Tag Archives: Caterham F1

F1: Lewis Hamilton wins the 2014 World Championship in Abu Dhabi thriller

Abu Dhabi – From the chequered flag in Sâo Paulo, the world knew that the 2014 Formula 1 World Championship would end with a bang. With double points on the line, and a mere 17 point gap between them, the fight was on between Mercedes teammates Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg.

Rosberg once again proved himself as the fastest in qualifying, beating Hamilton out for pole by a mere 0.386 of a second. Close behind the Mercedes were the Williams of Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa, who played a major factor in Sunday’s season ending race at Yas Marina. Meanwhile, the starting grid was shaken up after the FIA disqualified the qualifying times of the Red Bulls of Sebastian Vettel and Daniel Ricciardo due to a pair of illegal front wings.

The race began with Hamilton getting an amazing start over his teammate, rushing up the left-hand side of the track and never looking back. Rosberg held his own against Massa, while Bottas was swamped by the pack, falling back considerably from his 3rd place start.

Rosberg’s troubles began on Lap 23, when his car suffered an ERS failure, crippling the German’s Mercedes and leaving Hamilton wary to push his own car too hard. In part because of this, Hamilton laid off for a good portion of the race, letting Massa take the lead, and have a decent chance at his first Grand Prix win since that fateful day in Brazil in 2008 when Hamilton won his first World Championship, beating the Brazilian out by just a few seconds. Rosberg was able to stay in the race to the end, despite the recommendations from the team that he retire. He finished the race in 14th, having been lapped by Hamilton on the last couple of laps.

Red Bull was able to recover from their pit-lane start, with Daniel Ricciardo challenging Williams’ Valtteri Bottas for 3rd and Vettel taking the fight to his 2015 team Ferrari. Fernando Alonso finished his final race at the Scuderia in 9th, finishing the season in 6th with 161 points. The Spaniard has yet to conform where he will be in 2015, though the rumours of a return to McLaren are still circulating.

McLaren’s Jenson Button had a good finish in 5th, on what could be his last Formula 1 race. The Briton has been in the sport since 2000, winning the World Championship in 2009. His Danish rookie teammate, Kevin Magnussen, finished in 11th, having spent the race in a dogfight with the Ferraris, Toro Rossos, and Force Indias.

Sunday saw only one incident, with Pastor Maldonado’s tailpipe erupting in flame on Lap 26. Other retirements included Toro Rosso’s Russian rookie, and soon to be Red Bull driver, Daniil Kvyat on Lap 14, and Caterham’s Kamui Kobayashi of Japan on Lap 42. Caterham’s No. 2 driver for the weekend, Will Stevens of Great Britain, finished in 17th.

The results of the 2014 Formula 1 Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix are as follows:

  1. Lewis Hamilton, Great Britain, Mercedes AMG Petronas, 1:39:02.61, 50 pts
  2. Felipe Massa, Brazil, Williams Martini Racing, +00:02.500, 36 pts
  3. Valtteri Bottas, Finland, Williams Martini Racing, +00:28.800, 30 pts
  4. Daniel Ricciardo, Australia, Infiniti Red Bull Racing, +00:37.200, 24 pts
  5. Jenson Button, Great Britain, McLaren-Mercedes, +01:00.300, 20 pts
  6. Nico Hülkenberg, Germany, Sahara Force India, +01:02.100, 16 pts
  7. Sergio Pérez, Mexico, Sahara Force India, +01:11.000, 12 pts
  8. Sebastian Vettel, Germany, Infiniti Red Bull Racing, +01:12.000, 8 pts
  9. Fernando Alonso, Spain, Scuderia Ferrari, +01:25.800, 4 pts
  10. Kimi Räikkönen, Finland, Scuderia Ferrari, +01:27.800, 2 pts
  11. Kevin Magnussen, Denmark, McLaren-Mercedes, +01:30.300, 0 pts
  12. Jean-Éric Vergne, France, Scuderia Toro Rosso, +01:31.900, 0 pts
  13. Romain Grosjean, France, Lotus, lapped, 0 pts
  14. Nico Rosberg, Germany, Mercedes AMG Petronas, lapped, 0 pts
  15. Esteban Gutierrez, Mexico, Sauber, lapped, 0 pts
  16. Adrian Sutil, Germany, Sauber, lapped, 0 pts
  17. Will Stevens, Great Britain, Caterham, lapped, 0 pts
  18. Kamui Kobayashi, Japan, Caterham, retired, 42 laps, 0 pts
  19. Pastor Maldonado, Venezuela, Lotus, retired, 26 laps, 0 pts
  20. Daniil Kvyat, Russia, Scuderia Toro Rosso, retired, 14 laps, 0 pts

