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Are The New Generation On The Cusp Of An F1 Revolution

Despite last weekend’s Belgian Grand Prix the month of August is usually a quiet one for the Formula One community. The three week summer break and subsequent dearth of on-track action usually means it’s rumours and talk of the following year which create the headlines. In this forward thinking vain I initially started this article several weeks ago, before life got in the way for several weeks.

In recent weeks the speculation has been centered on the futures of both Kimi Raikkonen and Fernando Alonso, two of the three oldest drivers on the F1 grid at 37 and 36 respectively. Don’t let this fool you however. The current top order of Formula One is on the verge of a major generational shift. Both Raikkonen and Alonso are former world champions, along with 32 year-old Lewis Hamilton and 30 year-old Sebastian Vettel.

Five years from now Raikkonen and Alonso will have retired, and it will be unclear at what competitive level both Hamilton and Vettel will be at age 37 and 35 respectively. It’s likely that young contenders right now such as Valtteri Bottas, Daniel Ricciardo, Carlos Sainz Jr and Stoffel Vandoorne will be entering their prime, but who will be pushing them at the front?

A special talent such as Max Verstappen has already reached this point at the tender age of 19. Esteban Ocon has impressed this season in his sophomore F1 campaign and at age 20 has plenty of time on his side. Williams rookie Lance Stroll is only 18 yet has already proved his doubters wrong. Pascal Wehrlein is highly rated by Mercedes at 22.

These are the next generation that are currently already in F1, but just who are the young talents looking to smash through the F1 glass ceiling? Ferrari has been grooming current FIA F2 championship leader Charles Leclerc since the beginning of 2016, and looks a perfect replacement for Raikkonen in the coming years. Mercedes have this season taken on young Brit George Russell, who currently leads the GP3 championship and could take over seamlessly from Hamilton at the front running team.

Red Bull currently have two of the best young drivers on the grid in Ricciardo and Verstappen, and have a well known driver programme that has produced an abundance of very talented young drivers.  Reigning FIA F2 champions Pierre Gasly is the latest driver deserving of an F1 shot with Red Bull, likely with it’s junior Scuderia Toro Rosso team.

Renault have two of the top contenders in F2 and GP3 in Oliver Rowland and Jack Aitken, and McLaren have the very promising Lando Norris on their books. At the present moment it appears that Leclerc and Norris have the highest profile amongst the F1 paddock. Leclerc has impressed at every stage of his career and has some F1 experience both with Ferrari and Haas.

Norris is currently taking the FIA European F3 championship by storm in his rookie campaign, leading the championship after seven of ten rounds. He also massively impressed in the Pirelli tyre test, posting the second fastest time behind only Sebastian Vettel.

In the coming seasons it will remain to be seen how many of the young drivers mentioned will reach F1, as unfortunately other factors sometimes determine if a talented driver reaches the pinnacle of the sport. What happens in the future no one can ever accurately predict 100%, however do not be surprised at all to see the F1 grid filled with many of the young drivers mentioned in this article. I may well be wrong,but at the present moment these are the brightest young talents in the F1 community.

Any thoughts on this article or any of the drivers involved? Please feel free to let me know in the comments section below. Find me on Twitter @brfcjordan95 and I hope you enjoyed the article. 

Initial Observations From F1 Pre-Season Testing

This week Formula One 2017 fired into life with the first pre-season test at the Barcelona circuit, the venue for the Spanish Grand Prix in May. After the initial launches of the new 2017 spec cars last week, many questioned whether the established order from years previous would be shaken by the new 2017 regulations?

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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.

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.

Alonso saga finally coming to a close

Ever since Fernando Alonso publicly made disparaging comments about his Ferrari car after the 2013 Hungarian Grand Prix, speculation has abounded as to his future with the fabled Ferrari team. Whilst Alonso had previously commented on his wish to remain at Ferrari for the rest of his career, and had signed a long term deal tying him to the team until the end of 2016, it appeared increasingly likely he could leave the team as their cars failed to provide with championship opportunities.

At age 33 and coming closer to the end of his career, Alonso was increasingly motivated to add more world titles to his two already from his years at Renault in 2005-2006. Alonso should have won the 2010 world title in his first season with Ferrari, although a strategic error in the final race in Abu Dhabi meant he was stuck behind the Renault of Vitaly Petrov, and was forced to watch Sebastien Vettel steal his first world title from him.

