FIA bans radio chat about car and driver performance

The FIA is pushing ahead with its plan to cut back on radio transmissions – by banning all messages from pit to car relating to the performance of the car and the driver.

Drivers can still say whatever they want to the pits, however.

The FIA has used a long standing rule that says that drivers must drive the car “alone and unaided.”

The news was confirmed to teams today in a Technical Directive, issued by Whiting and seen by this writer.

Whiting wrote: “In order to ensure that the requirements [sic] of Article 20.1 of the F1 Sporting Regulations is respected at all times we intend to rigorously enforce this regulation with immediate effect. Therefore no radio conversation from pit to driver may include any information that is related to the performance of the car or driver.”

He also confirmed that teams cannot get round it by sending information in other forms: “We should also remind you that data transmission from pit to car is specifically prohibited by Article 8.5.2 of the F1 Technical Regulations.”

Team and driver can still talk about pit strategy and so on, but nevertheless the decision is sure to create a huge stir in the days to come…

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Verstappen impresses Toro Rosso as he tests 2012 car

Max Verstappen had his first proper F1 test at Adria Raceway in Italy today, at the wheel of a 2012 Toro Rosso STR7.

The Dutchman had previously driven a Red Bull demo car in straightline running at Rockingham, and on the streets of Rotterdam, but this was his first proper circuit lappery.

He ran a total of 148 laps, more than enough to fulfil the 300kms superlicence requirement, so if the FIA is happy he will be able to do FP1 sessions later this year.

Describing the test, the team said: “The track was still damp in the morning after overnight rain and Verstappen’s first few runs were done on Intermediate tyres, but conditions improved enough for him to switch to slicks later in the day. He did a mix of short and long runs as well as trying his hand at other features of a race weekend, such as pit stops and start launches.”

“I was looking forward to my first drive in a Formula 1 car on a proper race track and I really enjoyed it,” said Verstappen. “It was a good opportunity to work with Xevi, who will be my race engineer next year, as well as having a chance to get used to all the buttons on the steering wheel. I think it went well and I can’t wait to get back into a Formula 1 car as soon as possible.”

Sporting director Steve Nielsen said: “Max did a very competent job, giving the impression he has been driving a Formula 1 car for quite a while, not like someone on their first day behind the wheel. He made no mistakes all day, seemed confident and once he was told something he remembered it. In general, he coped very well with this first test.”

Race enginee Xevi Pujolar added: “Max started his run on Intermediates and got up to speed, making no mistakes. We worked through various procedures that make up a race weekend. He was very focused and precise and learned quickly, without having to ask many questions. Once we were able to fit slicks, he got used to the car in the dry and built up his speed, while we tried various fuel levels, replicating both qualifying and race trim, doing a mix of short and long runs. For a first day, it was very impressive.”

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Montezemolo out of Ferrari as Fiat boss Marchionne takes over

Luca di Montezemolo is to leave his job as president of Ferrari, and he will be replaced by Fiat/Chrysler boss Sergio Marchionne, as predicted here yesterday.

He will leave on October 13th, after the celebrations for Ferrari’s 60 years in North America.

Announced in a short statement from Fiat, the news came after a summit meeting between Montezemolo and Marchionne, the latter having recently made negative comments about the way the team was performing.

In statement Montezemolo said: “Ferrari will have an important role to play within the FCA Group in the upcoming flotation on Wall Street. This will open up a new and different phase which I feel should be spearheaded by the CEO of the Group.

“This is the end of an era and so I have decided to leave my position as Chairman after almost 23 marvellous and unforgettable years in addition to those spent at Enzo Ferrari’s side in the 1970s.

“My thanks, first and foremost, to the exceptional Ferrari women and men from the factory, the offices, the race tracks and the markets across the world. They were the real architects of the company’s spectacular growth, its many unforgettable victories and its transformation into one of the world’s strongest brands.

“A warm farewell and my thanks also to all of our technical and commercial partners, our dealers across the globe and, most particularly, the clients and collectors whose passion I so wholeheartedly share.

“But my thoughts go also to our fans who have always supported us with great enthusiasm especially through the Scuderia’s most difficult moments.

Ferrari is the most wonderful company in the world. It has been a great privilege and honour to have been its leader. I devoted all of my enthusiasm and commitment to it over the years. Together with my family, it was, and continues to be, the most important thing in my life.

“I wish the shareholders, particularly Piero Ferrari who has always been by my side, and everyone in the Company the many more years of success that Ferrari deserves.”

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Magnussen punching above his weight, says Boullier

McLaren’s Eric Boullier says he’s been happy to see Kevin Magnussen fighting with some big names in recent races, despite the time penalties that the Dane earned in both Spa and Monza.

Magnussen was penalised while defending from Fernando Alonso in Belgium, and Valtteri Bottas in Italy, but he impressed with his gutsy performances.

“It’s clear that he’s stepping up,” said Boullier. “He’s maybe punching above his weight, because obviously he doesn’t have the car to be fast enough and chase better results, but he’s trying his best. I think it’s good for him and good for the fans as well, good for the show I think, to see this young kid, and this young Viking, if I may say this, fighting with the big boys. And obviously it means his self confidence is massively growing, and it’s good for his race craft, which is going to be only better and better.”