There will be a season recap article coming your way in the next week or so, looking back at the key moments of 2014. Also, the 2015 Formula 1 season preview will be on its way come New Years’ under the banner of my new newspaper, The Tern.

Thanks so much for following the 2014 Formula 1 World Championship with me here at sthosdkane.com . I will be back in a week or so with a season recap article.

F1: US Grand Prix Qualifying & Other News From Austin

Austin – The 2014 Formula 1 United States Grand Prix weekend is in its second day, with Qualifying taking centre stage at Circuit of the Americas, which is located south of Downtown Austin a few miles further down the road from the local airport.

In general, qualifying was as expected considering the buildup to Sunday’s race: Vettel didn’t make it past Q1, as per plan, due to his starting from the pit lane on Sunday after having changed his engine unit. Likewise, with the reduced grid, the Lotuses of Grosjean, the Sauber of Gutierrez, and the Toro Rosso of Vergne failed to make it past Q1.

Q2 once again only saw 4 drivers eliminated, due to the absence of the Marussias and Caterhams from the field. Maldonado’s remaining Lotus qualified 11th, followed by the Force Indias of Sergio Pérez and Nico Hülkenberg, and the Toro Rosso of Daniil Kvyat.

Q3 saw one big, and well deserved surprise, namely the 10th place that Sauber’s Adrian Sutil earned today. It is the Swiss team’s first Q3 appearance in 2014, and Sutil’s first since the 2012 British Grand Prix. Qualifying was headlined by the Mercedes of Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton, followed by the Williams of Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa. Red Bull’s smiling Aussie, Daniel Ricciardo qualified 5th, with Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso coming in 6th. McLaren’s Jenson Button and Kevin Magnussen qualified in 7th and 8th, though Button will face a penalty. Kimi Räikkönen’s Ferrari came in 9th.

In other major F1 news, following the financial troubles of Marussia and Caterham, other mid-level teams such as Sauber and Force India are likewise feeling the economic strain. A report released by The Independent this past week said that it costs 94.4 million EUR to run an Formula 1 team, according to Monisha Kaltenborn. The Sauber chief urged the FIA to undertake drastic changes within the sport to allow for smaller teams, such as Sauber, to receive equal amounts of money “that allows every team to at least live decently,” the BBC reported on Friday.

In a move that has further intensified the monetary situation here in Austin, Force India deputy team principal Bob Fernley said on Saturday that the team may boycott Sunday’s grand prix in protest of what the team refers to as a financial crisis within the sport. This of course would leave the multitude of Mexican fans without one of their two countrymen, Sergio Pérez, to watch on Sunday. Despite the statements from Force India, Alan Permane, Lotus trackside operations director, said in an interview to the BBC, “It’s not real for us. It’s not even been thought about or discussed.”

Force India’s team principal Vijay Mallya countered Fernley’s statements, saying that no such boycott would take place and that all 18 cars would run in Austin on Sunday. Later on Saturday, Bernie Ecclestone said that he takes the blame for the financial troubles faced by the smaller teams in Formula 1, and even Max Mosley, former President of the FIA, argued in favour of finding some way of levelling out the playin gfield in regards to team finances.

