Monthly Archives: July 2014

Horner: F1 drivers should be “heroes”

F1 Grand Prix of Belgium - Practice

Today in an interview with ESPN F1, Red Bull Team Principal Christian Horner believes that Formula One is at its best when the drivers come across as heroes and the teams and politics stay out of view.

Formula One has faced criticism this season for not providing enough of a show for fans and with further concerns raised by poor attendances at some races and plans to pursue new events in controversial locations. However, Sunday’s Hungarian Grand Prix provided a thrilling spectacle with four drivers in contention until the final few laps and Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo finally coming out on top.

For all the talk of revamping the sport which includes plans for a summit meeting over the August break to thrash out ideas, in his interview with ESPN F1, Horner believes the recipe for success is still quite simple. Horner stated the following:-

‘When we focus on the racing we have got a great sport. Formula One needs to be about the drivers being the heroes, and today they were. That’s Formula One at its best – not just this weekend but last weekend [in Germany] as well.

‘That’s what I enjoy, that’s what I love to see and that’s all part of competition. We need to keep going down that direction.’

I don’t think many pundits and fans will disagree with what Horner has stated today. I do believe that Formula One when its attention is purely on racing and racing only, that is the sport at its best. Horner is correct in what he says and that is what makes Formula One exciting, thrilling to watch and most importantly puts the sport in a positive light.

In regards to what Horner says about Formula One drivers being “heroes”, I think that even if Hungary or even Germany didn’t provide the excitement that both circuits did when they hosted the Grand Prix recently, I think most pundits and fans would still regard the drivers as “heroes”.

Every fan has their favourite driver past or present and to them, they will always be their “hero”. Alongside this, I am sure that most would agree with them and believe that every driver on the grid is a “hero” for risking their lives to race in the fastest motorsport in the world.

For me, to watch some of the greatest drivers in the world battling each other on the track without endangering themselves and providing us with great racing, that is what it is all about. We have seen some great races this season and saw the finest racing drivers in the world battle each other for the best result that they can achieve, which is what we saw last weekend.

Further on in his interview today, when asked why drivers do not come across as heroes, Horner believes that the races are far too “managed”. He added the following:-

‘Sometimes it feels like the races are a bit too managed. But in conditions like today. just look at [Fernando] Alonso and how fantastic he was today and [Lewis] Hamilton coming from the back of the grid and Daniel making his strategy work, passing around the outside and doing incredible things.

‘I need to watch that race again to understand it all, but that’s what Formula One is all about. We need to allow the drivers to be able to express themselves more without being criticised. We need to allow their personalities to come out. They have opinions and they’ve got personalities, we should encourage them to see some of them.’

From what Horner has said, you can understand why he feels sometimes that the races are “too managed” and you don’t see the skill and the talent of the drivers sometimes. For example, it could be that the team or driver in question doesn’t have the pace or could have problems with tyre degradation which could cause the team or driver to manage their problems in order to finish a race.

But if the drivers or the teams don’t have any problems and we have a mixed weather conditions like we saw in Hungary, we do tend to see a race that just highlights how talented Formula One drivers are. But I would agree with Horner and that is what Formula One is all about, the best twenty two drivers on the grid pushing themselves and the car to its edge and achieving excellence.

With the way the drivers are portrayed currently in the media, I do feel that sometimes we do need to see the personality and opinions of a driver as Horner has stated today. But I do feel that there should be a fine balance to this. I feel that a driver should rightly express his opinion or personality, while also maintaining professionalism too.

But overall, I would have to agree with Horner on the whole. I do feel that Formula One drivers should show their personality and share their opinions on the sport, while still maintaining a professional matter. At the end of the day, no matter what driver you support past or present, they will always be in your eyes your “heroes” and setting an example that you not only respect, but also admire and also aspire to be.

And for me, Formula One drivers just like footballers have to provide an example for the younger generation that is not only correct but also to become a role model and a guide for them to look up to.

But I do feel that Formula One currently has had a spring in its step with the great races we have seen in Germany and Hungary. We have been reminded once again just why we all love and follow Formula One and seen the best drivers in the world and our “heroes” battling through the field and battling each other to be the best they can be.

And this is what we want to see and crave, weekend in and weekend out and supporting our favourite team, driver and our “heroes” to the finish line and seeing a great race in the process.  And long may it continue for the rest of the season!

