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Monthly Archives: September 2015

Volkswagen Is On The Deathbed

220px-Volkswagen_logo_2012.svgWord is bandied about that Volkswagen may face 18 billions in fines in America, but that is nothing compared to what happens when greedy “lawyers” start filing their class action suits.

You must keep in mind, we are dealing with a country that is chock full of utterly demented people, who need a warning label on a cup of coffee that its content might be hot. Some lady got millions from McShit for burning herself with hot coffee.

The problem is that those class action suits are had in front of a jury the members of which are selected from the general public, which in the case of America translates to a bunch of people who go to a family reunion to meet women.

I’m in no way endorsing what VW has done. They cheated and they should be punished, along with all their competitors who just haven’t been caught yet, but I have a distinctive problem with 600.000 jobs hinging on a bunch of toothless rednecks, who don’t get a job at the Waffle House due to their appearance.

 
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Posted by on September 26, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

Seeing Through The Fog At The Engine Front

f1-flamesEngines, or ‘power unit’ as this unholy mess of electric skulduggery is euphemistically called, have dominated the F1 news since this idea of Satan was allowed to disgrace Tilkedromes around the world even more than they already manage by their very existence. Today, however, it seems they are the focus of just about everyone. Heck, even the ‘murricans talk about them.

Namely NBC Sports do, who conducted an interview with Red Bull’s Christian Horner, who admitted that the VW plans have gone up in smoke due to the emission test rigging software found in 11 million VW cars. Unfortunately, due to VW’s excessive platform sharing, you’ll have to add a few million Skodas and Seats to that as well, who were built with the same rigged diesel unit.

A little research in German papers reveals more details about the possible VW deal. According to AMuS, Mateschitz has been working for five years on making long-time partner Volkswagen interested in entering Formula 1. The main road block had always been Clan patriarch Ferdinand Piëch, but he found himself ousted after a self-initiated power-struggle with Martin Winterkorn, but the latter is gone now, too.

And with him goes any chance of a VW entry. The only realistic option had always to be Audi and it would have meant the end for their WEC program, and perhaps the DTM entry as well. With VW in WRC, Audi and Porsche in WEC and Audi again in DTM, the Volkswagen Group is already present in most major forms of motorsport. With fines numbering in billions looming on the horizon, VW has other problems right now.

So where do things go from here? With Red Bull hogging the news, we almost missed that plucky survival artists Manor are close to signing a deal that says Mercedes-Benz in the header. The gearboxes are believed to be coming from Williams, according to German media.

That means Lotus is not only locked out of their hospitality area now. If Manor gets the deal, and it appears to be a question of when rather than if, Lotus is lacking power for next year and their only hope is Renault pulling their thumbs out of a dark place.

The problem is, that like their engine development, Renault want to do it as cheaply as possible. Renault’s CEO Carlos Ghosn has been pestering Bernie about a guaranteed premium status for a Renault works team and wants to use those guaranteed payments as a security for a bank loan with which to pay for the take-over. That of course would explain why they kept cash-cow Maldonado. In the end Bernie will most likely have to cave in or he risks losing up to three teams.

What about Red Bull? With Manor switching to the dark side of the force, there would be space for another customer and that could well be Red Bull. Word in German media is that the talks seem to look good for RB and that Ferrari will indeed supply 2016 spec units. But with Mercedes insisting they don’t have capacities for more than three customers, it appears plausible that those of Ferrari aren’t much bigger. That puts Toro Rosso in doubt.

More work for Bernie, it seems as he does now have to appease Renault, put pressure on Ferrari in regards to Red Bull and it seems he needs to convince Honda to give up their exclusivity with McLaren.

It looks like the little toad has to work for his money these days.

 
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Posted by on September 25, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

Did You Sleep Well, Bernie?

Germany’s Motorsport Total runs a popular feature every Monday after a Grand Prix. It’s called “Who had the most disrupted sleep last night?”. It usually names the one, who must feel really down after the weekend. The name most often mentioned this year was Nico Rosberg, but after Singapore it was Bernie who got the honors. Unless there’ll be a surprise announcement at Silverstone, I can’t think of anyone else being named next Monday.

If you listen to the noises coming from the Red Bull camp, it sounds more and more likely that they will pack in for good after Abu Dhabi and F1 will lose four cars, four good drivers and one team that could at least occasionally challenge the suffocating Merc dominance. All those who shout “good riddance” now will eat their words when they’ll have to watch three Mercedes drivers on the podium – at Monza.

Mr. E must feel like Gorbatchev in 1991. His empire is falling apart. Even with Haas coming in, a Red Bull exit would mean he’ll have eighteen cars at best, and looking at Lotus’ shenanigans on Thursday, it looks more likely to be just sixteen. The Renault takeover is all but done yet, and keeping Maldonado and letting Grosjean go does not hint at a take-over by a French manufacturer.

