Formula 1's Latest Rumours and Talk: Mercedes Style, Driver Dieting and More

Oliver Harden@@OllieHardenFeatured ColumnistApril 8, 2014

Formula 1's Latest Rumours and Talk: Mercedes Style, Driver Dieting and More

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    With Formula One still on a high following that stunning Bahrain Grand Prix, race winners Mercedes have given themselves a well-earned pat on the back for allowing Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg to race for the win in Sakhir.

    Away from the track, however, things are a little more serious. The news that Jean-Eric Vergne recently had a trip to hospital due to extreme dieting has reopened concerns about F1’s weight limit and driver safety, but these are still not enough to drown out the noisy hullabaloo surrounding the quiet 2014 power units.

    One team that was expected to take advantage of the new regulations was Williams, but after three races without a podium following an impressive pre-season, deputy team principal Claire Williams has been explaining why her family business has so far been unable to convert potential into solid points.

    Here’s this week’s roundup.  

Mercedes Eager to Win in the Correct Fashion

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    Mercedes technical executive director Paddy Lowe has praised his team’s decision to allow Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg to fight for victory in the Bahrain Grand Prix.

    The pair, who have helped the German manufacturer establish a 67-point lead at the top of the constructors’ standings, were involved in an intense battle for the lead at various stages during the race. Hamilton eventually took the win ahead of Rosberg in what was widely considered the most exciting grand prix for some time.

    Standard protocol is for constructors to enforce team orders when their drivers are running in close proximity in racing conditions, but Lowe has argued that Mercedes would have done a disservice to their drivers, the team’s ethos and Formula One itself if they had chosen to interfere with the battle.

    He told ESPN F1:

    Imagine if we had imposed team orders from lap two, what a terrible thing that would be for Formula One and the philosophy of Mercedes motorsport.

    It's something that we base ourselves on and the sport is about, but it's also about the drivers. They are great drivers and professionals and you want to give them the opportunity to race, which is what they do.

    Lowe revealed that the excitement of the on-track battle was shared on the pit wall, with the new-for-2014 power units—which have recently come under scrutiny—integral to the fight between Hamilton and Rosberg:

    One of the enjoyable aspects and one of the new games you can play in Formula One is energy management. With this power unit you have a battery and you have various manoeuvres you can pull. It was the same with KERS, with KERS you could save up energy and deploy it in double boosts, but with this power unit that effect is even more extreme.

    There are opportunities to manage your energy flow, save it up perhaps and play it out in different places. The team is very well practiced and trained in that and how to use that with the drivers. What we saw in those last ten laps was not only the drivers competing but each side of the garage competing and playing the game of energy deployment.

    It's a cat and mouse game of staying one step ahead with the use of the energy around the lap. You have to be very aware of that and you may have heard a lot of strategies on the radio, but that was a pretty exciting internal aspect to that competition.

Jean Todt Not Worried by Weight Issue Despite Vergne Concern

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    It emerged over the Bahrain Grand Prix weekend that Toro Rosso driver Jean-Eric Vergne had visited the hospital between the Australian and Malaysian grands prix as a result of extreme dieting.

    The minimum weight limit for the car and driver has been increased by 50kg for 2014 to compensate for the extra weight of the 2014 power units. However, teams have struggled to meet this, which has led to heavier drivers being required to lose weight to potentially dangerous levels.

    This reached a new level in Sakhir when Sauber's Adrian Sutil, among the tallest drivers on the 2014 grid, participated without an in-car water bottle.

    FIA president Jean Todt, however, has rejected the concerns despite the teams reaching an agreement to raise the minimum weight to 701kg, an increase of 10kg, in 2015.

    The Frenchman was quoted by Ben Anderson of Autosport as saying:

    I think normally you can do a good diet and not to have to go to hospital because you have been losing so many kilos.

    I don't think you go to hospital because you are on a diet.

Force India Ensure No Hydration Problems with Gatorade UK Deal

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    On the subject of nutrition, Force India have announced a partnership deal with Gatorade UK.

    The team secured their first podium finish since 2009, and only the second in the team’s history, when Sergio Perez finished third in the Bahrain Grand Prix, with Force India second in the constructors’ championship after the opening three races of the 2014 Formula One season.

