Monday, 31 March 2014

Van Der Garde to make Sauber debut on Friday

(Sauber F1 Team)
The Sauber F1 Team confirmed today that test driver Giedo Van Der Garde will make his test debut for the Swiss outfit during the First Free Practice for the Bahrain Grand Prix on Friday.
The Dutch driver who lost his Caterham race seat at the end of last season will fill in for regular race driver Esteban Gutierrez ahead of Sunday's race at the Sakhir circuit. It will be the first time that Van Der Garde will get drive the new era of 1.6 litre V6 turbo charged power unit.
The team also confirmed today that their Russian rookie Sergey Siroktin will drive for them on the first day of the in-season test which takes place next Tuesday and Wednesday. The Russian will drive the C33 in order to obtain his mandatory FIA Super Licence before heading over the car to Van Der Garde for the second day.
©Ben Johnston 2014

Red Bull drivers free to express themselves

(Eric Vargiolu - DPPI for Renault Sport F1)
Red Bull boss Christian Horner has defended reigning world champion Sebastian Vettel after the German came in for criticism over the Malaysian Grand Prix weekend for calling the new sound of the 1.6 litre turbo power units 'shit'
McLaren's Jenson Button was very vocal in his defence of the new sound by saying that if the drivers don't like the new sound of Formula One that they should go off and race something else. Meanwhile Mercedes AMG F1 Team Non Executive director Niki Lauda stated that criticism of the new engines is 'stupid and unprofessional'.
However, speaking to the BBC over the weekend Horner applauded his reigning world champion when he said: 'No-one has spoken to me about it over the weekend, he should be applauded for saying what he thinks'.
'Sebastian has expressed his opinion and I don't think anyone would blame a driver for making an opinion.'
Horner went on to say that the philosophy within Red Bull Racing has always been to allow their drivers freedom of expression. A spokesperson for the FIA has denied that president Jean Todt had told Vettel to tone down the bad language.
©Ben Johnston 2014

Sunday, 30 March 2014

Raikkonen unhappy with Magnussen

(Scuderia Ferrari via Twitter)
Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen was left disappointed after an earlier puncture left the Finn out of contention for a strong result in Sunday's Malaysian Grand Prix. Raikkonen was involved in an incident with McLaren's Kevin Magnussen and had to make an early pit-stop which left the 2007 champion languishing down at the back of the back. Following a strong result in qualifying he felt a podium could have been a possibility. Speaking after the race Raikkonen said:
'I don't know much about it, all I know his front wing hit me on my wheel but I didn't feel anything, so I have no idea when it was. Obviously it destroyed our race, not very good for us but I can't say much as I have not seen it.
Despite the problems in the race in Malaysia, Raikkonen is confident that the upgrades to the F14T that are scheduled for the race in Bahrain next weekend will help the team to move forward. He said:
'Hopefully next race we will have some new parts for the car I have been asking for and hopefully it makes a change in a nice way, hopefully the front end will feel nicer. We will have to wait and see how we do on Friday there.
I know on the test there was a some difficulties with handling but hopefully the new parts can sort that out. The new updates should make us a bit happier with the front end. It's a new part and we don't know if it will do what we expect. We have a good understanding of where we want to go and what to do. I expect if we make that happen we can go much faster, but how quickly we can do that we will see. All the good things we did a lot better here so we are going in the right direction
I know on the test there was a some difficulties with handling but hopefully the new parts can sort that out. The new updates should make us a bit happier with the front end. It's a new part and we don't know if it will do what we expect. We have a good understanding of where we want to go and what to do. I expect if we make that happen we can go much faster, but how quickly we can do that we will see. All the good things we did a lot better here so we are going in the right direction
I know on the test there was a some difficulties with handling but hopefully the new parts can sort that out. The new updates should make us a bit happier with the front end. It's a new part and we don't know if it will do what we expect. We have a good understanding of where we want to go and what to do. I expect if we make that happen we can go much faster, but how quickly we can do that we will see. All the good things we did a lot better here so we are going in the right direction
Despite Raikkonen unfortunate race, team mate Fernando Alonso had a solid race. The Spaniard finished the race where he started in fourth place just behind Sebastian Vettel's Red Bull and just ahead of Force India's Nico Hulkenberg.
As the team's head to the Sakhir circuit in Bahrain for next weekends race Ferrari are currently third in the Constructors championship with 30 points. The Italian team will be hoping that they can extract the maximum performance from the F14T next time out as they attempt to close the gap to Mercedes and McLaren in the Constructors standing's. The team have always had good results in Bahrain and will be hoping for the same this season.
We'll just have to wait and see what happens next weekend. The team can be confident however that they are certainly heading in the right direction in terms of the development of the car.
©Ben Johnston 2014

