Monthly Archives: January 2014

Marussia reveal their 2014 car at Jerez: The MR03

Marussia's 2014 car: the MR03

Marussia’s 2014 car: the MR03

Yesterday afternoon at the third day of testing at Jerez, Marussia are now the final Formula One team to reveal their 2014 car, the MR03 after being delayed by a ‘small but frustrating technical issue.’ After last minute work at their team’s base in Banbury, the MR03 arrived in southern Spain on Wednesday afternoon. Yesterday, Max Chilton took to the Jerez circuit with the MR03 car to give the car its first shakedown run. The Ferrari powered MR03 is the team’s response to the sport’s new technical regulations in place for this year.

Marussia’s Team Principal John Booth has within the media said that the cost and the timing of the switch to turbo hybrid power is something that he has been against. But at the launch of the MR03, Booth said the following:-

‘As we saw in the step from 2012 to 2013, we have a young but experienced and extremely talented technical and engineering groups within the Marussia F1 team, who have contributed enormously to our rate of progression over the past couple of years.

‘To have designed a car that is true to the concept first conceived in early 2012, despite the integration of an entirely new power train and whilst pushing hard to attain our 2013 Constructors Championship objective, is a testament to the extent to which we have matured as a technical organisation.’

And all credit to Marussia for securing tenth place in the Constructors Championship last season from Jules Bianchi securing thirteenth place at the Malaysian Grand Prix. However, the team throughout the season struggled to keep up with their rivals Caterham and in my view were very lucky not to be beaten by them on several occasions.

However, it would seem that Marussia managing to secure Ferrari engines for this season and parting ways with former engine manufacturer Cosworth could help them build on the past few seasons. And if what Booth says is correct and they have built on their current structure within the team, they could surprise this season if the chance presents itself.

Marussia claim that this year’s car is innovative in its cooling capacity (which is an important area for all teams this year). Marussia’s Chief Designer John McQuilliam said the following at the launch:-

‘The car has been manufactured and finished to a very high standard, whilst achieving our most significant weight-saving targets to date and more importantly, with a crucial eye towards maintaining our excellent record of reliability.

‘Without a doubt, the greatest has been in terms of cooling, yet this is one of a few areas where we are not only very pleased with the design response, but also the degree of innovation we have achieved with our solution.’

It is nice to see that McQuilliam is very pleased with the MR03 and like every team of the grid have been challenged by the new technical regulations.  We could see a surprise this season throughout the field and see teams that you would not expect throwing themselves into the mix. And this is what is exciting for the sport and the fans at the moment.

Marussia are sticking with their 2013 driver line up of Jules Bianchi and Max Chilton for this season. Bianchi has impressed everyone from his rookie season last year. Bianchi regularly out qualified and out-paced his team mate. Bianchi impressed especially at the Malaysian Grand Prix with a good thirteenth place for the team and secured them tenth place in the Constructor’s Championship last year. Bianchi also helped Marussia get into Q2 with a strong qualifying performance at the Belgian Grand Prix.

This year could see Bianchi build on a strong foundation from last season and put himself forward for contention for a midfield drive for 2015. Bianchi let’s not forget is part of the Ferrari Young Driver Programme and this could help him be considered or even put further up the grid for 2015.

Meanwhile, Chilton in my view did just about enough to secure his drive with the team for this season. Despite Chilton being the first driver in his rookie season finishing in every Grand Prix (and all credit goes to him), he was regularly out qualified and out-paced by Bianchi all season.

This year will be an important year for Chilton. He needs to learn his lessons from last season and make sure that this year that he builds on all the experience gained and starts performing at the level that he needs to. As I feel if Chilton does not improve enough, this might be his last season in the sport. And with rumours of young drivers such as Rodolfo Gonzalez waiting in the wings to get into Formula One, the pressure is on for Chilton to deliver this season.

So what will 2014 bring for Marussia? Marussia will want to keep their tenth place in the Constructor’s Championship at the end of the year, but have they done enough with the MR03 to stay there? Only time will tell.

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#HappyTesting Special: Q and A with the creator of #F1Extra Duurt

#F1Extra: “Trying to bring you the latest news on F1 and a bit of “extra” by sharing useful info for the fans which they might not know yet. From facts & video’s to livestreams. All motorsport, all day. Follow me to keep up with the fast world of Motorsport'

#F1Extra: “Trying to bring you the latest news on F1 and a bit of “extra” by sharing useful info for the fans which they might not know yet. From facts & video’s to livestreams. All motorsport, all day. Follow me to keep up with the fast world of Motorsport’

In case anyone does not know, I was asked by the creator of #F1Extra Duurt on Twitter (you can follow Duurt on Twitter @Formula1Extra) at the start of this year with my blog to become a #F1Extra partner. Duurt has very kindly agreed to answer some of my own questions in a Question and Answer session about #F1Extra in general, with a few other questions mixed in also!

