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JA on F1 podcast #3 – Rising stars, change at Mercedes, small team challenges
Posted By: James Allen  |  29 Apr 2013   |  9:32 am GMT  |  63 comments

Welcome to the third JA on F1 podcast in our 2013 series. This month we speak to a driver and a team boss, a technical director and the man at the centre of F1’s hottest debate of the moment.

Mercedes F1 CEO Toto Wolff tells us how many marks out of 10 he gives his team for their start to 2013, talks about Lewis Hamilton’s impact on the team and whether Ross Brawn is staying; we ask rising Toro Rosso star Daniel Ricciardo about his standout drive in China and his chances of getting a Red Bull seat; we explain and analyse the changes to the Pirelli tyre range with Paul Hembery in discussion with former Williams chief engineer and JA on F1 technical adviser Mark Gillan. We ask whether things have gone too far on the tyres’ effect on the racing. Gillan also looks ahead to the Spanish Grand Prix at Barcelona and talks about what updates we are likely to see on the F1 cars.

And when will one of F1’s new team score a point? We look at the challenges facing with Marussia technical director Pat Symonds in conversation with Holly Samos. He also looks ahead to what engine the team will use in 2014.

No player? Download the podcast directly.

0.00 Introduction
1.38 Toto Wolff, Executive Director of Mercedes F1 (Apologies for some mobile interference)
7.27 Mark Gillan analyses Mercedes’ performance so far
8.31 Holly Samos speaks to Marussia Technical Director Pat Symonds
18.12 Toro Rosso driver Daniel Ricciardo on getting into a Red Bull in 2014
25.10 Pirelli motorsport director Paul Hembery on changes to the tyres
32.23 Mark Gillan analyses the performance so far and changes to the Pirelli F1 tyre range
35.44 Wrap up

Duration 36.14

* If you enjoy the JA on F1 podcasts maybe you can help us: Tell us how you like to consume the content; where do you listen to it and how – weekends or weekdays? If you could change one thing, what would it be? Thanks for all feedback.

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These podcasts are a brilliant concept! When will you do a video version with suitable clips from events? Whatever you do – keep the audio one going – it’s so handy to use on just about anything – laptop, tablet, phone, mp3-player, whatever. 🙂

You ask if there’s one thing to change — make them 15 minutes longer! 😉


Hi – Just found your site – dunno how I have missed it up till now – first thing I did was listen to the latest podcast live on soundcloud whilst driving home in my car…putting them on soundcloud is great idea!



Good to hear Pat Symonds voice again, can help but feel he was the guy who suffered most as a result of crash gate and that was sad to see.

James key’s move to Torro Rosso has always seemed to be an odd sideways move to me, considering he held similar roles at Force India and Sauber. I wonder if he is effectively being employed by Red Bull with a view to ultimately replacing Adrian Newey when Newey decides to retire.


Both Lauda and Wolff are team-leader dilettantes if you ask me, just remember how Lauda messed up Jaguar, while the big bad Wolff just seems to be loaded with money as well as connections?


Hi James im from australia and i download the podcasts in between races and listen to them at work with my media earmuffs(i work in a factory)

the bits i find the most interesting have been the behind the scenes stuff .there is so many media options for getting up to date news and i find that the “other side of f1” is somewhat neglected , more engineers more history more off beat stuff, what do the commentators do # flights etc drivers family interviews , what happens to old race cars etc etc.

Not saying there is anyyhing wrong with your podcast ,yours and the bbc’s are my fave.keep em coming


Absolutely superb James, a fantastic insight into F1 2013 🙂


James, I love everyone complimenting you on the quality of your podcasts (something I agree with) and asking for greater frequency! Would you be able to produce them more frequently if we paid a subscription fee? And how many here banging on about James not recording enough podcasts would pay $$ for the privilege?


I’m more interested in how and where people consume them. Frequency is a whole other matter


Hi James,

Thanks for the great insights in your podcast.

Say that Ricciardo doesn’t snare a seat alongside Vettel at RBR next season, presumably Red Bull will cease to back him at Toro Rosso (ie Buemi and Algersuari) – is there any talk of other teams showing an interest in him?


could you give the podcast words? because i’am poor can be great help to understand.thank you

rob in victoriabc

Sometimes, James, reading your site is more interesting than watching the race.



