Category Archives: F1 Midweek

F1 Midweek – Channel Crossings

Kansas City – With this year’s British Grand Prix said and done, the circus has begun its cross-Channel journey to the ancestral home of Britain’s monarchy: Germany. Where Silverstone holds a solid place in the F1 history books, the Hockenheimring’s connections to the sport are about 20 years more recent.

Formula 1 first came to Hockenheim in 1970, following a driver boycott of the ever-perilous Nürburgring. Today, the two competing German circuits alternate hosting the annual German Grand Prix. What could be said most about Germany is that this race will be focused on three drivers in particular: Nico Rosberg, Sebastian Vettel, and Nico Hülkenberg. The trio of Germans have all done quite well thus far this season, each of them earning points at multiple races. I have little doubt that Rosberg could take Germany just as Hamilton took Britain.

On the Hamilton-Rosberg rivalry, Lewis Hamilton decided to start goading at his German teammate. In an article published Monday by The Guardian, Hamilton is quoted as having said, “Nico Rosberg is not a real German.” Rosberg responded on Tuesday, according to The Guardian“describing himself as ‘100% German.'” This entire tit-for-tat seems to be just a simple matter of team rivalry intended for the press to know about.

In the other paddocks, less bickering appears to be going on. For one thing, Caterham has changed ownership in the last week, having been sold by former owner Tony Fernandes to a Swiss and Middle Eastern consortium. Perhaps the biggest question that I have on the matter is whether or not the team will seek a different country’s license than Malaysia? Perhaps with the new ownership, come 2015 we will see Caterham joining Sauber under the Swiss flag. For now though, the new ownership will certainly have an Everest-sized uphill struggle in the attempt to score some points on the drivers’ and constructors’ leaderboards.

Caterham’s rival, Marussia on the other hand seems to be doing something right. Considering that Jules Bianchi has scored a couple of points this season, and that Max Chilton has come very close to doing so as well, the Anglo-Russian team seems to be on the verge of breaking through the lowest glass celling in the sport, that being the one between the non-points scoring teams and the middle of the field teams.

Williams likewise seems to be on the verge of good times. With Valtteri Bottas earning his second career podium this past weekend at Silverstone, and Felipe Massa equally doing quite well when he has the chance, the team from Grove in Oxfordshire could be on the edge of breaking back into the top level of the sport, challenging the Mercedes and Red Bulls. Despite the brevity of her inaugural Formula One drive, Williams test-driver Susie Wolff has shown great talent. I do hope that she gets a seat at one of the teams next season, as she could be fantastic competition. On top of that, her appearance in Free Practise 1 was cut quite short due to an engine failure.

As Formula 1 prepares to return to Germany, there will be much to watch out for. Perhaps soon we will see Williams win their first Grand Prix since Pastor Maldonado’s victory at the 2012 Spanish GP. What will happen with the Mercedes duo is yet to be seen. Equally, will Sebastian Vettel’s Red Bull roar back into life? We will all find out on the 20th.

F1 Midweek – The Restoration of Williams

Kansas City – This past weekend’s resurrected Austrian Grand Prix was a rebirth in many different ways. Firstly, the obvious rebirth of Formula 1 in Austria. Secondly, the awakening of Michael Schumacher from his long coma in the week prior to the grand prix. Thirdly, the restoration of Williams Martini Racing from their slump of recent years. The old champions of the 80s and 90s came back in full force at Austria, with their two drivers taking the front row in qualifying and finishing in 3rd and 4th in the race. Between Brazilian Felipe Massa and Finn Valtteri Bottas, Williams has a dynamic duo that could very well earn more points for the team than could have been imaginable in the last four years.

Williams is one of those teams that generally everyone seems to like. They have been referred to as the sort of “everyman” of Formula 1. Team head, Sir Frank Williams, worked his way up in the motor racing world, running cars in GP2 races among other lower tier events before making his way into Formula 1.

With many famous drivers having worn the Williams white, including legendary Brazilian Ayrton Senna, the team has quite a storied history. It also has the third most world constructor’s and driver’s championship victories, winning the constructor’s title 9 times and the driver’s title 7 times. All of their championships took place in the 80s and 90s. Only Ferrari and McLaren have won more driver’s and constructor’s championships.

