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Friday, December 28, 2012

Caterham rumours intensifying

Today I've seen two stories about Caterham's second seat: the first, on a Spanish site reckons that Jaime Alguersuari has it, whilst the second, a Finnish site is saying that Petrov will retain the seat for next year , primarily based on the fact that Bernie wants a Russian upriver on the grid for 2014 and the new Russian GP.

Seems a bit ridiculous but always possible, you just never know with Bernie.

The seat is also being chased by Bruno Senna amongst others and I am of the opinion that it will go to the highest bidder, as long as they have a modicum of ability.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Give us some boots and lets do racing

Paul Hembery has confirmed that Pirelli is hoping to stay in Formula One for a number of seasons. The initial deal is for three years but Hembery expects to see the contract renewed.

"I think most people would think you need to do 8-10 years really in a sport to be able to activate your involvement in an activity right down to the point of sale" Hembery told ESPN last week "it would probably take a medium term agreement to allow you to really maximise the return on your investment."

The drivers, teams and governing bodies are sending out mixed messages with some sections looking for a return to the madness of the first races of last season where there was a total lack of understanding of the performance degradation.

Pirelli themselves believe they were too conservative in the final third of the season leading to a number of one-stop races.

I found the first third of last season very difficult as the tyres dictated the outcome rather than the car or the driver and would hate to see a return to that madness and uncertainty.  For me F1 is all about the best driver/car combination so I want them to win straight off the bat and watch the other teams fight to catch them up.  I don't care about teams exploiting the regulations to gain an edge, that for me is what it's all about. That is  what enabled Williams to win in 1980 with their ground effect car, Brawn to win in 2009 having interpreted the regulations to incorporate their rear diffuser. it gave us the Fan car, and the six wheeler...for crying out loud it gave us aerodynamics in the form of front and rear wings.

Interpretation is everything in F1 and I'd prefer to keep it that way.  Give us a set of working boots and lets do racing. No frippery just teams going head to head. Screw the fan who's only in it for the crashes and the overtaking, those a only a very small part of what F1 is all about. Racing doesn't have to be close to be good, it may be better if it is, but it is not essential.

Monday, December 24, 2012

2012 a Season in Pictures

Jenson won in Melbourne while the season opener showed-up the relative strengths and weaknesses of Red Bull and Ferrari
Copyright Vodafone McLaren Mercedes

While Alonso won in Malaysia with a great drive Lap 42-Lap 49 was where the real drama unfolded with Perez cutting the gap to the Ferrari to only half-a second before running wide in Turn 14.  The Sauber driver took a great second place.
Copyright Sauber Motorsport AG
Mercedes won in China, Nico's maiden F1 win, but their double DRS system raised controversy throughout the grid, even though success proved fleeting.  While other teams copied the idea it was not the "step" that Mercedes anticipated.
Copyright: Mercedes AMG
Budayia Highway, Bahrain, Free Practice Friday.  The race went ahead anyway - A dark day for F1
Williams took the laurels in Spain, their first win in 8 years but the celebrations were marred when their Pit Garage went on fire. Four team members were injured.
Copyright: Williams F1/LAT Photographic

Webbo had another encounter with the Red Bull Swimming Pool in Monaco, but it was Schumi sneaking the Pole lap that got everyone talking, even though he then took a 5 place grid penalty.
Copyright: Mark Thompson/Getty Images

While Hamilton made it seven winners in seven races, it was Grosjean and Perez who taught the rest of the field a lesson in tyre management, overtaking everyone in the closing stages to take second and third on one-stop strategies
Copyright Lotus F1/LAT Photographic

Fernando triumphed for the second time in Valencia while Caterham got to grips with Toro Rosso (literally). Michael Schumacher stood on the podium, becoming the first 43 year old on an F1 podium since Jack Brabham in 1970
Courtesy: Pirelli F1

Stuck in traffic on Friday, A deluge of rain on Saturday and a beautiful warm and sunny Raceday and I loved every minute of Silverstone, including Webbo's brilliant pass on Fernando to take the victory with only a couple of laps remaining.
Copyright: Getty Images

Alonso took his third win at Hockenheim but the pre-race drama with regard to Red Bull's engine mapping became the primary discussion point of the weekend.
Courtesy: Pirelli F1

Lewis beat all-comers in Hungary but the two Lotus Driver's didn't make it a comfortable victory, Raikkonen showing strongly to push Grosjean wide after making his final pitstop.  He got to within a second of the leader but couldn't get any closer. Lotus took the bottom two steps of the podium in a strong showing.
Courtesy Pirelli F1
Button joined his team-mate on two wins after THAT accident left Alonso and Hamilton out of the race at Turn 1. Vettel took second in the race and second in the WDC, and Raikkonen continued the Lotus run of form to come third.  Grosjean was handed a one-race ban for instigating the first turn carnage
Courtesy Pirelli F1 

Monza might have seen Lewis Hamilton win for the third time but it also showed Sauber's in-race strategy working to perfection with Sergio Perez cahrging through the field to overtake Fernando Alonso for second. With increasing speculation linking Lewis to Mercedes in 2013, Martin Whitmarsh must have been watching this impressive performance closely.
Copyright: Sauber Motorsport AG

Vettel beat Button and Alonso in Singapore, the beginning of the Red Bull Asian whitewash.  Hamilton's move to Mercedes for 2013 is announced to an unsurprised public, Perez is announced as his replacement
Copyright: Clive Mason/Getty Images

Kamui Kobayashi put in a stunning drive to overtake Jenson Button and take third in Japan. Vettel wins again, with Massa second, Fernando goes out at Turn 1 after contact
Copyright: Sauber Motorsport AG

Three in a row for Vettel in Korea and this time he's followed home by Webbo in Second. Vettel took the lead in the WDC for the first time, Fernando racing for damage limitation
Copyright: Clive Mason/Getty Images

Alonso managed to take second in India but Vettel made it 4 in a row
Copyright Ker Robertson/Getty Images

"Leave me alone I know what I'm doing" Quote of the Season as Kimi brought Lotus a win in Abu Dhabi, but the story was all about Vettel's comeback to take third from a pitlane start due to a fuel infringement in Qualifying. The HRT troubles went very public
Copyright: Lotus F1/LAT Photographic 

