Monthly Archives: June 2014

Smedley: We haven’t lost points

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In an interview with crash.net today, Williams Head of Vehicle Performance Rob Smedley has denied suggestions that Williams have lost points throughout this season so far as a result of poor tactics.

At the Austrian Grand Prix, the Williams team brought in their biggest points haul of this season as Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa finished third and fourth. Both of their drivers netted the Williams team 27 points and pushed ahead of McLaren in the Constructors Championship. However having started on the front row of the grid in Austria, there were some questions about whether poor tactics had cost the team vital points.

In his interview with crash.net today, Smedley believes that those expectations of more have been created outside the team. He said the following:-

‘I’m not always fully in agreement that we haven’t [taken the points we should have]. I think it was my first ever press conference, in Bahrain, when it was suggested that we were not getting all the points we should have been getting. But, if you look at the pace of the car, yes we’ve dropped some points, but I don’t think we’ve dropped any more points than other people.

‘I think that’s something that has built up some momentum outside of the team, rather than inside the team, so I don’t think [Austria’s result] was any more or less important than it ever is. We come thinking, if there’s 27 points on the table, we want them. There’s not always 27 points on the table for us, looking at it realistically, but [in Austria] there was and we went and got them. It was important – but it’s always important.’

Even though it has been discussed by many pundits and fans that Williams could have gained more points this season than they have currently, I do believe that certain opportunities have been missed by the Williams team. I still believe if Bottas hadn’t made his mistake in Australia, I believe Bottas could have challenged for the podium with the McLaren drivers.

I do understand where Smedley is coming from and I would have to say that it is the correct attitude to approach this matter. Of course there is no question that they have dropped points where they shouldn’t have, but as Smedley points out they haven’t dropped points as other teams such as Red Bull or McLaren.

I would have to agree with Smedley and I do believe that this has gained momentum in the public eye and in the media. That is not to say that the Williams team themselves did not believe they are capable of producing performances such as Austria for example because of course they believed that they could achieve it. But as Smedley says, they were provided with an opportunity to score well in Austria and the Williams team took it and were rewarded with their best result of the season so far.

This season saw Smedley join the Williams team from Ferrari and looks happy with his new role in the sport with the team. Further on in his interview with crash.net, Smedley has stated that he is now looking forward to the British GP. He went on to say that he feels confident that in the FW36 and its Mercedes engine, Williams have a car capable of fighting for solid points. He added the following:-

‘We have a very efficient car, with a lower drag level compared to our competitors, and [Austria] is quite an ‘efficient’ circuit, so that’s a circuit that suits us with less drag. There’s also a high power sensitivity there, so if we’ve got a powerful engine, that suits us as well. I don’t think there’s any magic…

‘At Silverstone, the downforce sensitivity is a lot higher than [Austria] so, for every point of downforce you’re missing against your competitors, that’s more heavily penalised at Silverstone. The drag sensitivity is high at Silverstone, and power sensitivity is high, but I don’t think there is anywhere we should fear, or be scared of circuits or circumstances. We can go everywhere and be positive. Some places will suit us more than others, but we shouldn’t be scared of anywhere.’

As Smedley points out, Silverstone is completely different to Austria and we will ultimately see next weekend just how the Williams team will perform on a track that tests the car aerodynamically. I would have to say that even though Williams have a very efficient car that is fairly competitive and reliable, I do believe that Silverstone will be a big test for them.

There is no question that a few teams will be bringing further updates and improvements to their car such as McLaren and Williams will need to ensure that they can also try and bring some to the circuit next weekend in order to further improve their performance.

Even though the Williams team thoroughly deserved their great performance at the Austrian Grand Prix, I do feel that they will have ensure that they extract the best performance out of their car in order to keep up the momentum achieved from Austria.

But as Smedley says, this result from Austria and also their performance of their car so far this season should only encourage the Williams team to extract the best possible result from the remaining races of the season and that in Smedley’s words should not be ‘scared’ to show what they can do.

So will Williams be able to build upon what they have achieved in Austria next weekend? We can only wait and see.

Lowe: We will be tested next weekend at Silverstone

Paddy Lowe, executive director at Mercedes, is ready for the huge challenges ahead in Formula One

In an interview today, Mercedes Executive Director Paddy Lowe believes that the Mercedes W05 will be tested next weekend at the British Grand Prix in Silverstone. He believes that the circuit will put the W05 and its “aerodynamic performance to the very limit.”

