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Ted Kravitz - the Hungarian GP from the pit lane

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F1 Mole | 12:30 UK time, Wednesday, 29 July 2009

McLaren really know how to spoil a special moment with their matter-of-fact radio messages after a win.

With any other team we hear some emotive congratulatory words from an engineer or a team boss.

But after his win in Hungary, all we heard on TV that was broadcast of Lewis Hamilton's radio communication was a few words of heartfelt but understated thanks from his engineer, followed by an instruction to "go to yellow Golf 8 and standard procedures". Party on!

lollipop595.jpg

By the way, the 'G', or Golf switch is for the engine. It is used to control the fuel mixture and engine revs.

Showbiz moments aside, McLaren have managed to make up a deficit of two seconds a lap since the start of the season, which is a deeply impressive achievement.

Most of it has come from ditching their original front wing, floor and diffuser concept, which was causing the air under the car to stall, and get jumbled up before it reached the diffuser.

Since the German Grand Prix, they have a front wing with two sizeable holes in the endplates, a new floor and a beautifully intricate double diffuser with a massive hole in the middle.

The air is now flowing smoothly under the car and being expelled at high speed out of the diffuser, as it should be.

As well as investing in elaborate double diffusers, McLaren have continued to plough time and money into small things that might make a difference, regardless of expense or complexity.

Their latest is a pit stop traffic-light system, but not the kind used by Ferrari last year and then abandoned after the mix-up in the pits that cost Felipe Massa a win in Singapore. McLaren's system exists to warn the team of traffic in the pit lane.

There are two red lights on the rear pit gantry. These are linked to a sensor which looks at a zone about one garage length up the pit lane.

If the sensor picks up a car in this zone, the lights stay red, and the lollipop man holds the McLaren in the box.

But if there are no cars in the zone, the lights go green, and Lewis or Heikki are cleared to be released into the pit lane.

It frees up lollipop man Pete Vale to concentrate on whether the refuelling and tyres are finished, rather than constantly checking the pit lane for traffic as well.

We saw it in action at Hamilton's first stop, when he was held in the box for at least two seconds as Rosberg came down the pit lane.

The red lights worked as they should, although McLaren might reflect that since there was no penalty given to Red Bull for their early release of Webber into Raikkonen, they might be losing out by being so cautious.

Other teams seem to manage perfectly well with a more 'human' system. At Williams, they measure out a point in the pit lane for lollipop man Carl Gaden to look at. It's typically halfway between Red Bull and Toro Rosso, the teams ahead of them in the pits.

If another car has passed that point, it's not safe to release the Williams. If it is ahead of that point, the Williams will be able to accelerate quickly enough to avoid an accident.

Brawn

At the end of the race I wandered down the pit lane to the Brawn timing stand. Ross Brawn, his team manager and engineers sat impassively, staring at Rubens Barrichello coming home 10th.

Brawn then sighed, unplugged his headset, hunched over his worktop and dropped his head, just taking a moment to himself. No-one was saying anything on the pit wall.

I had genuinely never seen him like that, hence my "Are you all right?" first question. The weekend's events must have affected Brawn very deeply.

Sure, the cars had a bad race, and the tyres hadn't got up to temperature again, despite the track being hotter. And OK, Mark Webber had taken four points out of Jenson Button's championship lead.

But all that paled into insignificance compared to the part his car had played in the injury to Felipe Massa, a friend and a driver he had nurtured in 2006, Brawn's last year at Ferrari.

It was a very unusual thing to happen. The heave spring and damper is the part of the rear suspension that absorbs the vertical movement. So if you were to stand on top of the rear wing, the heave spring would take the load.

The rear torsion bars take the horizontal loadings, when the car is 'in roll', ie when it is going round corners. Brawn will be conducting their own inquiry into how the heave spring assembly fell apart in conjunction with the FIA technical department.

Ferrari

While Felipe Massa was in intensive care, nobody in the team, quite rightly, would discuss their options for car number three.

Marc Gene and Luca Badoer are the official test drivers, although it is Gene who comes to all the races and attends the drivers' briefings. Badoer comes to only four or five races a year.

Marc Gene was asked on Sunday whether he would get the drive for the rest of the season, replying that he did not know, and it was not the time to think about such things.

But now Ferrari team boss Stefano Domenicali has confirmed that he will be addressing the matter this week.