I couldn't resist using this photo again! Breaking up is hard to do, but it's nice to get another win under your belt.  Lewis retained his US GP title when the circus returned after a 5 year absence. Ferrari broke Massa's gearbox - Legally - giving traction to Fernando on a very green track.  The result kept Alonso's hopes alive going to the final race of the season, Vettel second, Alonso third.  Massa drove spectacularly to 4th and Button, having failed to make Q3 started on Hard Compound tyres and drove a great, strategic race to come home 5th.
Copyright: Vodafone McLaren Mercedes
Vettel Finishes 6th in Brazil but take the WDC for the third year in a row.  The final race of the season was so eventful that I gave up trying to write a review.  In a condensed form:
1.  Michael's last F1 race
2.  Charge from Vettel through the pack after he collided with Senna
3.  Brilliant drive from Hulkenberg in wet/drying conditions up until he lost it under braking and took Lewis Hamilton out
4.  Great drive from Alonso from 9th on the grid to 2nd, but it wasn't enough
5.  Another masterclass in consistency saw Jenson Button to the top step of the podium.
And that is only a fraction of what went on!
Superlative inducing final race of the Season.
Copyright: Getty Images

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Three teams lose Critical Management personnel in December

Three teams have lost important members of the staff over the course of a month; the latest to announce his leaving is Steve Nielsen, Sporting Director at Caterham.  He joined the team last year from Renault and would appear to be leaving Caterham to join another team in the F1 paddock, though to which team and what position no rumour is currently circulating.

As to what a Sporting Director does for the team; the Sporting Director operates in the "Race Team" Manager position, whether purely as manager or to include the engineering side also.  Their prime duty would appear to be to make the cars and team operate as effectively and efficiently as possible during a race weekend.  They are also the guys on the pitwall who have total knowledge of the rules and strategy so they can make authoritative calls in respect of how the team respond to issues that arise throughout the weekend.

Nielsen was Sporting Director at Benetton during Fernando Alonso's term with that team, from where he moved to Renault. His decision to leave may have something to do with the recent appointment of Cyril Abiteboul taking up the position of Team Principal following Tony Fernandes stepping down.

From Sporting Director it might be considered that Team Principal would represent the next logical step on the ladder, given that the Technical Director's position relies on design skills, and Steve Nielsen has operated as Team Manager prior to this at Tyrell in 1995 and at TWR Arrows in 1999.

It will be interesting to see where he is moving to and what position he'll take up with his new team.

Earlier in the week it was announced that Mark Gillan is leaving the position of Chief Operations Engineer with Williams, wishing to spend more time at home.  The Chief Operations Engineer role is to collate all of the various different elements of the race operation, from information from the FIA, the race engineers' updates, and from the race strategist.  Having all of this information the COE oversees the management of the race strategy and makes any decision to alter the plan as circumstances on-track change.  He then instructs the rest of the team on the pitwall who tell the drivers.  After each session he leads the debrief and plans the next session.

He is one of the three credited with bringing the race-winning FW34 to the grid last season alongside Mike Coughlan and Jason Somerville.  It is anticipated that his loss will be keenly felt at Williams.

And then last week Norbert Haug announced that he would leave Mercedes at the end of this year. He's been the public face of Mercedes F1 since they came back to F1 in 1994 and with his famous early moustache, along with his job title, I used to call him Boss Haug (though I never saw Roscoe, Cletus or Enos hanging around).

He came fully into the limelight when Mercedes bought the Brawn F1 Team and raced in 2010.  Their results since then have been mixed with only the one win, last season in Malaysia, and 5 other podiums over the three seasons.  Haug stated that he took

responsibility for for not having been successful enough in three years.
and on 2012 said:
We were quite OK with our pace in the first third of the season - but then we dropped back. So we need changes, and I fully accept that. We should have done a better job. We changed to the 60 per cent windtunnel in the middle of the year; we suffered a little bit with the RRA and personnel numbers, but I don't want to have any excuses. My job was not good enough. I take full responsibility for that. Even if I don't build the car, I am in charge and if I was responsible for the victory in China, I also have to be responsible for everything else that happened.
Apparently he's looking forward to having some time off before deciding what he'll do in the future.  

Mercedes took on Niki Lauda in September last as a non-executive chairman.  One of the roles associated with that position is to review and evaluate the performance of the CEO and the other board members and, Haug, being Motorsport Director, would have been one of those under scrutiny.

There is a sense of the old-guard being pushed out at Mercedes F1 with Norbert Haug and Michael Schumacher both having succumbed to unseen pressures, but Haug's job is one which Mercedes may struggle to fill given the number of different motorsport commitments which they undertake which include Formula 1, International V8 Supercars Championship in 2013, DTM, and as an F3 engine supplier.

I'm sure any number of rumours will appear online over the coming weeks, with Schumacher and Berger already being mooted along with Niki Lauda himself, but such a specialist slot in the organisation will be hard to fill and harder to keep.

Force India first with 2013 Car Launch Date

A couple of days ago Force India tweeted that they will launch their 2013 challenger on February 1st next, 4 days before the teams go testing at the Jerez track.

They're the first team to provide a launch date, tweeting:
we've pencilled in Friday 1st February for the presentation of our 2013 car in the UK
Sauber's 2013 challenger was the first to pass the FIA crash tests last week, the team tweeted:
The C32 chassis and safety structures have passed their FIA safety tests. So, fully homologated and ready for winter testing
For those of us, like me, that need confirmation as to what exactly homolgated means I looked it up and the definition in this particular instance is "confirmed officially"

I'm giving the "new" Sauber Communications Manager Daniela Leeb the F1 2012 Blog award for Best F1 Twitter Word of the Year by delegation, even though it might be argued that the use of the word "Fully" is superfluous as the car either passes or fails the mandatory test.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Romain Grosjean Confirmed for 2013


Romain Grosjean Confirmed for 2013.

Lotus F1 Team is pleased to announce that Romain Grosjean will partner Kimi Räikkönen in an unchanged driver line-up for the 2013 season.

This year, Romain made his return to Formula 1 with Lotus F1 Team. He finished on the podium in Bahrain (P3), Canada (P2) and Hungary (P3), finishing the Drivers’ Championship in eighth position with 96 points.

Romain Grosjean : “It’s fantastic for me to be continuing with Lotus F1 Team for 2013. It’s superb to have the support of everyone at Enstone. I’m really looking forward to rewarding their faith when we take to the track in Australia. I learnt a lot in my first full season in Formula 1 and my aim is to put these lessons into practice with stronger and more consistent performance on track next year. There are a lot of exciting developments occurring behind the scenes at Enstone and I am very excited with the prospect of the E21. I’ve already had my seat fitting and spoken with all the personnel involved with the build of the new car ; I just can’t wait to get behind the wheel.”

