F1

Susie Wolff a Role Model For Future Generations

Yesterday morning the motorsport world woke up to the news that Williams test driver Susie Wolff would retire from the sport at the end of the year. Whilst this may not seem that groundbreaking, the impact she can have on future generations of female racing drivers means her announcement is a big potential step forward for the sport.

Whilst throughout her career some may argue that her racing achievements do not merit her all this attention and scrutiny, but the very fact she was able to achieve what she did is noteworthy in itself. She is certainly not the first female racing driver and she won’t be the last, but she is one of several women drivers who can be a role model for future generations of young girls who dream of becoming racing drivers.

From an early age Susie Stoddart as she was then known had a deep passion for motorsport. She began go-karting early on and achieved some success as she was growing up. For four years in a row starting from 1996 to 1999 she was named the British female kart driver of the year, a good indicator of her talents early on. She was not just winning awards because of her gender however.

Susie Wolff began karting from an early age. Her she is aged eight. Photo copyright Susie Wolff.com .

She was both the Scottish Junior Intercontinental A and Junior Open Intercontinental A champion for 1997, before switching to the British Intercontinental A series for 1998. She finished 10th in the series, also finishing 11th overall in the European Intercontinental A series. For 1999 she moved up to the British Formula A series, finishing the year a respectable 13th. Whilst she struggled in the Formula A World Championship, finishing 34th, her progression and talent were clear to see.

2000 would be her final year in karting, whilst also managing to be her best year too. She improved to 10th in the British Formula A series, whilst also improving to 15th overall in the Formula A World Championship. Her achievements were recognized as she was awarded a prize for being the top female kart driver in the world.

From here on a progression to cars was inevitable, as she moved up to the competitive Formula Renault UK series, competing in the winter mini series initially. She joined the Motaworld team, although naturally her results were nothing groundbreaking as she acclimatized to the series.

For 2002 she made her debut in the full series, although with DFR racing she once again failed to post any notable results in a difficult season for her. 2003 would prove to be her breakthrough year, as she achieved her first podium in the series and finished the year 9th overall. She was nominated as a finalist for the prestigious BRDC McLaren/Autosport Young Driver of The Year Award, whilst also being recognized as the BRDC Rising Star of the year.

Wolff in action during her third and final Formula Renault UK campaign. Her she drives at Brands Hatch. Photo copyright Susie Wolff.com .

Stoddart returned to Formula Renault UK for her third year in 2004, joining the successful Comtec Racing team. She improved with three podiums during a year in which she finished 5th overall in the category. It was time to move up to British Formula Three for 2005, as she joined the established Alan Docking Racing team. Unfortunately for Stoddart her season was ruined by an ankle injury she suffered from the previous winter. She would only compete in the opening two round of the series. With her career momentum in the balance, her future looked precarious going into the 2006 season.

A rare shot of Susie in action during her injury plagued British F3 year in 2005. Photo copyright of SusieWolff.com .

Salvation would arrive from an unusual source for Stoddart, as she was signed by the Mucke Motorsport team to compete in the German DTM touring car championship. It was always going to be tough for Stoddart to make an impact in the series considering she was a rookie, and was driving a two year old spec Mercedes also. She managed to show some form with a strong ninth in the final round at the Hockenheimring.

Stoddart in action during one of her seven years in the DTM touring car series. Photo credit thanks to SusieWolff.com .

2007 was much a repeat of 2006 as Stoddart stayed with Mucke in a two year old car, with her best result a tenth at Mugello halfway through the season. With little progress in her first two years, Stoddart moved across to the Persson Motorsport team for 2008, although despite having former champion Gary Paffett as a team mate her best result was again a tenth, this time at the Norisring.

Wolff remained with Persson in 2009, and amazingly her best result all year was once again a tenth overall at both the Norisring once again and Oschersleben. After four difficult years in the highly competitive category, Stoddart would make a breakthrough in 2010. Once again with Persson she scored her first points in the series, with two seventh place finishes at the Eurospeedway Lausitz and Hockenheimring circuits. At the end of the year she was 13th overall in the category with four points.

Stoddart standing out in one of her DTM seasons. Photo sourced from SusieWolff.com .

After this breakthrough year Stoddart was expecting to step up again in her sixth year driving in the DTM. Unfortunately for Stoddart it would prove to be another frustrating year as she struggled as she had done before. Her best result was 11th at Valencia, leaving her unclassified at the end of the year with no points.

2012 would prove to be the now Susie Wolff’s seventh and final year in the DTM series, although she failed to go out with a bang. She once again struggled in a series where a tenth can decide the top six. Her best result would prove to be two 12th places, although by now her priorities had somewhat changed.

In early April 2012 it was announced that Wolff had joined the Williams F1 team as a development driver for them. Whilst some within the motorsport community questioned the team’s motives considering her husband Toto Wolff was a shareholder in the team, she would prove to everyone that she was ready to handle a Formula One car.

Wolff receiving instruction for her first F1 test with Williams in October 2012. Photo credit thanks to SusieWolff.com .

Wolff made her test debut for the Williams team at the Silverstone circuit in October 2012. She drove a 2011 Williams FW33-Cosworth and impressed the team with her driving. For 2013 attention increased on Wolff when she drove for the team at the mid-season young driver test. Her performance was scrutinized, as she finished the test 23rd overall from the combined times out of 33, although she was only a second off regular race driver Pastor Maldonado in the same car. It’s also very hard to read too much into testing times, considering they drove the car on different days.