Regarding the twin penalties he said: “I think the Spa penalty was deserved to be honest, and I believe not the one Monza. He was unfortunate to be penalised, but we believe it was obviously just a normal move and a legitimate defence. I don’t think he will have to change his approach. I think Spa was a one-off, and Monza for us was unfortunate, let’s say. I think he needs to keep building his confidence by doing what he’s doing.”

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Schumacher to continue rehabilitation at home

Michael Schumacher’s management has confirmed that he will continue his rehabilitation at his home in Switzerland.

The move follows follows a period in a hospital in Lausanne, where he was taken after his initial stay in Grenoble.

An official statement said: “Henceforth, Michael’s rehabilitation will take place at his home. Considering the severe injuries he suffered, progress has been made in the past weeks and months. There is still, however, a long and difficult road ahead.

“We would like extend our gratitude to the entire team at CHUV Lausanne for their thorough and competent work. We ask that the privacy of Michael’s family continue to be respected, and that speculations about his state of health are avoided.”

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Ferrari “obsessed to go back to the top,” says Mattiacci

Ferrari endured a tough Italian GP weekend against a background of continued speculation about the future of Luca di Montezemolo, which only intensified after critical commented emerged from Fiat boss Sergio Marchionne.

Marchionne is tipped to take over the presidency of Ferrari himself, possibly as an interim measure, although there are also suggestions that the 62-year-old’s end game is to eventually quit his Fiat and Chrysler jobs to run Ferrari as a ‘project’ as he eases towards eventual retirement.

Meanwhile Marco Mattiacci made it clear that the pieces are being put in place for a return to form in the future.

“We have a very clear picture about where is the deficit, and about the assets,” he said. “I can say definitely the assets are that we have a lot of talented people, but it’s evident in which areas we are lagging behind, and we are already working for a few months in order to address those issues. I’m definitely not going to make public giving my competitors an advantage about where my weaknesses are. We know and we are already working to address those issues. As I said and I keep saying this a medium/long term project, because we are talking about engineering investments, so it takes a while.

“The strong points are the drivers, the brand, the company, the heritage, the culture, the people who work every day from 7am to midnight. There are many, many assets to start from. And there is the tradition of winning, we know how to win, and we are obsessed to go back to the top. There is a huge motivation and hunger to go back to the top because we belong there. My role is to shorten as much as we can as much as we can that kind of curve.”

Mattiacci said that the Italian GP was a valuable experience for him.

“First of all I think for me it was important to experience the impressive love and passion that there is around Ferrari, and to understand the relevance that Ferrari is much more than just a racing company, it is an institution, and we have an obligation to fans. And this gives me again a lot of motivation towards the team, to make sure that this frustration is going to end. I still believe that we had a good pace, the car confirmed an improvement, but definitely we had a deficit in qualifying.

“If you start lower on the grid, it’s going to be difficult, if you don’t have a strong power unit. But I think we had the same pace as Red Bull, and some of the others, and we could have done better. Unfortunately we started too far behind to have a normal race.”

Mattiacci said that Alonso’s rare retirement at Monza was inevitable, given the long streak of good reliability the red cars have demonstrated.

“So far we have been good in terms of reliability, but statistically we had to face something. We had an issue with the ERS. We never had this issue before, but it happened. Everybody was having reliability issues this year, but Ferrari, so we joined the group.”

Regarding the performance of the power unit he said: “As you know there is this great regulation which does not allow you today which to improve what could be absolutely improveable, but it’s as it is. I keep saying we have been doing small but consistent improvements on the car.”

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Bob Bell linked to future Ferrari role

The name of former Mercedes technical director Bob Bell has again cropped up in connection with a future role at Ferrari as Marco Mattiacci continues his restructuring programme.

Speculation first linked Bell with Maranello when Mercedes announced on April 14 that he had resigned his position in December 2013, and would leave the team at the end of November. He is still employed by Mercedes, with one senior team source confirming that he is working on “non-F1 projects.”

When asked by this writer a Ferrari spokesman would only confirm that new boss Mattiacci is still on a recruitment drive as he tries to bolster the team.

An aerodynamcist by training, Bell has a busy CV includes spells at McLaren, Benetton, Jordan and most famously at Renault, where he played a key role in Fernando Alonso’s 2005-6 World Championship campaigns. He was briefly team principal of Renault at the end of 2009, and later served as the team’s managing director, until he joined Mercedes.

Bell would be a good fit at Ferrari in a Ross Brawn-style technical management/overview role, especially given that he has worked with both Alonso and James Allison in the past. In such a job he could allow Allison to focus more on the car rather than organisational aspects. He would also bring with him substantial knowledge of how Mercedes developed its successful 2014 package.

Looking further ahead one could speculate that Bell could make a good team principal should Mattiacci ever be promoted to the role of Ferrari President. Having run Ferrari Asia, Ferrari North America and the F1 team Mattiacci appears to be working his way towards a position he is surely now eminently qualified to fill…

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