Spanish Massage, Part 7


“Spiritual awakening” – how’s that for a short description of the Jerez Formula 1 test?

Yes, while Formula 1 teams and drivers are busy practising esalen massage at the second official pre-season test of the 2015 in Barcelona, we’ll look back at Jerez, albeit with some delay. Your number one Iberian uncle has been quite busy.

I’ll now show you one of my favourite petrissage kneading techniques. Ya’ll are about to go vorsprung durch this amazing technik.

I drove at 120 kmph to Jerez from Lisbon not expecting too much from the 2015 cars in terms of that good old F1 wow factor (it’s pretty obvious if you read my Spanish Massage, Part 1 blog), like being blown away by the speed and the violence of the cars. I made no fewer than 5 stops along the way to cheer myself up with large quantities of café con leche.

I was wrong!

V6 powerless unit – or rather its ICE component – is nothing the Sex Pistols live, let’s put it this way. It’s more like R.E.M. imitating the Pistols? A slightly more posh version of the previous V8 design I guess but equally pleasing to the five senses… Three senses at least – I didn’t try to bite or touch them cars, I don’t have to. I’m great, I was born great.

In the sight (looks) department the cars are back to normal, apart from the deformed, unfinished Legoland Williams creation. I forgive them Williams technical chiefs because the car was pretty spectacular to watch from trackside. Massa would be doing his best Maldonado’s wild side impersonations all the time, jumping over the kerbs like crazy and rocking pretty hard. I loved that! The car would howl and growl, quite reminiscent of the 2011 blown confuser experience – a shocker!

I would’ve preferred the high nose in F1 à la Formula E myself but you can’t always get you want: Jean (the other Jean, not Alesi) said ‘no’. Sauber’s C34 kind of saved the day for me though, it’s a fantastic homage to the early 1990s Formula 1 and Benetton cars of the Schumacher era in particular, that’s what I’m saying.

Because Sauber.

The smell was also back – almost magically. It took me by surprise since last year’s cars made virtually no noise (that’s “sound” for educated and politically correct journalists) and had no smell. They didn’t smell like teen spirit this year in Jerez, I would describe this particular racing smell as petrolhead’s Chanel Nº5, a very delicate and exqusite smell. As we learned from at ScarbsF1, the teams do play with fuel mixes. These mix master Mikes did a good job in Jerez, the smell of racing fuel always adds to the quality of any track walk (and I did 2 in 2 days).

I’m sure the deaf tweeting Facebook-liking press corps locked inside the walls of the warm media centre and soundproof motorhomes won’t appreciate the more aggressive 2015 F1 sound, which brings us to our next topic – hearing.

The teams will be pushing the combustion engine much harder this year, says the wise at ScarbsF1. That alone is probably responsible for the pleasant (for your [not so] humble servant) sound of the 2015 cars; there are no rules changes to account for sounds, although a friendly face at Sauber told me and the inimitable at DMerinoF1 about some changes to the turbocharger and the exhaust system on the 2015 Ferrari PU. I also found out that Renault, Ferrari and Mercedes will have more power from the ICE in 2015, as they are able to develop more power from the limited fuel available.

Sounds awesome!

All you hybrid lovers and fans, the following passage is dedicated to your green efforts.

I’ll be continuing with the power theme (once again powered by at ScarbsF1): there is no more power from the energy recovery systems as they are capped at a fixed power output. But with the energy recovery system heat, they can provide that power for longer. With energy recovery system kinetic, this is capped at 160 horsepower for 33 seconds. So using the other system is an important game.

The heat is on! Recharge your batteries, Prius drivers.

Generally speaking, the current engines are more than capable of coming up with some heavy metal songs (hello, Arrivato Babene). The problem lies mainly in the fuel limit written in the regulations and eco-friendly mumbo jumbo – and nothing else matters. These engines are basically detuned by default, something I’d like to describe as silly. Imagine leaving the track with a nasty headache and temporary hearing loss? This is music. This is why petrolheads spend their cash on the sport.

Having said that, 7 (Ferrari, Red Bull, Toro Rosso, Mercedes, Sauber, Ferrari, Williams) + 1/2 (McLaren) cars running at the Jerez test do not compare to the full grid of (preferably) 24 cars required to produce the right effect.

Still, if the intention was to plug the benefits of hybrid technology (with these rules), then F1’s marketing deparments have failed miserably. There’s very little or no hybrid branding whatsoever on the cars, apart from a tiny discreet sticker on the Mercedes F1 W06 Hybrid. It meant people who were sitting in the grandstands in Jerez could not even spot it.

It’s your audience, F1, the fans who are supposed to buy your hybrid cars. What’s the point? Why bother? The cars look and feel like normal racing cars for a casual racing fan. Toro Rosso tackling greenhouse gas emissions? That’s loco! Ridiculous and insanely expensive exercise.

We are not overlooking or trying to dismiss, ignore or disregard Formula 1’s achievements in fuel saving, modern technology and stuff like that – nobody here is belittling anything or anybody, but more promotion and better marketing efforts are badly needed.

Formula 1 winter testing is a land of wasted marketing opportunities in general: it’s the good old “more is less” slogan in action. If you look at NASCAR or TUDOR USC – both are using a different business model, I know – it’s always such a massive show and the way they use the internet/media/social media is amazing. It’s like WOW, so much information, those guys really want to make me a part of it. Healthy looking drivers come out in their overalls/shining armour covered in sponsor logos and do their usual “thank you to the Mighty American Tractors and Chevrolet for bringing me up here” speech with a huge smile on their faces. Testing before the start of the season transforms into something else in the US, even pugilism in the pits and the use of foul language on national TV after massive – but ultimately harmless – crashes create more drama (I was disappointed to read Felipe Nasr and Susie Wolff only used the word “stupid” after their awkward incident in Barcelona, no “butt” or “crap” or “f*ck”!).

By contrast, you don’t get any of that with Formula 1; starving drivers are controlled by pushy press officers, no title sponsor logos anywhere (apart from the resurgent Williams Martini Racing), sour faces and the endless “for sure, y’know” mumbling. C’mon fellas, wake up, don’t you want to plug your hybrids and coffee?

I’ll never get that.

Last but not least, McLaren Honda finally did a few laps on the final day of testing at Jerez after a series of garage vigils during the first three days. The engine whistled for real in slow corners and sang a nice tune on the straights in a pure Lennon-esque style during my track walk. The power unit, they say, is very powerful indeed, reaching Mercedes levels (it’s a rumour I can’t confirm). Reliability leaves a lot to be desired for the time being, but that’s exactly why many generations of F1 teams would go testing in the past – to finish first, first you have to finish and the MP4-30, or rather its immaculate finish at the back, impressed a lot of people in the paddock.

Count me in!

I think we all got used to sponsorless McLaren cars and trasporters by now, although it’s still a big shock that such a famous team is not able to attract a major sponsor. But then again, Ron’s logic is difficult to understand.

Let him be.

Formula 1 grid got a good mix of pay-drivers, paid drivers and even promising Lewis Hamilton doppelgängers (Pascal Wehrlein). I am really and honestly looking forward to the start of the season. Will Ferrari win a few? Time will tell.

Testing is great for track walks and casual chats but it won’t tell you who’s going to win in Melbourne when the chequered flag comes down.

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