He will also be down to two engine manufacturers. The Honda unit still has to earn the name and is present in only two cars and Renault, if at all, will also only be present in two cars. Everyone else is running Merc or Fezza. F1 has become the Indy Racing League on steroids, just with fewer cars and more boring tracks.

So what can he do to save his empire? Of course he can try to pressure Ferrari into supplying engines to Red Bull and Toro Rosso, but Mateschitz won’t accept second-tier stuff and Ferrari won’t deliver up-to-date versions. Most likely outcome is that we’ll see a Red Bull branded car at Le Mans very soon.

That’s where everyone is headed anyway. VW is present with two brands, Toyota’s there, BMW is seriously considering to enter as well, as seems Hyundai, if their completely bonkers prototype at the IAA in Frankfurt is anything to go by. Does anyone seriously believe Merc will continue blowing hundreds of millions into spanking a collection of hapless privateers in F1, when all their premium market opponents are duking it out at Le Mans?

Back in the day, when I was appearing on podcasts occasionally, I said it several times. If any manufacturer is interested in using motorsport to do R&D that will feed back into their road cars, WEC is the place to do it. Most manufacturers seem to think the same.

With that ill-fated V6 idea, F1 has lost its identity. Manufacturers came and went, with the notable exception of Ferrari, but the core have always been those, who Enzo Ferrari used to refer to as garagisti. Williams, McLaren, Sauber – that are all teams who’ve been created for the sole purpose of building F1 cars and race them. Others have already been killed, like Brabham, March or Arrows. A new one is coming with Haas and in their current guise of Toro Rosso, Minardi will most likely be lost forever.

What is needed is something that I despise in literature and TV series – a big honking reset button. More Merc dominance will most likely have to be endured in 2016 and 2017, unless they bugger off to Le Mans as well, but for 2018 F1 should return to its own identity. Let the WEC handle the hybrid engine and go back to normal internal combustion units without KERS gimmicks. And give the sport back to the garagisti. Let the big fellas duke it out in WEC and WRC.

An uncluttered engine technology might also bring back some of the bespoke racing engine manufacturers. Ever heard of Cosworth, Ilmor?

Stop losing sleep Bernie, sack the Strategy Group and fix the damn sport!

 
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Posted by on September 25, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

Inconsistencies In The Facts Presented About Possible Red Bull Exit from F1

The Fat HippoGo into any big internet forum with an F1 section these days and locate the almost inevitable thread named “Red Bull threatening to withdraw” or something similar. The level of vitriol you’ll meet there is enough to run an Alchemist’s laboratory. You’d think that Mateschitz & Co. have a habit of kicking puppies.

I’ve written in an earlier post that most people’s claims (including coming from the company itself) that Red Bull failed to give Renault credit when they were winning, is plainly wrong. First of all the Renault logo was clearly visible on the cars and driver overalls, the engine supplier was part of the team’s name and therefore on display whenever a winning list with Vettel or Webber on top was displayed, and ultimately it was FIA who prevented them from sending a Renault representative to the podium ceremony to get the team trophy. It was just as idiotic a move from the organizers as forbidding Vettel to take the Ferrari flag with him onto the podium last Sunday. Fernando Alonso and Ayrton Senna each once had a flag in their car!

One other thing that gets perpetually repeated is the public criticism of Renault, expressed by Red Bull. While you may say that it isn’t the nice thing to do, it is where things don’t add up for me.

I’ve been a freelance contractor for over ten years now, and one inevitable part of every contract I sign is a clause that lists the penalty payments and a provision to terminate the contract should one contract party do or say something that discredits the other.

How in the name of all that’s holy can the legal department of a global car manufacturer have failed to put such a clause in the supply contract of Red Bull? Or could it be, just maybe, that there is one and Renault merely didn’t enforce it, because

  1. The Renault claims are perfectly substantiated. Their claim always was that Renault wasn’t willing to invest what’s necessary to catch up. At least in that regard their claims were perfectly viable. Renault hasn’t spent a single token on any updates this year
  2. Perhaps, and I point out that it is pure speculation on my behalf, Renault found that criticism quite convenient. If they buy Lotus and continue as a works team, they would be locked in a contract that assured Red Bull works status. Now that’s rather inconvenient if you field your own team. On the other hand it also allows them to withdraw from F1 without breaking any contracts. Their last two customers have finally terminated the contract and Bernard E has no clause to force them with.

To me the question is, why has Renault put up with that public slating? Any competently drawn up contract would have seen Red Bull pay through the nose in blood for it. Yet, we’ve never heard anything about penalty payments. Could it be that Renault put up, perhaps even encouraged it, to get out of their obligations after failing badly at an engine formula they pushed for themselves? They clearly hadn’t calculated how much it would cost them to be competitive.

