Monthly Archives: December 2013

2013 Formula One Team Review

Now that the 2013 Formula One Season has ended and the focus is shifting towards events of the 2014 season, I have decided to compile a team review with all eleven teams that raced this year. will be starting my review starting from the back of the grid to the world champions of 2013.

Here we go…

11th place: Caterham- 0 points

  • Drivers: Gideo Van Der Garde and Charles Pic

2012 saw the Caterham team managing to get 10th place of the Constructors Championship off Marussia at the last race of the season in Brazil. This year has saw Caterham finish in the standings in last place.

Every year as many Formula One Fans will know see Caterham saying every year that this is the year they make significant steps forward. And this year, they did not. At the start of the season, Caterham did not have the car to challenge the Marussia’s.

Throughout the season, in the hands of Gideo Van Der Garde, Caterham did improve and regularly out qualified both Marussia drivers. And I believe that he did a good job with the equipment that was given to him. Charles Pic in my eyes last year had potential and was rewarded with a move to Caterham from Marussia. Pic did not do anything for the team and was out qualified by his team mate on a regular basis.

The best moment for the team this season would be their qualifying performance in Belgium, where they made it into Q2. The worst moment for the team would be losing their 10th place from last year.

10th Place: Marussia- 0 points

  • Drivers: Jules Bianchi and Max Chilton

2012 saw Marussia sadly losing the tenth place in the Constructor’s Championship that they held onto for dear life to Caterham in the final race in Brazil. This year they have managed to achieve the place they lost and celebrated in fine style.

However, despite the team achieving this tenth place thanks to Bianchi placing 13th in the Malaysian Grand Prix, it only highlighted the battle that Marussia face every season. Marussia do the best with the resources and limited financial resources that they have.

Throughout the season, Bianchi has impressed everyone in the paddock with his performances. He has regularly out qualified and out raced his team mate Chilton (apart from Monaco where he crashed).  The team also managed to get into Q2 in Belgium. Bianchi has been rewarded for his efforts and has been re-signed for the team for next season.

Meanwhile, Chilton has not been able to regularly out qualify his team mate (apart from Monaco) but he has set a new record in the sport as a rookie. Chilton is the only rookie to finish every race of the season. And he deserves the credit for bringing the car home and for setting a new benchmark for rookies in the sport.

The best moments for the team this season was Marussia getting into Q2 in Belgium, Bianchi finishing in 13th place in the Malaysian Grand Prix and also Chilton finishing every race. The worst moment for the team this season was Bianchi’s Marussia rolling backwards in the German Grand Prix (which was also a weird moment of the season for me!).

9th Place: Williams- 5 points

  • Drivers: Valteri Bottas and Pastor Maldonado

2012 saw Williams having one of the best competitive years since the glory days of partnering with BMW. Pastor Maldonado saw himself winning his first Grand Prix in Spain. Both drivers throughout the season scoring competitive points and seeing the team finish in 8th in the Constructors Championship.

This year has seen Williams slip back into ninth place in the Constructors Championship, leaving the team sadly lacking the pace once again to challenge the midfield teams and looking forward to hopefully challenge the midfield once again in 2014.

Throughout the season, Williams were not in a position to challenge and fight competitively with the field. Throughout the latter part of the season, Bottas in the United States Grand Prix impressed everyone by scoring two valuable points for the team. Bottas showed the potential that Williams spotted in him when they signed him and has shown he is a talent for the future.

Meanwhile, Maldonado has been a source of disappointment for the team. Firstly, he did score a point for the team at the Hungarian Grand Prix. However, his attitude towards the team that gave him his first chance in Formula One and in general has been the talking point of the season. Maldonado has now left the team and has moved to Lotus for next season that caused much controversy over the past few weeks.

The best moments for the team this season was Bottas and Maldonado scoring points for the team and also Bottas claiming third place at the Canadian Grand Prix. The worst moments for the team this season was Chilton crashing into Maldonado at Monaco, the wheel problems they experienced in two Grand Prix and were fined for,  Maldonado’s comments that the team sabotaged the car for him at United States Grand Prix and also Maldonado in general (the less said the better!).

8th Place: Toro Ross- 33 points

  • Drivers: Daniel Riccardo and Jean-Eric Vergne

2012 saw Toro Rosso not having a competitive season if I am honest. However, the new rookie line up of Riccardo and Vergne did manage to score 26 points, keep their drives for this season and secure 9th place in the Constructors Championship.

This year has seen Toro Rosso managing to move up to eighth place in the Constructors and scoring 33 points. Toro Rosso when they are on form is brilliant, but when they are not on form, they are average. This leaves the team with hard work to do if they are never going to challenge the top teams.

Throughout the season, Riccardo has impressed the paddock with his driving this season. He managed to beat his team mate several times. Riccardo managed to secure some good solid points for the team by scoring in China, Spain, Britain, Belgium, Italy, India and Brazil. These results have managed to secure Riccardo a promotion to Red Bull as Webber’s replacement to Vettel next season.

However, Vergne has had a pretty poor season by my standards and has been lucky to keep his drive for next year. Vergne did score points for the team in Malaysia, Monaco and Canada. Towards the latter part of the season, Vergne was not competitive enough to challenge for points and was beaten several times by his team mate.

The best moment of the season for the team was both drivers scoring points for them. The worst moment of the season for the team was regularly not getting into Q2 (especially with Vergne).

7th Place: Sauber- 57 points

  • Drivers: Nico Hulkenberg and Esteban Guiterrez

2012 was a very good year for Sauber. Sauber with Perez were challenging Alonso for a win at the Malaysian Grand Prix. But three solid podiums from Sergio Perez and challenging for good points competitively, scoring 126 points which secured them sixth place in the Constructors Championship.

At the start of this year, Sauber were not competitive and were struggling to challenge the field. Throughout the latter stages of the season, in the hands of Hulkenberg, Sauber ended the year on a high. Hulkenberg had an impressive drive to fifth place at Monza and fourth place in Korea a month after. It was from his show of form that Hulkenberg was linked with a drive at Lotus. Due to Lotus’s financial situations away from the track, Hulkenberg ended up at Force India for next season.

Meanwhile, Guiterrez impressed me slightly in his debut season but not enough. Guiterrez did score some points for the team in Japan. Throughout the season, Guiterrez did battle well to keep drivers such as Hamilton, Rosberg and Bottas at bay while trying to score some points for the Sauber team. But I feel that Guiterrez could be a casualty of the season and could end up losing his drive in the sport.

The best moments of the season for the team was Hulkenberg’s impressive run of form at the latter stages of the season (especially in Korea) and also Guiterrez scoring his first points of the season. The worst moments of the season would be their poor first half of the season and also Guiterrez colliding with Sutil.

6th Place: Force India: 77 points

  • Drivers: Paul Di Resta and Adrian Sutil

2012 saw Force India engaged in a battle with Sauber for sixth place in the Constructors Championship which they sadly lost with 109 points to Sauber’s 126 points.

At the start of the year, Force India had their best start to an F1 season and looked like they could challenge McLaren at one point in the standings for the Constructors. The team also got to grips with the Pirelli tyres and looked to make one pit stop strategies work when other teams could not. After the tyre change in Germany, Force India was the most affected by this sadly could not keep the pace shown at the early part of the season.