Q: What is F1 Extra?

A: F1 Extra is practically exactly what it says. It is all about F1 but I also give a little extra by sharing info on other sides of motorsport, 2 or 4 wheeled. Next to that I also try and share livestreams for those amongst us that can’t watch/follow Motorsport on TV.

Q: What inspired you to create F1 Extra?

A: Two years ago in January 2012, I just had Facebook and found out that I could log in to GP Update website and chat along with testing at Barcelona. I thought they were not giving the information I wanted and started to search the web for more ways to get that information. I found out that there were a few others and when combined, I got a better picture of what was going on at the track.

At that time I created F1etc (F1 etcetera) because you had GP Update, Autosport, Sky Sport “etcetera etcetera” (hence the name) At that time, I didn’t even had twitter but had a feeling that social media could become to play a big role in motorsport and therefore I created an account on twitter using just my real name. Along the way it was clear to me that I had to change a few things and after 1 year I became Formula1extra and created my own hashtag #F1extra to go along with it.

Since February 2013, I started to provide more and more information. While starting out with just around 850 followers it became clear I needed to promote myself so I could reach more people. From that point on, it became a rollercoaster and luckily for me, I never profiled myself as a fan of 1 certain driver or team, just an unbiased Dutch guy with a passion for motorsport.

Q: Did you feel that there was a growing need for social media to interact with fans of the sport?

A: Since the beginning there have always been fans of motorsport on Twitter but I felt they were never really combined into a platform until I reached over 1500 followers and got to know a few “big fish” that brought me in touch with what you all know now as the #F1Family.

From the beginning, I knew a few accounts that had a lot of followers and through them I could share #F1extra and become a bigger name in the world of social media. That really helped and after some F1 teams and media “folk” started to follow me; I knew I was on the right path. #F1extra has a position between fans on 1 side and media/motorsport on the other. I’m not connected to anything FIA so I am not bound to any rules or regulations on what I can or cannot tweet.

Q: How do you manage to keep up with the latest news on Formula One?

A: That’s the most work I have to put in. I start early in the morning when I wake up and browse the web through several “big” websites on motorsport and try to pick out articles which I think are important enough for the fans to know. I wouldn’t for example share a story about a driver buying a 10000 dollar watch because really, who cares. The difficult part is to read very quickly through all the articles and choose carefully which one to share because I don’t use automated tweets to make sure I don’t share the same story 7 times through 7 websites.

Q: Why did you decide to use social media to promote F1 Extra?

A: Promoting F1extra was and still is a daily work because of the speed social media works. Social media is THE fastest way to get your point across. I also have Facebook but mostly use Twitter as my centre. To give an idea on how fast Twitter works, try to remember what you tweeted or read last Friday. Pretty difficult ey? It moves so fast that it does need to be looked at on a daily basis, just to keep up with it all. So what better way than to ride along with it and making the hashtag on Twitter which is an easier way to track it.

Q: What sources of social media do you tend to use to promote F1 Extra and how often do you use them?

A: As answered in the last question, I use Twitter as my centre of work but always try to find other ways in social media to promote F1extra such as YouTube, blogs and vlogs etc are the first things to come to my mind.

Q: You have a Twitter page @Formula1Extra that keeps fans like myself up to date. How long have you been on Twitter for?

A: I have been on Twitter for just over 2 years now but am really focused on F1extra since January 2013. In that respect I am kind of like a “rookie” in comparison to some that are using it for years.

Q: Since you have started F1 Extra, how much has it grown over the last few years?

A: I can now say that since F1extra started in January 2013, I went from around 850 followers to 3261 today (29-1).and expanded my mention reach on Twitter alone from approximately 20,000 in January 2013 to an average of 475,000 views per week now.

Q: You have managed fantastically to create and establish partnerships with a wide variety of F1 Fans like myself and using social media to promote them. Can you tell me more about how being a partner of F1 Extra is of benefit to yourself and also to existing and new partners?

A: I created partnerships with F1extra for one reason alone. To make sure that whoever I decide joins us, they will have also the same growth and exposure as I would get. Meaning it is a NON PROFIT win-win situation where I promote my partners through social media in exchange for my F1extra link on their website, blog or vlog.

Here’s roughly how it works. I promote my partner through Twitter reaching a possible 475000 tweeps (or followers) but since it is also found on other websites through my link, it can reach up to over 4 million at the moment. F1extra gets more established in the world of motorsport because my logo appears on more and more websites. But the promotion of partners is also found on more and more websites as well reaching people that normally wouldn’t have a look so everybody gets what they want. This is more exposure for my partners and a bigger name in the world of motorsport for me. It is a win-win situation really.

Q: You’ve got a variety of partners currently with F1 Extra at the moment using social media such as radio shows, blogs, vblogs etc. Is it good that there are so many ways to get your news and views across about Formula One?

