Single Seaters

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.

Barry Squibb dominates Sports @ GT field

The final race of the day was for the third of the resident series here at Castle Combe, the Castle Combe Sports @ GT championship. The series is building momentum again this year after it’s removal of the sports prototype cars from the series last year. As the grid lined up for their race, the conditions were getting increasingly worse as the rain continued to fall, the circuit down drenched and very wet.

Barry Squibb was looking likely to take victory barring mechanical problems in his 4 wheel drive Mitsubishi Evo 9 RS, as he lined up on pole. He was alone on the front row as second place starter Ilsa Cox was not able to make the start after her engine overheating issues in the two earlier Classic Thunder races. Perry Waddams and his monstrous TVR Tuscan lined up third, with Dylan Popovic and his unique Avatar sports car completed row two.

At the start it was no surprise for the remaining crowd to see Squibb fully utilize his 4wd traction as he romped away from the field at the line. Perry Waddams bogged down in his TVR, leaving Dylan Popovic giving valiant chase to Squibb in his Marlin. At the end of lap one Squibb’s lead was already huge, as Perry Waddams recovered from his poor start to pass Popovic for 2nd on lap two, quickly building a gap to him. Gary Prebble’s brother Adam Prebble was rising quickly up from 5th on the grid in his Rover Tomcat, passing Popovic for 3rd on lap three.

Even in the early laps Squibb was building a huge advantage over the rest of the now strung out field, although Adam Prebble was now doing his best to close on Waddams for second. The hard charging Prebble paid the price for his exuberance however, as he suffered a high speed spin going up Avon Rise on lap 5, although he was luckily able to re-join still secure in his third place.

After this spin the field was still very much spread out as everyone simply tried their best to remain on track in the treacherous conditions. The remaining laps were played out to a field spread out and conditions that were getting increasingly worse. After ten very wet laps Barry Squibb was able to claim the victory, a whopping 44 seconds clear of Perry Waddams, trailing behind in 2nd in his TVR. Adam Prebble was a further 12 seconds as he completed the podium.

Dylan Popovic came home 4th in his Marlin, with John Avery doubling up after his Saloon race to claim 5th, with James Blake completing the top six in his MG ZR. Although this wasn’t the best advert for the always popular Castle Combe Sports @ GT championship, this is down to the bad conditions and had little to do with the drivers on the grid. The series will hopefully continue to grow this year to the point it was at before when the sports prototypes also made up the grid. For more information on this series please visit their website below.
http://www.ccracingclub.co.uk/championships/gt/

Orgee Claims Masterful Formula Ford Victory

The resident Castle Combe Formula Ford Championship has always been a fan favorite, with the series running since 1969, making it the longest running single make championship in the country. For this televised round, grizzly conditions greeted the drivers as they headed out to the grid. The threat of rain appeared imminent in the grey clouds above, ensuring a very greasy circuit for the drivers.

After qualifying it was Michael Moyers who claimed pole for Kevin Mills Racing in his Spectrum chassis, with the returning ex-champion Ben Norton taking second on the grid. Nathan Ward and Felix Fisher would share row two. At the start it was Moyers who made the best getaway from pole, as he claimed the early lead. The rainfall began almost immediately, with a light rain covering the circuit in a light layer of moisture.

Michael Moyers was able to build an early lead of several seconds from the chasing pack, although he undid his hard work at the end of the opening lap as he spun whilst putting the power down exiting the Bobbies chicane. His quick pirouette left him in on the fringes of the top six, as he worked to get back to the front. Ben Norton inherited the lead, with Josh Fisher having a remarkable opening few laps to rise from 9th on the grid to challenge Norton for the lead. Wet weather specialist Luke Cooper and Roger Orgee were all fighting with Norton for the lead in the early laps.

Ben Norton was just about able to hold on to his lead, although he was the next to throw away his chances of victory as the conditions caught him out at Camp on lap 4, with his spin onto the wet grass eliminating him from contention as he was forced to retire, as the talented Josh Fisher therefore inherited the lead.

With Norton’s car in a precarious position at Camp, the Safety Car was scrambled on lap 6 to safely recover it. This took no time at all, therefore the Safety Car was only out for one lap before returning to the pits at the end of the lap. Fisher set about building a gap to the rest, who squabbled behind him. His cushion didn’t last long however, with Roger Orgee and Luke Cooper challenging him for the lead on lap 8. A lap later and Orgee managed to breach Fisher’s defenses, taking the lead with a great move on the outside of Quarry.

