Formula One's Latest Rumours and Talk: Red Bull's Filming Days, Lotus and More
With the third and final test having been brought to a close on Sunday, the two weeks between the end of pre-season and the Australian Grand Prix are bound to feel like the longest of the winter.
The five red lights, the roar of 22 turbocharged V6 engines and the champagne shower of the podium all seem so near, yet so far.
Although much of the next 13 days may seem tedious with numbers to crunch and conclusions to reach, the importance of the lead up to the opening race should not be underestimated.
With a look towards the struggling teams, the spectacle of F1 2014 and even a glance at 2015, here’s this week’s roundup.
Red Bull Remain in Bahrain for Filming Days
After a disastrous final test in Bahrain, Red Bull have opted to remain there for the first part of this week to carry out their pre-season filming days.
As reported by Ted Kravitz on Sky Sports F1’s Ted’s Notebook on Sunday, the reigning world champions will run with the RB10, the team’s 2014 car, on Monday before wheeling out the RB8, the car that took Sebastian Vettel to his third consecutive world championship in 2012, on Tuesday.
The extra 100km of running, albeit at a reduced pace, could be crucial as the team continues to collect data with the aim of getting to the bottom of the reliability woes that led to Vettel completing only half a lap on the third day of the final pre-season test.
Lotus Hope for Luck to Shine in Melbourne
After enduring a nightmare final test in Bahrain, Lotus have admitted that they need luck to be on their side if they are to finish the season-opening Australian Grand Prix.
Romain Grosjean and Pastor Maldonado only managed to complete a combined total of 127 laps over the course of the final four days in Sakhir as the team—the only outfit to miss the first pre-season test in Jerez in January—struggled with reliability concerns.
According to Glenn Freeman and Matt Beer of AUTOSPORT, Lotus technical director Nick Chester said of the team’s Melbourne hopes:
I think we've got to have a few things align. We've had days when the power unit has been fine and something else has let us down.
I think we're going to need a bit of luck and all the bits to line up right for us.
I know (engine suppliers) Renault Sport are working very hard on fixes and I'm sure they'll be bringing fixes and new specs to Melbourne that hopefully will give us a much better chance.
Most of the issues that have stopped us this week have been on the power unit side but we have had a couple of issues on our side.
We had some exhaust failures earlier in the week. We think we understand them now. We've got a different spec of exhaust coming for Melbourne and we think we know why they were cracking. It was one of our parts, we still make the whole system.
Ferrari Boss Calls for Patience with New F1
As the countdown to the Australian Grand Prix continues, Ferrari team principal Stefano Domenicali has urged the sport’s fans to refrain from judging the new era of Formula One at the beginning of the season.
After a winter that witnessed the biggest regulation changes in the sport’s history, the 11 teams have had a steep learning curve in pre-season—with most merely hoping to reach the chequered flag at the season-opening race in Melbourne.
When asked by ESPN F1 whether fans would be left alienated by the sport’s new guise—as many were after the first grand prix of the no-refuelling era in Bahrain in 2010, a campaign that ended with a four-way title showdown at the final race of the season—Domenicali stressed the need for patience, stating:
I don't think (so), no.
I think we have to start from the approach that we have something good to promote. Maybe all the people who are saying Formula One is a disaster, in a couple of races will be saying 'see, I always told you Formula One was fantastic!' We have to be balanced.
For sure the change that was made this year in terms of regulation is incredible. It is a change that was not possible to do little step by little step because of the nature of Formula One. We need to adjust everything else on our side, and make sure we are at a good level, and invest in making the race exciting. Let's see at the end of the year what the situation will be.
While Hamilton Expects Excitement
In contrast to Domenicali’s rather cautious forecast for the beginning of the new era of F1, Lewis Hamilton has claimed the start of the 2014 season could take a similar direction to the 2012 campaign, which saw seven different drivers win the opening seven races.
Mercedes driver Hamilton, who ended the third test in Bahrain at the top of the timesheets, was taking part in a Q&A with the official Formula One website.
When asked how the first few races could pan out, Hamilton said:
It will be a bit of a mix and match in the first few races. Probably some good surprises for the fans - and for us. Maybe a bit of a deja-vu of 2012 when there was a different winner at the first couple of races. It could easily be like that.
Fortunately the Mercedes is such a good engine: you have Williams, who look like they could be a competitive team, and you have Force India who could be much further ahead. Maybe Felipe Massa will take the Williams to the front! Who knows?
Haas Hopes for FIA Team Decision
Gene Haas, co-owner of a NASCAR team, is hoping to be informed of a final decision regarding his plans to gain entry on next season’s Formula One grid within the next fortnight.
The American submitted a bid to join F1 in January after the FIA announced its willingness to bolster the grid for the 2015 season in December. Haas had expected to be informed of the decision last Friday after meeting with the FIA in the aftermath of NASCAR’s Daytona 500, but now expects to learn his fate within the next two weeks.
Haas was quoted by ESPN F1 as saying:
They (the FIA) have a very - I want to call it - formal way of processing applications in the sense that there is no application.
But they wanted to meet with us. It was about an hour and a half meeting where they asked us a lot of questions about how we intend to do this, how do we intend to pay for it, what are the logistics of how you're going to do this.
We answered those questions as best we could. I was there. Joe Custer was there. Gunther Steiner was there. (The FIA are) pretty intense. They had a lot of good questions. I think what they do is they take that information, evaluate it, make their recommendations to I think it's the F1's owners association or next group of people, and the process goes on.
They said they were going to have a decision by Friday. They notified us on Friday that, no, they were just one part of that decision-making process, that the decision-making process would come later.
They didn't give us an exact date, but hopefully it will be in another week or two, maybe even longer. From what I've learned talking to other people, this is fairly normal. There are lots of dates they have. They don't really make a decision until they're sure what they want the decision to be.
AUTOSPORT’s Jonathan Noble, meanwhile, claimed Haas’ bid is facing competition from an unnamed “Romanian-backed effort”, although there is a possibility that both teams could be granted a place on the grid should the FIA be satisfied by their respective finances.