Category Archives: News Articles

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."

 

Perez states that Esteban Gutierrez will join Sauber in 2013

Sauber driver Sergio Perez has jumped the gun on his team’s driver announcement for 2013 this weekend, and let slip that Esteban Gutierrez is set to be signed for the team for next year.

Before this weekend, Sauber had confirmed that they would make their driver announcement after the Brazilian Grand Prix on Sunday.

However, in the driver’s press conference today, Perez noted that “the team have a good experienced driver in Nico [Hulkenberg] and he will have a strong team-mate in Esteban [Gutierrez].”

He then stated: “we are waiting for the announcement”.

Gutierrez has already driven for Sauber this year, taking the place of Perez in Friday practice in India. He has previously won GP3 and Formula BMW Europe championships, and took 3rd this year in the GP2 series with ART.

How Alonso or Vettel can win the title this weekend

The 2012 Formula 1 season enters the final round with the title still up for grabs – the 29th time in the sport’s history.

Sebastian Vettel holds a 13-point lead over Fernando Alonso, but an epic title battle from 2010 in Abu Dhabi proved that those leads can be very easily wiped out in a single race. That time, Alonso lost a 15-point gap in the final race, and squandered the championship.

With that in mind, the title is certainly still up for grabs. Let’s have a look at how each driver can win the championship this weekend:

Vettel

It’s a lot easier for Vettel. The easiest way for him to wrap up his third consecutive title on the trot is to finish in the top 4. Even after that, there’s not too many complications:

  • If Alonso only takes 2nd place, Vettel only needs 5th, 6th or 7th.
  • If Alonso takes 3rd place, Vettel needs simple an 8th or 9th-placed finish.
  • If Alonso does not achieve a podium, Vettel only needs to take a single point – assuming that the Ferrari takes 4th instead. Any other situation, and the Red Bull automatically wins.

Alonso

A 13-point gap is sizeable, but not indestructible. After struggling massively all year in a dog of a car, Fernando knows that he will have to jump at the slightest opportunity if he is to claw the 2012 title back into his hands.

However, the odds are against him:

  • If Alonso wins, Vettel would have to finish 5th or lower.
  • If he takes 2nd place, Vettel would have to finish 8th or lower.
  • If he finishes on the podium, Vettel would have to score just a single point (or less) to lose the title.

Flashback to 2010

Over 2 years ago, I wrote a similar article on the 2010 title battle. There, I said that Vettel winning the title was improbable, but certainly within reach.

The maths behind this article are certainly much less complicated, but that doesn’t make this title battle any less interesting!

Variables on track

Remember, this is the Brazilian Grand Prix we’re talking about. The Interlagos track is extremely unpredictable, and occasionally throws up some insane races. See 2003 and 2008 for more information.

  • Rain is always a factor here – there is  a 60% chance of rain on race day. This may push the race in Alonso’s favour, as typically Vettel has not driven well in the wet here before.
  • First-lap incidents – The paving over of turns 1 and 2 has not gone down well with fans or drivers, but the treacherous Senna S sequence may still catch one of the frontrunners out. One of the title contenders being taken out here would end the championship showdown before it even began.
  • Red Bull’s alternator – Several incidents so far this year with the Red Bull alternator could turn the championship on its head. The team are opting to bring a newer-spec model to this Grand Prix, and it is unclear how much testing this model has seen.
  • Felipe Massa – A recent surge in form has resulted in Massa’s contract with Ferrari being extended, and Felipe may be keen to stay on friendly terms with the team by assisting Fernando. Massa typically drives very well at this track, so it mightn’t be out of the question to see him surrender the lead to his teammate.

As to what will actually happen… we’ll have to wait until Sunday for that!

Ferrari intentionally give Massa gearbox penalty to hand Alonso 7th, on clean side of Austin grid

A late gearbox penalty for Felipe Massa has dropped him down to 11th on the grid for the Grand Prix of America.  Crucially, this means that Fernando Alonso has been elevated to 7th on the grid – the clean side of the track.

Rival teams have reacted with fury, as Ferrari attempt to give Alonso every advantage possible, after a disastrous weekend so far for the Italian squad.

Ferrari didn’t even need to actually change the gearbox on Massa’s car – they simply broke the seal on top of it.

It remains to be seen will Red Bull attempt a similar situation with Mark Webber, but it is highly doubtful, knowing the Aussie.

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."

 

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.

New Jersey race to be postponed to 2014 – Ecclestone

Next year’s planned Grand Prix of America, set to take place in New Jersey, has been offset until the 2014 season, according to Bernie Ecclestone.

The track, which features a stunning view of the Manhattan island, was rumoured to be behind schedule, but nevertheless Ecclestone has been unusually quick in pulling it off the 2013 calendar. Today he stated:

"They've run out of time. There's all sorts of things...and they didn't quite think 
it all through. They've had a wake-up call but the wake-up call came too late.

They couldn't get everything ready in time - that's the bottom line."

The main issues were believed to be with repairing roads and obtaining permits for the track. Bernie had hinted at this issue months ago, when he noted that the race organisers had not complied with the terms and conditions of the race contract.

If the New Jersey track is indeed completed for 2014, it will join the Russian Grand Prix in Sochi as the two new races for that season. The United States Grand Prix, located in Austin, is still set to go ahead at the end of this season.

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.

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