Former Mercedes DTM boss Ungar starts new Caterham job

Former Mercedes DTM technical director Gerhard Ungar has now officially joined Caterham, as first predicted here on July 8.

Ungar will work alongside Christijan Albers in a Newey-style ‘chief technical officer’ role, although his job title has yet to be determined. John Iley remains technical director. Ungar is in Hungary with Caterham, although he’s not wearing team gear.

Ungar is highly regarded within the sport. He first joined AMG at the end of 1987. After AMG morphed into HWA he became its chairman in 2009, and then CEO in 2012. He was also responsible for the F3 engine programme, which means that he is well known to several current F1 drivers, including Lewis Hamilton.

His departure was announced in May after Mercedes experienced a difficult start to the DTM season.

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Hamilton and Magnussen to start from pitlane

Lewis Hamilton and Kevin Magnussen will both be forced to start from the pitlane in Hungary after their respective teams were forced to build up their cars around the spare chassis overnight, which leads to an automatic penalty.

Hamilton’s Mercedes was obviously badly damaged by the fuel fire that took hold early in Q1, and Paddy Lowe confirmed to this writer that the change will be made. McLaren discovered that Magnussen’s car had suffered both gearbox and chassis damage in his impact with the tyre wall at the start of Q3.

Eric Boullier said: “The track conditions at that particular corner took everyone by surprise, and Kevin was powerless to avoid locking the wheels and hitting the wall. Of course, the good news is that he’s safe and well; the bad news is that his chassis and gearbox are quite significantly damaged, and both will need to be changed this evening.”

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Team bosses keen on success ballast for F1

Bernie Ecclestone chaired a meeting of F1 team bosses today and discussed ways of improving the show, and one of the ideas mooted was success ballast – as used in the DTM and many other touring car and GT championships.

In the DTM all examples of the winning marque carry extra weight at the next race, but a more sophisticated driver specific version was discussed, with for example 20kgs for the winner, 18kgs for second, and so on.

Apparently the idea was well received by team bosses as a way of equalising the field – quite what race fans will make of it, coming after double points for the final round, remains to be seen…

Meanwhile Ecclestone also made it cleear that he is no fan of cost control measures, and suggested that testing be unrestricted in the future – something that could lead to massive budget increases.


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Lewis Hamilton: “I think I’ll struggle to get into the top 10 tomorrow…”

Lewis Hamilton was left with no qualifying time in Hungary after a fuel leak caused a major fire early in Q1.

Although he officially qualified 21st Hamilton will probably start from the pitlane in a new car built up around the spare chassis.

“I baled out of that timed lap that I was doing,” said Hamilton. “And I was like I’ll try and do the second lap, and then something happened to the brakes, something on the brake system failed, so I had to engage some settings to try and correct it, and then the engine just died.

“I thought I’m right next to the pit entry, so I’ll roll back and at least get them to fix it. And then I looked in my mirrors and it was on fire. I was hoping to get it in neutral so I could push it back or something, and no luck. It was on fire, but I was still trying to get it to the garage, I was like hopefully I can roll to the garage, maybe they can do something, and then they said stop, stop, stop. I tried to stop and the brakes aren’t working, the cars kind of rolling forward, the engine’s kind of sometimes working or not working, so it’s all pretty bad…”

Regarding his prospects for Sunday, he said: “This is a track that you can’t really overtake on, I think I’ll struggle to get into the top 10 tomorrow, or at least the top five. I’ll probably leave here more than 20 points behind Nico, but there are still races to go.”

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Briatore to help Bernie look for ways to improve the show?

Flavio Briatore will apparently be invited by Bernie Ecclestone to be part of a group looking at ways of improving the F1 show.

Ecclestone invited team bosses to a meeting in Hungary today where the sport’s future – put into focus by the small crowd at Hockenheim – was the main subject on the agenda.

One of the team representatives present mentioned Briatore as man who knows about such things, and Ecclestone was keen on the idea, much to the surprise of some of the other team bosses.

Ecclestone is understood to have suggested forming a ‘working group’ which will consist of several teams, believed to include Red Bull, Mercedes, Ferrari and Force India, plus himself and Briatore. It remains to be seen how this new body fits in with the existing Strategy Group.

