Monthly Archives: December 2015

Classic #jonesonf1: The 1997 Monaco Grand Prix

The most iconic picture of the 1997 Monaco GP. All rights reserved to Getty Images and Bongarts.

The most iconic picture of the 1997 Monaco GP. All rights reserved to Getty Images and Bongarts.

The Monaco Grand Prix: Round 5 of 17 in the 1997 Formula One World Championship. Heading into the race, Williams driver Jacques Villeneuve led the Driver’s Championship by 20 points ahead of Ferrari driver Michael Schumacher in second place with 14 points and ahead of Williams driver Heinz-Harald Frentzen in third place with 10 points.

Heinz-Harald Frentzen takes Pole Position for the 1997 Monaco GP.

Heinz-Harald Frentzen takes Pole Position for the 1997 Monaco GP.

Qualifying saw Heinz-Harald Frenzten claiming Pole Position for the Monaco Grand Prix ahead of Michael Schumacher in second place and his team mate Jacques Villeneuve in third place and Jordan-Peugeot driver Giancarlo Fisichela in fourth place.

David Coulthard qualified in fifth place ahead of Ralf Schumacher in sixth place, Johnny Herbert in seventh place, Mika Hakkinen in eighth place, Jean Alesi in ninth place and Rubens Barrichello who rounded off the top ten finishers.

On race day on Sunday, the warm-up session was dry, with Williams taking first and second places. But about 30 minutes to go before the start, rain began to fall; Williams decided to run both cars with dry tyres, thinking the weather would improve, while Michael Schumacher set the car for intermediate weather conditions.

Rubens Barrichello in second place in the early stages of the 1997 Monaco GP.

Rubens Barrichello in second place in the early stages of the 1997 Monaco GP.

During the warm up lap, the weather worsened, and at the start, Schumacher was quickest. He led by 22 seconds on Lap 5. Behind him the Jordans, which both had the car set for rain took second and third spots; until they were both passed by Rubens Barrichello in his Stewart-Ford (who benefitted from the Bridgestone tyres which were better than Goodyear’s under the conditions).

The start of the race was catastrophic for the Arrows team as their driver Pedro Diniz who had opted to start the race on slick tyres, slid straight into the wall on the opening lap, while Diniz’ team-mate reigning Champion Damon Hill was involved in a collision with Mika Hakkinen’s McLaren on the second lap, therefore eliminating both cars on the spot.

Heinz-Harald Frentzen before retiring on Lap of the 1997 Monaco GP

Heinz-Harald Frentzen before retiring on Lap 17 of the 1997 Monaco GP

Both Willams drivers went out of the race after they had to pit to change their tyres. Frentzen hit a barrier at the chicane on Lap 39, while Villeneuve hit a wall and had to retire on Lap 17.

Michael Schumacher heading to win the 1997 Monaco GP. All rights reserved to All Sports and Mike Hewitt.

Michael Schumacher heading to win the 1997 Monaco GP. All rights reserved to All Sports and Mike Hewitt.

Schumacher continued to build his lead until he had about 30 seconds advantage over Barrichello; then he backed off and began to maintain the gap. He made an error on Lap 53 at the Sainte Devote corner, in which he went down the escape road and lost 10 seconds, but did not lose his lead.

Michael Schumacher wins the 1997 Monaco GP ahead of Rubens Barrichello in second place and Eddie Irvine in third place. All rights reserved to Getty Images and Bongarts.

Michael Schumacher wins the 1997 Monaco GP ahead of Rubens Barrichello in second place and Eddie Irvine in third place. All rights reserved to Getty Images and Bongarts.

The race was stopped on Lap 62 instead of the 78 scheduled because of the time limit of 2 hours, and Schumacher won with a 53-second margin over Barrichello in second place. Eddie Irvine finished third after overtaking Olivier Panis who exacted some measure of revenge for Panis’ overtaking manoeuvre that had seen him get past Irvine a year earlier.

Mika Salo on his way to a points finish in the 1997 Monaco GP.

Mika Salo on his way to a points finish in the 1997 Monaco GP.

After losing third place to Irvine, Panis backed off in the closing stages and settled for fourth place. Mika Salo finished fifth despite denting his front wing on debris left from his incident involving Hakkinen accident early on, and also despite not making a single pit stop during the race. Jordan’s Giancarlo Fisichella finished in sixth place; who at one point was running as high as second place in the race.

The 1997 Monaco Grand Prix will always be remembered for the gap that Schumacher won the race comfortably, with a gap of 53 seconds from Barrichello who scored the first podium slot for the Stewart team in only their 5th Grand Prix. This was a fantastic achievement for Schumacher who achieved the first win for a Ferrari driver since the 1981 GP and also for Barrichello who showed that the Steward-Ford team exceeded the low expectations that many pundits had for them in their first season competing in the sport.