Mercedes’ W05 has been the car to beat throughout this year’s Championship. Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton have claimed seven out of eight race victories of which six of those have been 1-2 results. The Mercedes team and their latest triumph came at the last race in Austria where Rosberg and Hamilton beat the Williams’ of Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa.

In his interview with the media today, Lowe believes that the result in Austria is extremely positive for the team and also for their engines too. Lowe stated the following:-

‘It was a great result for the team to get another one-two finish in Austria – even more so considering our below-par grid positions For Lewis in particular, to come through from ninth place and be fighting at the front was an impressive performance, while it was also immensely satisfying to see seven of the top ten cars powered by Mercedes-Benz.

‘While it was a less than straightforward weekend for us, the event itself was fantastic. We very much enjoyed returning to Austria and will look forward to going back there again in the coming years.’

As Lowe states, the result in Austria is a positive and great result for the Mercedes team and also for Mercedes Benz to have seven cars powered by them in the top 10. Once again, Mercedes demonstrated in Austria that they are still the team to beat and their engine is without question the best engine on the grid this season in terms of performance and reliability.

It is really nice to hear Lowe say that they enjoyed Formula One returning to Austria (in their case why wouldn’t they have enjoyed it!) and that they would love to return in the future. And after last weekend, I do feel that most pundits and fans would agree with Lowe and have enjoyed Austria and its return to the sport once again.

Further on his interview, Lowe believes that the Mercedes team will have a new challenge at Silverstone as the nature of the track will test the car’s aerodynamics. But Lowe also added that he is extremely hopeful that Rosberg and Hamilton can once again shine in front of Mercedes’ home crowd. He added the following:-

‘For now, though, we look ahead to Silverstone and a different challenge to anything we’ve seen so far this year. It’s a very fast circuit layout which tests aerodynamic performance to the very limit. We demonstrated our competitiveness there last year with victory for Nico and equally with pole position for Lewis – who was extremely unfortunate not to achieve the result he deserved with his tyre failure in the race.

‘We’re very much hoping that our strong form will continue and are looking forward to seeing another tightly contested battle between our two drivers. The circuit is a matter of miles from our factories at Brackley and Brixworth, so we’re determined to put on a great show for everyone in the team as well as the fantastic British fans.’

As Lowe rightly says, Silverstone is a completely different track to Austria and the characteristics of the track will certainly test them and the rest of the grid aerodynamically. As Lowe points out, Mercedes last year despite the problems with Hamilton in the race have a good track record at the circuit and with the momentum and performances that they have achieved already this season, they would appear to look in good shape for next weekend.

But I would have to agree with Lowe and I do believe that Mercedes going into Silverstone next weekend are in the best position that they could be in. With the astonishing performances from both Hamilton and Rosberg so far, you would be stupid not to consider Mercedes carrying on their form next weekend once again.

As with most of the teams currently on the grid, this will count as one of the home races for the Mercedes team and there is no question they will be extracting the best performance possible in order to keep their lead in the Constructors Championship. And I am sure that they will hoping to put on a great show for the British fans who will turn out to support the team and also their driver Hamilton next weekend and reward them with a good result.

Will Mercedes once again show just how dominant they have been in Silverstone next weekend? Only time will tell.

Kobayashi: I’m focusing on my job

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Yesterday in an interview with Sky Sports F1, Caterham driver Kamui Kobayashi has publically stated that he is not letting reports and speculations regarding the sale of the Caterham team affect him and is focusing instead on doing the best job he possibly can.

Earlier this week, as he signed off from Twitter Caterham’s Team Owner Tony Fernandes all but announced that he was walking away from Formula One. Fernandez stated the following on his Twitter:-

‘F1 hasn’t worked but love Caterham Cars’

It would appear that Fernandes’ comment was the latest fodder for reports claiming Caterham won’t be in Formula 1 much longer and has been the source of much debate with pundits and fans over the last two months. And I do believe if this is true, many people have been expecting this to happen.

In his interview with Sky Sports F1, Kobayashi has stated that he is focusing only on the job he has been paid to do for the Caterham team and is not focusing on the rumours surrounding the team and its future. Kobayashi stated the following:-

‘I’m not really looking at that. Of course, I’m not wishing these stories. I’m here for driving – me, I can’t change anything, you know? I cannot bring any money or stuff.