So it is rather sad that over the past few seasons, since 2004, Williams has been unable to finish the season higher than 4th place. Yet after this past weekend, that may be liable to change, as the team was able to finish quite strongly at Spielberg. If not this season, then certainly in 2015 I believe we will see Williams up at the top alongside Mercedes AMG Petronas, Ferrari, and Red Bull. They certainly have the talent between their crew and drivers, and should under all circumstances be able to win a few grands prix this season, with more to come next time around.

On a final note, about this fellow who stole Michael Schumacher’s medical records:

How stupid can you get! The poor man has just woken from a long coma! I know you want to make some money, but the least you can do is leave the poor fellow in peace to recover.

F1 Midweek – Schumacher update and looking ahead to Austria

Kansas City – If you haven’t heard, on Monday seven-time Formula 1 world champion Michael Schumacher at long last came out of his coma that had been caused by a skiing accident on 29 December at the French resort of Meribel. That being said, after having been in a state of comatose for that long, it will undoubtedly take quite a while for the German to fully recover, which in itself is unlikely.

News bulletins flew around the world on Monday from the Grenoble University Hospital, announcing that Schumacher had been taken out of France to University Hospital Lausanne in neighbouring Switzerland. Despite this, The Independent reports that Schumacher still is unable to talk. According to a 16 June article by John Lichfield of The Independent, Schumacher has a “one in ten chance of making a full recovery.”

That being said, at least the poor man is out of his coma at long last. I can’t imagine what his family has been going through during all of this. No doubt the F1 world will continue to have “Schumi” in their thoughts as they descend on a circuit which was last won by the seven time world champion, the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg, Austria this weekend for the resurrection of the Austrian Grand Prix, which was last run in 2003.

Formerly known as the Österreichring from 1969-1995, and the A1-Ring from 1996-2004, the circuit has since been bought by the energy drink company Red Bull, who have since become famous within motorsport for their ownership of two of the current eleven Formula 1 teams, Infiniti Red Bull Racing and Scuderia Toro Rosso respectively. I have little doubt that the pressure will be on the two Red Bull drivers to win their team’s home grand prix.

At the same time, as we have seen throughout this season no one has been able to compete with Mercedes AMG Petronas as long as the silver arrows make it through the race damage free. We saw two weeks ago in Canada one of the weaker points of the Mercedes cars, namely brake failures, which resulted in Lewis Hamilton retiring and Nico Rosberg finishing in second behind Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo. At the same time, knowing the Mercedes team I have little doubt that the will have fixed that problem by now in preparation for Austria.

The Red Bull Ring track runs clockwise, with ten corners. It runs 4.326 km (2.688 mi) in length. To date, the fastest lap record stands with Ferrari’s Michael Schumacher, who finished Lap 41 during the 2003 Austrian Grand Prix at 1:08.337. Only three of the current Formula 1 drivers, Kimi Räikkönen, Jenson Button, and Fernando Alonso have driven in the Austrian Grand Prix before, Button having competed in the 2000-2003 Austrian Grands Prix, whilst Räikkönen and Alonso have only competed in the 2001-2003 Austrian Grands Prix.

We will have to wait until this Sunday to see how the teams compete at the Red Bull Ring in Formula 1’s triumphant return to Austria after 11 years away. Hopefully Schumacher will be well enough to see at least a couple of the races this season.

F1 Midweek – Safety First

Kansas City – The whirlwind that was last Sunday’s Canadian Grand Prix certainly has made an impact on the season. I say this for many reasons, chief amongst them being the fact that now we will not be seeing a Mercedes season sweep. Though it would be too much to say that Hamilton’s brake failure destroyed what momentum the team had, it certainly made a major impact upon that force of nature that has been Mercedes AMG Petronas. On the other hand, Nico Rosberg was able to stay in the race to the end, despite finishing in 2nd, his resilience and sheer luck may be what keeps Mercedes at the top.

This past weekend also saw the reawakening of the Red Bulls, with Australian Daniel Ricciardo securing the team’s first win since the final race of 2013 last November in Brazil. From all the reports that I have read and heard, Ricciardo appears to be one of the nicest guys in Formula 1 right now. For that reason alone, I was happy for his win on Sunday.

