Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Driver Market Update

With the 2013 season over, focus will now shift to the evolving driver market and any news that the teams feed out about their 2014 challengers or sponsorship deals. As covered in my previous blog posts, changes at the top have filtered down through the lower teams, triggered by Mark Webber's retirement and Ferrari signing Kimi Raikkonen to replace Felipe Massa. Here is a look at each teams 2014 line up, and the rumours for the 6 spots currently vacant...

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

2013 Season Close

The 2013 season came to a close on Sunday in spectacular fashion and a record breaking result for Sebastian Vettel, Heikki Kovalainen and Max Chilton. For Vettel, 9 wins in a row really demonstrated the strangle hold that both he and the Red Bull team had over the current regulation package. The change of regulations next year could not have been timed better for this reason, and the action will certainly be closer throughout 2014 as teams adjust and adapt. There is a chance that the viewers may also have some adapting of their own, with some rather unsightly nose concepts emerging. 

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Raikkonen and Lotus

News emerged on Sunday that Kimi Raikkonen would be ending the 2013 season prematurely, in order to carry out surgery on a back issue that nearly sidelined him at Singapore. It comes just 1 week after threatening to walk away from the season over a financial dispute, and will have left Eric Boullier with quite the headache having believed the pay issue was sorted. As far as Kimi Raikkonen sees it, the season has been over for a while with Sebastian Vettel dominating the later half of the season and comfortably sealing his 4th World Championship. Lotus are however still locked in a scrap with Mercedes and Ferrari for the runner up spot, which would see a great financial reward for the team if they were able to perform well in the United States and Brazil. Lotus are currently 26 points adrift of Ferrari in third and a further 11 points behind Mercedes, and were therefore relying on their star driver to score big in the final 2 races, along with current team mate Romain Grosjean.

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Daniil Kvyat

Within the Formula 1 paddock, 2014 is going to look substantially different to how it does today. The regulations have had one of the largest changes from year to year in the history of the sport, and Mark Webber's move away from the Red Bull Racing team to Le Mans has prompted many changes in driver lineups also. Daniel Ricciardo's promotion to Webber's vacant seat left at least one space at the Toro Rosso team, and it was believed that seat would be taken by Antonio Felix Da Costa, the most senior of the Red Bull development drivers. The news instead broke that relatively unknown driver (though still part of the Red Bull development program) Daniil Kvyat has instead landed the promotion.

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Red Bull, Lets Race

Apologies for updating this blog as much as I would like lately, and this is also a compressed post. More soon!

Since the August break, Red Bull have been dominating every race weekend. Our TV coverage has also started to include thermal imaging cameras aimed at the tyres and calibrated to show the temperatures across the contact patch. Gary Anderson has analysed footage of the Red Bull lapping in Korea to assess why the Red Bull is currently a cut above the rest of the field.


It has been no secret for the last couple of years that Red Bull angle their car rake to be lower at the front, but it seems they have found a way to run the car even lower without rubbing away too much of the plank under the car.

One of the reasons for such a short supply of blogs lately, I am in the process of moving home and also writing some other blogs for Lets Race. I have been working here nearly 3 years now as a race instructor, but recently I have also been writing some posts for their own website blog. Of course anything relevant will be posted onto here as well (some posts have already been transferred the other way!) but keep an eye on out as other members of staff add their own posts to the blog also.


Monday, 7 October 2013

Drivers Facing The Contract Weighting Game

The Korean Grand Prix hosted many fierce topics of discussion throughout this weekend, with more details unravelling surrounding the 2014 Championship, the Grand Prix Drivers Association meeting on Thursday night and such an incident packed race on Sunday. With the remainder of the 2013 Championship looking like a Vettel / Red Bull victory parade, most attention has moved onto next year, the extended calendar, the vast rule changes and the driver lineups as well.

Thursday, 26 September 2013

Sebastian Vettel - Villain?

There was very little talk about the Singapore Grand Prix immediately following the race. In a season of Sebastian Vettel dominance, even his greatest performance yet went seemingly unnoticed. From Saturday morning, those watching the remainder of the weekend were looking forward to the race for second position. Nico Rosberg was the closest to derailing the Vettel train, both in the final moments of qualifying and at the race start. On both occasions it was the unfazed Vettel who remained leading the field, and carried on hoping that no one had seen the slight chink in the armour.

