Monthly Archives: November 2014

Classic #jonesonF1: 1997 European Grand Prix

The most iconic picture of the 1997 European Grand Prix in Jerez

The most iconic picture of the 1997 European Grand Prix in Jerez

The 1997 European Grand Prix: Round 17 of 17 in the 1997 Formula One World Championship. Heading into the race, Ferrari driver Michael Schumacher led the Drivers’ Championship with 78 points, ahead of Williams driver Jacques Villeneuve one point behind in second place with 77 points and Heinz-Harald Frentzen in third on 41 points.

The European Grand Prix was originally scheduled as the Grand Prix of Portugal at the Estoril circuit but it was moved to Jerez when Estoril’s management had financial difficulties.

Jacques Villeneuve during qualifying for the 1997 European Grand Prix

Jacques Villeneuve during qualifying for the 1997 European Grand Prix

At the end of the qualifying session on Saturday, the three fastest drivers had all set the same lap time, the first time this had happened in the history of the World Championship. Jacques Villeneuve was first to set a time of 1:21.072, fourteen minutes into the one hour session. 

Michael Schumacher during qualifying for the 1997 European Grand Prix

Michael Schumacher during qualifying for the 1997 European Grand Prix

A further fourteen minutes later, Michael Schumacher posted an identical time. With nine minutes of the session remaining, Heinz-Harald Frenzten crossed the line, again with a time of 1:21.072. Under the regulations, in the event of drivers setting equal times in qualifying, the order in which the times were set is considered, with the first driver to set the time given precedence. 

Villeneuve was awarded pole position on the starting grid for the race, with Schumacher second and Frentzen third. Fourth place on the grid went to the reigning World Champion, Damon Hill in his Arrows, with a time of 1:21.130 and was 0.058 seconds behind the time of the leading three. Hill had been on course to get pole position but had to slow towards the end of the lap because of yellow flags due to an incident involving Ukyo Katayama’s Minardi. 

Michael Schumacher leads the field on the first lap of the 1997 European Grand Prix

Michael Schumacher leads the field on the first lap of the 1997 European Grand Prix

The race took place in the afternoon from 14:00 local time, in dry and sunny weather. Villeneuve started the race in pole position, with Schumacher in second. Just a few moments before the start of the race, a blue liquid came out of Villeneuve’s Williams. However, this did not influence his car during the race. Schumacher’s getaway at the start was better than Villeneuve’s and he had taken the lead by the time they reached the first corner.

Michael Schumacher leading the 1997 European Grand Prix

Michael Schumacher leading the 1997 European Grand Prix

Schumacher would lead 40 of the first 47 laps of the race. Frentzen also got a better start than Villeneuve and overtook him. Under the orders of the Williams team, on lap eight Frentzen let teammate Villeneuve past. Schumacher made his first pit-stop on Lap 22 and Villeneuve made his first stop the following lap. Both retained their positions.

David Coulthard ahead of Mika Hakkinen in the 1997 European Grand Prix after their first pit stops.

David Coulthard ahead of Mika Hakkinen in the 1997 European Grand Prix after their first pit stops.

During the first round of pit stops the McLarens swapped places with David Coulthard leading Mika Hakkinen and Frentzen dropped to fifth position behind both of them. The order of the leaders after the second round of pit stops on Lap 43 and Lap 44 remained the same but with Villeneuve closer to Schumacher.

Jacques Villeneuve trying to pass Michael Schumacher on Lap 48 of the 1997 European Grand Prix

Jacques Villeneuve trying to pass Michael Schumacher on Lap 48 of the 1997 European Grand Prix

Villeneuve went into Lap 48 less than a second behind Schumacher. Partway through the lap he attempted to overtake Schumacher at the Dry Sack corner. Braking later than Schumacher, Villeneuve held the inside line and was ahead on the track when Schumacher turned in on him resulting in a collision.

ITV’s then pit lane reporter James Allen  has noted that onboard footage shows Schumacher twitching his steering wheel left before turning right into Villeneuve. Martin Brundle who was in the commentary box alongside Murray Walker,  immediately saw that Schumacher’s move had been deliberate, saying, “That didn’t work Michael, you hit the wrong part of him, my friend”.

The right-front wheel of Schumacher’s Ferrari hit the left radiator pod of Villeneuve’s Williams – unlike the 1994 collision with Hill where Schumacher inflicted damage on Hill’s suspension – and caused Schumacher to retire. Villeneuve described the incident after the race “The car felt very strange. The hit was very hard. It was not a small thing.”  He continued but the damage to his car meant he was slower than the cars behind him.

Mika Hakkinen wins his first Grand Prix of his career at the 1997 European Grand Prix ahead of his team mate David Coulthard and 1997 World Champion Jacques Villeneuve

Mika Hakkinen wins his first Grand Prix of his career at the 1997 European Grand Prix ahead of his team mate David Coulthard and 1997 World Champion Jacques Villeneuve

At the time of the incident there were 22 laps of the race remaining. The slower pace of Villeneuve’s car meant that on the last lap, he had been caught by both McLarens, Häkkinen having regained second place from Coulthard under team orders. Häkkinen’s victory at Jerez was the first of his career.