‘Financially, I think we’re in a very difficult situation but I cannot do anything so I just focus on my job. That’s part of my job actually: I’ll just try for a better result as much as I can. I just hope that somebody can help this team. This is the only thing I can say.’

In my opinion, Kobayashi’s attitude is absolutely correct. All Kobayashi can do is for the remainder of the season is to ensure that he can put in the best performances that he possibly can in order to try and improve his performance and also the performance of the team too. Even though Kobayashi has stated that he cannot bring any more money into the team than he has already, there is no question that if he could, he would bring as much as possible to help the team and its financial situation at present.

As Kobyashi has stated in his interview, there is no question that he would not like to see the Caterham team leave the sport, even if the pressure is on them from Fernandez to start performing and quickly. But they do have to at least for the rest of the season try and bring as much upgrades and improvements to the car as quickly as possible in order to extract as much performance out of their car as possible.

Further on in his interview, when asked about his time with Caterham this season (which has left him lapping at the back of the field), Kobayashi has stated that he would more than relish fighting in the midfield for points but is realistic about his hopes. Kobayashi added the following:-

‘Of course, I want to fight with some of the medium teams and fight for points. I don’t want to be five seconds or four seconds off from the top. It’s not like the same category for me. It’s pretty tough.’

You cannot really dispute what Kobayashi has stated. There is no denying that he would more than enjoy the opportunity to fight in the midfield and fight for points, but sadly Caterham are just not performing at that level needed in order to achieve this objective.

Even though we all know how talented Kobayashi is behind the wheel of a Formula One car, I do feel that he has now made the wrong move to Caterham for this season. I will concur that it is great to see Kobayashi back in the sport after he was forced to leave for a year due to financial funds, but I feel that he is more worthy of a car that will show just how talented he is.

I do understand why Kobayashi returned to the sport with Caterham for this season but I just feel that even though Caterham will have ultimately benefited from the experience that he has gained during his career in the sport, it is not enough for Caterham to improve their performance for the rest of the season.

Ultimately, in order to improve and advance your way up the grid, you sadly need the investment and the resources at your disposal to do so. I am not saying that Caterham haven’t done their best with what they have because I really do believe that they have. But sadly it isn’t enough for them and there is only so much time and investment before time is pulled.

In conclusion, the only thing that Kobayashi can do is ensure that he uses all the experience gained in his career to try and help improve the performance of the Caterham team throughout the remainder of the season. The only way this will be achieved is if Caterham can throw everything that they have at their disposal and try and achieve this objective before it is too late.

Question is; is it already too late for the Caterham team? Only time will tell.

Classic #jonesonF1: 2000 French Grand Prix

The most iconic image from the 2000 French Grand Prix

The most iconic image from the 2000 French Grand Prix

The French Grand Prix: Round 9 of 17 in the 2000 Formula One World Championship. Heading into the race, Ferrari driver Michael Schumacher lead the Drivers’ Championship with 56 points, ahead of McLaren driver David Coulthard on 34 points, with McLaren driver Mika Hakkinen in third on 32 points, Ferrari driver Rubens Barrichello in fourth on 28 points and Giancarlo Fisichella was fifth on 18 points.

In Qualifying, Michael Schumacher had taken Pole Position for the third consecutive race of the season with Coulthard qualifying in second place and Barrichello qualifying in third place after changing his set up earlier on in the session. Mika Hakkinen managed to qualify fourth, Ralf Schumacher managed to qualify in fifth place after grabbing fifth from Eddie Irvine in the final moment of the session and pushing Irvine down to sixth place.

Jacques Villeneuve qualified seventh on the grid which was a good result for hi and the BAR- Honda team after bringing a new aerodynamic package on the car for the race. Heinz-Harald Frenzten and Jarno Trulli qualified in eighth and ninth places and Jenson Button qualified in tenth place.

On race day, Coulthard was quicker than Schumacher at the start but Schumacher moved across the track to stay ahead as in the previous race in Canada. But then Coulthard had to switch sides and this allowed Barrichello to get the momentum on him.