It’s also worth considering that Wolff was not racing in 2013 at all, and besides her sole test run the previous October she had not driven a single seater since 2005. For Wolff her role within Williams stepped up in 2014, as it was announced she would compete in two practice sessions for the team across the year. This sparked a lot of media attention for both Wolff and the team.

Wolff showing her talents in the 2013 F1 mid-season F1 test at Silverstone. Photo credit goes to SusieWolff.com .

At her home British Grand Prix Wolff duly made history, as she became the first female driver to compete in an F1 weekend since Giovanna Amati over two decades before in 1992. Unfortunately for Wolff she was not able to fully enjoy her day as an engine failure ended her session after only four laps. Things went much more smoothly in her second practice run for the German Grand Prix.

After overcoming a first lap gearbox issue, Wolff was able to complete a good number of laps as she ended the session 15th overall, only just over two tenths of a second behind team mate Felipe Massa. This was a very impressive result for Wolff considering her lack of experience compared to Massa, an 11 time race winner in the sport.

At the end of 2014 Wolff’s efforts were rewarded by the team, as she was announced as the team’s test driver for the upcoming 2015 season. Her role increased with the team as she completed a day with the team in the second pre-season test in Barcelona, before she once again completed the opening free practice session for the Spanish Grand Prix.

Wolff steps out after one of her many practice runs for the Williams team. Photo sourced from SusieWolff.com .

Wolff ended the session 14th this time,only 0.9 of a second behind regular driver Massa. This was once again a noteworthy performance once again considering their relative experience in F1. Wolff would only have to wait a few months for her next run in the competitive Williams FW37-Mercedes, as she drove the opening day of the in-season test at Austria. After 39 laps in a rain affected day she finished ninth overall with a 1m13.248 lap time.

Whilst this was not necessarily was Wolff was hoping for, she had a chance to redeem herself with another free practice run for the upcoming British Grand Prix. Once the session had been completed Wolff would find herself 13th on the timesheets, with a time only 0.8 of a second behind Felipe Massa. Unfortunately for Wolff this would be the last time she would drive for the Williams team, as she announced her retirement from the sport only a few days ago.

Wolff leads team mate Felipe Massa during free practice one for this year’s Spanish GP. Photo sourced from SusieWolff.com .

The news of her retirement at age 32 has garnered a lot of press attention, now seems like a perfect time to look towards the future and to what her legacy can be for a future generation of female racing drivers. Whilst the results in her career may suggest that she is not possibly worthy of this role, the very fact she was able to establish herself a genuine F1 affiliated driver irrespective of her gender shows what she has achieved in the last few years.

Whilst she initially was questioned based on her relative merit for a role within F1, by the time of her announcement yesterday she was a fully fledged Williams test driver. Along with other female drivers such as Danica Patrick in Nascar, Pippa Mann in Indycar, Katherine Legge in Sportscar’s and Simona De Silvestro in Indycar have all greatly raised awareness of female racing drivers and have showed that they can be successful irrespective of their gender.

This wave of increased awareness of female drivers needs to continue, if the sport is to full shake it’s current tag as a male dominated sport. The seeds of change have been planted with the likes of Leena Gade, Audi sportscar race engineer, have shown that women can be just as successful in all aspects of motorsport as men. Wolff has already said she wants to work with the grassroots elements of the sport to promote female participation in sport.

For the likes of Wolff she has a great opportunity now to interact and help develop a wider female generation of racing drivers, therefore Wolff can act as a great role model for any future wannabe racing drivers. They can look of the example from the likes of Wolff and aspire to match or even surpass their achievements in the sport. The future could turn out to be very bright for the next few female generations of racing drivers.

What are your thoughts on the career and potential legacy of the likes of Susie Wolff? Please feel free to give your comments below and thank you for reading.

Robin Frijns: A Talent Missed By F1

October 11th 2015: The Formula One paddock is eagerly anticipating the second ever Russian Grand Prix. 24 year old Dutchman Robin Frijns is eagerly anticipating race day. But whereas Lewis Hamilton and Sergio Perez steal the headlines in Sochi, Frijns is racing hundreds of miles away from the F1 paddock at the Zandvoort track in his native Holland. Now, you may ask what is surprising about this seemingly innocuous fact.  A look at his junior single seater racing CV will tell all as to why this is a very strange occurrence indeed.

Frijns was a regular go-karter in both France and Belgium, finishing his final year of karting in 2008 coming third in the highly competitive KF2 European championship and second in the French KF2 series. Having shown his talent on the highest level of junior karting, logically the next step was a move into cars.

Before Max Verstappen blazed a trail last year by jumping straight from karting to the phenomenally difficult FIA European F3 championship, Frijns raised eyebrows in 2009 by making a similarly difficult step up to the Formula BMW Europe series. The series list of champions reads like a printout of the 2015 Formula One grid.

Despite being a rookie Frijns made his mark on the series, finishing the year third in the points with one win and five further podiums. At age 18 Frijns had marked himself out as a young driver to watch in the motorsport universe. 2010 saw Frijns return to the series with the same Josef Kaufmann Racing team that propelled him to third the year before.

Frijns was considered the pre-season title favourite, but he found himself in a close title battle all year with British driver Jack Harvey. Six wins and a penultimate race retirement for Harvey meant Frijns was crowned the 2010 Formula BMW Europe series champion by a scant margin of 11 points.

