Williams Sign Mercedes as 2014 Takes Shape

The Williams F1 team have announced that they will be using Mercedes engines from 2014 replacing their current supplier Renault:

“Under the terms of the agreement, Williams will be supplied with a Mercedes-Benz Power Unit (Internal Combustion Engine plus Energy Recovery System) by Mercedes AMG High Performance Powertrains (HPP) based in Brixworth, UK. Williams will continue to manufacture its own transmission,”

This comes on the back of Toro Rosso switching to the new Renault power plant in 2014 amid concerns from many of the teams that engines and specifically the Renault are very expensive. The deal represents a low risk for the team as Mercedes will be looking for a good customer team to replace McLaren who will be moving to Honda power in 2015.

New Engine Lineup

Team – 2014 Engine – 2015 Enigne

  1. Red Bull – Renault (confirmed – Engine development partner – de-facto works team)
  2. Ferrari – Ferrari (Works team)
  3. McLaren – Mercedes (Customer) – Honda (Works)
  4. Lotus – Unknown, currently Renault but no deal has been signed and Renault already stated they have enough teams
  5. Mercedes – Mercedes (Works Team)
  6. Sauber – Ferrari – Team have publicly stated that they wish to continue with Ferrari but no deal is signed
  7. Force India – Mercedes (Customer) – 2014 onwards
  8. Williams – Mercedes (Customer)
  9. Toro Rosso – Renault (Customer)
  10. Caterham – Renault (Customer/Works) Team confirmed 2014 Renault supply and the two car companies have an alliance leading to possible cheap supply and/or partial works support
  11. Marussia – Unknown however Pat Symmonds suggested that they are chasing a Ferrari deal

Renault have publicly stated their desire to only supply 3 teams and with the 2 Red Bull teams leading the French manufactures attack along with Caterham and the global alliance they have in the road car department means they look to have their books full. Lotus appear to be the biggest losers so far as they appear to be left without a supplier currently (although all 3 current manufactures have committed to supplying the grid so they will get some sort of deal). Ferrari also appear to have a lack of Customers with only Sauber looking likely to continue to buy engines from Maranello. Marussia look likely to take one of those deals as Cosworth are not making a new V6 engine, furthermore Ferrari will need to sign a few long term deals to offset the cost of the new engine formula. Sauber are also rumoured to be close to signing a Honda power plant deal in 2015 that would significantly reduce their costs as Honda will need to look for a good Customer to continue on track development of the engine.

Martin Whitmarsh spoke of the “surprisingly open” regulations for the engines and with the lack of testing a good customer is now going to be increasingly important. Certain teams like Toro Rosso and Caterham will run the entire drive train from the works entry (Red Bull) while others such as Williams will make their own gearboxes and possibly energy recovery systems. I would expect to hear Lotus and Marussia announcing their deals within the coming weeks.

Manufacturers Encroach on CRT format for 2014

Honda’s new production racer

From next year both Yamaha and Honda will offer assistance to Moto GP teams competing under the CRT rules in an effort to boost the competitiveness of the Privateer teams. This is in addition to a 2 bike Suzuki Factory team returning next season after 2 years away from the sport, bringing the grid numbers to 8 factory bikes, 6 satellite bikes and a number of CRT privateer entries.

Yamaha Takes the F1 Route

Yamaha is going to offer privateer teams an engine lease with a very similar spec to the Tech III bikes for around £675,000 a season leaving the cost of around £300,000+ for the 2 chassis’s required to fit the bike depending on how much development takes place. However this should see a dramatic improvement in speed as the CRT bikes this year have shown a real performance increase but are still lacking horsepower to compete with the main factory teams. Teams taking this option cannot have their engines “claimed” but will compete under CRT rules with the 24 litres of fuel and the standard ECU with the standard software (from next year all teams will be running a spec ECU but the factory teams will be allowed to write their own software for it). Thereotically this means you could take this engine and power your way into the mid field with a good frame. Interesting indeed. NGM Forward Racing, this year lead by veteran American Colin Edwards are actively chasing a Yamaha deal for next season to replace their current FTR Kawasaki.

Honda Takes the Same Old Route

Honda have also stated they would help privateer teams but instead of giving them near factory spec engines like Yamaha to give them a real shot at upsetting the “full” Moto GP Prototypes (arguably with an M1 engine and a custom frame that WILL be a full Moto GP bike but anyways….) Honda are producing a new production racer for CRT teams next year. The bike will not have Pneumatic springs (which allows higher revs and increases horsepower – only the prototype bikes have this currently) or Honda’s quick shift gear system but it is likely to be fast out of the box. It also has been developed with Dorna’s original target costs for CRT bikes in mind with a price of £850,000 for two bikes along with engine rebuilds for a season. However unlike the Yamaha deal you will actually purchase the Honda and you wont have to give it back at the end of the season. This isn’t really a great solution from Honda as it essentially gives teams a slow the satellite bike to run around and pick up the minor points it misses the point of Moto GP unlike Yamaha who are only giving you a power plant and leaving the teams to develop the rest of the bike around it.

Aprilla Strike Back?

The best of the CRT bikes over the last 18 months (or so) of the Claiming Rules format has been the Aprilla bike which many have said is a thinly veiled factory effort. Although the FTR frames with the Kawasaki engine in the hands of Hector Barbera have left him snapping at the heels of the factory efforts so far this season it has been the heroics of Aleix Espargaro on the ART that have shone the brightest. The latest news is that Aprilla are readying a Pneumatic Valve update for their engine around September which should see a healthy boost to the engine power. All this comes at a cost for teams however and the ART machine is rumoured to cost around £1 million for the two bikes making it arguably the most expensive of the 3 options for next season but it is the tried and tested route.