Eric Boullier, Team Principal : “Romain is a great talent and we are pleased that he is continuing with us for a second season. With the continuity of two exceptional drivers like Romain and Kimi we are well placed to build on our strong 2012 with even better results in the year ahead. Both drivers worked very well together in their first year as team-mates, and I think there is the potential of even better things from the season ahead. We were regular visitors to podiums in 2012 and we certainly intend to continue with this trend in 2013.”

It's Official, unofficially

The word has come down from Eddie Jordan that Max Chilton has signed to race for Marussia next year.  This has come before the official announcement from Marussia and on the back of Eddie's Singapore prediction.

As we all know Eddie got the Hamilton to Mercedes story first and was derided, on air and online, by those who should know better.  This time I expect that everyone will take the matter as a done deal - unless of course Eddie is wrong (unlikely!)

How do you tell if a driver is good enough for F1? A Public Apology

It's a question that I always find difficult to answer, as nothing more than an enthusiastic fan.  There's always a surprise package in the mix.

Davide Valsecchi, GP2 Champion 2012
Copyright: Lotus F1/LAT Photographic
Please bear with me whilst I explain this one from my own perspective.

Look at Giorgio Pantano, a driver that I have always slated inside my own head and once or twice in earlier posts on this blog.  I mean the guy bought his way into a Jordan seat in F1 in 2004 and spent much of the early season at the back of the pack.  He never did anything in the car.  His inability was highlighted in Canada when he was replaced by Timo Glock on a one-off who, in his first race brought the car home in the points in 7th.  Pantano then came back and once again disappointed until he was replaced after the Italian GP by Glock for the remainder of the season.  Pantano was a blight on the Jordan Team and I, an ardent Jordan fan, spent many angry hours ranting about him at the time.

It turned out later that Giorgio had been the one who decided to stop because of the money his family were pumping in to keep him in the seat.

Now I've spent the last 8 years hoping against hope that no driver of that standard, no Pantano, would ever be able to come into F1 no matter how big his wallet.

I may have been wrong

After decent results in GP2 with Super Nova Racing in 2005 Fisi, Giancarlo Fisichella, gave him an opportunity in 2006 to race for his FMS GP2 team.  He clocked up 3 wins, a podium and 5 points scoring finishes out of 15 races, three of which he retired from.  He came fifth in the championship that year.

He came third with Campos Grand Prix in 2007 and won the GP2 championship in 2008 with the Racing Engineering Team, beating Bruno Senna, Lucas di Grassi, Romain Grosjean, Pastor Maldonado, Sebastian Buemi, Vitaly Petrov, Karun Chandhok, Jerome d'Ambrosio, and Kamui Kobayashi

Like Romain Grosjean, this is a driver who, after having a massively bad experience of Formula 1, went back and began all over again with great success in the lower formulae.

The rumour was that he would come back to F1 in 2010 with Campos Meta (HRT) but the word was that he was overlooked in favour of Bruno Senna and Karun Chandhok because he was considered, at 31, to be too old for F1.

Timo Glock, his 2004 replacement at Jordan, won the GP2 championship the year before Giorgio and was installed again in an F1 car in 2008 with Toyota at the ripe old age of 28.  He raced for Marussia in the 2012 season at the age of 31. Nico Hulkenberg won GP2 in 2009, the year after Pantano and he, a young whipper-snapper at 25, is moving to Sauber for the 2013 season..

To put the achievement of Giorgio Pantano into context:

Nico Rosberg won in 2005 with Heikki Kovalainen coming in second,
Lewis Hamilton won in 2006,
Timo Glock won in 2007,
Nico Hulkenberg in 2009,
Pastor Maldonado in 2010, and
Romain Grosjean in 2011.

All of these guys are now Formula 1 drivers. So I owe Giorgio Pantano a real and deserved apology.

All of this leads to a question about ageism within the Formula 1 circus.  Call me a starry-eyed eejit, but surely merit should be the most important element of any decision to hire an F1 driver. If GP2 is intended to operate as a feeder series then the GP2 champion should be the most sought-after driver for the following F1 season, almost guaranteed a race seat, regardless of age.  Didn't happen with Giorgio Pantano and history would appear to be repeating itself this year.

Davide Valsecchi at the Young Driver's Test in Abu Dhabi
If he's not on the 2013 grid the GP2 series lacks credibility
Copyright: Lotus F1/LAT Photographic
This year Davide Valsecchi won the GP2 Series. He's only 25, the same age as Nico Hulkenberg but he would seem to have been passed over by the F1 teams for a race seat next season in favour of better funded drivers like Luiz Razia, Esteban Gutierrez, Max Chilton and Giedo van der Garde, all of whom he beat to the title this year and all of whom have been given or are linked to F1 seats this year..

Razia is 23, Gutierrez 21, Chilton 21, and van der Garde a very old 27.

Valsecchi last sat in an F1 car as test driver for Lotus in Abu Dhabi this year but has never entered the rumour mill for a race seat in 2013.

The pointlessness of the series, in the absence of the champion being fielded on the F1 grid the following season, is that, as champion a driver can no longer race in the series, therefore he can neither defend his title nor will he be on the F1 grid.  The F1 "Feeder" series becomes a complete joke if these circumstances arise.

How do you tell if a driver is good enough? Beat's the hell out of me!

Friday, December 14, 2012

Bruno Senna's Free Practice excuse contrary to Statistics

Friday Practice in Melbourne
Senna consistently stated that lack of Friday Practice hurt his race weekends.
Copyright Williams F1/LAT Photographic
The problem with the off-season is that all of last years statistics are now available for scrutiny and there are any number of stories which I have half-completed because I found myself mired in the statistics which were telling a story all of their own.

This one though seemed relatively straightforward: Bruno Senna said that his lack of Friday running at all but 5 GP weekends hurt his race weekend.  This was easy to check out because he did run on 5 Friday Practice sessions at Melbourne, Monaco, Canada, Singapore, and Austin.  Therefore the statistics should tell us whether he's right.

If we take Australia where he participated in all of the weekend sessions he qualified 14th and was taken out in the race by Felipe Massa (for which Felipe received no penalty).

Obviously the first two or three races of the year can be dismissed to a certain degree as all of the drivers and teams are getting used to the cars, and if you wanted to follow the media position, nothing starts until the circus comes back to Europe.  This would suit Senna's interpretation in that Valtteri Bottas had the Friday car in Malaysia, China and Bahrain.

For the stats:
  • Malaysia:    Qualified 13th and finished 6th
  • China:         Qualified 14th and finished 7th
  • Bahrain:      Qualified 15th and retired from the race.