A:  I would say yes. You can follow true journalists or reporters for motorsport for most of the time get their view/side on the story. But I’m not connected to any media, I make no money off it nor have no stake in what I tweet , so everything I share is shared from a general point of view. It could be positive or negative, no matter what the topic.

Of course I now and then give my personal opinion on certain issues but then again, I’m also just a fan of the sport with a passion for it. Through my partners and their points of view, I reach more people with an unbiased look on topics and that’s what I think is needed in this world. To look at things from different sides, then judge it.

Q: What are your own views in general about F1 fans using social media to gain a better understanding and a more personal connection to the sport?

A: I just LOVE all F1 fans in general, biased ones and unbiased ones. They are the ones that make it possible for me to do what I do. Without all of them, I would just be a Dutch guy sharing things to whoever wants to read it. I think it’s my respect for all fans that got me this far. Sadly, every upside has a downside and there will always be “wannabees” amongst us. Those are the ones that make it difficult sometimes and hard to ignore since social media is for everybody.

Q: Since setting up F1 Extra on Twitter and other forms of social media, what feedback have you got back from promoting F1 Extra and its current partners for this year?

A: It is hard to say what the feedback for this year will be but so far it was all positive. Last year was the first year I started with partnerships, just bloggers and a few “special” ones and from what I have learned it worked perfectly. That’s why I decided to go the “extra” mile this year and have set up a few partnerships with well known websites, YouTube Channels and (at this point still secret) project.

Q: What things do you look at or for Duurt when you choose your partners for F1 Extra?

A: First and foremost I look at their unbiasedness, then I look at what angle they write or talk about motorsport, of course they need to have a solid “fanbase” and last I look at the frequency of when they post articles. I DO need to connect my name to something that has the possibility to grow and viewed at.

Q: What advice would you give to people that would like to be involved with F1 Extra?

A:  I think the answer lies within the answer of question number 13. Always stay unbiased or else you’ll become just another “fanpage”. Don’t be scared to give your honest opinions in articles but always stay unbiased, even in your answers. Sometimes you need to be political about it but in the long run that helps you to get ahead.

Q: At the moment, you are currently covering the F1 test in Jerez using Twitter and Livestream with the hashtag #HappyTesting. How are you finding covering the testing so far?

A: Being in my position (not wanting to sound like I’m all that) I have the luck of having followers attending the tests, partner-websites that are covering it and next to that I read live coverages from 2 to 3 different websites (Autosport, AMuS, BBC, F1Today, GP Update). This all depending on which works the quickest with delivering the information I need.

That all combined gives me a clear picture of what’s going on at and around the track and I tweet that in my own words. Of course I often use the RT button if the situation calls for it for example with pictures, statements and so on. It is hard work, time consuming but so much fun to do.

Q: What feedback have you been currently been given about F1 Extra in general and also about #HappyTesting from Jerez?

A: This might sound like overkill but F1extra just has positive reactions and #HappyTesting gets reactions from places I never thought I would reach. I had a few DM’s from F1 teams complimenting me, had some lovely messages from people at the track thinking i was there after reading my tweets. Those were the best ones.

Through #HappyTesting I wanted to give the fans a “feeling” as if they were watching TV or even being at the track. It takes a LOT of tweets but after getting the reactions like that, I felt my job was done. I reached what I was looking for. THAT’S why I do it.

Q: Duurt, you are a big Motorsport fan obviously, so what got you into Motorsport generally?

A: Like many of us, I started watching F1 with my dad at the age of around 8. After my youth, when I became a teenager, every Sunday when there was a race on, I watched it again with my dad. After leaving the house to go live on my own, I kept watching races as much as I could.

Since social media took over and pay-per-view got out of hand in my opinion, it no longer was fun to watch. I come from the era where cigarettes were smoked in the paddock and Marlboro, JPS and others were still on the cars. More and more, if you wanted to know or watch something, you had to go to a website for it. That was my turning point and I started to get into the whole internet ‘thingie’. From then on the flame of passion was lit again and here I am now!

Q: What fascinates you about Motorsport in general?

A: Most would say the speed but for me it’s more the feeling that you get inside your stomach when a car goes through Eau Rouge on top speed. The “shock-effect” you get when a car crashes out or the excitement you feel when a pit stop comes down to a few seconds. Gut-feeling I would say.

After watching a race and you’re in your car behind someone else, you are looking for the DRS button. Those kind of things. I don’t really care about 1 type of car, engine or driver, just the buzz you get. No matter what happens or where you are, true fans know that feeling.

Q: How do you see the future of F1 Extra and the growth that social media is playing on keeping Formula One fans updated with the sport?

A: In these times where social media becomes an even bigger part of motorsport (#Red4Schumi for example) I’m happy and proud to have stepped in at the time I did. THAT was my lucky break and I see F1extra getting bigger and bigger, hopefully to a point where someday I get an invitation from a team or driver to be a VIP for the whole weekend.