From here Orgee was able to just about hold on for the remaining one and a half laps, as he secured his first victory of the season as he looks to avenge his final race title defeat last season this year. Josh Fisher will have been delighted with his second from 9th on the grid, especially as this season’s he’s racing a Class C 1989 Reynard car against much newer machinery. Wet weather specialist Luke Cooper was another driver in an older spec car as he claimed the final podium place.

Reigning double champion Adam Higgins came home a solid 4th, from the recovering Michael Moyers in 5th and Josh’s brother Felix Fisher in 6th. This was another entertaining race for the Castle Combe spectators, once again proving a great advert for the circuit own resident championship’s. It’s a shame however that the conditions were not better for the drivers as they struggled in the very slippery conditions. For more information on this amazing series please visit their website below.
http://www.ccracingclub.co.uk/championships/formula-ford-1600/

Gardner Claims Two Dominant Classic Formula Ford Victories

The second and final race before the lunch break at Castle Combe was for the Luna Logistics Classic Formula Ford Championship, a series that always provides good racing. As the spectators eagerly anticipated their latest fix of the ever popular Formula Ford category, it was Mike Gardner who claimed pole position in his Crossle 30F. Simon Davey shared the front row in the first of many Van Diemen RF80 cars, whilst Chris Stuart and Stuart Kestenbaum completed the second row.

As the lights went out both front row men made good starts, as Mike Gardner took the early lead. After qualifying a whopping 1.5 seconds faster than anyone else, it should not have been a surprise to see Gardner streak away from the rest in the early stages. Helping out Gardner to build an even further lead was the fact that Chris Stuart and Simon Davey were fighting amongst themselves for 2nd, constantly passing and re-passing each other as they slowed themselves up.

By the end of lap 4 Gardner’s lead was already up to six seconds, meanwhile row three starter Kevin Mansell was now challenging Stuart for 3rd position on lap 5. Long time series front runner Stuart Kestenbaum was now looking to join the fight as he passed Mansell for 4th on the inside at Tower corner later on in the lap, as Davey briefly distanced himself from the squabbling Stuart,Kestenbaum and Mansell.

Stuart Kestenbaum was on the move again on lap 9 as he overtook Chris Stuart for 3rd, whilst behind him a lap later Mansell and Stuart swapped places before switching back again on the exit of Quarry. As the race entered it’s final laps Mike Gardner had built an incredible lead of almost half a lap, meanwhile behind him it finally seemed like the squabbling was coming to an end as everyone was now evenly spaced out.

After 16 laps and 20 minutes it was Mike Gardner who claimed as dominant a Formula Ford victory as your ever likely to see, eventually winning by 27 seconds. Even a 10 second post race penalty failed to deter him from victory, with Simon Davey the best of the rest in 2nd position. Stuart Kestenbaum battled to claim the final podium position, with Chris Stuart behind him in 4th. Finally it was Kevin Mansell and Steve Pearce who completed the top six.

The Classic Formula Ford grid lined up much later in the afternoon to looming grey clouds overhead as they started their formation lap. With the very crowded scheduling of the day’s meeting earlier delay’s meant this race was unfortunately reduced from 20 to 15 minutes to help with the scheduling, although it still promised to be an exciting race.

Much like with many other series, the grid for this second race was determined by the finishing order of the first race. This meant that Mike Gardner was once again on pole position, with Simon Davey again sharing the front row with him. Stuart Kestenbaum and Chris Stuart completed row two. At the front there were no major surprises at the start, as Gardner and Davey broke away from the rest by the end of the opening lap.

It didn’t take long for the fighting to begin in the pack as Kestenbaum and Mansell carried on their race one battle as they fought over 3rd in the early laps. After being wheeled off the grid in the opening race from 5th on the grid, Ted Pearson was keen to make up for it in this second race as he immediately rose through the pack, going from 18th and last to 6th by the end of lap 2.

It didn’t take long for Mike Gardner to assert his dominance again, as he led by roughly five seconds by lap 4, as once again a big battle was developing for 2nd between Davey,Kestenbaum,Mansell,Stuart and Pearson. On lap 5 Stuart began a charge up the order by passing Mansell for 4th, and then passed Kestenbaum for 3rd at the Esses a lap later. Stuart then completed his remarkable charge a lap after that by passing Davey for 2nd position going up Avon Rise and into Quarry. Ted Pearson also got involved on lap 7, as he passed Mansell for 5th to further his charge from the back.