From 18th to 8th the Williams revival continues

(Williams Martini Racing)
Claire Williams assertion that the Williams Martini Racing Team should aim for points in every race proved to be correct in Sepang as both Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas brought their cars home in the points scoring the teams first double points finish of the season. For Bottas, it was particularly impressive as he carved his way through the field from 18th to finish just behind Massa.
Massa did a great job in fending off the pressure from Bottas who was faster then him in the latter stages of the race. The fact that the team were able to get both cars to the finish and in the points is testament to all the hard work that Claire and her team have done behind the scene's at the Grove based team over the Winter.
Williams are currently in fourth place in the Constructors championship with 20 points just ten behind Ferrari.
The team have a brand new engine supplier in Mercedes and of course they have more financial resources thanks to their new title sponsorship deal with Martini. They also have a new sponsorship deal with the Petrobas oil firm.
It is fantastic to see that the team are doing so well and we are only two race's into the new season. The team could be on for a number of podium's maybe even a win this season. That win could even as soon as next weekend's Bahrain GrandPrix at the Sakhir circuit. During the final day of winter testing in Bahrain Felipe Massa set the fastest time of the entire winter test at the Bahrain International Circuit.
It would certainly appear that the FW36 is well extremely well suited to the characteristics of the circuit. Their car has also shown fantastic reliability and Felipe Massa was just extremely unlucky to have been forced to retire from the opening race of the season through no fault of his own.
The Ferrari team are the only non Mercedes powered outfit in the top five in the Constructors championship in third place between McLaren and Williams.
Sir Frank, who still works a full week at the of Williams factory has certainly made the right choice in promoting Claire to the role of deputy team principal. Although we are only two race's in the Williams team have certainly been the most improved team compared to where they were at this point last year.
Although there is still an awful lot of work to do the team can be extremely proud of how they have performed in the first two Grand Prix of the season.
©Ben Johnston 2014

Lewis Hamilton takes dominant win to lead home a Mercedes 1-2 in Malaysia

(Mercedes AMG F1 Team)
Lewis Hamilton took a dominant win at the Malaysian Grand Prix today to lead home his team mate Nico Rosberg for a Mercedes 1-2. A result that lifts Mercedes ahead of McLaren in the Constructors championship and indeed increases Rosberg's lead in the driver's championship. The win was the best result for Hamilton and a fantastic way for him to open his points account following his retirement from the Australian Grand Prix,
Reigning world champion Sebastian Vettel brought his Red Bull home in third place with Ferrari's Fernando Alonso finishing where he started the race in 4th place just ahead of the Sahara Force India of Nico Hulkenberg who collected 10 points for his fifth place finish which was a great result for the Silverstone based team as Sergio Perez failed to start the race in the second VJM07.
Jenson Button had another strong race for the McLaren team as he finished the race in 6th place following his third place finish in Melbourne last time out. The 2009 champion finished the race just ahead of the Williams Martini Racing pair of Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas who had their own inter team battle. It was a fantastic result for the Grove based team as Felipe Massa started the race from 13th place while Valtteri Bottas was penalized after blocking Daniel Ricciardo and started the race from 18th on the grid and brought the car home in 8th place while Massa finished 7th giving the team their first double points finish of the season.
It was a great result for McLaren's Kevin Magnussen who finished the race in 9th place despite being involved in a first corner incident with Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen, which resulted in the Dane receiving a penalty. It was another great race for Toro Rosso's Daniil Kvyat as for the second race in a row he collected another point.
Romain Grosjean enjoyed a much better race then in Australia as the Frenchman finished the race just ahead of Kimi Raikkonen in the Ferrari. The Finn endured an extremely tough race in the F14T as he suffered a puncture following the incident with Magnussen, unfortunately he was unable to recover due to the fact the Ferrari lacked the race pace and the team will be hoping to improve the performance of the car in time for the next race in Bahrain next weekend.
It was a great race for the Caterham duo of Kamui Kobayashi and Marcus Ericsson brought both cars home which is a great result for the team whose owner Tony Fernandez is from Malaysia. So all in all it was a boring race but on the plus side we don't have long to wait until the next race as the Bahrain Grand Prix takes place in just one week at the Sakhir circuit.
Driver's Standings following the Malaysian Grand Prix:
1 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 43 points
2 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 25
3 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 24
4 Jenson Button McLaren 23
5 Kevin Magnussen McLaren 20
6 Nico Hulkenberg Force India 18
7 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull Racing 15
8 Valtteri Bottas Williams Martini Racing 14
9 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 6
10 Felipe Massa Williams Martini Racing 6
11 Jean Eric Vergne Toro Rosso 4
12 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso 3
13 Sergio Perez Force India 1
Constructors Championship Standings
1 Mercedes AMG F1 Team 68 points
2 McLaren Mercedes 43
3 Ferrari 30
4 Williams Martini Racing 20
5 Sahara Force India F1 Team 19
6 Red Bull Racing 15
7 Scuderia Toro Rosso 7
UPDATE: Daniel Ricciardo has been handed a 10 place grid penalty for the Bahrain Grand Prix next weekend following his unsafe pit-lane release.
©Ben Johnston 2014

Red Bull could drop appeal against Riccardo's disqualification

(Bernard Asset - Renault Sport F1)

According to reports in the media in the UK this morning, reigning world champions Red Bull Racing could be on the verge of dropping their appeal against Daniel Ricciardo's disqualification from the Australian Grand Prix.

According to Sky Sports Mark Hughes the fact that reigning world champion was openly critical of the new engine's could be used 'as leverage' by the FIA to convince the Milton Keynes to drop their appeal from Australia.

It is believed that FIA president Jean Todt was extremely disappointed that Red Bull were so opening critical of the new engine sound.

The team's appeal is due to be heard in Paris on April. We will just have to watch this space as to what will happen.