Bruno scored a point in Monaco when he had the car over the full weekend
Copyright: Williams F1/LAT Photographic
Over the course of the season, for the 16 races from Spain onwards Bruno had an average qualifying position of 14.8 on the grid: His average qualifying position for the 4 races where he had Friday practice was 14.25 and his average when Bottas had the car was 14.9.

On his full weekend race-days he came 10th in Monaco, 17th in Canada, 18th in Singapore and 10th in Austin; an average position of 14th (13.75), but on the Bottas Weekends his average race position is 10.18.

Senna was nowhere in Canada after Friday Free Practice sessions which began with a faulty DRS and ended with a crash that damaged three corners of the car and the gearbox
Now all of that is Statistics and as we know there are two schools of thought when it comes to statistics:
  1. they never lie, and
  2. You can make them say whatever you like

There is no question in my mind but that Bruno Senna is a good race driver.  The 2012 season has shown, statistically, that when his races are trouble free he invariably tends to make up places from his grid position and can fight for and defend points positions.

Bruno scored points in 10 Grand Prix last season, his highest finishing position being 7th in Hungary.  His problem would appear to be the same as Mark Webber's, Jenson Button's, etc.  He is a consistently good racer but is not a good qualifier.

Williams and Bruno were running well in Singapore and Bruno was in line to score points before losing KERS with 16 laps to go.
Copyright: Williams F1/LAT photographic
Both Button and Webber have worked hard on the Qualification aspect of their racecraft and are stronger now than they have been, are able now to put a perfect lap together on occasion but these guys are not natural qualifiers.  They are as strong as their team-mate in the race and are more consistent, but they are not as quick over one qualifying lap.  Jenson and Mark have the experience and practice gained over many seasons in F1 but Bruno is a relative newcomer and tacking his qualifying problems would go a long way to making him a strong candidate for a midfield team.

He was more consistent than Pastor Maldonado last year but it is clear that he doesn't have the raw pace of his ex-team-mate.  If he could have qualified last years Williams where it should have been, in 6-10 place at 75% of the races, I think that his consistency in the race itself would have seen him score regularly and perhaps seen him on one podium.

To summarise, his ability to gain places is a prime asset but it will only benefit him when he improves his qualifying to the extent that he can regularly put his car through to Q3 on a Saturday.

Bruno came in 10th in Austin, qualifying in 11th.  Hungary was the only race where he reached Q3, qualifying 9th and finishing in 7th.  Copyright Williams F1/LAT Photographic

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Grosjean's Race ban and the imposition of penalties

Banned in Belgium! Smashed in Singapore! Romain Grosjean suffered more than Michael Schumacher
at the hands of the Race Stewards
Copyright Lotus F1/LAT Photographic 

From my perspective, each GP race is a unique event within the overall season and whatever penalties are imposed at that track on that weekend should not affect any of the following races.  The only exceptions are penalties imposed for changes of engine, gearbox changes, race bans or grid penalties imposed on the back of serious incidents.

Once bans or penalties have been imposed that should be that, they should not be revisited for the purpose of imposing harsher penalties at a later date.

The question of imposing appropriate penalties has been seething and simmering away in my head since it raised its head again in the new FIA magazine Auto.

In that new E-Magazine publication Garry Connelly, a regular chairman of race stewards at GP meetings, makes numerous statements in respect of what the race stewards look at before they make decisions.

The Sinner and the sinned against: Maldonado had a crash history last season while Senna found himself the innocent
party on a number of occasions. Did Pastor's punishment fit the crime? The Race Stewards would appear to think so.
Copyright Williams/LAT Photographic
After reading the article the whole approach to imposing on-track penalties, and in particular the Romain Grosjean race ban, would appear to be relatively unrelated to the actual incidents which took place.  Take the following quote for example:
Take a driver who has caused a collision, typically the offence is punishable by a drivethrough, but more recently there have been a couple of occasions where a stop-go has been imposed. That has typically been because the offence has been a second one or more by that driver during the season. So you do look at the driver’s recordWe also now take into account the consequences of the penalty. This wasn’t done previously and it might lead people to think that there are inconsistencies, but if someone is coming third in a race by 50 seconds, then giving them a drive-through is not a penalty, potentially.
You’ve also got to look at the consequences of their action. To relate this to a civil situation, if I throw a punch at you and miss, I’m probably going to get charged by the police with attempted assault or something like that. But if I connect and break your jaw, I’m going to get charged with assault causing bodily harm or something like that. That could lead me to suffer more dire consequences. It’s the same action, but the repercussions are much different each time.
From my perspective as a long-time fan this is not a fair manner in which to approach the imposition of a penalty on a driver in a Grand Prix.  Racing is about what happens on the track, on the day.  If you must race someone differently because he is a championship contender that is discrimination and hands contenders a significant unfair advantage over the other teams and drivers in the field.
No wonder Michael jumped out of the way of Sebastian Vettel in Brazil: and there I was thinking he was doing Vettel the favour!

Take Connelly's statement in regard to the Grosjean incident:
But what Romain got the extra penalty for was not that, or at least not wholly for that. When you’re a relatively new driver to Formula One and you have the privilege of driving in a potentially winning or podium finish car, you’re mixing it with a group of drivers who have many years more experience than you do at the sharp end of the field. It therefore behoves you, in our view, to exercise greater care and attention because you are, with all due respect, the new kid on the block and maybe a little out of your league compared with the guys around you at that end of the grid.
Pardon me but this is bulls#*t of the highest order.  What great driver in the history of the sport has ever given other drivers one single iota of respect on the basis that they've been around for a while?  If you come into F1 you're not in there to crash at Turn 1, but as I said in an earlier post relating to the Grosjean Race Ban, you're not in there to hold back into Turn 1 if there are places to be made up.  If you do then you simply shouldn't be in the car.  You're in F1 to win.

Now take the Race Steward quote after Belgium:
The stewards regard this incident as an extremely serious breach of the regulations which had the potential to cause injury to others. It eliminated leading championship contenders from the race.
Championship contenders are in the same race as all of the others. If you want to protect them maybe we should have a second race every weekend where only the top 4 in the championship race against each other - the excitement of Indy 2005 springs to mind.  If you wrap the championship contenders in cotton wool you automatically handicap all other drivers in that they cannot race at 100% when attacking or defending their position from these three or four guys.  Completely contrary to the spirit of motor racing.  All the drivers are out there to win and to help the team they drive for win.

Amazing really that MSC didn't get a race ban after rear ending Senna and then Grosjean, but then I guess Michael doesn't fit the above profile in that he was the older driver in F1 and was mixing with drivers who had many many years less experience than he did, so he doesn't have to exercise care and attention.