Paul Di Resta had a terrific start to the season scoring points in Australia, China, Bahrain, Spain, Monaco, Canada and Britain. Di Resta suffered a dip in form for five consecutive races but managed to score again in India and Abu Dhabi and finished the season scoring 48 points. I believe if Di Resta had not suffered the dip in form and was more consistent, he would have still been in the sport for next year. Sadly, this is not the case and Di Resta is looking for sports car racing for his future.

Meanwhile, Sutil did manage to score points for the team but was beaten by Di Resta. Sutil scored for the team in Australia, Monaco, Canada, Britain, Belgium, Singapore, India and Abu Dhabi. I believe that Sutil has been very lucky to get a drive with Sauber next season. But both drivers have served the team well and have done the best job they can with what resources they were given.

The best moments of the season for the team were the points Di Resta and Sutil scored for the team and both drivers challenging for the podiums (Di Resta in Bahrain and Sutil in Monaco). The worst moments of the season for the team were the five double team failures they had and also the tyre change from Pirelli that affected the latter part of the season.

5th Place: McLaren: 122 points

  • Drivers: Jenson Button and Sergio Perez

2012 saw McLaren have the fastest car of the season and one of the only teams that could provide a challenge to the Red Bulls and secured third in the Constructors with 376 points.  Brazil 2012 saw Button take a brilliant victory and the future looked bright for the team, despite Lewis Hamilton leaving for Mercedes.

However, this season has been the worst for the team since the 1980’s and failed to secure a podium place finish. The McLarens did not have the pace to be competitive at all and were struggling to even get past Q2 at selected races of the season.

Both drivers are glad that this season is over, especially Button. Button has experienced his worst season at McLaren since joining the team in 2010. Button was out qualified and sometimes out raced by Perez this year. But he did manage to score points for the team in Australia, China, Bahrain, Spain, Monaco, Germany, Hungary, Belgium, Italy, Singapore, Korea, Japan, USA and Brazil. Button despite not having the car to challenge the front runners used his experience as a world champion to keep scoring points and his drive in Brazil proved this.

Meanwhile, Perez did the best he could, just like Button. Perez joined the team this year with Sauber after impressing everyone in the paddock with scoring consistent points and scoring three podiums. He did score points for the team in Malaysia, Bahrain, Spain, Germany, Hungary, Singapore, Korea, India, Abu Dhabi, USA and Brazil. Perez towards the latter end of the season drove some cracking races fighting for his career after being dropped by McLaren for Kevin Magnussen for next year but he is joining Force India for next season.

The best moments of the season for the team were the drive from both drivers in Brazil, Perez in India and in Austin, Button in China, Belgium and Germany. The worst moments of the season were the team struggling in selected races to clear Q2 and also failing to score points, their poor showing at the British Grand Prix and also Perez’s crash after Q2 in Brazil.

4th Place: Lotus: 315 points

  • Drivers: Kimi Raikkonen, Romain Grosjean and Heikki Kovalainen

2012 saw the return of Raikkonen from a two year sabbatical and also Grosjean driving for Lotus. Raikkonen won his first Grand Prix since his return in fine style in Abu Dhabi. Grosjean meanwhile was making a reputation for himself for crashing at the start of Grand Prix which he served a one race ban in Italy as a result of Belgium. Despite this, Lotus looked competitive and managed to secure fourth place in the Constructors with 303 points.

This year has seen the team sadly keep their position in the Constructors despite challenging the Red Bulls regularly especially in the latter half of the season. The team have been the source of debate throughout the season with issues surrounding Kimi, a proposed deal with Quantum Motorsports (less said the better!) and also issues surrounding signing Hulkenberg and Maldonado.

Raikkonen once again impressed everyone with his speed and his driving this season. Raikkonen managed to score before sitting out the final two races of the season to get back surgery before racing for Ferrari in 2014 (there are a lot of conspiracies surrounding this decision) with a win in Australia and points in Malaysia, China, Bahrain, Spain, Monaco, Canada, Britain, Germany, Hungary, Singapore, Korea, Japan and India. Raikkonen showed once again that despite issues surrounding him not being paid and also with his back that he has the drive and determination required to become a champion again.

Meanwhile, Grosjean has been the most improved driver this season. With all the problems he encountered last year, we have seen that Grosjean is without a doubt a potential race winner and world champion. Grosjean managed to score points in Australia, Malaysia, China, Bahrain, Germany, Hungary, Belgium, Italy, Korea, Japan, India, Abu Dhabi, Austin and Brazil. All I can say is if Grosjean keeps this form up, I believe that he could win a race next season.

I should add that Raikkonen’s replacement Kovalainen for the US and Brazilian Grand Prix did not score any points for the team which is what he needed to do. But despite this, Kovalainen did the best that he could do with the time that he had to adjust to the team and the car.

The best moments for the team were Kimi’s win in Australia, Grosjean’s podium in Bahrain and Grosjean’s latter performance in the season. The worst moments for the team would be the issues surrounding Raikkonen going to have his back surgery, the issues surrounding Quantum and Hulkenberg, the signing of Maldonado from Williams and also their current financial situation that is still ongoing.

3rd Place: Ferrari: 354 points

  • Drivers: Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa

2012 was the season that Ferrari wanted to forget despite the team finishing second with 400 points in the Constructors and Alonso as runner up to Sebastian Vettel. The team did not have the car to challenge the Red Bull but my god did they pull some results out of a hat and the team looked ahead to this season.

However, this season has seen Ferrari despite finishing third in the Constructors produce a worse car than the previous year. Ferrari in the first part of the season won a race with Alonso and were challenging in the top five consistently in the race. However, throughout the season, Alonso and Massa have not looked competitive and have produced stunning drives to gain third place in the standings this year.

Alonso once again has produced the goods in a car that does not match his racing talent. Alonso scored two wins at China and Spain and then scored points in Australia, Bahrain, Monaco, Canada, Britain, Germany, Hungary, Belgium, Singapore, Korea, Japan, Austin and Brazil.  Alonso has showed once again that he can be relied upon to race with his heart on his sleeve and pick up the best result possible for the team.

Meanwhile, Massa has had a season of mixed fortune again. Massa had a good start to the season from last year scoring at Australia, Malaysia, China and Spain. However in Monaco, Felipe retired from the race by experiencing the same crash twice in two days. Felipe then scored again in Canada, Britain, Hungary, Belgium, Italy, Singapore, Korea, Japan, Abu Dhabi and Brazil. Despite this, Massa did not keep his Ferrari seat and after six years of service, he has now joined Williams for next season.

The best moments of the season for the team were Alonso’s wins in China and Spain, Massa’s fourth in Italy, Alonso’s drives in Singapore and Belgium and keeping third in the Constructors. The worst moments for the team were Felipe’s crashes in Monaco, Alonso’s retirement in Malaysia and Alonso in India.

2nd Place: Mercedes: 360 points

  • Drivers: Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg

2012 saw Mercedes under Michael Schumacher and Rosberg trying to fight the field for competitive points. Despite all their efforts, Mercedes could only place fifth in the Constructors last year with 142 points and left them looking forward to this year with Hamilton who joined the team from McLaren.

Mercedes truly have been the most improved team of the season. They managed to make a better car than last season and under the partnership of Hamilton and Rosberg have been fruitful for them. They managed to secure three wins this season, challenged the Red Bulls in qualifying and also in the race when others could not.  However, they did struggle towards the final part of the season but managed to keep their runner up spot in the championship.