©Ben Johnston 2014

Saturday, 29 March 2014

Hamilton takes pole in dramatic Malaysian qualifying

(Mercedes AMG F1 Team)
Lewis Hamilton took his second consecutive pole position in a dramatic qualifying session for Sunday's Malaysian GrandPrix at the Sepang International circuit. The session was delayed due to monsoon conditions and when the session did get underway the red flags were brought out after Caterham's Marcus Ericsson had a nasty incident. Thankfully he walked away unhurt.
Hamilton will start the race ahead of reigning world champion Sebastian Vettel who showed that Red Bull Racing have made some major strides since the Australian Grand Prix. Nico Rosberg was left disappointed after trading fastest laps with his team mate he will start the race from third on the grid ahead of Ferrari's Fernando Alonso.
Alonso had an eventful session after he was involved in an incident with Toro Rosso's Daniil Kvyat which resulted in the Spaniard having to undergo repairs. Despite this he managed to get back out on track and will start tomorrow's race from the second row just ahead of Daniel Ricciardo in the second Red Bull.
Kimi Raikkonen will be a little disappointed after outperforming Alonso in practice the Finn will start the Malaysian Grand Prix from 6th on the grid just ahead of Sahara Force India's Nico Hulkenberg who should be very happy with his performance in the VJM07.
Kevin Magnussen will be happy with his performance for McLaren after out-qualifying team-mate Jenson Button. The McLaren duo will start 8th and 10th. Button admitted that he made the wrong call having opted for the intermediate tyre in Q3 while Magnussen used the Intermediate tyre.
Jean Eric Vergne will be happy as he managed to qualify in 8th place in his Toro Rosso which is a great result for the Italian team. It was a disappointing day for the Williams Martini Racing team as neither car made it into the top ten with Felipe Massa starting the race from 13th on the grid while Valtteri Bottas will start from 15th, however the Finn is under investigation for allegedly impeding Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo.
It was another disappointing session for the Lotus F1 Team because although they showed an improvement from qualifying in Australia they will start in 16th place for Romain Grosjean and 17th for Maldonado. The Enstone based team will be hoping for a better performance in the race tomorrow.
While his team mate had a great qualifying session Force India's Sergio Perez had a disappointing day as he will start the race from 14th on the grid.
Adrian Sutil had a disastrous qualifying as he will start the race from 18th on the grid for the Sauber F1 Team while team mate Esteban Gutierrez will start the Malaysian GrandPrix from 12th on the grid.
Jules Bianchi was the best of the 'new teams' as he qualified 19th for the Marussia F1 Team. Kamui Kobayashi will start the race from 20th in the Caterham with Max Chilton in the second Marussia in 21st place. Following his accident in Q1 Marcus Ericsson will start the race from the back in 22nd place.
It will be interesting to see what the weather does for the race tomorrow because as it showed today it is always unpredictable in Malaysia which should make for an exciting race. The race gets underway at 9AM (Irish time)
UPDATE 12:22: Valtteri Bottas has been given a three place grid penalty after being deemed to have blocked Daniel Riccardo and as a result the Williams driver will start the race from 18th place on the grid.
©Ben Johnston 2014

Friday, 28 March 2014

Lotus struggles continue in Malaysia

(Bernard Asset for Renault Sport F1)
The Lotus F1 Team endured another difficult day at the office on Friday as track action got underway at the Sepang International circuit in Kuala Lumpur ahead of Sunday's second round of the 2014 Formula One season.
Both Romain Grosjean and Pastor Maldonado suffered problems with the E22 which curtailed their running for today. This morning the team suffered an issue with their Renault power unit with both cars while in the after although Grosjean managed to get out on track however he only managed a handful of laps after burning a wire which resulted in a gearbox failure.
Maldonado had a miserable afternoon as he was unable to complete a single lap in the car. Following the today's running Grosjean said:
'We have to work and then try and solve our issues, every time we do some more mileage we had more issues. This morning, it was a 100% Renault issue, so we couldn't do any laps. This afternoon we burnt a cable and that broke the gearbox, which was a stupid thing. We burnt it, came back in, went back out but the bearings were broken from the first time.'
Despite the poor start to the season for the Enstone based team, Grosjean is refusing to let the problems get to him and is looking to last year for inspiration as he recorded six podiums during the season and was challenging for wins by the end of the season.
For their part Renault Sport F1 have denied that their customer relationship with the Lotus F1 Team is partly to blame for the issues that the outfit are currently encountering.
When asked by the media is Lotus are suffering due to their different relationship with Renault compared to Red Bull, Renault Sport F1's head of Trackside operations Remi Taffin said:
'No, they will get the last ten percent, whether they are 91 or Red Bull 98. They will get there and the last 5 or 10 percent is up to the individual team. If we only talk about the power unit they will get to the same level. There is some stuff - the installation, the cooling, the exhausts, energy that is different due to the way the power unit is installed and operated in the car'.
It will just take the Lotus team time to get up to speed with the new engine regulations and both the teams technical director Nick Chester and their new deputy team principal Frederico Gastaldi expecting the tea, to be up to speed by the time the Formula One circus pitches up in Barcelona for the first European race of the season in May.
©Ben Johnston 2014
We have to work and then try and solve our issues," he said. "Every time we do some more mileage we had more issues. This morning it was 100% Renault issue, so we couldn't do any laps. This afternoon we burned a cable and that broke a gearbox, which was a stupid thing. We burnt it, came back in, went back out but the bearings were broken from the first time
We have to work and then try and solve our issues," he said. "Every time we do some more mileage we had more issues. This morning it was 100% Renault issue, so we couldn't do any laps. This afternoon we burned a cable and that broke a gearbox, which was a stupid thing. We burnt it, came back in, went back out but the bearings were broken from the first time
We have to work and then try and solve our issues," he said. "Every time we do some more mileage we had more issues. This morning it was 100% Renault issue, so we couldn't do any laps. This afternoon we burned a cable and that broke a gearbox, which was a stupid thing. We burnt it, came back in, went back out but the bearings were broken from the first time