So with Felipe's speedy return the best outcome, let's assess the candidates.

Marc Gene is 35-years-old, and while he has excelled in sports cars, recently winning the Le Mans 24 hours for Peugeot, he has a single sixth place to his credit in F1.

He has not driven this year's Ferrari - he was due to test at the start of the season, but did not do so because of bad weather. Despite this, Gene must be the favourite.

The most mouth-watering option for the outsider is Fernando Alonso - one can imagine that F1 promoter Bernie Ecclestone would love that idea.

Alonso's Renault team have been banned for the Valencia race and it is believed that the Spaniard has a contract to race for Ferrari in the future. Even so, it must be considered unlikely that Alonso will drive one of the red cars at the European Grand Prix.

Alonso would not have any time to test the Ferrari, and as a result would likely be out-paced by Kimi Raikkonen, who would be well motivated to bet the man who has been tipped to steal his drive.

Quite apart from that, Renault would want Alonso back for the rest of the season after their ban - and that's assuming they do not get it overturned on appeal - and Fernando would take a load of Ferrari information back with him.

It could also be seen as an insult to Massa. Everyone in F1 believes Alonso is going to end up at Ferrari at some point - how would it make Felipe feel if they put him into the car at the first opportunity to give him a head start?

Which leaves Luca Badoer, Mirko Bortolotti or Michael Schumacher - and possibly, now BMW have announced their withdrawal from F1, Robert Kubica.

Kubica is known to be a favourite of Ferrari, but whether BMW would release him is another matter - and it would be harsh on Massa in the same way Alonso would.

Badoer last raced in F1 10 years ago and has not tested this year's car, although he did a lot of development work on its Kers power-boost system in a previous spec car over the winter.

Italian Formula Three champion Bortolotti is a massive prospect for the future, but is only 19.

Ferrari does not race teenagers, although the Italian did break the lap record at the team's Fiorano test track back in November at his first attempt, so is clearly pretty special. He is an outside bet.

And Schumacher? He could slot straight back into the organisation. Massa would give it his blessing, as he knows there is no long-term threat there.

Whether Michael wants to is another matter, but if Ferrari ask him in all seriousness to drive the car, I believe he would have to think long and hard about turning them down.

Renault

Speaking with Renault people at Budapest airport following their one-race ban, their complaint wasn't that allowing Alonso out of his pit box with an loose wheel nut shouldn't have been punished, but that the punishment did not fit the crime.

They argued that wheels have come off cars in the past, and the car has returned to the pits without penalty, which is true.

It's also true that teams have allowed cars to continue racing in a dangerous condition (Kimi Raikkonen in a McLaren with flat spotted tyres at the Nurburgring in 2005, for example, when he lost the win on the final lap when his tyre exploded).

Indeed, in the paranoid world of F1, there will be people who connect the relationship between Renault boss Flavio Briatore and FIA president Max Mosley, which has become strained in the political battles of this season, with Renault being harshly treated by the FIA. Real or imagined? You decide.

But while they might be frustrated with the ruling, Renault shouldn't be surprised they received a severe punishment for their mistake 24 hours after a driver was seriously injured by debris falling off a car.

Comments

  • 1. At 2:04pm on 29 Jul 2009, equinoxiq wrote:

    Ted, I don't know if you read these comments or not but I can't help but be compelled to tell you that your pit lane reports are the finest bits of F1 related reading that can be found anywhere from any publication that exists on any medium. Thank for your incite and hard work. It's really the only thing I look forward to reading after any race.

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  • 2. At 2:22pm on 29 Jul 2009, Worldfed wrote:

    Great to see you blogging regularly again Ted... You need your own TV show!

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  • 3. At 2:24pm on 29 Jul 2009, Ardius_ wrote:

    I think Sebastien Bourdais is also a likely candidate for a temporary Ferrari seat as he has very very recent experience of the current F1 cars and also of the Ferrari engine. And he's not tied to any contracts like all the other options are.
    And if Ferrari could pick the likes of Mika Salo last time, why not Bourdais?

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  • 4. At 2:28pm on 29 Jul 2009, Richard McCrossan wrote:

    Hi Ted,

    I echo equinoxiq's comments and I'm really glad that you've picked up where you left off your "notebooks" last year.

    Any chance of seeing you on Twitter soon?