From here 2011 was a lean year as Ferrari struggled and Red Bull dominated, although 2012 saw Alonso wring every last ounce of performance from his once again poor Ferrari car, to take the championship title fight into the final race in Brazil. Despite leading the title fight for a majority of the year, Alonso once again was beaten by Vettel at the final race for the title.

Alonso fighting for the world title at the 2012 Brazilian GP

In 2013 Ferrari once again struggled with a poor car as Red Bull and Sebastien Vettel once again dominated, something Alonso grew increasingly frustrated with. After his response from a reporter asking what he would like for his upcoming birthday in the aftermath of the Hungarian Grand Prix, Alonso sarcastically responded with “someone else’s car.” These were ill timed comments from Alonso as there were persistent rumours at this time that Alonso and his manager were talking to Red Bull about potentially him joining the team to replace his great friend Mark Webber for 2014.

From here Ferrari president Luca Di Montezemolo warned Alonso about his F1 conduct with regards to his comments, with a statement from this time stating “There is a need to close ranks, without giving in to rash outbursts that, while understandable in the immediate aftermath of a bad result, are no use to anyone. That was a reference to the latest comments from Fernando Alonso, which did not go down well with Montezemolo, nor with anyone in the team.All the great champions who have driven for Ferrari have always been asked to put the interests of the team above their own.”

Fernando Alonso in action during the fateful 2013 Hungarian GP

After the prospect of an unlikely Red Bull move was quashed after Daniel Ricciardo was announced as their new driver, it seemed Alonso was stuck with Ferrari until the foreseeable future. This was not entirely a bad thing however, as many tipped Ferrari to benefit most from new 2014 regulation which saw a switch to turbo V6 power. The fact Ferrari would be the only team other than AMG Mercedes producing both their own cars and engines, which suggested they would have an advantage with the design of their 2014 car and engine.

After a mixed testing period, once the season started it quickly became apparent AMG Mercedes would be dominant as the Mercedes engine was clearly the most powerful, with some even suggesting an 60-80bhp advantage over the Ferrari powerplant. It was also apparent the AMG Mercedes and Red Bull chassis were much better than the Ferrari F14T. Alonso once again performed heroics to drag the car onto the podium with a 3rd at the Chinese Grand Prix, it was clear however Alonso would once again miss out on the world title in 2014 as the two AMG Mercedes drivers Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg dominated the season.

Heads began to roll at Ferrari as team principal Stefano Domenicalli resigned after the Bahrain Grand Prix, to be replaced by the CEO of Ferrari North America, Marco Mattiacci. Despite having very little racing experience Di Montezemolo felt his success with Ferrari North America could help provide a fresh impetus to Ferrari. It was clear now that the relationship between Alonso and Di Montezemolo was strained. As the season wore on and Alonso struggled it also became clear Mattiacci felt Alonso could be deemed expendable as his frustrations and lack of commitment to Ferrari increased.

This therefore provided a very unlikely initial rumour which quickly grew much larger. Honda were to join F1 in 2015 with McLaren, and it soon became clear Honda would provide an open chequebook to sign a top line driver. Whilst Sebastien Vettel laughed off the rumours, it soon became clear Alonso was seriously considering the offer. The news that long term Ferrari president Luca Di Montezemolo was to leave the team at the Italian GP did little to persuade Alonso to stay.

Alonso and Di Montezemolo embracing at the 2014 Italian GP

This ongoing saga reached critical mass at the 2014 Japanese GP, where it became apparent in the build up to the weekend that Alonso and Ferrari had reached an agreement to terminate his contract after the 2014 season. In the next few days the bombshell was announced that Sebastien Vettel was to leave Red Bull, with their team principal Christian Horner letting the cat out the bag by announcing he was to join Ferrari. This development left Alonso in a weakened position as it now became obvious his only options for 2015 were to either join McLaren or take a sabbatical.

After brief talk of Alonso potentially taking a year off and desperately trying to get himself into an AMG Mercedes seat for 2016 was shot down by the team, it became clear Alonso would likely sign for McLaren. Whilst the team has struggled in the past two years, and also Alonso’s turbulent season with the team in 2007, it appears fresh impetus from Honda will give Alonso a greater chance to be competitive and add the world titles his craves to his resume. McLaren with Honda will likely by Grand Prix winners within two years, whilst Ferrari are talking of several years of re-building before becoming dominant again.

