My take on the Pirelli vs. Seb

On lap 42 of the Belgian grand Prix today Sebastian’s tyre has disintegrated “out of the blue”, and after the race Sebastian was furious, I guess I have never seen him so furious before. Ever. He spoke to RTL, saying that he wasn’t concerned about the result, he was concerned about safety, and had the tyre given up 200m earlier he would head into the wall at 300 km/h. Moreover he mentioned that Pirelli said the tyre was good for 40 laps. And those 40 laps, in my opinion is the crucial problem.

The statement was confirmed by Paul Hembery. He of course said that it was just a guideline, and that they didn’t expect anyone doing a race on one stop. At this point I ask myself isn’t 12 laps too much of a deviation on 40 lap guideline? And if they were not sure, and expected the teams to do at least a two stopper, why would they have the 40 laps guideline? What are they having from overstating the useful life of the tyres, while their job is to make tyres that don’t last too long?

Sebastian also mentioned that concerns were raised after the incident with Nico Rosberg, who also escaped what could have been a very nasty accident. He is one of the people who has often voiced concerns that others didn’t: remember Suzuka 2014? Seb was the one who said that it was a shame they didn’t reschedule the race, and as far as I remember he said it before Jule’s accident.

I am sure Sir Jacky Steward wasn’t too popular when he fought for safety improvements. None of the people who contributed enormously to the safety in Formula One was. But their legacy is why after a crash the drivers get out of the car and carry on with their business.

Ihe risky strategy adopted by Ferrari is not really an excuse. It was a gamble, yes. But the tyres were 28 laps old (12 laps less that the guideline!), and at worst you should expect dramatic drop in performance, not the tyre disintegrating at 300 km/h. Ferrari gambled, the gamble didn’t pay off (though the worst case scenario would be fourth) – this happens this is racing, and it wasn’t what Sebastian was talking about. He spoke about safety, not the results.

What kills me is the hypocrisy. People complain about swearing? Really? Firstly, he speaks a foreign language, and it is likely to be a prejudice from my side, but I wonder how many of people who criticize him for it are able to form coherent sentences in a foreign language. Another point is, how so many forget he is actually a human being. I wonder how many of us would be able to keep calm and politically correct if someone shoved a microphone in front of your nose just five minutes after you had an accident that under slightly different circumstances could have cost you your life? Especially if you spoke about the situation a day before. Really I would look at you.

Seb is harsh, and I guess Britta will not be too happy about what he said, and the way he said it. But aren’t the same people who now criticize Seb say that the drivers have become too perfect and to corporate and no one expresses their opinions. You have an opinion and someone who has the balls to express it, so I am not sure there is a reason for complaints.

Formula one is a dangerous sports, and I guess from time to time all of us want to be fans of chess of snooker, it will always remain dangerous, but it doesn’t mean there is no point in trying to improve safety. If everyone would stick with “it’s dangerous, deal with it” philosophy, there wouldn’t be helmets or seatbelts yet.

I really hope that they will figure out something to improve the tyres, to make the drivers trust their equipment again. And I think that one day if we are unlucky, people will thank Sebastian for voicing, what no one did, and for being politically incorrect.

Ultimately, I don’t think that the important question is whether Ferrari or Pirelli are to blame, but what can be done to improve, and avoid something like that ever happening again.

Study in red

I think I am slowly coming to terms with Sebastian being a Ferrari driver from the next year on. At first I hated the thought of it, but the more I think about it, the more I think that I will be able to accept it.

Apparently Sebastian has engineered an amazing deal for himself with 25m a year plus bonuses (according to Sport Bild), furthermore Ferrari have always been fine with the personal sponsorship deals (which years ago lured Michael to them at the first place), and it is a lot of money, even compared to his 22m contract with Red Bull. I don’t actually think that there is something bad about choosing a better paying company.

Apparently his condition was that Alonso had to go, which is not surprising at all. And this point I find totally understandable, he doesn’t seem like a person who would be happy to play the mind games that Fernando excels at. Except he seems to have lost this round to Seb. According to the Sport Bild, Fernando was fairly pissed after his talk with Mattiacci on Thursday, the day before Seb told he was leaving Red Bull. So basically Sebastian has left Fernando with very limited bargaining power: he can’t stay at Ferrari, he is not going to Red Bull, Mercedes have two very good drivers, and Alonso seems to be the last person you would hire to improve the relationships inside the team. He is left with McLaren.

Ferrari has a mythos around it, this mythos is valid. They have been there forever, they used to be synonymous with F1 for so many years, they have the highest amount of trophies to their name. Ferrari have history, and being so much in love with the history of motorsport, Sebastian wants to write his own. I remember that interview done by Spiegel.tv. “Ich bin kein Schumacher, ich bin ein Vettel” (I am not a Schumacher, I am a Vettel) said the 12 year old Sebastian. Now he has four titles to his name, the experience and confidence that he can do what Schumacher once did. If Seb pulls it off he is a legend.

