Drafting the Circuits
Formula 1 Report
By Steve Aibel
The tempest of opening day is just one-month away for Formula 1. Melbourne, Australia is the first time the lights will go out for 2015. With only two more tests ahead of the first Grand Prix, everyone is in scramble mode to place additional touches on their seasonal contender.
Hopefully at the next test in Barcelona, Spain we will begin to see the pecking order for the first portion of the season. I’m particularly concerned for Force India. They missed the first test in Jerez, Spain and at this point, they are slated to bring only a 2014 car to the next test. The fact that the new VJM08 will not hit the track until the final Barcelona test brings back memories of the poor Lotus debut last year. Lotus never really recovered. I hope that is not the case for Force India.
Force India has noted that the failure of Caterham and Marussia contributed to delays in finishing the construction of their car this year. Strange logic there.
Bob Fernley, team principal, has commented that suppliers are now demanding up-front payments since the collapse of the two former teams left suppliers with cash flow problems. Fernley also mentioned that wind tunnel work in the Toyota facility in Cologne, Germany was delayed due to a prior contract with Caterham that needed to be resolved before Force India could start using that facility. Either way, this has been an auspicious start for Force India who have be sliding down the order lately.
Marussia are still trying to keep their head above water and it is miraculous that we are still entertaining a place in F1 for them. They have been fighting hard to retain their spot in the Formula 1 paddock. This week Manor racing, the parent company of Marussia, will bring Marussia out of administration which should allow them to contract with other companies and begin business operations again. They have paid their entry fee for 2015, which, theoretically, should put them on the grid for the season. However they have one huge problem. They have no car!
That’s a big one right?
Manor racing applied to the F1 strategy group wanting to run a 2014 spec car for the first few races of the season. They did not receive the unanimous support needed, blocked by Force India who commented that their application was incomplete. For Marusisa, or Manor, the key will be getting a 2015 approved car to the grid before Bahrain on April 19th so that they are able retain the commercial rights earned income from the 2014 season of approximately 30 million pounds.
It would be nice see Manor rebound and earn a spot on the 2015 grid.
But Manor/Marussia is not the only question mark this season. The famed German Grand Prix is also under question. Normally this race rotates between the Nurburgring and Hockenheim circuits each year. The famed Nurburgring was slated to host this year’s event, but financial difficulties and ownership transfer have kept the “Ring” from securing a deal with Bernie Ecclestone.
With television ratings down in Germany and now problems with the historic Nurburgring venue, Formula 1 is struggling in Germany. This is a surprise given it is Germanys anthem has been played played at practically every podium during the past 5 seasons. Given the dominance of Mercedes, Nico Rosberg and 4 time champion Sebastian Vettel it is surprising to see this in Germany and somewhat disheartening.
These struggles, the loss of Caterham and the Nurburgring (and possibly Manor/Marussia), have led Formula 1 to massive discussions on what direction the sport needs to follow in the upcoming years. One of the main discussions has focused on horsepower.
It seems a foregone conclusion that the F1 community and the fans have not embraced the current iteration of the V6 engine. Simply put, the engines don’t make enough noise and the cars seem easier for the drivers to master. The influx of young drivers taking race seats with little experience is a testament to this problem.
It is thought that by altering the fuel flow rate and allowing more fuel in total, the V6 packages can manage to generate 1000 horsepower; an increase of 200-250 HP. There is also talk centered on wider tires and changing the bodywork to make the cars look more impressive.
All of this sounds great…. especially louder engines!
But for a sport that is already somewhat fragile from a cost perspective, there will be challenges associated with changing some major regulations. With teams such as Force India, Sauber and Lotus already struggling from a cost standpoint, making the cars look better could actually put some of the teams in a weaker financial position.
So what does F1 need right now?
The best solution is to get those cars on the grid, turn out those lights and see what 2015 brings. Just one more month to go!
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