This is why Alonso was so keen to leave the team, as sticking around for several years of re-building will not leave him enough time to win any more world titles. This optimism is something McLaren can provide with their’s and Honda’s winning pedigree. An official announcement on Alonso’s move to McLaren is likely to come later this month, with the next big decision for the team being whether to retain either experienced Brit and key ally of Honda Jenson Button or the team’s young rookie Kevin Magnussen. Plenty of people in the paddock with be relieved when all the confirmations are revealed, as Alonso looks forward to developing the McLaren-Honda package in 2015.

Photo credits go to :

Alonso 2013 Hungarian GP – http://www.f1fanatic.co.uk/2013/07/28/alonso-faces-investigation-over-drs-breach/

Alonso 2012 Brazilian GP – http://www.motorauthority.com/news/1080651_vettel-picks-up-third-f1-world-champion-after-brazilian-gp

Alonso Di Montezemolo photo – http://www.f1fanatic.co.uk/2014/09/06/hamilton-ends-pole-position-wait-monza/gp-italia-f12014-23/

Lewis Hamilton in pole position to win second world title

After the drama of the tumultous Belgian Grand Prix a month ago, things seems bleak for Lewis Hamilton as he sat 29 points behind his team mate and title rival Nico Rosberg, whilst he was also convinced Rosberg could of pulled out of their collision but didn’t on lap 2 of the race. Hamilton is known as a very emotional driver and some feared if this would throw his emotional balance out of place, potentially to Rosberg’s advantage. Things could not have gone better for Hamilton since however as he has won both the following Italian and Singapore Grand Prix’s whilst Rosberg has looked rattled as he made two mistakes to finish 2nd in the Italian GP before retiring from Sunday’s Singapore GP with a faulty wiring loom. Some will call this poetic justice for Rosberg as his 29 point lead from Belgian has been reversed into a 3 point lead for Hamilton going into the Japanese Grand Prix in two weeks time.

Hamilton shows his pleasure at dominating Sunday’s Singapore GP.

What is crucial for Hamilton so far has been his emotional balance. He has looked very calm and at ease with his situation with the lack of pressure he seems to be putting on himself producing instant results as he has looked flawless in both races so far since all the drama of the Belgian GP weekend. Indeed, if it wasn’t for a faulty electrical glitch at the start of the Italian GP he would of likely dominated both races. The momentum he has now created for himself will prove crucial as he hopes to ride the crest of this pressure free wave until the end of the season as he searches for his second world title.

A lot has been made in the past by journalists and team personnel around the paddock surrounding the emotional nature of Lewis Hamilton. He is a driver that always wears his heart on his sleeve and shows every emotion he goes through during a race weekend, much like fellow British racing hero Nigel Mansell showed during his career. Most notably in 2011 the significant downturn in his racing form was attributed to personal problems he was going through with family and his girlfriend, just showing the impact his emotional state has on his driving. That year he reflected his personal problems by consistently making clumsy mistakes such as a poorly judged move on the Williams of Pastor Maldonado at Monaco, with a clip below showing the clumsy nature of his attempted move into Ste Devote.

Therefore with his emotional balance seemingly perfect over these past few race weekend’s, the results have been apparent as he now looks in pole position to secure a second drivers title barring any change in his psyche or any more reliability problems from his AMG Mercedes car. From here it will be thrilling to watch how Rosberg responds to the resurgent form of Hamilton as the title racing reaches a thrilling climax over the remaining race weekend’s. I simply cannot wait to see how it develops.

Photo credit goes to Lars Baron from http://www.gettyimages.co.uk sourced from http://www.theguardian.com

2014 German GP Race Report

After a morning of mixed weather conditions, the drivers were wheeled to the grid under a dry if overcast track. A likely threat of rain during the race kept the strategists guessing before the start, especially for AMG Mercedes as they tried to optimise their result with Nico Rosberg on pole and team mate Lewis Hamilton well down in 20th, after a gearbox penalty.

From the start it was Nico Rosberg who comfortably made the best getaway, with the action unfolding behind him as Williams driver Felipe Massa and the fast starting McLaren of rookie Kevin Magnussen collided at the first corner. Whilst it appeared to be a racing incident, despite Massa’s protests of it being Magnussen’s fault, the end result was a spectacular flip for an uninjured Massa and a severe derailment to Magnussen and Red Bull man Daniel Ricciardo’s race.