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  • 5. At 2:32pm on 29 Jul 2009, tj wrote:

    Ted, what team do you think will replace BMW? I am hoping for either Team Lotus or Prodrice (badged as Astin Martin)

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  • 6. At 2:55pm on 29 Jul 2009, PeteV8 wrote:

    Regarding the punishment of Renault by the FIA Stewards - it does indeed seem a harsh punishment, but then the nature of the mistake was pretty serious. To knowingly release Alonso with an unsecured wheel, and to then take no action to ensure he stopped on track, or at the very least inform him of the problem, is diabolical. Especially in view of recent motorsport accidents involving car debris.

    However, it does beg the question why were Red Bull not also punished for releasing Mark Webber into the path of Kimi in the pitlane? The rules on this are quite clear. And it was quite clear to all viewers that an accident was narrowly avoided because these rules were not adhered too. It was more luck (and driver skill) that avoided a collision in the pitlane.

    Granted no body wants to see either Mark Webber, or Red Bull in their championship charge, punished or heldback. BUT rules are rules, and they were flouted - with potential serious consequences.

    In the same race we saw Lewis Hamilton heldback on his pit stop by a clear 2 seconds due to these rules. Luckily the result of the race was not effected by this. What message does the lack of punishment send out to Maclaren? In future they could be forgiven for taking more risks in the pitlane, safe in the knowledge that they shouldnt be punished.....

    Its this continuing inconsistency in the applications of rules and the FIA punishments that causes me a problem with F1.

    At least this time Maclaren were not on the end of a harsh judgement.

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  • 7. At 3:30pm on 29 Jul 2009, FanofSilverstone wrote:

    I am beginning to see this kid as the man to replace Massa, I'm sure all it would serve to do is get him a slot at Manor or as De La Rosa's team-mate at Campos. I think it would be (as you put it) unfair to put Alonso or Kubica in his seat (as they would be considered a long term threat to his seat bin Raikonnen chooses to stay).

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  • 8. At 6:41pm on 29 Jul 2009, Pasinho wrote:

    It's official: Michael Schumacher has been announced to replace Massa. Never been a fan of the man, but I'll be ther first to admit that this is great for the sport. Should motivate Kimi to push harder too.

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  • 9. At 7:26pm on 29 Jul 2009, ledzep4pm wrote:

    "I think Sebastien Bourdais is also a likely candidate for a temporary Ferrari seat as he has very very recent experience of the current F1 cars and also of the Ferrari engine. And he's not tied to any contracts like all the other options are.
    And if Ferrari could pick the likes of Mika Salo last time, why not Bourdais?"

    One HUGE Problem Bordais was sacked because TORO ROSSO thought he was rubbish, there is no chance ferrari would want anyone that bad

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  • 10. At 7:56pm on 29 Jul 2009, Carlonso wrote:

    Now that Schumacher has agreed to race the Ferrari In the European Grand Prix, are you telling me that Renault won't have their ban lifted?
    The prospect of Schumacher, Alonso, Hamilton and Raikkonen is just too juicy to turn down...

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  • 11. At 8:05pm on 29 Jul 2009, danny369 wrote:

    Great Blog Ted!

    I not sure whether Michael (Schumacher) shudve got the drive, he was amazing back then when he was at his peak and even his last season, but he's taken a couple years out and has never driven this years car and i would hate him to get injured due to the pressures u get in an f1 car (but he still is extremely fit for his age and u never now he might be just as quick as he used to be!), because he's had an accident in feb when he hurt his neck and back that will probably slow him down a bit to start of with, so i'm fingers crossed he'll pass his medical for next race! I also wonder whether he might feel a bit affected by massa's injury coz they're best mates and he might think about him over the weekend and tht might damage his foucus, anyway Schumacher's return to the sport is fantastic and i wish i was going to valencia!

    Next race is gunna be fantastic if he's fit enough! Hamilton against Schumacher this is what ive always dreamed of happening!

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  • 12. At 03:40am on 30 Jul 2009, VirtualSamurai wrote:

    Great blog! Keep it coming.

    Does no-one else think that the suspect suspension part and a lack of rear end grip/stability on the Brawns, are not somehow related!
    Harsh as it sounds, this part coming off the Brawn may actually help them find a solution to their handling/tyre problem.

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  • 13. At 04:49am on 30 Jul 2009, damienma wrote:

    Hi Ted,

    Thanks for great insights once again.

