Future-proofing a legacy

It's been more than two decades since Ayrton Senna was tragically killed in the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix, but his legacy is such that he remains synonymous with Brazilians, none more so than when F1 comes to town with the annual jaunt to Interlagos.

Indeed, Brazilians may regard football as their first love and the Rio Olympics are less than a year away now, but the sheer passion of Brazil's motorsport fans will continue to annually blow drivers away.

However, while Brazil currently has the privilege of having two drivers to cheer on in Felipe Massa and Felipe Nasr, the future appears rather bleaker.

Extraordinarily, you have to go back to 1969 for the last time an F1 grid didn't feature a Brazilian driver, but beyond Massa and Nasr, options are looking scarce for one of motorsport's most decorated nations.

In GP2, Brazil's representation is limited to Andre Negrao - 21st in the standings with one round to go -, while Pietro Fantin made nothing more than a solid impression in FR3.5 this year. Even in European Formula 3, the category where so many Brazilian drivers plied their trade over the years, is this year been limited to Serge Camara and Pietro Fittipaldi, son of ex-F1 champion Emerson.

Speaking with local journalists, there is a real sense of concern that Brazil - which over the years has enjoyed a deep pool of both racing talent and generous sponsors - will slip off the grid.

This isn't a situation unique to Brazil though. Other traditional motorsport nations are struggling to discover the next generation, with few notable newcomers emerging from Italy, Germany and Australia at the moment either.

Still, not all is lost. There is a particular buzz around the second of Nelson Piquet's sons - Pedro - who has dominated the Brazilian F3 Championship for the past two seasons and will head to Europe in 2016. However, while he is certainly going to have some prominent backing behind him, any F1 future seems a few years away yet... can Brazil wait that long?

Love Me Tender

The FIA continues to forge ahead with its plans to develop and introduce a new 'customer' engine platform for the 2017 season with the official launch of a tender to supply.

Indeed, while engine manufacturers had adopted a fairly dismissive tone of the plans in Mexico when it was first announced, the talk in Brazil was somewhat more defiant with many arguing that equalising two engine specifications cannot be done (even though it has in the past).

With the deadline for interest set to just 23rd November, there isn't much 'umming and erring' being permitted amongst potential applicants. Still, a handful of potential parties have been identified, most notably Cosworth and Ilmor, while Zytek and AER have the prowess for such technology too.

So which teams would potentially go ahead and use such an engine? Red Bull (and thus Toro Rosso) has already signalled its interest over any such engine and any Ilmor involvement would surely work in their favour given its collaboration in developing the current Renault power unit. Since word in the paddock suggests Red Bull could use an unbranded (but possibly Ilmor tweaked) Renault engine next year, you can imagine which 'independent' company the team will be crossing its fingers for.

Sauber's Monisha Kaltenborn has been rather cautious over the proposal but has repeatedly made her feelings clear about the price of engines enough to assume the Swiss team would be a likely recipient. Similarly, Manor may have a strong engine in Mercedes now, but would probably rather have the money saved from using the customer engine going forward.

Force India, meanwhile, may be persuaded to stay with what it is has given the plans to get Aston Martin (which has a stake owned by Mercedes) and Johnnie Walker involved, while Williams would have stakeholder Toto Wolff to persuade if it wanted to deviate from Mercedes.

Indeed, while Wolff has sceptically dismissed the proposal as simply a way for Jean Todt and Bernie Ecclestone to satisfy their individual agendas, the tone from the top of the sport remains very matter of fact. Whilst there are more than a few hurdles to overcome before this 'dual-engine' formula becomes a reality, it is becoming increasingly apparent that this isn't simply a bluff to get manufacturers to act...

Once bitten, twice shy

Not always a driver renowned for his sense of humour, Fernando Alonso's antics following yet another breakdown during qualifying for the Brazilian Grand Prix may have raised a few laughs and prompted a very amusing meme (take a look at the #PlacesAlonsoWouldRatherBe hashtag on Twitter), but joking aside there remains a serious undercurrent.

Indeed, if McLaren's reliability issues have been repetitive, so have the words coming from Alonso. He maintains he is committed to the team and whilst this is still seemingly the case, his mantra in recent races has been clear - 'We must learn from mistakes'.

As obvious as this statement is, the frequency with which he has said it in recent races is indicative of the message he is sending to McLaren and Honda.

Indeed, there is no tone of exasperation or desperation in his voice simply because, with two races to go and no step forward in reliability, there is seemingly little use in venting now. All he can do now is urge improvements.

Alonso may be resigned to accepting his 2015 fate, but it's hard to believe he will be giggling his way through a race weekend in 12 months' time if things don't improve significantly. Given the incremental gains over the course of the year, few outside the team believe it can bridge the 2.5secs chasm in the winter. In fact, many believe just getting amongst the likes of Red Bull and Williams is still more than a year away.

McLaren has been largely fortunate to keep Alonso and Button on side this year, the pair repeatedly throwing their support behind both it and Honda (despite the odd ill-informed radio message), but while there is little doubt the team is working tirelessly to find solutions, if the same problems keep repeating, it'll be more than just engines (and reputation) the team will lose...

 

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