Hamilton has done very well this year. I was expecting Hamilton to regret his move to the team however I do believe this was the right move for him. Hamilton won his first win for Mercedes in Hungary in a dominant fashion.  Hamilton also scored at Australia, Malaysia, China, Bahrain, Monaco, Canada, Britain, Germany, Belgium, Italy, Singapore, Korea, India, Abu Dhabi, Austin and Brazil. He lost a win at his home race at Silverstone with a tyre failure on the Pirelli tyres that was not his fault but managed to get fourth place. Despite all the problems in his personal life this season, Hamilton should be pleased by what he has achieved this year.

Rosberg I believe has stepped up his game. Since Hamilton joined the team, Rosberg has performed. Rosberg received a better car than last year, pushed the team over the winter and was rewarded with wins at his home race in Monaco and also in Britain. Rosberg also scored at Malaysia, Bahrain, Spain, Canada, Germany, Belgium, Italy, Singapore, Korea, Japan, India, Abu Dhabi, Austin and Brazil. Both drivers should be pleased with their and the team’s achievements this year and this result will press them on for 2014.

The best moments for the team were the wins that the team managed to achieve with Rosberg and Hamilton, beating the Red Bull’s in qualifying throughout the season (Silverstone for me was the best), battling the Red Bull’s throughout the season and also securing second place in the championship. The worst moments for the team was the tyre failure with Hamilton at Silverstone and selected races in the season that arguments over both drivers fighting for position that were broadcast on Sky Sports F1.

1st Place: Red Bull: 596 points

  • Drivers: Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber

And once again, nothing has changed. Red Bull just like last year was dominant and crowned world champions once again.  Last year they scored 460 points and this year they managed 596 points. Just like the previous year, Red Bull have built and designed a car that is one step ahead of the field. This year saw the team and Vettel secure four consecutive championships which to give them credit is a remarkable achievement.

Vettel has been in a class of his own this year. Despite the controversial win at Malaysia that to be honest should have been Webber’s, he has achieved a new record in the sport. Vettel has scored thirteen race wins this season and beating the record of consecutive race wins in a season from Michael Schumacher and Alberto Ascari (Vettel scored nine wins). All I can say about Vettel is that he sadly was the best driver of this year; he drove brilliantly and deserved to take his fourth world title.

Meanwhile, Webber has had a brilliant last season in the sport. Webber was robbed of a win in the Malaysian Grand Prix by Vettel not following the ‘Multi 21’ orders within the team. But he scored at Australia, Bahrain, Spain, Monaco, Canada, Britain, Germany, Hungary, Belgium, Italy, Japan, Abu Dhabi, Austin and Brazil. I really hoped that Webber would win a final Grand Prix after announcing his retirement at the British Grand Prix. He really deserved one especially after Malaysia and also loyally serving a sport he loves so much. Sadly, it was not meant to be. But Mark had an amazing season and we will miss him dearly.

The best moments for the team this season were of course their fourth consecutive championships, beating Schumacher and Ascari’s consecutive race wins in a season with Vettel, Webber’s second places at Silverstone, Abu Dhabi and Brazil. The worst moments for the team were the Malaysian Grand Prix and the aftermath of ‘Multi 21’, Webber’s retirement at the Indian Grand Prix and Vettel’s retirement at Silverstone (which is a highlight of glory for me!).

Well, I hope you enjoyed looking back at the 2013 season of Formula One. A season full of controversy, rumours, records being beaten and Vettel showing once again that his dominant display shows no sign of ending anytime soon.

All Formula One fans are now looking, hoping and praying that with the rule changes, the change in drivers up and down the field, the new V6 engines making their debut in March at the Australian Grand Prix and also in season testing sets up the 2014 season nicely. What will happen in 2014? It is anyone’s guess.

Advertisements

Adrian Sutil Signs for Sauber for 2014

It was announced on Friday when Sauber confirmed that Adrian Sutil has signed for Sauber for the 2014 season. At this current time, Sauber have not confirmed Sutil’s team mate at this current time but it is expected that Esteban Guiterrez will stay on for a second season with the team. Sutil has now swapped seats with Nico Hulkenberg who is confirmed that he is returning to Force India from Sauber at the start of December.

The question that many Formula One fans have been asking this week is does Sutil really deserve to get the Sauber drive for next season or has he been very lucky to keep driving in the sport for next year?

Despite his modest performances in the sport in 2013, Sutil’s transfer to Sauber I believe many has been secured by his career in the sport so far. Sutil since appearing as a Friday driver for the then Midland team in 2006, Sutil has only driven for Force India and its two previous incarnations in his career. After five unbroken seasons in the Silverstone- based outfit driver line up, Sutil has dropped for the 2012 season but returned this year to partner Di Resta for this year.

When Sauber announced on Friday the news that Sutil has to be driving for them next season, Sauber’s Team Principal Monisha Kaltenborn said the following:-

‘We have been wanting to work together with him for a while. Adrian had already visited the factory at the end of September to have a look at the infrastructure.  Adrian is not only very fast but also brings a lot of experience, which is very important looking at the new regulations for next year.’

And I can see Kaltenborn’s view. There are not many drivers in the sport who can stay in the sport competitively, especially due to the economic and financial situations regarding driver choices at the moment. And Sutil would bring every bit of experience he has gained to the Sauber team which of course would help him and his career development. But Sauber could use Sutil’s experience to their advantage and provide Sutil with the tools he needs to perform next season.

When first asked about his move to Sauber, Sutil said the following:-

‘I am very happy that we found common ground. Although I have known for a while where I wanted to go, in the end the negotiations took a bit longer than planned. I’ve been in contact with Monisha for a while and she always gave me the feeling that my qualities are valued.’

I was a bit surprised when I heard this comment from Sutil. As I believe that maybe Sutil was looking to move to Sauber as things may or may not have been down to Perez gaining the drive which brings money to the team and Sutil being pushed out and maybe not been valued. However, I do not see that happening. I believe that Vijay Mallya decided to make a change to the drive line up and the best option for him was to go with Perez who has a track record of scoring podiums and also experience within a top team.

And it would appear that Sutil when asked by the media why he moved to Sauber, he believes that Sauber was the best place for him to perform but did pay tribute to Force India:-

‘After six good years driving for Force India, with a lot of highlights, it’s now time to embark on a new challenge. I am determined to do my part in order to have a successful future together with the Sauber F1 team. The long and successful tradition in motorsport, combined with an impressive factory and one of best wind tunnels in F1, have been fascinating me for a long time.’

I can understand why Sauber have signed Sutil and I can understand why Sutil has moved to Sauber for next season. I agree with Sutil that Sauber are a good team and do the best with the resources that they have. However, many have argued that Sutil has not made the right decision to sign for Sauber.

After a poor start to the 2013 season, Sauber ended the year on a high following an extremely impressive second half of the season which Nico Hulkenberg produced some brilliant result for the team and secured them seventh place in the Constructor’s Championship. I can see why many fans have argued that this is the wrong move for Sutil. As yes Sauber is a team that only has limited financial funds to develop throughout the year and yes there are talks that the team are struggling to stay afloat in the sport. But despite this, no one can say that the Sauber team has not provided the tools for drivers such as Hulkenberg, Massa, Raikkonen and Perez to develop their careers in the sport. And maybe this is what Sutil is looking for.