Q: If there is one wish you could have for F1 Extra, what would it be and why?

A: My wish for F1extra is simple. I wish that, when the name F1extra is dropped in the paddock, all drivers, teams, media or fans, know exactly what it stands for. And I don’t mean that Dutch guy sharing some news but the place to go for that little “extra” inside the world of motorsport. Thank you very much Sarah for giving me the opportunity to try and explain F1extra and all that comes with it.

I would like to say a massive thank you to Duurt for allowing me the opportunity to cover the project for #JonesonF1 and answering all of my questions and enquires about  #F1Extra. Once again, I am so honoured and privileged to be a member of #F1Extra for the 2014 Formula One season and I am very grateful to Duurt for all of his personal support and also his support for #JonesonF1.

[If you require any further information on Duurt , please follow him and #F1Extra throughout #HappyTesting on Twitter @Formula1Extra for all the latest updates throughout the test at Jerez this week. And you can also follow Duurt and #F1Extra on his website http://www.f1-livestream.com/duurt/].

McLaren Appoint Boullier as Racing Director

eric

This morning, McLaren have announced former Lotus Team Principal Eric Boullier as their Racing Director as a result of the team’s major and groundbreaking shake-up of the team’s management structure.

Boullier  officially starts his appointment on Monday 3rd February 2013 with the team confirms speculation that he would be joining the team after Lotus announced that their Team Owner Gerard Lopez would be Team Principal starting this season. As soon as this was announced, Boullier was linked immediately to the team.

However, McLaren have stressed that Boullier  is not Team Principal for the team. Bouiller will be working alongside Managing Director Jonathan Neale and other senior management staff in the day-to-day running of the team. It has been rumoured that Boullier  will be ‘ultimately report’ to Chief Executive Director of McLaren Racing which is a new position that has not yet been filled and also to Chief Executive Director Ron Dennis.

At this current time, the team have not yet made any announcement regarding the status of Martin Whitmarsh and whose status and future within the team looks very uncertain while the team is reorganising its structure. At the announcement, Boullier made the following statement:-

‘First of all, I regard this appointment as an honour, a privilege and a wonderful opportunity. The McLaren Racing workforce and facilities at the McLaren Technology Centre are world-class and I’m hugely excited about the prospect of joining such an outstanding team.’

As a big McLaren fan (just in case you did not know), I am happy with the news that Boullier  has joined the team. Boullier has shown from his time at Lotus that he has the qualities and abilities to lead a team successfully to competitive racing and great results. And the experience that Boullier has gained from Lotus will only help McLaren through their transitional period of reorganisation.

Boullier  then added the following to his statement:-

‘I’m both eager and determined to play an active part, working alongside McLaren Racing’s other senior managers and directors, within a new operational structure to bring about the changes that will deliver success. Last, I want to take this opportunity to assure McLaren Racing workforce that I’m utterly determined to match their famous passion and commitment to win.’

I have no doubts that Boullier will succeed. He has experience gained from Lotus and the right attitude to do the job that he needs to do at McLaren. Despite the rumours that have been circulating in the media surrounding the Boullier’s departure, this will destabilise Lotus internally I believe and losing his valuable experience and this will only be gained by McLaren sooner rather than later.

Two weeks ago saw Dennis becoming CEO of the McLaren group after the team experienced their worst season in three decades, failing to score a podium since 1980 and finishing fifth in the Constructors Championship. Dennis has promised to reorganise and restructure the group in order for the team to become competitive and winning once again.

At Boullier’s announcement, Dennis stated the following:-

‘Eric’s appointment is an integral part of a senior management restructure within McLaren Racing. My intention is from now on everyone at McLaren Racing will understand their responsibilities and accountabilities, focusing on their specific areas of expertise, in keeping with those values, principles and mindset. In due course we will announce the identity of McLaren Racing’s Chief Executive Officer, who’ll report to me and to whom Eric will report.’

This is now will lead to more increased speculation surrounding former Mercedes Team Principal Ross Brawn who is on a six month sabbatical from the sport. Rumours surfaced that Brawn was the key target for McLaren for Boullier’s role. However, it has been suggested that a more senior role for Brawn within the team would reflect his standing in the sport better.

At this stage, Brawn has said to the media that he will not decide on his future within Formula One until the summer at least. And you can be sure that McLaren and Dennis will want to appoint Brawn if they can, but if they can’t, it’ll have to be someone.

Question is, who will McLaren appoint for the role. We will soon found out sooner than we think.

Caterham reveal their 2014 car at Jerez: The CT05

Caterham's 2014 car: The CT05

Caterham’s 2014 car: The CT05

Yesterday afternoon at the first day of testing at Jerez, Caterham are now the tenth Formula One team to reveal their 2014 car, the CT05. The Caterham team made the world’s media wait for a first glimpse of their 2014 car until the middle of the first day of testing after experiencing a hiccup with the car all morning and missing it’s testing slot.