Just as Chris Stuart was looking good in 2nd position he undid all his previous hard work by running wide at Camp on lap 7, which left him as easy prey for Simon Davey and Stuart Kestenbaum as he dropped to 4th by the time the reached the braking zone for Quarry corner. After re-passing Kestenbaum he look comfortable in 3rd, although a final lap drama meant he once again dropped behind Kestenbaum.

After twelve laps it was Mike Gardner who claimed another comfortable victory, as he proved himself to be the class of the field in both the day’s races, and this time he had no post-race penalties to sully his dominance. Simon Davey once again finished a distant 2nd, and after Chris Stuart lost drive temporarily coming out of Camp on the final lap, Stuart Kestenbaum was able to out drag him and claim the final podium place on the short drag to the finish line. Kevin Mansell almost crashed into him on the run to the line, although had just enough to momentum to pip him to 4th as Chris Stuart was classified 5th. Ted Pearson was further back in 6th.

Although on the surface two dominant victories for Mike Gardner didn’t seen the most entertaining of races, that would be doing disservice to the epic battles for the other podium places in both races, which were more than enough to keep everyone entertained throughout. The Luna Logistics Classic Formula Ford Championship is a regular at Castle Combe for a reason, with everyone I’m sure hoping they will return again next year.

For more information on this series please feel free to visit their website below.
http://www.classicformulaford.com/home/4581789561

Hoad shocks Formula Ford paddock with easy victory

The Castle Combe Formula Ford championship fired back into life this opening bank holiday Monday, with the grid improving in quality over the off-season. The championship has been a fan favorite since it’s inception in 1969, and still runs strong in 2015.

With an influx of returning star drivers it was somewhat of a surprise to almost everyone when sporadic Castle Combe Formula Ford racer Jonathan Hoad took pole position in his ex-works Duckhams 1990 Van Diemen RF90. Hoad has spent all winter preparing the car, and spent lots of time testing the car also, which helps to explain his pole position. The resurfaced track was clearly to everyone’s liking as the pole was was only fractionally off the lap record, set in 2008.

Roger Orgee came come to winning the title last year, and started this year from 2nd on the grid, whilst the returning Felix Fisher and Nathan Ward completed row two.At the start it was the returning and seriously fast Josh Fisher that made the best start, rocketing up from 5th on the grid to challenge for the lead going into Quarry on the opening lap.

By lap 2 it appeared all the off-season work was paying off for Hoad as he quickly built up a lead of several seconds over the chasing pack behind, with a five car train behind him fighting over 3rd position in the early laps. Lap 5 saw the fight for 3rd splinter into two separate fights, with Fisher, Ward and Orgee fighting over 2nd, whilst ex-champion Ed Moore, reigning double champion Adam Higgins and Luke Cooper fought over 5th position.

A lap later and the breakthrough was made in the fight for 2nd, with Nathan Ward passing Fisher, who dropped to fourth a lap later after being passed by Orgee. At this halfway stage of the race Hoad was comfortable out front, with a lead of 2.9 seconds over the rest, who were squabbling for positions themselves. The two separate battle for 2nd and now 6th were still going on, with Higgins managing to bridge the gap and join the battle for 2nd.

Sadly for Higgins, just as he joined the battle for 2nd, Orgee distanced himself from the bunch as he solidified himself in 2nd place, which in turn splintered the battle for 2nd into smaller battles for the lower placings in the top six. Into the final lap and Jonathan Hoad cruised home to a dominant lights to flag win in the opening round of the 2015 Castle Combe Formula Ford Championship, 3.3 seconds clear of Roger Orgee in 2nd. Nathan Ward completed the podium whilst Josh Fisher was lucky to survive late race contact with a back marker on Dean Straight on the final lap, as he could have easily lost a wheel after touching another car. He survived however and came home 4th,although Fisher can at least take solace from the fact he broke the long standing Class C lap record by a huge margin, beating the time set by former front runner Matt Rivett, set remarkably in September 2001. Adam Higgins and Felix Fisher will be slightly disappointed with 5th and 6th places respectively.

This opening round was a dominant masterclass from Jonathan Hoad, although with both Josh and Felix Fisher promising to return for more of the championship this season, alongside Adam Higgins, Nathan Ward and Roger Orgee who will look to knock him off his perch this season, Hoad will have his work cut out to remain on top as the season progresses. It shall be very interesting to watch how the season unfolds. For more information on this exciting championship please visit http://www.ccracingclub.co.uk/championships/formula-ford-1600/

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.