Williams has also caused a bit of a stir this weekend in Austin, with the absence of Sir Frank and his daughter, Claire Williams. Sir Frank was admitted to hospital in the UK to treat a pressure sore on his back. Despite the absence of their team principal, the Williams team still qualified 3rd and 4th.

Sunday’s Formula 1 United States Grand Prix will be broadcasted live in the United States on NBC starting at 13.30 Austin (14.30 New York, 11.30 Los Angeles). The race will be televised in the UK on Sky Sports from 18.30, with the race starting at 20.00. It will also be broadcasted by BBC Radio 5 Live.

I will be tweeting any major developments live from Circuit of the Americas through my Twitter handle @sthosdkane.

Mercedes clinches Constructors’ Championship in Russian GP

Sochi – In an all-around unique race, Mercedes has once again come out on top, only this time they have done so in such a way that is invincible. In Formula 1’s first visit to Russia, the Mercedes Works team started 1,2 with Lewis Hamilton taking pole. Close behind the Silver Arrows was this weekend’s Flying Finn, Valtteri Bottas, who stood a decent chance at taking pole in qualifying. Unfortunately for Bottas, he veered slightly off track at the last moment, losing 0.7 seconds and qualifying in 3rd.

The race featured only 21 drivers, as Marussia decided to not race Bianchi’s car with a different driver. Rather, Bianchi’s car remained in the pit, ready for his wishful arrival at the circuit.

The first two laps showed off the resilience of the drivers and speed of the track, with Nico Rosberg making quick work of passing his teammate Hamilton, unfortunately though for the German, he lost 1st through locking up his front brakes and going off the track. This resulted in Rosberg having to change tyres on Lap 2.

Beyond the first few laps, the race itself was terribly uneventful. With only two retirements, Marussia’s Max Chilton retiring after 9 laps with car trouble, and Caterham’s Kamui Kobayashi retiring after 21 laps with a strange case of “team orders.” There was one collision between Adrian Sutil and Romain Grosjean, however the incident did not garner much attention from the FOM television producers, who chose not to show it.

One unique feature of the Sochi Autodrom is the long corners, which frankly are quite beautiful with speeds reaching nearly 280 kph (173 mph.)

The weekend was capped off by the presentation of Mercedes’ 1st place and constructor’s trophy by Russian President Vladimir Putin, who made an appearance midway through the race at the side of F1 Supremo Bernie Ecclestone.

Formula 1 returns next to the United States with the grand prix at Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas. I will be heading south some 800 miles from Kansas City to Austin to witness Free Practise 3, Qualifying, and the Grand Prix in person.  I will only be able to tweet out coverage of Free Practise 3, Qualifying, and the race from Turn 1. You can follow me @sthosdkane.

Final results for the 2014 F1 Russian Grand Prix are:

  1. Lewis Hamilton, GBR, Mercedes, 1:31:50.744, 25 pts
  2. Nico Rosberg, GER, Mercedes, +00:13.657, 18 pts
  3. Valtteri Bottas, FIN, Williams, +00:17.425, 15 pts
  4. Jenson Button, GBR, McLaren, +00:30.234, 12 pts
  5. Kevin Magnussen, DEN, McLaren, +00:53.616, 10 pts
  6. Fernando Alonso, ESP, Ferrari, +01:00.016, 8 pts
  7. Daniel Ricciardo, AUS, Red Bull, +01:01.812, 6 pts
  8. Sebastian Vettel, GER, Red Bull, +01:06.185, 4 pts
  9. Kimi Räikkönen, FIN, Ferrari, +01:18.877, 2 pts
  10. Sergio Pérez, MEX, Force India, +01:20.067, 1 pt
  11. Felipe Massa, BRZ, Williams, +01:20.877
  12. Nico Hülkenberg, GER, Force India, +01:21.309
  13. Jean-Éric Vergne, FRA, Toro Rosso, +01:37.295
  14. Daniil Kvyat, RUS, Toro Rosso, lapped
  15. Esteban Gutierrez, MEX, Sauber, lapped
  16. Adrian Sutil, GER, Sauber, lapped
  17. Romain Grosjean, FRA, Lotus, lapped
  18. Pastor Maldonado, VEN, Lotus, lapped
  19. Marcus Ericsson, SWE, Caterham, lapped
  20. Kamui Kobayashi, JPN, Caterham, retired, 21 laps
  21. Max Chilton, GBR, Marussia, retired, 9 laps

