austin

  • _N7T6661Fernando Alonso looked fit and well after qualifying despite his recent nerve/back troubles.  He was beset by headaches for the week after Abu Dhabi (when a hop over the rumble strips did the damage) but he’s fine now, citing adrenalin as the greatest cure in the world.
  • I love the small, relatively cramped team hospitality units at the COTA.  You’re there in Ferrari, chatting to Luca Marmorini about the 2014 fuel-flow restrictors, and the next thing you know you’re shoulder-to-shoulder with Felipe and/or Fernando’s Friends.  After chatting earlier to Sahara Force India’s Andy Stevenson about his team’s third Brembo brake disc failure this year (Adrian Sutil’s broke in qualifying in Texas), the thought occurred that Felipe is going to have a bit of a pedal-shock when he first drives a Williams.  To my knowledge, Felipe has never driven with Carbone Industrie brakes – and they are very, very different from the Brembos.  As different, perhaps, as the new V6 turbo engines will be from the current V8s.  Felipe said that he’d tried CIs a few times at Ferrari and doesn’t like ’em.  “I will have to make some changes at Williams,” he said with a smile.  Hmm.  It’ll be interesting to see where Williams are at, brake-wise, come January/February next year.
  • Speaking of those SFI brake failures, the thinking at Brembo is that SFI have an installation problem.  Ferrari, for example, have had no such issues at any point this year.  Fair enough – but then you would always expect Ferrari to be atop the Brembo totem pole.  It’s a bit worrying, therefore – both for SFI and Brembo.  Add a couple of issues at Lotus with Hitco, and you have a surprising number of brakes failures in a year when other (historically-fragile) car components – hydraulic systems, electronics, clutches, transmssions, engines, etc – have been virtually rock-solid.
  • One of the sights I miss at modern F1 races is that of the washing line – the drivers’ sweaty overalls hanging out to dry between practice sessions.  They all used to do it.  Now, like Vespa scooters, I guess such displays are against Community Paddock Rules.  I did see this, though, after Friday practice, proving that there’s life in (crowded) F1 paddocks after all. I shot these sun-drying overalls through the fencing in the hope that you won’t report the culprits.photo5
  • It’s difficult to have fun on the roads in the US, but that all changes on the motorway leading to the COTA.   Not only does the road have plenty of sweeping bends in amongst the prairies and the grazing cattle;  the speed limit is also an amazing 80 mph (85 mph on the return lanes, oddly).  I can’t think of too many places in the world these days with speed limits that high, so all credit to the Texans.  My Hertz Chevvy loved it – and that’s saying something.photo2
  • I know I go on an on about “F1 improving its show” but I can’t let this race pass into history without commenting about the almost non-existent support package for the US GP.  Last year we at least saw Historic F1 cars – and gorgeous they were too, even if the owners were not allowed to use on-board cameras and the races were confined to the less-populated stages of the day.   We also had Porsche Supercup (American version).  This year the Historic F1 cars were nowhere in evidence – and nor were the Porsches.  The sum total of the USGP race cars was the F1 race (obviously), preceded at 9:30am by an (admittedly fascinating) Historic Formula Atlantic/Formula B race and then a bunch of unruly stockbrokers doing about $50m-worth of damage to expensive-looking Ferrari sports/road cars.   Why no Historic F1s in a country in which (a) F1 is trying to “sell its brand” and (b) has enormous F1 heritage, by which I mean Phil Hill, Mario Andretti, Dan Gurney, Richie Ginther, Peter Revson, Eagle Weslakes and a race history that stretches back to 1959?  Why no Eagle on the circuit before the race, driven by Dan himself?  Why no Mario in a Lotus 79?  And why no Pro-Celebrity race, bringing in some Hollywood stars to spice up the day – especially in a year of relatively-predictable Seb Vettel domination?  Americans like shows – they’re used to shows – and it’s not difficult to enhance the F1 show with a few simple bolt-ons.  As much as I enjoyed watching (late on Saturday and early on Sunday) a Fred Opert Chevron B39 alongside a Ralt RT1 – and the mid-field laps of a nice Lotus 41C – and seeing Mario on the podium, presenting a trophy – I don’t think this is the sort of event that sits particularly comfortably – alone – as the main support race of America’s Grand Prix.  Fred Opert himself?  He was in Texas, supporting his man (Nico Rosberg, son of his former star driver, Keijo).
  • Which reminds me of one of the first Long Beach Grands Prix, when there was a decent Pro-celebrity race.  Poor old Clint Eastwood wasn’t particularly quick but luckily couldn’t hear the large-bellied guy sitting on his Winnebago’s roof on the outside of Turn Two (where I also happened to be watching).  “Hey Clint!” he would say, lap after lap.  “Where’s Dirty Harry now?!”.  Anyway, here’s a flashback to the first Long Beach GP in 1976.  Not a bad guest list:  Stirling Moss, Juan Manuel Fangio, Rene Dreyfus, Phil Hill, Dan Gurney and Maurice Trintignant. Sadly many have passed away.  As I say, though:  why no Dan in an Eagle at the COTA – or Stirling, for that matter?  He did win the second US GP (at Riverside, 1960). 1976 United States Grand Prix West.
  • Tim Mayer (son of Teddy), was a Steward at this year’s US GP.  It was 50 years ago that his uncle, the very rapid Timmy, signed to drive for Bruce McLaren’s new team prior to the (January-February, 1964) Tasman Series.  Timmy was instantly quick, almost dead-heating with Bruce at Teretonga and running right up with his team leader on several other circuits.  Then in March, at Longford, Tasmania, Timmy died when his little Cooper became airborne over one of the bumps and spun into the trees.  Tim, his nephew, is today an FIA Delegate and Director of ACCUS (Automobile Commission of the United States).  Timmy brought his mechanic, Tyler Alexander (left, below) to Bruce McLaren Motor Racing Ltd.  Tyler then went on to become an integral part of the McLaren success story.1964 Tasman Cup Championship.