Red Bull’s momentum could very well keep up with the next few races, as the circus returns to Austria on the weekend of the 22nd for the first time since 2003. The race will be held at Red Bull’s home circuit, the aptly named Red Bull Ring. It will be good to see the sport return to such a beautiful country.

On the flip side from the jubilation of the Red Bulls, Sunday saw quite a few mishaps and crashes. Starting on Lap 1 with Max Chilton crashing his Marussia into the car of his French teammate Jules Bianchi. Chilton has been given a three-place grid penalty in Austria as punishment for his actions in Canada. At the far end of the race from the elimination of the Marussias, Force India’s Sergio Pérez and Williams’ Felipe Massa made contact at Turn 1 on Lap 70, sending both drivers hurtling with the force of 27 Gs into the barriers. Thankfully both the Mexican and Brazilian were released from hospital soon there after without any reports of major injuries.

The questions arose soon there after as to whom was to blame for the crash. From the initial Formula 1 television feed it appeared that Massa had made contact with Pérez, thus making Massa the guilty party. However, according to an FIA analysis, Pérez left his line at the last moment, crossing into Massa’s path, which then resulted in their elimination from the race and close encounter of an unwanted kind with the Turn 1 barriers. Naturally, Force India has denied that Pérez caused the crash.

In a press release that appeared on the Force India Facebook page on Monday the 9th, Pérez said, “I was following the same line and braking patterns as in the previous laps and I just got hit from behind by Massa.” He continued later saying, “I watched several replays of the incident and I can’t help but notice how Felipe turns right just before he hits me.”

Pérez's statements on the crash. / Sahara Force India Formula One Team Facebook

Pérez’s statements on the crash. / Sahara Force India Formula One Team Facebook

On the Williams team website, the race recap told a slightly different, if not more simple, version of what happened, with their main comment on the crash being, “Felipe was attacking Perez for fourth on the final lap when Perez crashed into him.”

One thing we can say for certain is that the sport’s safety has greatly improved in the last 20 years. Thankfully, as I already said, both drivers were able to walk away from their cars after a fashion. Because of the force of the crash, when Lap 70 finished, my family was far more muted in our celebrations of Ricciardo’s first grand prix win than we would have been otherwise.

After this past weekend’s race in Canada, I am unsure what to expect in Austria. True, it is very likely that the 2014 Austrian Grand Prix will be won by either a Mercedes or a Red Bull, but with the issues that plagued the teams last weekend, one can never be too sure of what will come next. Who knows, perhaps the lads at McLaren will finish on the podium following a Mercedes-Red Bull blow out similar to what happened to Pérez and Massa or even to what happened to the two Marussias on Lap 1.

F1 Midweek – Bienvenue au Québec

Kansas City – This week, the Formula 1 circus returns to this side of the Atlantic for the first time in the new V6 era. It makes things far easier for those of us who follow the sport in the Americas, because at long last the races are not in the middle of the night or in the early daylight hours on Sunday morning. This coming weekend is not just an opportunity for Canada to welcome one of the greatest competitions back into its borders, but for Québec to embrace the F1 world as it has every year since the Canadian Grand Prix relocated to Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve in Montréal.

Montréal is one of my favourite events on the sport’s calendar. The beauty of the circuit, built on Île Notre-Dame in the Saint Lawrence River, is unrivalled and quite unique. If for nothing else, this weekend’s grand prix will be one to watch just for the eye-candy that is Québec in June.

On top of that, as a bit of a francophile, I always enjoy seeing Québec make a name for itself. South of the border here in the States, when one thinks of Canada typically Ontario, Alberta, or British Columbia will come to mind first, with Québec coming in second. Though, for Québec’s benefit, I will say that les Habs did far better this year in the NHL than any of the other Canadian teams. On top of that, I have a decent sized readership in Canada, so cheers to you!

What we should expect from the drivers I should think will be more of the same. I would be surprised if the podium from Monaco was not repeated in Canada. Thankfully for Mercedes AMG Petronas, it seems as though Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg have settled any discord that had developed between them over the past few months. I suppose they have to be friends to be able to unicycle together shirtless, as tweeted by Hamilton last week following the seeming coldness between the two works Mercedes drivers.