Raikkonen happy with progress but admits there is still work to be be done

(Scuderia Ferrari via Twitter)
Kimi Raikkonen has said that 'I had a better feeling compared to Melbourne, I was more comfortable with the F14 T today and even if we had no problems whatsoever, we know there is still a long way to go and a lot to do'.
The Finn was best of the rest behind Mercedes in both of Friday's practice session's he finished just behind Lewis Hamilton in FP1 and then was just 0.035s behind Nico Rosberg in the second practice session.
It was also the first time this season that Raikkonen has finished ahead of team mate Fernando Alonso in the timesheet's.
Raikkonen said: 'Our programme concentrated on car set up and on testing the compounds that Pirelli have brought here'.
So far, it would appear that in terms of performance in Malaysia Ferrari have turned a corner in the two weeks since the opening race in Australia where Fernando Alonso finished fourth while Kimi Raikkonen finished the race in seventh place. Of course it is still early in the weekend and the real test will come for qualifying tomorrow.
Raikkonen also said that the team will have to pay particular attention to the tyre degradation as it is very high in Sepang due to the temperatures in Malaysia.
It is still too early in the season to say what the pecking order is we probably won't see the full picture until the start of the European season at the Spanish Grand Prix in May as teams will bring major upgrade packages to that race.
©Ben Johnston 2014

Rosberg fastest in FP2 as Ferrari and Raikkonen look extremely quick

(Mercedes AMG F1 Team)
Mercedes Nico Rosberg topped the timesheets during Free Practice 2 for Sunday's Malaysian Grand Prix. The German ended the day just four one thousands of a second ahead of Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen who continued to impress for the Italian team having finished this morning's first session in 2nd place. Reigning world champion Sebastian Vettel showed encouraging signs for Red Bull Racing finishing third.
After topping the timesheets in the opening session this morning Lewis Hamilton was fourth fastest in the second Mercedes showing that the Brackley based squad would appear to be the team to beat once again this weekend. Fernando Alonso was fifth fastest for Ferrari. So for the first time in 2014 Kimi Raikkonen has ended two session's ahead of his Ferrari team mate.
It was an impressive afternoon session for Felipe Massa in the Williams FW36 as he finished the day in 6th place just ahead of Daniel Ricciardo in the second Red Bull. Jenson Button, who once again was running McLaren's new front wing was 8th fastest with Valtteri Bottas in 9th place in the second Williams.
Force India's Nico Hulkenberg showed impressive pace by rounding out the top ten in the VJM07. Jean Eric Vergne was 11th fastest for Toro Rosso while Kevin Magnussen  finished his day in 12th place for McLaren.
Adrian Sutil was 13th for Sauber just ahead of the second Toro Rosso of Daniil Kvyat. Esteban Gutierrez was 15th in the second Sauber just ahead of Force India's Sergio Perez who managed to get to on out track in FP2 following a disappointing opening session. The Lotus F1 Team's poor start the 2014 season continued as with 17 minute's to go Romain Grojean stopped out on track while Pastor Maldonado failed to make it out of the garage in the second session following a power unit failure this morning.
It was a disappointing session for the Caterham of Kamui Kobayashi as along with Maldonado in the Lotus his failed to make it out on track. Max Chilton had a disappointing second session as his Marussia came to stop just four minute's into the session. However he managed to get back out on track and finished the day ahead of his team mate Jules Bianchi. Marcus Ericsson rounded out the timesheets in the second Caterham.
The final practice session ahead of Sunday's race gets underway tomorrow morning at 5AM (Irish time).
©Ben Johnaton 2014

Esso appears on the sidepod of the McLaren

(McLaren Mercedes via Twitter)
In Australia it was Mobil 1 this weekend in Malaysia it's Esso's turn to take up the space on the side-pod of the McLaren MP4-29.
The Woking based outfit are yet to confirm a new title sponsor following the departure of Vodafoe from the team at the end of last season following seven season's with the team. McLaren Group CEO Ron Dennis has stated that he is confident that the team will have a new title sponsor in place within the next few races.
©Ben Johnston 2014

Hamilton fastest for Mercedes in FP1 as Raikkonen shows encouraging signs for Ferrari

(Mercedes AMG F1 Team)
Lewis Hamilton set the fastest time of the first free practice session for Sunday's Malaysian GrandPrix, the Mercedes driver finished the session just a tenth of a second ahead of Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen who showed encouraging pace from the F14-T. Nico Rosberg was third fastest in the second Mercedes.
Jenson Button showed impressive pace in the McLaren finishing just ahead of his team mate Kevin Magnussen as the pair were fourth and fifth respectively, both drivers running with the new front nose on the M4-29. Magnussen came to a halt at the pit-lane entry as his car suffered an over heating sensor. However, acting McLaren CEO Jonathan Neale said 'It's not a major problem'  the Dane was able to continue running in the first session.
It was another disappointing start to a race weekend for the Lotus F1 Team as both Romain Grosjean and Pastor Maldonado suffered separate failures. Grosjean suffered a suspected Energy store issue while Maldonado's car appeared to suffer some sort of engine related issue as smoke was seen coming from the rear of his E22.
Jean Eric Vergne had a great morning for Toro Rosso as he finished the session in 6th place ahead of both Red Bull Racing cars. For his part, reigning world champion Sebastian Vettel set the 7th fastest time despite limited running in the RB10 so the team should be encouraged by that.
Nico Hulkenberg had an impressive outing for the Sahara Force India F1 Team as he finished the morning session in 8th place ahead of the Williams Martini Racing pair of Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas who rounded out the top ten for the Grove based squad.
It was a disappointing morning however for Sergio Perez in the second Force India as the Mexican suffered some issues with his VJM07 and as a result had a limited on track programme in Free Practice One.
Just outside the top ten was Fernando Alonso in the second Ferrari, who despite an early spin finished the session in eleventh place just ahead of Daniel Ricciardo in the second Red Bull in 12th place.
Adrian Sutil was 13th fastest for the Sauber F1 Team as the Swiss outfit continued work on the new brake by wire system. Daniil Kvyat was 14th fastest in the second Toro Rosso just over a tenth of a second ahead of Esteban Gutierrez in the second Sauber.
Jules Bianchi proved to be the fastest of the 'new teams' as the Marussia driver finished the session in 16th place just ahead of Caterham's Marcus Ericsson. Max Chilton was 18th in the second Marussia while Kamui Kobayashi rounded out the timesheets in 19th place.
Neither Lotus driver nor Force India's Sergio Perez managed to set a time so they will be hoping that they will be able to have a more productive time during this afternoon's Free Practice 2.
©Ben Johnston 2014