Now leading the world championship by 60 points it looks increasingly like Vettel will be winning his 4th consecutive title, a feat matched only by Juan Manuel Fangio and Michael Schumacher. It is clear that in 20 years we will be comparing his name amongst the greats on message boards arguing over the greatest driver in Formula 1 history. The only doubt that remains is the number of championships he will win throughout the remainder of his career, along with the other numbers and statistics that Vettel craves. So if we as the motorsport fans are witnessing one of Formula One's greatest drivers in his prime, then why is he subject to such intense booing throughout his podium celebrations?

The reasoning behind the booing changes depending on who you talk to. Some point blame at his domination which to some makes F1 boring these days, others to the incident in Malaysia earlier this year and his treatment within Red Bull Racing. Others will simply just join in with atmosphere around the podium regardless of personal belief on the young German. I feel it would all stop with 1 change though - who he is driving for.

I watched Formula One through the Schuamcher years, domination again at the pinnacle of motorsport. A younger me didn't fully appreciate what I was watching at the time, it was just boring watching the same driver win every race and of course doing so for Ferrari. The difference was that everytime he took to the top step of the podium for his well practiced Schumacher leap, there were only resonations of cheering, screams and air horns from the crowd. There were anomalies to this trend, only when he had only himself to blame though for one of the many controversies throughout his career. Had he driven for another team though? I would be much happier watching all of those "boring" races back again in full had Schumacher been winning for McLaren. I'm sure the Tifosi would be booing their own displeasure each time however, resoundingly so following those large controversies.

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Singapore Grand Prix Preview

This weekend sees the Formula 1 circus begin its second flyaway leg of the 2013 season, and one of my favourite races - the Singapore Grand Prix. Since the introduction of a night race onto the calendar, the sight of the Formula 1 cars sending sparks flying from every bump in the road surface, the exhausts firing blue flames during the braking zones, and the immaculate paint schemes intensified by the powerful lights that illuminate the circuit has highlighted the art in motion of Formula 1. High downforce is back after the bare minimum placed on the cars at Monza, and so Lewis Hamilton will be looking to pick up where he left off in Hungary, the last high downforce circuit raced, and to take the maximum points in order to keep his slim championship hopes alive.

The Singapore Grand Prix is a tricky race for the strategists along the grid, with a variety of options open to the teams, and a high amount of luck required to take the victory after 61 laps of this gruelling street race. The time lost completing a pit stop is the largest of the season so expect those who can complete the race with a pit stop less than their rivals to prosper, especially Lotus on early season form. Amongst other concerns for those trying to piece the perfect race strategy together is the chance that the safety car will be deployed, having been required a total of 8 times within the 5 races held here. The most prominent example of the effect that the safety car has upon the strategies of the drivers took place at the inaugural Singapore Grand Prix, where Nelson Piquet Jnr's Renault crashed now infamously at the exit of turn 17, handing the lead of the race (and subsequently the race victory) to team mate Fernando Alonso having pitted earlier than usual for fresh tyres and fuel. This later turned out to be scripted coincidence, and thus tarnished the reputations of the team, drivers, and Team Principles alike.

Despite the race being run during the night time, the humidity and temperatures are still some of the highest recorded in the season, and can cause the drivers to lose up to 3Kg of fluid within the race duration. Coupled with the bumpy nature of the road surface, and the concentration levels required when the circuit is lined with concrete walls to punish even the slightest mistake, the Singapore Grand Prix is one of the most physically exerting races of the season. 2 drivers in particular thrive around this circuit, with both Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso taking victory twice each, and between them having led nearly two thirds of all laps raced in the history of the Singapore Grand Prix. Lewis Hamilton is the only other driver to have won at this circuit, and looked in control of the race last year before retiring due to gearbox troubles in his McLaren. He was also in contention for the win back in 2010, but a collision with Mark Webber at Memorial Corner caused another retirement from a strong position yet again.

