Category Archives: Drivers and Teams

The heroes of Interlagos 2012

To put it simply, the Brazilian Grand Prix of 2012 was one of the best races I’ve seen in my life. Aside from 2008, you couldn’t ask for a better conclusion to a fabulously entertaining season.

What make the race even more special was that it wasn’t just the two title contenders driving their hearts out. Throughout the field, we saw some astounding performances, resulting in a race that will be talked about for years to come.

Let’s have a look at the stars of Brazil 2012:

Sebastian Vettel

Couldn’t write this article without him. Punted into a spin at turn 4, his championship battle appeared to be over before it even begun.

What happened next was pure magic. Vettel blitzed through the field at an astounding pace, even with a damaged floor and exhaust. He tore his way up to an incredible 6th place after only 10 or so laps.

A mistake deciding what tyres to go onto, and then a slow pit stop, left him down in 12th as the race entered its final 20 laps. However, he again laid waste to the midfield, tearing back up to 6th to seal the title.

What was even more impressive is how he continued to push his way up the field, even when the championship was effectively decided. A true triple world champion’s performance.

Nico Hulkenberg

This was the true shock of the day. With the rain falling, a smart tyre choice helped Hulkenberg gain 25 seconds over most of the grid.

With this opportunity, he kept Button and Hamilton under massive pressure, and shocked most viewers by putting a pass on the McLaren.

Even more amazing was how he managed to pull away from the fastest cars on the grid. A small error at turn 1 ruined his chances of victory, but the subsequent penalty was too harsh in my opinion. Still, it doesn’t detract from an absolutely enthralling performance.

Felipe Massa

The fast-starting Ferraris laid waste to the Red Bulls at the start, and surprisingly were able to pull away comfortably for most of the race.

Massa’s start was particularly impressive, moving up as high as 2nd before shuffling down the order soon after. After losing a lap to the leaders after a delayed pit stop, the safety car period gave him an opportunity to fight back, and he seized it with both hands. He picked off car after car, and eventually relieved 2nd to Alonso.

His resurgence in form has been extremely impressive, and I wouldn’t rule out the possibility of him fighting on equal terms with Fernando next season.

Lewis Hamilton

Again, Lewis did everything right, but it just wasn’t meant to be.

After taking his 7th pole of the year, he was all set to dominate the race, but several factors collided to take him out. The first period of rain allowed Jenson Button to briefly take the lead off the sister McLaren. A poor call for intermediate tyres dropped him down the order, but the safety car slashed a 45-second deficit, and gave him another chance to take a final win with his childhood team.

But like so many times this year, it didn’t happen. A mistake by Nico Hulkenberg took Hamilton out on the spot, and ruined what could have been a beautiful end to the McLaren-Hamilton relationship.

Kimi Raikkonen

All set to finish every single lap of the 2012 season – an incredible record – Raikkonen decided to entertain the fans watching at home instead. A true heroic performance!

Ricciardo and Vergne to stay at Toro Rosso for 2013

Both Daniel Ricciardo and Jean-Eric Vergne have been confirmed to stay at the Toro Rosso team until the end of the 2013 season.

Ricciardo has recently impressed with 3 points-scoring positions in a row, while Vergne has a 3-point lead over his teammate. The two drivers were competing with several young drivers for 2013 drives, most notably Antonio Felix de Costa.

However, with today’s confirmation, both drivers will continue on for a second year with Red Bull’s junior team. Team principal Franz Tost today stated:

"Both drivers have done a good job this season. Daniel joined us with a few Grands 
Prix under his belt and so his feedback and experience was particularly useful while 
Jean-Eric got up to speed, often having to deal with tracks he had never seen before.

Since the summer break, both drivers have scored more points and everyone in the team 
has been impressed with their maturity in terms of working with the engineers and 
their racecraft on track. We will be doing our best in the next few months, to produce 
a 2013 car which will allow them to demonstrate their talent."

 

2013 driver market: October update

We’re 3 races away from the end of the 2012 season, and the 2013 driver market speculation is already in full swing, with many midfield teams inundated with driver applicants for next season.

Lewis Hamilton’s move to Mercedes has calmed the market at the front of the grid, but further back it’s a very different story.

