February 21, 2013
Luca Marmorini, Ferrari’s Head of Engines, has been quoted in Autosport.com as saying that it is important that Ferrari have a second (ie in addition to Sauber) customer for their 2014 power unit – note the term ‘power unit’ as effectively these are engine + energy recovery systems, so the simple term ‘engine’ no longer seems to do it justice.
The reason for this concern is that their current second customer Toro Rosso have recently announced that they will be shifting to a Renault power unit in 2014, which makes sense organizationally as they are co-owned by Dietrich Mateschitz of Red Bull with Red Bull Racing, so presumably they can share more data during development and racing and therefore improve the performance of both teams. However Toro Rosso’s location in Faenza makes Maranello the ideal partner from a logistical point of view as they are literally a few kilometres down the road. Location matters in F1, otherwise we wouldn’t have Motorsport Valley in the UK, and so the proximity between the power unit supplier and customer cannot be ignored. For this reason, Marmorini hopes that all is not lost with Toro Rosso and that they may review their decision to go to Renault, as he says on the Autosport site: “I don’t know if Toro Rosso will be with us next year. We are still working very well with them now. They’re an important contribution to Ferrari engine development, but I also think we are giving them a competitive engine.”
A key factor in this is data. Derek Gardner, the now sadly departed designer of the six wheel Tyrrell, told me that a key problem that they had with the six wheeler was the speed of development of the front tyres, which were far smaller than the standard F1 front tyre that Goodyear supplied to all the other teams. As a consequence they were getting far less data on the performance of the tyre – as it was only fitted to two cars and so were unable to develop it as fast as the other which had feedback from twenty four cars (there were 13 teams racing back in 1976). Data therefore is everything if you want to improve performance.
So currently it seems (and things could still move around a fair bit) that if Toro Rosso move to Renault then Renault will be the leading supplier with power units in five teams: Red Bull Racing; Toro Rosso; Lotus; Williams and Caterham. Mercedes will be supplying power units to three teams: their works team plus McLaren and Force India. Ferrari will be supplying two teams – themselves and Sauber. It seems very unlikely that Cosworth, who currently supply Marussia, will be in the frame for 2014 (but never say never) and so who knows, we may see Ferrari supplying the power unit for Marussia, which will make an interesting dynamic in their race with Caterham to tenth place.
September 13, 2011
As the F1 circus moves from short to long haul trips to races, we begin the final leg (or rather legs) of the season. It is now pretty clear to everyone, except perhaps Sebastian himself, that both the drivers and constructors World Championship will, baring any major calamities, be in the hands of Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull. Of course that doesn’t mean to say that the racing will become more processional, both Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button showed at Monza that they both intend to fight to the last, as I’m sure will Lewis Hamilton and Mark Webber. There’s been some great racing, and I’m sure it will continue as long as we have drivers of this calibre in the leading cars.
It is also interesting to see that the form book at the back of the grid has not changed much, HRT bring up the rear, with Virgin still behind Team Lotus, who are also still behind the more established teams. Tony Fernandes has made it clear that 2012 is the year of reckoning for Team Lotus to break into the midfield, and I suspect he may not be the only one of the ‘new’ teams to decide that it is getting to make or break time. Joe Saward (http://joesaward.wordpress.com/) always has a good ear to the ground and is suggesting that Team Lotus will soon relocate from Norfolk to Leafield – the former Arrows facility in Oxfordshire – and that Virgin are already relocating themselves from Yorkshire to Banbury, with a possible further move to the rapidly developing Silverstone campus, so it looks like the message is you have to be at the heart of motorsport valley to really do well. However, an interesting counter rumour to this is that Scuderia Toro Rosso are going to be sold and relocate from the facilities at Faenza in Northern Italy and Bicester in the UK to the Yas Marina circuit in Abu Dhabi, perhaps we’ll get an announcement at the time of the Grand Prix? If it really does happen it will bring about the first move from Europe of an F1 team, an event which has been predicted by many for some time, so far it hasn’t happened, but this could be about to change.