Frijns tops the podium at the Hungaroring round of his victorious 2010 Formula BMW Europe campaign. Photo credit is unknown.



Having taken the title in front of the Formula One paddock, Frijns was moving up to the next rung of the single seater ladder. Frijns had shown further proof of his talent with a guest appearance in the equally competitive Formula Renault 2.0 category. In a one-off outing for Kaufmann in the offshoot Northern European Cup series at Spa, Frijns made up for his lack of experience by claiming a second,fifth and a win in the three races.

It was time for Frijns to move into the Formula Renault category full time in 2011, sticking with Josef Kaufmann racing to compete in the super competitive Formula Renault Eurocup.  As a rookie Frijns once again left the motorsport community drooling, claiming the title in his first year with five wins and four other podiums. It’s notable that he beat current F1 drivers Carlos Sainz Jr, Daniil Kvyat and Will Stevens along with the F1 bound Stoffel Vandoorne to win the title, with all of them being Eurocup rookie’s.

With Renault providing significant support through a scholarship scheme it was a obvious Frijns would be stepping up to the Renault World Series for 2012. With 3.5 litre engines and tons of downforce the series is seen as a rival of the GP2 series, the predominant F1 feeder series.

The established Fortec motorsport team were the one’s to sign Frijns, with a top five in the championship the target for the talented rookie. Whilst the Eurocup title success had been a surprise, winning the Renault World Series title as a rookie shocked the single seater community. A third and a win on his debut weekend was a statement of intent, something he followed up with two further wins and four podiums.

The final round at the Circuit de Catalunya was a three way title showdown between Frijns and the more experienced duo of Jules Bianchi and Sam Bird. His two rivals were both vastly more experienced and were closely affiliated with F1 teams. With the title coming down to the final race of the season, fireworks were predicted.

Late on, the race exploded into life. On lap 21 Bianchi found his way past Frijns at the first portion of the lap, with Kevin Magnussen close behind. Several corners later Magnussen attempted to also pass Frijns, who moved to block him passing. This quick change of direction left him nowhere to go as it then appeared he pushed title rival Bianchi into the gravel trap as he attempted to stay on the track.

Frijns celebrating with his Fortec team after a contentious final round incident sealed the Renault World Series title for him. F1 beckoned. Photo sourced from automobilsport.com .



This highly contentious collision led to a 25 second time penalty for Frijns, dropping him out of the points. In the end this penalty had no effect as Frijns was still able to claim the title over a disappointed Bird and furious Bianchi. Allegations were made by Bianchi post-race that Frijns deliberately made contact with Bianchi to push him off the track, allegations were were not investigated and furiously denied by Frijns himself.

Despite the contentious nature of the victory, it was nevertheless a huge achievement for Frijns to win the Renault World Series title in his first season. This title win propelled Frijns into Formula One community. After a stellar junior racing career with little financial support, it at last appeared that Frijns was destined for F1.

Frijns took part in the post-season F1 young driver test for the small Swiss Sauber team in Abu Dhabi, impressing enough on his day in the car to be announced at the team’s reserve driver soon after. Whilst it was not a race drive, it was a way to impress the F1 paddock with his time in the car throughout 2013.

Frijns driving the title winning Red Bull RB9-Renault at the post-season young driver test in Abu Dhabi. The test is a prize for winning the Renault World Series. Photo credit thanks to Motorsport.com



Both Frijns and Sauber were keen for him to continue racing in 2013, but with little financial support it was tough for him to progress into GP2. Impressive pre-season tests for the Trident and new Russian Time team showed Frijns deserved to be on the grid, but a lack of funding kept him off it for the opening round in Malaysia.

For the second weekend of the season in Bahrain it was announced that Frijns would join the new Hilmer Motorsport team for a number of rounds. He qualified a respectable 10th on his debut, but an accident and his struggles adapting to the Pirelli tyres prevented him from attaining a good result.

With a race by race shoestring budget Frijns was confirmed for the next round in Spain, and he showed his talent by claiming the feature race victory, cementing his status with a second in the shorter sprint race on Sunday morning. With the weekend supporting the Spanish Grand Prix, Frijns had once again shown the F1 paddock his talents as a driver.

Frijns on his way to his only GP2 win of 2013 for the new Hilmer Motorsport team at Catalunya. Photo sourced from Formule1.nl .



Alas, budget concerns and the lack of experience from the new team hindered Frijns for the rest of the season. He was only able to produce two more points scoring finishes as he completed only six of the eleven rounds in the championship.

2013 can be seen as the year his career momentum stalled, with a part GP2 season not offering much and his opportunities at Sauber were severely limited thanks to their grave financial concerns. He was not in the car much and at the end of the season was dropped because of his lack of funds he could bring to the team.

Despite his turbulent 2013 season Frijns was allowed a glimmer of hope going into 2014. His F1 career was rescued thanks to the back marker Caterham team, who appointed him their reserve driver. Whilst it must of been frustrating to have Swede Marcus Ericsson ahead of him in a race drive, considering he’d beaten him on occasion in GP2 the year despite his lack of budget, he could at least say he remained in F1.

One of the rare occasions Frijns was behind the wheel of a Sauber in 2013. Here he is at the mid-season young driver test at Silverstone. Photo sourced from Worldcarfans.com .

