Formula 1's Latest Rumours and Talk: Flavio Briatore, Ferrari, Newey and More
Formula One has entered its summer break; the next race, the Belgian Grand Prix, is still more than three weeks away.
But F1 never truly sleeps. Ferrari have confirmed the departure of the head of their engine department. His probably won't be the last head to roll as team boss Marco Mattiacci continues his restructuring process.
Adrian Newey, meanwhile, believes F1 cars are in danger of losing their individuality as excessive regulation stifles creative freedom.
Elsewhere, Flavio Briatore has gone from in demand to unwanted in less than a week, and Williams are still targeting second place in the constructors' championship.
Read on for a full roundup of the week's top stories.
F1 in Shutdown Mode
If New York is the city that never sleeps, F1 is its sporting counterpart.
Every second matters, as much off the track as it does on it. Not a minute is wasted—there's always something that can be done to improve the car or to bring in a new sponsor.
There's work to be done during the winter, during breaks between races, on the road between back-to-back events and on the flight home. Given free rein, every team on the grid would operate 365 days a year.
They can't afford to voluntarily take a break. You snooze, you lose.
So it's very hard for staff to take time off. If you're in the middle of developing a key component, due at a race or have a diary filled with sponsor meetings, you can't really vanish for a few weeks whenever you feel like it.
In response to this problem, F1 introduced an enforced shutdown. It's happening right now.
For two weeks every summer, all the teams have to close their doors. No factory work, no wind tunnel use and no designing. This year, per grandprix.com, they're even turning off their email servers.
Everyone from the highest manager to the lowliest worker gets a guilt-free fortnight to mentally switch off from the hectic world of F1, put their feet up and relax.
At least, that's the theory.
The "normal" personnel will indeed get a well-earned break; their bosses may not. Per Motorsport.com, Ferrari's Marco Mattiacci won't be shutting himself down because too much work remains to be done.
He's unlikely to be the only one.
Williams Aiming to Hit Back at Spa
Williams say their poor showing at the Hungarian Grand Prix was a one-off, and they'll be back fighting closer to the front at the coming races.
Second in the constructors' championship remains their goal.
Rob Smedley, the team's Head of Vehicle Performance, was quoted by crash.net as saying:
At the minute, we are firing on with the development of this car because we still want to be second in the championship and I think that is achievable.
If you look at our results over the last five races, I think we had a race that was a bit anomalous in terms of performance and we have two races where we have to capitalise on the characteristics of the car at Spa and Monza. We think those circuits will suit us and we have to capitalise on that and put ourselves in a good position.
The tight, twisty Hungaroring showed up the main weakness in the FW36—downforce. It lacks the performance of rivals like Mercedes, Red Bull and even Ferrari at slower, more technical tracks which require a high-downforce setting.
Its real strength is at stop-start circuits and those with a high average speed.
Spa is next, followed by Monza. Expect to see them fighting for the podium again very soon.
Flavio Briatore No Longer Required?
More than a few eyebrows were raised last week when Autosport reported former Benetton and Renault boss Flavio Briatore would be involved in effort to increase F1's popularity.
A group was to be set up involving some of the teams, Bernie Ecclestone and Briatore, to come up with ideas aimed at boosting the sport's image.
But now it appears he may not be involved after all. In response to hearing Briatore mentioned, Mercedes' Niki Lauda told reporters (h/t ESPN):
No. Why do we need Flavio? I have heard this for the first time, but Bernie is in charge, and he should stay in charge. We should think, together with Bernie because he is the master, what we can improve.
And Ecclestone himself appears to have performed a U-turn. This week he told German publication Auto Motor und Sport (h/t Daily Mail for English translation), "We do not need Flavio. We can do it ourselves."
Briatore was banned for life from FIA-sanctioned events in 2009 for his role in the "Crashgate" scandal. As reported on Formula1.com, a French court overturned the ban in 2010, but his popularity among fans remained low.
Perhaps someone realised that suggesting him for this sort of role was a bad idea in the first place?
Adrian Newey: F1 in Danger of Becoming "GP1"
Red Bull's Adrian Newey feels the lack of flexibility in F1's current technical regulations could turn the sport into "GP1."
Referencing GP1—a "spec series" in which all the cars are identical—Newey told Motorsport Magazine:
We’re in danger, chassis-wise, of becoming GP1. Everybody’s converging on cars that look more and more similar. We’re back to ‘paint the cars white and it’s difficult to spot the difference’—especially next year when we even lose the different noses.
Newey's first car was the 1988 March 881. He subsequently worked for Williams and McLaren, winning six drivers' and six constructors' championships. He then moved to Red Bull, where he has added four of each title to his tally.
But his passion has been eroded by what he feels is excessive regulation and a lack of freedom for designers.
Red Bull announced earlier in the year that Newey was stepping back from F1 to focus on new challenges within the group.
Newey later confirmed to Martin Brundle of Sky F1 that the 2015 Red Bull would be the last F1 car he would have a hand in designing.
But he's only 55, so we can't rule out a return somewhere down the line.
Ferrari Restructuring Continues
Ferrari have announced Luca Marmorini has left his post as director of their engine and electronics department.
Sky Sports first reported on speculation of his departure at the start of July, but the team refused to comment. What little uncertainty remained has now been erased.
In a statement released on Thursday, Ferrari said (h/t Sky Sports):
Ferrari announces that, as of today, Luca Marmorini, Director of the Engine and Electronics department, is leaving the company. As part of the restructuring of the Power Unit department, Mattia Binotto will assume the role of Chief Operating Officer.
James Allison, Technical Director, continues to be responsible for the entire car project, supported by Nikolas Tombazis, Chief Designer Chassis, and Lorenzo Sassi, Chief Designer Power Unit.
The Scuderia have once more failed to produce a winning car in 2014, with the engine lagging well behind that of front-runners Mercedes. New team principal Marco Mattiacci is overseeing a substantial restructuring project.
But it won't be easy, and he knows it. He was quoted in Autosport earlier in the week discussing the scale of change needed, and said, "We need to improve at 360 degrees."
"It's not just the power units, the aerodynamics, the chassis; it's the team, the car—it's a huge amount of work that needs to be done."
Fernando Alonso finished second in the Hungarian Grand Prix—the team's best result of the season.