Gerhard Berger finishing fourth in his final Grand Prix of his career at the 1997 European Grand Prix

Gerhard Berger finishing fourth in his final Grand Prix of his career at the 1997 European Grand Prix

Gerhard Berger in fourth place (in what turned out to be his final Grand Prix) was also catching Villeneuve but he did not pass before crossing the finish line. The final margin between Villeneuve and Berger was 0.116 seconds.

Jacques Villeneuve celebrates becoming the 1997 Formula One Driver World Champion

Jacques Villeneuve celebrates becoming the 1997 Formula One Driver World Champion

Third place meant Villeneuve finished ahead of Schumacher in the Drivers’ Championship by 3 points, and was World Champion of 1997. After the race Villeneuve stated “I did not fight then. It was better to let them through and win the World Championship. It is a good exchange.”

The 1997 European Grand Prix will be remembered as Hakkinen’s first win in Formula One after his 96th attempt. This race is also very special for me personally as this is the Grand Prix that sparked my passion and love for all things Formula One when I was seven years old and I am more in love with the sport now than I have ever been.

This race will also be remembered with the incident between Michael Schumacher and Jacques Villeneuve that is still about and debated by many fans and pundits today. After the race, the blame for the incident was later attributed to Schumacher by the sport’s governing body, the FIA and he was stripped of his second place finish in the championship. Schumacher’s tactics were widely criticised by the media, including publications based in his home country of Germany, and in Ferrari’s home country of Italy.

Following the race, both Williams and McLaren were accused of colluding to decide the finishing order. Villeneuve stated that “It was better to let them through and win the World Championship.” The FIA determined there was no evidence to support the claims, and dismissed the accusations.

As of 2014, these are Williams’s last Drivers’ and Constructors’ World Championships in Formula One. And I should also point out that Hakkinen’s first win in the sport at Jerez in 1997 may have been masked with other incidents that happened in the race, but this would be the start of Hakkinen entering the prime of his career in Formula One and going on to winning the 1998 and 1998 Drivers’ Championships

And as the 1997 World Championship concluded, Villeneuve was crowned world champion of 1997 by 81 points ahead of Schumacher three points behind with 78 points and Heinz-Harald Frentzen in third with 42 points.

[Please Note Schumacher was disqualifed from his second place in the championship]

Marko: I’m “confident” Verstappen and Sainz Jr will deliver


In an interview with the media today, Red Bull advisor Dr Helmut Marko is “confident” despite fielding an all-rookie line-up at Toro Rosso in 2015 that Max Verstappen and Carlos Sainz are up to the challenge.

Having raised eyebrows with the signing of teenager Verstappen, Toro Rosso then took the unusual step of teaming the Dutchman up with another rookie in Sainz Jr.

The Spaniard, who won the Formula Renault 3.5 Championship earlier this year, is part of the Red Bull fold and beat out other drivers, including the more experienced Jean-Eric Vergne, for the second race-seat.

In an interview with the media today, Marko believes that signing Sainz Jr for Toro Rosso next season is the correct decision and feel he is the best driver for the seat especially after his performance in Formula Renault 3.5. Marko stated the following:-

‘Carlos has been with the Red Bull Junior Team for a long time. He’s had some ups and downs, but he convinced us by winning this year’s World Series title – and especially doing so with a record of seven wins.

‘Nobody in the history of the series has matched Carlos in that regard. He’s matured a lot in the last two years. Of course, we were waiting to see how the Championships were going. And then the test in Abu Dhabi in the Formula One car [for Red Bull Racing] was the thing that really confirmed to us he was the right man for the seat.

‘He had a very successful test this week. He did 100 laps, the speed was good and the technical feedback was good. He’s done everything we expected, so I’d say he was the natural choice.’

As Marko points out, Sainz Jr has been a part of the Red Bull young drivers programme for a long time and has up and downs during his career which you would expect from any racing driver wanting to get to the pinnacle of motorsport. I have watched Sainz Jr a few times this season in the series and is a very talented driver, deserved to win the series and what he has achieved this season has been fantastic for him and his career.

However, with winning the Formula Renault 3.5 series this season, it is clear that the maturity of Sainz Jr by winning this has impressed Marko and Toro Rosso alongside his test for Red Bull in Abu Dhabi this week that has secured him the drive with the team for next season and seeing his dream coming true by doing what was expected of him and to the standard he needed to too.

Further on in his interview today, Marko has downplayed concerns about the duo’s combined lack of experience as both will make their F1 debuts in 2015, Verstappen, though, has at least taken part in several Friday FP1 sessions.

‘We have a lot of trust in the drivers, but we also have a lot of trust in Toro Rosso, led by Franz Tost. He handles the situation and the education of young drivers very well. All of the preparation he did with Max was very good.

‘Of course, it gives us nice, bright future driver-wise – and also it means our budgets are not as affected as those of other teams!”

‘I’m looking forward to seeing these two young guys having their first season! We’re confident they’ll do very well. From the tests, the approach, the personalities, everything looks really promising.’

