Helios: More haste, less speed


Helios writes...

As predicted the much vaunted aero upgrade promised by Nick Fry for Malaysia did not produce the miracle Honda clearly hoped for, and this was seen again in Bahrain where both cars performed dismally, a downward spiral of performance, eco marketing and driver morale.

Fact is, when an F1 car performs as poorly out of the box as the RA107 has done there is not going to be some miracle increase in pace derived form an aero upgrade, suspension layout or what have you.

Some F1 cars are born dogs and the drivers know it as soon as they run for the first time. I recall in earlier years Jacques Villeneuve having his first shake down in the BAR 030 at Silverstone and telling the engineers it was a dog, and boy was he right.

Sadly though, many are unwilling to accept this kind of news after they have slogged away all winter on the new car and it then becomes a question of optimism over reality - something that some excel at, those not living in the same 'real world' of the team.

The myearthdream RA107 is quite possibly the worst car to have rolled out of Brackley for some years and demonstrates that after the steady influence of Geoff Willis's experienced technical guidance, Honda is not really able to provide the direction required to provide its more than competent driver line up with podium challenging cars. In my humble opinion this is due to Honda's misplaced faith in its most senior managers and directors, many of who do not have the background and experience necessary to operate at this level.

F1 is the pinnacle of motorsport engineering and employs the most skilled, dedicated and experienced men and women to design and manufacture the cars, and yet this does not appear to apply to many of those who have found themselves in the most senior directing roles within the Honda F1 team… with a few notable exceptions. It appears to be popular on website forums, and in some sections of the press, to slate Gil de Ferran along with Nick Fry, which seems strange as
which one of them has a racing pedigree and understands what it takes to be a champion? Having Gil in the team at least gives it a tentative hold on what the other teams have in their senior ranks - racers through and through. The same cannot be said for many of those surrounding de Ferran.

I predict that there will be some re-aligning of jobs in the Honda team over the coming weeks, with several sideways shuffles going on in race engineering already.

Another area that deserves a good hard look is that of the new Wind Tunnel and its performance. One rival team technical director is of the opinion that the tunnel calibration was not carried out correctly. I agree. Such was the rush for Graham Miller (Director of Wind Tunnel Services) to commission the tunnel early so that he and Fry could have a good news story for their new Honda masters in 2006 that it is believed the tunnel was operating before all its subtleties and nuances were fully understood. Indeed it seemed strange when Fry appointed Miller, a career manager with no aerodynamic background, over the head of Senior Aerodynamicist Willem Toet.

Toet left the team citing a 100% difference of opinion in approach to the aero department's set up with Fry. Maybe Toet knew what he was on about as the ex-Benetton, ex-Ferrari aero guru has certainly helped BMW Sauber make a leap up the grid this season. Another case of an experienced hand being usurped by the 'yes men' so prevalent at Brackley these days, sadly a mentality all too detrimental to the Honda team.

Maybe Mr Miller should consider whether it was the correct approach to the team's aero facilities to rush them into operation merely to gain personal 'brownie points'.

My Grandfather had an expression which seems strangely appropriate in the circumstances - "more haste, less speed" - and the 'earth car' underlines the point.

Former colleagues now working at Leafield with the Super Aguri team have told me that Honda is intending to restrict them in their aero updates and also to supply them with de-tuned engines in order to minimise embarrassment to the parent team's senior management when it comes to answering the Honda Japan board's questions about the Brackley team's dour performance.

This will be a great shame as the little team is far out-performing its position in the F1 hierarchy and Honda Japan should take note of what you can do with a team led by a true racer and managed by a raft of experienced personnel from within the F1 industry. Funny isn't it that those who know how to build and race cars successfully can do it when left to get on with it…

Expect to hear more over the coming weeks as the Brackley team strives for improvement as Formula One enters the European stage of the season.

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Published: 24/04/2007
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