Category Archives: Drivers and Teams

Ferrari launch F138 in Maranello

Ferrari revealed their 2013 challenger, called the F138, in team headquarters in Maranello today.

Visually, the most noticeable addition is the FIA-approved modesty panel to the front nosecone, overall improving the look of the car. Otherwise, it’s a case of evolution over revolution, as Ferrari attempt to start the year more consistently than they did 2012.

The name F138 is a reference to both the current year, and the final use of the V8 engines in Formula 1.

Technical

Ferrari have taken the risky option of splitting their development team into two – one half working on the F138, and the other half already getting started on the 2014 machine.

Pullrod suspension has been retained at both ends of the car, a move that has been copied by other teams this year.

The air intakes and sidepods have been adjusted to allow for modifications at the rear, most likely in the form of revised exhausts.

Testing schedule

Felipe Massa will debut the F138 at Jerez on the 5th-8th February, with Alonso missing the first test entirely.

The Spaniard will then return on the 19th at the Circuit de Catalunya to complete aerodynamic checks at the second test.

McLaren MP4-28 released in Woking

McLaren are the second team to show off their 2013 challenger – the MP4-28.

Drivers Sergio Perez and Jenson Button, as well as team principal Martin Whitmarsh were at team HQ in Woking to unveil the machine. Button described it as “the best car we’ve ever made”.

However, as astute viewers will have noticed by now an issue – the car looks visually very similar compared to last year’s version.

This has led to more speculation that McLaren, following Lotus’ lead, have not fully equipped their cars will all available upgrades, and are hiding them until the pre-season test in Jerez.

Still, technical experts have noted the addition of pull-rod front suspension, lower rear wishbone and higher nosecone. Interestingly, it is believed that McLaren’s car is running the optional FIA “vanity panel”, and has been “blended in” to the front of the car.

More details will be added as they emerge.

Scorpion Racing to buy out liquidated HRT team

A group of Canadian and American investors may just breathe life into the dead HRT Formula 1 team, after it was revealed that the team’s assets are being bought out. This has led to speculation that the group, known as Scorpion Racing, will attempt to bring the team back onto the F1 grid.

It is understood that the deal has the blessing of FOM CEO Bernie Ecclestone, but it is unknown whether Scorpion Racing (if it is officially named as such) would be allowed onto the 2013 grid. The FIA deadline for 2013 applicants closed back in November 2012, and with the HRT liquidation soon after, the team were barred from re-competing in the sport.

Plans are believed to be in an “advanced stage”. Scorpion Racing plan to run the team from a base near the Silverstone circuit, and continue to run a Cosworth engine package and Williams gearbox.

Ecclestone has written to the team, stating: “Have you bought the HRT company? Because if you have, they [the FIA] would be accepting you.”

More details will be added as they emerge.

Timo Glock leaves Marussia by “mutual consent”

Only a month before the teams begin to unveil their cars for the 2013 season, Marussia has announced that Timo Glock has been dropped by the squad.

Glock had a contract to race for the team in 2013, but split due to “mutual consent”. Marussia noted that “tough economic conditions” may have played a part in this decision.

Max Chilton will continue to drive with the team, so Marussia have two more months to confirm a second driver before the season opener in Melbourne.

Team prinipal John Booth hinted that the team may be looking at a pay driver:

"Our team was founded on the principle of benefiting from proven experience whilst 
also providing opportunities for young emerging talent to progress to the pinnacle 
of motorsport. Thus far, this philosophy has also been reflected in our commercial 
model.

The ongoing challenges facing the industry mean that we have had to take steps to 
secure our long-term future. Tough economic conditions prevail and the commercial 
landscape is difficult for everyone, Formula 1 teams included.

We would like to thank Timo for working with us to reach this decision, especially 
as he had a valid contract, and also for the contribution he has made to our Team. 
We wish him all the best for his future and I would like to congratulate the next 
team acquiring the services of such a competitive, professional and experienced 
racer."

 

Kobayashi abandons hope for 2013 drive

Kamui Kobayashi has today admitted that he has no chance of getting a drive in F1 for the 2013 season.

The Japanese driver was dropped by Sauber in favour of Nico Hulkenberg and Esteban Gutierrez, despite Kamui getting within 6 points of his McLaren-bound teammate.

Recently, Kobayashi set up a fund to help raise money for his efforts to get a race seat in 2013. This, along with an undisclosed amount of sponsor money, totalled over €8m.

However, it appears that money was not the deciding factor, and Kamui has stated that he will wait until 2014 to return to the F1 paddock.

