formula 1


I recently had an interesting trip up to Milton Keynes for a tour of Red Bull F1’s facility.  As you would expect given F1’s fondness for industrial espionage, security was tight. No cameras were allowed and all phones had their camera function disabled.  Our escorted tour initially took us around the design offices. These were open plan for all to enhance team working, though Messrs  Horner and Newey had their own huge offices. Presumably they don’t need to work in teams.. Interestingly there were three times as many aerodynamasists as there were other engineers.

Moving from area to area via touch sensitive security key pads we were constantly told about what a relaxed and friendly team Red Bull were compared to other teams. The demeanour of the people we met did not suggest that was necessarily the case. Sure, whilst the extreme dress down of the staff and the slight untidiness about the place would bring on palpitations in Ron Dennis, you get the impression that beneath the “hey, aren’t we fun” persona there is a degree of steely and ruthless determination. No bad thing in F1. You don’t win four consecutive F1 titles by being relaxed.

Formerly the home of Jaguar Racing and prior to that Stewart GP, Red Bull’s Milton Keynes HQ still accomodates people who worked for those teams, albeit in a facility now eight times bigger.

Unfortunately when we visited the race bays the current cars were out with only some reliveried older cars on show. I guess they didn’t want us to see the new aero screens shown this week at Sochi.

 

This vertically displayed show car highlights the new Red Bull matt paint finish. I tend to dislike matt paint finishes but it certainly seems to suit the Red Bulls.  Apparently Red Bull repaint the cars for each race to suit the expected climate and light conditions. That way the sponsors’ logos always look the same on TV wherever the cars are in the world and whether the race is a night race or day race. Great attention to detail.

 

 

The vast trophy cabinet on display in the reception of Red Bull F1. The drivers are not allowed to keep their trophies and must hand them over to the team. Red Bull are also so paranoid about their IP they throw nothing away nor do they sell any of their old cars. 

 

The Red Bull trial visor. It looks okay, does not seem to interfere too much with access and if it increases safety surely a good idea?

Red Bull seem to be doing much better this year. Apparently the new Renault engine is putting out substantially more horsepower than last year. You will not, however,  see the name of the engine builder on the side of the Red Bulls, their place having been taken by the wings of Aston Martin.

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The excellent Porsche 919 Hybrids that triumphed at Le Mans this year. Will they be back next year?

Leaving aside the likely impact of Dieselgate on Wolfsburg and the wider German economy,  the crisis rocking VW Group is likely to have a significant impact on their motorsport programmes and aspirations.  Will the money still be there to fund Audi, Bentley and Porsche works teams? Particularly the hugely expensive Le Mans hybrid racers?  If the Audi Le Mans programme was designed to show the excellence of that company’s diesel and hybrid engineering technology, how can it possibly continue when it and its parent have been exposed as using the excellence of their engineering to cheat the public and the regulators?  And if Porsche and Audi pull out of WEC racing will other manufacturers do likewise?
Just before Dieselgate broke there was speculation in the motorsport press that VW were about to buy into Red Bull.  The deal would have made sense. Red Bull have fallen out with Renault and Mercedes will not supply them with engines. The thought of only being able to run obsolescent Ferrari engines next year was understandably unappealing. A deal with VW would have allowed Red Bull access to VW Group’s proven hybrid technology  – rebranding as Red Bull Audi would have been a small price to pay.  Such a deal is now surely dead in the water. There will be no money to spare at VW Group for a luxury like a Formula 1 team.  And without such a deal will we see Red Bull and Toro Rosso on next year’s grid? I think there is a real risk that we will not.

Going into The British Grand Prix there were many arguing that Formula One had lost its edge. Declining television audiences and a much reduced turn out in Austria seemed to point to fans increased disenchantment. The British Grand Prix served to dispel some of those fears. A record 340,000 spectators attended the weekend with 160,000 ensuring a full house on race day itself. A particularly startling fact was that there were more people at Silverstone for Friday practice than there were spectators for the Austrian Grand Prix itself.

Drivers Parade

The race itself turned out to be a thriller and produced the result Lewis Hamilton’s is adoring fans had hoped for. It had everything: strategy, surprises, overtaking, thrills and spills. On such that it was hard to argue that Formula One needed any revisions.