Thursday, 27 March 2014

New front wing for McLaren in FP1

(McLaren Mercedes via Twitter)
McLaren Mercedes have been the first team to roll the development dice by sporting a new front nose on the MP4-29.
Speaking ahead of this weekend's race McLaren Group CEO Ron Dennis has stated that the updates that they are carrying this weekend will give them at least half a second of on advantage from where they were in the opening race of the season Down Under in Australia.
As McLaren who finished the race in 2nd and 3rd in Australia the Lotus F1 Team have continued to struggle as Romain Grosjean's E22 has just come to a halt out on track with a potential energy store problem.
With just under and hour left in the session Ferrari's Fernando Alonso currently tops the time sheets with Kevin Magnussen in the updated McLaren currently second and Nico Rosberg third.
Jenson Button is fourth in the second McLaren.
©Ben Johnston 2014

Alonso won't get into engine noise debate

(Scuderia Ferrari via Twitter)
Ferrari's Fernando Alonso has said that he will get drawn into the debate about the engine sound of Formula One following the introduction of the new quieter 1.6 litre turbo charged V6 power units for this season after criticism from a number of different people in the sport.
Speaking to the media on the same day that his rival Sebastian Vettel described the new sound as 'Shit' Alonso stated:
'This is a very uncomfortable matter to speak about, because if I say I like this Formula One, I will be criticised because this is no longer Formula One for the fans. If I say I don't like this Formula One the fans will criticise because I only like it when I win.
The Spaniard, who won back to back driver's championships in 2005 and 2006 believes that the sport needs to be given more time for the new Formula and regulations to bed in properly before a definitive answer on the new sound can be given.
He also stated that he hopes that this weekend's race in Malaysia will be fantastic and that the sport will put on a fantastic show. Alonso heads to Sepang following a fourth place finish while Kimi Raikkonen finished the race in 7th place much to the disappointment of the Italian team so they will be hoping for a more competitive weekend this time out.
©Ben Johnston 2014

Hamilton tipped to win in Malaysia

(Mercedes AMG F1 Team)
Lewis Hamilton has emerged as the favourite to take victory in Sunday's Malaysian Grand Prix. The Englishman endured a difficult race in Australia after retiring from the race with an engine issue, his team mate Nico Rosberg won the race by over 26 seconds.
Despite retiring from the Australian Grand Prix Hamilton started the race from pole position and it is expected that the Brackley based squad will once again be the team to beat this weekend at the Sepang circuit. The team are fully confident that they have sorted out the issue with Hamilton's car.
Lewis Hamilton ended up being best of the rest at last years Malaysian Grand Prix finishing on the podium just behind the two Red Bull's and just ahead of team mate Nico Rosberg. The new Mercedes W05 has proven to be the class of the Formula One field following Rosberg's dominant win last time out.
The Malaysian Grand Prix could potentially be a completely different kettle of fish altogether as thunder storms have been forecast over the course of the race weekend and the forecast in Malaysia always plays a key role in the out come of the Grand Prix.
As always we can't rely on the results from Friday practice as they are not representative as drivers use Friday to work on car set up for the weekend and if the race is wet that could create a lottery on Sunday. We'll just have to wait and see what happens at the chequered flag.
One thing is for certain and that is that the race will be a far more subdued affair due to the missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH370. The organisers of the Grand Prix have confirmed that as a mark of respect a minute's silence will be held prior to the start of Sunday's race. Teams and drivers will also carry messages on their cars and helmets.
©Ben Johnston 2014

Vettel critical of new engine sound

(Francois Flamand -DPPI)
Reigning world champion Sebastian Vettel has become the latest critic of the sound of the new V6 turbo charged power units in Formula One. Vettel who watched the season opening Australian Grand Prix from the pit-wall following his retirement from the race said:
'It's shit, that's my opinion and I think the fans aswell. I think Formula One has to be spectacular and the sound is one of the most important things.
He is not the only one who is not a fan of the sound after Australian Grand Prix promoter Ron Walker also criticised the sound of Formula One by saying:
'The sound is a disgrace, this is not we paid for'. Walker, who is the chairman of the Grand Prix Promoters Association has said that the sports runs the risk of circuits 'walking away from the sport if something is not done about the sound'
Despite the criticism of the new sound of Formula One not everyone feels the same as McLaren's Jenson Button said: 'Go and race something else if you're not happy, as drivers we don't have an opinion on where the cars are in terms of sound and feel.
The new V6 turbo charged power units sound great and although there has been criticism it will take time for people who don't like the sound to get used to the new era of Formula One after all we are only just about to have the second race of the season.
Only time will tell as to how people find the new sound. It certainly should not be judged on the events of one race, after all the first race of the season in Melbourne was action packed and that is exactly what fans want to see...Competitive racing.
©Ben Johnston 2014