ImageIn the Red Bull paddock, things have been surprising since pre-season testing began in January. Perhaps the biggest surprise is four-time, and defending, world champion Sebastian Vettel’s continued troubles with the new RB10. However, where his Australian teammate Daniel Ricciardo is concerned, it seems that he is much quicker than the team thought. Team principal Christian Horner offered his thoughts on the matter to Sky Sports F1‘s William Esler, saying, “Daniel has been a real surprise this year. We knew he was quick – we just didn’t realise how quick.”

I do hope we will be able to see better results for the McLarens and Ferraris in Montréal. However, this appears to be the Year of the Silver Arrows on the ever rotating Formula 1 Zodiac.

F1 Midweek – Malice at Mercedes

Chicago – The club of great intra-team rivalries of Formula 1 have inducted a new pair to their hallowed membership. The Lewis Hamilton – Nico Rosberg battle certainly is the fiercest of this season, topping the duel of Ferraris between Fernando Alonso and Kimi Räikkönen. I remember quite fondly Rosberg’s win last year at Monaco, during which race he and his British teammate worked together to keep the Ferraris and Red Bulls at bay. To follow that, Hamilton wrote a lengthy congratulations to his German teammate following his win. What a difference a year makes!

This past Sunday at Monaco, the two Mercedes drivers hardly moved to congratulate each other post-race. The animosity between the pair has come thus far to dominate this season. What I find most interesting, as a historian, is the fact that Niki Lauda, one of the greatest drivers of the 70s and 80s, is now working with the Mercedes team as its non-executive chairman, in which position, according to the Daily Mail, he took part in the negotiations that brought Hamilton to the team.

Lauda was quoted by Paul Weaver of the Guardian “One thing is clear, that Lewis, from my point of view, has a one or two tenths advantage on Nico. He can get the laps in qualifying. And Nico is working hard – he’s my type – with the mechanics and engineers with the tyres, so we have one natural talent, very emotional. And we have another guy who is doing the same job in another way.”

Another element of this rivalry, as noted by Hamilton last weekend in Monaco, is the vast disparity in childhoods between the Briton and the German. Hamilton grew up in Stevenage in Hertfordshire, one of the less-well-off suburbs of London. Rosberg, the son of retired Finnish Formula 1 driver Keke Rosberg, grew up largely in Monaco having a far more privileged childhood than Hamilton. Today, Hamilton and Rosberg live in the same apartment building in Monaco.

Who knows what this rivalry will do for or against the Mercedes team throughout the rest of the season. The next race in Montréal will be yet another testing ground for the relationship between the two drivers in question. Perhaps they will eliminate each other from the race in Lap 1. Or quite possibly they will keep up the fight to the finish like in Bahrain. Either way, this rivalry, which began in their karting days, has blossomed into one of the great Formula 1 rivalries of this decade.

F1 Midweek – Preparing for Monaco

Kansas City – It’s that time of year again when those of us who count ourselves amongst the ever expanding fan-base of Formula 1, the king of all motor sports, gear up to perhaps the most exciting weekend of all. It’s time for the Monaco Grand Prix! Monaco is by far the crown jewel of the F1 calendar, the most storied race of any season. It is in some senses the bridge between the sport’s early days before the Second World War and the present.

Monaco is one of my personal favourite races each year, in large part because of its history and prowess in the sporting calendar. What makes it so historic is by and large the fact that this is one of the few street circuits left in Formula 1. Seeing these rocket ships roaring down the narrow streets of the Principality, taking the hairpin turns, rounding the chicanes is enough to refresh my love for this sport all over again.

Returning from nostalgic admiration, the same old players seem like they will be standing tall this coming weekend. I would be surprised if the Mercedes did not dominate the podium, joined perhaps by a Red Bull or Ferrari, or McLaren (I can always hope.) Perhaps Williams, with their Finnish driver Valtteri Bottas, will strike strong on the streets. Bottas’ performance in the past few races has been exemplary, in what seems to be a year without Vettelian dominance. At the same time, the Force Indias have been looking good. If not in Monaco, then perhaps in the next few races we will see Mexican Sergio Pérez or German Nico Hülkenberg take a place on the podium.

In any case, this weekend’s Monaco Grand Prix is sure to be a spectacle, as it always is.