Sadly for Frijns his bad luck from Sauber followed him to Caterham, as he only drove in two practice sessions for the team. He drove in Bahrain and Britain, yet the team were taken over mid-season with chronic financial issues. This left Frijns washed up and seemingly out of F1 for good now.

Whilst the future in single seaters looked bleak for Frijns at the ripe old age of 23, his talent would take him in a different direction. He was handed a lifeline by the Belgian WRT GT racing team, who offered him a test at the end of 2014. His impressive showing was enough for WRT team principal Vincent Vosse, a former GT driver, to offer him a drive with his Audi works supported team.

Partnering fellow single seater convert Laurens Vanthoor for the Blancpain Sprint Series and Jean Karl Vernay supporting them in the Blancpain Endurance Series, he was for the first time in his career a professional racing driver. After a small hiccup at the opening round of the Sprint series, Frijns took to GT racing and his Audi R8 LMS like a duck to water.

An even rarer occurrence. Frijns behind the wheel of a Caterham in 2014. Here he is in Bahrain free practice. Photo sourced from F1fanatic.co.uk . Copyright Caterham and F1.

Ably led by Audi GT superstar Vanthoor, Frijns was able to secure the combined Blancpain GT series title at Zandvoort last Sunday, despite missing Vanthoor thanks to an injury several weeks ago which prevented him from claiming the title with Frijns.

Now is where we go full circle, as I mentioned at the start of the article. Whilst Frijns was claiming the Blancpain GT title last Sunday, his talents should have propelled him to a place on the Russian Grand Prix grid last Sunday. Thanks to extreme bad luck and a lack of funding it hasn’t happened for Frijns in F1 yet. For now his story joins a long list of very talented young drivers who should reach F1, but don’t for whatever reason.

For now Frijns must be content with a growing reputation in GT racing with WRT and Audi, along with a recently announced drive for Andretti Autosport for the second season of the Formula E championship. This new electric series is growing and could offer Frijns a chance to showcase his talents to the single seater community. One thing is for sure though. Motorsport fans will hear a lot more about Robin Frijns for the duration of his career.

Frijns on his way to the Blancpain GT series title last weekend at Zandvoort to complete a great first season in GT racing. Sourced from RaceXpress.nl copyright Miguel Bosch .

What are your thoughts on this article? Please feel free to comment below and thank you for reading.

Jenson Button and Romain Grosjean Hold Key to F1 Driver Market

So far, the 2015 F1 driver merry-go round has been largely a non-affair. It seems as if the moment speculation mounts over a driver potentially moving teams, they are swiftly re-signed by their current one’s.

Kimi Raikkonen was the man on everyone’s lips during the Summer break, although Ferrari exercised their option to keep him during the Belgian GP weekend. The man expected to replace him, Valtteri Bottas, was subsequently re-signed by Williams as they retained their current line up of Bottas and the experienced Felipe Massa.

The ripple effect caused by Raikkonen being retained has trickled down the grid, with the highly touted German Nico Hulkenberg shunning a potential move to the new Haas F1 team to re-sign with Sahara-Force India. Whilst the very close links Haas has with Ferrari was a huge potential plus, the re-signing of Raikkonen has left him little option but to re-sign with his current team, much like Bottas.

Hulkenberg in action for Sahara-Force India earlier this season. Photo credit goes to Autosport.com and latphoto.co.uk .

Now with a lot of potential moves on ice at least for another year, the attention is now focused on two drivers at very different stages of their career’s. The man sparking most of the F1 headlines this week is the experienced and popular Brit Jenson Button. Whilst he has an contract in place with McLaren for next season, it appears increasingly likely the 35 year old will prematurely end his stand out career.

Rumors are growing this week that Button will announce his retirement from the sport at this weekend’s Japanese Grand Prix. Button commented this week, stating that he had already made a decision regarding whether he will continue in F1 next year. He stated “it’s always nice to make an announcement when you are at your home grand prix”.

He later added “There are a lot of meeting’s in Japan, Ron Dennis and Eric Boullier will be there. I’m sure there will be a lot of meeting’s at the headquarters.” Rather more ominously Button has also been giving cryptic suggestions as to his lack of desire to remain in his current position. He said “The joy of being in the car is only there if you’re fighting at the front, because you feel like you’re achieving something, if you’re fighting near the back, you’re driving and F1 car, but you can easily get joy driving something else.”

Button leaping the kerbs in a character building year for the new McLaren-Honda partnership. Photo credit courtesy of SkySportsF1.com .

These comments suggest Button has began to feel fed up with the hugely trying season both he and team mate Fernando Alonso have enjoyed with the new McLaren-Honda package. Should Jenson Button retire from the sport at the end of the season, McLaren have a big decision on their hands as to who they will choose to replace him. They have two very quick young development drivers in Kevin Magnussen and Stoffel Vandoorne.

Magnussen partnered Button last year and showed promise, along with the typical rookie mistakes also. This year he has been the team’s reserve driver, though the Dane has recently stated he can’t do another year without racing. Magnussen has been linked with the Haas team for next year, although that seems increasingly unlikely. Stoffel Vandoorne is rapidly stating his claim as the most dominant GP2 champion since Nico Hulkenberg in 2009. He is ready for F1 yet he may struggle to find a seat available unless he’s promoted by McLaren.