Coulthard was forced to concede second to Barrichello and behind them Häkkinen kept out of the action as Villeneuve and Frenzten  were able to get ahead of Ralf Schumacher. The grid at the end of the first lap: Schumacher, Barrichello, Coulthard, Häkkinen, Villeneuve, Frentzen, Ralf Schumacher, Trulli, Salo and Irvine.

The race settled down with Schumacher slowly pulling away from Barrichello about whom neither Coulthard nor Häkkinen could do much about it. Villeneuve was on his own in fifth while Frentzen, Ralf Schumacher and Trulli were running together. On lap 12, Button passed Irvine and followed up by passing Salo next lap. He started to close in on the trail led by Frentzen.

At the front of the grid, Coulthard was 4 seconds behind Schumacher and he was starting to close in on Barrichello as the fuel load began to go down. He made a move on lap 21 but Barrichello was able to see to it and defended. Coulthard tried again on lap 22 and this time he got it on the inside of the Adelaide hairpin.

In the next few laps before the stops, Schumacher increased his lead to 5 seconds. Barrichello’s stop was slow and this allowed Häkkinen to sneak ahead of him. Behind them, Ralf Schumacher got Frentzen on the stops as well. The order after the pit stops was: Schumacher, Coulthard, Häkkinen, Barrichello, Villeneuve, Ralf, Frentzen, Trulli, Button and Salo.

Schumacher’s tyres had been blistered and Coulthard came charging in toward him. Schumacher could do nothing and in 8 laps, his 4 second lead was gone. Behind them, Häkkinen was slowly pulling away from Barrichello. At the front, Coulthard was now right with Schumacher and Häkkinen closing in on both of them as well.

The famous hand gesture made by Coulthard towards Schumacher while trying to pass him

The famous hand gesture made by Coulthard towards Schumacher while trying to pass him at the Adelaide hairpin on Lap 35. 

Coulthard went around the outside of Schumacher at the Adelaide hairpin but Schumacher moved on him and kept the lead. This allowed Häkkinen to be right with them and Barrichello was starting to close in on all three of them. There were no changes behind them. Coulthard made an irate gesture on Schumacher at the same corner on lap 35.

Coulthard making his move on Schumacher for the lead of the race

Coulthard making his move on Schumacher for the lead of the race

With Barrichello getting closer and closer to the three up front, Coulthard made his move on Schumacher on lap 36. He made it stick and pulled away from Schumacher. Häkkinen immediately tried to attack Schumacher but he defended from him. Schumacher was under pressure from Häkkinen who was in turn under pressure from Barrichello but none of them tried an overtaking maneuver as Coulthard’s lead continued to increase in the meantime.

There were no changes at the front after the second stops but Barrichello had a slow one and dropped 10 seconds because of a wheel nut problem and was left out of the battle for second place. Behind them, Trulli got past Frentzen in the stops and Ralf was right with Villeneuve and was having a quicker car. The order after the second round of pit stops was: Coulthard, Schumacher, Häkkinen, Barrichello, Villeneuve, Ralf Schumacher, Trulli, Frentzen, Button and Giancarlo Fisichella.

Schumacher had taken on a new set of tyres and was under no pressure from Häkkinen in third, keeping the gap from 1.2-1.5 seconds although he lost a tenth or two to Coulthard who was 10 seconds ahead. Barrichello was dropping away from Häkkinen who was over 13 seconds behind. Behind them Villeneuve resisted Ralf’s attacks on Laps 56 and 57.

Coulthard wins the 2000 French Grand Prix ahead of his team mate Hakkinen in second place and Barrichello in third place.

Coulthard wins the 2000 French Grand Prix ahead of his team mate Hakkinen in second place and Barrichello in third place.

There was one more twist as Schumacher went out with an engine failure on lap 59, promoting everyone behind him. Button attacked Frentzen on lap 65 but Frentzen defended and Button then dropped away like Ralf who was dropping away from Villeneuve. Coulthard won the race ahead of Häkkinen, Barrichello, Villeneuve, Ralf Schumacher and Trulli.

The 2000 French Grand Prix will also be remembered as the race where Coulthard out of sheer frustration and in a faster car made a hand gesture to Schumacher that at the time shocked many pundits and fans but also delighted quite a few of them too.

This race saw McLaren take their third 1-2 finish of the season and it was a race result that many did not expect especially after their performances in the Practice session (mainly Hakkinen who appeared to struggle with his car). This race also marked Coulthard’s third win of the season too.