 

Lewis and Nico on the parade lap

Silverstone put on a fantastic show. Yes tickets were expensive but the full house showed that they had perhaps got the pricing right. The view from the general admission areas can be good if you can find yourself a decent place early enough. I always get a weekend ticket and on race day sit in the Club Corner grandstand which provides a great view of the last two corners and the finish line – not to mention the podium at the end of the Wing building. For qualification I like to sit in the general admission areas at Becketts to really see the cars move about at high-speed.

Lewis takes the chequered flag

The bad old days of Silverstone, the muddy carparks,  the chaos and the huge traffic queues, seem to be a thing of the past. And (say it softly) Bernie must take a lot of the credit for the transformation. If he had not threatened to remove the race from the calendar I suspect little would have been done to improve the fans race going experience.

 

Lewis hoists the famous gold RAC trophy up in the air. No rubbish plastic trophy this year!

 

The race weekend also had more than just the F1 race. The support races were exciting, we were treated to the sight of Stirling Moss demonstrating his 1955 British GP winning Mercedes, and the air displays by the Red Arrows and a thunderous Eurofighter Typhoon were thrilling.

Crofty cross examines Lewis

 

I stayed at the circuit for the after show party and was glad I did. Not only did I get to see part of the Spice Girls perform (guilty pleasure) but the Q&A sessions between Crofty and the drivers were eye opening. Away from their PR people it was amazing how open the drivers were able to be. Lewis’s  delight in winning his home Grand Prix for a third time was evident. But it was Nico who stood out. Honest and down to earth, good humoured and gracious, he came across very differently from the demonic Nico portrayed by the press. He certainly won the fans over.

So all in all a fantastic Grand Prix. I have already booked my tickets for next year!

One of the benefits of booking your Silverstone GP tickets nearly a year in advance is the free opportunity to attend a pit walk on the Thursday before the Grand Prix. Yesterday the crowds were out in force but despite an initial queue nearly half a mile long, things progressed smoothly and everyone had a good chance to have alook in the team garages.


Grosjean’s Lotus looked neat – imagine what it looks like tonight, half full of gravel!


Jenson’s McLaren Honda was in pieces, semi shielded from the public by a convenient trolley and some body pods. You could almost smell the despair..


By contrast Vettel’s Ferrari looked splendidly complete and ready for action.


Similar clean efficiency at Williams. They should be strong this weekend.


Bit more work on Massa’s car though!


The chaps at Red Bull were preparing Ricciardo’s car to a thumping house music beat. The other teams worked in silence. Deathly silence over at McLaren..


Meanwhile Nico Rosberg’s crew practiced tyre changes to the delight of the crowd.


Hulkenberg’s Force India was undergoing a rebuild


Former British GP winner Johnny Herbert was able to share some race tips with young Will Stevens of Manor.


Meanwhile Pastor Maldonado was being interviewed by Spanish TV


Will Stevens sporting weight saving haircut

   

New AMG GT safety cars. Nice looking but lets hope we don’t see much of them all weekend.

The Race Retro show at Stoneleigh Park near Coventry is the only car show devoted to classic car motorsport.  Whilst not a massive show it provides a temporary home to an eclectic mix of car displays, clubs, race promoters, dealers, automobilia vendors and race preparation engineers.  There is no other show in Europe that hosts such a good selection of those catering to the sporting classic car owner.

Chevron cars were the featured marque at Race Retro. Founded by Englishman Derek Bennett in 1965, the company struggled after his death in a hang gliding accident in 1978. Chevron were particularly renowned for their sports racing cars. This is a B16 Cosworth and carries the name of famous Swiss racing driver, Jo Siffert, – although I can find no record of him having driven a Chevron sportscar competitively.

This Lola T70 is a modern “continuation” replica of the cars of the same name that were moderately successful in taking on the Ferraris and Porsche 917’s the late 60s and early 70s. They are built by the current incarnation of Chevron Racing Cars using original drawings and tools.

This huge aero engine Fiat racer looks like it was built just after the First World War. In fact it was only recently completed but does use an original period engine. The attention to detail is staggering. Particularly impressive is the wholly artificial patina. Look at the aged brass and weathered wood..

The doctors bag and trunk on the back are suitably period – although you’d need to be tough to go touring in such a car!

This looks like a Repco Brabham BT 24 of the type Sir Jack Brabham used to win the world championship in 1967. In fact, again, it is a “continuation” replica but certainly looks the part. As a proper continuation car it should be illegible for most F1 events – and at a fraction of the cost of the real thing.

Proper Oldsmobile Repco V8 powers the car.