I thoroughly enjoy your podcasts. I listen to them on my ipod usually on my way to work. The only thing i would request you to release it more frequently. Thanks alot


I aren’t able to enjoy your podcasts and again wonder why you’re not able to make a transcript available..???

Adrian Newey Jnr

James – good to see you shine some light on Pat’s efforts at Marussia. You have to remember that it wasn’t that long ago that Nick Wurth was running the show and talking up CFD! Look at the improvement since then. Arguably Caterham have had the benefit of more stability, using KERS longer, $10m in prize money and yet it is Marussia who appears to be closing the gap to the mid-pack quickest.


I’m pretty sure Marussia is still using CFD for their design, but in contrast they should be using the wind tunnel to verify and improve the CFD software.


No they abandoned the CFD-only approach a couple of years ago


Regards the tires why don’t the FIA or who ever sets the rules just change the rule that states a car must start the race on the tires it qualifys on.

Start on the same compond but allow for a fresh pair for the race. Seeing the pole sitter get consumed once DRS is enabled the last 2 races really makes a mockery of qualifying and made more stupid when they have to pit on lap 4.

‘changing’ the operating window of these tires makes no sense as after a serious attempt to get pole, these tires are useless i.e the compound will still fall apart.

Pirelli appear to be making a snap judgement instead of thinking this thing through with the FIA before making changes.


In Bahrain, Rosberg got “consumed” by Vettel before DRS and then Vettel was able to stay out in clean air and was one of the later stoppers for those starting on their qualifying tires.

The problem in the last 2 races is that the Merc qualifies better than it races.


did I just spell tyres wrong 3 times…. boy am I knackerd.


No you didn’t. Both spelolings are correct. It essentially depends on which country you are from.


Thompson is correct. Maybe the problem is that Pirelli are, as asked, supplying tyres … whilst far too many think they should be supplying tires!


Brilliant podcast as always James. Im a big fan of what you are contributing to the sport with this idea, and of course the website too.

Very fair in regards to staying objective and factual which is refreshing. And I love that there is no British bias on the website. Its much better to hear from Ricciardo and Symmonds on how their season is progressing…. as opposed to the like of sky, they appear to be more interested in what Button and Hamilton had for breakfast.

Top man James. Keep it up.


Excellent podcast and website. It gives a real insight into Formula 1. I download the podcast and listen to it from my phone, walking to college. Improvement: Release podcasts more frequently!


Could this tweek to the tyres be a result of the puppet master at work (berni) as he, Horner and vettle are very “friendly”

Seems a bit unfair on merc, the tyres should be kept unchanged through the season, except in extreme circumstances where safty is involved. I think we may have seen the end of Lewis’ charge on this year’s championship. Now I really hope Ross Brawn and Mercedes find that magic on the rule change next year.

I expect Pirelli to go more and more conservative on tyre allocation as the season progresses, the compound change will hurt merc a lot if that happens because that slightly higher working temp really suited them. Shame, if we can count Lewis out now, let’s hope it helps Fernando more than the Red Bulls.


James thanks for the podcast.

Pat Symonds was very impressive. Wishing them good luck for the rest of the year.

Sky reports that all but a few teams have complained about the tires and Paul says they haven’t. Hmmm.


Really enjoy content so increased frequency would be great or longer podcast! (and) more technical info would be even better such as ramifications of next years rules changes.


Mike from Colombia

Please come back Bridgestone


Don’t be silly, you know you do not mean that…


Please do not come back, Bridgestone

The Pearly Wisdom

If bridgestone were to come back, they could easily produce tyres that suit the specifications the FIA request. It wouldn’t be hard for them to produce a tyre that only lasts a handful of laps.

On the other hand I think Bridgestone would make higher quality tyres and probably wouldn’t be forced to admit they’ve produced an awful tyre that needs replacing

unF1nnished business


If anything bring back Michelin.


I’d vote for GoodYear too, their slick tires made a lot of good races, wore out quick enough, could be overheated and then brought back with one or two cool laps, laid less marbles and had less grip in the slow corners, so cars were a bit tail happy.

Balance between 2 and 3 stoppers or 1 and two stoppers (depends on the track) was just about right: more stops were often just slightly faster, so the risk could pay. They were perfect.


Bring back Goodyear Eagle


Another interesting podcast thanks James.