Mallya: We can catch Williams

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Today in an interview with the media, Force India Team Principal Vijay Mallya believes his outfit can catch Williams in the Constructors’ Championship.

Williams have enjoyed a great season so far, picking up three podiums to find themselves fourth in the standings behind Mercedes, Red Bull and Ferrari.

Meanwhile, Force India is one spot below and 37 points behind. But in his interview with the media today, Mallya is confident his Force India squad can make up the ground in the remaining eight races if they all pull in the same direction. Mallya stated the following:-

‘Like us they have the best power unit, so that definitely gives them an advantage over where they were last year. And don’t forget, in pre-season testing Williams showed their pace. It was very clear that they would be very competitive. In fact I was a bit surprised that they didn’t do in the first couple of races what they’ve done in the last few races. So we definitely will not make the mistake of underestimating them.’

As Mallya points out, Williams have the same power unit as his team and this will provide them with the advantage not just from last year but also this year too. As we all know Williams this year have delivered and performed well when they have grabbed the opportunity to do so, just like Force India have too. I would have to agree with him and I do believe that even though both teams have performed well this season, you can never underestimate your rival, especially if they have the same power unit as you.

Further on in his interview today, Mallya believes that the Force India can catch the Williams team, if they continue to work as hard as they have been doing so far this season. Mallya added the following:-

‘Can we catch Williams? Yes, we can. We have to work hard at it as well, but as I just said, there’s still a long way to go. They have done a great job and one should complement them for this – probably in the same way that we are doing well – unexpectedly – as a midfield, small team. The opportunity is there.’

I would have to agree with what Mallya has stated today. Even though Force India have surprised many pundits and fans with their performances in the first half of the season and they do deserve the credit for all that they have achieved so far this season. Right now, all he can do is ensure that his team continue in the same direction as they have so far this season and ensure that they bring as many upgrades as possible during the rest of the season.

I do firmly believe that if Force India put everything together in a race weekend, they could once again surprise many pundits and fans with a strong performance. And if the opportunity comes along, Force India with Hulkenberg and Perez at the wheels of their car will certainly grab the chance to show that they cannot be discounted if the opportunity is there.

Question is; can Force India catch the Williams during the final half of the 2014 season? They will give it their very best shot and will fight until the final minute on the racetrack to do this. But we shall see who will win the battle at the end of the season in Abu Dhabi, will it be Force India or will it be Williams?

 

Guiterrez hoping to open talks with Sauber for 2015

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Today in an interview with Sky Sports F1, Sauber driver Esteban Gutierrez is hoping to open contract talks with Sauber in the forthcoming weeks as he aims to keep his place on the grid in time for his country’s return to the F1 calendar next year.

Guiterrez is halfway through his second season with Sauber but has claimed just a solitary points finish in 30 races although his attempts to improve on his difficult rookie year have not been helped by Sauber sliding down the grid this term.

However, with the backing of the Telmex communications firm and the prospect of the first Mexican Grand Prix in over two decades in 2015, Gutierrez is aiming to address his future with Sauber soon. Last year, he had to wait until four days before Christmas for confirmation of that his contract was being renewed.

In his interview with Sky Sports F1 today, Guiterrez stated the following over his future with the Sauber team for the 2015 season. Guiterrez stated the following:-

‘That’s something we need to speak [about] in the next few weeks .Obviously it’s a subject that we’ll bring up pretty soon and something that we also need to look after certain opportunities that we can get around and see what’s really the most convenient one.’

As Guiterrez has stated today, it is clear that attentions will soon be turning towards his future within Formula One being settled before the end of the season in preparation for next season. There is no question that Guiterrez would love to extend his contract with the Sauber team but he will also be looking at other possibilities on the grid to see if he can obtain a drive that could help develop his career even more.

Neither Sauber seat is yet confirmed for 2015, with Gutierrez’s team-mate Adrian Sutil being forced to deny at the Hungarian Grand Prix last week that he was leaving the team shortly , amid speculation that the team’s well-backed reserve driver Giedo van der Garde was poised to take over.

With Sauber’s financial struggles well-documented and long-running, Sauber are yet to register a point in F1’s new turbo era and are sitting only tenth in the Constructors’ Championship at the summer break, they are in growing danger of finishing in the lowest position in their two-decade history.