Bianchi critically injured in typhoon drenched Japanese GP

Suzuka – From the very start of Sunday’s Formula 1 Japanese Grand Prix, the race was bound to be eventful. After having been delayed due to the extreme weather conditions, the race began behind the safety car, which stayed on track for the first 5 laps.

Thereafter, the Japanese Grand Prix was a bit of a free-for-all, leaving the two Mercedes in front, and Jenson Button and the Red Bulls floating between 3rd and 5th. Williams fared poorly Sunday, falling dramatically back behind the Red Bulls, and for the most part staying out of the picture for this year’s visit to Suzuka.

The race began with Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso and Caterham’s Marcus Ericsson both retiring very early on, Alonso early enough to not be classified with a final position.

The impact of Typhoon Phanfone on Sunday’s race cannot be understated. Not only did it leave the event starting later than scheduled, but it also initiated the chain of events which led to the race’s premature conclusion at Lap 47.

At Lap 43, Sauber’s Adrian Sutil went off the track, crashing into the barriers at Dunlop, making this his seventh retirement this season. As the recovery crews rushed into position, things became quite chaotic on track. The safety and medical cars were deployed, the former escorting Jenson Button rather than race-leader Lewis Hamilton, the latter rushing to Dunlop, initially it seemed to tend to either Sutil or a Marshal that might have been injured.

By Lap 46, the television pylon began to show Marussia’s Jules Bianchi had retired, however it seemed as though that hadn’t yet been noticed by much of the field, save the worried Marussia pit team. Twitter was the first to make known what had actually happened. Bianchi’s car had gone off, perhaps by hydroplaning as Sutil had previously done at the same corner. The difference with the Frenchman was that the recovery crane was in place. According to what information I have thus far gathered, Bianchi seems to have hit the recovery crane, which seemingly shaved off the top part of the back half of his car.

Bianchi was pulled from his car unconscious, and taken by ambulance to hospital, where he underwent surgery. As of 14.00 Chicago (20.00 London, 04.00 Monday in Tokyo), Bianchi is out of surgery but still in critical condition.

As Bianchi recovers there is still the matter of Typhoon Phanfone to attend to. The F1 circus is due to race in Sochi, Russia next weekend, with the possibility of flights out of Tokyo on Monday appearing to be far from likely.

At the end of the race, Lewis Hamilton was in the lead, thus taking the win, followed by Nico Rosberg and Sebastian Vettel.

Ricciardo takes Belgium as Mercedes suffers from internal troubles

Spa-Francochamps – Formula 1 returned this weekend from its Summer Break with a roar. The race in Belgium, which swiftly broke away from the plans set out by the Mercedes AMG Petronas team, was quick to be taken up by their rivals at Red Bull, leaving Australian Daniel Ricciardo to claim Sunday’s race victory.

After dominating both practise and qualifying, the two Mercedes drivers locked out the front row of the starting grid, leaving the possibility of yet another Mercedes 1-2 seemingly more of a probability. However, with the start of the race Red Bull shot into action, with 4-time champion Sebastian Vettel briefly taking 2nd on Lap 1, splitting the two Mercedes. However Vettel lost his place following an unfortunate loss of control, which led him off track for a moment too long.