2012 final driver rankings: 7th – 3rd

In the third of 4 articles, I rank the drivers from the 2012 season in terms of how they performed across the entire year.

Part 3 includes drivers from Red Bull, McLaren, Force India and Mercedes:

7th – Jenson Button

Previous ranking: 12th

Previous quote: “It’s a harsh ranking, but I don’t think that so far in 2012 we can rank him amongst the high-level drivers.”

Like Webber, there are two ways of looking at Jenson Button’s season. He certainly took impressive wins at the start and end of 2012, and crushingly dominated in Belgium. But you have to doubt his team leader role next year, when he slides around the track in 16th place for weeks on end.

Button’s struggles with the MP4-27 are well documented, but the car is not entirely to blame. Like in 2009, Jenson seems to work his way into a bad spot, and cannot pull himself out, in terms of car development.

This resulted in a disastrous few races near the start, where he slithered around the racetrack, taking a pathetic 16th place in Monaco and Canada. It is completely unacceptable of a former world champion to fail so badly, and rule himself out of the title fight.

Granted, he did finish within 2 points of Lewis Hamilton, but this is mostly down to Lewis’ terrible luck. Button simply spent too much of the season finishing 4th or 5th to make an impact at the front.

It will be interesting to see how he fares as a team leader at McLaren – it can go either brilliantly or disastrously.

6th – Nico Rosberg

Previous ranking: 7th

Previous quote: “It’s the same old story for Rosberg – a great driver held back by an unpredictable car.”

Not much changes for Rosberg in this sport. Once again, a disastrous end to the season for Mercedes has held back Nico from performing better.

His emphatic win in China was obviously the standout moment, and he hounded Mark Webber in Monaco all the way to the chequered flag.

However, apart from that, the slowing pace of the W03 limited his charge. Chasing performance from the double DRS system instead of Coanda exhausts, they fell behind their rivals, ruling out Rosberg from scoring a single point after Singapore.

Will 2013 be the same story? Unfortunately, it appears that way. Despite Lewis Hamilton joining the squad, the team are not hopeful about their W04′s potential, and are instead looking towards 2014 to leap up the field. You’ve got to wonder if Rosberg will bother waiting.

5th – Nico Hulkenberg

Previous ranking: 13th

Previous quote: “So far, it is almost too close to call, but I think that Paul [Di Resta] has a slight edge over Nico at the moment.”

After a slugglish return to Formula 1, Nico Hulkenberg is back on form.

Taking advantage of the first corner pile-up, he snatched a brilliant 4th in Belgium, even leading the race for a while. His form towards the end of the season was impressive, and his 6th, 7th and 8th-placed finishes do not represent how well he drove.

His drive in Brazil was one of the best of the 2012 season. Personally I feel he was hard done by with the penalty, and without that clash with Hamilton, probably would have gone on to win the race.

In contrast to Paul di Resta’s terrible end to the season, Hulkenberg has done his career the best possible boost. A switch to Sauber may be viewed as a move sideways, but I think it might just pay off.

4th – Sebastian Vettel

Previous ranking: 4th

Previous quote: “Vettel is still completely sheltered by his team [...] he still has to develop as a driver”

The “test” I mentioned in 2011 came true in 2012, and Sebastian passed it with flying colours. Recovering from a poor start to the season, he stamped his authority on the rest of the field, and took a well-deserved third title.

So why is he out of the top three? Firstly, although it’s only a small issue, I’m still bothered by his childishness at times. After being held up by Narain Karthikeyan in Austin, despite the fact that there was nothing the HRT could do, Vettel claimed that the Indian had lost him the race. Worryingly, his team backed him up, which only supports Red Bull’s Ferrari-like arrogance.

The other issue is that his performances appear to be directly proportionate to his car’s speed in relation to the rest of the grid. In simpler terms, the majority of his wins came from when the Red Bull was the class of the field. Out of his 5 wins, the only one where his car wasn’t the fastest was Bahrain, and even that is debatable.

Obviously, he’s still a seriously fast driver. Just look at his drives in Abu Dhabi and Brazil, and you’ll have no doubts that he’s a deserving world champion yet again. But I still think that he was out-performed by other drivers on the grid. It’s been said many times, but if you compare Fernando Alonso’s and Lewis Hamilton’s performances this year to Vettel, the German loses out by a considerable margin.

It says a lot that the fastest driver is widely not considered to be the best on the grid. Perhaps that’s down to the brilliant quality of drivers we have at the moment, but nevertheless Vettel still has more work to do to be the best in Formula 1.

2012 final driver rankings: 15th – 8th

In the second of 4 articles, I rank the drivers from the 2012 season in terms of how they performed across the entire year.