From what Marko has said today, it is clear that Red Bull and Toro Rosso have placed their trust in Sainz Jr and Verstappen’s natural talent for next season and they believe that Toro Rosso will be the perfect environment for them to mature and grow as people and as drivers while also delivering their potential in the sport in the process.

Marko believes that the preparation Verstappen has received since he was announced as a driver for next season has been great and you could argue expects the team to do the same for Sainz Jr in order to give their driver line up the best possible start to their career in Australia next March.

As Marko says himself, Toro Rosso has a proven track record of taking young talent and promoting them through the ranks of the Red Bull Programme, given them a chance to show what they can do in a Formula One car and have been successful in their approach with drivers such as Sebastian Vettel, Daniel Ricciardo and Daniil Kvyat. But that also comes with a warning for both drivers in my opinion. If you cannot deliver the standard required by the programme in the timeframe they expect you too, then you will be shown the door just like ex drivers Sebastian Buemi and recently Jean-Eric Vergne. To me, that would be a shame for both drivers if that was the case and did not fulfil the potential that both of them have to achieve success in the sport.

But in conclusion, it would seem that Toro Rosso and Marko are happy to have signed Verstappen and Sainz Jr for next season and believe that they will deliver what is expected of them. They appear to be happy with the attitude and personalities for example of both drivers and they believe that will stand them in good stead.

However, it is important that both drivers do deliver on the track when they get the opportunity to do so. Of course as rookies, they will make mistakes but it is how quickly they can learn from them and improve their driving and performances as a result of that.

But it would seem that at the moment, the future is looking bright for Toro Rosso with two young and talented drivers that have enjoyed success in the junior formulae this season that has saw them make the jump to the pinnacle of motorsport.  The spotlight will be firmly upon them, but all they can do is achieve the best results that they possibly can in their first year in the sport and show why they was signed to the team in the first place.

And I really hope for their sakes that they get the adequate time to adjust to the sport and also deliver on the track when they need to otherwise their career in the sport could be over before it started and I hope that is not the case for Verstappen or Sainz Jr.

O’Connell: Caterham could be sold “within the next month”


In an interview with Press Association Sport today, Finbarr O’Connell who is dealing with selling the Caterham F1 team has revealed that the team could be sold “within the next month”.

O’Connell took control of the floundering F1 team when it went into administration earlier this season and, turning to crowdfunding, was able to get Caterham back onto the grid for the season-ending Abu Dhabi GP.

With the team remaining a viable option for a buyer, the Irishman has revealed a possible buyer is lurking in the wings. In his interview with Press Association Sport today, O’Connell believes that there is somebody who really is interested in buying Caterham and could take over within a month. O’Connell stated the following:-

‘I am honestly talking to somebody who would like to take this over within the next month. This is somebody who feels the same as me, that if we don’t do something quickly then the team will drift away.

‘This is a credible person with credible backers, somebody linked to Formula One, and I am delighted about that. Talking to people with no Formula One involvement at all adds that huge risk factor, but this is somebody who knows it and who wants to do it.

‘They’d like to take it over with the same people and with the same infrastructure, as the same team, and that would be the dream result for me. It would be absolutely fantastic.’

From what O’Connell has stated in his interview today, it is clear that he believes that the owner who is really interested in buying the Caterham team within a month is on the same wavelength of himself and also for the team too. It would appear that the potential investor has everything that the team needs and also has Formula One experience which could prove very handy if the deal is secured and goes through legal clearance.

Alongside this, the fact that the potential investor is happy to take on board the team in the first place and then willing to accept the current personnel and infrastructure within the team is also great news to hear but as with anything in Formula One, nothing is secured until the finance and contract is signed and delivered but it would appear that Caterham are at least trying to take steps to secure their future before it is too late.

Further on in his interview today, O’Connell reckons Caterham’s will to return to the grid at the Yas Marina circuit has played a massive role in garnering the buyer’s attention. O’Connell added the following:-

‘The weekend advanced the talks with the buyer as they saw we are not just the concept of a team. They could see the people here are committed, together, that we’re an operational team, and that was really attractive.’

It would seem that Caterham racing in Abu Dhabi may have helped the talks between O’Connell and the potential investor. Even though it was a fantastic achievement for Caterham to even be back at Abu Dhabi and showed their commitment to securing their future, you could argue that O’Connell took the decision with the crowdfunding project to not lose their entry to the 2015 season.

As if Caterham did lose their entry to the 2015 season and a potential buyer came along, then they would not be investing in a functional Formula One team, but in the resources that are capable of allowing a team to be functional in the sport. And that to me if I was an investor wouldn’t attract me as much as the fact there is an entry to go racing in Formula One in 2015.

But overall, it would seem that O’Connell believes that if the potential buyer he is currently talking to is happy with the terms and conditions of signing a deal to keep Caterham into Formula One, then the future for the team could be looking brighter. However, nothing is safe in Formula One and until the potential investor has proved that he can take on the team and has the investment needed to carry the team forward and is happy with the legalities of the sale, all you can say is that the future is still uncertain for Caterham, but there is a prospect of hope there for them and I hope that it works out for them.