Coulthard showed throughout the race with some determination and great driving to gain the lead of the race when the opportunity arose and he was rewarded with a cracking race win for his hard work. And what a Grand Prix victory to have won and it’s a Grand Prix that many fans still enjoy watching and reliving today.

Let us not forget that the 2000 French Grand Prix also marked the debut of James Allen as a commentator for ITV. Allen stood in for the legendary Murray Walker who had a hip injury and sadly could not cover the event. As a result of this, Allen went on to take the role of Walker full time starting from the 2001 Japanese Grand Prix until the end of the 2009 season.

And as the 2000 World Championship leaded towards the next round in Austria at the A1 Ring in Spielberg, Schumacher was still leading the Driver’s Championship by 56 points ahead of Coulthard twelve points behind with 44 points and Hakkinen in third with 38 points.

 

Renault admits 2015 will see improvements to their power units

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Earlier this morning, engine manufacturer Renault is publically adamant it can satisfy Red Bull’s demands for improvement, but it may have to wait until Formula 1’s engine freeze is partly lifted this winter to do so.

After the Austrian Grand Prix, Red Bull publically ‘slammed’ Renault’s performance over the weekend as “unacceptable” after yet another difficult weekend for the team. Although Renault concedes that there is little chance of major progress in power terms this season thanks to the homologation rules preventing changes, the manufacturer thinks modifications that are allowed this winter will be a big help.

In an interview with Autosport today, Renault deputy managing director Rob White said the following on the subject:-

‘The opportunity to change the specification of the hardware is extremely limited during the course of the season. Up until this time that hasn’t been an obstacle to the progress that we have been able to make. But we are pressing on with a development road map that clearly has more opportunity to deliver improvement from changing the specification [for 2015].

‘At the moment the regulations are explicitly clear: we may not change spec except without the prior approval of the FIA, which would not normally be given for performance improvement.’

As White has stated himself, there is not much they can do in order to try and get as much improvement out of the power unit under the regulations. But I do feel that Renault still need to work as hard as they have been since the start of the season to analyse and learn from the eight races so far this season and see if they can look into a viable solution to the issues they are experiencing currently.

The only other way is that if Renault can ask for the FIA’s permission to change their power unit (which I do not think will happen), then that is the only way they will improve this season. There is no question that Renault will have to look at this year with their power unit as a ‘developmental’ season and use what they have gathered this season as a foundation to improve their performance ready for the 2015 season as White has said today.

Although the current freeze limits Renault’s opportunity to close down the gap on Mercedes and has left Ferrari conceding it will be impossible to catch up this year, further on his interview, White thinks there are still things it can do to move forward. He added the following:-

‘We have been able to make improvements and significant headway this year in closing down the gap to our competitors. We still have work in progress and will deliver further improvements. But of course there are longer term pieces of work in progress that can realistically, for regulation, practical and legitimate reasons, be delivered over the winter that cannot be delivered over the course of this season.

‘There are short term and potentially bigger things that are available to you down the line.’

Even though as White points out they have made improvements to their power unit in order to close the gap on their rivals, it is still not enough for them. Of course there is no question that Renault will be working hard on trying to bring as much improvements and performance to their current power levels as quickly as possible, but don’t forget that their rivals will also do the same.

I would have to agree with White and I feel that anything that Renault have in the pipeline for the long term will have to be worked on and will further down the line be available to their customers and will hopefully improve their performance. As White says himself, all they can right now is to try and ensure that they can bring some improvements throughout the remainder of the season and it will help them improve in preparation for next season.

‘The technical rules and the sporting rules are the constraints that we work inside, and our job is to make the best of them. It is not obvious that with different homologation restrictions that the outcome would be either better or worse.

‘We were behind our internal goal setting and therefore I cannot be satisfied. We were not quick enough on the track to respond or to satisfy our teams, and therefore of course we would have liked to have done things differently and achieve a different outcome.

‘But looking forward our mindset is to pursue the best interaction in order to correct that.’

I would have to agree with what White has stated today, all Renault can do for the remainder of the season is in compliance with the rules try and extract as many improvements to their power unit for the rest of the season ahead. There is no question that Renault will not be happy with where they are currently and will not be happy with how they have performed this season so far.