Friday, 13 September 2013

Raikkonen, GP2 & GP3

Formula One's worst kept secret has unravelled itself this week, with Kimi Raikkonen joining Ferrari in place of Felipe Massa, and alongside Fernando Alonso. It proves to raise some major talking points throughout 2014, chief among which is the atmosphere within the team raised by two such high profile drivers. It is ironic that Ferrari paid Kimi Raikkonen to stay at home in 2010 so that they could bring in Fernando Alonso to lead the team, and in 2014 have paid Kimi Raikkonen to return as equal. Fernando Alonso has claimed he is happy with the decision by Ferrari, but I wonder how long for. Head to head, the majority favour Fernando Alonso to be faster, and they have both shown consistency in nearly always claiming high points tallies at every race. The true acid test will be the first time Kimi Raikkonen is ahead on the road. As we saw in Italy, Fernando is used to his team mate braking some 50 metres early for a corner when he approaches. That will not happen now that he has an equal, the first time since 2007. Eddie Jordan thinks that things will get so bad for Fernando Alonso that he will leave the team at the end of 2014, despite stating his intention to run out his contract to 2016. Eddie Jordan's prediction for which team he will join ahead of 2015? "McLaren - Honda". It has been 6 years since he so visually fell out with the McLaren team, after claims that Ron Dennis assured him of number 1 status within the team before he signed the contract. The world of Formula 1 changes a lot over a year though, especially with the new engine regulations coming in next season, so there may be much better options for Fernando Alonso available should he wish to leave.

With the news of the Formula 1 world this week, the feeder series have somewhat been forgotten about despite both championships seeing changes in the championship order. Both Fabio Leimer and Sam Bird have taken a grip of the championship in the last couple of races, with a string of pole positions for the latter and Leimer coming back strong from his 2 weekends of not scoring points. The pair drove away at the front with only Tom Dillmann able to match their pace. The win ultimately came down to strategy, with a difference at the top of 0.8 seconds at the end. Looking back on the result, Sam Bird may have taken top spot had he pitted a couple of laps earlier and changed only 2 tyres or at least stayed on primes. Again using hindsight Bird probably had eyes on Sunday's sprint race and getting the options used, and can't be faulted for coming so close to stealing the victory at the end. Their championship rivals had a shocking weekend, with Nasr's worst qualifying result on a weekend he needed to regain the consistency from pre Belgium. Coletti has not scored any points since the feature race in Germany, and so it will be gutting for him to throw a good position away due to a penalty for speeding in the pitlane. His only saving grace would be in the form of Nasr's transmission failure later in the race and again from within the points paying positions. It capped a difficult race for Carlin in the teams championship, as Jolyon Palmer also retired from a points position because his left rear tyre was not fitted properly at his pitstop. Sergio Canamassas and Johnny Cecotto Jnr had a scrappy duel in an otherwise calm GP2 feature race.

The sprint race largely fell the same way, with Adrian Quaife-Hobbs jumping to the lead immediately and controlling his gap back to second to victory. The combination of the slow starting Alexander Rossi and James Calado stalling from third bunched the field up into turn 1, but it all stayed relatively clean in the field. Sam Bird got a fantastic start to challenge for third at turn 1, but at the cost of Stephane Richelmi who took front wing damage when he ran out of space. Though much better than the GP3 drivers, the field still seem to squeeze each other too much and not allow the space for one another to race. Coletti and Nasr again struggled but gave the spectators good entertainment fighting through the field and swapping positions throughout the race. There are 2 weekends remaining in Singapore and Abu Dhabi, and my prediction is that Sam Bird will take the championship. He is in tune with the GP2 car again after racing in Formula Renault 3.5 last season. He is scoring highly and consistently, so should secure the 7 extra points other Fabio Leimer to take the title. Stefano Coletti has relied heavily on his early season form, and recently hasn't looked like a championship contender. Davide Valsechhi similarly scored a majority of his points tally in the early races, but was consistent enough over the second part to win the championship. Felipe Nasr has had that consistency up to Belgium, but without winning races it was also going to be a tall order to win the championship itself. His hands are now tied and he will need to get aggressive if he wants to fight back from 29 points back.