Gutierrez’s best finish is 12th in the season-opening Australian GP and admits further on in his interview today it has been a trying campaign to date but he is hoping to learn through it. Guiterrez added the following:-

‘It’s been a difficult position, although we have very good people. They have been working really hard and one of the most important things is the attitude from the people. That is really counting a lot. It’s true that we have been struggling a lot from the beginning, we are worse than our expectations, and this is not easy to control the frustration and to keep the motivation is very hard.

‘So it’s really been very challenging for me because I’m only 22 years old, it’s only [my] second year in Formula 1 and obviously in your second year when it’s critical you really want to be in the position to show what you can do and at the moment I’m not really in that position. It’s a challenge, I love challenges and I need to enjoy this process as well.’

In his second year in the sport, it is clear that Guiterrez would like to show what he can do in the car and show why he has been resigned by Sauber for this year. Sadly, he hasn’t had the car underneath him to do this. But from his attitude, it is clear that he is more than motivated to change his fortunes and achieve his objective for this year with the Sauber team.

There is no denying that Sauber and Guiterrez have had a very challenging first half of the 2014 season. Of course they will not be happy with the level of performance they have been able to show this season and it has been very well documented that Sauber have been struggling with issues such as weight and also their brake-by-wire system since the start of pre-season testing.

But as Guiterrez stated today, all they can do is keep motivated and ensure that they bring as many upgrades and improvements to their car for the remainder of the season ahead. Sauber have to push and they have to push now to try and salvage something from the 2014 season and use the experience from this year to prepare for the 2015 season.

If Sauber cannot bring upgrades that not only show improvement with the pace of their car and allow Guiterrez to show what he can do, is his future in the sport safe for 2015? I believe that it will be regardless, due to the financial backing that Guiterrez brings with him that will prove very handy to Sauber (if he stays there) or to another team who might be interested in him.

But will Guiterrez be driving in the sport in 2015 for Sauber or with another team on the grid? I firmly believe that Sauber will retain Guiterrez for next season and will partner Van der Garde and with Sutil leaving the sport. I really do see this happening within the next few months when Sauber confirm their 2015 line up, but only time will tell.

Ecclestone has dropped standing starts rule for 2015

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Yesterday in an interview with Auto Motor und Sport, Formula One Commercial Rights Holder Bernie Ecclestone has called for standing starts after safety cars to be dropped for 2015, just one month after they were confirmed in next year’s regulations by the FIA.

In order to spice up the show, the FIA agreed to a suggestion that the cars should start from the grid after each safety car period. The rule has been met with a mixed response from drivers. But according to FIA race director Charlie Whiting, the standing starts rule did have strong backing from the teams.

However, Ecclestone has now called for the rule to be dropped, saying the rolling starts in Sunday’s dramatic Hungarian Grand Prix were “good enough”. In his interview with Auto Motor und Sport yesterday, Ecclestone stated the following:-

‘There’ll be no standing starts after safety cars. What we had in Budapest was good enough.’

From what Ecclestone has stated yesterday, it is finally great to see that he and the FIA have finally saw the light and scrapped the rule for next season. As I have argued previously, I do not feel that this was needed. I do still believe that they didn’t research the concept properly and that it is was unsafe and could put the drivers at risk. And like many pundits and fans, I am really happy that this rule will not be implemented next season.

Further on in his interview, Ecclestone also contradicted reports over the weekend that said Flavio Briatore would be brought in to head up a strategy group to make Formula One more popular. He added the following:-

‘We don’t need Flavio. We can do it ourselves.’

When these reports first emerged, many pundits and fans argued over social media that if Briatore was to head up a group looking to help Formula One become more popular was not met very well. In my opinion, I am glad that Briatore is not heading up a group to help the sport. But as for Ecclestone stating that they “can do it themselves”, it is clear to me that they do not have a clue what they are doing.

With implementing the standing starts rule for next season and now in the space of a month changing their minds and not implementing it, the proof is in the pudding; Ecclestone and the FIA do not have a clue. They are so concerned with the aspect of the “show” that Formula One that is lacking and not focusing their attentions on solutions that are not only feasible but will also show and highlight the some positives in the sport already.

What would I suggest to the FIA and Ecclestone if I had the chance to? What the FIA and Ecclestone should do is listen to the fans that follow the sport religiously and take on their concerns and then sit down with everyone involved and find solution and viable options to address these concerns. For me, they need to do this as quickly as they can before they do more damage to the sport, lose even more fans and audience figures and also its global reputation too.