Here’s a look at who has confirmed who – and who I think will be racing next season:

Red Bull Racing

1) Sebastian Vettel – Confirmed

2) Mark Webber – Confirmed

McLaren

3) Jenson Button – Confirmed

4) Sergio Perez – Confirmed

Ferrari

5) Fernando Alonso – Confirmed

6) Felipe Massa – Confirmed

Mercedes

7) Lewis Hamilton – Confirmed

8) Nico Rosberg – Confirmed

Lotus

9) Kimi Raikkonen – Confirmed

10) TBC

Probable drivers: Romain Grosjean, Paul di Resta, Heikki Kovalainen, Luiz Razia

My guess: Romain Grosjean

Force India

11) TBC

12) TBC

Probable drivers: Paul di Resta, Adrian Sutil, Jaime Alguersuari, Sebastien Buemi, Kamui Kobayashi, Robin Frijns, Jules Bianchi, Daniel Ricciardo, Heikki Kovalainen, Charles Pic, Davide Valsecchi

My guess: Paul di Resta and Heikki Kovalainen

Sauber

14) Nico Hulkenberg – Confirmed

15) TBC

Probable drivers: Kamui Kobayashi, Robin Frijns, Davide Valsecchi, Paul di Resta, Romain Grosjean, Charles Pic, Jules Bianchi, Jaime Alguersuari, Adrian Sutil, Esteban Gutierrez

My guess: Esteban Gutierrez

Toro Rosso

16) TBC

17) TBC

Probable drivers: Daniel Ricciardo, Jean-Eric Vergne, Jaime Alguersuari, Sebastien Buemi, Brendon Hartley, Antonio Felix de Costa

My guess: Daniel Ricciardo and Antonio Felix de Costa

Williams

18) TBC

19) TBC

Probable drivers: Pastor Maldonado, Bruno Senna, Davide Valsecchi, Adrian Sutil, Jaime Alguersuari, Charles Pic, Kamui Kobayashi, Heikki Kovalainen

My guess: Pastor Maldonado and Jaime Alguersuari

Caterham

20) TBC

21) TBC

Probable drivers: Heikki Kovalainen, Vitaly Petrov, Giedo van der Garde, Charles Pic, Daniel Ricciardo, Davide Valsecchi, Robin Frijns, Sam Bird, Antonio Felix de Costa

My guess: Giedo van der Garde and Robin Frijns

HRT

22) Pedro de la Rosa – Confirmed

23) TBC

Probable drivers: Narain Karthikeyan, Luiz Razia, Ma Qing Hua, Dani Clos, Brendon Hartley, Neel Jani, any obscure pay driver

My guess: Ma Qing Hua

Marussia

24) TBC

25) TBC

Probable drivers: Timo Glock, Charles Pic, Jerome D’Ambrosio, Max Chilton, Sam Bird, Kevin Magnussen, Oliver Turvey

My guess: Max Chilton and Timo Glock

Nico Hulkenberg to join Sauber in 2013

After the departure of Sergio Perez to McLaren, the Sauber team have confirmed that Nico Hulkenberg is to join the squad in 2013.

This is the third team that Hulkenberg will race for within three years of Grand Prix racing. He was ditched by Williams after the 2010 season in place for a pay driver, then spent a year in the wilderness, as reserve driver for Force India. He moved up to second driver for the team in 2012.

The highlight of Hulkenberg’s career so far has been his shock pole position in Brazil 2010. He was upped his game in the second half of this season, with a 4th placed finish in Belgium, and three points-scoring finishes in a row up to and including India.

The young German has signed a 1-year contract with the team. Sauber stated that they would confirm Hulkenberg’s teammate at a later stage.

This move has intensified the battle for the second Sauber drive. Kamui Kobayashi’s position is under serious threat, with Robert Frijns , Jules Bianchi, Jaime Alguersuari and Adrian Sutil all gunning for a place on the grid next year.

Massa retained by Ferrari until end of 2013

After an impressive performance last weekend that saw him take his first podium in 2 years, Felipe Massa has signed on with Ferrari for one additional year.

An extremely brief team announcement read as follows:

Scuderia Ferrari announces that it has renewed its contract with the driver Felipe 
Massa to the end of the 2013 race season. The Scuderia’s driver line-up for next year 
is therefore made up of Fernando Alonso and the aforementioned Felipe Massa."

Rumours have continued to circulate that Sebastian Vettel is poised to join the team in 2014, but president Luca di Montezemelo has recently rubbished those claims.

2013 will be Massa’s 8th year at the team, having joined at the start of the 2006 season alongside Michael Schumacher.