Raikkonen denies having brake by wire issues

(Scuderia Ferrari SpA via Twitter)
Kimi Raikkonen has denied that his issues during the Australian Grand Prix were brake by wire related. Speaking during Thursday's FIA Driver Press Conference ahead of Sunday's Malaysian Grand Prix the Finn said:
'I don't know where that came from, I mean that's not the issue. There is nothing wrong with the system.
Raikkonen went on to say: 'It is just mainly set up, to get the car as I like it to run, how I need to have it'.
'I am sure once we are making stuff for me so hopefully once we get those it will get a bit more easy, get a bit more feeling in the front end. So it will take a bit of time'.
Raikkonen was joined in the press conference by fellow Finn, Valtteri Bottas who was asked about his performance in the opening race in Australia.
'Yeah, really eventful. If we look at the whole race we need to be happy. With the result we have more points, double the points than last year. So it's a good beginning for us but it could have been better. We could have definitely , without mistake, been fighting for the podium.
Bottas was asked about this years new cars and he said:
'Yeah, the cars have quite less downforce than last year so you are sliding a bit more, with more engine power also it makes it a bit more tricky, but I like it. I really think the cars are fun to drive. I hope it looked good from outside I think we made an exciting race with the new cars, new engines so I think it's good.
Toro Rosso's Daniil Kvyat was asked about his Formula One debut:
'It was a good race, also eventful for us. It was everything new for me, so obviously many things to learn during the qualifying, the race so it was good. P10 is an result but we always want some more. In the end, we would always like to get more points in the future and the more we get the better it is.
Caterham's Kamui Kobayashi was asked about his return to Formula One to which he replied:
'Hi, first of all I think I have to say it's great to be back in Formula One. I think after one break doing like GT...I think I definitely enjoyed GT but Formula One is one of the top categories and I think I was missing the development and of course racing with top drivers, which I think is one of the exciting times, so I'm very happy to be back.
Lotus F1 Team driver Pastor Maldonado was asked about his teams performance in Australia to which he replied:
'The pre-season, it was quite tough for us. We have been working very hard and trying to push to solve all of the problems. These kind of problems, when you get at the bottom of the problem you see they are not huge problems: easy to fix but it took so much time from the test. In the first race again.  So I think we miss free practice, even on Saturday, quali, so we've not been able to do proper long runs and to see our real potential of the car because of this kind of issues we've had. And now I hope to have a better weekend. We’ve been working hard again to try to improve. We improve quite a lot for the race. We had never been able to run for more than 10 laps together and during the race we did more than 30 laps with both cars - which is a step forward. Now we are fully focussed on finishing the race and I think if we finish the race we will be in a good position to fight for good places.

The Enstone based team will be hoping a better weekend because neither car finished in Australia. Despite this however the team were able to collect some valuable data that should enable them to improve the car.

Australian Grand Prix winner Nico Rosberg reflected on his start to the 2014 season:

'Well it’s been a fantastic start to the season, definitely, yes. I think the whole team has done a great job with these new regulations, with the car and engine and powertrain that they’ve built and yes, it’s been great to win the first race, for sure, fantastic. But now… went on holiday after that, so obviously the holiday was a little bit better, thanks to the win but now back to just fully focussed on getting the most out of this race.'

Free Practice One gets underway at 2AM (Irish time) tomorrow morning while Free Practice Two gets underway at 6AM (Irish Time). This will be followed by the team principal's press conference.

©Ben Johnston 2014


Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Malaysian Grand Prix Press Conference Schedule

(Mercedes AMG F1 Team)
The Malaysian Grand Prix is nearly upon us and as the excitement builds the team's are setting up shop at the Sepang circuit in Kuala Lumpur. The race is Sepang is always full of plenty of action like last year's event which Sebastian Vettel won under controversial circumstances.
So tomorrow kicks off the race weekend with the traditional Thursday media day. Nico Rosberg who won the opening race of the year will be in attendance as too will Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen who endured a difficult return to Ferrari however managed to bring the car home in the points. They will be joined in the press conference by Williams Martini Racing's Valtteri who did a fantastic job for the Grove based outfit collecting 10 points after finishing the Australian Grand Prix in 5th place.
Toro Rosso's Daniil Kvyat, who made history in Melbourne by becoming the youngest ever points scorer will face the media.
New Lotus F1 Team signing Pastor Maldonado will be at the press conference too. The Venezuelan endured a disappointing debut for the Enstone based team as he failed to finish the race.
Caterham's Kamui Kobayashi will also be attendance at tomorrow's press conference.
On Friday, at the team principal's press conference Frederico Gastaldi will make his first public appearance in front of the media as Lotus F1 Team deputy team principal where he is more then likely to be questioned about his teams struggles at the start of the season and where the team goes from here.
He will be joined in the media centre by Pirelli's Motorsport boss Paul Hembrey, Sauber F1 Team's Monisha Keltenborn, Marussia F1 Team's Graeme Lowdon, Cyril Abituboul, team boss of Caterham and Toro Rosso chief Franz Tost.
As usual on Saturday the top three fastest driver's will take part in the post qualifying press conference and on Sunday the top three in the race will be in attendance at the post race press conference.
©Ben Johnston 2014


Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Red Bull will win appeal

(Francois Flamand - DPPI)

Red Bull Racing team principal Christian Horner is extremely confident that his team will win their appeal against Daniel Ricciardo's disqualification from the Australian Grand Prix and will have both the driver and constructors points reinstated following the appeal of April 14.