But the question is; how long until Ecclestone and the FIA decide yet another rule to improve the “show” that Formula One provides to its fans and its audience that will be met with the same reaction that this rule did? I would place money on it that yet another rule or new regulation will be coming very, very soon…

Caterham launching legal action against former employees

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Yesterday in a press release to the media, the Caterham team announced that
they are launching legal action against a group of former employees who are claiming unfair dismissal by the team.

Last month the Caterham F1 team underwent a change of ownership after founder Tony Fernandes sold out to a consortium of Swiss and Middle Eastern investors. As part of the subsequent shake-up, which has seen former F1 driver Christijan Albers take over as Team Principal, the new owners slimmed down the workforce with around 40 employees thought to have departed.

There was speculation that on the eve of last weekend’s Hungarian GP that suggested lawyers representing the affected staff had initiated legal action against the team. However, Caterham have now issued a statement of their own in which they both deny the claims and confirm they will sue for damages. In a press release to the media, the Caterham F1 team stated the following on the matter:-

‘Caterham F1 Team has read with great concern recent reports about a group of individuals who are claiming unfair dismissal from the Formula 1 team following its takeover by new owners.

‘The team is now taking legal action against those parties representing the individuals concerned, and each person involved, seeking compensation for the damages suffered by the team due to the gross misrepresentation of the facts made by all those concerned.

‘These claims include the statement that they have been released from Caterham F1 Team – this is incorrect. Caterham F1 Team’s staff are employed by a company that is a supplier to the company that holds its F1 licence, the licence that allows it to compete in the Formula 1 World Championship.

‘Additionally, the team has read claims that its staff were not paid in July – again, this is wholly untrue. Every individual currently employed by Caterham F1 Team was paid their July salary in full on 25th July, one week before it is formally due on the last day of the month, in this case 31st July.

‘A formal request for the withdrawal of the relevant press statement issued on 28th July has been made by Caterham F1 Team and the team will vigorously pursue its action against all those concerned. However, it will not allow its core focus to be distracted from achieving tenth place in the 2014 Formula 1 World Championship, and building for the 2015 campaign and beyond.’

We should point out that with any organisation that is either bought or acquired new management, you would expect for the organisation to be unsettled and will need time to adjust in order to get themselves back on track, which is what Caterham must do in order to try and regain tenth place in the Constructors Championship with everything that they have at their disposal.

In regards to the legal dispute between the team’s owners, the new management and the ex-staff, as with anything, there are two sides to every story. If both sides wish to pursue legal matters to get to the truth of the matter, then the law will find the truth and decide who is in the right and who is in the wrong.

It is clear that Caterham and its future in Formula One is looking shaky enough with losing tenth place in the Constructors, never mind the added legal battle that the team are intended on continuing. But what must remain their objective is to let their legal team sort out issues with the ex-staff and not lose sight of their objective for the 2014 season on the track in the process.

 

Lauda: Mercedes under “enormous stress” and panicked yesterday

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In an interview with Autosport today, Mercedes Non Executive Director Niki Lauda believes that Mercedes’ use of team orders in Hungary was the result of “enormous stress” as the team came under pressure.

Sunday’s Hungarian Grand Prix ended in controversy for Mercedes after the team asked Lewis Hamilton to move over for Nico Rosberg. Hamilton refused to and later said he was “shocked” that the team had even asked him to do so as he was in the “same race” as his team-mate.

‘I have to defend the team. The team was under enormous stress because the race was a very difficult one, there is no question. This race, with the Safety Car at the beginning and the wet conditions, was a completely different race. So every minute you had to decide something different.

‘In this stress the team told Lewis he should let Nico by because he was on softer tyres and has to come in anyway.If he [Nico] had been in the DRS position, he would have let him by. But Nico never got that close. Therefore I do understand that Lewis said ‘Why? Why should I stop now in the middle of the circuit to let my team colleague by?’ He is fighting for the Championship.’

Even though the Mercedes team is under stress with two of their drivers fighting each other closely for the championship, they still made a difficult decision that either of their drivers would have been happy with in the first place. I still do not understand why Mercedes asked Hamilton to move over for Rosberg especially as Hamilton did a superb job to get in front of Rosberg in the first place.

But as Lauda says, if Rosberg was closer to Hamilton, then Hamilton has said himself yesterday he would have complied to the team’s wishes but Rosberg was just not close enough to pass him. I would agree with Lauda here that why Hamilton should he allow his team mate to pass him when he is in the fight and in the running for the championship. But as Lauda says, he can only defend the team and the decision they made yesterday even if he agrees with it or not.