Through White today, Renault have admitted that they were not quick enough to react in terms of how they were performing out on the track or making sure that their customers were happy. Even though White is right in what he says, you have to respect the fact that he has publically admitted their fault and that they are taking responsibility for their performance this season.

But all Renault can do now is to try and extract as much performance and bring as many upgrades as possible to their customers for the remainder of the season and start preparing for the 2015 season while addressing and analysing their performance this season as platform to start from.

Question is; will Renault be back to winning ways in 2015? Only time will tell.

 

Sirorkin: De Silvestro is not a credible threat to me getting a race seat

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Yesterday in an interview with ESPN F1, Sauber test driver Sergey Sirotkin has stated that he does not think Simona de Silvestro is a credible threat to his chances of landing a race seat at the Sauber team for 2015 and believes she is at the team for “marketing purposes” only.

Sirotkin looked set at one point last year to be handed a race seat as part of Sauber’s partnership with Russian investors and technology companies, but had to settle for a test drive instead so he could continue to compete in Formula Renault 3.5.

Silvestro’s test for Sauber earlier this year has fuelled speculation she may be the first woman to enter an F1 world championship since Giovanna Amati in 1992, but Sirotkin does not believe his chances have been hampered. In his interview with ESPN, he stated the following:-

‘At Sauber, we have a third pilot, Giedo van der Garde, a test-pilot – that’s me – and there is the sponsored racer [Silvestro], the person whom they are helping to reach the level of F1, which is, I think, rather more of a marketing move. I do not take this as something to be afraid of. Let’s see what will happen next.’

My first thoughts when I heard what Sirotkin has stated regarding this issue was one of bewilderment. I understand that Sirotkin feels that he has a more fixed role in the Sauber team and has brought a wealth of connections to the team as a result of this. And of course that would bring benefits not only to him as he is looking to gain a drive in the sport in the near future but also will help the team develop and grow with the new connections that they have managed to achieve.

But as a woman who has followed the sport since the age of seven, I felt that this comment was clearly to me an indication of not just how much he wants the drive but also his views on his colleague as well. In regards to his view on his colleague, he is entitled to his own opinion and that is fine. But I do feel that even if Sauber could be using this as he terms as ‘marketing ploy’, he should support whatever the team has decided to do.

I have stated in previous posts on De Silvestro and also on Williams’s drive Susie Wolff that the fact that both of these women have managed to gain even a small role in teams such as Sauber and Williams demonstrate that they feel they have the potential to achieve their dream and race in the pinnacle of motorsport. And if the Sauber team feel that she is ready for the opportunity, then I am sure she will take it regardless of how Sirotkin feels about it and also his position within the team too.

With the inaugural Russian Grand Prix taking place on October 12, Sirotkin fancies his chances of showing Sauber what he can do in a Friday session this season. He added the following about his chances:-

‘I was actually supposed to participate in free practice not only in Sochi, but it is an open question. Obviously, in terms of marketing, public interest and so on, the logical thing is to do it in Sochi, but we cannot yet say whether this will happen in Sochi or the next track. At the moment, my priority is World Series by Renault, so I do not plan to give preference to other cases in F1 if they can complicate my task or hinder my performance in this championship. It may give the impression that there was a lull but, in fact, it is not.

‘I am constantly in contact with the team and, after the race at the Nurburgring, the World Series will begin a long break, so I think then it will be possible that we will work directly on joint activities. Some steps we have already decided, but I cannot speak about any others until Sauber makes a statement. In any case, it makes no sense to talk about it because I am fully engaged in the World Series.’

It would seem that even though Sirotkin is more than happy to take part in a Practice session in Sochi, help showcase his talent and also help the Grand Prix gather some momentum, it would appear that he is more than happy to keep continuing to concentrate on his performances in the World Series by Renault.

I believe that Sirotkin has the right attitude and he needs to ensure that he focuses on his commitment to the series this season and ensure that he performs to the best possible level that he can and continue developing his racing and driving. There is no question that Siroktin will be in contact with the Sauber team and will be providing information or feedback that the team require from as and when required.

Even though Sirotkin will want to make the leap to Formula One as and when the opportunity presents itself, he does have to consider other possibilities that could help him and advance his career further if things do not work out with Sauber as he would like.

