Tag Archives: Niki Lauda

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.

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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.

“Rush”: Ron Howard’s F1 Masterpiece

Kansas City – This afternoon, I went to see Ron Howard’s new film Rush with my parents at the AMC Ward Parkway 14 Cinema. I’ve been a lover of Formula 1 for three seasons now, since I was introduced to it by my Dad during the 2010 Belgian Grand Prix from Spa. Like the speed of this 2 hour film, my own F1 team support has changed quite a bit over the past few years, from initially supporting Renault F1 in 2010, to McLaren-Mercedes in 2011 and 2012, and now to Lotus-Renault in 2013. Of course, with the annual team shakeups, we’ll have to see where I end up come March, perhaps supporting the lads at Ferrari, perhaps staying with the Brits at either Lotus or McLaren.

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Anyhow, back to Rush. I really enjoyed this film from its start. To begin with, Howard is a master of painting his films with an extensive lavish palette of colour, from the blues and greens of that rainy 1 August 1976 at the Nürnburgring, home of the German Grand Prix, to an almost period ’70s look to the film from the more personal, more emotional scenes of the film. Being someone who is familiar with F1, I found the film quite rewarding in its ability to show another side to the sport that I’m not used to, from the top teams taking longer than 2.5 seconds for pit stops, to the pistons in the engine rising and lowering, to the roar of the engines starting at the waxing of each race, to the lack of Red Bull at the front of the starting grid, as is almost a given in the Age of Vettel.

The acting, with Chris Hemsworth as 1976 Champion James Hunt of Great Britain, and Daniel Brühl as his chief rival, 1975, 1977, and 1984 Champion Niki Lauda of Austria was also brilliant and quite believable. I personally was drawn more to Lauda than Hunt, as I, like the Vienna native, am a perfectionist in many respects, as my friends and family can relay. Hunt’s playboy lifestyle was in many ways his undoing, but also his way of coping with the stress of driving in a sport, which at the time took the lives of at least 2 drivers per season, a fact which has thankfully wained since the turn of the Millennium with further safety improvements on the cars.

I also loved Hans Zimmer’s soundtrack for the film. Of his past film work, I especially enjoy the soundtrack to King Arthur (2004). His style of composition seems strewn with heavy percussion, and sweeping Mahleresque melodies and thick, rebounding harmonies. As a musician in my own right, his music represents a modern style of cinematic composition that I aspire to for my own films.

Now, as with any film dealing with the life of James Hunt, or the history of F1 in the 1960s and ’70s, there’s going to be a lot of sex. I noticed there were a few comments regarding the extent that Hunt’s sex life is described in the film, as the commentator was rather unhappy with these scenes in particular. Here’s what I have to say: it’s a natural fact of life, and for someone my age it’s something to look forward to in the near future. Yes, I’m not a fan of the extent to which Hunt “slept around” with around 5,000 women, but at the same time I find it not healthy to demonise something which is a necessity. It’s like demonising sleep because we should be getting more done in line with that fine Protestant work ethic. There was a great sketch in A Bit of Fry and Laurie about a father complaining to his son’s headmaster for sex ed being taught at the son’s school, the father believing that his son “just sort of appeared one day.”

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Lauda in practice at the 1976 German Grand Prix at the Nürnburgring.

Rush is a fantastic film about one of the greatest sports of all time. Both as a F1 fan, and as a filmmaker, I adored watching this film. It wasn’t your typical sport film, following the underdog who goes through some sort of trouble, and begins to rise in stance to a great athlete. I’m sorry, but haven’t we had enough of these Southern USA set civil rights era sport films yet? This film was not even in the same league as those, it has different aims, different goals. There’s no real cause being supported, no character who is rising up from great intolerance. But after being bombarded by so many of those films, I’m glad for a fun, champagne soaked, break. Rush gives the American audience that opportunity to go to a sport film, and especially if you’re not familiar with F1, a chance to not know the plot before the film starts.

Hopefully some of those who are finding F1 for the first time will tune in in a few hours at 01.00 Eastern for the Japanese Grand Prix live from Suzuka. The Niki Lauda of the 2010s, Sebastian Vettel, is on the verge of winning his 4th Formula 1 championship crown. Whether it be in Japan, India, Abu Dhabi, Texas, or Brazil, history soon could very well be made, just as it was in that fantastic rivalry between the Austrian and the playboy from the UK.