Stoffel Vandoorne in his customary position, leading at the front. Photo credit thanks to Motorsport.com .

The other key driver to this year’s market appears to be Romain Grosjean. The Frenchman is reaching the peak period in his F1 career at age 29, and has spent his entire career with the current Lotus team. Whilst he’s comfortable with the midfield team, it appears the team’s ongoing financial issues may be the final straw.

Grosjean is eager to show he is a better version of the driver that regularly put the dominant Sebastien Vettel under pressure in the second half of the 2013 season. Since then the Lotus team have struggled mightily, and it appears Grosjean has had enough. Despite the carrot of the team’s seemingly imminent takeover by Renault, this may not be enough to keep Grosjean.

Whilst the move to Haas may seem a backwards one considering their a new team and will likely struggle next year, the long term incentives may prove enough to tempt Grosjean. The team’s close links with Ferrari will put him in a great position to replace Kimi Raikkonen when the Finn leaves the team in the next few years.

Romain Grosjean driving for Lotus earlier this year. Photo credit goes to Autosport.com and latphoto.co.uk .

This is where the move makes sense, as it’s likely he will stagnate at Lotus or Renault potentially, although things may well improve should Renault complete their takeover of their team. For Grosjean this is a huge decision he will make, as it affect his potentially whole F1 career as legacy. Should he make the right decision he will likely end up in a race winning car, however should he make the wrong decision and he may regret it for the rest of his F1 career.

Speculation Builds Around Jenson Button Again

For Jenson Button this recent speculation over his future with McLaren for next season must feel like a really bad case of deja vu. This time last year he faced the same mounting speculation over his future, which was not settled until early December. This time around he will be pleading with the McLaren team to make a decision as to his future a lot quicker than last year.

It seemed very much in the balance last winter as the McLaren team exhaustively deliberated who would be the best choice to partner the incoming superstar Fernando Alonso. With the new Honda engine package for this year, it was decided that the vast experience and great relationship Button has with Honda swung the drive in his favour. This forced promising rookie Kevin Magnussen into the reserve driver role for this year, however with Belgian protege Stoffel Vandoorne blitzing the GP2 field McLaren now has a serious driver logjam on it’s hands.

Whilst the team has the most high profile driver line up in F1 outside of AMG Mercedes and Ferrari, the McLaren pairing of Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button will not be a cheap option for the team. This is becoming increasingly important as McLaren has struggled to return to race winning form since the end of 2012. McLaren team principal Eric Boullier commenting recently how the team’s struggles this year will hugely affect their future revenue streams.

The team are currently ninth in the F1 constructors standings, which will represent a drop of $15 million dollars compared to their fifth place finish last year. Their lack of results will also make it a lot harder to attract potential sponsors. This is something the team has struggled with since it lost title sponsor Vodafone at the end of 2013.

The McLaren-Honda car for this year, noticeably devoid of major sponsors once again. Photo credit thanks to McLaren.com and BBCsport.com .

Jenson Button reiterated his commitment to F1 last season when he took a pay cut to re-sign with the team for 2015 and 2016. Therefore it seems strange that speculation is still mounting recently as to his future when he has a contract in place for next year. Also Button will be kept up to date with any negotiations with Vandoorne as he co-manages the young Belgian driver.

With Fernando Alonso still the best overall driver in F1 McLaren are not going to drop him any time soon, this leaves Button on the hot seat should McLaren feel they need an injection of youth in their driver line up. Whilst this may prove to be an illogical move at this present time with Honda’s inexperience with these new, highly complex power units. Surely Honda will need the vast experience of both Alonso and Button to help in their mission to catch up on the likes of Mercedes and Ferrari who have several years head start on them in terms of these power units.

If Button is retained for next year this leaves McLaren with another issue. What can they do with Magnussen and Vandoorne? Magnussen showed good promise in his rookie year last year, and has a stellar junior single seater record. Magnussen has already stated earlier this year he cannot do another year of not racing and sitting on the sidelines. This will likely force McLaren to try and find him a drive with another F1 team, which will prove very difficult.

The team faces the same issue with the GP2 champion elect Stoffel Vandoorne. He has impressed in every junior racing category so far, and has exceeded McLaren’s expectations for him to win the title this year. He’s dominated the field with consistent podium placings, and he currently sitting a whopping 108 points ahead of fellow F1 hopeful Alex Rossi in 2nd. Surely Vandoorne will be in F1 next year, it’s simply a case of which team he will be driving for.

Stoffel Vandoorne in action in a dominant GP2 year for the champion elect. Thanks to Motorsport.com for the high quality photo.

For McLaren they face a very tough decision over the coming months, as they have four legitimate F1 drivers yet only two seats to house them. With Fernando Alonso a cert for next year they now must decide if they are to honour Jenson Button’s contract for next year and retain his vast experience and speed. Or will they instead go with the young contender who appears destined for F1 in Stoffel Vandoorne. Kevin Magnussen is also waiting in the wings, although for McLaren, two of their drivers are likely to be disappointed by the time the new F1 season is rolling around next year.

Who should McLaren retain? Give your thoughts in the comment box below.

Le Mans once again a classic

After catching up on the much needed sleep that was missed during the race, it’s now time to reflect on another magnificent Le Mans 24 Hours, which frenetic action on track and feel good stories throughout the paddock. With initial talk of a titanic battle between the four manufactures Toyota,Audi,Porsche and debutants Nissan, it quickly became clear during the race week that the race for victory would be an all German affair between Audi and Porsche.