On the Motor Sport Magazine stand there was a recently restored prewar car. The new paintwork had been “distressed” in an attempt to give the car some patina. it looked obviously fake. The owner would have been better off leaving the car shiny.

Retromobile Paris is arguably the most prestigious classic car show in Europe and is a must see for classic car enthusiasts. With cheap air fares and the show’s close proximity to Orly Airport, a day trip for old car loving Brits is relatively easy.

The show is held at the vast Paris Expo exhibition centre near Porte De Versailles on the Paris inner ring road. Whilst certainly a big show, as it is all in one hall, it felt no bigger than the NEC Classic Car Show, and felt smaller than the big German shows at Stuttgart and Essen. I arrived an hour after the show opened at 11 and was done by 5pm. You would certainly struggle to see either of the two German shows in the same time.

This year Retromobile celebrated its 40th year with an excellent mix of automobilia and autojumble sellers, high-end car dealers, club exhibitors, museums and manufacturers. In common with the German shows, local manufacturers used the event to showcase their heritage collections as well as some of their new cars. PSA put on an excellent show of Peugots and Citroens, and foreign manufacturers represented included Daimler-Benz, Skoda and Porsche. Again, like the German shows the exhibiting car dealers were very high end indeed, with several displaying inventories worth in excess of £10 million. Not something you see at the NEC classic car show!

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Traders, dealers and cars as far as the eye can see

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Lovely pair of Panhard racers. The nearest is a 1954 X86 “Dolomites” which took part in the Tour De france and various rallies that year.

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Not something you see at most classic car shows! The French Tank Museum displayed this fully operational German WW2 King Tiger tank.

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Another view of the mighty leviathan. Designed in large part by Ferdinand Porsche, its a part of Porsche’s back catalogue that does not get a mention at their impressive museum in Stuttgart (see previous post on the Porsche Museum, Stuttgart)

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The Matra Club de France displayed a good selection of pristine cars, including this mint 530. Beyond is a Bagheera – novel at the time for its three abreast seating – long before McLaren copied the idea in their F1.

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Renault Heritage displayed a selection of Renault 16’s to celebrate the revolutionary model’s 50th anniversary. This is an as new TX. Journalists were able to book passenger rides in a fleet of R16’s around the local area.

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Not to be outdone by the Regie, PSA Heritage and affiliated clubs brought a large number of Citroen and Peugeot classics to the show. There was a particularly fine display of Citroen DS models to celebrate that model’s 50th anniversary. This is a rare and expensive convertible.

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Also celebrating its anniversary was the Alpine mark. Renault displayed a number of these fine sports cars including this early Brazilian racer.

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The Schlumpf Collection (or as its now known, La Cite de l’Automobile a Mulhouse) sent their “Three Kings” – three stunning Bugatti Royales. This is the Coupe Napoleon. The Schlumpf collection houses hundreds of gorgeous classics and scores of Bugattis. Its well worth a visit.

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Peugeot displayed a number of cars from their heritage collection at Sochaux, including this 401 drop head. The Musee de l’Aventure Peugeot is another great French auto museum. A visit can be combined with a tour of the factory where you can watch brand new 208’s rolling off the production line.

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This beautiful 1930s Peugeot 402 drop head shows what attractive and revolutionary cars Peugeot made before the war.

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The neat lines of this 1976 Citroen GS show the clear family resemblance to the more up market DS. I had my first driving lessons in my Dad’s GS which was precisely this shade of blue. A very comfortable but complex car!

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Typical selection of cars with one of the high end dealers. Targa Florio Ferrari, Porsche 908, Maserati 300..

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Beautiful Delahaye

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This smart gullwing Panhard sports racer was for sale. It would make a very different entry for the Le Mans Classic.

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Skoda also took the opportunity to showcase their heritage. This is a Skoda racer from the 1950s.

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This is a 1936 Skoda Popular Sport Monte Carlo coupe. No prizes for guessing how it got its name.

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Daimler Benz showed their new cars next to the old. This is the new AMG GT – like a scaled down non gullwing SLS. Its good looking but as cramped as an F Type. Porsche won’t be worrying too much about the competition.

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1955 Lancia Florida Pinin Farina Berlina. A beautiful car but no doubt with the structural rigidity of blancmange.

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If you were a well heeled French patriot there was a good supply of fabulous 50’s sports racers for sale including this Gordini.

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1942 Alfa Romeo 6C 2500 SS Bertone. You would have thought Alfa would have had other priorities in 1942..