All Sirotkin can do is ensure that he performs to the best level that he can in the World Series, keep in contact with the Sauber team and learn as much as he can from them and prepare himself just in case the opportunity for him to enter Formula One if it presents itself. And I have no doubt that if the chance comes, he will grab it and grab it with both hands.

FIA announce new rules changes for 2015

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Following a host of suggestions made by the F1 Strategy Group which were approved by the wider F1 Commission ahead of last week’s Austrian GP, the WMSC met on Thursday in Munich to rubber-stamp changes for next season and beyond.

Yesterday, it was announced after the meeting that standing re-starts, reductions in wind tunnel usage and in-season testing, and an extension of parc ferme conditions are among changes to have been approved by the FIA’s World Motor Sport Council for the 2015 season. It is to be believed that these new changes have been implemented in the sport with a view to saving costs and enlivening the Formula 1 spectacle.

Despite a largely negative response to the new changes from pundits, fans and even the drivers, standing re-starts will be introduced following the introduction of the Safety Car during races although not in all scenarios. In-season testing will be cut from four to two sessions and also the three pre-season tests revert exclusively to European venues after back-to-back sessions in Bahrain this year.

A proposed ban on tyre blankets has been put on hold for now but a significant change affecting teams during race weekends will see parc ferme conditions now starting during Saturday morning’s Practice Three rather than the afternoon’s qualifying session. Furthermore, the Friday night mechanics’ curfew will be extended from six to seven hours in 2015 before increasing to eight hours the following year.

In other cost-saving measures, teams’ uses of wind tunnels and CFD technology will also be restricted further, with the former reduced from 80 hours per week to 65 hours, although “two periods of tunnel occupancy will be allowed in one day (rather than only one)”. Teams will also only be able to nominate one wind tunnel per year.

The second year of F1’s turbo hybrid era and the improved reliability it is likely to bring now means that drivers will now have only four penalty-free engines to use during the campaign. But that could or will revert to five if there are more than 20 races on the 2015 calendar. In an additional change, the penalty for a complete change of power unit will be to start the race from the back of the grid rather than the pitlane as is currently the case.

Meanwhile, a change to the Technical Regulations which is likely to be universally welcomed concerns the nose designs of cars. The WMSC stated that 2015 will see “a number of new regulations for the noses to ensure improved safety and to provide more aesthetically pleasing structures”.

This year’s cars feature a host of ungainly interpretations to satisfy the new-for-2014 low-nose regulations, which raised safety concerns in some quarters. Also, compulsory two-stage wheel fastener retaining systems and changes to ensure the skid blocks under cars are made lighter have also been approved.

While the confirmed changes are dominated by measures aimed at bringing down budgets in F1 even though this is by nowhere near enough to satisfy the smaller teams in the sport. The main new rule have been implemented to improve the ‘show’ concerns the introduction of standing re-starts, something which has already proved controversial.

Currently the drivers run at reduced speeds in a queue behind the Safety Car while marshals clear an incident from the track, with a rolling re-start then taking place once the circuit is clear. Under the revised 2015 rules however, the drivers will line up back on the grid in race order to take the restart in the same way they traditionally start.

There are restrictions to this regulation. A rolling start will still be used if the Safety Car is “used within two laps of the start (or restart) of a race or if there are less than five laps of the race remaining”.

The ban on pre-season testing outside of Europe will see three four-day tests carried out in 2015, but this will reduce to just two tests the following year. The in-season schedule (which was only introduced this year after a six-year ban) will also be carried out in Europe and halved to just four days across two two-day tests, with half of the running to be completed by young drivers.

And in a significant additional change, the date by which F1’s Sporting and Technical Regulations can be changed for the following season without unanimous agreement has been brought forward by nearly four months, from June 30 to March 1.

Here are the full 2015 rule changes for Formula One below:-

Changes to 2015 Sporting Regulations

Power units

–       The number of engines permitted by each driver in a season will be four. However, if there are more than 20 races in a season, the number will increase to five.

–       The penalty for a complete change of Power Unit will be starting from the back of the grid, not the pit lane.

Aerodynamic testing

–       The number of wind tunnel runs will be reduced from 80 hours per week to 65 hours per week.

–       Wind-on hours are to be reduced from 30 hours per week to 25 hours.