Speaking to Sky Sports News Horner said: 'We are appealing on the grounds that we do not believe, we are extremely confident that we have not broken the rules that we haven't exceeded the 100KG/H fuel that is permitted to be utilized by the car and the engine.

He went on to say: 'so that was the reason for our appeal , we feel we have a strong case and it will be down to the appeal court to ultimately decide.

Horner refused to confirm what sensor the team will use for the two race's in Malaysia and Bahrain which take place before their appeal is heard, however, following his criticism of the FIA's new sensor it is expected that they believe they haven't done anything wrong the likelihood is that they will continue to use their own fuel sensor. We'll just have to wait and see what happens.

Despite the fact the Red Bull Racing were disqualified from the race they immediately appealed the decision which they are fully entitled to do however the FIA's Race Director Charlie Whiting believes it's an open and shut case he said:

We advised them twice after qualifying and five laps into the race to take the necessary steps to comply with the regulations. They chose to use their own calculations to show they complied. If they had followed the advice we gave them at the time, we would not have had a problem and they would not have been penalized. 
©Ben Johnston 2014

Lotus looking to make progress

(Francois Flamand - DPPI)

Lotus technical director Nick Chester is confident that following an extremely challenging opening race for the team last weekend in which neither car made it to the finish that the Enstone team can make progress however when asked how he felt Australia had gone for the team he said: 

'it was very frustrating. Everyone in the team worked really hard for Melbourne. In my fourteen years at Enstone I cannot remember a more intense period of work and for there to be no tangible reward for it is tough to take but we knew that this was likely to be the case. It was disappointing that we were not quicker and that we were unable to attain a truly representative position on the grid.

Chester went on to say that he feels that there is plenty of potential in the E22 however the team need to get the whole package working. He said that the team came away from Australia with a better understanding of the energy management systems. 

He also confirmed that the team will have some upgrades for the E22 for the next race in Malaysia this weekend. This year, the team at Enstone have gone for a striking double nose assembly, a design which a number of other teams are looking at adopting on their own cars. We will probably see different variations on the Lotus concept for the start of the European season at the Spanish Grand Prix in May.

The Enstone based team reshuffled their management structure prior to the start of the new season by appointing Frederico Gastaldi to the position of deputy team principal following the departure of Eric Boullier over the winter.

However, it has now emerged that due to his lack of Motorsport experience Gastaldi, who was at the Australian Grand Prix will work alongside acting team principal Gerard Lopez while Head of Trackside Operations Alan Permane will look after the day to day running of the team at Grand Prix with the help of technical director Nick Chester after it was revealed that attempts by the Lotus team to appoint Olivier Quensel to the role of team principal have failed.

©Ben Johnston 2014

Mercedes cautious over Red Bull challenege

(Mercedes AMG F1 Team)

Mercedes Motorsport boss Toto Wolff has warned that his team cannot afford to relax this weekend in Malaysia as he believes that: 'We haven't seen Sebastian (Vettel) running with a reliable car and a fast car and you would expect him with his experience to go even faster.

Despite a winning margin of over 20 seconds race winner Nico Rosberg's nearest challenger was Red Bull Racing's Daniel Ricciardo who finished second although he was later disqualified. Mercedes had a mixed race in that they gained maximum points from Rosberg's win but Lewis Hamilton retired from the race and Wolff stated that for the next few races:

'We have to continue working on reliability but equally drive performance'.

The Brackley based outfit was the stand out performer during winter testing, however they did suffer a number of technical issues with the car. The main thing is that they have an extremely quick car, they just need to iron out a number ,of issue's.

When asked about the teams performance advantage Wolff stated: 'I don't see it as a big advantage to be honest, because you have a DNF and you lose points.

He went on to say that if the team were to lose their slight advantage over their rivals that he would 'consider that a failure'

The team must be happy that they have started the season off with a win but Formula One does not stand still and as a result team's will be developing parts at a rapid pace. Jenson Button has confirmed that McLaren will have some small updates to their car for this weekend's race in Malaysia so it will be interesting to see what they can do.

©Ben Johnston 2014

Magnussen can be champion

(McLaren Mercedes)

McLaren Group chairman Ron Dennis believes that he made the right decision to promote Kevin Magnussen to the race seat vacated by Sergio Perez and is confident that the Danish driver has what it takes to be world champion in the future.

Speaking ahead of this weekend's Malaysian Grand Prix Dennis, who returned to the role of McLaren Group CEO in January he said: 'He has all the ingredients necessary to win the world championship but he has to be in a competitive car'.

Dennis also confirmed that there were points during 2013 where he stepped in to the decision making process and that it was his choice to promote Magnussen from the Woking outfit's Young Driver Programme.

At first glance, it would appear to have been an inspired move as in his first every Grand Prix start last weekend in Melbourne the Dane out-qualified team mate Jenson Button and went on to finish ahead of Jenson Button in the race as the team scored a double podium.

Dennis was full of praise for Button saying of Magnussen: 'He has a phenomenal mentor in Jenson, they get on very well. He will keep Jenson honest.

Dennis was extremely impressed with Magnussen and said: 'He made no mistakes at all throughout the weekend. He never put a wheel off the track, followed all instructions but pushed very hard at the right times'.

Dennis has cautioned though that although Magnussen drove a great race on Sunday that he can not be judged on just one result and they will see where he is after four races. Magnussen has joined a very select group as only 17 driver's have managed to appear on the podium on their Formula One debut, the last of which ironically was former McLaren driver Lewis Hamilton in 2007. He went on to win the championship in 2008 so it is possible that Magnussen could emulate Hamilton's success.