Vettel makes Ferrari debut in the F2012 at Fiorano


Later this week, it was announced that Sebastian Vettel has completed his first laps as a Ferrari driver behind the wheel of a F2012 at the Fiorano circuit.

With his Red Bull contract still in effect for a few days in the wake of the 2014 season, the German was not able to take part in the post-season test.

Despite not running over the two days at the Yas Marina circuit, he spent a bit of time in the Ferrari garage getting to know his new colleagues. However just days later, the four-time World Champion has had his first taste of a Ferrari F1 car.

He spent Saturday running at the team’s private track behind the wheel of a two-year old F2012.

Vettel, who wore a while helmet that had the words “My first day at Ferrari” written on it, also had the pleasure of driving a Ferrari 458 Speciale.

He will have to wait until February, though, for his first official test with the Scuderia although a day of promotional filming could be on the cards before Jerez.

Overall, all you can say is that with Vettel honouring the terms of his Red Bull contract that prevented him from testing with the Ferrari team in the Abu Dhabi test this week, he has been able to start getting to know the team and then later on this week test for Ferrari for the first time.

Even though no information has been given to the press from the Ferrari regarding Vettel’s performance in Fiorano, I don’t think that this matters really. I think all that matters is Vettel has now gained some running in an old Ferrari and is starting to get to know his new team in preparation for the 2015 season.

And I have to admit that Vettel and Ferrari is approaching this in the correct manner, they are realistic with their aims for the new season but their focus should be right now getting to know each other as best as they can to get their working relationship off on the right foot (so to speak) and Vettel making his testing debut at Fiorano this week is the first step for them.


Sainz Jr signs with Toro Rosso for 2015


Yesterday afternoon it was announced that Toro Rosso have taken the unusual step of having an all-rookie line-up, signing Carlos Sainz Jr as Max Verstappen’s 2015 team-mate.

In what is set to be by far the most inexperienced line-up on the grid, 20-year-old Sainz Jr will partner the teenager at Red Bull’s junior team. Sainz Jr, who tested with Red Bull at the Yas Marina circuit this week, will enter Formula 1 on the back of his World Series by Renault 3.5 Championship success.

In an interview with the media yesterday, Sainz Jr was delighted to have been given the chance to drive for the Toro Rosso team next season and thanks Red Bull for everything they have done for him. Sainz Jr stated the following:-

‘I am really happy to have landed the drive with Scuderia Toro Rosso. Ever since I have been part of Red Bull’s Young Driver Programme, this has been my aim and I want to thank Red Bull for putting their faith in me.

‘I have had a very successful season in World Series by Renault this year and now I am looking forward to taking the step up to Formula 1. I tested for a day with Toro Rosso last year and I liked the atmosphere in the team.

‘In the next few months I will be working hard on my preparation, ready to get in the cockpit in Jerez for the first test of next year. It will be nice to make my ‘official’ debut as a Formula 1 driver in my home country!’

It is clear for all to see that Sainz Jr is happy to have received the opportunity to drive for Toro Rosso next season which has been his dream for many years and to publically thank Red Bull for everything they have done for him to get to this point in his career is great to see.

As we all know, Sainz Jr has had a very good season this year especially being crowned Formula Renault 3.5 champion after an impressive showing and also being able to test for Toro Rosso and Red Bull and showing what he can do in a Formula One car and that has paid off him for him as a result.

As Sainz Jr says himself, his main objective is to work on preparing himself as best as he can for his first season in Formula One by working with the team very closely and getting ready to make his testing debut in Jerez test in the new year.

Toro Rosso Team Principal Franz Tost has welcomed the Spaniard’s signing, believing that while his line-up may be young, they have what it takes. In his interview with the media, Tost believes that signing Sainz Jr next season is the right thing to do and is pleased with how he has progressed during his career. Tost stated the following:-

‘With Carlos Sainz joining Max Verstappen in our driver line-up next year, we continue the Toro Rosso tradition of providing youngsters from the Red Bull Junior Driver Programme with their first steps in Formula 1.

‘I have watched Carlos progress through the junior categories, always improving as he moved higher up the ladder, culminating in a well-deserved win in this year’s World Series.

‘However, I also remember the day’s testing he did with us at Silverstone in 2013 in the STR8. He really surprised me and his engineers that day, with his mature approach and his speed.’

As Tost says himself, the Toro Rosso line up for next season will continue providing young drivers from the Red Bull programme the chance to show what they can do in Formula One. It is clear that Tost believes that the progression that Sainz Jr has made through the junior categories, especially this season in Formula Renault 3.5 and winning the series as well as his tests with the team have impressed them enough to sign him up for next season.

Even though I feel that the line up of Verstappen and Sainz Jr has the potential to move the team forward and could deliver the results that are expected of them, it could also be a line up that could deliver too. I am not saying that Verstappen or Sainz Jr are not talented enough to be there by any means because they are equally talented in their own rights.