It is also worth mentioning that this race saw Salo scoring points and being the only driver to without making a pit stop for tyres, Frentzen score his first Pole Position in F1, Tyrell taking their final points in the sport, the last race of Nicola Larini and also the last race that both Stewarts finished a race together in the 1997 season.

And as the 1997 World Championship continued at the Circuit de Barcelona circuit in Spain, Michael Schumacher still lead the Driver’s Championship with 24 points ahead of Jacques Villeneuve with 20 points and Eddie Irvine moving into third place with 14 points in third place.

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Highlight of F1 2015: Sauber’s driver situation hiccup in Melbourne

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This article is a bit special; my 1,500th blog post for Jones on F1. I started the 2015 season with just over 500 blog posts and targeted myself to get to this point. Now that I have; what can I say? Big thanks to my Promotional Partners; Duurt, Sarah, Paul, Jon and Ben, Phil at Driving for Pleasure, the PSR Family and more importantly you guys for sharing and reading my work; its much appreciated.

Here we go with my 1,500th post…

When I say this is a “highlight”, it is a highlight for all the wrong reasons and showed that even F1 teams can get themselves in a legal mess, even if your Team Principal has a law degree. Yes, this is a look back on Sauber’s driver situation that surfaced at the Australian GP at the start of the season.

Looking at the team’s results last year, it is hard to imagine that Sauber failed to score any points in the 2014 season. Even at the start of pre-season testing, Sauber appeared to have improved in the pre-season tests even though the tests do not reveal too much about the true performance respective to the rest of the field.

Going into the new season, perhaps Australia was the best chance for the Sauber team to collect points as pre-season testing showed that they had a strong foundation on which to build the C34 on from the C33. But before the season could even begin for them, the Sauber team found themselves embroiled in a legal battle with former test driver and ex Caterham driver Gideo van der Garde.

Over the course of the race weekend in Melbourne, Gideo van der Garde won his legal case against the Sauber team after the Supreme Court of Victoria upheld his claim that he should race at the event that was brought before a court in Switzerland previously.

Van der Garde sought legal action rightly against the team after he believed that the team had breached his contract that was signed last season by signing former Caterham driver Marcus Ericsson and former Williams Test driver Felipe Nasr for this season.

With the Sauber team appealing the case yet again during the space of a few days and believing that there wasn’t enough sufficient time for Van der Garde to have a car that would fully prepared to race for him in Australia; Judge Croft stated that Sauber had to provide van der Garde a car after ruling in favour of van der Garde.

This then resulted in Sauber and Van der Garde talking behind the scenes where a settlement was reached (which is rumoured that Gideo received a £11 million payout as compensation) which allowed Nasr and Ericsson to participate in the weekend as planned.

As a result of what happened over the weekend, Sauber scored their first points of the season with Nasr finishing in fifth place in his first ever F1 race and the team’s best finish of the year and Ericsson scoring his first ever points with an eighth place finish.

But what this saga highlighted was just the complex situation regarding drivers and their contracts. No one could quite believe just how bad of a situation Sauber found themselves into and they didn’t need it especially given their fragile financial status that has been well documented.

But what we have learnt from this; do not trust Monisha Kaltenborn with contracts and also that you need a law degree to decipher an Formula One Drivers contract and that Van der Garde proved his case in the correct manner using the correct legal channels and showed that he is more intelligent than many gave him credit for.

What were your thoughts on this situation? Do you agree with me? Love to hear your thoughts on the subject!

Highlight of F1 2015: Red Bull’s lonely hearts advertisement

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My second highlight of the 2015 Formula One season was when Red Bull Racing in a bid to secure an new engine partner for the 2016 season after a public break up with former partner Renault decided to place a “lonely hearts ad” on Twitter to advertise for a new engine partner.

When Red Bull entered the sport in 2005, it made an impression on the paddock through its lively approach to marketing, the fun-loving attitude and ‘extreme’ image that successfully transformed a sickly energy drink into a multi-billion pound brand reflecting on the team in those first years…

However, the ‘tongue-in-cheek’ approach that once had Christian Horner jumping naked into Monaco Harbour and the team issue a race preview that simply criticised the French, has dissipated over the years, the seriousness growing with the trophy count.

Even so, as Red Bull wasn’t as competitive as many thought they would be this season with more headlines being generated off-track, it still showed a bit of the GSOH that it made such an impression with ten years ago as it made light of a serious situation with a ‘lonely car’ advert on the look-out for a new engine partner as follows:-

It was announced after the pre-season test in Abu Dhabi that Red Bull would eventually continue with Renault power, but the power unit will be named TAG-Heuer and the four-time title winning team will take charge of development.

Is this one of your favourite highlights from this season? If not, comment below with yours!

Sirotkin offered a number of F1 test roles for the 2016 season

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In an interview with the media today, ex Sauber reserve driver Sergey Sirotkin says he has been offered a number of test driver roles in F1 for the 2016 season.