Schumacher will always be remembered as F1′s most elite driver

As I said in the previous article, Michael Schumacher was a huge inspiration for me, and single-handedly got me interested in Formula 1. However, as I got older, I started to notice the darker side behind the legend, and wondered whether my faith in him was justified.

Hundreds of hours on YouTube later, the picture was more clear. Schumacher was fast – no doubt about that – but there was a vicious side to him, where he would strike out at those who impeded him, sometimes metaphorically, sometimes literally.

So do we remember him as an erratic, dangerous driver who would take out another driver just to gain a place? Some people certainly have.

I would argue against that though. A look through the history books will show you that Michael was incredibly fast from the moment he entered the sport. Starting an incredible 7th on the grid, the young German instantly took the sport by storm, soon generating huge support that lasts to this very day.

A man of this skill cannot be remembered for several clashes across a 19-year career. I’m not saying we should ignore Adelaide 1994, or Jerez 1997, but there are many more events over the years which attest to Schumacher’s skills.

Barcelona 1996 is the prime example. Earning the name “Regenmeister” in the process, he utterly destroyed the entire field in torrential rain, lapping 3 seconds a lap faster than anyone else, and lapping all drivers all the way up to 3rd position. If that isn’t one of the most legendary drives in F1, I don’t know what is.

The United States Grand Prix of 2003 will always stand out in my mind, rather unsurprisingly, seeing as it was my second ever F1 race. After slipping down to 6th on a damp track, Schumacher assumed the Bridgestone intermediates, and thrashed the entire field, cruising to the chequered flag after assuming the lead on lap 20.

What struck me about his pace, though, was his sheer consistency. While the BMWs and McLarens slided around the track like they were on ice, Schumacher was able to use his intermediates until they were slicks, not making a single mistake all race.

His pace since his return was never going to emulate his previous glory, only the naive would have thought that. Perhaps this is the reason so many were disappointed with his comeback, seeing as Michael had made such a fuss about winning the world championship again.

But that’s not the point. By returning in 2010, Schumacher had thrown himself into a different era of Formula 1. The tyres are more challenging, the cars are less rear-stable (for several reasons) and the talent pool had grown enormously. After shoving aside Kimi Raikkonen from 2001 to 2006, and Fernando Alonso up to 2004 Schumacher suddenly found himself completely eclipsed by the new guard. How much of it was down to old age, we will never know.

It has, however, given him new perspective:

"In the past six years I have learned a lot, also about me, and I am thankful for 
it: for example, that you can open yourself up without losing focus. That losing 
can be both more difficult and more instructive than winning; something I had lost 
out of sight sometimes in earlier years. That you have to appreciate to be able to 
do what you love. That you have to live your convictions. I have opened my horizon, 
and I am at ease with myself."

With his mind clear, I believe we can now look on Schumacher as the most complete driver in Formula 1 history. To this day, he is completely synonymous with this sport, and for good reason. We will never forget the glory days, Ferrari fans or not, and many will forever appreciate the huge appeal he gave to this epic sport.

The only thing he still has to do is complete a second epic exit from the sport. Many remember Brazil 2006 as one of his best drives, so let’s see what he’s got in these final few weeks.

Michael Schumacher announces second and final F1 retirement

After three disappointing years since his comeback in 2010, Michael Schumacher has decided to bow out of Formula 1 for good.

The 43-year-old has spent 3 difficult years with the Mercedes team, managing a solitary pole position, and one podium finish in that time. Bringing back memories, he has been often at the centre of controversy, with his dangerous move on Rubens Barrichello in Hungary 2010, spearing into Nick Heidfeld in Singapore, and recently taking out Jean-Eric Vergne at the same street circuit.

However, Schumacher today stated that he was still pleased with his comeback, and was satisfied that he was still able to compete at the top level:

"I have decided to retire from Formula One at the end of the season, although I am 
still able to compete with the best drivers of the world. This is something that 
makes me proud, and this is part of why I never regretted my comeback. I can be 
happy with my performance and the fact that I was continuously raising my game 
during the last three years. But then, at some point it is time to say goodbye.

Already during the past weeks and months I was not sure if I would still have the 
motivation and energy which is necessary to go on; and it is not my style to do 
anything which I am not 100% convinced about. With today’s decision I feel 
released from those doubts.