The GP3 racing was far more chaotic, with a number of large collisions and incidents throughout the weekend. Race 1 started in hectic fashion, with Dino Zamperelli experiencing suspected brake knock and running into team mate Tio Ellinas. In the aftermath, Ellinas and championship contender Connor Daly retired on the spot along with Dino Zamperelli and Robert Visoiu. The fast starting Carlos Sainz Jnr was also spun to the tail of the field, providing the crowd and fans to a spectacular recovery drive to claim 2 points. His drive was second only to Daniil Kyvat, who took maximum points for pole, the win and fastest race lap, and never looked in doubt throughout. Facu Regalia gave himself a decent 3rd to keep his consistent run going, and Alexander Sims has really impressed since joining Carlin in Belgium. He may have only raced 3 weekends in GP3 this season, but he is already 10th in the standings and looks likely to finish higher after the races in Abu Dhabi.

In the second race, the accidents and collisions once again took centrefold as a few drivers misjudged the space required for a GP3 car. It began on the grid, with Patric Niederhauser stalling in pole position. Niederhauser has failed to match the performance he showed at the very first round in Spain, and the pressure showed when provided the perfect opportunity to capitalise on a decent Saturday performance. Alex Fontana was the unlucky driver who ran into him after being blindsighted by an opponent, who avoided Niederhauser at the last moment. There were more first corner retirements, this time the Marussia Manor car of Ryan Cullen missed his braking point and collected Giovanni Venturini, removing both from the race on the spot. The tussling at the front was spectacular racing once again however and showed the best of what GP3 has to offer. Jack Harvey won the race in similar fashion to Daniil Kyvat's race 1 victory. It was Kyvat himself that put Harvey under pressure across the line, completing a scintilating drive from 8th on the grid to a very close run second place. There is a long break before the final races in Abu Dhabi, but Kyvat may have hoped there were a lot sooner given his run of momentum. He needs 8 points more than the consistent Facu Regalia and it looks like the championship will go right to the wire as it did last season. The teams championship however has been sealed by ART Grand Prix, some consolation after expecting to be front runners in GP2. Other noteworthy performances came from Kevin Korjus and Lewis Williamson, moving to 3rd and 11th in the drivers championship respectively.

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

"Silly" Season?

With Ferrari set to announce their driver line-up for 2014 this week, the picture will start to be set for some of the other teams within F1 as well. Some seasons see very little change at either end of the grid, and certainly within the top teams there has been a stability for a number of years. The obvious exception being Lewis Hamilton's move last season to Mercedes. Like then, the rumour mill has started early when Mark Webber announced his F1 retirement to race for Porsche in the ALMS. A seat being vacated within the best team currently tends to link everyone with that seat, and why not - arguably, Red Bull could have signed whoever they liked given their domination in recent years. They opted for Ricciardo despite the interest of Kimi Raikkonen, and if you believe the hype around the paddock in Belgium, Fernando Alonso. Personally I am glad they have placed their confidence within their own development program. After all, that is where Sebastian Vettel himself was selected all those years ago.

The anouncement of Daniel Ricciardo has left the other drivers with some work to do however. As a driver, you don't get linked to another team so heavily without some kind of discussion taking place. Lotus know they have a very valuable driver in Kimi Raikkonen, and will do well to keep him in the team for as long as possible. He has been clear about what he wants from the team, in a stable financial future after a late payment of his salary earlier in the year. They have since secured some more financial backing, but Kimi of course is yet to decide whether it is enough. In Ferrari however, the fallout from their star driver trying to forge a deal at their championship rivals is somewhat heavier. No driver is bigger than the team, and it is the Ferrari family that decide when they are finished with you. You only have to look back to 2009 for the last instance of this, when they paid Kimi Raikkonen €17Million not to race in Formula 1.