    Their link with Gatorade UK will see Perez and teammate Nico Hulkenberg, as well as the Silverstone-based outfit's mechanics and engineers, benefit from the "sports performance nutrition specialists".

    In an emailed press release, Force India chief operating officer Otmar Szafnauer said of the tie-up:

    To be successful in Formula One, you have to optimise every area of the team, especially human performance. That’s why our relationship with Gatorade is an important step for Sahara Force India and we look forward to benefiting from their expertise as a leading sports fuel supplier.

    Thanks to Gatorade’s wide range of products, we can provide all team members with the proper hydration and nutrition to help them perform.

    Alex Armstrong, marketing manager of Gatrorade UK, added:

    We are extremely pleased to join up with Sahara Force India and are looking forward to an exciting first season working together. Their recent podium in Bahrain shows the team is ready for even greater success and, in Nico Hulkenberg and Sergio Perez, they have one of the most exciting driver partnerships on the grid. We wish them both every success in 2014.

    How Adrian Sutil, a Force India driver of five seasons, could have done with a bottle of Gatorade in Bahrain...

FIA Determined to Make F1 Louder

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    As well as discussing the issue of driver health, Jean Todt has also been discussing the health of Formula One in general, with particular focus on the sound produced by the new power units.

    The FIA president wrote to Sebastian Vettel last week after the reigning world champion was less than complimentary on the noise ahead of the Malaysian Grand Prix, but Todt has revealed plans to increase the volume of the new engines.

    He told ESPN F1:

    It would be wrong to say I don't care about all the complaints, so definitely it is something that we are addressing already with all the manufacturers involved in Formula One. [We are working] with Ferrari, Mercedes and Renault to address this thing even with the new regulations that we have.

    Thirty years ago in Formula One turbo engines were making a different noise from the one we hear now. We must see if we can implement in short, medium and long term a bigger noise. That we will do and we will get a better noise than at the moment.

    Todt also rejected the idea that F1’s reliance on fuel management in 2014 is hurting the sport after Ferrari boss Luca di Montezemolo suggested the drivers are now little more than taxi drivers, adding:

    I don't think if you ask (Lewis) Hamilton and (Nico) Rosberg if they are driving like taxi drivers—notwithstanding the respect I have for taxi drivers—but if you have an efficient car you don't have any problem. I hear that some engines are over the minimum limit of the weight of the engine, which is 145 kilos. If you have an engine five, 10 or 15 kilos heavier of course it is not as powerful.

    Do you hear Nico Rosberg complaining? Did you hear Sebastian Vettel complaining last year? Those doing well aren't complaining, those that aren't, are.

Williams Relaxed over 2014 Prospects Despite Slow Start

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    After being regarded as the strongest team behind pace-setters Mercedes, Williams are yet to score a podium finish so far in 2014.

    Given the significant changes in both personnel and sponsorship at the former title-winning team, that would normally be considered a major disappointment, but deputy team principal Claire Williams has declared herself content with the team’s start to the season.

    In an interview with the official Formula One website, she dismissed the claim that Williams’ campaign has faltered, stating:

    I don’t think it has. But there has been a lot commentary around Williams—where we may have been and what we may have been ahead of Melbourne. As a team internally we knew where we were. So we didn’t have the expectation that we were going to win races—and we never would go into a season thinking that we are going to win.

    Of course that was great, and it brought a lot of pressure to the party—especially on the back of last year when it was so disappointing—to then have people telling you that they think you could be a winning team again. Yes, that was great and gave a lot of positive momentum to actually go for changes. That was really important. We always set the goal to improve upon last season’s championship position. To consistently score points—and even some podiums—would be fantastic.

    When pushed on what would represent a solid season for the team after a 2013 campaign that resulted in the scoring of only five points, Williams said:

    (We want to) go to every race knowing that we go real racing again. Results-wise, of course we want to get both cars in the top ten in qualifying and for both cars to score good points in every race. If we could win a race again, that would be magic, but that’s a big step from where we were last year. There is a lot of ambition to get us back to where we were. In 2014, that translates to fighting with Mercedes. We have a great car and we have two great drivers.