Meanwhile, the Ferrari camp found themselves in serious trouble with the FIA following Fernando Alonso’s pit engineers staying out on the starting grid past the 15 second warning mark that began the pacing lap. Alonso would later be penalised with a 5-second stop-and-go penalty, which he served soon there after.

Perhaps the biggest incident of the race came quite early on at Lap 2, when the two Mercedes drivers made contact whilst German Nico Rosberg attempted a pass on Briton Lewis Hamilton at Les Combes, a chicane in the track. Rosberg’s front left wing made contact with Hamilton’s rear right tyre, resulting in the tyre going flat and Rosberg needing a new wing and nose. Unfortunately for Hamilton, his tyre damage also resulted in severe damage to the floor of his car, which caused the 2008 World Champion to retire on Lap 39.

As the race progressed, the problems for Ferrari’s Alonso kept coming, with the penalty bringing him back out onto the track behind rookie Danish driver Kevin Magnussen of McLaren, who kept the veteran Spaniard at bay for the majority of the race. In the last five laps, the Spaniard and Dane found themselves engulfed in a four way battle with Magnussen’s British teammate Jenson Button and German Sebastian Vettel. In the end Alonso suffered front wing damage, which left him finishing in 8th, with Vettel coming in 7th, Magnussen in 6th and Button in 5th. As a result of his blocking, Magnussen was handed a 20-second penalty and 2 driver penalty points by the FIA following Sunday’s race. These will come into effect on 7 September at Monza.

The race concluded with Ricciardo on top, with Rosberg in 2nd, and Williams’ Valtteri Bottas in 3rd. Off the podium, but scoring points were Ferrari’s Finnish veteran Kimi Räïkkönen (4), Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel (5), McLaren’s Kevin Magnussen (6) and Jenson Button (7), Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso (8), Force India’s Sergio Pérez (9), and Toro Rosso’s Russian Daniil Kvyat (10).

They were followed in the non-points scoring category by Force India’s Nico Hülkenberg (11), Toro Rosso’s Jean-Éric Vergne (12), Williams’ Felipe Massa (13), Sauber’s Adrian Sutil (14) and Esteban Gutierrez (15), Marussia’s Max Chilton (16), and Caterham’s Marcus Ericsson (17).

Sunday’s retirements were Marussia’s Jules Bianchi on Lap 39 (18), Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton on Lap 38 (19), Lotus’ Romain Grosjean on Lap 33 (20) and Pastor Maldonado on Lap 1 (21), and Caterham’s stand-in driver Andre Lotterer (22) whose Formula 1 debut ended on the first lap.

Formula 1 will return once again in 2 weeks time on 7 September, this time to the fast-paced circuit at Monza in Italy, possibly for the last time according to reports that came out earlier this year from Bernie Ecclestone’s office. Looking forward from Belgium, the championship is now open not just to two, Rosberg and Hamilton, but quite possibly to a third, Ricciardo. Will the Western Australian make his country proud and win a third straight on the 7th? We will just have to wait and see.

2014 F1 Australian GP: Practice

Melbourne – The 2014 season is here! Watching the live television feed through NBC Sports and the F1 timing app on my phone, I can tell you that practise down in Melbourne has been quite interesting, and possibly a cache full of interesting signs for Sunday’s race.

The first session began at 20.30 Chicago (16.30 Melbourne, 01.00 London), and was characterised by a mix of mechanical issues, good runs, and the lack of a completed lap for 4 of the drivers, Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton (GBR), Catheram’s Kamui Kobyashi (JAP), and Lotus’ Pastor Maldonado (VEN) and Romain Grosjean (FRA).

Out of all the teams, Lotus had the most trouble. Frenchman Romain Grosjean didn’t make it out of the pit, whilst his Venezuelan teammate Pastor Maldonado did make it onto the track, only to continually slide and skid off of it before having the Lotus pit crew meet him in the Pit Lane carrying fire extinguishers with 8:00 minutes left in the session.