But as we have seen over the past few seasons with the Red Bull Programme, if you cannot deliver when you get the chance, you are shown the door and I really hope that doesn’t happen to either driver and they are provided with the adequate time to seek and reach their potential within the sport.

But overall, the news of Sainz Jr signing to Toro Rosso was expected really. There is no question that he is talented enough to be there and has the potential to succeed in Formula One. Sainz Jr this season has took advantage of the opportunities he has been given and has delivered the goods.

He has now the opportunity to achieve his dream which is to drive in Formula One with the Toro Rosso team and the spotlight will be upon him to deliver and fulfil his potential on the track and repay the faith that Toro Rosso and Red Bull have entrusted in him. And if Sainz Jr is given the time to progress and develop, there is every chance that he will deliver once more and I really hope that is the case for him for as long as he is in Formula One, I really do.

Susie Wolff promoted to Williams Test Driver


It was announced later this week that Williams development driver Susie Wolff will step up to a test driver role at Williams and also contesting two Friday practice sessions in 2015.

With Williams’ 2014 test driver, Felipe Nasr signing with Sauber for next year’s Championship, Wolff has earned a promotion within the team.

The former development driver will not only be entrusted with conducting extensive simulator testing of the FW37 but will also take part in two Friday sessions in the Mercedes-powered car.

In a statement to the media later this week, Wolff stated the following about her promotion as test driver to the Williams team:-

‘This is another step in the right direction for me. I am delighted Williams are recognising my progression, hard work and that it is performance that counts.

‘Williams is at a very exciting stage in its history and we are moving into 2015 with fantastic momentum, I’m proud to be part of the team.

‘I’ll be using my position to work closely with Felipe and Valtteri to make sure that the FW37 builds on the strong performance shown by the FW36.’

It is great as a female Formula One fan seeing Wolff gaining a promotion within the Williams team as a result of her hard work and determination. It is another step in the right direction for her and her career in Formula One and with the knowledge and experience he has already gained this season with the team, this will only help her as she tackles her new role within the Williams team next season.

Overall with the direction that Williams have been going in for the past season, the team are making even more steps in the right direction to secure their future and also get back to the front of the grid once more. It is clear that Williams believe that Wolff deserves this promotion and also to acquire and use her experience within the team already to better effect next season and I believe that she will do very well as a result.

Even though there is still a long way for Wolff to go to achieve her dream of racing in Formula One, her promotion to a test driver is another step in the right direction for her. And she should be proud of what she has achieved with the Williams team and rightly so.

This will only encourage and inspire Wolff to use this opportunity to get to the next step with the Williams team which is to race for them. And I look forward to watching her progress with Williams next season and showing what she can do in a Formula One car.

Hulkenberg will drive Le Mans for Porsche next season


It was announced earlier this week that Force India driver Nico Hulkenberg will contest next year’s Le Mans 24 Hours having signed a deal with Porsche.

Aside from racing for Force India in Formula 1, the German will take to the track in the world’s most famous endurance race.

Hulkenberg, who will drive Porsche’s third 919 Hybrid entry, will also contest the Spa round of the World Endurance Championship in preparation for his Le Mans outing.

In a statement to the press earlier this week, Hulkenberg stated the following about driving for Porsche next season:-

‘Porsche and Le Mans – this combination probably attracts every race driver. I’ve been a Porsche fan for a long time and have been watching their return to the LMP1 class closely.

‘The desire grew to drive that car at Le Mans. I am very pleased the 2015 Formula 1 calendar allows for it and I’m grateful to my Force India Formula 1 team’s generosity to let me go for it. Now it’s up to me to work hard to satisfy both commitments.’

Overall, it is clear that Hulkenberg is happy and delighted to be racing for Porsche in Le Mans next season after looking closely at their progress closely. It is great that Force India have allowed Hulkenberg to take the opportunity alongside racing for the team next season and that racing for Porsche does not hinder his commitments in Formula One.

Even though many have been shocked by the news that Hulkenberg is driving for Le Mans alongside Formula One this season, I do believe that Hulkenberg will do very well and will equally share his attentions to both Le Mans and Formula One. And I really am looking forward to seeing what Hulkenberg can do in both series next season and I will be watching his progress closely.

Vergne to leave Toro Rosso

Jean-Eric Vergne - Lifestyle

It was announced this afternoon that Jean-Eric Vergne has confirmed he is leaving Toro Rosso.

Despite Toro Rosso already naming Max Verstappen as one of their two drivers for 2015, with the teenager poised to become the youngest driver in history when he debuts in March’s Australian GP at the age of 17.

The appointment of Daniil Kvyat as Sebastian Vettel’s successor at Red Bull had appeared to offer Vergne a lifeline at Toro Rosso following the team’s initial declaration that Kvyat and Verstappen would be their 2015 driver line-up.

Vergne finished the 2014 campaign a respectable 13th in the Drivers’ Championship after scoring 22 of Toro Rosso’s 30 points during the year. However, despite the 23-year-old’s strong finish to the season, it appears that Toro Rosso, Red Bull’s feeder team are intent on introducing another fresh face to the grid.