Porsche stole the first march by claiming a track record pole, with a scintillating 3m16.887 time, a full three seconds quicker than the fastest Audi could produce. With the reliability and success record of Audi however, they still went into the race as slight favourites. From the moment the lights went out it was a frantic battle between the might of Porsche and Audi, with Audi seemingly taking a slight early advantage in the hotter mid-afternoon conditions. After the first few hours things seemed to change for Audi, with niggly issues which the team was previously avoid began affecting them. Firstly the team’s lead No 7 entry suffered a puncture, before the sister No 8 entry was involved with a collision with some GTE traffic, dropping the car to 8th overall after a few minutes in the pits for repairs. No 8 Audi returning to the pits after it’s crash in the early hours of the race. Thanks to Motorsport.com for this high quality photo. Porsche kept running at the front with metronomic pace from their No 17 and No 19 entries, with their No 18 entry affected by two off’s at Mulsanne corner, putting them laps down from the opening six hours.

Going into the nightfall hours no body was any closer to predicting an eventual winner, such was the unpredictability of the leading fight. The No 17 Porsche was content at the front, until in the very early hours of night time Mark Webber was hit with a 1 minute stop/go penalty after Brendan Hartley overtook under yellow flags, promoting a see-saw battle between the No 7 and No 19 Porsche to the front, as both swapped the lead due to their differing pit schedules.

During the cool of night Porsche came into their own, as they regularly lapped several seconds per lap quicker than Audi could manage. This battle continued all night and into the early hours of daylight running on Sunday morning. It was clear that Porsche had an advantage of roughly 1 minute 30 seconds over the leading No 7 Audi, although as temperatures would rise as the day wore on, Audi were likely to strike back at Porsche.

The leading battle was effectively over the moment the No 7 Audi was forced into the pits on Sunday morning, for repairs that would put the car two laps down on the leading No 19 Porsche. From here the lone Audi left in the hunt was their additional third No 9 entry, although once both this car and the No 8 car also needed repairs in the early hours of Sunday morning, victory was virtually assured for Porsche. The leading No 19 Porsche which ran faultlessly throughout the race. Thanks once again to Motorsport.com for this high quality photo.With only mechanical or driver incidents between Porsche and a 17th victory at Le Mans, both the No 19 and No 17 entry were able to take their foot off the gas slightly, despite a desperate charge by Audi superstar Andre Lotterer in the No 7 Audi, including setting the fastest race lap in his mid-morning charge.

The final few hours were all about brining their cars home to victory, and after 24 hours of racing the No 19 Porsche 919 Hybrid was greeted with the chequered flag. A fairy tale had been created, with a highly coveted victory on their debut for both Earl Bamber and F1 star Nico Hulkenberg, alongside the Brit Nick Tandy. No one could begrudge victory for the trio and Porsche, with a 1-2 showing it had truly returned to Le Mans after 18 months back in the LMP1 category. Whilst the second place crew of Brendan Hartley, Mark Webber and Timo Bernhard may be slightly disappointed with second, they can take a lot of heart from their performance all race. A photo that perfectly encapsulates what it means to win Le Mans for Porsche drivers Nick Tandy, Earl Bamber and Nico Hulkenberg. Thanks to Motorsport.com for this high quality photo.

In the LMP2 class it was a nice class win for the Asian based KCMG team, who took their new Oreca 05 to victory in the hands of a very impressive Richard Bradley and Matt Howson, who were partnered by on-loan former Toyota factory driver Nicolas Lapierre. They fought off the charging Jota sport team, winners last year, and the G-Drive Ligier led by Brit Sam Bird.

For Corvette racing it was a week of both ecstasy and despair, as the team first lost one of it’s two factory Chevrolet Corvette C7.R cars to a qualifying accident in the Porsche curves on Thursday. From this the team rallied behind their No 64 Corvette, which was brilliantly driven to a very hard fought GTE Pro victory in the hands of Oliver Gavin, Tommy Milner and Jordan Taylor. The victorious No 64 Corvette racing C7.R takes the flag after 24 hours fought hours for their GTE Pro victory. Thanks to Motorsport.com for this high quality photo.

In the GTE Am class there was despair for the dominant No 98 Aston Martin racing team, as their Vantage GTE was only just over an hour from a dominant class victory. Sadly for the team their car was shunted by the team’s amateur driver Paul Dalla Lana at the final Ford chicanes, although a mechanical fault looked to have caused the crash. This was of little consolation to the team however, as they were forced to watch the SMP racing No 72 Ferrari F458 Italia, driven admirably by works Ferrari GT driver Andrea Bertolini, supported by Russian drivers Viktor Shaitar and Aleksey Basov.

To even finish at Le Mans is an achievement, therefore everyone deserves applause for their efforts this week, along with a huge round of applause for all the marshals who helped keep the race on track for all 24 hours. Whilst the race was a disappointment for the likes of Nissan and Toyota, they will all be back next year hungry for a better result.

This great race once again showed the very best of the World Endurance Championship, and sportscar racing in general. If you want a glimpse at what Le Mans means to everyone involved, look at the joyous reaction of successful actor and GT racer Patrick Dempsey as his No 77 Porsche 911 RSR finished 2nd in the GTE Am class yesterday.

