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.

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.

Abiteboul: 2016 will be a transitional year for Renault

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In an interview with the media today, Renault Sport boss Cyril Abiteboul has stated that the 2016 season will be “transitional” year for the manufacturer as they get to grips with being a works team in the sport once again.

As we already know for the 2016 season, Renault will return as a fully fledged manufacturer after a takeover of the Lotus team. This was confirmed after Renault signed a letter of intent before the end of the season to buy back a controlling stake in the Lotus F1 team and that deal was completed just before Christmas.

At a time when Formula One appears in crisis with engine manufacturers Ferrari and Mercedes dominating the sport, news of Renault’s exit would have hurt the sport immeasurably. But in his interview with the media today, Abiteboul has stated that the expectation levels for 2016 are low for Renault. Abiteboul stated the following:-

‘The target for next year, it is not just about scoring points in the championship. If that is your question, we need to be humble in our expectations for next year.’

I think Abiteboul is right to state what he has as let’s face it they have a lot of ground to cover to even think about competing with Ferrari and Mercedes and the first step of that is building a solid foundation for the team to plan and build on for the future.

Further on in his interview with the media today, Abiteboul has also stated that integrating the business will have to be one of the first steps with the chassis base in Enstone and the engine base in Viry-Chatillon near Paris. Abiteboul added the following:-

‘There are many things that we want to do well next year, starting with the structure, How well do we integrate the structure? How do we integrate the people, the organisation? How do we put in place the links between the two entities? The culture, the mindset? How do we start catching up properly on the engine?’

Abiteboul is right with what he says as after all, if cannot get everyone working on the same page and to the same goals; what is the purpose of Renault being there? That has to be a key element for Renault next season as without this; they will not get back to competitive ways and also they will remain in the position that they are in now.

With reports in the paddock have suggested that former Mercedes and Renault technical director Bob Bell has already unofficially been overseeing the integration of engine and chassis departments. Meanwhile, British engine builder Ilmor, who will be working with Red Bull Racing on their newly branded Tag engines [which will remain Renault’s in all but name] will also work with Renault to enhance its power-unit development.

When asked about this subject further today, Abiteboul stated the following about this:-

‘We have been very successful in F1 with Red Bull, we have been successful as a competitive team before and, from a marketing stand point and connection between F1 and the rest of the business, we have never been so strong. That is really important, as that is what will give us the stability so that we have the capacity – the financial capacity and also the time – to become one of the big boys.’

It is clear from what Abiteboul has stated in his interview today that even though 2016 will be a year for Renault to get to grips once again with running their own team and making sure that they have everything they need in place to be competitive, it will be tough for them. With their history in the sport, they have shown that they have got what it takes to win in the sport and be successful.

But what they need to remember is that they will have to take the adequate time and preparation to get there and make sure that the team gets to that position as quickly as possible and try and start their first season in 2016 the best possible way; even if expectations are rightly in my view low.

Marchionne: Supplying Red Bull would have been “dangerous”

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In an interview with the media today, Ferrari president Sergio Marchionne says supplying Red Bull with an engine would have been “dangerous” to the Italian team.

Red Bull spent much of 2015 in search of an alternative power unit supplier for next season after falling out with Renault. After talks with Mercedes fell through Red Bull turned to Ferrari, who considered the partnership and the demands for engine parity before opting against it.

McLaren then vetoed a potential tie-up between Red Bull and Honda before the Milton Keynes team agreed a deal to continue using Renault engines with TAG Heuer branding for 2016.

When asked to explain the reasoning behind Ferrari turning down Red Bull in his interview with the media today, Marchionne said the following:-

‘We had to cope with some uncertainties of our own architecture and we had to bridge the technological gap. So committing to providing an equivalent power unit to a team that has a chassis design technical ability to compete could have been dangerous to Ferrari’s competitiveness.’

Further on in his interview today, Marchionne does not believe there is any benefit for Ferrari if it spends hundreds of millions on a power unit, only for someone else to use that to win a championship. Marchionne added the following:-

‘My main commitment is to support and protect Ferrari. I’m not interested in defeating Mercedes with Red Bull. If someone says let’s use Ferrari’s engine so we can defeat Mercedes, I’m not interested in that argument. I want Ferrari to win. We know Red Bull’s abilities are good, they destroyed us with Sebastian Vettel and the championships they won.

‘If we look at Red Bull investing important amounts into their chassis development and then we equip them with a power unit at a certain price reflecting much higher investment than what they pay for, it’s inequality on the track. We’re not interested in that.’

Maldonado: Palmer is ready for F1

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In an interview with Autosport yesterday, Pastor Maldonado believes that his new team mate Jolyon Palmer is ready to make the step up to a Formula 1 race seat after spending a year as Lotus’s reserve driver.

The 2014 GP2 champion took part in first practice at 13 of the 19 grands prix in 2015 and will replace Romain Grosjean, who leaves Lotus to join the American outfit Haas.

Renault confirmed earlier this month that it has bought out the Lotus team; bringing to an end months of speculation.

While Maldonado is unsure how much running in first practice will actually help Palmer, because the conditions are so unrepresentative, he’s sure Palmer will be strong. In his interview with Autosport yesterday, Maldonado stated the following:-

‘It’s always difficult because he has been running this year on most of the Fridays but always with the harder compounds on a very green track and that is the worst moment of the weekend.

‘He’s a good driver, he’s very intelligent and I wish him the best. I think he is ready. I hope he pushes hard with me to put the team in a good place. Spending the year with Lotus, it will help him from one side because he knows everyone, he knows how we work.

‘Of course he is not experienced racing in Formula 1, he is not experienced having time to set up the car but that will come. If you are clever and do your job with the guys, this will come automatically. He needs some time to adapt himself to the races, too.’