He (Magnussen) is only the ninth driver to driver to have finished second on the podium on his F1 debut.

Dennis was all the more impressed by Magnussen's performance as he was able to manage the new regulations perfectly and he has stated that he is pleased that on this occasion it would appear that he has made the right call by giving Magnussen a shot at F1.

©Ben Johnston 2014

Renault Sport F1 Malaysian Grand Prix Preview

(Bernard Asset - Renault Sport F1)

Renault Sport F1 head to Malaysia after what can be considered as a disappointing opening race for the their team's in Melbourne last weekend. Reigning world champion Sebastian Vettel suffered a power unit issue that ended his race. His team mate Daniel Ricciardo finished the race in second place in the sister RB10 however was later disqualified from the race.

In their first race with Renault power Toro Rosso managed a double points finish which was a consolation for the French engine manufacturer as their teams struggled over the course of Winter testing. Jean Eric Vergne finished the race in 8th place to secure four points while on his Formula One debut Daniil Kvyat finished the race in 9th place becoming the youngest ever points scorer.

The Lotus F1 Team had a difficult day as both Romain Grosjean and Pastor Maldonado retired from the race with identical Energy Recovery System failures. Neither Caterham drivers managed to finish the race as rookie Marcus Ericsson retired with an oil pressure problem while Kamui Kobayshi retired from the race following an accident.

Head of Track Operations at Renault Sport F1 Remi Taffin said: 'Sepang is one of those circuits whose technical requirements will change under the new regulations. In the V8 era the circuit sat towards the middle of the table for the challenge is posed for engines but now it will be one of the toughest races of the year'.

Speaking about the first race Taffin said: 'After a difficult race in Australia we are really looking forward to Malaysia. We had several issues across the cars in Melbourne but we have recreated the problems in the dyno at Viry. Most are fixed and the remaining will be under control by Firday in Sepang. While we anticipate further issues may occur we are much more able to react quickly to minimize their impact.

At last years event in Malaysia Renault had four of their cars finishing in the top ten with Red Bull Racing taking a controversial 1-2 finish with Romain Grosjaen and Kimi Raikkonen finishing the race in 6th and 7th respectively for the Lotus F1 Team.

Temperature control is going to be key this weekend due to heat in Malaysia and Renault have said that their focus will be on driveability in Sepang.

©Ben Johnston 2014

McLaren have turned things around

(McLaren Mercedes)

McLaren have turned a corner in 2014 according to Jenson Button. The 2009 champion believes that the Woking based squad are in better shape heading to Malaysia then they have been in recent times. 

The team touch down in Malaysia this weekend following an extremely positive opening race in Australia last weekend which saw both Kevin Magnussen and Jenson Button finish on the podium in second and third place respectively.

As a result the Woking squad lead the championship with 33 points, 8 points ahead of Mercedes. Button stated: 'Australia was an extremely motivational race for the entire time - even though we still have work to do, it feels like we've turned a corner and that we have a race car we can definitely work with this year.

Speaking about the next race, Button said: 'Sepang is a great driver's circuit, even if we don't have the overall down force we want, we should have the balance and the driveability to make the car work.

The Sepang circuit has always been a happy hunting ground for Button as he secured his first ever F1 podium here in 2004 when he finished in third place for BAR-Honda. Button won the race in Sepang in 2009, his championship winning season with Brawn Grand Prix.

©Ben Johnston 2014

Monday, 24 March 2014

Silverstone confirm they have written to David Cameron about the funding for the proposed Circuit of Wales

(Mercedes AMG F1 Team)

The organizers of the British GrandPrix at Silverstone have confirmed that they have written to Prime Minister David Cameron seeking clarification as to how the proposed Circuit Of Wales will be funded amid reports that the proposed venture would receive a £30 million cash injection from the Welsh assembly with a further £20 million coming from public funding.

In a statement on their official website Silverstone stated: 'Silverstone is fully supportive of regeneration projects and the creation of new jobs, however, when Silverstone circuit was recently looking for support to secure the future of the Formula One© British Grand Prix and protect Motorsport Valley - a cluster of motor sport, automotive and high performance engineering businesses at the heart of the motor sport industry sector, comprising 4,300 companies, employing 41,000 people and generating annual sales of £9 billion - the application was denied on the basis that this would be classed as illegal state aid. In the absence of such aid, Silverstone had to sell off assets to ensure the Formula One© British Grand Prix was retained in the UK.

The statement went on to say: 'Silverstone has been advised that an injection of funds by the Welsh and/or UK government to the Circuit of Wales project could also amount to illegal state aid, as a transfer of States resources would give Circuit of Wales an economic and selective advantage over other circuits (and developments). There are currently a number of well established, privately funded circuits in the UK including Wales that feel the British motor sport industry would be threatened by the addition of a government funded circuit.

Silverstone is at the heart of Formula One as eight of the eleven teams involved in the sport are based within the vicinity of the circuit not to mention that Mercedes power units are built in Brixworth which is approximately 21 miles away from Silverstone. 

Silverstone continued by saying: 'To be clear, Silverstone has no objection to competition between UK circuits, but it has to be a level playing field.

Silverstone have a contract to host the British Grand Prix until 2026 and in recent years the circuit has under gone a complete redesign along with the construction of a brand new paddock complex. If the Circuit of Wales is given the go ahead Silverstone which hosts Moto GP would face competition for the right to host the Moto GP event as any proposed deal for the Wales circuit to get the go ahead is apparently subject to them securing Moto GP.

It will be interesting to see what David Cameron has to say about the matter. We will just have to wait and see what happens.

©Ben Johnston 2014