We can now assume that Michael got favourable treatment because he was not a young driver
Courtesy Mercedes AMG
It's time for the race stewards to forget about a driver's history and deal with every incident on a case by case, GP by GP basis.  I would remind Connelly that in a civil situation a defendant is only charged and sentenced on the particular crime they have committed.

Let's get back to determining a penalty on the act itself rather than on a driver's history or who the victim was.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Difficult days for the small teams

Will Marussia survive the coming season in its current form or might they do better if they were able to buy their design from the likes of Williams, Sauber, or Force India.  This would benefit the midfield teams from a monetary point-of-view and provide Marussia with a design which has been shown to be good enough to score points consistently and reach the podium on occasion.

It would give us, the fans, a good idea of the drivers' abilities in a reasonable machine and would tighten up the midfield battle.  Let's face it we've had situations in the recent past where works teams are being raced against and beaten by teams to whom they have supplied engines, what is the difference between that and two midfield teams racing each other using the same base chassis?

HRT & Marussia might have raced competitively had they the use of another team's tried and tested design
Courtesy HRT F1
You'll remember that, prior to the US GP in Austin this year, Mario Andretti called for teams to be able to run third cars and guest drivers in an effort to increase the popularity of the sport in the USA and around the world. He told the media that he wouldn't have been in F1, not to mind World Drivers' Champion if the third car rule wasn't in place.  Andretti got his first pole position at his first race in Formula 1 at the 1968 US GP in Watkins Glen thanks to Colin Chapman who provided him with a Lotus 49:

I would love F1 go back to the rule where you could add a third car and have guest driver come in; that's how I broke in. If you can have your own guys flying their own flag in their country it brings a lot more attention. It always plays well and the more buzz you 
can create the better
Ferrari have been calling for the re-introduction of this rule since 2009 when Luca di Montezemolo wanted to bring Michael Schumacher back to race alongside Felipe Massa and Fernando Alonso in 2010.  At that time he said that the teams at the back of the grid were dangerous because they were too small and too slow and a third car being raced by Ferrari, Red Bull, McLaren and Williams would provide for a more competitive and safer spectacle.

In 2010 Ferrari clarified their position in relation to the third car question at the FOTA Fans' Forum saying that they would make a competitive car available to a new team on the grid.

di Montezemolo is nothing if not consistent; at the Ferrari World Finals at Mugello last year he further clarified the Ferrari position:
There's the issue of the third car, which mark my words, we support not so much for our own interests but more for those of the sport in general. We believe the interest of the fans, media and sponsors could increase if there is a bigger number of competitive cars on track rather than cars that are two or three seconds off the pace, being lapped after just a few laps.
There you are, it would be nice one day in the future to see one of our cars running in American colours, or Chinese, or maybe those of Abu Dhabi.
When asked by Autosport Bernie Ecclestone said that:
If by chance we lost a couple of teams then I think it will probably be good.  But the other teams don't like it. You can imagine if we have got three Ferraris, three Red Bulls, and three McLarens, it is not so good for other people.
Martin Whitmarsh, McLaren disagrees with the third car proposals on the basis that F1 should be concentrating on ensuring that all the teams on the grid can be competitive:
I think the DNA, the structure of Formula 1, requires the variety of teams and we have got some new teams and we have got some smaller teams and we recognise that it is very, very challenging to get the budget to compete in Formula 1.If, today, Ferrari, Red Bull, McLaren, Mercedes all fielded third cars then I think, in my view, it would be damaging for the sport. There are pros and cons and I think it is right to have the debate and people have different views but at the moment I think what we should be concentrating on is ensuring that we have got a viable and sustainable model for all of the teams in F1.
It doesn't discuss the impact of having guest drivers participating in local events in competitive machinery, something which might see Indycar drivers sitting on the F1 grid in the USA, Fisichella or Trulli at Monza, etc.

The idea has been mooted before and has operated in one form or another over recent years.  David Richards (ex-BAR Team Principal) planned to enter a Prodrive Team in 2008 running a privateer McLaren, Super Aguri ran  the previous year's Honda F1 car in '06, '07 & '08, and Toro Rosso used cars designed by Red Bull for a long time even though they made alterations to the rear of the cars to enable Ferrari engines to be fitted.

Vettel wins in Monza in 2008 in a Toro Rosso owing much to its sister Red Bull as shown below
both photographs copyright owned by: Clive Mason/Getty Images

In fact, it was the Toro Rosso/Red Bull car (as above) giving Sebastian Vettel his maiden win at Monza in 2008 which prompted the midfield teams to complain on the basis that Formula 1 is about the constructors and each constructor was only entitled to race two cars, not four.

Ross Brawn, last year after a meeting of the Technical Working Group said that the possibility wasn't out of the question, but that it would have to make any arrangement fair to the smaller constructor teams, while Martin Whitmarsh said:

We'd all be excited to see a Valentino Rossi or a Sebastien Loeb in an F1 car but we have to act responsibly. It's challenging for teams to attract the budgets to go racing and if the top four teams ran third cars I feel it would be damaging to the sport
Marussia Team Boss, John Booth agreed that every entrant should be a constructor.

The real argument, historically, would appear to have been that the new teams would need time to build up resources, experience, and improve and as such, bringing in privateers racing third cars would kill the small constructor teams off.  That argument is losing credence now with the demise of HRT, the elevation of Caterham to Column 2 of the Concorde Agreement and the recent news that Marussia, the only "new" team left has not been offered a new Concorde Agreement deal.

Ferrari will continue to agitate for the customer car option:
There are three basic reasons for this. The gap between the best five or six teams and the back is too big, secondly to race for a small team today is very expensive when you have to develop a new car it gets difficult, thirdly I want to see new new drivers in Formula One
Look at the past Giancarlo Baghetti that won a fantastic race in Formula One, his first with the privately run Ferrari. I would like to see McLaren, Ferrari, Williams and Red Bull supplying other teams to make sure that they are more competitive. it means that they spend less money and then we can give room to the drivers of the future
I would like to see Williams, Sauber, and Force India supplying the smaller teams: it would achieve the same result but would provide the monetary benefit to the midfield, as they improve so do those at the back.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Does HRT F1's demise really matter?

Pedro de la Rosa attempts to qualify the HRT F! challenger in Melbourne
Courtesy: HRT F1
Look, I'm sad too that the HRT F1 Team will not be on the grid in 2013 but really, given the shoestring budget they've worked on for the last 3 years and the fact that they were owned by an investment bank it's no surprise that they weren't and won't be at the races next year.