One may think that leaving Red Bull now is a betrayal, that Seb’s jumping ship. And to be honest to some extent he is. Red Bull has been on the top of the cycle for four years, and now they are inevitably going down. With less involvement from Newey, with the Renault motors they are stuck with, they will need at least a couple of years to regroup if they are to be on the very top to challenge Mercedes. It’s the same time Ferrari needs to build themselves up with the new people and the new hopes. Sebastian now did what Lewis did two years ago, he has left the team that has brought him up for the new challenge. He actually uses the same rhetorics Lewis used back then. Lewis made the right choice, and I hope that Sebastian made a right bet as well. I want him to manage what Alonso failed at.

I don’t know how I will manage my negative feelings towards Ferrari and my adoration towards Seb, but I somehow managed it with Lewis and Mercedes, it’s just going to be the round two. After all it takes 22 to tango, after all F1 is one big family quarreling about the estate.

I will still love Red Bull, they have something very special, and I want them to do well through the much tougher times that they have been having this year. I want them to keep pushing, and I am sure they will. Daniel has proven that he can do the job, he has pretty much outpaced the four times world champion. I am not sure about Kvyat, though. It is a gamble, it’s a huge gamble. But I am very happy that Red Bull went with their programme, that they didn’t go shopping for someone with a name to pay for. Next year they will have at least 20 more million to put into the car and one proven driver. It will be tough for the marketing department, though. It’s going to be hard to sell a Russian in Europe, or in fact anywhere in the world but Russia. Daniil though is as much a Russian as Nico Rosberg is a German. And in general I think that nationality is fairly irrelevant in F1. I just hope he does well and doesn’t cause too much of a fluctuation in the team, that he can build the sort of relationships with the guys that Sebastian and Daniel have built over the years. That he feels at home in the team and that the team feels good about him. Open mindedness gained through years of international experience may help him with this.

I think Christian is not entirely honest, saying that he was taken aback by Seb’s decision. People must have known before, I am not sure that Kenny leaving, or being let go, is a coincidence. And Seb has told them as soon as his deal with Ferrari was done, I don’t think that the timing of the announcement was bad. And Red Bull must have given a thought to what they do if Seb leaves. They had a plan, and PR wise they have handled the situation fairly well, announcing the driver line up, not to give a ground to any speculations. Christian seemed hurt, though, on more than just professional level. As did Dr. Marko. Sebastian reportedly was in tears, when he told his team in the morning, and that tweet from Stu is heartbreaking. Sebastian is obviously leaving a very happy place, and people who are dear to him. But he moves on, and the only thing left is to wish him to succeed at what he does.

Thoughts on Barcelona or An unavailing search for the greener grass

Formula One is now back to normal. Pirelli are back on top of the list of hot topics, namely. It is tempting to blame tyres for the lack of racing, but it is too easy, don’t you think?

Depending on their position, every team and every driver has complained about the tyres at some point. These complains are encouraged by the media as well as by the fans. At the end of the day it’s always nice to have some higher power to blame for your failure. Voices saying that it’s a job of the teams and the drivers to maximise their performance with what’s given are becoming louder with every single race. I can get the point, it sounds rational, but I still cannot get rid of the feeling that it is wrong.

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Unicorns and eagles or a National question

After the chequered flag falls and the winner is established, a national anthem is played to honour his success and the success of his team. Every time I hear a national anthem on the podium I ask myself whether it is actually appropriate. Every time a national anthem is played I ask myself whether Formula One is a sports where the nationality matters.

The general bias towards own countrymen in the media is probably not even worth mentioning: British Sky or BBC obviously have their affections towards Hamilton, Button, or di Riesta; RTL puts Vettel, Rosberg or Hülkenberg to the centre of their coverage. To some not negligible extent Formula One has been perceived by many as a playground for a British-German(-Italian) motor racing rivalry, and it probably not that far from the reality. But the more people and me myself are talking about the national element in Formula One the more I ask myself whether there actually is any logical reason to pay so much attention to the nationality in racing. (more…)

Dummy’s guide to team strategy or It’s all about expected cash flows

Is Formula 1 a team sport? The question might sound simple, but the answer is not. Technically, according to the regulatory framework of the FIA it is both team and individual sports. We have World Drivers’ Championship and World Constructors’ Championship. Despite high correlation of the performances in those two, sometimes – and rather often – a huge conflict of interests arises.

At the first glance good performance in WCC appears to be more important from the economic point of view. It gives the team a certain cash inflow in addition to the positive media coverage, which is beneficial for the team’s sponsors and therefore improves their chances to secure further less certain cash inflows. On the other hand, it would be wrong to underestimate an economic impact that a driver’s personality has on sponsorship deals.
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