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Nicholas Frankl: F1 Thoughts and Reports October 2014


Nicholas Frankl
Senior Editor
The Auto Channel
Formula 1 Racing Desk


Japan showed us once again that, in life, luck is as important a factor as anything else.

Jules Bianchi lost control at turn 7 in the wet and exited the track at the exact right (or wrong) angle to torpedo the rear of a large safety crane, which weighed probably 5 tons, and was lifted off the ground by the Marussia forcing itself under the rear wheels ending up, from what I can tell, in between the barriers. The hazy fan video shows the true force and violence of the impact and how lucky Jules was to have survived this far. I was immediately reminded of other atrocious freak accidents like Francois Cevert at Watkins Glen, Surtees at Brands Hatch, both fatal, Martin Brundle in Melbourne, Robert Kubica at Montreal, in which Marty walked away from a destroyed Jordan and restarted the race and Robert miraculously survived with a broken ankle.

In these situations the public often seeks answers and ‘need’ to associate some blame. Of course, this does nothing to help the driver’s predicament and often results in knee jerk reaction rule changes that increase costs and do not necessarily improve safety. Would deployment of the safety car a lap earlier have made a difference? Yes probably it would, but that’s irrelevant to the outcome of the accident and the fact is, racing is dangerous, for both competitors and spectators. Speaking from personal experience, all sportsmen involved in what the public largely defines as ‘dangerous sports’ take on a degree of personal risk and responsibility. Statistically one is at far greater danger driving a car on a crowded road, riding one’s bike or even playing golf.

F1 might be a giant media fishbowl where every inch is scrutinized and analyzed but on the same day that Jules crashed there were thousands of motorsport activities around the world with, I would bet, a fair number of fatalities. The safety precautions in top-level racing already exceed any other form of sport I know and are second only to the military and space agencies protecting their pilots and astronauts. Marshalling might have to be tweaked, and maybe a Monaco-style recovery system instituted across all tracks which keeps recovery cranes off the track all together, but Charlie Whiting and his team have a unique experience in the sport and have always the best interests of the drivers in mind when any safety decision is made. I, for one, would not advocate a witch hunt / blame game.

On far less important matters, we have certainly seen some interesting changes in F1 in recent days.

With Ferrari nowhere near a credible championship challenge, which was very clear from the first 3 races of the year, and with a possible IPO and obvious ego clashes in the corridors of power at FIAT, maybe it was just time for Luca to depart gracefully. He will at least be attending the 60th Anniversary in Beverly Hills this weekend where 1,000 Ferraris will gather in the biggest Tifosi traffic jam in history. Don’t be surprised if we see him returning to run F1 after Bernie. Where this leaves Mattiacci is very unclear. He appears to be blessed from the Agnellis so he might still have a job moving forward - how effective he will be is another matter - and it will be tough to blame a bad car in 2015 on anyone else.

Vettel certainly shook up the paddock with his announcement, although I don’t buy it that he negotiated singlehandedly an $80m/year contract. Nothing happens at this level without Bernie’s say so and I’m quite sure he was instrumental in the proceedings. I predicted many months ago that Alonso would leave and would most likely go to McLaren. I think they already have a letter of intent and Fernando was checking out the Honda engine situation first hand whilst in the country. He knows that without the right power unit he will be nowhere in 2015. I suspect that he and Dennis can bury the hatchet for the best of both sides and, given that he’s 33 years old, taking a year off might not be such a great move for his long term championship chances. At this stage of his career taking a team to the championship is really the only motivation.

The F1 Circus has a new big top to perform in, the Olympic city of Sochi on the black sea. I haven’t been and am not planning to visit (and, according to many neither, should the F1 teams...a la Bahrain). But Bernie plays to different rules and pandering to every political upheaval these days would likely leave the F1 calendar in pieces. Putin will no doubt return to the city he built for a highly successful winter games (remember those?) and parade with Bernie down the grid. The Russians will love it and that’s all that matters to Vlad. Maybe 2015 will see his golden boy, Danill Kyvat in the Red Bull, making F1 history and winning his home race.

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:


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.