The former Sauber reserve driver raced in GP2 for the first time in 2015, finishing third in the drivers’ championship after an impressive rookie campaign. Having been with Sauber until the end of 2014, Sirotkin now says in his interview today that he has the opportunity to work with F1 teams again next season. He stated the following:-

‘We have a definite offer, and not just one, but we all understand what it rests upon. If we find the required financial support, maybe I’ll be a test driver in F1. There is an opportunity, and perhaps we’re even closer to this goal than some others.’

Further on in his interview today, Sirotkin says he will definitely stay in GP2 in 2016, with Arden a potential destination for him having driven for Rapax this season. He added the following:-

‘I am glad that I will continue to race in GP2 but, regarding Arden, I hope to announce something soon as negotiations are underway. All I can say is that, next season, my goal is the title – after third place there can be nothing else to aim for.

‘We had a great season [in 2015]. The series this year was extremely competitive but the first stage did not work for technical reasons and we lost a lot of points. However, when everything went into the rhythm over [the final] two-thirds of the championship, our car was one of the strongest and, in the end, we were very good.’

Hulkenberg: We need to target Williams next year

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In an interview with the media today, Nico Hulkenberg says Force India needs to make Williams its target in 2016.

Force India scored its best ever constructors’ championship result this season by finishing fifth in the standings, aided by the introduction of its impressive B-spec car at the British Grand Prix. With Williams also a Mercedes customer, Hulkenberg says today in his interview that Force India should be looking to emulate the team which has finished third in the constructors’ for the past two seasons. Hulkenberg stated the following:-

‘Of course, if you look at Ferrari and Mercedes then of course it’s a big gap. But I think we need to target the likes of Williams, step-by-step trying to close it and putting ourselves in a better position.

‘It’s quite remarkable with the B-spec car I think either me or Checo [Perez] have scored pretty much points in every race. Whatever the circuit characteristics was the car was competitive and we were able to score points on merit from our own strengths so I think that’s pretty good.

Further on in his interview today, Hulkenberg believes Force India already has the capacity to move further up the grid despite operating on a much smaller budget than the teams at the front. Hulkenberg added the following:-

‘We just need to take the next step. Nobody says it’s going to be easy, for sure it is going to be tough because nobody stands still but we’re competitive as well and I have faith in the team back at base in Silverstone that they can find more performance.’

Nasr: 2016 Sauber will look “very different”

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In an interview with the media yesterday, Felipe Nasr believes that the Sauber team have taken a more aggressive approach to their 2016 car in order to make a much needed leap forward.

This season saw Nasr in his first season in F1 contributed 27 points to Sauber’s 36 point total in 2015, putting them a distant eighth behind Toro Rosso and just ahead of the struggling McLaren-Honda partnership.

Looking ahead to 2016, Nasr revealed in his interview yesterday that the team have taken the decision to follow a radical development path, rather than an evolution of the current C34. Nasr stated the following:-

‘So far they [the team] have been very realistic on the things we are trying to work on and all I can say is the concept looks very different on the car. This year’s and last year’s car look similar on the concept side, but next year we are playing a little bit more aggressive.

‘If we kept on developing the car we have now, there’s little steps we can make. That’s why we are taking this different approach for 2016.’

However further on in his interview, Nasr does expect massive gains, but a “decent step” forward would be good for him and the team. Nasr added the following:- s

‘I think I expect a step forward. We all understand where the car needs to be improved, we know the areas we have to work on, but it’s difficult to turn things upside down and suddenly have a winning car. This is not going to happen. I’m confident we are going to make a decent step.’

COTA receives a boost following discovering a funding letter

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It was revealed yesterday that the United States Grand Prix held at the Circuit of the Americas in Texas has received fresh hope that its future could be secured, following the discovery of a letter guaranteeing its state funding.

Just two weeks after the 2015 event, the new government informed circuit bosses that it would cut its contribution from $25 million annually to just $19.5m, creating a massive funding shortfall.

COTA Chairman, Bobby Epstein admitted at the time that they were “screwed” and hinted that they might take legal action against the local government, believing they had a ten-year funding guarantee.

But it has been revealed yesterday that a letter from former state comptroller Susan Combs has now emerged, which proves that guarantee exists and was announced in Forbes as follows:-

‘In response to the requirements of the race promotion contract for the Formula 1 United States Grand Prix in Texas, I hereby certify the following: With the understanding that the first Formula 1 United States Grand Prix race will be held in Texas in 2012, full funding of the entire sanction for 2012 will be paid to Formula One World Championship Limited (‘FOWC’) no later than July 31st, 2011.

‘In subsequent years, two through ten, of the race promotion contract, i.e. 2013 through 2021, we will be sending $25 million dollars to FOWC by the end of July 31st of each year preceding the actual race event.’

Whilst the government may have changed how it funds the GP, a court of law could force them to honour the letter, which would be a huge boost for the event which is currently subject to confirmation on the 2016 calendar. But all we can do at the moment is hope that this letter is valid and we see COTA on the grid for the foreseeable future.