But this year Sutil has both out pointed and out qualified by Paul Di Resta at Force India. Paul managed to score 48 points and Sutil managing to score 29 points. And this cannot be ignored. Many have argued that Force India have not provided the car for him to show what he can do. And yes they have a valid point. But Sutil has had more than enough chances in the sport to show this and many talented drivers over the last few years have been shown the door because of this.

I believe that Sutil has been very fortunate to stay within the sport and gain a drive with Sauber for next season. The news that Sutil has signed for Sauber has left his Force India team mate Di Resta (who is a really good driver when on form) losing his place in Formula One and now chasing a drive in sports car racing or endurance racing. And Sutil knows this could have well have been him at the end of this season.

Sutil has been given I believe has been given his final opportunity to prove that he is worthy and deserving of his drive in Formula One. The pressure will be on Sutil to perform at Sauber for 2014 and Sutil in his own words thanking ‘…Peter Sauber and Monisha Kaltenborn for your trust in me’ sums up my perspective nicely.

And I think Sutil has been extremely fortunate to stay in the sport despite drivers such as Di Resta leaving and many drivers in the background (such as Rossi and Sirotkin) fighting for the chance to be in the sport, this maybe the last chance that Sutil gets to make his mark on the sport that has given him several chances to prove himself in the pinnacle of motorsport that many drivers do not get.

Feeling the ‘Force’: Sergio Perez Signs for Force India

It was announced on 12th December 2013 when Force India confirmed that Sergio Perez has signed for Force India on a ‘multi-year’ deal for the 2014 season. As we all know, Perez is partnered by former Sauber driver Nico Hulkenberg who has rejoined the team for next season.

The news of Force India signing Perez has now confirmed that Paul Di Resta has lost his place in Formula One (who is looking for a move to IndyCar Racing or DTM) and Sutil rumoured to be going to Sauber. The decision has now I think put all Formula One fans at ease especially after the news that Perez did not keep his drive at McLaren for next year. So how did Perez end up signing for Force India?

Perez had a very strong second half of the Formula One season where he scored points in the final six races. That run included an impressive drive to fifth place at India and fifth place in Brazil a month after. It was from his show of form that Perez was certain he would keep his seat with the McLaren team.

However, McLaren were experiencing their worst season in the sport since 1980 and were struggling to fight the field for race wins and podiums. However, McLaren’s Team Principal Martin Whitmarsh was insisting that Perez would be staying at the team for next year.  As we all know, Perez comes with financial backing from Telmex and Carlos Slim but sadly this was not enough for him to keep his seat for next year. And McLaren have now signed Kevin Magnussen to partner Jenson Button for next season.

This then left Perez with limited and sensible options to remain in the sport competitively which were joining Force India or resigning to his previous team Sauber. Perez has decided to join the Force India team on a ‘multi-year’ deal. And you can see why Force India has signed him up for next season.

Perez has impressed everyone throughout his Formula One career so far. The Mexician made his debut in the sport in 2011 with Sauber and scored fourteen points. Perez then stayed for the Sauber team for the 2012 season, he scored three podiums (his best one at the Italian Grand Prix) and finished in the Driver’s standings tenth with 66 points. It was this form that impressed everyone that year with his driving and made McLaren sign him for next season.

On Thursday, when Force India’s Team Principal Vjay Mallya announced that Perez was joining the team he said:-

‘By pairing Sergio alongside Nico, we enter the new season with an extremely competitive line up, which will go toward helping us achieve our goals for the new season. Sergio brings a healthy mix of youth and experience and I’ve been impressed with his recent performances. He clearly has great speed and plenty of fire in his belly.’

And I completely agree with Mallya. This year has seen Perez grow and develop his talent and driving further and he has been rewarded with a suitable drive within the sport with a team that will try and do everything to help his personal and also driving development next season. And despite McLaren not signing him for next season, Force India will be thrilled to have resigned him and will use all of their racing experience and also the experience gained by Perez for their own advantage.

However, many have argued that Perez resigning for Force India next season has been a step back for him as many felt that the McLaren seat should be been his (which I do agree with). But at the end of the day, we are not going to know even if McLaren had a sudden resurgence in their racing form; Perez would have been given the drive anyway despite the promises in the media by Whitmarsh. And if Perez would have waited for the deal any longer, he may not have even had a drive next season and that would have been a great shame for him.

Despite the deal with McLaren not going ahead, many have debated that if signing for Force India is the right decision for Perez. This year saw Force India having a great start to the season, outscoring McLaren who did not have the pace. Throughout the season, Force India have shown that they had gotten a grip of the 2013 tyres to suit their car and made one stop tyre strategies work when it was thought that it was not even possible.

But throughout the second part of the season, Force India I have to admit struggled to due to events happening at the British Grand Prix (tyres exploding left, right and centre) that reverted the Pirelli tyres back to the 2012 specification on grounds of safety.  This decision did not suit their car and the car sadly lacked the pace and was uncompetitive at races such as the United States Grand Prix.

But despite this drop in form from the team in the second half of the 2013 season, they have had a really good year. Force India have produced a car that has shown the ability to be competitive, that allows the drivers to make a strategy work that others cannot do and have taken changes to outscore teams such as McLaren for points when they were able to. However, in my eyes the team do need to work on consistency with the car.

As even though they have the potential to show what they can do when they are competitive, they need to make sure that they achieve consistency with their car throughout the season will not only show the rest of the teams that they can challenge but will give the team and the drivers the confidence to do. And this is where Perez could prove to be very handy indeed.

When the media asked Hulkenberg his thoughts about resigning back to Force India he said:-

‘Coming here was always my first choice. This is a young team with a lot of determination and they’ve produced competitive cars for the last few years. It’s all change for next season with the new regulations but I already have a good feeling about 2014’

I believe that personally Sergio has made the right decision for next year to sign for Force India. Even though Perez will probably be slightly annoyed that despite all of McLaren’s promises of a deal for next year that would have secured him a drive (who knows?), signing for Force India seems to be a perfect fit for him. Force India have managed to convince him that they have put all the necessary steps in place that will only benefit each other now and also in the future. Perez already has proven a track record from the 2012 season and has enjoyed success in the sport with three podiums.

And this will not only strengthen their relationship with each other, but it also provides them both with a platform that will beneficial for not only the team but also for Perez and also Hulkenberg as well. This year we have seen yet again Perez showing that if he is provided with a competitive car, he has the ability to challenge and perform for decent results for himself and the team he drives for.

Perez once again throughout the season has extended his proven track record with the sport. Perez has shown the world of Formula One that he can deliver when he has the tools in front of him. Perez has shown once again that he is worthy to be a contender for a competitive drive within the sport when the opportunity is presented to him. Perez has shown once again that he is a talented racing driver and that he could be a talent of the future if he develops further.

And that has been the mistake of McLaren. Of the McLaren team not realising Perez’s potential has given him the chance to resign with the Force India team for 2014. Perez’s signing demonstrates that despite the financial backing that he has, Force India now have the opportunity to show and develop his racing talent further with a team that will use this to their advantage.

Both Perez and Hulkenberg have been given the opportunity by the team and I have no doubt they will thrive from it and also the team too. The surprise package of 2014: Force India and Hulkenberg and Perez? It may well be. Watch this space.