The Safety Car was scrambled for one lap to retrieve Massa’s stricken Williams, before the re-start which saw the other Williams of the quick young Finnish driver Valtteri Bottas try his best to hang onto the Mercedes of Rosberg out front. The advantage of the Mercedes is such that Rosberg was comfortably able to open a gap to the rest, as the attention focused back to the recovery drives of the other Mercedes of Hamilton and Ricciardo.

Both were flying through the field with apparent ease, reaching the fringes of the top 10 by lap 8. A lap later and they receiver further help as Scuderia Toro Rosso rookie Daniil Kvyat hit the Sahara Force-India of Sergio Perez he was battling, with replays showing Kvyat didn’t give Perez enough room when attempting the pass at Turn 8.

Hamilton then made several more places with an audacious double pass on Ricciardo and the Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen going into Turn 6 after the back straight on lap 13, with a slight nudge on Raikkonen the only contact between the three. The left Hamilton 8th and climbing as others around him started pitting for new soft tyres. The top 2 Rosberg and Bottas pitted on lap 15, re-joining either side of Hamilton.

A long first stint appeared to be paying off for Hamilton as he easily held 3rd, before his tyres started giving up on lap 22, subsequently losing him roughly 1 second a lap before his finally pitted from 3rd on lap 26, re-joining 8th. Back at the front, and Rosberg was serenely building a 13 second advantage over Bottas in 2nd as he appeared to be cruising to a first home victory.

On the other hand, Hamilton was having anything but a serene race as he battled back through the pack for a second time, giving Jenson Button in his McLaren a love tap to the side pod exiting Turn 6 after a misunderstanding. Although he attempted to apologise later on the damage was already done as the front wing damage to the Mercedes was enough to hamper his tyre management for the rest of the afternoon.

As the second pit stop window began from roughly lap 33, the action intensified as reigning champion Sebastien Vettel and former champion Fernando Alonso carried over their epic battle from the British GP two weeks ago. Eventually it was Vettel who was able to use newer tyres to pass the Ferrari of Alonso for 4th some laps later.

Both the Mercedes drivers were now complaining about their tyres, something they rectified as they stopped on lap 41 and 42 respectively. For Rosberg this was simply routine, yet for Hamilton it was anything but. His stop signalled a drastic change of strategy from a two to a three stop race. This left him able to charge down the rest with a short stint on the super soft tyres, before a conservation final run on another set of the super soft tyres.

Lap 50 saw Sauber driver Adrian Sutil suffer a strange spin exiting the final corner, leaving the car unable to re-start precariously and potentially necessitating a late Safety Car. Sensing a potential Safety Car, Mercedes gambled on pitting Hamilton to steal a remarkable 2nd place a lap later. The Safety Car never materialised leaving thing tough for a potential podium now.

Things improved however as Alonso pitted with tyres that were completely shot on lap 55, leaving Hamilton 3rd and chasing down Bottas who was also struggling with his tyres in 2nd. Behind them Ricciardo was also using new tyres to charge up the field, although he soon had Fernando Alonso’s Ferrari on his rear wing challenging him for his 5th place.

What ensured was a truly brilliant battle between the two as they constantly changed places over successive laps, until the fun was ended as Alonso finally made it through on lap 62 exiting Turn 9. From her the attention for the final laps turned to Hamilton, who was desperately trying to pass Bottas but to no avail as Bottas held on behind a dominant Rosberg for 2nd , with Hamilton completing the podium in 3rd. Sebastien Vettel came home a quiet 4th from Alonso in 5th and Ricciardo coming home 6th.

Nico Hulkenberg delivered again in 7th, with Jenson Button in 8th from team mate Magnussen who recovered well to come home 9th. Completing the top 10 was Sergio Perez in 10th. From here the F1 circus moves on to Hungary before a well deserved 3 week break for the F1 paddock before the final run in begins at Spa in Belgium.

2014 Canadian GP Race Report

After a surprise pole for AMG Mercedes man Nico Rosberg, the race promised to be a thrilling battle between the two AMG Mercedes drivers Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton out front. After a contentious Monaco GP weekend the team was simply hoping for a much calmer race this time around.