The talking point surrounding the CT05 has provided yet another variation of the new technical regulations surrounding the front noses for this year. Caterham have produced a long finger extending between a truncated nose section and the front wing. Their front wing does not overhang like the McLaren MP4-29, the Toro Rosso STR9 and the Force India VJM07. But the front nose is not as attractive as some fans would state like the Mercedes W05 and the RB10.

Even Caterham’s Technical Director Mark Smith confirmed that the nose of the CT05 will be a talking point for the media:-

‘At the front of the car, the area that will obviously inspire most debate, we have focused a lot of effort on optimising flow structures around the nose, the front of the chassis and the reduced-width front wing area, all in response to the 2014 regulation changes.’

And I have to say the Caterham is a very interesting car. My first thought on the Mercedes W05 was despair at the direction that they have taken with the nose. I could not look at the photo for a very long time without feeling sick. And of course on Twitter, Formula One fans have been talking and debating about the nose non-stop (especially on my timeline!).

The Caterham car for me shows that they are looking to try a different direction in order to try and move themselves further up the field this year after losing tenth place in the Constructors Championship to Marussia last year. However, the team need to be able to iron out any problems with the CT05 as quickly as they arise in order to make sure that they are competitive straight away.

Smith also stated to the media that the direction they have taken with the car was actually planned:-

‘Despite the major rule changes introduced this season, our design philosophy was actually only slightly different to usual for a totally new car. We have still sought to maximise aero and mechanical performance within the regulations, but there has been more emphasis than usual placed upon weight reduction this year and bearing in mind how critical reliability will be this year, we have slightly been more conservative in the areas around the new power unit- cooling systems, exhausts, heat management etc.’

‘At the front of the car, the area that will obviously inspire most debate, we have focused a lot of effort on optimising flow structures around the nose, the front of the chassis and the reduced-width front wing area, all in response to the 2014 regulation changes.’

From looking at the CT05, it would seem that Caterham have picked up their game after last season with the many of different changes they currently have in place on this year’s car so far. It would seem from reading Smith’s statements to the media that they are focusing on key aspects of the car such as cooling, the push rod suspensions and heat management seems that the team are even more focused to getting back to challenging the midfield this season.

It would seem then that Caterham share the same worries that all teams that have launched their cars throughout the last two weeks. As fans, this will excite us massively while looking forward to the rest of the Winter Testing and also will put anticipation on the start of the season in March. However, these regulations will no doubt test the teams and will push them to do the best with what they can until they fully understand the regulations.

Smith then stated that this year that the technical regulations have been challenging for everyone:-

‘This has created a challenge all teams will face, how to recover the rear load generated by those areas in previous seasons and again, something that will continue to develop throughout the season ahead.’

And this is exactly what all the teams on the grid currently and including Caterham will be striving to achieve. It will be exciting to see who will get the most of the testing sessions and will be the first to adapt and change to the new regulations at the next test in Bahrain in Mid-February.

With Caterham also being powered by engine manufacturer Renault for the fourth year in a row and using their new energy F1 engine mated to a Red Bull Technology gearbox, this will only help the Caterham team in their quest to try and become competitive.

And with their driver line up containing former Sauber driver Kamui Kobayashi who brings a vast amount of experience to the Caterham team and also rookie Marcus Ericsson, this could alongside the engine from Renault help the team create and build a new foundation for the future. Will 2014 be the year that Caterham break out into the midfield? We can only wait and see.

Red Bull launch their 2014 car: The RB10

Red Bull's 2014 car: The RB10

Red Bull’s 2014 car: The RB10

Early this morning, just before the start of the first test at Jerez, Red Bull are now the ninth Formula One team to launch their 2014 car, the RB10 with drivers Sebastian Vettel and Daniel Ricciardo present. Red Bull are hoping that the RB10 is the car that will let them challenge for their fifth consecutive Constructors and Driver’s Championships this season.

At the launch, Vettel believes that the new technical regulations changed (especially the switch to V6 turbo engines) how the teams view their chances this year:-

‘It’s a big change for all the teams including ourselves. I think the last few years, we always knew- kind of- what to expect, which is very different this year. Therefore, I think it’s difficult to have any sorts of expectations. So I think the most important thing is, once we get going [to] understand what it needs and hopefully build on that.’

With the switch to the V6 turbo engines for this year, the teams and the drivers will be looking into getting as much feedback from the testing sessions this week to iron out and fix any potential problems. Vettel this year is chasing his fifth consecutive Driver’s championship and he will be going all out this year despite the changes in the sport to achieve this aim.

And if Vettel achieves this aim he will be the second driver in the history of the sport to achieve this remarkable milestone that only Michael Schumacher has only achieved. And you can be sure that Vettel will have that in his sights throughout the course of this season.