2014 FIA Rule Changes: What does it mean for Formula One?

It was announced late this afternoon that the FIA has passed following a meeting of the F1 Strategy Group and the Formula One Commission in Paris the following new regulations in Formula One for 2014:-

  • Cost Cap- The principle of a global cost cap has been adopted. The limit will be applied from January 2015.

A working group will be established within the coming days comprising the FIA, representatives of the Commercial Rights Holder and Team representatives. The objective of the working group will be to have regulations approved by the end of June 2014.

  • Pirelli Tyre test- Bahrain, 17-19 December 2013- The F1 Commission agreed to a change to the 2013 Sporting Regulations, on safety grounds, allowing the Formula One tyre to carry out a three-day test in Bahrain from 17-19 December 2013.

All Formula One teams have been invited to take part in the test and six have accepted: Red Bull Racing, Mercedes, Ferrari, McLaren, Force India and Toro Rosso.

  • Driver Numbers- Drivers will be asked to choose their race number, between 2 and 99 for the duration of their career in the FIA Formula One World Championship.

Number 1 will be reserved for the current World Champion, should he choose to use it. If more than one driver chooses the same number, priority will be given to the driver who finished highest in the previous year’s championship.

  • New Penalties- The principle of a five-second penalty for minor infringements was agreed. In what form such a penalty will be applied will be discussed with Formula One’s teams in order that a new regulation be introduced for the 2014 season.
  • Points for the last race- Double Drivers’ and Constructors’ points will be awarded at the final race of the Formula One season in order to maximise focus on the championship until the end of the campaign.

So what does this mean for Formula One next year? In my opinion, I think the rule changes from what I can gather from speaking to a few people tonight are one of complete bewilderment.

Many fans (like me) are in agreement that the rule about drivers picking their own numbers is a great idea. Obviously every driver would love to be in the position of claiming the number one on their car but this is obviously not going to happen unless they win the championship.

At the moment, I think some of the issues with this rule would need to be ironed out further ,for example if you have a number and win the championship that year and then lose the following year, will you be able to get the first number you started with. There is also the situation if a driver has to leave the sport and their number, if they come back to the sport (say for example Kimi Raikkonen left once again and rejoined) could they regain their number? This rule change is a sensible one, provided the details are well thought out.

As for the Cost Cap rule, the economic climate in general and also within the sport is in crisis. In theory, this rule is a good idea however how would the FIA regulate the team’s spending? The only way I believe this would happen would be to impose a strict limit on each team. This would then make sure that it would lower the budgets of the teams, ensure that every team in the pit lane can compete with each other and take on the drivers that they wish instead of thinking about the money.

However, there could be a problem trying to get teams to disclose their amounts of expenditure occurred throughout the season and would take a huge amount of analysis, collaboration and manpower to ensure this is enforced to the rules and regulations that please all involved within the FIA and also the teams.

Over the last year, the enforcement of penalties at Grand Prix has been debated heavily. This year a drive through penalty has been the minimum punishment served by the FIA to the drivers. I believe this could be a reasonable solution to the problem. If this could be implemented at the Grand Prix, it would not affect the racing on track (if there are drivers in the middle of racing each other for position).

But this could also be difficult to work on a few circuits included on the calendar for next year, so the only suggestion I could think about is maybe the penalty being imposed after the race. There is no denying it would affect the outcome of the race either way the FIA could enforce it. But at least it would be a consistent penalty and better than the system we have in place now.

And finally, the rule that has really in my view united Formula One fans today is the new double points system at the end of the season in Abu Dhabi in 2014. It has never been before included in the Sporting Regulations in the history of the sport. And we are all left wondering why. I can understand slightly why the FIA has imposed this to make the championship more exciting next year after Vettel dominating this year. But will it make any difference?

I do not think so. Yes, it would make people tune to the last race of the season. But to many F1 fans like me, it would mean that the teams and drivers who usually look forward to the last race on the season will have to depend on it if they need to score points. And I think especially if the team or driver is low on points, of course it provides them with the opportunity to do so.

It could also lead to the ‘wrong’ driver winning the title because of the circumstances. Many fans have argued today that if this system was in place when for example Fernando Alonso was challenging Vettel for the 2012 title, Alonso would have been champion and not him. Another example is when Felipe Massa was challenging Lewis Hamilton for the title in 2008 if the points system would have been in place, Massa would have been crowed and not Hamilton.

At the end of the day, these fans do have a point and it would have caused excitement for the sport. But at the end of the day, Formula One is the pinnacle of motorsport and it rewards the best drivers in the world no matter what the points are for a win, second, third etc on doing the best they can do with the equipment they have. And I do not think that this philosophy needs to be changed. But I think it will if this system is introduced.

It even could with the new penalty system regarding the engines affect the result of the race with either the penalty over them or an engine failure due to bad luck and reward and even penalise drivers for experiencing bad luck (which the sport does anyway) even further and in a fashion that could even add controversy to the sport that it does not already need.

However, is it fair that you could make more points in one race and move up the standings and overtake a driver who has worked and scored consistently hard to get to where they are in the standings?  And say for example if Sebastian Vettel (please god no) dominates exactly like he did last season and still wins the final race and claims 50 points for a win, would that just defeat the object of the regulation in the first place?

Overall, I think some of the changes the FIA have made today with more clarification could be good for the sport. Some of these changes may well damage the sport that we know and love. It could also even lose some loyal and passionate fans that feel like the FIA are taking the prospect of Formula One as a ‘show’ too far and forgetting what it is in the first place, it is the pinnacle of motorsport and it needs to make sensible changes to keep it that way.

Russian Roulette: Formula One Driver Market 2013

The past two months have provided clarification on which drivers have shown the teams what it takes to stay in Formula One next year when all things within the sport are changing. With eleven teams in the sport and limited spaces available for next year, some of the key decisions about which driver stays in the sport (with whichever team they have signed for) have spilt the opinion of the fans and the paddock.

And many have been questioning why some talented drivers have been overlooked for some of these drives and some have managed to secure a drive for next season at the expense of these drivers. Let’s begin…

It all started with Felipe Massa (after being let go from Ferrari after serving six years with them) announcing before the United States Grand Prix in Austin that he has signed for Williams for the 2014 season to partner Valteri Bottas. Most fans believe that this move will be beneficial for both parties. As Massa brings with him the experience he has gathered from Sauber and Ferrari (such as technical understanding) which in turn will help the Williams team to try and get back to their glory days. But also Massa will able to help his team mate Bottas develop his understanding about the sport further.

The team next to make their driver announcement for next year was McLaren. Surprisingly, McLaren announced that they were parting ways with their current driver Sergio Perez and were replacing him with Kevin Magnussen to partner Jenson Button for next season. This move really did shock people.

Firstly, everyone did not expect this move to happen. I certainly didn’t expect it to happen. Perez in my eyes did enough to deserve a second chance with the team for next season, even though McLaren did not give both Perez and Button the car to perform. Perez throughout the latter half of the season drove some brilliant races for the team (Such as Brazil) where he showed he can be racing competitively with the big boys and did out-qualified Button this year despite the car not being competitive as he and Button would have liked. McLaren’s decision now has him searching for a drive in the sport next year.