I'm sad for the guys who have been working there and I'm particularly sad for Pedro de la Rosa who has, unfortunately, had to put up with the lowly position on each grid over the course of this season.  His proven skills behind the wheel deserved better than HRT F1 gave him.

But that is the life of an F1 driver really.  I'm picturing Alesi behind the wheel of a Prost, Hill in an Arrows (though he did have THAT drive to console himself with), and Villeneuve in the BAR (though that was his own choice and hubris).

The car itself and it's production was always dubious.  In it's three years on the grid it failed to make pre-season testing every year and turned up at Melbourne each year without having turned a wheel.  In 2010 the car started the race from the pitlane and in 2011 and 2012 the team failed to make the 107% cut.

Their highest ever finish in a Grand Prix has been 13th in Canada last year which resulted from an impressive drive by Vitantonio Liuzzi, the only impressive drive he had all year.

As with all of the three at the back HRT F1 failed to luck into any point over the course of the team's short life but this does not take away from the effort which the team personnel put into the car and the races.  Their coverage was always timely, their attitude positive - all that they lacked was funding and sponsorship which meant they were always dealt a loaded deck.

The money wasn't there and any aero testing was taking place at the Mercedes factory in Brackley a journey of 2,000 miles from their Headquarters in Spain.

No money and no points, let's face it it was time for the team to go.

It is the nature of F1 that the weakest do not survive and the failure of one of the Bottom 3 has been written in the stars.

HRT F1 join the luminaries of F1 such as Simtek (who ran for a season and a half, laced with the tragedy of Roland Ratzenberger's death at Imola in 94, before giving up mid 95), Pacific (who also began in 94 and managed to finish out the 95 season), Lola (who only managed to turn up for Melbourne in 97 before being scrapped), Forti in 1995, Fondmetal in 91 and, of course, Andrea Moda in 1992.

The truth is that you need to be well funded to enter the sport and your future planning needs to be sound.  Many have tried and most have failed, particularly since the reinvigoration of the sport through the direct participation of the manufacturers such as Honda, Toyota, BMW, Mercedes, Renault, etc.

Is there room for another team on the grid, probably, but it needs to have a strong plan to bring the fight to the midfield.  I wouldn't be surprised to see Marussia struggle next year with finances and sponsorship, though it may well be that Caterham would begin to feel the pinch.  Toss a coin and whichever side it lands on there's a struggling team.

Why can't Ferrari go testing in-season?

I was wondering how much in-season testing costs the teams after Luca de Montezemolo had a go at Formula 1 the other day about the ban on in-season testing.

Luca took the opportunity presented by the Ferrari World Finals in Valencia which ran until Sunday last to make it clear that Ferrari wants its Formula 1 operation to revert to a time when it was relevant to Ferrari’s primary business, the production of road cars.
"There are things that aren’t going well in this sport and the moment has arrived to clarify these once and for all in the appropriate places. We can no longer have a situation in which the transfer of technology from the track to the street is reduced to the bare minimum, engines and gearboxes are always the same and the aerodynamics no longer has anything to do with research for road cars. Moreover, it cannot be that in this sport you can’t test. We’ve been saying this for a while and we will repeat it in the appropriate places so for the moment I don’t want to add anything else. But our patience has run out so someone needs to think about whether they want Formula 1 still to have companies that invest and consider it the most advanced research bench for its own cars – as Ferrari has always done since 1950. We are constructors, not sponsors: I’m no longer happy that we can’t do testing on tarmac and that you can’t give any chance for young drivers to emerge – since some people have used the expression “It’s a joke” in recent days, I would like to say that this is the real joke.
I have to say that, having looked at the running costs of F1 today, I think there is a case to be made for the return of in-season testing.  This is, after all, part of the cost of going racing.

Testing at Mugello this year.  Was it an unacceptable strain on the resources of smaller teams?
Copyright: Andy Hone/LAT Photographic
The question as to its return or otherwise centres around two things; Team Finance Versus Car Development.

The likes of Christian Horner, of Red Bull, and Martin Whitmarsh, of McLaren, oppose its return saying that it will see the bigger teams test more while the smaller teams save their money, thus, they argue, unbalancing the sport by seeing the smaller teams fall backwards throughout the season.

As a compromise Christian Horner considered that longer running and more tyres might be made available for Friday Free Practice on race weekends.

But this position is flawed given that the bigger teams benefit from constant running of two wind tunnels testing new parts for the race cars while the midfield teams seem to run less hours and the smaller teams make do with whatever downtime deals they can do with Mercedes or Williams along with commercial wind tunnel time. 

The ex-Team Principal of Ferrari, now the Head of the FIA, Jean Todt supports the Ferrari position and considers that in-season testing improves the quality of the racing on the track and serves to fine-tune cars for the races.

In the course of looking at this story I came across an article by Mat Coch, F1 Journalist, which criticised Luca for making the call to return to in-season testing, saying he was “slapping dozens of recently unemployed Spaniards in the face” (an obvious reference to HRT).

There is no basis for linking these two stories and certainly no journalist should take up such a critical and unsupported position.  In fact the return of in-season testing would see many of these guys being hired by the remaining teams to run the tests.

When the ban was announced hundreds of F1 personnel were let go across the teams as their jobs were no longer required.  Many of these guys were hired by the three new teams entering the sport now known as Caterham, Marussia and HRT.  It is a nonsense to suggest that a call for in-season testing would be a slap in the face to the HRT personnel when, in fact, it would provide a lifeline to them.  Ridiculous statement unsupported by the facts.

It is no secret that Ferrari have never supported the ban on in-season testing and the fact that it has been imposed as a cost-cutting exercise does not seem to be sustained by the facts.

Having looked at the Annual Reports of one of the F1 teams from 2006 to year ended 2011 it would appear that there has been little change in staff numbers or costs over these 6 years and a relatively similar cost employed under the two headings which might be used to incorporate the testing costs: Distribution costs and Administrative expense.  In fact in the two years 2008/2009 when the ban on in-season testing was flagged and came into force the administration expenses of the team increased dramatically but have now fallen to a couple of million above the 2006 level.

Are the teams saving money from the in-season testing, these accounts seem to say no.

The top teams all appear to make use of two wind tunnels and keep referring to the need to operate tunnels with capacity to test larger models, this is a huge outlay on those teams; an outlay which cannot be mirrored by the smaller teams.

Mercedes have two wind tunnels at Brackley, a full-scale and a 60% tunnel and, when Honda were building  the larger one in 2004, they expected to run both tunnels 24 hours a day.