Toto seems to have stronger expectations now for this year – which as a new boss you would expect. The more I look at that Merc the more realise just how it’s sits back on haunches more than other cars- the angle of the chasis from the driver position to the nose- I think it’s just inherent in the design that it leans slightly more on its rear and utilises stronger aero and suspension tweeks to balance the front. It’s will always be far from more perfect.

Marussias performance gains seems to be the talk atm. Could it be that The Cosworth power plant has improved with greater experience on its return to F1 and not just the introduction of KERS??& disappointing that we are loosing them for 2014.

James Paul Hembrey said little about the durability of the newer tweaked hards. Will there be no change in that dept.?

On Daniel Riciardo – he seems like a nice guy but your focus on him is really surprising James- Im Australian and I just don’t rate him – at all. I would love to say he’s the next big thing but ai very much doubt it. Julie’s Bianci, Charles Pic are two guys we will be hearing alot more about I think.

For Pirelli – why can’t we see an old 2012 Renault chassis with a 2014 test mule Mercedes power unit when available. At least it will give some indication on tyre requirements. It’s worrying that we don’t know if they need bigger rear tyres for 2014.


I started rating Ricciardo since last season. There is real talent in that guy.


Pretty harsh on Dan there Elie, he’s produced some stand out drives in a car that has sadly lacked any substantial development. Him and JEV have done very well in my opinion, and would love to see them getting some laps at practise in Webbers car to get some actual reference vs Vettel.


What is interesting is Hembery saying that the working range of the hard tyre has a lower entry point – that will hurt Mercedes

Most of the others will be advantaged by that, RBR, Lotus, Ferrari.

But interestingly Gillan then says, as a chief engineer you don’t want the tyres changing mid season.


It’s a real shame about F1, these tyres. They have to much influence, and to fumble around with them inseason makes it even worse. It’s a disgrace for a sport formerly known as racing!


Lotus said they suffer with medium compound. I think that’s mainly due to them working on getting into the working range of hard compound.

The change will indeed aid Lotus is getting medium and hard compound work without further compromise.


If the range is greater perhaps also the upper range may increase slightly – there was no mention of it though.

From an engineering perspective I can see where changing compounds mid season just should not happen (it just takes that bit more to adjust to them).”.for better or worse” – one for our friend Joshua above 🙂 – you should save that post – that’s fan support right there !


I download and save to my phone when it is released (android). I usually listen to it on my commute to work, with earphones. I will probably listen to the pod cast 3 times over the next few weeks…. Currently im on my honeymoon so it will difficult to squeeze it in…I feel a long walk to get an ice cream is on the cards.


What are you doing on this site if you are on honeymoon!!

Or have you started as you mean to go on…?


James, that’s what my wife asked me when we were on honeymoon!!!


You’ve got to admire Joshua’s commitment James.


I really enjoy your podcasts. I wouldn’t change a thing. I like that you cover all spectrums of the sport. I listen to it on my computer, iPhone and iPad.

Wilma the Great

Computer is spelled iMac


Only if you’re pretentious….

Anyway, great podcast James, keep em coming.


Toto Wolf has no business commenting on this teams performance untill he actually does something worthwhile himself. He did nothing for the Williams team besides buy his way into F1 and give his wife an elite position and seems to be doing the same at Merc. Shares and politics don’t make a racecar.


Hello Tim!

I find your comment groundless.

Following Toto Wolff’s buying into and subsequent involvement with Williams F1 Racing, the Team showed a steep rise in performance, compared to a number of previous years.

Now that he has moved on to Mercedes F1, Williams has nosedived in terms of competitiveness, just as suddenly and steeply…. Pure coincidence?


You fail to understand that this year’s Williams was built while Toto was in charge and last year’s car was built before he was in charge. If you want to claim that Toto had an impact on the engineering team, it must have been a bad one.

On the other hand I don’t share the optimism of the Mercedes team either. What’s better this year? Nothing! Last year they had already won a Grands Prix and it was nearly a double podium in China 2012 had not Schumacher’s bar broken down. They were also pretty good at qualifying and the car’s hunger for tires in warm conditions has not changed either. It’s all just a little bit of history repeating.


Hey, user!

No, I’d have to say that Mercedes F1’s progress is, a bit, more steady and consistent than last year’s early season showing.

Particularly in qualifying they’ve been, somewhat, more of a threat to the front runners–Red Bull, Ferrari and Lotus, while perpetually in the running for pole on Saturdays.

