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Nicholas Frankl's F1 Insider Report


Nicholas Frankl
Senior Editor
The Auto Channel
Formula 1 Racing Desk


March 26, 2014; The start of the 2014 F1 season, and the FIA remake of the top level of world Motorsports, went very much as predicted by the results of winter testing. The teams like Mercedes that completed most laps performed well and appear to have an enviable performance advantage over the ones that failed in testing like Lotus / Renault. "Performance advantage" is a very hard-to-define term this year, for as we saw, Hamilton was out front throughout the weekend and by a clear second too, but failed to complete even half a race distance. The opportunity for mischief by mechanical & electrical gremlins has never been bigger.

This lead reminded me of the McLaren's domination of the Melbourne 98 race when, after a number of years in the wilderness, Mika and DC were finally given cars that had a clear performance advantage over the field. In spite of Ferrari's best efforts they took that pace to win both the championships that year. Another Ross Brawn team ran circles around the field with that anomaly of the Brawn team in 2009 when again rule changes allowed for very creative solutions. I think this year will be the same. However now, even though the car is superior, Brawn is out of the team and Niki Lauda is in. That means politics have been and will be at play (think Jaguar racing & Bobby Rahal) and this is bound to cause tension in the team and possibly with and between the drivers. I noticed when chatting with Lewis in Austin that he was significantly more relaxed than in his McLaren days & his driving consistency has also improved. But let's face it, he's not German & doesn't speak the language, and although this is a British based team, make no mistake all the major decisions are being made in Stuttgart.

I'm not concerned about Ferrari. Dominicalli knows what he's doing. He's one of the longest standing top level employees of the team, one of the most seasoned F1 executives & knows the hierarchy inside and out & has continued to push to attract top talent at Maranello. The drivers are two of the best. Remember Alonso in Valencia last year? Probably the best drive of the year. Alonso loves the team, still has the passion and with Kimi keeping him on his toes, I think they have the proven ability to develop the performance over the season and bring the best out of the car, more than say the drivers at Williams or McLaren.

RedBull has lost the edge, that was just a matter of time, but obviously they can't be ruled out. It will be interesting to see how good Riciardi is at developing the car, as this will be absolutely critical and although the whole team is dedicated to a 5th Vettel championship they will need his input too.

I think the constructors will go to Mercedes ahead of Ferrari. The driver's championship might well go down to the last race, this year ending in Abu Dhabi not Brazil, and will be down to Rosberg and Alonso, with Vettel playing a critical role and able to affect the points and outcome of the championship.

About Nicholas Frankl

Nicholas Frankl has attended more than 250 F1 Grand Prix in the past 30+ years (1st race age six weeks). He has been writing for The Auto Channel since it started in 1995/6. He managed the Asprey/Ferrari partnership from 1996-99 working closely with Todt, Irvine, Schumacher and Stefano Dominicalli. Visiting the Ferrari factory annually he has a deep insight into the inner workings of the team. He is also an three time Olympic sportsman, having qualified and driven a two-man & four-man bobsleigh in Lillehammer 1994, Nagano 1998 and Salt Lake City 2002 Winter Olympic Games. He has raced cars in the UK and USA, competed in the Cannonball, Gumball and Bullrun rallies, is a certified private pilot and member of both The Royal Automobile Club and Automobile Club of Monaco. Throughout his life he has visited the majority of F1 tracks and shared drinks and many fun times with many of yesterday’s legends and todays hero’s.

A Word from Nicholas:

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

So where does bobsleigh fit into this mix?

Well, that's me. Gilles Villeneuve I may never (unfortunately) be, but the next best thing (I'm told - and in fact can vouch for) is Formula One on ice. 1994 saw me competing as driver of the first Hungarian bob team in the Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway, and then onto two more Olympic Winter games. Why am I telling you this? Well, if for no other reason than that you'll at least understand how I gain some insight into the sport we love. Strangely enough, the F1 boys have a real respect for their ice cousins; the speed, G' forces and exhilaration are quite similar. This, however, is only my "off season" hobby. The reason for this intro is to allow me to say HI, From here on I hope we’ll become firm friends, as I follow the F1 circus around the world and you get to pick up all the details. Not just the results, but the gossip too and the first-hand natter you just don't get from the usual sources.

Thanks to my father, whose stories you'll also be reading, I've grown up in the world of motor sport and cars - in fact instead of a birth certificate, I think I was born with a pit pass. It's the sort of life that if you enjoy our sport is tough to beat, so I thought this would be a good way of sharing the fun.