Red Bull, back when it was Jaguar racing, converted the old Concorde Windtunnel in Bedford for F1 testing and have since added a second tunnel.
McLaren have three wind tunnels; 2 for F1 and one for their Car manufacturing.

MTC: Copyright JK1812
Lotus(formerly Renault) use the Renault F1 Wind Tunnel at Enstone which they upgraded at huge cost from a 50% to a 60% model in 2011.  No doubt they too utilise a second tunnel to correlate results.
This is being replicated by Ferrari, who have been making use of the Toyota facility in Germany which supports 60% modelling as well as their own in-house unit.

Ferrari Wind Tunnel
The costs of building the larger Brackley tunnel in 2004 was calculated at around £30 million and the cost to the bigger teams running these tunnels at all hours of the day and night must be exorbitant.

The Midfield teams like Williams and Sauber have their own wind tunnels but obviously do not use them all of the time.  Williams did a deal with Lotus to allow Lotus/Caterham to use one of their wind tunnels during downtime while Caterham constructed their own facility and they also did a deal with Marussia which allows Marussia to use the tunnel for 40% of the downtime.  That deal is thought to have cost Marussia around £4 million per annum.

Force India were stung for just under £700,000 this year for monies owing to Aerolabs for the use of their facility, we do not know how much the overall cost was but would be likely to have been more than Marussia, given Force India's position on the Grid. 

Then at the back we have Marussia, Caterham and Toro Rosso.

I'm assuming that Caterham, now that they're sponsored by EADS who own Airbus and by extension Aerolabs, will have a deal done to use that tunnel for the coming seasons.

Toro Rosso are apparently building their own unit in Faenza with Red Bull wanting both tunnels on a full time basis.

Marussia are likely to maintain its deal with Williams, the question being whether they have the money to utilise a second facility?

Before HRT's untimely demise they had a deal with Mercedes to use the Brackley facility. 

Given the massive amount of Wind Tunnel time being undertaken by the larger teams in comparison to the midfield and smaller teams it is clear that there is still a hugely disproportionate spend from the front of the grid to the back.

Wind tunnel and on-track testing cost each team about £25 million in 2008 and, with the ban on in-season testing we can be sure that, for the bigger teams, much of the money saved is plowed back into increased wind tunnel time.

Arty shot of the Wind Tunnel at Grove
Courtesy: Williams F1
It was reported back in 2008 that the teams were spending hundreds of hours in the wind tunnel prior to bringing the car parts to track: now, if we take the Brackley wind tunnels operating continuously over 350 days a year as Honda expected, that figure would be over 16,000 hours.

So the big teams still retain the advantage and the increase in Wind Tunnel hours by the big four or five teams makes a mockery of the opposition of Martin Whitmarsh and Christian Horner on the grounds of balance and equality.

Now I don't know the difference in price between operating a wind tunnel continuously over 350 days and six days of in-season testing but I would imagine that limiting wind tunnel usage across the board to a reasonable number of hours which would allow all teams equal time in conjunction with two 3 day in-season tests might well balance out costs across the grid and bring further employment across the grid.

If I could get a cost on this it might make for a clear cut case one way or the other but, like all things F1 I doubt it.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Heikki Kovalainen contemplates life after F1

Heikki in the drivers' parade in Abu Dhabi 2012
Heikki may try rally driving
Courtesy of Caterham F1
Heikki Kovalainen says he may try rallying now that the Formula One grid in 2013 would appear to be locked out. report him as saying:
“There’s not much outside of Formula One that interests me, but rallying is one of those things. Sometimes I think it’s a bit surprising that I didn’t become a rally driver earlier in life; I had lots of opportunities when I was growing up to drive on forest tracks, like most kids in Finland, but then I discovered racing circuits. Next year we’ll see what happens: there’s life outside Formula One as well.”
It reports that Kovalainen defeated Sebastien Loeb when the the two went head-to-head in the Champion of Champions final at the 2004 Race of Champions. Kovalainen beat Loeb in identical rally cars: the Peugeot 307 WRC even though he'd never driven the car before.

That win means that he's the only F1 driver to win the title "Champion of Champions" at the annual Race of Champions event.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Sebastian Vettel, what "dirty tricks" are you talking about?

Sebastian Vettel said the following after the Brazilian GP, having won the WDC for the third time in a row.
"It was a very tough race but we were present all the time, we remained ourselves throughout the whole year even though people did some things that we would never consider to do," he added.
"A lot of people tried to play dirty tricks but we did not get distracted by that and kept going our way and all the guys gave a big push right to the end."
Then Christian Horner came out with the following:
"People tried everything, inside the lines and outside the lines, to beat us and the amount of questions we had to deal with, stuff we had to deal with throughout the season, didn't make our life easier"
"He's never given up, never allowed himself to get distracted, no matter whether people were trying to get under his skin," he said. "The more pressure he has been under, the better he has delivered.
"The fastest way of becoming unpopular is to have repeated success. The success we have had does not sit easily with some of our more established colleagues."
Sebastian Vettel followed up with "It's not our decision and it's not in our hands when people try literally everything to beat us,"

We obviously can't be sure about what they were talking about but there is no question the Red Bull was the subject of serious scrutiny throughout the 2012 season. Here's some of the most public stories.

Scrutiny 1:

In June, in the Monaco F1 paddock, a number of teams questioned the legality of the Red Bull's floor but Monaco Grand Prix stewards judged the car to be legal despite Article 3.12.5 of F1's technical rules, which states:
all parts lying on the reference and step planes must produce uniform, solid, hard continuous rigid, impervious surfaces under all circumstances.
After Monaco, the FIA deemed the Red Bull's tyre squirt slots in the floor of the car to be illegal and the team had to change their floor and diffuser layout before Canada to take on-board the FIA rule clarification TD13, which required that the 650mm area outboard of the car's centreline could not exploit fully enclosed holes.

The Red Bull design was deemed to be illegal retrospectively so they kept the results from Bahrain (37pts), Spain (8pts), and Monaco (37pts) where they had raced the design.
The Red Bull design first incorporated the illegal floor in Bahrain where Sebastian Vettel won
Copyright: Clive Mason/Getty Images

Scrutiny 2:

In Canada Red Bull were forced to change the design of its brake cooling ducts after the FIA found them to contravene the technical regulations.

The FIA ruled that the front wheel hub did not comply with Formula 1 regulations even though the design was on the car since the start of the season.

