Bob McMurray: F1 still all go behind the scenes
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It seems almost a distant memory that six weeks ago there were still 14 grands prix to go this season and the extreme fatigue the crews are now feeling was yet to come. So it’s 12 GPs down and nine to go.
But for many, the Hungarian Grand Prix was not the last act before the half-time curtain call. There was a sting in the tail as teams were held back at the Hungaroring for a two-day in-season test.
Although a large topic of conversation in the paddock centred on “where are you going for the summer break”, there remains many issues to be sorted during the enforced shutdown of team bases.
In simple terms the FIA rules state: “All competitors must observe a factory shutdown period of 14 consecutive days in July and/or August, during which time their wind tunnels and computational fluid dynamics (CFD) facilities must not be used for F1 activities.”
Of course this regulation does not affect normal factory maintenance or indeed people thinking of the “next big thing”; but there are more pressing issues to be discussed during this period. Expect to see some driver’s contracts renewed or perhaps cancelled.
It could also be expected that some engineers will change teams or look forward to getting out in the garden for an extended period.
Keep an ear out for some intense bargaining going on behind the scenes between the FIA, Liberty Media and the teams regarding the future of the sport.
But perhaps more importantly, all of the above aside, there will be discussions around the survival of one or two, perhaps even more people, in the F1 teams themselves.
The most public battle of all was played out in and around the paddock last weekend and centred on the Force India team being placed into administration.
The Force India team has been teetering on the brink for so long that it is almost second nature for the managers and employees to cut expenditure to the bone. Yet the team, apart from the occasional flat performance, really do over-achieve in competition with their better-heeled neighbours up and down the pit lane.
Hopefully the future of the team, and the jobs of about 400 people, will be secured by the time this column is published.
More than a few teams have similar, and other, issues and the FIA, despite the ban on any Formula 1 activity, has so far not developed a method of shutting down the brain activity of those geniuses who may have a notepad or laptop to hand.
Renault engineers have to figure out why their power units seem to expire with amazing regularity when in the hands of the Red Bull drivers, before Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo form their own two-man hit squad to visit the Renault engine shop at Viry-Chatillon near Paris.
Ferrari, due to the death of boss Sergio Marchionne, needs the time to regroup as a company, and Mercedes needs to figure out why Ferrari is so much faster than its own cars in certain circumstances.
Toro Rosso and Honda need to do just what they are doing, just like their driving duo, and improve with each race.
Haas needs to figure out who its drivers will be next year, or at least one of them, and Sauber needs to think long and hard about whether Marcus Ericsson has finally had his chance of glory and if it is time to move on.
And what of McLaren and Williams?
“Back to the drawing board,” is the expression that comes to mind.
Perhaps when the new paddock term begins on August 24, at that most magnificent of circuits, Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium, the fruits of the “holidays” will be evident.