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Nicholas Frankl: F1 2014 Finale Reflections and Analysis


The 2014 Finale Reflections and Analysis


Nicholas Frankl
Senior Editor
The Auto Channel
Formula 1 Racing Desk

I admit, I shed a tear when Lewis crossed the line in Abu Dhabi, it was a magnificent and hard won drivers championship and he truly deserved it. A more mature and well rounded driver and human being is still, weeks later, coming to terms with the scale of the achievement. As with all racing championships and as any driver will tell you, you don't win one without the best car and a lavish portion of luck, it's just that simple and Lewis benefitted from both. Take a look at four-time champ and this year’s chomp Vettel’s reversal of fortune this season if you don't believe me.

Just imagine the uproar if he, rather than Nico, Lewis had suffered a technical breakdown…… Since Abu Dhabi Lewis has collected his FIA trophy in Monaco from proud new father of twins HSH Prince Albert and and also won the prestigious BBC Sports Personality of The Year Award. His father and girlfriend are both back in “Team Lewis” and this has also contributed much needed stability to his life. I haven't been to a betting shop for many years but if I find one, I might put a wager on a back to back championship for him in 2015.

I can't think of a single thing that Ferrari will be looking to repeat in 2015. No question the car was unstable, suffered from all manner of handling issues, Kimi could barely drive it, and was powered by a hybrid engine better suited in a FIAT delivery van then a F1 car. Maybe their sponsor UPS could advise on engineering moving forward?? I believe it was a big mistake to fire Dominicalli. Yes, he’s an old friend and I like and respect him and his family, but he also knows how to run a team and win a championship. The car salesman they installed I knew would be a disaster, quite obvious and now for the first time that I'm aware of, a marketing executive of a team sponsor has been hired as CEO of the racing team!!!! He does “know the team” but so does the chef in the motor home and he’s not running the shop now.

I can see some major issues moving forward and with all the recent staff firings and hirings it's worse than the old Berlusconi comedy in Roma. Don't expect a serious assault on the Championship in 2015, I think Vettel will be lucky to finish on the podium let alone the top step. It's clear he intends to create a “Schumacher recovery” but that can only work if he is allowed the time and authority to build a long term stable environment as our dear Michael did. Alonso never succeeded and he is a very capable well rounded driver. Marchionne is known as a results driven corporate hatchet man for good reason.

I'm sure Sebastein would love to bring his old team boss Marko to Ferrari, but I can't see it, maybe Horner could be enticed….? Once the sheen wears off the bright red overalls, Seb maybe wondering what on earth he’s taken on! If only Luca had gone after Newey properly a few years back and paid him whatever he asked, I suspect they would be in a better position. Ross Brawn was the obvious choice, but the waters are too murky even for him and now there is the whole Audi F1 question……

I wrote at the Monaco GP that Alonso was off and probably heading to McLaren. No one really knew that, the contract hadn't even been drafted, let alone signed, but it was clear even in May that he was fed up and looking for a better solution. It just shows you what can be achieved and how much dirt can be swept under the proverbial carpet when a relationship as broken as Alonso / McLaren can be (seemingly) rebuilt and refreshed. Thank Honda who might well be both his and his resurgent boss, Ron Dennis’, savior. Eric Boullier has been busy creating a new engineering and aero team at McLaren that can give Honda a car that they hope will fit the superior engine performance (especially if the engine freeze is lifted) and create a championship winning combination to rival the famous 80’s.

I don’t expect miracles in the first year, but it would certainly be great to see Williams, McLaren & Ferrari back at the top of the constructors, with Mercedes and Red Bull as new long term invested constructors. I read that it's the first time since the 60’s that none of the afore mentioned “famous three” had won a single race in a season and that’s both shocking and great for a sport in need a fresh paint and new fan friendly ideas, as it spurs these passionate racers to double down and work even harder.

Much has been (and will be) written about the teenager Verstappen. Jacques Villeneuve has been scathing and the FIA has now introduced a new age limit of 18, “Too low” he says, but basically it's quite obvious that just as with today's 1,000 BHP “hyper cars” that both your and my grandmother can pop down to the shops for a baguette in, the modern F1 car is way too easy to drive. That said, either you can beat your team-mate and set fast times and bring a car home after a long wheel-banging race or you can't. Age per say isn't relevant, but he has a point about not learning the finesse of open wheel racing in F1, but using the lower “ladder” formula to build experience and speed.

As we close out the year my personal thoughts are with two other driver ‘battles’ except for much higher stakes. It’s just over a year since Michael suffered his freak skiing accident. Apart from the official updates from his family, we know little, but what we do know is that against the odds he does appear to be making some small progress on a very long recovery and for this we should be thankful. Michael will celebrate his 46th birthday on Jan 3rd and I for one am happy he gets to share it with Corinna and his family at home in Geneva.

Jules Bianchi is also recovering and remains in a coma in hospital in France. He is breathing unaided but he too has a long way to go and my thoughts are with his family at this time.

Finally, it’s been a year of many ups and down’s for all of us, but I feel especially sad for Tony Fernandes. I have only met him on a few occasions and he was always polite and courteous. He fought a good fight but lost his F1 team at the end of this year and now has suffered the greatest loss for any airline employee or boss (just ask Niki Lauda), the tragic loss of Air Asia QZ8501 flight. My thoughts are with him, his airline family and the families of those who have perished.

Until next time

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.