For me, sportscar racing and the WEC are the most competitive and best form of top line motorsport in the world, with more overtaking between the leaders in the opening hour than an entire half season of F1. As F1 seemingly looks to destroy itself at the moment with cars that don’t appeal to fans, constant on-fighting on all key issues between the teams, and a lack of genuine overtaking which have left plenty wondering whether it’s even worth watching anymore.

I very much look forward to watching the rest of the WEC season, and with many manufactures seriously considering joining Ford in announcing a sportscar programme in the next few years, the series looks to have earned it’s status as the most attractive series in the world right now for manufactures, thanks to the WEC open rule book based on fuel limits, with plenty of technical scope for different engines and hybrid power systems. Roll on the rest of the WEC season and especially Le Mans next year.  A final thanks has to go to Motorsport.com for their amazing high quality photos which can only be found on their site http://www.Motorsport.com A glimpse into the future with a photo of the newly announced Ford GT race programme which will see them return to Le Mans next year in the GTE Pro class. Thanks to Motorsport.com for this high quality photo.

Hamilton takes wet pole from Vettel

Lewis Hamilton mastered the wet but drying conditions in the final Q3 session to claim pole by the narrowest of margins over the resurgent Sebastien Vettel and Ferrari. Nico Rosberg will be slightly disappointed with third although this still leaves him in a good position for the race tomorrow.

Q1 began with increasingly darkening skies as everyone worried as to when the thunderstorm clouds surrounding the circuit would finally envelop it. Everyone was quick to get out on track once the session began, all hoping to get in a banker lap time in case the rain began to fall.

Lewis Hamilton was top of the times after everyone’s first laps, with a 1m39.269 enough to oust Rosberg by 0.105 of a second. From here things began to follow a more regular Q1 pattern, with the front runners returning to the pits whilst the rest fought it out to make it into Q2. Of those eliminated at the end of Q1 it was the two Manor-Marussia entries that ended the session at the back of the field.

Brit Will Stevens wasn’t able to get out on track with an electrical problem, whilst Spanish rookie team mate Roberto Merhi was 19th, with a time just outside the 107% rule. Despite both being outside the cut off time to race, it appears they may well be able to race with the ultimate decision coming from the race stewards. The team will be hoping they can make their 2015 debut this weekend after not being able to run in Australia.

Next up were the two McLaren’s, with Jenson Button out qualifying Fernando Alonso in 17th and 18th. Whilst this wasn’t the positions the team were hoping for, they are encouraged by their step up this weekend, the team seemingly finding 0.8 of a second since the opening Australian GP. The final driver eliminated in Q1 was Australian GP hero Felipe Nasr, who struggled on his final lap and starts 16th.

On to Q2 and once again the grid filed out very early on in the session, with the threat of rain becoming very real now. Everyone was able to set one banker lap before the light rain started at the back edge of the circuit. From here it was all downhill as the downpour started in earnest. It appears across the world that Malaysia has the strongest downpours, with the track instantly soaked by the onslaught of heavy rain. With this the drivers retreated to the pits, bringing an end to the track running in Q2.

Kimi Raikkonen was the highest profile casualty with his Ferrari held up on his hot lap by Marcus Ericsson on his own timed lap, leaving the Finn 11th. Pastor Maldonado was 12th for Lotus, whilst the two Sahara-Force India’s of Nico Hulkenberg and Sergio Perez 13th and 14th respectively. Completing the top 15 is rookie Carlos Sainz in his Scuderia Toro Rosso. He will likely be slightly disappointed with this as he looked confident in the dry Q1 session, and looked likely to make Q3 before the rainfall.

After a 30 minute delay whilst the Safety Car assessed the track conditions, the final twelve minute Q3 shootout for pole got underway, with the majority of the ten remaining cars heading out with intermediate tyres on. The field were all once again out early as they hoped to dry the track for optimal performance later on in the session. As with seemingly the rest of the qualifying session Hamilton was fastest after their first timed runs, with a scintillating 1m49.834 lap time a huge 1.232 seconds quicker than team mate Nico Rosberg in second.

From here they all returned to the pits, preparing themselves for the crucial final run to decide the grid. The end of the session was slightly anti-climatic as both Hamilton nor Rosberg were able to improve their times on their final laps. This opened the door for an inspired Sebastien Vettel to claim second on the grid, only 0.074 from snatching a very unlikely pole for the resurgent Ferrari team.

Rosberg will surely be disappointed with third on the grid, showing the level of dominance the team has enjoyed over the past year or so. Daniel Ricciardo will be pleased with fourth after a difficult opening race for the Red Bull team, with team mate Daniil Kvyat right behind him in fifth. Max Verstappen belied his lack of experience with a very impressive qualifying session, culminating with sixth in tricky conditions. Whilst other more experienced drivers struggled he delivered for the Scuderia Toro Rosso team.

Felipe Massa was seventh for Williams, a disappointing return from qualifying as the team were hampered by their decision to start the session on full wet tyres instead of intermediates. They always looked to be chasing time and will be hoping tomorrow’s race is dry so they can show their full potential in the race. Romain Grosjean will be happy to be eighth as the Lotus team still adjusts to their new Mercedes engine.

The final row of the top ten is completed by Valtteri Bottas, returning after missing the Australian GP with a back injury he aggravated in qualifying. Marcus Ericsson starts in the top ten for the first time with tenth, showing Sauber will be competing for points in tomorrow’s race.