Giedo van der Garde affair leaves bitter taste

Today the news finally became official, the ongoing and high profile dispute between the Sauber team and Dutch driver Giedo van der Garde came to a close with a statement from van der Garde announcing a settlement had been reached with the team. If you don’t follow F1 and don’t know the backstory to this dispute let me give you the key details.

Giedo van der Garde was the Sauber teams reserve driver last year, and in the middle of last year the team signed him to a race deal for this year. Van der Garde confirmed the rumors in his statement today, that his personal sponsors paid their fees for this year up front on the signing of his deal last year, in an effort to help the financially struggling team through the season.

van der Garde in action for the Sauber team in a free practice session for the Spanish Grand Prix last year. Photo credit goes to http://www.f1fanatic.co.uk and http://www.Sauberf1team.com

Therefore I expect van der Garde was suitably angry and confused when it was announced late last year in quick succession that the team had also signed Swede Marcus Ericsson and Brazilian rookie Felipe Nasr. It doesn’t take a math expert to know three F1 drivers can’t drive two cars, with van der Garde becoming the fall man for the team. This is where things turned ugly as van der Garde brought his case before the courts, first in Switzerland and then in Australia last week.

In both courts he won the case, with both courts ordering Sauber to give him a race seat for this season. When understandably Sauber began to baulk at this order in the build up to last weekend’s opening Australian Grand Prix, van der Garde went back to court to get a contempt of court order, effectively forcing Sauber to give him a drive or the teams assets would be seized by bailiffs and key team members could be arrested.

This sorry saga was fast becoming a soap opera, although thankfully before qualifying last Saturday common sense prevailed, with van der Garde announcing that both he and the team entered talks on a settlement, with van der Garde giving up his right to drive last weekend. Talks between the two parties quickly developed to the stage were at today, with van der Garde announcing that a settlement had been reached.

Whilst he did not disclose the specific details today, it’s believed he has been paid 15 million Euro’s to cancel his contract and allow the team to continue with Ericsson and Nasr. For the cash strapped team this is a huge sum to pay out, although is only fair considering the sponsor money paid to the team last year and compensation for canceling his contract.

The tone of van der Garde’s statement this morning was understandably downcast, as he stated “As a passionate race driver, I feel sad and am very disappointed. I have worked very hard my entire career, ever since starting with go-karts at the age of eight, to live my dream and become a successful Formula 1 driver. I had hoped at last to be able to show what I am capable of, driving a car for a respected midfield team in the 2015 season. This dream has been taken away from me and I know that my future in Formula 1 is probably over.”

It was remarkably refreshing this morning to read his statement, where for once in modern day Formula One a driver was honest about the situation to the media, a far cry from many modern drivers PR driven stance which would have yielded a statement with plenty “no comment” mantra’s, and frankly would have been more useful to the specialist media as toilet paper.

Van der Garde went on to add “There has been a lot of speculation in the media over the past week, so I want to set out clearly that my sponsors paid the sponsorship fee related to the 2015 season in its entirety to Sauber in the first half of 2014.This was simply in good faith and to help the team deal with its cash problems at the time. Effectively, it was my sponsor’s advanced payments that helped the team survive in 2014.”

He also added his thoughts on Sauber’s decision making on the matter “Sauber’s financial decision-making in this case is bizarre and makes no sense to me.I am not at liberty to discuss details, but Sauber paid significant compensation to avoid honouring the contract they had with me. Only in that respect can I be satisfied that my rights have finally been recognised and that at least some justice has been done.”

Whilst the move clearly rankles with van der Garde, it appears a part of him is glad this ordeal is over. Van der Garde suggests his chances of rebuilding an F1 career is over for him, a shame if true considering he impressed during his rookie season with Caterham in 2013. Despite van der Garde appearing not to pursue any F1 opportunities now, he also named some series he would like to compete in the future.”I would love to take part in the WEC and the Le Mans 24 Hours in an LMP1 car. Former Formula 1 drivers do very well in this series, We also have our eye on other series such as the DTM in 2016 and beyond.”

Whilst the future remains unclear for van der Garde in motorsport, he can at least take solace that he has gained a lot of respect amongst the motorsport community for his class and dignity throughout this whole sorry saga with Sauber. Van der Garde can hold his head high that he did nothing wrong in this matter, it’s Sauber who have come out of this matter with their reputation severely diminished. This also is a shame for what was previously one of F1’s highest teams in terms of class and dignity amongst the F1 paddock.

What are your thoughts on this matter? Please feel free to comment below all comments will be appreciated both good and bad.