The Ferrari Owners’ Club
of Great Britain

GRAND PRIX : Austin : Lewis Ties It Up

09-11-2015

Report by Tony Cotton

“Simplicate and add more lightness”. The maxim is attributed to Bill Stout, an innovative American aeronautical and automotive engineer, and later to Colin Chapman. It’s a maxim that seems to be ignored in F1. At 702kg, a modern F1 car is a bit chunky compared with 540kg in the 1980s. And as for simplicity, I’ve said before that very few people understand the engine regulations. In fact, you could argue, based on the engine performances, that Mercedes’ Andy Cowell is the only one who does.

But Bernie and Max seem to have reformed the band – if Phil Collins can make a comeback so can they – and I hoped that their first new tune entitled “ Lets have simpler, cheaper engines” would be one I could hum. As I read it, the idea was to allow what is basically an Indycar engine, or variant thereof. In many ways, a 2010’s version of Formula 5000. So far so good, even if it was just one of their of kite-flying exercises. But even then they spoilt it. You might expect the expensively-shown loyalty of Ferrari, Mercedes, Renault and poor old Hapless Honda might be rewarded, but quite the reverse. In this topsy turvy F1 world, they suggested that as long as the garagiste teams spend less than a given figure, they can run the spec engine with more power than the grandees – or even those running customer “proper” engines.

Leaving aside the likelihood that the proposal will kill off the customer engine and its revenue, thus increasing costs still further for teams like Ferrari, there is the small matter of measuring the teams’ spend. You might have guessed by my overall grumpiness that my job is an accountant. We’re all miserable cynics. But worse still, we all reply to the question “what’s 2 plus 2?” with “what did you have in mind?” My point is that for the cost measures to be meaningful, the FIA would be getting into accounting standards so that all relevant costs are disclosed. Simpler engines, but, surprise, surprise, yet more complexity in the rules.

My second cynical thought was that perhaps this just might be a ploy to keep both Red Bull teams in the field, as they have a supposedly weak engine and the sponsoring core business must be suffering a bit as other people work out how to make very sweet fizzy pop. And my third cynical thought? It’s that compared with the professionals I really am a rank amateur as a critic. Have a look at what The Guardian’s Richard Williams said. Don’t worry, The Guardian isn’t contagious and you can’t catch Corbyn by reading it.

I’ve been trying to put off the actual race report. I had a bit of affection for the young Lewis when he won his first championship, even though it did deprive Felipe Massa of a deserved title, but since then the combination of self righteousness, lack of humour, and appalling taste in body decoration have meant I’d sooner see even Pastor Maldonado win the title even if I do have to acknowledge that The Ham is a decent driver. If you don’t already know, Lewis won it again and Pastor didn’t.

I nearly didn’t have to write a report, thanks to Patricia, the hurricane that postponed qualifying to Sunday morning with weather almost as bad as Harewood in March. In fact, P3 would have given just as credible a grid with Hamilton on pole and Seb second, but in the end a grid formed after the second qualifying session (Q3 falling to Patricia’s charms) put Rosberg on pole from Hamilton with the two Red Bulls behind, Seb in 5th with the 2 Force Indias separating him from Kimi. Williams had rather lost their mojo at Austin, best position was Massa in 9th, with Verstappen 10th. Seb and Kimi were each then dropped 10 places because of using an extra ICE (internal combustion engine). Incidentally, Sainz put his Torro Rosso into the barriers in Q1 with a sincere and touching “I crashed, sorry guys”. Let’s hope the ruthless, soulless Red Bullies don’t dump him too soon.