As for McLaren signing Magnussen, I am not disputing that Magnussen is not talented, because he is. Magnussen alongside racing in the Formula Renault 3.5 Series this year is a member of the McLaren Young Driver Programme (just like Lewis Hamilton was!) and was rated very highly by the McLaren team. For Magnussen to win the Formula Renault 3.5 Series in the dominant fashion that he did this year has shown that he is a talent for the future without question and I can understand why he was signed up by the team for next season.

The biggest drives available in the driver market up until last week was the most talked about seats within Formula One. Firstly, Lotus announced that Pastor Maldonado will race alongside Romain Grosjean for next year. I have recently written an article about this decision but I will develop my thoughts further about giving the decision the chance to sink in.

At the time when the ‘Russian Roulette’ of the Formula One driver market was taking place, in the background, the team had issues with Kimi Raikkonen (Raikkonen not being paid) and Raikkonen left the team to get back surgery in preparation for his move to the Ferrari team for the 2014 season. This then left the team searching for a replacement driver to fill the space vacated by Raikkonen for the final two races of the season.

Lotus had a wide choice of drivers available to replace Raikkonen’s seat at Lotus. The choices for Lotus were their third driver Davide Valsecchi, or other drivers which have driven in the sport such as Heikki Kovalainen, Nico Hulkenberg and Bruno Senna. Hulkenberg declined the offer due to legal reasons. In the end, the team decided with the experienced Kovalainen which in turn ended up being the wrong decision for the team.

Kovalainen had clear objectives from the team which was to score points to help their fight in the Constructors with no experience of racing in 2013. Sadly, Heikki did not score any points and failed to meet the objective set out for him. But all credit to Heikki for doing the best that he could despite not having experience with the car or with the tyres.

Personally, my bet would have been Lotus’s third driver Davide Valsecchi. Even though Valsecchi would not have been ‘race ready’ but he had the experience (especially if he raced in Abu Dhabi where he won three times in GP2 Asia and also in the GP2 series) of the E21 and the tyres. This decision was also debated by fans about the role of the third driver and what the role will now mean within the team now that Valsecchi was overlooked.

However, I do see why the team did not choose him. They wanted someone with experience within the sport and had a track record and putting Valsecchi in the car would have been risky. And you could argue that if Valsecchi did not perform within the car if he had the chance to, then his Formula One career could well be over.

Despite this, Lotus had a reasonable chance to secure second in the Constructors Championship and this was the team’s main focus at the time. As we all know, the higher you finish in the standings, the more money you get. However, Lotus managed to stay in the same position they finished in 2012 in fourth. You can argue that the team should not have finished in this position this year especially when Grosjean drove some outstanding races and picked up some solid points to keep them in the running.  Lotus was the only team to regularly take the challenge to Red Bull in the latter part of this season.

The team’s focus was heading away from the track. Throughout the season, Lotus had been in talks with the US- Middle Eastern consortium Quantum Motorsports investing within the team and taking over 25% of the Lotus team. I will not go into the details here as I have previously but the deal fell through and this then left the team with limited options.

After failing to secure the deal with Quantum, Lotus was ultimately left in the position where they might not be able to race next season or in the future after a successful two years which saw the team winning races and scoring podiums. And they still could not find the funding needed to secure the team financially.

The only viable option that Lotus had on the table was either to bring in a ‘pay’ driver such as Maldonado who brings substantial government backing who would help with their cash flow problems and would be able to race in the sport next year. Even though the team realised that they could not sign their preferred driver Hulkenberg and Hulkenberg only has limited personal backing to bring to the team.

I have made my feelings pretty clear on the subject on Maldonado and his attitude (see my article on Lotus that I wrote for The Sports Breakfast for further details). I see Maldonado as a cash cow for the Lotus team that has enabled him to keep on racing within the sport until a suitable investor is willing to invest in the team.

This week has seen the announcement that Nico Hulkenberg has resigned for Force India on a ‘multi-year’ deal for the 2014 season. At this current time, Force India has said that they will name the second driver who will partner Hulkenberg ‘in due course’.  Hulkenberg is expected to be partnered by former McLaren driver Perez, with Paul Di Resta set to lose his place in Formula One (who is looking for a move to IndyCar Racing) and Adrian Sutil rumoured to be going to Sauber.

Perez could have a chance to go back to his old team Sauber and Di Resta and Sutil could also end up there too. At the moment, Perez is the key player in the driver market right now. Perez has shown this year that he has the speed to race competitively and can also bring financial backing to a team if he needs to. This in turn makes Perez an attractive prospect for any team who would like him to sign with them.

However, the problem for Perez could be the spilt from his manager Adrian Fernandes which if rumours are to believe did not go well with his backer Carlos Slim which could cause some problems for him trying to secure a drive. But I really do hope Perez ends up on the grid for next year.

People are now starting to question where Esteban Guiterrez will end up at the end of the season. Guiterrez could still stay at Sauber and if Perez ends up going there, an all Mexican line up at Sauber will only fuel the country’s interest within the sport and could bring the Grand Prix back onto the calendar.

There are rumours flying around that Guiterrez will end up at Marussia. This week has seen speculation that Guiterrez has been to visit Caterham with the prospect of signing for the team. I believe that Guiterrez is a talent for the future. He has impressed me slightly during his rookie year within the sport and shows signs of development but sadly not enough to secure a drive for next season.

Paul Di Resta could also be another casualty within the sport. Di Resta has admitted himself that his chances of staying in the sport for next season are limited. There has been much talk about him moving to Indycar and taking over his cousin’s Dario Franchitti’s vacant Ganassi seat. If he does not want to take up his cousin’s seat, what is next for Di Resta?

Di Resta has been linked highly to DTM and WEC. This would without a doubt be a step back for Di Resta. I really do like Di Resta as a drive. When he is on form, he is on form and has proven that he can be competitive when it comes together. He has shown that he is a talent for the future. However, Di Resta has lacked consistency especially in the latter part of this season which may have hindered his chances to stay within the sport for next year.

Gideo Van Der Garde and Charles Pic are fighting to keep their seats at Caterham. This year, Pic has been anonymous this season. Pic in my eyes has not been able to perform with the team and has been regularly out qualified and out raced by his team mate Van Der Garde. Pic last year showed everyone that he had the potential last year at the Marussia team and was rewarded with a drive at Caterham. Sadly, he has failed to deliver and I believe he could be out of a drive next season.

Van Der Garde meanwhile has impressed me slightly. At the start of the season, Van Der Garde had problems adjusting to the car and racing in Formula One, which is to be expected as a rookie. Over the season, he has shown his talent by out qualifying and out racing Pic consistently. I believe that Van Der Garde has done everything he can for Caterham, who in turn did not give him a car that could challenge Marussia this year and they slipped back a place in the Constructors. Despite this, he could keep his seat at Caterham for next year, even though rumours are that Kovalainen could be back with the team for next season. But this week, Autosport published an article stating that Caterham are looking for an established line up in order to have a successful 2014….

Finally, Marussia have announced that Jules Bianchi is to keep his drive for next season after impressing the team and the paddock with his form this year. A driver of the Ferrari Academy, Bianchi in his rookie season has out qualified and out raced his team mate Max Chilton consistently this year. Bianchi has shown that he has all the potentials to be a great racing drive of the future.

Chilton meanwhile has been out classed by Bianchi this year. Even though he has been able to outperform his team mate on a few occasions this year, Chilton does hold the record for finishing every race in his rookie season in the sport. And you cannot take that away from him and it is certainly something he can put on his CV.