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Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton was unable to finish a lap in FP1 / BBC Sport

Likewise, Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton made it out of the pit, but didn’t stay on the track for long, according to BBC Sport having oil pressure issues. His teammate, Germany’s Nico Rosberg finished FP1 in 6th at 0.764 seconds behind leader, Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso (ESP). Also from Germany, reigning world champion Red Bull Racing’s Sebastian Vettel did fairly well in the session, however he was called back to the pit with 1:30 remaining due to some worries of mechanical issues.

My favourite team, McLaren, did fairly well for themselves in Free Practise 1, with veteran Jenson Button (GBR) coming in second with a time of 1:32.357, and Danish rookie Kevin Magnussen finishing in 8th with a time of 1:32.847. Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso finished at the top of FP1 with a time of 1:31.840.

Free Practise 2 began at 00.30 Chicago (16.30 Melbourne, 05.30 London) with Sahara Force India’s Adrian Sutil (GER) being the first out onto the track. He was followed 3 minutes later by Hamilton, who at last managed to get a lap in. Soon there after an equally unlucky driver from FP1, Romain Grosjean of Lotus, made his way onto the track, however with 1:24:00, the Frenchman was reporting power steering issues, in particular using the words “force neutral” with his car. Defending world champion Sebastian Vettel came out at 1:22:00. Interestingly enough, at the start of FP2, according to the lads at NBC Sports, the top speed in the speed trap at Albert Park is 7 mph faster than in 2013.

For most of the first half of FP2, Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg (GER) was on top in regards to lap time. To give an example of the speeds being reached on this track, Vettel, with 1:15:00 left, went around Turn 1 in his Red Bull at around 140 mph. There certainly is some concern among Red Bull fans this year, as well stated on NBC that, “If Red Bull manages to win the race on Sunday it’ll be a minor miracle.”

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All of the teams have had overheating problems on Friday. Pictured: Valtteri Bottas (FIN) of Williams / AP from BBC Sport

Ferrari had a set of issues around the hour mark, with both cars overheating. Ferrari’s Kimi Räikkönen (FIN) ended up having to be pushed back to the pit from the lane’s entrance. At the same point, Red Bull’s Daniel Riccardo (AUS) set the fastest time at the 1:00:00 mark. Soon there after, Nico Rosberg (Mercedes) became the first driver of the session to switch to the soft tyres. Meanwhile, by 00:58:00, all of the drivers save Caterham’s Kamui Kobyshai (JPN) and Lotus’ previously ill-fated Pastor Maldonado (VEN) had yet to leave their respective garages. Caterham continued to have issues when their only driver to leave the pits on Friday, Marcus Ericsson returned to the garage with, according to the team radio, hydraulic issues. Another rookie, 19 year old Russian Daniil Kyvat of Scuderia Toro Rosso had his own troubles, radioing in that, “It is impossible to warm the tyres.”

On the lighter side, Caterham’s new nose design is “pretty cool,” at least according to NBC Sports’ David Hobbes. Pit commentator Will Buxton said of the new designs, “I love this season because not all of the cars are the same in the pit lane.”

The great tragedy of the end of the session came when Lotus’ Romain Grosjean began to have issues at around 27:00, when his wheels began to lock up around T1. Meanwhile, most of the drivers in the top half of the table were working on their longer runs, in particular Massa and Bottas at Williams. Grosjean’s troubles came to a head when he hit the barriers at Turn 6, which snapped his rear suspension, initial observations according to the BBC said that it was the right side, whilst their friends at NBC said it was the left. Luckily, Räikkönen was able to avoid any sort of collision with the debris from Grosjean’s car.

At the chequered flag, Briton Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes AMG Petronas finished on top with a 1:29.625. In general at the end of Friday’s run, the major issue for all the teams was dealing with overheating. These new cars are certainly something to get used to, as comically pointed out on Twitter by one Brian Hambling, “Fantastic visual spectacle but the cars sound like Mopeds??” Generally, Lotus and Caterham are in the deeps, having trouble even getting cars out on track. Meanwhile, Caterham’s main competitor Marussia stands a decent chance of doing better in this race than in the past, perhaps even scoring their first point. Their driver, Briton Max Chilton said on the topic that, “There’s a lot more there for us to use.”