This qualifying session has provided some interesting story lines going into tomorrow’s race in Malaysia, with an earlier starting time reducing the chance of rain returning during the Grand Prix tomorrow. It will be interesting to see if Sebastien Vettel will be able to seriously challenge the AMG Mercedes duo of Hamilton and Rosberg, although if Hamilton carries on his current momentum this weekend he looks almost unstoppable on track. There will be plenty to keep you tuned in tomorrow in the Malaysian GP.

Lotus F1 seats up for sale

The Lotus F1 team is known to have suffered financial problems in the recent past, although the team claimed to be on a much better financial footing going into this 2015 season. Their actions tell a different story however as the team have caused widespread confusion amongst the motorsport community by signing Carmen Jorda and Adderly Fong as development drivers recently.

The F1 community reacted with ridicule to the announcement from the Lotus F1 team several weeks ago that they had signed the Spanish racer Carmen Jorda. On the surface this move seems to make sense, with Jorda racing for the last several years in GP3 and looking to progress up the single seater ladder. Dig deeper however and this move seems extremely bizarre if we believe the team that Jorda was hired based on her previous results.Jorda’s best results in her career so far was a 6th place finish in the 2009 European F3 Open series. Whilst this is a noteworthy result, considering it was her third year of F3 and the relative lack of serious high level junior competition in the European F3 Open series, this is slightly worrying. This result merited her moving up to higher categories however, as she stepped up to the Firestone Indy Lights series in America and then GP3 in Europe.

Jorda really struggled in Indy Lights and GP3, with her best finishing position in GP3 coming in her first year in 2012, where she finished 28th in the final standings. What’s slightly embarrassing for her is that late in her third year in GP3 last year, a car she spent all year at the back of the pack racing was taken by young Brit Dean Stoneman took to two wins and another podium in the final four races. This shows that it was most definitely not the car that caused her struggles in GP3, and shows the likely difference between a genunine young hotshot hoping for F1 in Dean Stoneman and another average GP3 driver such as Carmen Jorda’s results suggest she was.

Despite these three disappointing years in GP3, in late February this year the Lotus F1 team announced they had signed Jorda as a development driver for the team this year. In the team’s statement they stated Jorda would work closely in the simulator for the team, with both sides stating this move is a big step in Jorda’s dream to drive a Formula One car. Whilst it’s unlikely the team will give her any Free Practice drives this year, she may well drive for the team some tests and appears to become an integral part of the team this year.


Carmen Jorda racing in GP3 last year in another disappointing year for her. Photo credit goes to GP3/LAT.

The move led to widespread scepticism and criticism of both the Lotus team and Jorda herself as many saw through the press release and came to the conclusion she was hired to provide extra press attention for the Lotus team and the sponsorship money she can bring to the team. Her former team mate in GP3 Rob Cregan responded vocally on Twitter to the news, stating “Carmen jorda couldn’t develop a roll of film let alone a hybrid f1 car, f1 is about talent not money and nagging up fake positions.” Jorda herself responded to the news by declaring that “Formula one is full of jealousy,There are few cockpits, so only a few can make it. Rob is obviously jealous that I’m here and he is not.I wish him all the best, that’s all I can say.”

Just as this news died down the motorsport community reacted with another dose of scpeticism as Lotus announced Chinese-Canadian driver Adderly Fong as their latest development driver. Fong has risen slowly through the ranks of the junior racing categories, although like Jorda struggled once he reached GP3. His best year was his first in 2013, where he finished 21st in the final standings with two points. He didn’t score again in his second year of the series, and has signed with Koiranen for his third year in the category this year.


Fong in action for Sauber in Free Practice in abU Dhabi last year. Photo credit goes to Motorsport.com

Fong has branched into sportscars over the past few years, before making his F1 debut late last year with a Free Practice run for the financially struggling Sauber team at the Abu Dhabi GP late last year. It appears Fong will have a similar role in the team to Jorda, with Fong also likely to bring funding to the team to support them throughout the year. The move also gives the team fresh press exposure in a rapidly expanding Chinese market, something the team will be looking to exploit. This move again seems strange when considering if the team hired Fong based on his results. It seems more plausible when considering that the team likely hired Fong to help his development, with Fong giving the team access to a huge new F1 market and some likely sponsorship money also.

For Lotus they have left themselves open to ridicule amongst the F1 community by claiming the hiring of Carmen Jorda and Adderly Fong is based on their previous results in junior categories, when it seems much more likely the team hired these two young drivers because of the press exposure it gives them alongside the potential sponsorship money they can bring to the team. With reserve driver and GP2 champion Jolyon Palmer signed it seems unlikely both will see significant track time this year, making their signing a potential future problem for the team as both are looking for Lotus to help with their development of driver as both attempt to reach F1.

The biggest plus for both drivers are the sponsorship money and press exposure they can bring to teams in F1, despite results in junior categories that suggest they should be nowhere near F1 based purely on apparent driving ability and previous results. This is systematic of a much wider problem of pay drivers and many F1 teams which are struggling financially. This situation means F1 could be diluted in terms of ultimate driving ability by paying drivers who have bought their place in F1 not purely earned it based it on results. This would be a huge shame for Formula One in my opinion, which is often lauded as the premier motorsport category in the world. Any thoughts on this article? Please feel free to comment any will be appreciated.