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No French car show would be complete without at least one Facel Vega, the 1960’s car of the stars.

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Not bad for a used car lot. Bugattis as far as the eye can see.

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Well patinated Bugatti Type 35B. The vintage sports car.. If only I had a spare few million..

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This German dealer was selling no less than four Gullwing Mercs.

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Also for sale for a cool £1.5m, a Ferrari 288 GTO

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A British dealer was selling this interesting 1898 Panhard et Lavassor 8HP. Stated to be the oldest race car in existence, it took part in the 1898 Paris – Amsterdam – Paris race, one of the great city to city Gordon Bennett races that predated circuit racing.

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A strong collection of pre war coach built cars included this ungainly 1931 Alfa Romeo 6C 1750 GS Zagato Aprile.

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What were Daimler Benz thinking? The Maybach was a truly ugly car bought by people with limited taste. This Maybach 62 Landaulet is vulgarity personified.

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The interior looks like a Dubai hotel suite. The bottle of Nevada Cava says it all..

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Nicely patinated (i.e. decrepit) 1935 Tatra 77A. Yours for a cool £375k!

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Pegaso of Spain made some wonderful cars in the 1950s and a fine selection were on show at Retromobile. This Z102 Coupe was bodied by Saoutchik.

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This Pegaso Z102 was bodied by Touring Superleggera of Milan.

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Pegaso Z102 Drop Head

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Back on the Renault stand, Alpine showed this concept car that has been digitised for use in the latest version of the Grand Tourismo computer game. The reception has been so positive it is rumoured that it is possible the car may enter production.

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Imaginative aero solution. No need for wings here!

Apart from clashing with the Autosport show in Birmingham, this new London show looks promising. It is been many years since there has been a large classic car show in London. Given that the core of the high end classic car market lies in London and the South-East of England, this absence has always struck me as strange.

The new show was held at Excel in London’s Docklands. This is a great venue, easy to get to and with good facilities. As this year’s show was relatively compact it had to share Excel with the Cruise Show and the London Boat Show. I attended on a Friday afternoon and Excel was already busy. I imagine it would have been extremely busy over the weekend.

Whilst the show was much smaller than the NEC Classic Car Show, what it lacked in quantity it made up for with quality. There were no club stands but the organisers showed innovation in how cars were displayed and a large number of very high-end dealers were present. I was able to buy an afternoon only ticket at a much reduced price. This provided plenty of time to see the show. Certainly this year a full day ticket would not have been necessary.

From what I hear, due to heavy ticket discounting,  the show almost certainly made a loss this year . However it was very busy so hopefully it will return again in the future.

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Motor Sport Magazine put on an impressive display at the Show, pairing historic race cars driven by members of their “Hall of Fame” with covers from the magazine showing the cars in period. Here we see Jackie Stewart’s 1973 championship winning Tyrell and Jim Clark’s 1963 championship winning Lotus 25.

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The Motor Sport Magazine pairing here is Mike Hawthorn’s 1958 championship winning Ferrari and one of the clever but flawed V16 BRMs.

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An unusual feature of the event was a central boulevard where every few hours some of the cars on display were run. Whilst an interesting idea, viewing was limited, the exhaust fumes noxious and there was little scope for really demonstrating the cars’ potential. Here a Lamborghini Miura makes a very sedate pass.

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One section of the hall was reserved for Le Mans cars. I never get tired of the sweeping curves of the Jaguar XJR9. This car finished 4th in 1988, the year a similar car won for the Coventry mark.

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A rare Vauxhall Firenze Droop Snoot. Ugly as sin when compared to the contemporary Ford Escort RS2000.

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The £90k MGB. Yes really. Produced by Frontline Developments with a Mazda engine and modern running gear, the car is capable of a sub 4 second 0 to 60 time. But why would you bother? If you want a classic looking car buy a concourse MGB for £30k. If you want a fast car, for that price you could buy a Jaguar F Type R.

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A stunning BMW CSL Bat Mobile.

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There were two other special displays at the Show. The first was a selection of Cars That Changed the World curated by James May. The queues for that display were so long all afternoon that I gave it a miss. The second, probably far more interesting display, was of cars that inspired or were designed by Adrian Newey. Here we see three of the best – Mansell’s active suspension 1992 Championship winning Williams FW14, Mika Hakkinen’s 1998 championship winning McLaren MP4-13 and one of Vettel’s championship winning Red Bull’s.

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Newey’s first F1 car, the Leyton House CG901

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