Part 2 includes drivers from Ferrari, Mercedes, Red Bull and Lotus.

15th – Pastor Maldonado

Previous ranking: 18th

Previous quote: “He drives like a complete thug. And that’s why I have absolutely no respect for him.”

I make no secret of my dislike of Pastor Maldonado, but an impressive turnaround in the second half of the year has improved his image somewhat.

As everyone is well aware by now, a brilliant win in Spain was marred by needless collisions and constant penalties. After that, a 9-race streak without points fuelled rumours that Pastor wasn’t fast without aggression.

Still, three points finishes in the final 6 races was able to keep him ahead of Bruno Senna, and after staying out of more crashes, had a quiet end to the season.

Maldonado has been retained for next year, but his drive was rarely under threat, with so much PDVSA backing. What worries me is that without any pressure for him to calm down, his antics at the start of 2012 will appear again. Adding in the fact that Pastor never apologised for his ridiculous driving, and his criminal record hasn’t been wiped clean just yet.

14th – Romain Grosjean

Previous ranking: 6th

Previous quote: “He has hugely impressed me with his remarkable pace and raw talent.”

What should have been a strong finish to the season turned into a nightmare, as Grosjean crumbled under mounting pressure.

Many argue that the worst point of his season was Spa, where he tipped Lewis Hamilton into a first-lap pile-up, earning him a 1-race ban. However, I think that ramming Mark Webber in Suzuka hurt him the most, as he was clearly rattled by constant criticism from fellow drivers. He was never the same after that.

He then clashed with Pedro de la Rosa in Brazil, failing to see that the HRT was turning into the final corner.

His future with Lotus is now in doubt, having earned severe criticism from boss Eric Boullier. However, I think that his good form up to  Hungary should be enough to keep him in the sport. Three decent podiums, as well as nearly winning a race, shows that he is talented enough to mix it at the front. The issue is whether he has the confidence to do that any more.

13th – Paul di Resta

Previous ranking: 11th

Previous quote: “Di Resta will still need to up his game if he is to remain on top at Force India.”

Oddly enough, just as Di Resta’s season began to slide near the end, teammate Hulkenberg’s picked up. It was this unfortunate timing that marred Paul’s decent season.

His two best races were in Bahrain and Singapore, using superior strategy to out-pace most of the field. However, once news broke that he was not to be promoted to a faster team, his pace slipped, and Di Resta almost dropped off the radar.

A 9th place in Abu Dhabi, his only top 10 finish in 6 races, was not enough to hold off Hulkenberg in the points standings. It isn’t representative of Paul’s pace though, as his 2010 form proves that he has the talent to push for podiums in a midfield car.

It’s expected that he will be retained by Force India, and for him to bounce back in 2013.

12th – Mark Webber

Previous ranking: 3rd

Previous quote: “On the face of it, Webber’s having his best season yet.”

There are two ways of looking at Webber’s 2012 season. One way is by looking at the Monaco and British Grands Prix, where he fully asserted his authority on the rest of the grid. And the other way is by looking at the other 18 races.

As is the case every year, Mark slides away from teammate Sebastian in the points standings the further the season progresses. This year, Webber managed to lose 112 points to Vettel in only 10 races. This disastrous form is completely overlooked by his occasional dominating win, and I can’t figure out why.

Surely Webber can’t be satisfied with this. He has no hope for winning the world championship with such hopeless form – only 2 podiums in 10 races, in what was, at the time, the best car on the grid.

Can he bounce back from this? Sure, but only when he flops at the end of the season as per every other year. I’m being harsh on Mark here, but the fact is that despite his protests, he is the perfect number 2 driver to partner Vettel.

11th – Michael Schumacher

Previous ranking: 9th

Previous quote: “Keep your eyes peeled, lest we see the return of the Schumacher of old.”

Michael is quoted as saying that in his comeback, he learned how to lose. It’s a nice way of putting what was a disappointing return to Formula 1.

Did we see the “Schumacher of old”? No. But we saw a more mature driver towards the end – perfectly demonstrated when he allowed Vettel past in the dying laps of the Brazilian Grand Prix. He knew his time was up, and passed the baton to the younger generation in a beautiful way.

Michael was extremely unlucky in the first half of the year, being robbed of podiums by ill-timed mechanical failures. The second half saw less issues, but a drop-off in pace from the Mercedes W03 eliminated all hopes of a powerful end to his career.

Schumacher will be missed, but ultimately his return was a poor choice.

10th – Sergio Perez

Previous ranking: 8th

Previous quote:

While astounding drives early on cemented him a drive with McLaren, a poor end to 2012 signals that Perez may not be completely ready for his big break.