At the “intermediate wet” start, the inevitable happened. For all his faults, Hamilton outraced Rosberg, nudging him onto the marbles, and took the lead, and to be blunt the lacklustre Rosberg just submitted. He was passed by both Red Bulls and Perez. Meanwhile, Massa snagged Alonso in turn 1, both of them spinning, and then Ericsson cut across Sauber team-mate Nasr, removing his wing and spreading shards onto turn 1. Bottas came in and took slicks, and soon changed them back. Through all this chaos, Seb made his way up from 13th to 7th, and then 6th by the time a Sauber-caused virtual safety car period started. At its end, Rosberg got back past Ricciardo for third, and then Kyviat. But Ricciardo didn’t give up and got back to second, and on lap 15 got ahead of Hamilton for the lead. That Renault donkey can’t be as lame as they claim, at least in the damp…..Ricciardo held the lead through the pit stops despite the Mercedes’ best efforts, and in fact Hamlton slipped behind Kyviat..

Back in the second group of cars, led by Perez, Seb was pushing the Mexican but Verstappen managed to pass Seb, who retook the place when the teenager ran wide. Kimi, who had some DRS problems, found himself sandwiched between the two Torro Rossos. I say again, that Renault donkey can’t be as lame as they claim…..Kimi hit the barrier – hard enough to break the wing but not the wishbone – after an error in turn 6 and endeared himself to the fans by working himself out of the barrier, tyres spinning, track rods straining. He got out and was rapidly repaired but within a few laps the incident showed itself as excess brake temperature and Kimi withdrew on pit instructions.

In an unusually hectic race, Rosberg took the lead from Ricciardo (helped by DRS) and Hamilton passed Kyviat. Soon after that, Seb moved from the lead of the second group to join the first group of cars as he passed Kyviat for fourth. Hamilton slipped past Ricciardo for second on lap 26. Whilst Kimi withdrew quietly, Ericsson had a failure which left him in a dangerous place, so the safety car came out, which played right into Hamilton’s hands. Seb took advantage by changing tyres under the safety car, as did many others. When the safety car went in, it was a bit like those pursuit cycling events in the Olympics, as Rosberg went as slowly as he could to build up the gap. Seb regained the place he had lost by his stop as Kyviat made an error, and then swapped placed a couple of times with Ricciardo, ending in third. Forceful but intelligent racing.

Hulkenberg was less perfect when he tried to take Ricciardo for 5th and ended with a deranged front and a retirement. This had more significance due to a virtual safety car. Rosberg pitted, promoting Seb to second. The newly tyred Rosberg found passing Seb an easy task, and it looked as though Hamilton was doomed. At which point Kyviat ran wide, and tested his deformable structures. Hamilton and Seb took on new tyres, dropping to 2nd and 4th. Verstappen was relatively easily deposed by Seb for third. Rosberg then took out his Texas six-shooter and aimed at his own foot. He hit it squarely, which led to a wobble letting Hamilton by. Rosberg’s favourite song obviously isn’t Queen’s “Under Pressure.”

6 laps from the end, Button, who had gradually worked through the field to 6th started fighting the Toro Rosso and Red Bull of Sainz and Ricciardo – good to see, a foible of the conditions but it does show a real determination. Due mainly to better tyres than his team-mate, Button finished sixth (Sainz losing a place for pitlane speeding), Alonso dropped down to an eventual 11th having been running as high as fifth at one point. Seb kept pushing, closing to a car length or two, but even DRS couldn’t do the job, and the finishing order was Hamilton, Rosberg, Vettel, followed by Verstappen, Perez, Sainz (demoted) and Button. The last 3 points were Maldonado, Nasr, and Ricciardo, demoting Alonso on the last lap. Rossi was the last finisher.

And so Hamilton could not be defeated for the world championship. Another “greatest moment of his life”. However, much as I find Hamilton a bit artificial, the petulance of Rosberg in throwing the Pirelli hat back at Hamilton in the podium green room, and then throwing a sulk on the podium, made me long for the days when adults drove F1 cars. Fortunately, Seb was there and he just smiled, and you could see him thinking “wait till you haven’t got an engine advantage”.

Hamilton is now being compared with Senna because he’s won 3 titles. Moss was never world champion. Jacques Villeneuve won more titles than his dad. Like I said earlier on, I’m an accountant, which means I don’t always believe the numbers. Like Mr Stout would have said, simplicate it all. Just watch the driving.