I personally like Chilton but I think he will be very lucky this year if he keeps his seat at Marussia. With the driver market looking uncertain and also rumours that Marussia have talked to team such as Sauber, Ferrari and even Williams to merge the team could suggest that the team could be financial troubles of their own.

Throughout the next few weeks, drivers will be signed up by teams who currently have seats left for next season. Some drivers may stay, some may go. We may get a surprise imposed on us, we may not. But nothing is certain in Formula One and anything can happen and in the words of Murray Walker, it usually does.

Feeling The ‘Force’: Nico Hulkenberg Resigns for Force India

_68908561_68908560

It was announced on 3rd December 2013 when Force India confirmed that Nico Hulkenberg would be resigning for Force India on a ‘multi-year’ deal for the 2014 season. At this current time, Force India has said that they will name the second driver who will partner Hulkenberg ‘in due course’.

Hulkenberg is expected to be partnered by former McLaren driver Sergio Perez, with Di Resta set to lose his place in Formula One (who is looking for a move to IndyCar Racing) and Sutil rumoured to be going to Sauber. The decision has now I think put all Formula One fans at ease especially after the news that Hulkenberg did not get the drive at Lotus last week. So how did Hulkenberg end up resigning for Force India?

Hulkenberg had a very strong second half of the Formula One season where he scored points in the final six races. That run included an impressive drive to fifth place at Monza and fourth place in Korea a month after. It was from his show of form that Hulkenberg was linked with a drive at Lotus.

However, Lotus were experiencing financial problems and a planned investment deal with the US- Middle Eastern consortium Quantum Motorsports failed to materialise in time and the team have signed Pastor Maldonado for 2014. As we all know, Maldonado comes with significant financial backing of £30 million from Venezuelan company PDVSA and Hulkenberg only has limited personal backing behind him which has denied him the drive.

This then left Hulkenberg with limited and sensible options to remain in the sport competitively which were staying at his current team Sauber or resigning to his previous team Force India. Hulkenberg has decided to rejoin his former team Force India on a ‘multi-year’ deal. And you can see why Force India has signed him up for next season.

Hulkenberg has impressed everyone throughout his Formula One career so far. The German made his debut in the sport in 2010 and took his maiden Pole Position in the penultimate race in Brazil of that year. He joined Force India as a test driver in 2011 before being promoted to a race driver in 2012.

In the 2012 season, he scored on eleven occasions and even led the season-ending Brazilian Grand Prix before crashing into Lewis Hamilton and recovering to fifth place. This year Hulkenberg finished tenth in the Driver’s standings with 51 points and has impressed everyone this year with his driving.

On Tuesday, when Force India’s Team Principal Vjay Mallya announced that Hulkenberg was rejoining the team he said:-

‘I am delighted to see Nico back with Force India. When he [Hulkenberg] drove for us in 2012, it became clear Nico was an exceptional talent and he has continued to impress everyone in the paddock with his strong performances this season. Having Nico in our line up is a real statement of intent and a huge boost for everyone associated with the team.’

And I completely agree with Mallya. This year has seen Hulkenberg grow and develop his talent and driving further and he has been rewarded with a suitable drive within the sport with a team that he knows and a team that will try and do everything to help his personal and also driving development next season. And despite Lotus not signing him for next season, Force India will be thrilled to have resigned him and will use all of their racing experience and also the experience gained by Hulkenberg for their own advantage.

However, many have argued that Hulkenberg resigning for Force India next season has been a step back for him as many felt that the Lotus seat should be been his (which I do agree with). But at the end of the day, we are not going to know even if the deal with Quantum had been finalised with the Lotus team that Hulkenberg would have been given the drive anyway despite the promises in the media. And if Hulkenberg would have waited for the deal any longer, Hulkenberg may not have even had a drive next season and that would have been the biggest injustice that Formula One could have dished on a talent like Hulkenberg.

Despite the deal with Lotus not going ahead, many have debated that if resigning for Force India is the right decision for Hulkenberg. This year saw Force India having a great start to the season, outscoring McLaren who did not have the pace. Throughout the season, Force India have shown that they had gotten a grip of the 2013 tyres to suit their car and made one stop tyre strategies work when it was thought that it was not even possible.

But throughout the second part of the season, Force India I have to admit struggled to due to events happening at the British Grand Prix (tyres exploding left, right and centre) that reverted the Pirelli tyres back to the 2012 specification on grounds of safety.  This decision did not suit their car and the car sadly lacked the pace and was uncompetitive at races such as the United States Grand Prix.

But despite this drop in form from the team in the second half of the 2013 season, they have had a really good year. Force India have produced a car that has shown the ability to be competitive, that allows the drivers to make a strategy work that others cannot do and have taken changes to outscore teams such as McLaren for points when they were able to. However, in my eyes the team do need to work on consistency with the car.

As even though they have the potential to show what they can do when they are competitive, they need to make sure that they achieve consistency with their car throughout the season will not only show the rest of the teams that they can challenge but will give the team and the drivers the confidence to do. And this is where Hulkenberg could prove to be very handy indeed.

When the media asked Hulkenberg his thoughts about resigning back to Force India he said:-

‘I know this team and I can see their determination. We all share the same hunger for success. The team is aiming high for next season and I believe the experience I have gained over the years will help us achieve their goals. I’ve heard a lot of positive things about the Mercedes engine as well, so I think there is a lot to be excited about for next year.’

I believe that personally Nico has made the right decision for next year to resign for Force India. Even though Hulkenberg will probably be slightly annoyed that despite all of Lotus’s promises of a deal with Quantum Motorsports that would have secured him a drive (who knows?), resigning seems to be a perfect fit for him. Force India have managed to convince him that they have put all the necessary steps in place that will only benefit each other now and also in the future. The team and Hulkenberg already have proven a track record from the 2012 season and have enjoyed success with each other (even though Hulkenberg moved to Sauber for this season).

And this will not only strengthen their relationship with each other, but it also provides them both with a platform that will beneficial for not only the team but also for Hulkenberg as well. This year we have seen yet again Hulkenberg showing that if he is provided with a competitive car, he has the ability to challenge and perform for decent results for himself and the team he drives for.

Hulkenberg once again throughout the season has extended his proven track record with the sport. Hulkenberg has shown the world of Formula One that he can deliver when he has the tools in front of him. Hulkenberg has shown once again that he is worthy to be a contender for a top drive within the sport when the opportunity is presented to him. Hulkenberg has shown once again that he is a talented racing driver and that he is undoubtedly a talent of the future.

And that has been the mistake of Lotus. Of the Lotus team not realising Hulkenberg’s potential has given him the chance to resign with the Force India team for 2014. Hulkenberg’s resigning demonstrates that despite the limited financial backing that he has, Force India now have the opportunity to show and develop his racing talent further with a team that will use this to their advantage.

Hulkenberg has been given the opportunity and I have no doubt he will thrive from it and also the team too. The surprise package of 2014: Force India and Hulkenberg? It may well be.

Lotus: Talent or Money?

It was announced on 29th November 2013 Lotus confirmed that Romain Grosjean would be paired with Pastor Maldonado for the 2014 season. The decision has spilt everyone who loves Formula One and has left fans wondering if driver decisions are now not based on racing talent but on the promise of substantial amounts of money that they can bring with them. So is Lotus’s decision on Maldonado based on talent or money?