As the red lights went out it was Hamilton who initially made the best getaway, appearing to have the momentum to out drag Rosberg on the outside going into Turn 1. Yet unfortunately for Hamilton the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve has one of the shortest GP straights of the year, allowing Rosberg to tough it out with Hamilton and unintentionally force him wide going into Turn 2. From this fast starting Sebastien Vettel grasped this opportunity to jump past Hamilton for 2nd.

The action continued at Turn 3 as Max Chilton slid wide in his back marking Marussia, consequently sliding into team mate Jules Bianchi, who then violently slammed into the wall, removing most of his rear end in the process. With oil and debris spread across the track the Safety Car was quickly scrambled as the efficient marshals set to work. The Safety car peeled in at the end of lap 7, as Hamilton immediately started challenging Vettel for 2nd. After DRS was enabled Hamilton used it to breeze past Vettel in the inferior Renault powered Red Bull on the back straight before the final chicane on lap 10.

Daniel Ricciardo in the other Red Bull was the first of the top 6 to stop on lap 13, a strategic move that many around him soon copied to cover him. Rosberg was the first of the AMG Mercedes to pit as he came in from the lead on lap 18, with Hamilton responding with a slower stop a lap later. For Sebastien Vettel the first round of stops were the start of a frustrating afternoon as he was now stuck behind the one-stopping Nico Hulkenberg in his Sahara-Force India. Finally on lap 23 he tried a desperately late dive to the inside at the Turn 10 hairpin, before over-shooting wide and allowing Hulkenberg back through again.

Back at the front, the leaders battle was heating up too as Hamilton reduced a 2.1 second lead after the pit stops to less than a second in 4 laps. Hamilton’s new found pressure on Rosberg appeared to force a mistake as the leader locked his left front heavily braking for the final chicane, before straight lining it and carrying on. The contentious issue with this however, was the fact Rosberg opened a 0.6s gap and set his fastest lap during the process. This usually results in a penalty and the AMG Mercedes team expected the worse once it was announced the stewards were indeed looking into this move.

Back in the pack, some long awaited poetic justice was served as Williams driver Felipe Massa breezed past Fernando Alonso’s Ferrari with the help of DRS going into Turn 1 for 8th on lap 26. The significance of this move stems from Felipe’s time with Ferrari, where he spent the previous 4 seasons behind outpaced by Alonso, who used team orders to take victory in the 2010 German GP, in the process cementing the infamous “Fernando is faster than you” radio message into the contentious history books.

Hamilton meanwhile settled behind Rosberg as the stewards deliberated giving Rosberg a time penalty. Once is was confirmed he wouldn’t receive a penalty on lap 32, Hamilton soon began challenging again. Just behind them Sergio Perez in the other Sahara-Force India finally pitted from 3rd, after making his Super Soft tyres last an amazing 34, when other were averaging 15-18 laps. With Perez re-joining 8th this freed the train behind Hulkenberg consisting of both Red Bull’s and the Williams of Valtteri Bottas were now fighting over the final podium position.

The queue of cars behind Hulkenberg was depleted somewhat as Bottas strategically pitted for the second time on lap 36, hoping to jump Vettel in the process. Vettel was called in the lap after to cover this and comfortably re-joined in front of the Williams. Thing’s were not all brilliant for Vettel however as team mate Ricciardo pitted a few laps later and subsequently jumped him for the final podium place.

Back at the front the drama was only just beginning for the AMG Mercedes twins as both drivers started complaining of a loss of power. Their times suddenly rose from 1.19 laps to high 1.22 laps, several seconds a lap slower than those behind them. Hulkenberg finally released those behind him as he stopped on lap 41, although the Red Bull’s now had Perez’s Sahara-Force India in front of them. Both AMG Mercedes cars pitted on laps 44 and 45, with Hamilton jumping Rosberg for 2nd after stopping a lap later.

It appeared both cars had suffered ERS energy recovery failure’s, leaving them 160bhp down on their usual output. From here things got a lot worse for Hamilton as he now began suffering with severe braking problems, which quickly allowed Rosberg through again into 2nd on lap 46. A lap later and it was all over for Hamilton, as his car had now completely cooked it’s brakes, leaving him no choice but to trickle into the pits to retire, his second of the 2014 season.