Red Bull argued that the air flow being channelled through the cooling system within the brakes was purely for cooling purposes but the FIA counter-argued that because the rim, hub and bolt moved they could not be classed as 'immobile in relation to the car' and therefore any use as aerodynamic aids contravenes Regulation 3.15.
Regulation 3.15 of the Formula 1 Technical Regulations says that "any specific part of the car influencing its aerodynamic performance" must be "rigidly secured to the entirely sprung part of the car" and must remain "immobile in relation to the sprung part of the car". (In Canada the team scored 18pts)

In Canada the Red Bull team were forced to cover holes in the wheel hub which the FIA judged were being used
to aid the aerodynamics of the car as well as being used for cooling.

Vladimir Rys/Getty Images

Scrutiny 3

At the German GP in July at Hockenheim Red Bull were once again under the microscope with the FIA technical delegate, Jo Bauer, issuing a statement on the Sunday morning, before the race was due to start in which he identified the specific issue as a lower torque map in both cars than previously seen at other events.
"Having examined the engine base torque map of car number 01 and 02 it became apparent that the maximum torque output of both engines is significantly less in the mid rpm range than previously seen for these engines at other Events.
In my opinion this is therefore in breach of Article 5.5.3 of the 2012 Formula One Technical Regulations as the engines are able to deliver more torque at a given engine speed in the mid rpm range.
Furthermore this new torque map will artificially alter the aerodynamic characteristics of both cars which is also in contravention of TD 036-11.
I am referring this matter to the stewards for their consideration."
The FIA stated that Red Bull had breached the technical directive forbidding the use of using engine mapping to improve aerodynamic performance (in this case by allowing more air in to the engine and thus aiding the blowing of the diffuser).

James Allen made the following comment on this matter:
Bauer felt it was illegal because the rules say the connection between the opening of the throttle and the torque demand on the engine should be linear and in his view Red Bull was introducing a deviation in that process. Bauer had observed that the torque demand was less than at other recent races.
The stewards in Germany decided to take no further action against REd Bull after this FIA accusation regarding both their cars using illegal engine mapping to increase airflow through the diffuser.

If they had taken action it would have meant both Red Bulls starting from the back of the grid rather than second and third and would probably have impacted upon their overall score in the race (14pts).

Both cars were cited as illegal by the FIA in Germany but were not sanctioned by the Race Stewards
Copyright: Lars Baron/Getty Images

Scrutiny 4

Next it emerged in Hungary that Red Bull was asked at the Canadian Grand Prix to change a mechanism on the cars that allowed them to change the suspension manually.

Manual Ride height Control found by FIA in Canada
Copyright: Paul Gilham/Getty Images
Article 34.5 of the FIA Sporting Regulations states:
"If a competitor modifies any part on the car or makes changes to the set-up of the suspension whilst the car is being held in parc ferme conditions, the relevant driver must start the race from the pit lane...
"In order that scrutineers may be completely satisfied that no alterations have been made to the suspension systems or aerodynamic configuration of the car (with the exception of the front wing) whilst it is in post-qualifying parc ferme, it must be clear from a physical inspection that changes cannot be made without the use of tools."
When this story came out in Hungary, Team Principal Christian Horner said:
"It was something that could either be changed by hand or by tool but the FIA said they preferred that it was a tool that was used, so we never changed the ride height in parc ferme or anything like that, so it really is a non-issue."
But the Technical Regulations state manual adjustments to the Aero Configuration cannot be made.

Asked why the team would have a manually adjustable part on the car when tools are required by the regulations, Christian Horner said:
"There's a lot of parts that are changed manually on the car. But a tool was used. As I say, the suspension has never been changed once it's in parc ferme. Never."
A lower, more aerodynamically advantageous ride height, on low fuel is estimated at around 0.3s improvement over a qualifying lap.  In 2010 F1 wrote a piece on ride height and described the advantage in the following way:
Since qualifying is now run with the lowest fuel levels possible, and given the fact that a car's suspension has been set up for the race to also withstand high car weights, cars with normal suspension designs are naturally higher above the ground. While this could equal a marginal difference of 1mm, any such difference is vastly important for the efficiency of the car's underbody and diffuser.

Scrutiny 5

This is the bendy nose saga that came to public attention in Abu Dhabi.  While the McLaren cars were earlier identified as having a front wing which tilted on the horizontal axis, footage emerged in Abu Dhabi of the Red Bull nose and wing bending significantly on the horizontal axis.

The argument of other teams related to the perceived aerodynamic advantage of the system which saw the Red Bull of Sebastian Vettel triumph in four consecutive races; Singapore, Japan, Korea & India.

The Red Bull "Bendy" nose is said to have been introduced in Singapore but its effect was most visible in Abu Dhabi
Copyright: Robert Cianflone/Getty Images
I presume the benefit of this wing is to provide a more efficient airflow under the car and towards the rear diffuser which improves rear downforce.  This would improve grip and allow for improved cornering.


None of the foregoing really matters in the overall season but it goes to show that, just like the Ferrari team in the Michael Schumacher years, the Red Bull design team is innovating constantly and seeking to wring out an advantage from every interpretation of the Technical Regulations governing the design of the car.

Mercedes and McLaren have attempted the same this year with the Mercedes double DRS and the McLaren front wing.  Exhaust exit configurations have been explored and altered to improve aerodynamic efficiencies, Brawn GP won a championship with the double diffuser.  F1 is all about innovation and pushing at the boundaries of what is permitted.

In Adrian Newey Red Bull have the best designer in the paddock and it is to be expected that he will attempt to exploit any piece of the car where one of his ideas is not specifically banned.

Having said all of that it is a bit disingenuous of Christian Horner, Sebastian Vettel, and Helmut Marko to talk about "dirty tricks".  Every team has raised perceived anomalies on competitor's cars with the FIA and I doubt Red Bull are saints in this regard.

Finding the white space between the exact wording of the Technical Regulations is the job of the designers and technical directors of the F1 teams; clarifying those regulations as they pertain to the solutions found by the teams is the job of the FIA; raising the questions in the first place is the job of the other teams, the journalists, the Tech experts, and any fan who spots something unusual or odd and raises the question in an online forum.

This is not a dirty tricks campaign it is simply the sport as it has always been.  If a team can't make a rivals more efficient solution work then they seek to have it's legality clarified; if it's legal then all teams attempt to copy it and if it's not legal then it's banned.

How many times have we seen Adrian Newey walking up and down the F1 grid on raceday with his notebook and pencil in hand?

I'm happy for Red Bull to win but I'd prefer if it was done gracefully.  The comments made by Sebastian and Christian in the wake of winning the WDC and WCC for the third consecutive time remind me just a little too much of Father Ted's speech when he won the Golden Priest award.