Firstly, you could argue that the decision that Lotus made is on talent. Eric Boullier has stated to the media that:-

‘It is clear that Maldonado has the pace and potential, demonstrated by the 2010 GP 2 Series title success and strong races throughout his career at Williams. We are convinced that we will be able to provide the correct environment to enable him to flourish regularly.’

And I can see Boullier’s point for signing him. It is not easy for any young driver to secure a drive within the sport .And for Maldonado to secure a drive after his success in GP2 series in 2010 with Williams; a team with a rich history of success in the sport seemed to highlight how he impressed them. Throughout his career at Williams, when Maldonado has been on form, he has been on form. Maldonado has won a Grand Prix for Williams last year at the Spanish Grand Prix with great style and did impress everybody in the paddock.

However, I believe this year Maldonado has not shown the promise from the Spanish Grand Prix last year. Maldonado has not been able to consistently gain points due to Williams car not being on the pace this year but successfully managed to score a point this season for them in a hard season for himself and Williams.

However, I was still shocked that Lotus had signed Maldonado for his ‘talent’ for next year despite only scoring one point this season for Williams and having one race win under his belt when there are other drivers out there such as Hulkenberg who have out performed him regularly and showed their natural racing talent and speed on a consistent basis being overlooked by the Lotus team. This now brings me onto the subject that Maldonado was signed by the Lotus team for the money that he brings with him…

It would be silly not to pretend that Lotus was highly influenced also by the £30 million a year that Maldonado brings with him from his sponsors PDVSA. Throughout the season, Lotus have been in talks with the US- Middle Eastern consortium Quantum Motorsports investing within the team and taking over 25% of the Lotus team.

Throughout the latter part of the season, it appeared on the surface that despite a agreement taking place between the team and company and also interviews with the boss of the company Monsieur Ijaz (promising that the funds were in place to help the team and also help them secure the signing of Nico Hulkenberg from Sauber), the deal looked to be signed after sorting out terms and conditions legally.

Despite their promises, the deal between Quantum Motorsports and Lotus has not been secured. The news of the deal between Quantum and Lotus did not surprise anyone in the paddock. Rumours were rife about the deal from the start which stemmed from research about the background of Monsieur Ijaz and his past ventures. This is also alongside the amount of times both parties announced to the media that the deal would be finalised and then both parties failing to meet the deadlines they had set themselves.

This then left the team with limited options. After failing to secure the deal with Quantum, Lotus realised that they could not sign their preferred driver Hulkenberg and Hulkenberg only has limited personal backing to bring to the team. The only viable option that Lotus had on the table was either to bring in a ‘pay’ driver such as Maldonado who brings substantial government backing who would help with their cash flow problems and would be able to race in the sport next year.

As you would expect, many fans (like myself) were in disbelief that a talent like Hulkenberg had been overlooked by Lotus and decided to sign up Maldonado. I do understand why the team signed Maldonado. Lotus are a great racing team who secured fourth place in the Constructors Championship this year and have produced a car this year that has tried to challenge the dominance of Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull Racing.

But Lotus has experienced financial problems throughout the year. Kimi Raikkonen left the team two races early to have back surgery before rejoining Ferrari for the 2014 season. However, Raikkonen had not been paid by the team throughout the year and is owed £17 million Euros plus it is rumoured up to £50,000 Euros per point he has scored for them which may have influenced his decision. It could be seen that signing Maldonado for next season would not only be Raikkonen’s replacement but also would help the team with their troubles and still be on the grid for 2014.

Of course the signing of Maldonado was not going to be very popular. Over the last few races Maldonado has presented himself in a fashion that has personally disgusted me. When he announced that he was leaving Williams, I really was not shocked in the slightest, I even understood why Maldonado would leave after the year he had with the team.

However, the weekend of the United States Grand Prix, Maldonado showed himself in the wrong light. Publically, he ridiculed the Williams team by stating that he had deliberately sabotaged his car and thereby ruining his weekend. I think I can safely say that many fans and people in the paddock where in shock with Maldonado’s behaviour. How could he do that to a team who had given him a chance to get into Formula One in the first place and also a team whose core philosophy is to race? What would Williams have gained from doing this to Maldonado?

Towards the end of the weekend, Maldonado changed his perspective and apologised to the Williams team for his comments. Sadly, I believe it was too late for him to redeem himself. The damage had already been done. After this, Maldonado publically stated to the media that his future in the sport was ‘imminent’ and would be decided soon. I think we all knew what was going to happen, even though it sent shockwaves into the sport on Friday when the deal was announced.

Lotus will have a challenge to try and nurture Maldonado’s ‘talent’ next year. If his behaviour with the Williams team is anything to go by, Lotus should treat Maldonado with caution. I think it won’t be too long before we hear another outburst from his mouth.

However, I do believe that Lotus choosing Maldonado and his sponsorship money for 2014 instead of the talented Hulkenberg has left every Formula One fan wondering if teams now base decisions on money rather than talent. And it would be hard to disagree with this assumption. I remember days of old that drivers got into Formula One based on their natural racing talent and were rewarded into drives with top teams such as Lotus when they proved themselves in the sport.

And Hulkenberg has proved himself throughout his career so far. Hulkenberg claimed William’s first Pole Position in 2009 in Brazil; he has drove some brilliant qualifying laps (especially this year in Italy) and has secured several fourth place finishes for Force India and Sauber (his best finishes in the sport to date). I really do believe that Hulkenberg is the real deal and is a talent for the future who will continue to grow in the future and is a better bet for Lotus than Maldonado.

For me Friday as highlighted once again the change of direction from teams once again about their choice of drivers. The days of old have now been replaced by teams now choosing the drivers who bring significant backing or sponsorship that can contribute to their budgets to keep themselves racing in the current economic climate.

It has been proven with the case of Lotus and Maldonado. Lotus choosing to go the ‘pay’ route with Maldonado who I believe despite the team saying he has been signed on his ‘talent’ has been influenced by money. Yes, if the deal with Quantum had been finalised, who knows if Hulkenberg would have even been signed by the team despite their promises to the media?

Despite this, I firmly believe that Maldonado is does not have the ‘talent’ in the first place. I will not take away his win at the Spanish Grand Prix in 2012, the fact that Williams did not have the car this year to be competitive and his behaviour after announcing that he was leaving Williams, Maldonado has not proven himself within the sport. He depends on his money to land himself a drive and he knows that this is all it will take nowadays. In my eyes, he is not worthy of the drive with Lotus next season and never will be, even if he does well with the team.

Meanwhile a pure, natural racing talent such as Hulkenberg has once again missed the opportunity that rightly deserved to be his. Hulkenberg has a proven track record within the sport and shown time and time again that he should be within a top team within the pinnacle of motorsport without the backing behind him. And it is because of this that Hulkenberg has been denied the opportunity to show and develop his racing talent further with a team that could have used this to their advantage.

Instead, Hulkenberg again finds himself in the prospect of trying to stay within the sport within the midfield either with Sauber or his old team Force India and thereby starting his quest again to be considered by the top teams of the sport for the future. And I believe it’s only going to be a matter of time before his question with Hulkenberg is going to be raised again, but next time I am hoping ( as I am sure most Formula One fans are) Hulkenberg is given the opportunity and I have no doubt he will thrive from it.