This turmoil within the Ferrari team leads into the situation over the Italian Grand Prix weekend, and it could not have been timed any worst for them. Luca Di Montezemolo always makes an appearance to watch over preceedings, but the last thing he would want to be dealing with is lead driver Alonso's apparent flirtation with Red Bull. Felipe Massa cannot be forgotten about in the team dynamics either, and once again the Italian Grand Prix is the worst race to find out about potentially losing your job. Since 2011, Felipe Massa has compromised his qualifying to boost Fernando Alonso chances of pole position. There are few drivers on the grid willing to do this, but if it means staying with Ferrari another year then Massa complies. For this reason, Alonso is one of Massa's main supporters within the Ferrari team. Suddenly Massa needs to prove his worth again, and in qualifying we saw again the slipstreaming technique fail for the team. I'm unsure whether Massa did his job sufficiently to benefit Alonso, but the mood around the team after was apparent. Andrea Stella told Ted Kravitz not to even try to approach Luca Di Montezemolo for an interview, but he did notice the one smiling Ferrari employee at that time to be Rob Smedley. Massa had just outqualified Alonso in a straight duel, in front of every team in the paddock, the tifosi, and Di Montezemolo himself.

And so to the 2014 line-up at Ferrari. It is now almost certain to be Fernando Alonso partnering Kimi Raikkonen in one of the strongest line-ups seen in Formula 1. It will be an incredible year finding out just who is the fastest driver in the same car, and without a definitive lead driver in the team. Alonso won't be so keen on the situation however, and a few weeks ago his opinion would have been valued with Luca Di Montezemolo come driver decision time. There was talk of Fernando Alonso being so unhappy with this situation that he would take a sabatical from F1, but that was always unlikely, as seen in 2008 when he joined another team outside of the championship fight to drive for instead. Kimi Raikkonen joining Ferrari means a vacancy at Lotus, and they are in better form than when he was driving for them in 2008 and 2009.

Should the Ferrari line-up be as expected it leaves a vacancy at Lotus and Felipe Massa with a drive to find. Lotus need a good development driver to partner Romain Grosjean, and have a good selection of drivers who would be happy to drive a race winning car. Massa has improved this year and would be a good fit, but Nico Hulkenberg will be leading the way having also been rumoured at a shot of the Ferrari drive alongside Alonso. I would like to see Davide Valsecchi given the opportunity though, having won the official F1 feeder series and served as development driver to Lotus throughout 2013. Pastor Maldonado has also been linked with Lotus given his financial backing, but hope that is the only link.

The gaps emerging at the top teams will see the lower teams empty of drivers, though in the case of Sauber it looks like they will have a line-up of Esteban Gutierrez and Sergey Sirotkin regardless. Sirotkin has had a decent year in Formula Renault 3.5, but the deal is surely based on finances secured for Sauber. After a fantastic 2012 for the team, they now seem on the same slippery slope as Williams who have survived the financial crisis it seems, but do not have the car to challenge even for points. I hoped that would change after the race win and points haul of 2012, but it was not to be. The vacancy at Toro Rosso will most likely be filled by Antonio Felix Da Costa, who deserves the seat from last year if not his current season, where expectations were so high. McLaren will surely have the same line-up after only mildly flirting with Kimi Raikkonen's salary demands, and having only given Perez 1 year to perform at the top. The rest of the teams will be kept waiting as to who is left looking for a seat next year.

Monday, 9 September 2013

2013 Italian Grand Prix Review

The Italian Grand Prix was dominated by Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull Racing, 2 weeks after doing so at the Belgian Grand Prix as well. These are the 2 races pinpointed in the season where Red Bull are expected to struggle given the high speed nature of the circuits, but instead a clear message has been sent to their rivals that they are sealing the championships as soon as possible. Though his points lead is not quite what it was in 2011, the trends are now the same with Vettel firmly taking the championship reigns and securing a 53 point lead over nearest rival Alonso, and seemingly invincible within the RB9 on whatever circuit and given any circumstance.

Fernando Alonso rescued second position today, as it seemed as though Mark Webber would have completed the Red Bull Racing 1-2 had he not been nursing his gearbox and transmission towards the end of the race. It was Alonso's move around the outside of Webber earlier in the race that allowed him to claim second position however, as he bravely clung onto the single cars width afforded to him by Webber entering the Variante della Roggia. From there he was forceful on the exit and wrestled the track position away from his close friend.