Vettel this year is partnered by former Toro Rosso driver Ricciardo who has been promoted to the Red Bull team after Mark Webber announcing his retirement from the sport last year. Ricciardo at the launch seemed optimistic about the year ahead for him:-

‘I think the season is going to be very exciting but very challenging. It’s something I’ve been looking forward to for a few months now, that’s for sure. For me, it’s another big step in my career but with all the rule changes for the team as well, it’s exploring new ground. So challenging for everyone, but we’re all ready and excited.’

You cannot really argue with Ricciardo. This year sees the most challenging season in the sport since 2009 and the teams and drivers do not have a reference point that they can use to gain an advantage for themselves and also on the field. And this is what is making fans excited; we do not know who will be the pacesetters until the early stage of the season has been completed.

This year sees Ricciardo getting his chance to compete in one of the most teams on the grid. You can be sure that Red Bull with provide him with the tools he needs to be competitively racing for points finishes and maybe even podium finishes. Last year Ricciardo impressed me a lot. Ricciardo showed last year that if he is provided with the materials, he can do the job and score points when it matters most.

And that is why he was picked as Webber’s replacement instead of his former team mate Jean-Eric Vergne. Ricciardo is a consistent and natural racing driver. And this year will be a big test for him, especially as Vettel as his team mate. He will need time to adjust to being in a competitive team but I have no doubt that Ricciardo will grab this opportunity with both hands and will impress the paddock this year.

However, let us not forget that when the last significant rule changes in the sport in 2009, Red Bull reacted better than any of their rivals. But 2014 sees the emphasis being centred on the new hybrid power units.

This year sees Red Bull continue their partnership with engine manufacturer Renault. At the launch of the RB10, Red Bull’s Team Principal Christian Horner believes that Renault can deliver with this engine this year:-

‘The reset button has effectively been pressed for 2014 with the big regulation changes. So it’s a clean sheet of paper and an opportunity for the design team to get their teeth into a new challenge. The biggest challenge is in the power unit and that’s where we rely on our engine partner Renault to make sure we have a power unit that is competitive with our rivals. We’ve got every confidence they will have.’

That is Red Bull summed up for me in one word; confidence. Over the past few seasons sadly, Red Bull has shown the world just how completely dominant they have been and won four consecutive Constructors and Driver’s Championships. They have been able under the leadership of Technical Director Adrian Newey and also Horner shown year after year that they are able to make the best of the resources that they have and have simply outclassed the field.

Many fans I’m sure like myself are wondering if the new technical regulations will stop their dominance of the sport. It might do, it might not. But at the end of the day, we simply cannot tell at this stage of the season. Anything can happen within six weeks. Red Bull will be working flat out just like the rest of the field to try and adapt quickly to the new changes within the sport.

And with Vettel and Ricciardo as their drivers, they will be doing everything they can to help Red Bull achieve a head start on the competition and to try and find their fifth consecutive Driver’s and Constructor’s Championships. All eyes will be on Vettel to see if he can break yet another world record of the sport in his remarkable career so far. And all eyes will be on Ricciardo to show the faith that Red Bull have entrusted into him for this season as Webber’s replacement.

Will 2014 be the year where Red Bull once again will be dominant? I hope not but whatever will be, will be.

Mercedes launch their 2014 car: The W05

Mercedes and their 2014 car; The W05

Mercedes and their 2014 car; The W05

Early this morning, just before the start of the first test at Jerez, Mercedes are now the eighth Formula One team to launch their 2014 car, the WO5 with drivers Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg present. Throughout the last few months, it has gathered pace that the Mercedes team have been highly tipped by the media and the fans to be this year’s title favourites. The Mercedes team has decided not to go with the ‘anteater nose’ for this season’s car and have designed a sloping nose similar to the Ferrari car and also to the newly launched Red Bull car.

This season sees then start of the post Brawn era at the team with Paddy Lowe heading up the technical side of the team. Lowe shares the Team Boss role with Commerical Chief Toto Wolff. Despite this, Lowe is excited about this season:-

‘For 2014, we have probably the greatest change in regulations in Formula One history and the start of a new era for our sport. From a technical and also a racing perspective, this is an incredibly exciting time for Formula One.’

And it is hard not to disagree with Lowe. For the past week, we have seen eight teams now revealing pictures or launching their 2014 cars to the world. We have seen designs that we did not expect and some that have caused fans of the sport to be discussing at length the changes that have been brought in this year. And this will only continue throughout the next few months.

Lowe at the launch had nothing but praise for his team and the work they have done for this year’s car:-

‘The whole team has done a fantastic job on the management of the project and its delivery. We have hit our milestones and hit our targets, but as ever, we will only begin to understand how successful we have been once we being running in anger on track. The new car is elegant but aggressive design and as is often the way, its beauty is much more than skin deep; the internal engineering of the car is extremely innovative and intelligent. Our team can be justifiably proud of its work so far- but none of us are under any illusions about the amount we still have to do before the race in six week’s time.’