In a statement on his official Twitter account this morning, Vergne announced that he was departing Toro Rosso as follows:-

“Despite a good season & 22 pts, I’ll not drive anymore for Toro Rosso in 2015. Thanks for those years. Let’s go for another big challenge.”

Even though it is sad for Vergne to leave Toro Rosso in the fashion that he has, I have to say that I have been expecting this news. As I have argued over the season, I believe that Vergne is a talented driver but sadly through no fault of his own due to failures on the car occurring or not taking the opportunity to deliver or perform on the track when he could.

The Toro Rosso team revealed in October that they had drawn up a short-list of Vergne, Carlos Sainz Jr, Pierre Gastly or Alex Lynn to be Verstappen’s team-mate for 2015. And with the news that Vergne is departing the team and Sainz Jr having an impressive test session on Tuesday in Abu Dhabi, he is now looking the favourite to secure the drive after his success in the Formula Renault 3.5 series where he was champion, alongside Verstappen at Toro Rosso next season.

However, it has been made clear in the past few days that Williams have dismissed speculation that the Frenchman could join the team as their new third driver as a replacement for Felipe Nasr following the Brazilian’s promotion to a race seat at Sauber.

So this pegs the question; what is next for Vergne? I can see Vergne if he can still remaining in the sport as a reserve driver if the opportunity presented itself or even going to the WEC championship to drive for either Porsche or Toyota if the speculation appears to be true.

But overall despite knowing that Vergne was going to be leaving Toro Rosso at the end of the season, it is a shame that his career in Formula One could be potentially over in this way. I still Vergne has done enough in the second half of the season to stay with the team and is talented enough to be there, but it would appear that Toro Rosso feel that a new driver line up is needed to move the team into the future.

And I really hope that Vergne is given a chance in some capacity to remain in the sport as I feel with his experience he could have a lot to offer any team on the grid. But if not, then Vergne needs to select the options that are available to him that will allow him to go racing competitively and show the talent that got him into Formula One in the first place and I wish him the best of luck for the future in whatever he does.

2014 Formula One Post-season Test Session Review: Abu Dhabi


As I am sure you are all aware, this week has seen the return of the final season test of Formula One in 2014. And this is what every Formula One fan has been looking forward to since the end of the last in season test in Silverstone a few ago. Throughout two days at the final test of 2014 at Abu Dhabi this week, we have seen the teams and drivers pushing the limit and getting to grips with the new technical regulations and also testing their cars in preparation for the 2015 season.

There have been unexpected issues, reasons for concern and signs of promise for everyone down the field this week. Question is: who came out on top?

Day 1

Valtteri Bottas topped the timesheets on Day 1 of the Abu Dhabi Test

Valtteri Bottas topped the timesheets on Day 1 of the Abu Dhabi Test

On Day 1 of the Abu Dhabi test today, Williams driver Valtteri Bottas topped the first day of post-race testing in Abu Dhabi as the headline act which was McLaren’s Honda-powered MP4-29H1x1 only completed just three laps.

The two-day test at Yas Marina looked more like the start of the 2015 season than it did the end of the 2014 campaign, as McLaren made its public debut with Honda, Sebastian Vettel visited his new team Ferrari and Pirelli offered 2015 tyres for the teams to try out.

Stoffel Vandoorne running in the McLaren-Honda before

Stoffel Vandoorne running in the McLaren-Honda MP4-29 H1 x1 completing one of his three laps on the first day of the Abu Dhabi test.

McLaren’s first day of testing did not go to plan as the team spent the morning “triple checking” an electrical concern before hitting the track for the first time at 15:11pm. The interim car, which has been re-engineered to run the Honda power unit and its ancillaries did complete its installation lap under its own power but stopped on track during the first lap of its second run.

However, GP2 runner-up and McLaren development driver Stoffel Vandoorne made it out for one final lap in the last hour of the session to bring the total for the day to three. The problems were reminiscent of those suffered by several teams during the early days of testing this season in Jerez and Bahrain. Nevertheless despite the limited running, McLaren reported they have made ‘lots of progress’ from the first day of testing regardless.

Bottas’ fastest time of 1:43.396 which was set in the final 20 minutes of the session, means very little for this year or next and was over three seconds off the pace of Nico Rosberg’s qualifying lap for last weekend’s Abu Dhabi GP. It was however, enough to beat Kimi Raikkonen who finished in second place and was 0.492s behind the Williams driver as the Ferrari driver completed a day in the cockpit with future team-mate Vettel watching on from the pit wall.

New Ferrari driver Vettel had hoped to test for his new team this week, but his Red Bull contract stopped him from doing so. The German made the most of the opportunity to familiarise himself with his new colleagues, whilst also listening in on the radio as he prepares for his new life in 2015. Interestingly, Ferrari ran with temperature sensors on their front tyres for part of the day which could be perhaps partly due to Raikkonen’s season-long struggles with the car.

Nico Rosberg ended the session in third place while GP2 Champion Jolyon Palmer got his first experience of an F1 car, but his running was also limited by reliability issues but still managed to finish fourth in the session. What Force India described to the press as a “small engine issue” that limited his running in the morning then came up again as Palmer was again forced to stop on track in the afternoon due to “technical issues.”