Felipe Massa made a very good account for himself throughout the weekend, though not as stunning as Nico Hulkenberg who finished behind him in 5th. Monza is a tough circuit to find time around, and a lot depends on the setup selected, including the Monza specific parts brought to the circuit. This is a strong indication to potential employers of the technical strengths of the drivers, in providing good feedback to the engineers and extracting the maximum performance from the car provided. Another good comparison of the setups employed by all of the teams can be seen looking at the speed trap readings from the qualifying session:

Daniel Ricciardo
Toro Rosso-Ferrari
340.4 km/h (211.5 mph)

Esteban Gutiérrez
340.0 km/h (211.2 mph)

Jean-Éric Vergne
Toro Rosso-Ferrari
339.8 km/h (211.1 mph)

Max Chilton
338.6 km/h (210.3 mph)

Jules Bianchi
338.6 km/h (210.3 mph)

Felipe Massa
338.4 km/h (210.2 mph)

Fernando Alonso
338.3 km/h (210.2 mph)

Lewis Hamilton
338.1 km/h (210 mph)

Nico Rosberg
337.8 km/h (209.8 mph)

Kimi Räikkönen
337.8 km/h (209.8 mph)

Romain Grosjean
337.1 km/h (209.4 mph)

Pastor Maldonado
336.8 km/h (209.2 mph)

Valtteri Bottas
336.4 km/h (209 mph)

Mark Webber
Red Bull-Renault
336.3 km/h (208.9 mph)

Sebastian Vettel
Red Bull-Renault
336.1 km/h (208.8 mph)

Nico Hülkenberg
335.7 km/h (208.5 mph)

Jenson Button
331.8 km/h (206.1 mph)

Sergio Pérez
331.6 km/h (206 mph)

Giedo van der Garde
330.1 km/h (205.1 mph)

Charles Pic
329.8 km/h (204.9 mph)

Adrian Sutil
Force India-Mercedes
327.2 km/h (203.3 mph)

Paul di Resta
Force India-Mercedes
326.8 km/h (203 mph)

All of the teams are paired throughout the table, with some teams clearly seeking a higher top speed to compensate lack of confidence in the corners. The only exception though is the Sauber drivers, appearing to run with different gear ratios and / or aerodynamic settings, allowing Esteban Gutierrez to run 4.3km/h faster. Overall it is clear that although the teams are in pursuit of absolute maximum straight line speed around Monza, there is still a balance to be made with the setup. Different teams made different strategies work so there is a case arguing for each. Given Red Bull's domination of the race, it is surprising to find them down in 14th and 15th in the speed trap, whilst the Marussia's saw little benefit in being 4th and 5th fastest along the straights.

Mercedes had a weekend to forget about, with Lewis Hamilton struggling to recover from a poor qualifying session and Nico Rosberg unable to extract the same performance as Hamilton during the race. We saw plenty of action from Lewis Hamilton passing people, and it was a shame that he was rewarded only 2 points for the entertainment. Rosberg finished in 6th, where he started the race. Lewis Hamilton started the year not even expecting wins, but he will still be disappointed that his championship aspirations are now over for 2013. Rosberg will hope to recapture some of his early season form ahead of 2014, and having won Monaco he may have a good chance at Singapore, much likened to the Monaco circuit.

Toro Rosso had a good weekend, and challenged once again to be best of the rest behind the top 4 teams and ahead of McLaren. Jean-Eric Vergne kept up with Daniel Ricciardo through the sessions until he suffered a transmission failure on lap 15. There were no team statements about potential driver line-ups, but Vergne is showing why he deserves a seat in F1 at the right time of the season. The superior straight line speed worked well in Toro Rosso's race trim, as they were able to keep the McLaren cars behind despite the use of DRS. Both Jenson Button and Sergio Perez looked set up to qualify higher and not rely on overtaking during the race. That or they were just not expecting to come across cars with such high straight line speed. They have challenged for the win in Italy every year since 2005, so it really highlights the difficulty McLaren have had in understanding the MP4-28.