Further on in his interview with Autosport, Lauda believes that Hamilton was correct not to allow Rosberg through when asked by the Mercedes team. Lauda added the following:-

‘So from my point of view Lewis was right. And why the call came, this happened out of the panic and we had to make up for what we were losing.’

I do agree with what Lauda has said today. I feel that Hamilton made the right decision not to let Rosberg through when asked to by his team. If Hamilton would have let Rosberg through, not only would he have lost ground in the championship. But if you think about it, Hamilton would have lost up to two seconds on that lap and could have lost even more time to Massa in fifth.

But the Mercedes team as Lauda said made the decision yesterday in a race that was mixed up by the rain and caught out a few teams and drivers. But the main thing for Mercedes is that they achieved the best possible result for Hamilton and Rosberg yesterday at Hungary that they could and managed to gain more points in the Constructors.

But all Mercedes can do now is explain their decision to both of their drivers, clear the air, move forward to the second half of the season and concentrate on securing the Constructors and also the Driver’s championships as quickly as they can. There is no question that Mercedes have been the best team in the first half of the 2014 season, will they continue their form in the second half? I believe that they will and will show once again why they are the best team on the grid this season without a shadow of a doubt.

Massa: We made the wrong call on strategy

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In an interview with ESPN F1 yesterday, Williams driver Felipe Massa believes that Williams made the wrong call on its tyre strategy in Hungary but says it is a relief to put his recent misfortune behind him with a strong points finish.

Massa ran as high as second in the race in Hungary after the two safety car periods but he soon dropped out of contention when Williams put him on the medium tyre, despite the majority of other teams choosing the softs.

In his interview with ESPN F1 yesterday, when asked if he would do the strategy differently if he could run the race again, Massa said the following:-

‘I would, for sure yes. At least on the first stint to understand how long the tyres would stay on. For sure it was better to go on the option, definitely.

‘I had a much better run on the option at the start of the race compared to what I did on the medium. I even told the team that maybe the option tyre was the better one but there were still a lot of laps to go, we were maybe afraid the option would not have stayed until the end. Then maybe it would have been difficult to put too many laps together on the prime, which was really difficult.’

There is no question that yesterday the decisions that Williams made on strategy was not correct. From what Massa has said, he felt that the option tyre was the best tyre for him, communicated that to the team, but the team felt it best that Massa stayed on the medium. But at the end of the day, with the conditions yesterday, who knows what would happened if Massa had switched to his preferred tyre?

Despite Williams’ call on tyres Massa was pleased to collect some points again after high-profile crashes in Canada, Great Britain and Germany. Further on in his interview yesterday, Massa was relived to finish the race and score some much needed points for Williams. Massa added the following:-

‘It’s a nice relief to finish the race and score some points but it’s definitely not enough. We did not have a very competitive car to fight with Red Bull and Ferrari and I think the car was not so competitive, especially on the medium tyres, we were just too slow.

‘Anyway, it was not a very easy race. It was a race where we needed to take some risks. We didn’t make do a perfect job on the tyres but anyway, you saw other teams doing mistakes like McLaren. When it’s a difficult like that we scored good points and that’s positive.’

As Massa says, he is more than happy to have finished the race yesterday and gain some points after the last three races he has had. But however, I get the impression that Massa feels that sixth was the best performance he could manage. And you can’t really argue with Massa as it appears that Massa struggled all weekend to get the pace he wanted from the car.

Even though it was not an easy race for Massa, he managed to get himself in a position where they managed to gain from other teams such as McLaren who made mistakes as well on strategy. And I feel that Massa should be happy with how he performed yesterday and managed to achieve the best result he could of in the circumstances.

The first half of the 2014 season hasn’t been quite what Massa had expected and he has been out performed by his team mate Valtteri Bottas who has scored three podiums for the Williams team. You could say that Massa has had bad luck and hasn’t been able to capitalise on the performance shown in the Williams car as much as Bottas.

But Massa needs to ensure that if the opportunity is there in the second half of the season, he grabs it with both hands and does the job. But will his result in Hungary be the start of Massa looking to gain his first podium of the season? Absolutely, that will Massa’s objective for the rest of the season. But can Massa achieve it? Only time will tell.