We are all aware of Sergio’s outstanding drives in Malaysia and Italy, but he will need to perform this well every race in order to justify his McLaren drive. Granted, his 66 point tally could have been higher – seeing as he finished 11th 5 times.

Could he have done better though? Sergio suffered a huge drop in form once he had signed for McLaren, and spun out of a good position while battling Lewis Hamilton in Japan.

I’m unconvinced about Perez’s hopes for a future F1 title, but we will have to wait and see.

9th – Kamui Kobayashi

Previous ranking: 10th

Previous quote: “Despite differing results, I would still regard both Sauber drivers as being nearly equals in talent.”

Despite being completely overshadowed by his teammate, I was still impressed with Kamui Kobayashi this year.

A podium in his home country was clearly the standout performance, while strong performances in Spain and Abu Dhabi propelled him up the standings. Unlike Perez, Kobayashi’s pace didn’t falter when the Sauber car struggled, taking 25 points in the last 6 races, compared to Sergio’s 0.

Another underrated drive was qualifying 3rd in China, behind the Mercedes drivers. To me, it’s a travesty that Kamui has been dropped, despite scoring only 6 points less than his McLaren-bound teammate.

Encouragingly, he has amassed over €2m in fan donations for a drive next year, and I am hopeful that we will continue to see him on the grid.

8th – Felipe Massa

Previous ranking: 17th

Previous quote: “In a championship-leading car, Massa lies 14th, in between a Force India and a Williams.”

Felipe Massa is the success story of the 2012 season, bouncing back and nearly outperforming Fernando Alonso in the closing stages.

He deservedly earned massive criticism for over two years of rubbish driving, but credit is due where it’s due, and in the last few races, Massa has been superb. 10 points-scoring finishes in a row is well deserved.

He has also firmly secured his future with the Scuderia, by diligently allowing Fernando Alonso past in Austin qualifying (through a penalty), and in the dying laps of the Brazilian Grand Prix. Alongside his improvement in form, he has won himself back into favour with the team.

This bodes a question though: Will his form continue into 2013? I have an inclination that it will, but it remains to be seen how Felipe will (or won’t) play a role in Fernando’s title challenge.

HRT removed from FIA entry list for 2013

The future of the HRT F1 team has been all but decided, after not appearing on the FIA entry list for the 2013 season.

This means that the team were unable to pay the $500,000 entry fee required. HRT were put up for sale by owners Thesan Capital several weeks ago, but have been unsuccessful in finding a buyer, one of the primary reasons being a poor choice of team location (Madrid).

The only other item of note is that Sauber appear not to have fully confirmed Nico Hulkenberg and Esteban Gutierrez as their drivers, but this should be corrected soon.

End of the road for HRT?

The future of the HRT F1 team has been in doubt for several weeks. It was put up for sale, in order to pay the FIA entry fee for the 2013 season.

However, recent events at the team’s Madrid headquarters indicate that the situation is beyond fixing. Journalist Joe Saward has reported on team members being coerced into redundancy:

"Team members became irate when they were not allowed to leave the premises until 
they agreed to sign a contract termination document; and that personal effects, 
such as car keys, were withheld."

Even more worryingly, the team’s presence at the Brazilian Grand Prix was under serious threat. The same article notes that several crucial components on the car had gone beyond their scheduled life. It wouldn’t be out of the question to assume that the team had run out of funds to replace the parts.

With the FIA entry fee issue not going away (I don’t know when the due date is), HRT’s future in F1 appears to be slipping away further every day.

Valtteri Bottas to replace Bruno Senna at Williams

Valtteri Bottas will drive alongside Pastor Maldonado at Williams for the 2013 F1 season.

This means that Bruno Senna is out of a race seat for next year. Senna handed over his car 15 times during practice sessions this year to Bottas – a clear indicator that this move was always going to happen.

Valtteri is the second rookie driver to join the F1 paddock for 2013, as Esteban Gutierrez has already been confirmed at Sauber.

Bottas has previously won the Formula Renault 2.0 Eurocup, the 2009 and 2010 Masters of Formula 3 races, and the 2011 GP3 series.

While all drivers concerned stated their usual PR quotes as expected, Bruno Senna has some interesting words to say about his sacking:

"Since the beginning of my program with Williams I accepted that I had to share 
the car with Valtteri Bottas in 15 Fridays as a part of his preparation for a 
likely debut in 2013.
It has been extremely satisfying to be the teams most regular point scorer and for 
me to demonstrate my pace in all 20 races."

 

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