    Just wondering though, wasn't it the vibrations from Kimi's tyre that destroyed the suspension at the Nurburgring in 05?

    Another good example would be Magny-Cours last year when Kimi's exhaust was 'in free air'. Had it detached from his car in front of another, I'm sure we could have had a similar incident to that of Massa'a.

    Regarding Renault's ban, I think The FIA should really think twice. They seem to be over reacting.
    Do you really see the team telling Alonso to park it? The Renault guys are massive racers and there's no way they'd consider this. I hope the ban gets overturned.

    Finally, I'm glad to see Schumacher announced to stand in for Felipe. I've never really been a fan of his but I'm looking forward to see him race against Lewis, Kimi and Fernando. I can't wait for the twisty Singapore GP where the Ferrari will have a real chance to fight for the win - my money's on Schumacher for that race.

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  • 14. At 12:23pm on 30 Jul 2009, collie21 wrote:

    Well I said it During Monaco, I had met Jenson Button and chatted with him. Now that Brawn are giving up at the end of season I can tell you what he told me. They have no money. They are no as good as finished. I doubt Button will be even on the podium at the end of the season.

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  • 15. At 00:35am on 31 Jul 2009, f1tevaldo wrote:

    yep comment1 has it sussed you really are top notch!! looking forward massively to Valencia especially with Schumacher although now very worried for Jenson! Looks like i may have to pray for Lewis to keep winning!

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  • 16. At 5:08pm on 31 Jul 2009, ts2 wrote:

    What do people think about the fact that Schumacher gets 1 day of testing before Valencia? As a big Schumacher fan I'm not keen on him returning, as I can't see how he'd be up to speed, so the testing is a good thing, but it seems unfair that Alguersuari wasn't given a day's testing when he replaced Bourdais. OK this is a different situation in that no-one could have predicted Massa's accident, but is this a sign of the oft mentioned Ferrari bias?

    Just wondering what Ted thought.

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  • 17. At 5:52pm on 01 Aug 2009, Tim wrote:

    Brilliant, as usual.

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  • 18. At 2:43pm on 02 Aug 2009, Dom wrote:

    why dont they just draw lines down the pits as a reference for "safe release distance" much like the white line for the pitlane exit...
    release your man when a car is at/past this line drive through penalty. simple

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  • 19. At 09:03am on 03 Aug 2009, tagslack wrote:

    I would imagine the main reason that Toro Rosso did not get to test Alguersuari for a day before he started is that for them, the change of drivers was voluntary, whereas Ferrari had no choice.

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  • 20. At 3:31pm on 03 Aug 2009, tmac wrote:

    With regards to the traffic light system used by McLaren, and whether or not it could lose them time, I think given that they're wanting keep squeaky clean this season, I think they'd rather lose a few tenths of a second than lose points, or worse, in the championship. Don't forget they're still under their suspended 'liar-gate' sentence.

    Your pit lane reports are great though Ted, keep them coming.

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  • 21. At 11:33pm on 03 Aug 2009, Ginger wrote:

    Thanks for your views Ted, I echo the earlier comments. Keep up the good work.

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  • 22. At 1:23pm on 04 Aug 2009, Doonytime wrote:

    Ted, yet another insightful blog about the shenanigans that make F1 so interesting.
    I'm taking no part in the Schumacher debate - just so long as the race is fair, we will have a spectacle to cherish as a 'great Formula 1 moment'.
    Keep the blogs coming. Enjoy Valencia. I know we will.

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  • 23. At 8:24pm on 18 Aug 2009, diffusa wrote:

    I just want to post this as I suffered severe head injuries (closed as I was wearing a crash hat) many years ago. Each person and their injury is unique and the doctors cannot really do anything. Felipe might have any combination of: ataxia - on his right side if his main concussion was on the left, double vision - which should resolve only to come back if you bang your head again.. headaches,and of course, especially as time goes on, be prone to depression. His particular combination will be his - I am sure Richard Hammond knows this!
    I would be surprised if he comes back this season given the strict medical supervision in F1. I would not be surprised if he never returns to F1 as the doctors only advice on his 6 month discharge (if all goes well) will be DO NOT BANG YOUR HEAD AGAIN!
    This is where families really come into their own as true support - mine were all abroad when I needed them but Felipe looks to be a lucky man in that respect. My very best wishes to him.

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