Speaking to Sky F1 after the meeting Christian Horner said: “The teams get together and they talk about things. The drivers have got to be the heroes. Thereafter the cars should be secondary to that, whether its chassis or engine. As a package the cars should be secondary to the drivers.

“The drivers, we need to give more access to, and the fans have got to be able to engage with their heroes. When I was growing up, Nigel Mansell was my hero. I think it’s important in today’s world that there’s more and better access to the drivers, and a bit more behind the scenes.”


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Vettel “absolutely committed” to Red Bull, says Horner

Christian Horner has dismissed suggestions that Sebastian Vettel might be entertaining offers from rival teams, but intriguingly would only confirm that the German would remain at Red Bull in 2015.

It would not be surprising if Vettel was at least seeing what might be available as obviously he wants to be back in a winning car soon.

“Usually it’s the start of the silly season where he’s either going to Ferrari or Eric [Boullier] has made him a big offer or maybe going to Mercedes,” said Horner. “So, we just wait to see which team it’s going to be. But no, Sebastian’s absolutely committed to the team, there’s no doubt at all that he’ll be with Red Bull next year and he’s enjoyed so much success with the team, he’s happy in the team and the team are very happy with him.

“We know we’ve got a lot to do. None of us are comfortable or happy with the situation that we’re currently in – but we’re in it together and we’ll work our way through it.”

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Frustrated Horner tells media to ask Todt and Bernie about controversial venues

The FIA’s regular Friday team personnel press conference was enlivened when a clearly angry Christian Horner told the assembled media that questions about the rights and wrongs of F1 going to Russia and Azerbaijan should be directed to Jean Todt and Bernie Ecclestone.

Only Claire Williams, Monisha Kaltenborn and Vijya Mallya were prepared to comment about a question on Russia – all saying in essence that it was was up to the FIA – while Horner, Marco Mattiacci and Eric Boullier all preferred not to comment.

When a further question was asked about Azerbaijan, with a punchline of whether they would follow Bernie Ecclestone to North Korea, only Mallya was willing to reply.

“I think we’re racing people, more popularly known as petrolheads,” he said. “We come here to race and to win and to enjoy it. The governance is an international organisation called the FIA. It is up to the FIA to decide where the sport is conducted. I don’t think that the teams, individual participants in the sport, should be holding their individual positions to determine social political issues that you have raised. The FIA is perfectly competent to determine where Formula One should be staged and not be staged.

“You know, it’s a not question of following Bernie. I think the question has been wrongly framed. It’s the commercial rights holder, it’s the FIA. We race where they stage the events. It’s as simple as that.”
When the follow-up question cited issues in Azerbaijan, Horner snapped.

“This is becoming a very depressing press conference as we’re only focusing on the negativities. Look, there’s a calendar that comes out in October or November. We all have a choice whether we enter the World Championship or not. All the people sitting here are racers and they’re here because they’re passionate about the sport and they want to compete. When we sign up for that championship, we put our faith and trust in the promoter and the FIA and we will attend those races unless they deem it unnecessary for us to be there.

“All of you will be at those races, or the vast majority of you will be at those races and why, because you’re either passionate about the sport or because you earn a living out of covering the sport and I think it’s wrong to make Formula One a political statement or subject when we are a sport. We should be talking about the drivers in these conferences, we should be talking about the spectacular racing that happened between our drivers and his [Mattiacci's] driver at the last Grand Prix.

“We should be talking about what a great race it was for Lewis Hamilton to come through the grid, yet all we do is focus on the negatives and it has to be said, it gets pretty boring for us to sit up here and field these questions. So how about asking some questions about what’s going to happen in the race on Sunday, what’s going to happen in qualifying tomorrow, because if you’ve got these questions, please point them at Mr Todt or Mr Ecclestone rather than the teams.”

While Horner does have a point clearly the Russian issue in particular will not go away, and it could become a matter for the teams and their sponsors as the October date draws closer.

This writer did indeed ask Bernie about Russia last week, and his views are here:


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