APRIL 17, 2007
Now is the time when the axe will swing
With the first three Grands Prix out of the way and the teams now settling in back home in Europe, there is time to assess the first three races and it is a traditional time of year for the first changes to be seen in the structure of teams that are not doing very well.
This year all eyes are on Honda Racing F1 where there is expected to be a reshuffle in the technical management in the days ahead. It is not yet clear who is going to go where but it is probably significant that chief race engineer Craig Wilson was not in Bahrain, rumours suggesting that he has already been redeployed to a new role to try to coordinate technical development of the cars.
Wilson is an Imperial College-trained aeronautical engineer who started his racing career as a vehicle dynamicist at Paul Stewart Racing, where he worked closely with the Ford Motor Company, including spending several months on secondment to Ford in the United States. He later moved to Tyrrell where he worked with Harvey Postlethwaite until deciding to move to Williams in 1998 where he worked as race engineer with Heinz-Harald Frentzen and Ralf Schumacher before being lured away to BAR to work with Jenson Button in 2003.
Jacky Eeckelaert is also expected to move into a more active role at the race tracks, his background being in the practical aspects of race engineering.
There is also speculation about what happens higher up the management ladder. There are some who argue that Nick Fry will be axed but the problem is one of technical management and as Fry was not the man who made the decisions when Geoff Willis was dropped, he cannot really be blamed for that. The man who may be feeling the heat at the moment is Shuhei Nakamoto, the team's senior technical director since the departure of Willis. Nakamoto has been with the Honda F1 programme since 2002 and is very well-connected in Japan, being a close friend of Honda president Takeo Fukui, the two men having worked closely together in motorcycle racing in the 1980s and 1990s.
There seems to be a fair amount of political movement at the moment as a result of all this and it will be interesting to see what changes occur.
Whatever the case, the performance of the Honda is going to take some time to fix. Some say it will take modifications to the chassis.
The other team worth watching at the moment is Renault, where there are similar problems of performance and where there may also need to be changes made to the chassis.
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