With the various issues for the AMG Mercedes cars, this left Felipe Massa alone out front, although he appeared unlikely to be able to last the rest of the race without needing another tyre stop. This mantra was proved correct as Massa needed another tyre stop on lap 47, dropping him to 7th but with the benefit of much fresher tyres. With Rosberg now appearing a sitting duck this left Perez, Ricciardo and Vettel fighting for a likely victory behind them. Perez was struggling mightily with much older tyres things weren’t getting any better as he now had a DRS issue, which left him really struggling to overtake Rosberg for the lead.

In the next gaggle behind Perez and the Red Bull’s, Valtteri Bottas showed an unintentionally kind side to team mate Massa as his dive inside Hulkenberg for 5th meant Massa could jump them both and retain a slim chance of winning the race. Things got worse for Bottas a few laps later as Alonso used DRS into Turn 1 to depose him from 7th. By lap 63 Massa had caught Vettel and the train in front, yet appeared frustrated as the inherent lack of rear traction in the Williams gave Massa little chance of passing Vettel.

With Rosberg appearing increasingly comfortable in the lead things were hotting up behind him as Ricciardo finally passed Perez for 2nd with a demon outside move into Turn 1 using DRS, in fact he carried so much speed he barely stopped the car in time for Turn 2 , just about managing to hold of Perez and the rest behind him. He quickly caught Rosberg in front and used DRS on the back straight before the final chicane to steal the lead with only a few laps left.

For Ricciardo an unlikely first victory was secured on the final lap, as behind him Massa used DRS to gain a run on Perez for 5th, yet on-board camera’s appeared to show Perez jinked slightly to cover this move, with the unfortunate end result being a heavy collision for them both with both needed mandatory hospital visit’s afterwards, although both were later pronounced perfectly okay.

The final lap Safety Car left Ricciardo free to take a unexpected yet highly popular first win from the wounded Rosberg in 2nd, who expertly controlled the second half of the race to collect a great points haul, putting him 22 ahead of Hamilton now. Completing the podium was the other Red Bull of reigning champion Sebastien Vettel. After a demon second stint of the race Jenson Button rose from no where to claim 4th for McLaren. Nico Hulkenberg collected solid points in 5th, from a low-key Fernando Alonso in 6th for Ferrari.

Valtteri Bottas salvaged 7th and some points for Williams in a frustrating missed opportunity for them, whilst Jean Eric Vergne quietly raced on to 8th for Scuderia Toro Rosso. Completing the points were McLaren rookie Kevin Magnussen in 9th and finally a below-par Kimi Raikkonen in 10th.

After a truly thrilling Canadian GP, which contained it all with high amounts of on-track drama alongside a popular first time winner in Daniel Ricciardo, the revived Austrian GP has a lot to live up to in two weeks. The Red Bull team will be looking for another good result at the home race for their team, but it appears AMG Mercedes will be back on top barring any more mechanical maladies. One thing that appears certain is that this Canadian GP will be remembered as by far the best race of the 2014 F1 season.

Thank you for the great images they can be viewed at these websites below.
http://o.canada.com/sports/autoracing/ricciardo-gives-red-bull-first-f1-win-with-victory-over-rosberg-in-canada
http://www.f1fanatic.co.uk/2014/06/09/2014-canadian-grand-prix-tyre-strategies-pit-stops/
http://www.f1fanatic.co.uk/2014/06/06/mercedes-back-top-ahead-red-bull-ferrari/

2014 Canadian GP Qualifying Report

After the drama’s and tension of the Monaco GP weekend two weeks ago, the F1 circus was hoping for a much calmer weekend as they arrived at the ever popular Circuit Gilles Villeneuve. This race weekend is always popular with teams, drivers and fans alike and an interesting weekend was predicted. This circuit always provides competitive racing thanks to it’s unique nature with braking being crucial around this high speed stop lap.

The Q1 drama began before the session had even got underway as Sauber sophomore driver Esteban Gutierrez was forced to sit and watch Qualifying as the his car needed a new chassis after a crash in Free Practice 3.  This meant only 5 drivers would be eliminated this time around, somewhat easing the pressure . As the cars trickled out slowly it was Williams driver Valteri Bottas who set the first competitive time with a 1.18.270 after 4 minutes.  

 

Unsurprisingly this time didn’t last long at the top as AMG Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg subsequently smashed that time with his own 1.16.690 with 12 minutes left in the session. Canada specialist Lewis Hamilton wasn’t going to let Rosberg get too comfortable atop the times however as he soon chimed in with a 1.16.438. Then with 8 minutes to go he improved to a 1.15.750, a nice statement of intent on his part for qualifying. After this the session calmed down slightly before the intensity increased in the final minutes.

First Lotus-Renault driver Pastor Maldonado pulled off track at Turn 2 with a lack of power, in the process guaranteeing his elimination in Q1. Things did improve his slightly however, as Caterham rookie Marcus Ericsson stuffed the rear end of his car into the outside wall exiting Turn 9 with 16 seconds left. The ensuring red flag would end the session and cement everyone in their Q1 positions.

Sharing the back row are the Sauber of Esteban Gutierrez and the Caterham rookie Marcus Ericsson. Caterham team leader Kamui Kobayashi lines up 20th, with Marussia driver Jules Bianchi 19th. Max Chilton out-qualified team mate Bianchi for the first time in 2014 in 18th alongside the unlucky Lotus-Renault driver Pastor Maldonado in 17th. Since qualifying things have got worse for Caterham however as Kobayashi has been forced to take a gearbox change, demoting him to 21st behind team mate Ericsson.

Q2 began with star Sahara-Force India driver Nico Hulkenberg being the first to set a competitive time with a 1.16.650 in the first few minutes. Both the Williams drivers looked hugely competitive this weekend and they soon flexed their muscles in Q2, with Felipe Massa quickly setting the pace with a 1.15.773 with 11 minutes to go in Q2. The major surprise of Q2 was the fact the two AMG Mercedes drivers were unable to beat Massa’s time, although this can be explained by the fact they didn’t run the softer tyres which Massa did.

The final minutes were frantic as always but the biggest surprise again was that the AMG Mercedes drivers went out for a final run when they appeared safe for Q3. Nevertheless, their softer tyre runs rewarded them with Rosberg first with a 1.15.2 before Hamilton eclipsed him with a 1.15.0 to top the Q2 session. From Q1 and Q2 the advantage AMG Mercedes enjoyed a 0.7s gap to the rest, ensuring Q3 would be another intense battle between the two.

Those who sadly wouldn’t be making Q3 were a disappointed Sahara-Force India driver Nico Hulkenberg in 11th, alongside McLaren rookie Kevin Magnussen in 12th. Sahara-Force India’s disappointed day was completed a Hulkenberg’s team mate Sergio Perez only managed 13th, sharing row 7 with Lotus-Renault driver Romain Grosjean in 14th. The 8th row would be shared with Scuderia Toro Rosso rookie Daniil Kvyat in 15th alongside Sauber driver Adrian Sutil in 16th.

The final Q3 session began slowly with Valterri Bottas the first to venture out after 2 minutes. His first lap time was a 1.15.550 with 7.30 left on the clock. His reign at the top was short however as Nico Rosberg soon eclipsed him with a 1.14.946 lap, which even team mate Hamilton couldn’t match. As the cars settled in the garage’s ready for their final run, Ferrari driver Kimi Raikkonen gambled on setting a quick lap whilst the track was quiet. This gamble didn’t work however as he only managed 8th on his one flying lap.

The final run’s were an anti-climax as a bad lap from Hamilton handed Rosberg pole on a plate, with Rosberg improving by a tenth just to make sure of pole. Reigning world champion Sebastien Vettel produced the lap of the session to steal 3rd from the Williams drivers in an inferior Red Bull car. William sophomore Bottas usurped experienced team mate Massa for 4th and 5th, with Vettel’s Red Bull team mate Daniel Ricciardo disappointed with 6th. Fernando Alonso qualified 7th from an impressive Jean Eric Vergne in the Toro Rosso in 8th. The 5th and final row of the top 10 would be shared by Jenson Button in the McLaren and Raikkonen completing the top 10 for Ferrari.

Qualifying set up the race later on today perfectly in what should be an impressive race long fight between the two AMG Mercedes drivers. Behind them the battle for the final podium spot should be just as interesting between the Red Bull and Williams cars. Also watch out for the two Sahara-Force India cars, as they are always more competitive in race trim with their car notoriously soft on it’s tyres. Watch out for their progress during the race.