Formula 1's Latest Rumours and Talk: FRIC, Hamilton/Rosberg and More
With the British Grand Prix behind us, the next stop on the F1 tour is Germany.
Fittingly, a Brit and a German produced one of the week's top stories—Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg's rivalry took another turn in a disagreement over nationality but all was not as it seemed.
Elsewhere, Kimi Raikkonen will escape punishment for causing the first lap red flag at Silverstone, Pirelli rolled out their new rims and Max Chilton thinks one team in particular will suffer from the forthcoming ban on the FRIC suspension system.
Read on for a full roundup of the week's big stories.
No Punishment for Kimi Raikkonen over Silverstone Crash
Kimi Raikkonen will not face a penalty for causing the early red flag at the British Grand Prix.
The Finn ran wide out at Turn 5, drove through the tarmac run-off area and attempted to rejoin the circuit where the tarmac and track met.
He carried too much speed, missed the gap, ran over the grass and hit a rut between it and the circuit. The car became imbalanced, the rear stepped out and Raikkonen couldn't catch it.
The Ferrari hit the barriers and spun back across the track, where it was struck by Felipe Massa's Williams. Max Chilton also had a lucky escape when his car was struck by debris.
But Jonathan Noble of Autosport reports that, though the FIA looked into the incident, no punishment will be handed down.
Their feeling is, according to Noble, that although the crash could have been prevented had Raikkonen slowed down more before rejoining the track, any driver on the grid would have done the same thing.
Raikkonen was excused from this week's test at Silverstone. A Ferrari statement said:
Kimi Raikkonen is recovering from the frightening accident on the opening lap of the British Grand Prix. The Scuderia Ferrari driver still has pain and some bruising in his left ankle and knee after his car hit the barriers. Therefore Scuderia Ferrari has decided to rest the Finn so that he can be fully fit for the German Grand Prix on 20th July at Hockenheim.
Marussia driver and Ferrari Driver Academy member Jules Bianchi stepped in, testing first for his own team on Tuesday before jumping into the F14 T on Wednesday.
His best time in the Ferrari was 1 minute, 35.262 seconds—the best of the day.
FRIC Ban May Hit Mercedes Hardest
The FIA moved this week to outlaw FRIC (front-rear interconnected) suspension systems, and Mercedes could be hardest hit.
FRIC is a somewhat complex system which links the front and rear suspensions. In simple terms, it improves stability by reducing changes to the car's ride height as it brakes and corners. A more detailed explanation for the technically minded can be found at formula1-dictionary.net.
The teams have the opportunity to keep the system in place for the remainder of the year but unanimous agreement is needed. It's highly unlikely that will happen, so all the cars will be FRIC-free at the German Grand Prix.
It's unclear who'll be hardest hit and by how much, and Craig Scarborough at Autosport doesn't believe the running order, or Mercedes' dominance, is likely to be greatly affected.
But Marussia's Max Chilton thinks Mercedes could suffer more than anyone. He told Sky Sports, "I hear the Mercedes system is very complicated so it could affect them more."
The extra complexity of the Mercedes (and maybe other teams') system is that it may also control sideways roll, as well as the front-rear movement it was originally designed for.
It is this sort of system which may have prompted the FIA to want FRIC gone sooner rather than later.
Lewis Hamilton/Nico Rosberg Nationality Row a Storm in a Tea Cup
The Lewis Hamilton-Nico Rosberg friendship/rivalry/feud took yet another turn this week with a "row" over nationality.
Rosberg was born in Germany to a Finnish father and German mother, but moved to Monaco when he was four months old. He holds dual German-Finnish nationality.
Speaking to The Guardian's Paul Weaver, Brit Hamilton—fresh from winning his home grand prix—said:
To be honest, Nico has never been in Germany, so he’s not really German. I remember when we used to race during karting, he never stood next to a German flag—not ever.
We would have to go on the start line and all the drivers would have to stand next to a grid girl in a line. The girls would be holding the flags or a sign saying Hungary or whatever, and he always stood by the Monaco one. He never stood by a German flag. He is German-Finnish-Monaco-esque, or whatever. So it would be great to win in Germany.
The paper reported it as a "jibe," but it later turned out Rosberg was present when the comments were made and wasn't at all bothered by them.
He did, though, affirm that he considered himself German, with his own home race just over a week away.
He told Sky F1:
I was actually there when he said it and I think it was actually the person interviewing who said those questions and Lewis didn’t really answer much really.
I didn’t grow up in Germany so I guess I am not as British as he is, but I consider myself 100% German.
So there was no jibe, row or argument—just another Hamilton comment blown out of proportion. The fight on the track appears to be immeasurably more real than the fight off it.
But interestingly, in a 2005 interview with Finland's Helsingin Sanomat, Rosberg spoke of his nationality and sense of belonging. He said he considered himself "European," and added:
When my win here was celebrated with the playing of the German national anthem, it felt kind of weird to me. I don't have that sense of belonging, either to Germany or to Finland. Maybe when I'm driving races I sort of feel a stronger pull towards Finland, since it reminds me of my father's achievements in the sport.
That was of course nine years ago and viewpoints can and do change. But maybe those with dual nationalities have two answers to certain questions, depending on who asks them.
Mixed Reaction to 18-Inch Rims
Pirelli tested their experimental 18-inch alloy wheels on Wednesday at the Silverstone test.
Charles Pic's Lotus was fitted with the new wheels, which feature lower-profile tyres around a much larger rim. It didn't go around the track especially quickly, but that wasn't what Pirelli was hoping for.
It was mostly about the looks. Its motorsport director, Paul Hembrey, told press at Silverstone (h/t Formula1.com):
We weren't looking for performance. The priority was to show people what a Formula One car would look like with a change of rim.
We will supply the people in the strategy group and F1 commission with images, so people can make a decision on the future regulations based on fact rather than computer-generated images: that was the real objective.
We also confirmed what we knew: you have more rigid sidewalls, so you do have an integrity challenge; the car's sensitivity to camber will be very high; the front tyre will create a very aggressive turn in; there will be big variations in pressure. We need more detailed studies on that.
For now, we were just confirming the things we know, and the areas you would need to start working on if indeed this is where the sport will go—and that is really now in the hands of the decision makers.
Current F1 wheels have a 13-inch rim with very chunky tyres, so the difference was striking. As well as being an aesthetic change and a new challenge for the designer, a move to larger alloys would introduce the possibility of selling similar wheels for use on road cars.
Reaction to the new look was mixed. A Ferrari Twitter poll suggested 70 percent of the Scuderia's followers preferred the new look, but users of the comments section of F1Fanatic seemed to have a slightly more negative view.
And former Force India reserve driver James Calado said on Twitter, "The 18 inch rims on the Formula 1 cars just add more ugliness to what they already are."
There's a gallery of more images on Formula1.com. What do you think?