F1 gears up for 21 races
Ecclestone facing complex scheduling dilemma. By Adam Cooper
Bernie Ecclestone is wrestling with the tricky job of finalising a 2014 Formula 1 calendar that could feature as many as 21 races.
The addition of the Grand Prix of America in New Jersey and the Russian event in Sochi will create a record-breaking schedule, assuming both do indeed happen and that no current events are dropped.
It’s going to be interesting to see how he manages to fit everything in, especially as Russia has to slot into what is currently a run of seven flyaway races located outside Europe.
Despite a recent scandal over public expenditure on the 2014 Winter Olympics, Ecclestone remains confident that Sochi will be ready for its expected October date. “I am sure Mr Putin will deal with all the matters, if and when they arise,” Ecclestone told Motor Sport.
Meanwhile there remains a degree of scepticism about the New Jersey event, given the logistics of creating a track from public roads. However, the organisation has now obtained all the permits that contributed to its postponement after it originally landed a slot on the provisional 2013 calendar.
Bernie has the added problem of a potential mid-June date clash with the US Open golf championship, which will impact both NBC TV coverage and potentially the attendance of the sort of corporate high rollers the event will need to attract.
Although it seems unlikely, Ecclestone has hinted that the date could yet move from its expected post-Montreal slot: “It wouldn’t be bad if it was closer to Austin.” A more likely scenario is that Montreal will shift to the first weekend in June, leaving New Jersey on the traditional Canadian date.
The biggest issue remains commercial, however, and extra investment is still being sought. Ecclestone has confirmed that his Formula One organisation provided finance in order to help see the project through to completion. “We put some money forward to help them pay outstanding bills,” he said.
Promoter and sometime GT racer Leo Hindery says that, despite an absence of public funding, the event will make sense financially.
“That’s where it took a lot of friendship, a lot of patience, on the part of FOM,” he told Motor Sport. “We had to make it work as a commercial enterprise. We couldn’t last year; this year we can.
“The track was never the issue, it was whether it was going to be the premium event that the sport wanted before it gave us a long-term sanctioning agreement. We weren’t there, so we worked hard over the winter.”
Despite the mountain he still has to climb, Hindery is bullish on his event’s prospects. Having already hired Long Beach founder and long-time Ecclestone associate Chris Pook, he has now added former Indianapolis and Circuit of the Americas executive Marty Hunt to his management team.
Hindery admits that the pressure to deliver is enormous. “I’m not worried, I’m nervous,” he says. “It is New York, the first race is a challenge. I consider Bernie a friend, and you don’t disappoint friends. We have to introduce F1 to the United States East Coast. Austin did an amazing job, hats off to them. We want to be as able as they are.”
Pook, meanwhile, has provided the project with added credibility, given the success of Long Beach. Over the decades he’s explored several New York projects, and he’s convinced that this one will work.
“Every street circuit is a new challenge,” Pook told Motor Sport. “This one in particular happens to be one of the biggest challenges I’ve ever looked at. But it’s exciting, it’s fun and it’s achievable.
“I’ve worked on at least three different sites in New York before this one. It’s a huge prize, but big prizes are hard to get. We’ve gone through all the exercises and looked at all the opportunities. This one seems to be the right one, at the right time.
“It gives you New York City, but it also gives you enough space to get the thing done. The backdrop is phenomenal and the circuit is going to be very challenging. The underpinnings are all there, now it’s our job to execute it.”
Testing set to return
The FIA and Formula 1 teams have agreed to a limited programme of in-season testing in 2014, the first year of the new V6 turbo regulations.
The intention is to hold four two-day tests at European venues straight after Grands Prix. This will obviously allow teams to leave personnel and equipment on site, although most will send their actual race cars back to base and bring in a dedicated test chassis.
The venues will be determined once the 2014 calendar has been finalised, but every European race bar Monaco and Italy is under consideration.
In return the teams have agreed to give up straight-line aero testing, along with most of the filming or promotional days they routinely use for shakedowns and trying new parts, albeit for only 100km and on demo tyres.
The plans were put together by the ETA’s ‘Strategy Group,’ which compromises Red Bull, Ferrari, McLaren, Mercedes, Lotus and Williams. Smaller teams remain concerned about the implications.
“We’re against in-season testing, simply because of the costs,” Force India’s Bob Fernley told Motor Sport. “You need extra transporters, engines and so on, and the cost is significant. It’s not good for the small teams and we don’t believe it improves the show.
“We have to ask whether we want to become a genuine top-five team, or do we accept life as a midfielder? The different is testing – or not.”
Marshal killed in Montreal
The Canadian GP was overshadowed by the death of marshal Mark Robinson, after a freak accident in the race’s immediate aftermath.
Robinson was one of several marshals escorting a crane tractor carrying the Sauber of Esteban Gutierrez following the Mexican’s late-race accident.
The 38-year-old UPS employee dropped his radio and, in reaching for it, apparently stumbled into the path of the recovery vehicle. Medical help was on the scene in seconds, but he was pronounced dead on arrival in hospital.
Described by friends as a racing fanatic, Robinson had been working as a marshal at the Montreal event for the past 10 years.
Ferrari – Major updates to the F138 included an innovative winglet that curves down to meet the front wing, acting as a turning vane to bend airflow around the front tyre. A new chin added beneath the nosecone creates a little downforce, while the sidepods gained a new vane that features a horizontal flap, creating downwash that helps point exhaust flow to the diffuser.
Mercedes-Benz – Like many F1 teams, Mercedes uses the engine cover as a cooling outlet that exits above th gearbox. For Montreal Mercedes slimmed the bodywork right down to a thin section, forming a shark fin that creates less drag and frees up flow to the rear wing. The fin itself is no great aero advantage, but is simply there to meet the minimum dimension for the car’s side profile.
Red Bull – For Monaco the RB9 rear wing gained a slot in the endplate, to pass more air under the wing for increased downforce. The slot remained for the low-downforce Canadian GP, together with additional slots in the floor. These bleed high pressure from above the floor down to the edge of the rear tyres, preventing outwash from the tyre entering the diffuser and costing downforce.