Further back Lotus had a very disappointing race, and Kimi Raikkonen's run of consistency has dried up spectacularly. He is nearly 100 points adrift in 4th, a disappointment given they were the first team to understand the 2013 Pirelli compounds. With the change in the structure of the tyres they will struggle to add more wins this year,  and the focus from the media is now on who Raikkonen will drive for in 2014. Esteban Gutierrez has not been on the same pace as Nico Hulkenberg all year, but was even further off the pace in Monza. It could be argued that Hulkenberg drove beyond the limitations of the car, whilst Gutierrez matched expectations. It still remains though that in Hulkenberg, Sauber have a driver of talent who can be relied on to always at least get the best out of the car, if not more. Williams once again finished in a field of their own ahead of the Caterham / Marussia scrap and still not on pace with their midfield rivals. Saubers points haul means they need a spectacular result to move up to 8th in the constructors championship. Force India had an even worse Italian Grand Prix however, with a double retirement at either end of the race. The weekend was already going badly however, qualifying 14th and 16th, and also being the slowest cars through the speed trap meant overtaking would always be near impossible. The only positive is that McLaren failed to score any points as well and are still only 5 points ahead in the constructors championship.

Finally at the back of the field, and the Caterham drivers once again beat the Marussia pairing. In qualifying there was a gulf of 1.2 seconds between Giedo van der Garde and Valterri Bottas in 18th. The gap has been smaller in recent races, but the aero efficiency required around here penalises those teams whose downforce comes with higher levels of drag. Max Chilton was much closer to Jules Bianchi in Monza than through the rest of the season, and this was by far his best performance of his short career so far. Charles Pic would eventually triumph over van der Garde, but the Marussia's were close to utilising their straight line advantage at one stage of the race. We don't often see the battle for the last 4 positions, but at the point they were lapped by the leaders the 4 cars were all within the same camera shot.

Next up is Singapore in 2 weeks time, and by then Ferrari should have announced their driver line-up, revealing more of the shape of the 2014 F1 grid.

Friday, 6 September 2013

2013 Italian Grand Prix Preview

The final European Grand Prix of 2013 approaches this weekend which means that all eyes will be on the Ferrari team. Fernando Alonso returned to form at the Belgian Grand Prix, rising from 9th on the grid to finish in second position. His drive was trumped only by Sebastian Vettel, who was in imperious form all weekend once again and now looks well on the way towards championship number 4. Alonso is still his closest challenger, but will need to start beating Vettel soon to reduce his 46 point lead with 8 rounds remaining. But it isn't just Alonso that needs to finish ahead of Vettel more consistently, he will need Vettel's run of consistency to run dry as well. Apart from retiring from the lead of the British Grand Prix, Vettel's worst finish has been 4th place and that has only occurred twice.

With the Tifosi watching on expectantly, it will also be a vital race for Felipe Massa and his future. He started only 1 position behind Alonso at Belgium, but could only finish a distant 7th position. At the start of this season it looked like the Massa of old had returned, and pressuring Alonso on qualifying pace. He has slipped back after his retirement in the Monaco grand prix however and has had some mediocre races recently. The Ferrari team need him to start taking points away from Vettel, and they will need to hope that the cars pace in Belgium was not just a flash in the pan also. The team have been vocal of the improvements expected from him, but that was the same last year as well. It worked then as his results did improve, but I believe that there is a more realistic threat this year. The rule changes for 2014 mean that the cars will have very different characteristics, and so the introduction of a new driver to a team will be a reduced risk. The once vacant Red Bull seat now to be taken by Daniel Ricciardo could also spark a flurry of deals. Felipe Massa will not want to be without another option if Ferrari want to take the risk.

There is no other circuit on the calendar like Monza. There is often talk throughout a Grand Prix weekend of aerodynamic compromise taken by each team / driver. Belgium is a high speed track where a low downforce setup can work due to the long straights, and for that reason it has similarities with the Italian Grand Prix. Monza however is not a circuit of compromises due to the large number of straights, connected by high speed corners and chicanes. All of the teams will have unique aerodynamic updates to optimise top speed, which on any other circuit would render the car too slow through higher downforce sections. Mercedes had parts from this low downforce package for the race in Belgium, but the team struggled all weekend to find the right balance. They have therefore made changes to the package ahead of the race to try to improve the stability of the aerodynamics. It will be interesting to see whether the updates allow Lewis Hamilton to fight for victory and keep his slim championship hopes alive.