Free Practise 3 began at 22.00 Chicago (14.00 Melbourne, 03.00 London). This round ended much the same as the prior one, with Mercedes on top, only this time Nico Rosberg being the leader followed by the McLaren of Jenson Button and the Ferrari of Fernando Alonso. The session was also noted for three drivers: Williams’ Valtteri Bottas (FIN), Sauber’s Esteban Gutierrez (MEX), and Lotus’ Romain Grosjean (FRA) remaining in their garages for the duration of the practise session due to various mechanical issues. Grosjean’s teammate Pastor Maldonado did make it out, only to break down whilst on a lap. This session was Caterham’s Kamui Kobayashi (JPN) first time out on the track of the weekend, during which he completed 19 laps, finishing 16th out of 22.

Looking at the practise information, I’d say that qualifications will be a fairly open field. I’d imagine that either Mercedes or Ferrari will take the first 2 rows on the starting grid with McLaren and Red Bull close behind. As for the rest of the field, it’s still pretty open and unsure to say just what will happen.

Qualifying starts at 01.00 Chicago (17.00 Melbourne, 14.00 London), and will be broadcast here in the United States on NBC Sports. Seeing as it’s starting so very late my local time, my upcoming article on qualifying will be out a few hours after the actual event. If you would like an online readable feed of what is going on at Albert Park in Melbourne, see this link to BBC Sport’s Formula 1 section.

2014 Formula 1 World Championship – Predictions

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Courtesy of the Sydney Morning Herald

Kansas City – Happy New Year to all! 2014 officially began about 9 days and 13 hours ago here in the Midwestern states. With a new year comes new excitement and new opportunities, and as every other year since 1950, a new season of the Formula 1 World Championship! Though the season doesn’t properly begin until the Australian Grand Prix (14-16 March), the teams and many press writers (myself included in a freelance capacity) are hard at work preparing for the lights to go out and the race to begin in Melbourne.

So, what should we expect for 2014? If you want to start with the big question of “Who will win the 2014 championship?” odds are that that answer could be Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel (GER) for the fifth time in a row. After his strong 9 race winning streak at the end of 2013, I would not be surprised if the Newey, Vettel, Horner team outmatch all the other drivers like they did last year. No doubt the new engines will lessen the power of the RB10 in comparison to its immediate predecessor the RB9, but with the design skill of Newey, and the stamina and skill of Vettel, I would be surprised if anyone else took the crown this year.

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Sebastian Vettel (GER)
Courtesy of Planet F1.com

How about second and third then? In terms of constructors, my guess is another repeat of Scuderia Ferrari and Mercedes-AMG-Petronas, however the prediction as to who will get second and who will get third between the pair is still up for grabs. No doubt the Alonso Räikkönen pair will be one to watch out for, as both are world champions and just fantastic drivers all around, but at the same time the Mercedes team has done quite well in their own right, with Rosberg and Hamilton performing very well for themselves throughout this past season. Considering the fact that Mercedes has lost Ross Brawn, at least only for this season if Niki Lauda has anything to say about it, I could see an off chance of them suffering from what I’d call sudden loss of leadership syndrome, though perhaps not as badly as Manchester United has so far this season. In this light I’ll go for Ferrari taking second in the constructor’s championship, with Alonso and Räikkönen both performing equally well.

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Kevin Magnussen (DEN)
Courtesy of Oradea Magazin.ro

With the top three out of the way, it comes down to the rest of the field. Despite their poor performance in 2013, McLaren’s acquisition of Denmark’s Kevin Magnussen could help bring them back to strength. Having won the 2013 Formula Renault 3.5 Series with 274 points, earning pole in nearly all of the races, not to mention never finishing below second place, Magnussen could help reinvigorate the lads from Woking. Frankly though, I was sad to see the team drop Sergio Pérez (MEX), especially considering how promising the end of the season was for him in regards to his on track performance.