In the end, it is not my ambition to just drive around but to fight for 
victories; and the pleasure of driving is nourished by competitiveness."

He also acknowledged his faults in the past few years, and lamented his and his team’s inability to produce a championship-winning car:

"I have said at the end of 2009 that I want to be measured by my success, 
and this is why I had a lot of criticism in the past three years which 
partly was justified. It is without doubt that we did not achieve our goal 
to develop a world championship fighting car within those three years. It is 
also without doubt that I cannot provide a long term perspective to anyone. 
But then it is also clear that I can still be very happy about my overall 
achievements in Formula One.

In the past six years I have learned a lot, also about me, and I am thankful 
for it: for example, that you can open yourself up without losing focus. That 
losing can be both more difficult and more instructive than winning; something 
I had lost out of sight sometimes in earlier years. That you have to appreciate 
to be able to do what you love. That you have to live your convictions. I have 
opened my horizon, and I am at ease with myself.

I would like to thank Daimler, Mercedes-Benz and the Team for their trust. But 
I also would like to thank all my friends, partners and companions, who over 
many good years in motorsport supported me. But most of all I would like to 
thank my family for standing always by my side, giving me the freedom to live 
my convictions and sharing my joy."

Michael initially joined the Mercedes team for several reasons, one of the largest being Ross Brawn, the team principal and Schumacher’s boss in the Ferrari glory days, as well as back at Benneton in 1994/1995. Today he offered his thoughts on Michael’s retirement:

"We have enjoyed so many experiences together during our time at Benetton, Ferrari 
and Mercedes, and I feel very proud, honoured and privileged to have had the 
opportunity to work with Michael so
closely.

In my opinion, he is the greatest Formula One driver, and the records which he holds 
in our sport speak volumes for his success and commitment. On behalf of everyone at 
our Silver Arrows team, we wish Michael all the best with his future plans and extend 
our sincere thanks to him for his commitment, passion and hard work during our three 
=years together.

We have not achieved the results that we would have wished during this time; however 
Michael’s contribution to our development and the future of our team has been 
significant. Whatever Michael decides to do next, I am sure that he will be keeping a 
close eye on our progress in the years to come.

All of us in the team – and first and foremost Michael – are working hard to have six
more races in which we can show a respectable level of performance together. Thank you, 
Michael, for everything: it was, and is, a pleasure to work with you."

Michael Schumacher was responsible for getting me interested in Formula 1. The second ever Grand Prix I watched – USA 2003 – was a perfect example of his incredible speed and skill. Despite the controversy over the years, he will still go down as statistically the greatest Formula 1 driver ever. As a fan, thank you Michael, for nineteen years of tenacity, bravery, controversy and sheer brilliance.

Sergio Perez confirmed to replace Lewis Hamilton at McLaren

On the same day that Lewis Hamilton has announced his move to Mercedes, it has been confirmed that Sergio Perez will replace his role at the McLaren team.

Perez leaped into the sport in 2011, instantly taking it by storm. Three podium finishes this year has confirmed him as a “giant killer”, according to McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh:

"On behalf of everyone at Vodafone McLaren Mercedes, I’m delighted to welcome 
Sergio on board. His performances throughout 2012 have convinced us that he’s an 
extremely exciting prospect for the future.

It was a string of giant-killing performances, a trio of podiums and a brilliant 
fastest lap in this year’s Monaco Grand Prix that showed us that Sergio lacks 
nothing in terms of speed and commitment.

We’ve been monitoring his progress carefully for some months – and, now that he’s 
become part of the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes team, our task will be to refine and 
develop his abilities as his career progresses over the coming years.

Uniting Sergio alongside Jenson will give us a very broad base of driver ability. 
Jenson is one of motorsport’s greatest ambassadors, and his unique blend of 
prodigious speed and canny race-craft makes him formidably well-armed to fight for 
victory on any Grand Prix circuit in the world. While Sergio is still developing his 
palette of skills, we’re convinced that he’s not only talented and quick, but also 
that he’s willing and eager to learn.”

He’s perfectly poised to develop into a world championship challenger. His addition 
to the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes team provides us with the perfect two-pronged driver 
line-up for the new season."

Whitmarsh also praised Lewis Hamilton for his services to the team:

"Finally, it’s entirely appropriate that I should take this opportunity to pass on our 
thanks to Lewis. He wrote a huge chapter of his life and career with us, and was, and 
always will be, a fine member of an exclusive club: the McLaren world champions’ club.