Behind the front runners, McLaren are celebrating their 50th anniversary within F1 and will hope that the improved form at Belgium remains. Jenson Button was able to qualify in 6th, his best result of the season, and finished the race in 6th also. Without peculiar events befalling his rivals, he was able to beat both a Ferrari and a Lotus on the road and without taking a pitstop less. Sergio Perez's eventful weekend may have masked whether the car has improved or Button had a good weekend despite the slower car. McLaren have now overtaken Force India in the constructors championship, and realistically must now target staying there. On an individual race basis, getting a podium is the target for the remainder of the season and the Italian Grand Prix currently represents the most likely setting for this to occur.

Having lost 5th in the constructors championship, Force India need to get on top of the new tyres quickly. The start of their season was exceptional as they were able to fight at the sharp end of the grid and the change of tyres has clearly affected them more than any other team on the grid. They had a tough decision in replacing Nico Hulkenberg, and Adrian Sutil has done a very good job of doing so. The Italian Grand Prix sees James Calado join the team as reserve driver and will get an outing in Friday practice also.

Looking to the tail end of the grid, Williams will be hoping to add to their first 2013 point scored by Pastor Maldonado at Belgium. Despite having another dreadful season reminiscent of 2011, they are only 6 points behind Sauber and can realistical challenge them for 8th in the constructors championship. Toro Rosso however now have a comfortable 7th, and the pressure of Daniel Ricciardo's future now secured with Red Bull. Jean Eric Vergne has been verbal about his displeasure in not being considered for the Red Bull seat at all, and so will need good results to keep his seat. Helmut Marko is a known advocate for using the Toro Rosso team to give rookie drivers a chance within F1 machinery. Alguersuari and Buemi each only got 2 seasons within Toro Rosso, and Vergne himself is also in that second year. If his saving grace is not his performances however, he will look to the current Red Bull development program drivers and see only Antonio Felix Da Costa realistically at a level of reaching Formula 1 in 2014. It would also be ideal for the team to have an experienced driver in alongside Da Costa, having paired rookies during their debut seasons.

At the very tail of the field, the usual suspects have quietly been getting closer to the single lap pace of the midfield teams. Marussia started the stronger of the teams on race pace, but a lack of upgrades compared with Caterham have seen them fall behind significantly. The efforts of Jules Bianchi however have not gone unnoticed, often providing an extra half a second to bring the team closer to where they want to be. Jules has stated that he would like another year to develop within the Marussia team, but given the way that Ferrari operates he could be in line to replace Felipe Massa if they decide they need to. The Caterham team are currently last in the constructors championship and need to beat the 13th position Bianchi achieved in Malaysia. Kovalainen is back in the fold to help them achieve this, but currently they are still too far off the pace. As long as they keep beating the Marussia drivers, they will then be best placed if a race of high attrition occurs. Monza is tough on engines and we usually see a couple go during the race, but they may have to wait for Singapore instead.

Wednesday, 4 September 2013


Welcome to my first blog post!

I have been a huge fan of Motor Racing from a very young age, especially Formula 1 though I follow any series available to watch on my TV package. My Dad has been a Ferrari fan since he himself was 11, and so of course I followed McLaren. Who listens to their parents when they are kids anyway? Who I support within other series changes as I tend to look out for the drivers expected to reach Formula 1.

I aim to use this blog to discuss views on all aspects of Formula 1, from the main news stories to the technical components / updates of the cars themselves (where possible!). I will also try to mention other motor racing series as well, which get forgotten about without the celebrity hype adorning them and despite often providing some of the best racing to be found.

Everything within this blog is not compiled using any insider knowledge or rumours, but purely from my own opinions and experience of Motor Racing having followed it closely for the last 16 years.

I hope you enjoy reading these posts as much as I enjoy writing about my favourite sport!

Perry Brown