Whilst on the topic of Pérez, I do think he’ll has a promising career ahead of him at Force India. In fact, this could be the season when Force India takes their first win. With the combination of Hülkenberg (GER) and Pérez, they certainly seem stronger than the next competition, Lotus, who I think will be lucky to end up higher than 6th. True, Romain Grosjean (FRA) has been showing great potential with the team, especially at the end of the 2013 season, but I tend to doubt Pastor Maldonado (VEN) will do anything that spectacular this season, though I do expect him to have a few points winning finishes here and there.

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Felipe Massa (BRA)
Courtesy of Auto123.com

The 7th and 8th places in the constructor’s championship could very well go to Sauber and Williams. The Swiss team’s choices of Mexican Esteban Gutiérrez and German Adrian Sutil seem quite suited to the team’s strengths. Though I don’t expect Sauber to win any Grands Prix this year, they could have a decent shot at a few pole positions in the next few years plus a win or two. Williams on the other hand does seem to be on the verge of something good. Though perhaps not the glory of the ’90s so fondly remembered by their Brazilian driver Feilipe Massa, who has left Ferrari after 7 seasons driving for the Italians, Williams’ future is still quite bright. Between Massa and his Finnish teammate Valtteri Bottas, Sir Frank’s team could very well bring in a win or two here or there. I especially admire the resilience of the Williams team, the sort of everyman of F1, who has stuck with the sport, with their passion, despite their generally dismal performance since the team’s last podium at the 2008 Australian Grand Prix.

Finally, in regards to the three teams that I’ve yet to mention: Scuderia Toro Rosso, Marussia, and Caterham, I’d imagine they will stay in that order. True, Toro Rosso’s new young Russian driver Daniil Kvyat did a fantastic job in GP3 this past year, especially for someone who’s only 19 years old, but honestly I don’t see him making much of a mark in Formula 1 for a couple years still. Now, if he does I’ll eat my words right away. Meanwhile his French teammate, Jean-Éric Vergne, doesn’t seem to be setting himself up for anything spectatular either, looking at his 17th place finish in the 2012 tables and 15th place the following year. In any case, Vergne could do some damage to the other teams standings, particularly to Sauber and Williams, but overall I am skeptical.

The big question remaining for the lineup is just who will take the last remaining seat at Marussia and just generally who will be driving for Caterham? Last I checked, Marussia has only confirmed Frenchman Jules Bianchi as one of their two drivers. Judging by his 19th place inaugural performance in 2013 in Formula 1, I could see him staying in about the same area. It really is too bad in that my most striking memory of him from 2013 was when his car caught fire in Germany and proceeded to roll out onto and across the track, taking out a UBS sign on the way. Caterham on the other hand is still a fairly big question. The names proposed on 8 January in an article on F1.com were Frenchman Charles Pic, Dutchman Giedo van der Garde, Finn Heikki Kovalainen, Britons Max Chilton and Paul di Resta (whose name has also come up in Indy Car speculation), Swede Marcus Ericcson, and Japanese driver Kamui Kobayashi. Whatever the case, the races between Caterham and Marussia will be as enjoyable as usual.

In any case, these are all just my own musings and predictions based upon what I saw in 2013. If you want to see another angle on predicting the 2014 championship, look no further than Ladbrokes’ 2014 F1 Drivers’ Championship Odds, in which the chances for winning the crown go from Vettel’s 10/11 odds all the way down to Jules Bianchi’s 1000/1 chance. Click here to see the full listings from Ladbrokes, and do gamble responsibly.

Thats’ all for now for my F1 writing. I’ll be back for certain in a few weeks, probably after NBC Sports has their annual season preview broadcast.