What do you do when you’re sitting in a Texan taffic jam? Watch the sunset…photo4

Images: LAT Photographic; Peter Windsor Collection

The ups of Sauber, the brilliance of Mike Conway…

…and the tough past few races for Sahara Force India

On this week’s edition of The Racer’s Edge I managed to catch up with the loquacious Tom McCullough of Doncaster, otherwise known as the Head of Track Engineering for the Sauber F1 Team. Tom joined Sauber late last year after several years on the pit wall with Williams and quickly made his mark.  He knew Nico Hulkenberg from his Willliams days, of course, but the rest of the challenge was all new:  new country, new people, new methodologies.  As I hope you will hear in the interview, Tom is one of those engineers who adapts quickly and loves his craft. It’s no surprise, indeed, that he has helped to convert Sauber’s mundane start to the season into one of the big talking-points of the past few weeks. The only question I didn’t ask, to be sure, is why Williams let him go in the first place – but I guess that’s another subject for another day. I also quiz Sahara Force India’s Chief Operating Officer, Otmar Szafnauer, about his team’s corresponding fall from pace. It’s linked to the mid-season change in Pirelli tyre constructions – but Otmar talks, too, about how F1 needs to retain it’s “unique” quality. “It’s done a good job of this in the past,” he says, “but now is the time to develop that further. F1 faces competition from a lot of other sports and entertainments. If we are going to continue to develop sponsorships for teams up and down the grid, we need to ensure that F1 sustains that ‘unique’ feel.”

I was also able to talk on-line with the brilliantly-talented Englishman, Mike Conway. Back in 2006, Mike seemed destined for F1 stardom. He dominated F3 not only during the season but also with wins at Pau and Macau. Think opponents like Romain Grosjean (and Lewis Hamilton in Formula Renault) and you have an idea of the standards about which we’re talking. His GP2 seasons dragged a little…and suddenly the momentum was lost. Mike turned his attention to IndyCar – and in 2010 he was very lucky to escape with recoverable injuries from a huge accident at Indianapolis. Mike, though, is a fighter who loves his craft just as much as Tom McC above. Despite shaking the US racing fraternity by announcing at the end of 2012 that he was no longer prepared to race on ovals, Mike this year has finally achieved the sort of results worthy of his skills. He scored a win and a third in the two Detroit IndyCar races and he’s just won the last two LMP2 races at Interlagos and Austin in an Oreca-Nissan run by Alan Docking. (Oreca is owned by Hughes de Chaunac, who used to run Martini in the days of Rene Arnoux.) Mike’s versatile, he’s quick, he’s now a globally-successful racing driver who is paid to do something he enjoys –  and he’s just bought an old, 1960s VW Beetle, complete with white sidewall tyres and roofrack.  Need I say more.

Episode 32 of The Racer’s Edge.  Enjoy.

2013 and Sahara Force India

Post Navigation

%d bloggers like this: