Belgian GP

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

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Max Chilton rumblings leave Alex Rossi in the cold

After the announcement last night that Marussia driver Max Chilton would move aside at this weekend’s Belgian Grand Prix, allegedly for non-payment from Chilton’s sponsors, therefore allowing Alex Rossi to make his Grand Prix debut. Whilst this seemed like a dream for Rossi, who only recently joined Marussia after leaving Caterham.

Sadly for Rossi, the reality quickly became something much different because as swiftly as he was announced it subsequently became common knowledge that Chilton would in fact be driving for Marussia this weekend after all. For the seemingly happy go-lucky American Alex Rossi this must be a huge blow to gear yourself up for a Grand Prix debut, only to have it snatched away so soon.

This bizarre soap opera began last night when it was announced by the team that Chilton was being replaced for this weekend because of “contractual issues.” The waters were muddied further in the aftermath of this as Chilton himself released a press statement which said that he was “stepping aside” to allow the team to sell his seat for much needed financial benefit. This seemed strange that the team and the driver were giving different explanations for Chilton stepping aside.

It seems that if the rumours are true this was the wake up call for Chilton to start leaning on his sponsors to pay up the promised funds, as whilst Free Practice 1 was taking place this morning, whilst Rossi was probably on track, it was announced by the team that Chilton would indeed by racing this weekend after all leaving Rossi with only the Free Practice 1 session for the weekend.

Whilst this will hugely disappointing for Rossi he can take some solace from the experience gained for the future, especially as this was his first time driving the Marussia MR03-Ferrari car. It seems likely Rossi will get more chances during Free practice sessions this year, most likely at his home race in Austin. With nothing confirmed in terms of driver line-up for next year an impressive showing from Rossi in any further running for the team could persuade them to take him on for the 2015 season.

Whilst it’s hard to read too much into Rossi’s display this morning as it was his first time in the car, therefore it was no surprise that he was 1.5 seconds behind highly rated team mate Jules Bianchi. This seems a good starting point for Rossi, let’s hope he gets a proper chance at F1 from here.

Why Andre Lotterer deserves F1 chance

Immediately following the shock announcement of Max Verstappen joining Scuderia Toro Rosso for the 2015 F1 season on Monday night, rumours began circulating that for this weekend’s Belgian Grand Prix Caterham would replace Kamui Kobayashi with stand-out Audi sportscar driver Andre Lotterer. By Tuesday afternoon it appeared almost certainly a done deal, with the final confirmation being announced by Caterham in a press release this morning, Wednesday 20th August. For the insular world of Formula One many have started scrambling around for information and analysis on this very quick German, with the results they’ll find on him being enough to show his F1 debut this weekend is long overdue.

Andre Lotterer has already been amongst the F1 circus once before, with early titles in German Formula BMW Junior and ADAC Formula BMW in 1998 and 1999 brought him to the attention of the new Jaguar team for 2000, who offered him several tests during the 2000 season to complement his 4th in the German Formula Three Championship campaign. The link to the Jaguar F1 team was made stronger in 2001 as he raced in British F3 for the Jaguar junior racing team, before stepping up to become the official test driver for the Jaguar F1 team for the 2002 season.


Lotterer testing for Jaguar in 2002.

Whilst it initially looked likely that Lotterer would be promoted to a race seat in 2003 after it was announced that both Eddie Irvine was retiring and Pedro De La Rosa was to also leave. Sadly for Lotterer the team chose 2002 Minardi stand-out Mark Webber alongside promising young Brazilian Antonio Pizzonia for the 2003 season, leaving Lotterer looking to re-build his career momentum.

Lotterer subsequently shunned Europe and went to Japan to race in their premier Formula Nippon series, now called Super Formula, and Japanese Super GT series for 2003. Impressive results in both cemented his reputation in Japan as a very fast young driver as he was a frequent title contender in Formula Nippon for the works TOM’S Toyota team, alongside two Super GT titles in 2006 and 2009.


Lotterer and Kazuki Nakajima driving for Lexus in Super GT at Okayama in 2011.

These impressive results in Japan led to some well deserved attention from Europe, although it does seem surprising looking back that despite consistently impressive Super GT results it took until 2009 for Lotterer to make his Le Mans 24 Hours. The call came from the Kolles team racing their privateer LMP1 Audi R10 TDI. After a herculean effort from Lotterer and co-driver Charles Zwolsman to complete the race without third driver Narain Karthikeyan to injury, the car came home an impressive 7th overall after completing 369 laps.

The impressive debut with the Kolles Audi in 2009 led the highly successful works Audi team to offer him a deal for the 2010 season, where his Audi R15 TDI+ came home 2nd. From here things would get very busy for Lotterer as from 2011 onwards he would have to dovetail his Japanese Formula Nippon and Super GT commitments with a full schedule in the new Intercontinental Le Mans Cup, morphing into the World Endurance Series for 2012.

The full time schedule has not affected Lotterer’s pace however as he finally claimed a first Formula Nippon title in 2011 after 8 years of trying, with a perfect 2011 being completed with a heroic first Le Mans 24 Hours victory for him, after fighting off an onslaught of Peugeot’s to claim the win. Things improved in 2012 as the Lotterer/Marcel Fassler and Benoit Treluyer partnership swept to a second consecutive Le Mans 24 Hours victory and the inaugural World Endurance Championship title also.

2013 and 2014 so far have seen a continuation of is stellar results as the Audi trio claimed a third Le Mans 24 Hours victory and currently sit 2nd in the World Endurance Championship with 5 rounds remaining. During his sportscar and single seater career so far Lotterer has regularly proven himself to be a master of wet conditions, which maybe gives some indication of why Caterham chose to give him debut in the notoriously wet Belgian GP at Spa. Another reason may be his experience of the Spa circuit this year as he’s already raced there for Audi both in the WEC and the recent Spa 24 Hours.


Lotterer at this year’s Le Mans 24 Hours for Audi.

Whatever Caterham chose they have made a bold yet good decision in my opinion to take a chance on the always quick Andre Lotterer for this weekend, as a sportscar fan I’ve seen plenty of impressive drives from him over the last few years for Audi. He has a chance to improve things for the Caterham team although despite circuit knowledge the Caterham car has proved very difficult all season. I sincerely hope he gets the chance to give a good account of himself this weekend despite the troublesome Caterham car, which I think is only fair after the wait he’s had to make his F1 debut.

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