F1 Today: Canada, Rules, and Austria

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By Nicholas Frankl
The Auto Channel Motor Sports Correspondent

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)
Nicholas Frankl

Canada proved once again that in spite of various teams’ much publicized performance upgrades and improvements, unless the car with the three-pointed star on its nose has a mechanical failure or an accident, it leads the field from the time it departs the pit lane on Friday morning around 9:30AM until it returns around 4PM after a good run on Sunday afternoon. The smart ‘top teams’ have already focused on 2015 and are trying to balance points and performance with allocation of budget and human resources – both of which are increasingly scarce. Yet again this week F1 teams met for more ‘cost cutting / spicing up the show’ talks, though neither seem to have gone very far. Every serious motion on the table failed to find any majority support. The silly ‘willy’ noses will be regulated out with something more resembling the Ferrari design. The only major element agreed is pre-season and in-season testing which will be reduced even further and will only occur in Europe as Bahrain was considered too expensive. The reason the teams like this is because it’s a clear budget line item they can point at and as most of the wind tunnel, engine and simulator testing is so incredibly accurate ( and getting more so every month) they hardly need to run cars on the track. It might be easier to just have the drivers run the cars from the home bases and watch a simulator race on TV, that would at least eliminate the tiresome traffic jams that plagued the teams and fans today in Austria and will no doubt do the same again at Silverstone in a few weeks.

Ferrari is, of course, in a unique position with its special financial relationship with the FIA and F1 management: they don’t need to chase the points quite so hard, so it was therefore quite interesting to hear the President of Ferrari telling journalists that international sports car racing (ALMS, Le Mans etc) was increasingly more relevant to their brand and the public alike and that a full factory team running against the likes of Porsche, Audi, Nissan and Toyota was being considered. He went on to say ‘we can only afford one series’, which would appear to be another shot across Bernie’s / CVC’s bow!

With a couple of weeks off and drivers heading back home, mostly to Monaco, it was good to see a few of them around town. Jenson Button was enjoying lunch on the beach and boat shopping for the upcoming summer holidays in the med. He appears to have taken a liking to a new and very sleek 55 foot Van Dutch speed boat.

It’s great to see F1 back at the A1-Ring after an 11 year hiatus. With so many billions already invested into F1 and so many still left in his bank account, Austria’s richest man and the founder / owner of Red Bull energy drink (although not the made-for truck-drivers original that comes from Thailand) Dietrich Mateschitz found a new way to spend time and energy in F1. Clearly taking a bankrupt Jaguar F1 team and turning it into a four-time championship winning team, plus running a multi-billion dollar global brand isn’t enough, so why not rebuild an iconic race track and pay Bernie to bring the circus to town! He forgot to upgrade the single two lane road that services the track, but maybe his research told him that punters drink more when stuck in their cars for a few hours a day! Don’t expect any gifts from Austria’s last world champion, Niki Lauda, who is now head of Mercedes racing: he isn’t feeling very generous and won’t be supporting Red Bull’s self-proclaimed ‘home race.’…

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