 
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Posted by on September 23, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

Bernie Is Trying To Play His Old Games

You can’t teach an old dog new tricks, they say. That is probably why Bernard E doesn’t even try. The bloke was around when the Romans buggered off, so he sticks to his old tricks.

I hate to admit it, but in one regard I agree with him. I hate the V6 turbo engines with a passion. Their costs have ruined several teams, they sound like Dysons and in evolutionary terms they are the Neanderthal – an evolutionary dead-end.

The problem is, that Bernard cannot jump off his good ol’ well-traveled path of divide and conquer, so the latest idea was to call his lap-dog Christian Sylt and before you know it, an article pops up in the Independent, which puts all the blame on Mercedes. Not only does he blame their dominance for the lack of new entrants, he also stipulates that Merc is so dominant because of an unfair advantage.

“The V6 is stopping other people that may want to be in Formula One from actually coming in because they think they have got to take on somebody who is doing a terrific job and try to beat them.

“The problem is Mercedes actually had a big, big start on anybody else because the guy who was there at that time was Ross Brawn and he was on the FIA working group with this engine, knew all about what the engine was going to be and Mercedes started working on this new engine before anybody knew there was going to be an engine change.”

I can’t believe I’m actually defending Mercedes, but Mr. E clearly shoots himself in the foot here. It’s not like Ross Brawn is someone whom people wouldn’t recognize. Why then was he allowed to work for one of the competitors? Or is this perhaps just another smoke screen from the Suffolk Toad.

No matter how you look at it, the problem seems to originate with FOM and FIA, not with Merc using any advantage they can get. Lern a few new tricks Bernie or get the hell out.

 
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Posted by on September 18, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

The End Is Nigh…

Granted, the title sounds a bit gonzo, but it is exactly what many said when the current engine formula and the attached tight limits on development were announced. We haven’t even finished the second season under the new rules and the so-called Strategy Group is already busy picking up the pieces.

Renault and Honda have obviously failed at building a competitive unit and the ridiculous token system restricts them in how much they can recover. Honda insists on remaining an exclusive partner of McLaren, and Renault’s Carlos Ghosn has announced that the days of Renault as an engine supplier are over. They either buy Lotus and stay as a works team or they’ll do the decent thing and save whatever credibility is left and bugger off altogether.

That leaves Mercedes and Ferrari. Mercedes insists they cannot supply more than four teams, including their own works effort and if latest rumours are anything to go by, the shiny new 2016 Mercs will go from Lotus to Manor, provided that Renault buys Lotus in the first place. If not? Then Ferrari would be expected to supply themselves, Sauber, Red Bull, Toro Rosso, Manor and Haas. Six teams – that’s simply impossible and would arguably also have a detrimental effect on their ability to develop.

And develop they must. The gap of Ferrari is back to something like 0.7sec after the introduction of that new Merc engine, which works at least in the number one car.

The most likely outcome is that the two Red Bull teams will end up with no power units and leave the sport. There’ll be a lot of short-sighted people saying ‘good riddance’, but that’s akin to hacking off your nose to spite your face. With Red Bull F1 would not only lose two teams, but also more than a thousand jobs and a lot of potential investment.

But, I hear you say, they shouldn’t have been so mean to Renault. To which I answer – Bullshit! Renault’s CEO Ghosn keeps harping on that Renault didn’t get any exposure when they were winning, which is simply wrong. I remember that Red Bull tried to honour their engine partner after one of Vettel’s wins by giving the Renault chief the honours of taking the constructors trophy. He was forced to wear a Red Bull shirt instead of his yellow Renault shirt – not by Red Bull, but by FIA. It’s not like they didn’t try and unless my beer-addled brain has completely stopped working, the team’s title sponsor is the luxury brand of the Renault-Nissan group.

Granted, the very public criticism of Renault might not be the best way to go about it, but no business in the world will put up for two years with a partner who simply doesn’t do his job.

But that’s all not the point. Instead of discussing emergency measures like allowing older spec engines to be sold to customers, the Strategy Group needs to pull their thumbs out of a very dark place and get their act together.

Leave the hybrid engines to WEC – they’re doing a much better job at it. Electric engines are the forte of Formula E. F1 should return to normal internal combustion engines and stick to them. They don’t cost the equivalent of the GNP of a third world country and any manufacturer could build one. Hell even John Judd could do it.

 
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Posted by on September 17, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

As one so aptly wrote…

I came for ‘Riddly’ and stayed for the ‘Diddly’
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XCGQiGEYl4Y

Would make a great F1 Intro music

 
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Posted by on September 14, 2015 in Hippo's Crazy Yutube Finds

 

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