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F1Weekly podcast # 562

Photo: axisofoversteer

F1weekly podcast number 562 Desiree’s 2012 F1 Grand Preview


The first Hermann Tilke-built Formula One track hosts its 14th Malaysian Grand Prix this year, and it’s endeared itself to the teams and drivers over that period. It has several quick corners, particularly turns 5 and 6, and a couple of long straights and the high ambient temperatures make it a real test of man and machine. Efficient downforce is vital at this track, so expect the best cars to stretch their legs at the front.

Mark Gillan: Chief Operations Engineer: The whole team are really buzzing after the good pace shown in both qualifying and in the race in Melbourne. We are now eager to capitalise on this performance and convert it into points in Malaysia. The Sepang track is a medium speed circuit, which is quite hard on the front tyres. With this in mind, Pirelli have specified both the hard and medium tyres. Despite the high ambient temperatures, humidity and chance of late afternoon rain the likelihood of a safety car is low, and indeed is the lowest of the entire season. Aerodynamically we shall be running a similar package to that in Australia, but will probably have to open up the cooling levels to allow for the increase in ambient temperature.

Pastor Maldonado: The next race in Malaysia will be a real challenge for all the teams due to the hot and humid conditions we find there. The team is feeling positive and our car looks competitive, so we’ll do our best to be in the top 10 again. I feel confident in the team and all the hard work we have done over the winter. I want to carry the momentum we had in Australia forward to get a good result in Malaysia.

Bruno Senna: It is a very tough track, very physical and the heat is a big issue in Malaysia. It will be important to get acclimatised to the heat ahead of the weekend and get a good car set-up for these conditions. We will then try to chip away and continue what we learnt in Australia. I’ve been to Sepang before so I know the track, and I’m looking forward to the race weekend.

Remi Taffin, Head of Renault Sport F1 Track Operations: Malaysia places a very different set of stresses on an engine from Australia. The heat and humidity can present stiff challenges for an engine’s cooling systems that may mean extra holes have to be put in the bodywork to diffuse heat. The safeguards Renault has put in place mean no such measures need to be taken with the RS27 so we can focus entirely on delivering the drivability needed for the flowing corners and those two long straights, which account for 25% of the lap, and building on the strong start in Melbourne.

Paul Hembrey, Pirelli Motorsport Director: For Malaysia we have nominated the P Zero Yellow soft tyre, which was used in Australia, and the P Zero White medium compound, making its debut this year. One of the biggest challenges of Sepang are the tropical conditions, which mean high temperatures, high humidity and the strong chance of a downpour. All these factors, along with quite an abrasive surface, place plenty of demand on the tyres. We have a new evolution of the intermediate and wet tyre – the Cinturato Green and Cinturato Blue – which could see action in Malaysia for the first time.


Motorsports Mondial

Will Williams join forces with Porsche?

A couple of weeks ago, Porsche chairman Matthias Mueller made the shock announcement that the German manufacturer were investigating becoming involved in F1 again for the first time since 1992. With Toyota, Honda, Ford and BMW all withdrawing from the sport in the past few years as a result of a lack of road car relevance and high costs, no one took Mueller seriously. However, under the direction of Jean Todt, the sport is changing and perhaps Mueller’s idea isn’t as far fetched as critics believe.

Changing image and road car relevance

Formula One is more popular than ever, with a global viewing audience of over 600 million people. During the 1980s it really started to take off when Bernie Ecclestone took charge of the television revenue. This made household names of the likes of Lauda, Piquet, Prost, Senna and Mansell, the latter is even managing to capitalise on his popularity today with his appearances in car insurance adverts for Money Super Market. However, in recent years the sport has suffered from image problems with spy scandals and allegations of race fixing. On top of this, the sport has had to battle the inherent problem of its image of being un-environmental.

To combat these problems, Todt has introduced revolutionised the way the sport is governed and made the environment a priority. In order to achieve this, the FIA has decided to make F1 a testing ground for environmental techniques and technologies. This started in this year, when re-fuelling was banned which made fuel economy increasingly important. The hope is that any techniques car manufacturers learn from F1 about how to reduce the fuel usage of their engines could be transferred over onto road car engines. For 2011, Kinetic Energy Recovery Systems (KERS) will be made mandatory. These systems turn heat energy from the brakes into the power for the engines by storing the energy in lithium batteries. The hope is that this will again be road relevant, as it will help in the development of hybrid technologies. Ferrari have already utilised these technologies on their 599 hybrid road car model. Porsche themselves have made it obvious that they are interested in KERS, as they bought technology for use on their GT sports car from the Williams F1 team. Using F1 as a testing ground for these technologies could therefore prove to be a great way to improve the performance of Porsche’s road cars, while at the same time benefitting from a huge global television audience.

However, the only problem would be performance, with Porsche likely being uninterested in merely taking part in the sport. Mueller has therefore already ruled out setting up a team from scratch as Toyota did, due to the inevitable teething problems which would limit Porsche’s performance. Surely therefore, an alliance with former world champions Williams (with whom they have already collaborated) would be the ideal solution. Williams performance in recent years has been hampered by a lack of financial investment since the loss of BMW, and therefore Porsche would be the ideal solution to fix their problems.


The cost of F1 involvement has been reduced significantly in recent years, with Red Bull Racing boss Christian Horner admitting that in previous years it would have been inconceivable for a energy drinks firm to be able to take on a more heavily financed car manufacturer like Ferrari and win. This is the result of the resource restriction agreement between the teams, which are aimed at lowering spending for the top teams and simultaneously making it possible for small teams to be competitive on a small budget. With record profits in 2010 so far, surely Porsche would have no problem funding a Williams Porsche project. The days of car manufacturers like Toyota spending $400 million per year appear to be over.

Will it happen?

Porsche would be wise to enter the sport, as the problems of cost and road relevance which have forced manufacturers out in the recent past appear to have been rectified by Jean Todt.

As For Williams, it would solve all their financial worries with Phillips and RBS due to end their sponsorship arrangements with the team next year, plunging them into further financial problems. Frank Williams isn’t getting any younger, and has already sold 10% of his team to Austrian businessman Toto Wolff. Surely a deal with Porsche would be the ideal way to pull his team away from the same downward spiral which has claimed former champion teams like BRM, Lotus, Brabham and Tyrrell, by securing his teams future.