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Formula 1's Latest Rumours and Talk: Spectacular Sparks, Brundle's Worry & More

Oliver HardenFeatured ColumnistApril 25, 2014

Formula 1's Latest Rumours and Talk: Spectacular Sparks, Brundle's Worry & More

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    Formula One's desperation to look popular and appeal to the masses has seen yet another round of gimmicks, dressed up as cost-cutting measures, set to be considered for future rule books.

    This has enraged former F1 driver Martin Brundle, who believes these potential changes would neither enhance the show nor save money.

    Also on the horizon is a potential return to Long Beach, although two drivers with experience in both F1 and IndyCar have claimed that the former has simply outgrown the circuit.

    In more immediate matters, Mercedes have hinted that the head-to-head, all-guns-blazing fight between Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton might not last much longer.

    Meanwhile, McLaren's long search for a title sponsor—something that has at times appeared as distant as a Long Beach Grand Prix—looks to be drawing towards a conclusion.

    Here's this week's roundup.

F1 to Go Retro? Plans to Create Excitement Are Revealed

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    Formula One appears not to have learned from the poor reception which greeted the double-points rule, with it being revealed that plans are being considered to make the sport “more visually spectacular.”

    According to Jonathan Noble of Autosport, the return of sparks, glowing brake discs and vapour trails will all be up for discussion when members of F1’s Strategy Group meet in the coming weeks as the sport looks for ways to reduce costs.

    Also to be discussed, reports Noble, is the possibility of standing starts following a safety-car period, a reduction in length of grands prix and the all-clear for the use of advanced technology in pit stops.

    F1 has been thought to have lost a portion of its excitement in 2014, with the low noise produced by the new turbocharged V6 power units replacing the aggressive sound of the previous V8 engines.

    Even Bernie Ecclestone, the sport’s ringmaster, has frequently voiced his displeasure with the change, referring to the sound as “terrible” while speaking to Sky Sports at the Malaysian Grand Prix.

    However, any potential changes—as Noble explains—will have to jump over two separate hurdles before given the green light: The F1 Commission and the FIA World Motor Sport Council.

Martin Brundle Concerned by Potential Return of Active Suspension

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    Also among the potential changes for Formula One in the coming years is the return of active suspension, which former grand-prix driver Martin Brundle believes would be a wrong move.

    Active suspension, which due to a computer allows cars to essentially balance themselves through corners, was banned at the start of the 1994 season but could return for the 2017 season, which may also see the introduction of 18-inch wheel rims.

    Brundle, now a television pundit and co-commentator, has aired concerns regarding the technology, telling Autosport’s Ben Anderson:

    The concept of that and 18-inch wheel rims means you start again on your suspension as well as aero, because a lot of your suspension travel is in the sidewall of the tyre with a [current] 13-inch wheel rim.

    If you go to 18 inches you've got to put a huge amount more compliance in your suspension.

    It's a dream for the aerodynamicists. My concern would be that we'd go back to cars that look like Scalextric cars—glued to the track.

    Paddy Lowe, the technical executive director for the Mercedes team, had previously spoken in favour of a move to active suspension, telling Autosport how it “certainly wouldn't be more expensive” than the current models of suspension, but Brundle disagrees.

    He added:

    It's the best of everything—kerb control, ride control, bumps, aero—you just fly the car at the perfect angle.

    How the hell it would save any money I don't know because you'd have to start over again.

    You'd have to completely redesign your car I would have thought, given that huge advantage.

    Paddy obviously knows a million times better than I do on that sort of thing, but I'd have thought it would just open up a whole new avenue of development and opportunity.

    The cars might follow each other better from getting more downforce from the underfloor than the upper surfaces.

    But I can't see it being anything other than hugely expensive.

IndyCar Stars Unconvinced by F1 Return to Long Beach

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    Former Formula One driver Takuma Sato has predicted that the sport will not return to Long Beach, despite the idea being suggested in recent months.

    Sato is arguably among the most qualified to judge how F1 would cope at the Californian circuit, having competed for Jordan, BAR and Super Aguri between 2002 and 2008 before making the transition to IndyCar, which is contracted to visit Long Beach until 2015.

    The Japanese believes the track’s uneven surface will prove to be a major stumbling block in F1’s bid to return to the circuit, telling Autosport’s Mark Glendenning:

    I don't know if current F1 cars could absorb the conditions of the track surface here or not. I pretty much think they can't.

    They'd have to resurface like they do in Monte Carlo—they resurface that every year.

    And the rest of the track is semi-permanent, so they have a very smooth surface.

    But it is a real street course. Even we [in IndyCar] have a lot of bouncing. So there'd be a lot of work to be done.

    Justin Wilson, a fellow F1-turned-IndyCar racer, echoed Sato’s views, suggesting that basic make-up of the Long Beach circuit would be at odds with the elitist nature of F1.

    Wilson told Autosport:

    We love going there because it's Long Beach, it's a lot of fun, and it's so raw.

    But an F1 car won't go around there. They'd be complaining about the bumps—they'd have to resurface the entire place, after they'd ground the entire place.

    I saw that story [about an F1 return] and chuckled.

    There's no way an F1 race could happen around here anymore.

    In the 1980s you could do that, but now it doesn't [make] any sense.

    It's a great event; we love it. But Monaco is as smooth as the Indy 500, to give you a point of reference.

    If they came to Long Beach, they'd be shocked.

Mercedes Could Be Forced into Changing Team Orders Philosophy

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    Although Mercedes have gained widespread plaudits for allowing Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton to race freely so far this season, Toto Wolff has admitted that the team may revise their policy as the year progresses.

    The German team’s current philosophy saw their drivers race head-to-head throughout the Bahrain Grand Prix, with the race widely considered to be one of the most exciting in recent memory.

    Wolff, however, believes it would be foolish for Mercedes to maintain that policy if the team’s closest rivals begin to close the gap which has seen the Silver Arrows win the opening four races of the season.

    The Austrian told Andrew Benson of BBC Sport:

    There might be situations where you can't lose lots of time in battle if you have your enemy right up your back.

    Bahrain was a very particular situation because our package worked very well there and we had quite a competitive advantage, so it's easier to take a decision for the sake of racing because you know you have quite a margin to the guy in third place.

    The narrower that margin gets, the more you have to look out.

    Our rule is that the competition is enemy number one, not your team-mate, so there might be situations in the race where you have to consider that, but we will see what happens.

McLaren's Sponsor Hunt Continues

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    Eric Boullier, McLaren’s racing director, has admitted that the team is close to securing a new title sponsor.

    McLaren, since the end of their deal with Vodafone at the end of 2013, have taken the unusual steps of handing one-race sidepod sponsorship deals to various companies so far this season, with the logos of Mobil 1, Esso, Gulf Air and SAP appearing upon the MP4-29 cars of Jenson Button and Kevin Magnussen.

    Sky Sports reported in January that technology giant Sony were in pole position to take the role of title sponsors, while Gillette—another contender—“enhanced its collaboration” with McLaren earlier this month.

    Boullier explained that the team’s target of confirming a deal within the early months of the season is still realistic, despite the completion of four races already, telling ESPN F1:

    The plan Ron [Dennis] discussed is still happening.

    Until we have signed the package, signed the final contract, obviously nothing will be announced or changed. As long as we are in this position we will keep going with what we are doing now.

    The Frenchman added that McLaren’s budget for the 2014 season has not been harmed by the delay, despite the team’s failure to maintain the form that saw them claim a double podium finish at the season-opening Australian Grand Prix.

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