It goes without saying that we all wish him well for the future, just as it also goes 
without saying that we hope and believe that Sergio, too, will become a member of that 
exclusive club before too long."

Unsurprisingly, Perez was delighted to be joining a frontrunning team:

"I’m thrilled and delighted to have become a Vodafone McLaren Mercedes driver.

The McLaren name is one of the greatest in the history of Formula 1. For more than 40 
years McLaren has been a team that every racing driver has aspired to drive for – I was 
brought up on the great stories of Ayrton Senna’s many world championship triumphs for 
McLaren – and I’m truly honoured that they’ve chosen me to partner Jenson from 2013 
onwards.”

I’d like to thank Carlos Slim Jr, who has helped me since I was 14 years old, without 
whom I wouldn’t be where I am today.

Our journey together over the past eight years has been an incredible one, and I’ll do 
everything in my power to deliver with Vodafone McLaren Mercedes the results that he 
and I have been working so hard and so long to achieve together.

As I say, I’ve worked very hard to get to this stage in my career, and I’m now massively 
looking forward to this next even more exciting stage. It’s fantastic that all the 
sacrifices I’ve made are now paying off.

For example, I remember very clearly the first day I left my family, when I was 15, to 
live in Germany to race in Formula BMW. It was tough for me – I was sleeping in a 
restaurant at that time – but the dream of one day becoming a Formula 1 driver kept me 
going through those difficult days.

Finally, I’d like to thank my beloved family, who’ve encouraged me at every turn, and 
last but far from least the people of Mexico, my home country, whose magnificent support 
I’ll do my very best to reward with future successes with Vodafone McLaren Mercedes."

 

Lewis Hamilton to replace Michael Schumacher at Mercedes for 2013

In a move which has taken place amongst immense speculation in the past few weeks, Mercedes have finally confirmed that Lewis Hamilton will be joining the squad in 2013.

Hamilton, being the key to the 2013 driver market, has been under huge pressure to announce his future for some time now. It is believed that his move to Mercedes will allow him and his management team to enhance and market the Hamilton brand around the world.

This new 3-year deal will partner Lewis with his former karting teammate Nico Rosberg. The two shared a podium at the 2008 Australian Grand Prix for the first time since their childhood racing days.

Hamilton today said:

"It is now time for me to take on a fresh challenge and I am very excited to begin 
a new chapter racing for the Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One Team. Mercedes-Benz 
has such an incredible heritage in motorsport, along with a passion for winning which 
I share.

Together, we can grow and rise to this new challenge. I believe that I can help steer 
the Silver Arrows to the top and achieve our joint ambitions of winning the world 
championships."

Team principal Ross Brawn was extremely cagey when he talked about Michael Schumacher’s future:

"On behalf of Mercedes AMG Petronas, I would first of all like to thank Michael 
Schumacher for the important contribution he has made to the growth of our team 
over the past three seasons.

His energy and commitment have never wavered, even when results have not matched 
our own expectations, and we are determined to finish the 2012 season together on 
a high. As always, it has been a pleasure to work with Michael."

Mercedes have also announced that former world champion Niki Lauda will join the team as a non-executive chairman on the board of directors.

Robert Kubica wins rally race on return to motorsport

Robert Kubica has completed his first motorsport event since his horrific crash in February 2011.

The Pole competed in the Ronde Gomitolo di Lana Rally yesterday, and dominated the entire event, winning by nearly a minute. At the end of the first stage alone, he was 11 seconds ahead of his rivals.

Kubica’s car was modified for him, with the gear lever on his left instead of the right, to compensate for his damaged arm.

While Robert made it clear that he would prefer to be racing in Formula 1, he is still happy with returning to competitive racing:

"Obviously I would have preferred to come back somewhere else, but this is a more 
active phase in my rehabilitation path.

The hope is to be able to return where I was before [F1], and it's already a nice 
goal for me. But to be here in Biella is obviously emotional after 20-21 difficult 
months.

Let's hope we can enjoy ourselves, without looking at stage times because in the 
end it's a matter of re-establishing the way of driving and helping the arm to 
recover better.

Having been a driver for 20 years, my body is accustomed to certain things, and I 
can feel these things only while I drive, so we'll see."

Not content with a one-off rally, Kubica is expected to race in the San Martino di Castrozza rally next weekend.

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