Palmer did manage to produce some quick laps late in the day though, to leap up the timesheets finishing the day fourth quickest with a best time of 1:44.516 after completing a total of 37 laps in the session.

Red Bull driver Carlos Sainz Jr put in an impressive display for Red Bull as he stakes a claim for a Toro Rosso seat in 2015 by finishing the session in fifth place. The newly-crowned Formula Renault 3.5 Champion is thought to be under serious consideration to fill the void left by Daniil Kvyat’s promotion to Red Bull and could gain the seat from current driver Jean-Eric Vergne who could also be retained by the team despite his contract being terminated a few months ago by the Toro Rosso team.

Will Stevens who got to race for Caterham on Sunday at Abu Dhabi with ex driver Marcus Ericsson cutting all ties to the team got more experience today in the car today by running over 100 laps in the test and finished the session in sixth place even though his future in the sport is still looking in doubt.

Lotus test driver Charles Pic finished the session in seventh place ahead of Sauber Marcus Ericsson made his debut for Sauber having severed his ties to Caterham ahead of the Abu Dhabi GP and finished the session in eighth place ahead of Toro Rosso rookie Max Verstappen who gained more valuable mileage ahead of his F1 debut in Australia next March.

Max Verstappen ended his session at the first day of the Abu Dhabi test due to

Max Verstappen ended his session at the first day of the Abu Dhabi test due to crashing into the barriers.

But Verstappen’s his day wasn’t without incident as the 17-year-old planted his STR9 in the barriers and the Dutchman finished the day in ninth place ahead of McLaren development driver Stoffel Vandoorne in tenth place.

Day One timesheet:-
1. Valtteri Bottas, Williams-Mercedes 80 laps 1:43.396
2. Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari 80 laps 1:43.888
3. Nico Rosberg, Mercedes 114 laps 1:44.512
4. Jolyon Palmer, Force India-Mercedes 19 laps 1:44.516
5. Carlos Sainz Jr, Red Bull-Renault 36 laps 1:45.339
6. Will Stevens, Caterham-Renault 99 laps 1:45.436
7. Charles Pic, Lotus-Renault 101 laps 1:46.167
8. Marcus Ericsson, Sauber-Ferrari 95 laps 1:46.253
9. Max Verstappen, Toro Rosso-Renault 55 laps 1:47.194
10. Stoffel Vandoorne, McLaren-Honda 3 laps No time

Day 2

Pascal Wehrelin tops the timesheets on the final day of the Abu Dhabi test.

Pascal Wehrelin tops the timesheets on the final day of the Abu Dhabi test.

On the final day of the Abu Dhabi test today, Mercedes’ reserve driver Pascal Wehrlein topped the timesheets on the final day of Abu Dhabi’s post-season test ahead of Ferrari Academy driver Raffele Marciello in second place and Toro Rosso rookie Max Verstappen in third place.

Once again, McLaren struggled to cover any significant mileage with its new Honda power unit as it struggled to identify an electrical gremlin for the entire morning. It eventually broke cover at 16:30pm and completed one lap under its own power before a second attempt only made it as far as the second sector.

McLaren Racing Director Eric Boullier has insisted to the media today that McLaren was treating any track time as a bonus this week in the Abu Dhabi test as it looks to the long winter break to solve its issues before hitting the track again in February in Jerez.

Behind the wheel of the dominant W05-Hybrid, Wehrlein clocked a 1:44.050 to leave the Mercedes team in the position it has become accustomed to for the majority of year. The 20-year-old German drives for Mercedes in DTM currently and joined the team as its reserve in September. His lap came late in the day and was 0.584s faster than his nearest rival Marciello.

GP2 driver Raffele Marciello was second fastest in the Ferrari as he took over testing duties from Kimi Raikkonen. As we all know, Marciello is a member of the Ferrari Driver Academy and completed a total of 86 laps in his first outing in a current F1 car to jump ahead of Max Verstappen in third place.

After a suspension failure caused him to crash on Tuesday, Verstappen completed 78 laps in the Toro Rosso on Wednesday to help prepare him ahead of his first full season in F1 at the age of 17 in 2015.

Marcus Ericsson topped off his two days of testing with his new Sauber team with the fourth fastest time. After completing over 100 laps of running in today’s session, the ex-Caterham driver set about chasing lap times at the end of the session and managed to claim fourth in the final laps of the session.

Caterham brought its 2014 season and possibly its time in Formula One to a close with the fifth fastest time. The team’s one-off Abu Dhabi GP race driver, Will Stevens, completed his second day at the wheel by finishing the session in fifth place and added 76 laps of valuable F1 experience to his CV before the car came to a halt in the afternoon.

F3 driver Spike Goddard made his F1 debut in the Force India and completed 87 laps and finished in sixth place ahead of Red Bull race driver Daniel Ricciardo who completed 88 laps in the familiar surroundings of his Red Bull who ended the session in seventh place.

His day came to an early end when the car caught fire with around two hours remaining, but Ricciardo was soon back in the garage laughing and joking with his mechanics.