–       Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) usage is to be reduced from 30 Teraflops to 25 Teraflops.

–       Two periods of tunnel occupancy will be allowed in one day (rather than only one).

–       Teams will only be able to nominate one wind tunnel in one year.

Testing

–       There will be three pre-season tests of four days each in Europe in 2015 (currently teams are able to test outside Europe). This will be reduced to two tests of four days in 2016.

–       There will be two in-season tests of two days each in Europe (instead of the current four). Two of these four days must be reserved for young drivers.

Car specification at an Event

The current restrictions to the parc fermé will now apply from the start of P3 instead of the start of qualifying.

Wheels and tyres

The ban on tyre blankets will be rescinded for 2015. This will be re-discussed if and when the wheel and tyre diameter increases in the future.

Personnel Curfew

The Friday night curfew will be extended from six to seven hours in 2015 and will increase to eight hours in 2016.

Safety Car restarts

Safety Car restarts will now be a standing start from the grid. Standing starts will not be carried out if the Safety Car is used within two laps of the start (or restart) of a race or if there are less than five laps of the race remaining.

Changes to 2015 Technical Regulations

A number of changes have been made, including:

–     A number of new regulations for the noses to ensure improved safety and to provide more aesthetically pleasing structures.

–     A number of new regulations concerning skid blocks to ensure that they are made from a lighter material (titanium) and are better contained.

–     New regulations to ensure that the brake discs rotate at the same speed as the wheels.

–     A two-stage wheel fastener retaining system is now compulsory.

My first thoughts about the new regulation changes for 2015 were of complete shock and wonder. In regards to the changes regarding the power units, I have to say that I completely agree with the changes made there and I feel that these regulations have been much improved and are now also more tighter.

With the regulation changes with the wind tunnels, I do understand where the FIA are coming from with these changes. Of course there is no question that the big teams of the sport such as Ferrari, McLaren and Red Bull have the resources and the capital in order to effectively make sure of what they have in order to improve performance on the car throughout a season.

With the new restrictions on aerodynamic testing, I do feel that even though it will help the smaller teams on the grid keep their costs down. But I do feel that it will only highlight once again the gap between the big, midfield and small teams in the sport and I think that the bigger teams will adjust themselves to the regulations and will only further improve their cars throughout the course of the season.

My thoughts on testing and the car specification at an event regulation changes for me where to be expected. In regards to the parc ferme rule, I did not expect it but I understand why it was implemented and will hopefully alleviate any problems, even if I do not see this happening.

Even though I believe that the FIA made the right choice to bring back testing into the sport in order to help Pirelli test or improve their current or new tyre compounds and also provide young drivers with the chance to gain Formula One experience, I did expect them to reduce the number of sessions in a season in order to save on costs.

But I did not expect two of the days to be reserved for the young drivers and I have to applaud the FIA for this decision. Not only will it help the young drivers currently gain further experience in preparation to race full time in the sport, but it will also allow even more young drivers and new talent to enter the sport.

The main regulation that I am most concerned about is the Safety Car restarts. Even though I have stated that the FIA need to look into this matter further, I think the solution that they have managed to agree might not be the correct one. I do understand why they have implemented the idea of a rolling start just like other sports series.

But I do feel that this will only confuse the drivers, teams and also the fans in regards to the running order and who is actually leading the field after the Safety Car goes into the pit lane after an incident on the track. This could discourage people from watching the sport and could also turn more people away from watching the sport at a time where audience figures matter to the sport and also to its growth and development.

I do believe changes needed to be ready for the 2015 season. I do understand why some have been implemented into the sport and the reasons for doing so. But let us not forget that even though Formula One is meant to be the pinnacle of motorsport, is always looking for ways to demonstrate this and also wants to put on a ‘show’ for its fans and also the audience that watch the races on television.

But what the FIA need to realise that Formula One has and will always continue to provide a ‘show’ for its audience and its dedicated fan base, no matter what rules and regulations get implemented. And they have to remember that if it wasn’t for its fans and audience figures, the sport wouldn’t have been able to grow over the past few decades as it has been and the FIA need to remember this.

But do I feel that the changes that have been agreed yesterday are right for the sport now and also in the future? Some may work, some may not. But let’s hope that it doesn’t damage the sport, its reputation, its growth, its development and most importantly its fans in the short term and also in the long term future.