And I have to say the Mercedes is a very beautiful looking car. My first thought on the Mercedes W05 was relief at the direction that they have taken with the nose. I could look at the photo for a very long time without feeling sick. I am impressed also by how slick the car is looking. The Mercedes car for me shows that they are looking to build on their successes of last season and could surprise a few people this year. However, the team need to be able to iron out any problems with the W05 as quickly as they arise in order to make sure that they are competitive straight away.

At the launch, Hamilton said the following about the W05:-

‘It has been exciting to see the car come together and to see- and hear it run for the first time last Friday at Silverstone. It looks fantastic, so aggressive but full of really nice details as well. I am excited to find out how the new power unit feels to drive, to hear how it sounds from the cockpit and to compare the job we have done relative to the competition. I think this is probably the season with the most unknowns that I have faced within my career and that’s just so exciting for all of us.’

Hamilton’s excitement is clear for all to see. After moving to the Mercedes team last year from McLaren, it is clear that Hamilton is now a fully important part of the Mercedes team. Hamilton’s attitude is just what the sport needs to hear and it is very refreshing. As we all know, no one likes a challenge no more than Hamilton does. This year could see Hamilton challenging consistently for race wins and podiums but that is if the Mercedes team have provided him with the equipment to do so. The world will be watching Hamilton in his second year with the team and many hoping that this will be the year that Hamilton could be a World Champion again.

Meanwhile, Hamilton is once again team-mate to his childhood friend Rosberg who is also looking ahead to the new season with excitement:-

‘I am massively excited ahead of getting in the car properly, after our short shakedown at Silverstone last Friday. It’s been a really intense period and I am so looking forward to driving the car. This year will be much more complex with all the new technologies and I think it’s great; it will help make the sport contemporary. It’s all focused on being more fuel efficient and using Hybrid energy, which for me is a good route and something that will make the racing even more interesting.’

It is very refreshing to hear the thoughts of both the Mercedes drivers about their chances this year. Rosberg in particular for me has stepped up his game over the last year. He has proven that he is a world champion of the future. Rosberg won last year at Monaco and Silverstone with amazing drives and shown that he can out race and out-perform Hamilton on several occasions.

Rosberg will want this year to build on the foundations he has put in place from last year and alongside the new regulations providing an open season for all, this could be the chance that Rosberg has been waiting for. Rosberg is very talented without question. But if Mercedes provide him with the equipment needed to challenge for race wins and podiums on a regular and consistent basis, who knows what he could achieve this year. From speaking at the launch today, it is clear that Rosberg will take his chances and will run with them.

This year could be the year that Mercedes make the next step forward and put themselves in contention for the World Championship. All the signs and foundations are in the place within the team, they have produced a beautiful looking car and with the line up of Hamilton and Rosberg, anything can be achieved, anything can be possible.

Is the 2014 the year that will see the fans favourites achieve the ultimate goal for any team on the grid currently? All will be revealed within the next few months.

Toro Rosso launch their 2014 car: The STR9

Toro Rosso's 2014 car: The STR9

Toro Rosso’s 2014 car: The STR9

Yesterday evening saw Toro Rosso becoming the seventh Formula One team launching before the first test at Jerez their 2014 car; The STR9 to the world. Drivers Jean-Eric Vergne and Daniil Kvyat were present at the launch of the STR9 that they hope will help the team move from finishing eighth in the Constructors Championship in 2013.

However, it has been the tip of the STR9’s nose that has been attracting the most attention within the media and also by Formula One fans on Twitter. It has been speculated within the paddock over the last few months that ‘anteater’ noses will become the norm on the cars thanks to the new technical regulations in place for this year.

However, Toro Rosso seems to have been the most extreme interpretation of the regulations so far. My first thought on the Toro Rosso STR9 was amazement at the direction that they have taken with the nose. I could not look at the photo for very long at all without feeling sick. I was very surprised that Toro Rosso has taken this interpretation. However, every single team will have interpreted the challenge that the regulations have presented them with for this season very differently.

When asked about their thoughts at the launch of the car, Chief Designer Luca Furbatto said the following:-

‘It has been a fantastic challenge but very hard work. Pretty much all the systems on the car are brand new and that’s certainly a concern from a reliability point of view as the season progresses, because we won’t known reference points from the past few years.’ Everyone in Faenza and Bicester has worked very hard and we have invested in different technologies and simulations in order to be best prepared as possible.’

At this early stage of the season, that is all Toro Rosso can hope for at the moment. With their own interpretations of the regulations, all they can do is make sure that they grab the opportunity to gain some feedback and results from winter testing and use this to move forward throughout the year when developing their car. As throughout the past few years, the team have really struggled to keep on top of their development of their cars and has seen the team and their performance suffer as a result. And this cannot happen to them this year.