But, in terms of race pace, your point is well taken. Let’s see how the Spanish Grand Prix pans out, since it’s been announced that Ross Brawn is very impressed with the Team’s new upgrades for Barcelona. I’m banking on an upswing in race form for Mercedes GP in Spain and, even more so, in Monaco….

As for Toto Wolff I think his management insight is, perhaps, where the guy makes a difference. And, of course, we don’t receive much in the way of motor sports press concerning those type operations.

Personally, I’ve read numerous comments written by F1 fans on this

websight bashing the likes of Wolff and Niki Lauda. Incredibly, there seems to be a vast number of petrol heads whose opinions conclude that executive managers overseeing Grand Prix Teams are just taking up space and, for the most part, are plain useless!

However, I think that behind the scenes (in the back of the house) F1 execs (of Lauda’s experience) call quite a few shots and influence race squads direction and overall approach…. From my viewpoint Wolff seems to be having some real success, too!


Hello Wheels!

I find your comment groundless too. Insofar as it is aimed at the wrong person!!!

I said nothing derogatory about Toto whatsoever. In fact I asked the original poster, Eric, what evidence he had to back up his accusation.

I suspect we are in agreement. If you read my reply to Eric you will see it is virtually the same as yours (although I did not read your post first).


Hey, sorry Tim!

My response was definitely aimed at Erik, as what you had to say was spot on! I’m in total agreement with ya’…. Just wires crossed, that’s all.


I am not saying you are wrong, but what evidence do you have that Toto did nothing at Williams?

I thought his reply to the question about his contribution at Mercedes was very modest.


Take a look at Williams’ results in the past few years.. results mean everything in F1.


I don’t wish to labour the point but I asked, politely, what evidence you had that Toto did nothing while at Williams.

Based on your replies, it would appear you only have your opinion, which you then present as if it were a fact.

I don’t know what Toto did while at Williams

(and neither do you) but it’s quite clear that people who do know, rate him highly. As I said FW appointed him as executive director and FW is no fool.

He is now in a similar position at Mercedes, perhaps the Mercedes board don’t have any idea either.

Still as you say, let’s move on 🙂


Yeah, as Frank publicly said Wolf brought youth, and enthusiasm (plus money) to the team. My point is anybody who is young can bring ‘youth’ and ‘enthusiasm’ to a team. I’m 33, maybe I should go run an F1 team because I have youth and enthusiasm, haha. No, in F1 you need more than that and Wolf is no Ron Dennis.

But what is Frank going to say about Wolf? The guy showed up with money and bought into his team when Williams was in dire straits a few years back. What is Frank going to say, that one of his major shareholders, and the guy running the team is doing a bad job? Think about it.. this guy OWNS some of the team, not smart to slag off your owners in public EVEN if they screwed you by going somewhere else. Wolf could be doing the worst job, but Frank would never have said it in public. But the results speak for themselves. If you really think that Wolf made a difference at Williams then just take a look at this year’s Williams car. As we all know an F1 car is designed a year or so in advance, so Wolf was very much entrenched at Williams when this car was made.

When Wolf left Williams, he made sure Frank and the team had to be nice to him in public by keeping his shares in Williams. This is not a move of a racer but of a political animal seeking to rise in the ranks.

Personally I think this guy has a lot to prove before he can be taken seriously in F1. I don’t think Frank has publicly said that he was happy with any performance level in his team, doesn’t matter which year in the last 8 years or so, Wolf or no Wolf. And that’s my point, Wolf made no great difference there so how is he qualified to say how Merc team is doing.

Anyway, moving on.


At the risk of repeating my original question, how do you know what Toto did or didn’t have to do with the upturn in Williams performance?

To be fair, Frank Williams was prepared to make him the chief executive, so he must have thought he brought something to the party.


Yeah, just a coincidence, he had nothing to do with it.


You are completely correct, results are everything in F1.

Williams were in the doldrums for many years and steadily improved their performance once Toto joined the team. Under his leadership they had their first victory in 8 years at Barcelona 2012. Interestingly, the Williams team is now struggling, once again, since he left and moved to Mercedes.

Perhaps it’s just a coincidence 🙂


Great stuff.


Hi James,

Love your podcasts and your site. I personally listen to it as soon as its released that night before bed by downloading to my iphone and listening with earphones so my wife cant annoy me. One thing i would change is the frequency, just double the releases 🙂 ….please.

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