Felipe Nasr signed off his last day as a Williams reserve driver with 83 laps and finished the session in eighth place before he moves to Sauber next year as a race driver. GP3 champion Alex Lynn completed an afternoon in the Lotus with 52 laps and ended his session in ninth place after being handed the car by F3 champion Esteban Ocon, who completed 34 laps in the morning and ended the session in tenth place ahead of Stoffel Vandoorne who ended the session in eleventh place and did not set a time

Day Two Timesheets:-

  1. Pascal Wehrlien, Mercedes 96 laps 1:42.624
  2. Raffaele Marciello, Ferrari 90 laps 1:43.208
  3. Max Verstappen, Toro Rosso 78 laps 1:43.763
  4. Marcus Ericsson, Sauber-Ferrari 112 laps 1:44.551
  5. Will Stevens, Caterham-Renault 36 laps 1:44.888
  6. Spike Goddard, Force India-Mercedes 89 laps 1:44.944
  7. Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull-Renault 101 laps 1:45.151
  8. Felipe Nasr, Williams-Mercedes 95 laps 1:45.937
  9. Alex Lynn, Lotus 52 laps 1:46.168
  10. Esteban Ocon, Lotus 34 laps 47.013
  11. Stoffel Vandoorne, McLaren-Mercedes 2 laps No Time

The final in-season test at Abu Dhabi has produced some interesting results. Many Formula One fans were looking forward to seeing how the teams and the drivers would get on with the challenges that the new regulations will be bring. And in my view, it is a mixed bag.

We have seen Mercedes showing that even though they wasn’t dominant during the two days that they are the team to beat still. And yes, it will bring them a crucial advantage in terms of how to improve the W05 in preparation for the 2015 season.

Sauber, Lotus, Force India and Toro Rosso will once again use the mileage that they have gained from the test in order to improve their cars before next season which will help them progress with their cars. And Caterham despite their problems have also gained some much needed data that will allow them to try and improve their car if they gain new investment that seems them racing in 2015.

Red Bull, McLaren, Williams and Ferrari and their performances have at least indicated that they are on the right track with developing and improving their cars further and have managed to gain invaluable track time that will no doubt push all four teams to improve their cars further and get back to competitive ways for next season.

But the final question that everyone will be asking once again is will Mercedes once again show the rest of the field even more pace with their W05 to keep the winning streak going as we head into the 2015 season? We can only wait and see.

Lynn gets Formula One test debut with Lotus


It was announced this morning that newly-crowned GP3 champion Alex Lynn will make his Formula 1 test debut with Lotus during the second day of post-season running in Abu Dhabi.

The British racer will share driving duties with Lotus F1 junior Esteban Ocon, taking over from the reigning European Formula 3 champion on Wednesday afternoon.

Red Bull Junior Lynn, who clinched the GP 3 title at the Abu Dhabi finale last weekend said that the Lotus team had approached him during last Sunday’s Grand Prix at the Yas Marina circuit.

In his interview with the media today, Lynn has said that Red Bull’s decision to hand Max Verstappen two days of testing at Toro Rosso meant it had given its blessing for him to test elsewhere. Lynn stated the following:-

‘Helmut [Marko] informed me Max would be driving both days [in the Toro Rosso] so obviously there was no space for me in any of the Red Bull cars. On Sunday I got asked to have a go in the Lotus for an afternoon. I don’t expect it to go anywhere [with the team]. Honestly, it’s just going to be a taster. I feel really lucky. If I can do 35-40 laps I’d be happy with that.

‘The first thing is completing a dream I’ve had since I started racing, which is to drive a contemporary F1 car. I’ve got no expectations; I’m just going to go out there and do my best. We haven’t done any preparation, because it was so last-minute, and the engineers aren’t expecting anything, they just want to see how I get on.’

As you would expect, Verstappen would be needed by Toro Rosso to test for them over the two years in order to give him preparation for when he joins the grid in Australia next March for his debut in the sport. But to be asked by Lotus to participate in the test on Wednesday and Red Bull granting Lynn permission to take up the chance is great for Lynn.

It is clear that Lynn is extremely happy to have been given the chance by the Lotus team and also by Red Bull to gain more experience in a Formula One car in the test on Wednesday. Of course this would have been Lynn’s dream and he deserves the chance to show what he can do in a Formula One car after his success in claiming the GP3 title this season.

I should also point out that Lynn is also set to test for BMW’s DTM squad next week, at the behest of Red Bull and I am sure that at this moment in time that Lynn will have a range of options open to him and with the help of Red Bull, select the best option for his career.

Even though Lynn hasn’t had much preparation, he will ultimately do his best in the test on Wednesday and will try to extract the pace and performance from the car to get the best possible result that he can. But what is clear is that Lynn will be doing everything possible to achieve this and ultimately show the talent that won him the GP3 title this season and to be signed by Red Bull as part of their driver programme.

And I am looking forward to seeing how Lynn performs in the test on Wednesday with Lotus and seeing his dream coming true of gaining experience in Formula One that will help him a driver and also his career in the process too.