When asked about this thoughts on the new regulations, Toro Rosso’s Team Principal Franz Tost said the following to the media:-

‘The new rules have required a completely new design philosophy, starting with a clear sheet of paper. Having invested in new staff and facilities over the past few years, we have been able to tackle the task of designing and building the STR9 with a group of engineers and designers that have been working on the project since Day 1, under the leadership of James Key. That stability has been of great benefit, while in other areas we hope that changes we have introduced will also bring a step up in performance.’

The signs do look promising for Toro Rosso. By the team attracting and securing James Key from Sauber to lead the team, this will only bring them much needed experience required to push the team further up the grid and challenging consistently with the midfield for strong points. Alongside this, at the Monaco Grand Prix last year saw the team announcing that they had switched from Ferrari engines to Renault engines for this year which will no doubt help the team greatly. Tost said to the media:-

‘Joining forces with Renault also means that within the framework of the Sporting Regulations, we can once again enjoy the synergies on the technical front with our colleagues at Red Bull Technology.’

It would be hard not to disagree with that viewpoint. This will alongside strengthening the team internally should provide Toro Rosso with a great starting point to build on not just only with the changes technically this season but also within their future within the sport. And to me, this shows that the team are starting to become more serious in taking significant steps forward to becoming competitive and challenging the midfield consistently.

Despite all the attention that Toro Rosso has received within the media and Formula One fans on Twitter, attentions turned to their drivers. Toro Rosso’s new driver Kvyat who won the GP3 title in 2003 with the MV Arden team, drove in the Practice 1 sessions at the United States and Brazilian Grand Prix and also had 16 laps experience in the Young Driver Test at Silverstone last year is excited to finally leap into the sport:-

‘I am very excited that I am about to start my first season in Formula One. It will be a year of discovering many new things, which I expect will be very interesting. I can’t wait to actually start the driving part, the best part of my job. Six days of winter testing is not a lot and I will have to get used to the new car, which wasn’t a big issue when I drove the 2013 car. Being a rookie means there’s a steep learning curve, but the bright side of this year’s regulation change is that all the drivers will be getting used to a new way of driving, starting from zero.’

And Kvyat does have a valid point. This year sees all the teams and drivers learning little by little how to get on top of the new technical regulations and also learning how best to develop the car. This is what is exciting most of the teams, drivers, paddock and the fans at the moment and this season has been the most open for a few years.

I do not know much about Kvyat and his racing career so far. But from what I saw last year at the Practice 1 sessions he drove in at Austin and Brazil last year, I believe that he is a potential talent for the future. To drive in a Practice 1 session and to be not far off the pace of the former Toro Rosso driver Daniel Riccardo is a significant and remarkable achievement. I would not be surprised if he impresses the paddock this year.

Meanwhile, Kvyat’s experienced team mate Vergne thinks the STR9 will be a very different car to what he has been used over his two years within the sport so far:-

‘This will be my third season in Formula One and I definitely feel better prepared than ever before. From what I have seen at the factory, the same applies to the team. Now we must make the most of winter testing and work to ensure all our hard work pays off. I am confident we have what we need to do well. From a driver’s point of view, we will have a lot of new elements to understand and changes that will require us to adapt as quickly as possible. ‘

From what I have heard and seen from Toro Rosso generally about their chances this season so far, I can understand why Vergne is optimistic about his chances this season. There is no doubt that the team will do everything possible to give Vergne and also Kvyat the resources to be racing each other and the field competitively.

However, I believe Vergne has to step up this year. Vergne in my view has been very lucky to keep his seat in the team for this year. I know Vergne produced an astonishing result for the team last year at the Canadian Grand Prix with a fantastic sixth place. And he deserves the credit for that. But Vergne was not consistent enough to secure the drive at Red Bull Racing and that is why Ricciardo was picked for the seat.

Vergne needs this year to remind the paddock of why he was selected for the Toro Rosso seat in the first place. There is no doubt that he is talented, but he needs to show this as much as possible. Otherwise, once again we will see Toro Rosso drop another talented young driver from their team after three years of service he has given to them. Or worse still, Vergne even being dropped by the Red Bull Young Driver Programme.

So what will 2014 bring to Toro Rosso? Will Vergne keep his seat for 2015? I really hope he does. There are many talented young drivers out there such as Antonio Felix Da Costa awaiting their chance for their big break into the sport and will grab the chance if it is there. And that is exactly what Vergne needs to do, grab what I feel is his last chance with both hands.

Will Kvyat make his mark on the sport in his rookie season? I believe that he will at some point. He has all the potential and the talent required to make it happen and I believe he could very well shock a few people this year.

Will Toro Rosso be able to challenge the midfield consistently? I really don’t know. They seem to have taken serious steps to ensure that they can provide this challenge to the rest of the field, but will it be enough? We shall see.