Whats left?

The remaining bikes range in prices but the FTR and Ioda bikes are rumoured to cost around £700,000 a season (The Avintia Bluesens FTR-Kawasaki costs a mere £600,000 for a pair) but they have been off the pace of the Aprillas this year and would likely be thrashed by a CRT bike from HRC. However you have to weigh up how much support you will receive from Honda over the year as Yamaha and Aprilla are likely to bring any improvements to the bikes down the food chain. Furthermore if Suzuki get off to a solid start claiming points could be difficult as the Ducati seems to be improving its handling woes and it clearly has the legs over the privateer class, meaning 14 out of the 15 points scoring places could now be filled by prototypes. Furthermore with the option to run a “near Tech III” spec engine or the updated Aprilla could leave the rest in the dust, but whatever happens next year the CRT bikes are really going to be in the mix.

The Pirelli Tyre World Championship or erm F1

So with my return to the blog I thought I’d start off with a recap on the big competition in world motor sport: Formula 1.

Like many of the previous seasons the talk of the F1 town has been the Pirelli rubber that all 22 (down from 24 last year after the demise of the ill-advised, ill-named HRT squad) cars run round on every Grand Prix weekend. While this has seen some commentators declaring F1 boring and not what F1 is about its a hollow argument and is no more “artificial”  a restriction than aero rules or the ban on refuelling. All teams have the same tyres and the same amount of them every weekend with only the dry tyres changing with a selection of 2 of the 4 compounds chosen each weekend.

However this season many have argued that Pirelli have possibly gone a touch too far but Red Bull have really been drumming up support to try and get Pirelli to produce a more durable race tyre (which they could do quickly as making bad tyres that are safe is actually a greater challenge). The main reason for this is the fact that Red Bull feel that the tyres are holding back their car and with a more durable rubber underneath the RB9 it would fly. Now this could well be the case but other teams have designed their cars with looking after the black balls of rubber a whole lot better in mind and are benefiting from it. Either way like last year we’d expect the teams to get on top of it as the season progressed either by increasing their down-force levels or by better thermal management of the tyres. This was confirmed by Jenson button claiming that last year that by the end of the year it was full on sprint racing and that at the Circuit of the Americas (the last dry race of the year) it was a lights to flag pedal to the metal.

This was all pretty normal stuff but I agree we’ve seen a little too much chess from these tyres compared to other seasons and the tyre de-laminations have been a cause for concern. So Pirelli had put forward some proposals for changing the tyres back to the 2012 spec which some teams liked and others didn’t and was eventually shot down by the FIA. It essentially highlights the difficulty Pirelli have in developing tyres for Formula 1 as they have no Formula 1 car. The Lotus team did provide Pirelli a car last year but it was the 2010 R10 car (which the team can run as much as they like as it is not considered “current”) as the Toyota TF1 was too old to produce realistic forces on the track any longer. Furthermore the acquisition of a HRT 2012 car did little to help the program as the car was so woefully off the pace last season.

What’s a tyre company in the firing line supposed to do?

This caused the tire company to go to the teams and ask for some assistance as they needed some representative cars to test modifications to the tyres upon. Ferrari dutifully responded and supplied a 2011 Ferrari and Pedro De La Rosa and Mercedes also responded and supplied a car and some drivers after Barcelona. Up until Saturday this was what the teams had all thought was the case and there was little to write about other than that Pirelli were looking at the de-lamination issues that have caused tyre failures and everything was fine and dandy. (This being not only a race ruining issue of luck but also one of safety)

Mercedes and the Pirelli Test

Come Sunday morning we all spat out our cornflakes on the news coming from the TV Coverage in Monaco that Mercedes had completed the 1,000km test (~ 3 Grand Prix distances) using their current car and their current race driver line up of Hamilton and Rosberg. This has put both parties in the firing line of official protests and stern words from the rest of the paddock, despite Eddie Jordan’s confusion over the issue (no surprised there – since I was away from home on Sunday I had to grab the BBC coverage and I swear he’s struggling to put together a sentence these days) its seems a night and day breach of the rules. In season and private testing has been banned since 2009 (with the exception of Mugello last year, the young drivers test and some straight line tests) and it applies to the current seasons car and the previous seasons car. The reasoning behind Mercedes being “allowed” to run the 2013 car is that Pirelli can request a current car for testing provided that all teams are asked to provide one – this doesn’t quite seem to have happened. Additionally the FIA has come out and stated that this provision doesn’t trump the in-season testing rule and this was clarified to the teams last year. Finally it is also my understanding that all teams have to be invited to provide one observer each if they wish to do so to each Pirelli test, although we’ve had no word on whether this was offered to the teams either.

Although most teams aren’t convinced of the advantage Mercedes would gain running round on mystery rubber it is none the less still a major issue and one that will definitely need to get clarified. This is the first major flouting of the testing ban since it was introduced with the exception of Ferrari’s filming day to run new parts but that was a legal grey area that was soon closed.

In the background of all this is still the concord agreement and the 2014 onwards tyre supply contracts to sort out,

testing times indeed

A Return to the Blog

Hello

After roughly a year away I’ve decided to return to the wonderful world of blogging. Apologies for the lack on posts over the last 12 months but life has got a little crazy.

Its been filled with work, moving house etc. etc. and trying to catch motor racing along the way.

However with the 2013 motor racing season in full swing I’ve decided to return just as the discussions are heating up!

Glad to be back

GP Campbell