Word on the beat

Even though the 2017 chassis regs have been voted through together with the 2017-18 engine rules, drivers are still far from convinced the sport is heading in the right technical direction. Nico Rosberg said in Sochi: “Our opinion was that it’s not the right direction to go and we were hoping that they would definitely look into it again and make sure from a technical point of view to double check. Now this is the way it is, so now all we can do is accept it, make the most of it and hope that there are going to be some surprises. Maybe we’re going to love the cars and enjoy driving them even more than we do now. Maybe all the grip is going to feel great or whatever. We just have to accept it.”

In the Tuesday prior to the Russian Grand Prix, ahead of a crucial Friday vote regarding the 2017 engine regulations, with Bernie Ecclestone still pushing to break the accord between th engine manufacturers on meeting cost and supply stipulations laid down by the FIA, there was a forum meeting of the F1 Commission members. All the Ecclestone-aligned promoters failed to turn up… The agreement was voted through on Friday regardless. Jean Todt – who visited CVC’s Donald Mackenzie in New York before the Chinese Grand Prix – was phoning up the promoters who hadn’t turned up on the Tuesday, convincing them not to vote against the proposals. Enough of them didn’t. It has led to speculation that Mackenzie, Todt (and the manufacturers) are now aligned against Ecclestone. Has Bernie just lost out in his final stand to retain power? Or does he have a final flourish up his sleeve? Discussions regarding the sale of CVC’s controlling share continue. We believe CVC’s Donald Mackenzie would like to be one of the buyers.  

Pirelli has become convinced that some teams have found a way of circumnavigating the (rather high) minimum pressures it imposes for the race. There’s a lot of performance to be found from running lower pressures, but there’s a corresponding safety concern. The key seems to be heating the wheel rims massively to temporarily boost the tyre pressure, giving an artificially high reading when it is measured just prior to being fitted for the formation lap. Then a very slow formation lap allows the temperature – and tyre pressure – to fall below the minimum for the race. There may also be some trickery in the tyre pressure data feed going to the team screens, for Pirelli’s perusal. Jolyon Palmer suffered a 190mph blow-out of the left-rear in Friday practice at Barcelona. Pirelli noted that even with the tyre in shreds and no longer on the car, the pressure number on the team’s screen remained unchanged…  A more sophisticated live-feed direct to the FIA is being planned for forthcoming races.   

Sergio Marchionne, that aggressive bruiser of a Ferrari boss, often has just a big-picture impression of current developments in F1. In a meeting discussing the agreement between the engine manufacturers to move towards a convergence of performance, he reportedly stood up and launched a verbal tirade against the idea. “But Sergio, your team has already signed up to it,” piped up a mischievous Christian Horner who then motioned towards fellow signatory, Mercedes’ Toto Wolff, who confirmed that Ferrari had indeed done so… Cue an even bigger rant followed by an abrupt departure from the meeting…

Prior to the Verstappen/Kvyat swap, John Booth was a surprise addition to the Toro Rosso team from Russia onwards. Tech director James Key: “We have under-performed in the first three races relative to our competitiveness. We could have done better. John is here as a consultant to help us step back a bit and look at the wider picture. His experience can only help strengthen the team.”

Following the stand-up row between Toro Rosso team principal Franz Tost and Max Verstappen’s race engineer Xevi Pujolar in Sochi, regarding the decision to go against the pre-agreed team plan on tyre choices during qualifying, Pujolar was no longer with the team in Barcelona two weeks later.