Wednesday, 30 April 2014

San Marino 1994 - The weekend that changed Formula One forever Part 3


The San Marino Grand Prix on Sunday 1st May 1994 should have been like any other Formula One race weekend however, following the death of Simtek's Roland Ratzenberger during qualifying the day before there was an extremely dark shadow cast over the paddock at the Imola circuit. 

Brazilian Ayrton Senna was on pole position for the Williams Renault F1 Team having secured his third consecutive pole position for the Grove based team. Senna had endured an extremely difficult start to his Williams career and was yet to score a championship point and when the formation lap for the San Marino Grand Prix had concluded and Senna lined up at the front of the grid, the Brazilian would have been hoping to deliver Williams their first win of the season as Michael Schumacher had been dominant for Benetton in the opening two Grand Prix of the season. 

There was chaos from the moment the lights went out as there was a massive crash on the start line. The safety was brought out as a result of the accident. Senna led the field on lap 7 from Michael Schumacher when he hit the concrete wall at the Tamburello corner at approximately 190MPH. 

Following Senna's death, the president of the FIA, Max Mosley asked the Brazilian's good friend and the Formula One doctor Professor Sidney Watkins to lead a study into all aspects of safety in Formula One everything from trackside safety to car design and as a result of both Senna and Roland Ratzenberger's deaths the Formula One chassis was redesigned and the crash structure was strengthened. 

Since that horrendous weekend in San Marino 20 years ago there have been no driver fatalities in Formula One. 

Ayrton Senna made his Formula One debut at the 1984 Brazilian Grand Prix with the Toleman Formula One team. Unfortunately for the home favourite he retired from the race following a problem with his turbo. Senna went on to score his maiden Formula One point at the next race in South Africa.

The 1984 Monaco Grand Prix proved to be a breakthrough race for Senna as the race was affected by appalling weather conditions. The race was stopped and when the red flag's came out Senna overtook Alain Prost on the line to take the chequered flag and what he thought was his first ever win. However it was not to be. It was a great result for the Brazilian however as he scored a podium in only his sixth Formula One start.

Senna picked up his second podium finish later in the season at Toleman's home race at the British Grand Prix in Silverstone where he finished the race in third place behind race winner Niki Lauda and Derek Warwick. 

Senna also picked up a third place finish at the season ending Portuguese Grand Prix. The Brazilian finished the 1984 season in 9th place in the Driver's championship collecting 13 points. The Brazilian's performances in his debut season were noticed by the Lotus Renault team and they signed him for the 1985 season and in only his second race for the team in Portugal he started the race from pole position and went on to secure his maiden Grand Prix victory.

He took a hat trick of pole position's in Portugal, San Marino and Monaco and finished on the podium six times on his way to 4th in the 1985 Driver's championship.

In 1986, Senna once again finished the championship in 4th place taking two victory's in Spain and the United States. 

In 1987, Lotus made the move from Renault to Honda power and this change saw Senna finish the season in third place behind champion Nelson Piquet and Nigel Mansell making it a Honda powered top three in the championship.

In 1988, Ayrton Senna brought Honda power to McLaren, teaming up with Alain Prost and took eight victories on his way to winning his first world championship finishing the season on 94 points.

In 1989, Senna finished the season runner up to team mate Alain Prost and started every race that season on the front row of the grid. However his relationship with Prost deteriorated dramatically and in 1990 following Prost's departure from the team, joining Ferrari Senna was partnered by Austrian Gerherd Berger who McLaren chairman Ron Dennis has revealed helped the Brazilian to bring out his humorous side as the pair used to play practical jokes on each other.

Senna took six victory's in 1990 and finished the season as champion just ahead of former team mate Alain Prost. 

In 1991, Senna won his third Driver's championship and won seven Grand Prix including his home race in Brazil and finished the season just ahead of Nigel Mansell's Williams Renault.

The 1992 season proved to be a tough one for Senna as the Brazilian finished the season in 4th place, three points behind Formula One newcomer Michael Schumacher who was driving for Benetton. In 1993, Honda opted to pull out of Formula One leaving McLaren to team up with Ford. Despite the engine change Senna went on to finish the season in 2nd place behind Alain Prost and managed to score five victory's for the team before opting to sign for the Williams Renault F1 Team where he joined Damon Hill.

Ayrton Senna was an incredibly talented driver and although he only won three world championship's during his Formula One car he is regarded as the one of the greatest driver's to have raced in Formula One. It was extremely sad that we never got to see how many title's the Brazilian could have won had he survived the crash in Imola. 

One this is for certain AYRTON SENNA was a legend of Formula One and INSPIRED  a generation of driver's and not just in Formula One!! WE WILL NEVER FORGET AYRTON OR ROLAND.

©Ben Johnston 2014

Formula One set for Baku

(Mercedes AMG F1 Team)

Azerbaijan looks set to join the Formula One calendar in 2016 according to the country's Youth and Sports minister Azad Rahimov who says that the country has reached an agreement with Formula One commercial rights holder Bernie Ecclestone to host a Formula One Grand Prix in the country's capital Baku.

Speaking to a website in Azerbaijan, Rahimov said: 'We have signed the deal with Bernie Ecclestone, and will announce it officially with an event in Baku shortly'.

It remains unclear what race would make way for the arrival of Azerbaijan as teams are unlikely to agree to have more then 21 Grand Prix on the calendar. 

There are currently 19 Grand Prix on the Formula One calendar with the return of Austria which takes place following this season's Canadian Grand Prix. The sport will also head to the Sochi circuit in Russia and with New Jersey scheduled to join the calendar next season that will bring the calendar up to 20 Grand Prix. 

It is unclear whether or not the new circuit in Baku will be a street circuit or a purpose built facility. 

©Ben Johnston 2014

Di Montezemelo held talks with Senna about bringing the Brazilian to Ferrari

(Scuderia Ferrari SpA via Twitter)

On the eve of the 20th anniversary of the death of Ayrton Senna, Ferrari president Luca Di Montezemelo has revealed that he spoke to the Brazilian about bringing him to the Italian team. 

Speaking to Ferrari's official website, Di Montezemelo said that he met with Senna when the Brazilian was in Italy for the San Marino Grand Prix. At the time, Senna was racing for Williams and Di Montezemelo commented that he and Senna spoke about coming up with a way of getting the Brazilian out of his existing contractual obligations.

During their discussions the pair agreed that a move to Ferrari would be great for both parties and would be a way for Senna to further his Formula One career.

Di Montezemelo also revealed that the team were hopeful of signing Senna having failed in their attempt a few year's previously. Sadly, the ambition of both parties coming together would never be realized as a result of the tragic event's of Sunday 1st May. 

©Ben Johnston 2014

Hulkenberg delighted with Force India's start to the 2014 season

(Sahara Force India Formula One Team)

Sahara Force India's Nico Hulkenberg has admitted to being pleasantly surprised by the Silverstone outfit's start to the 2014 Formula One season. The German has scored points in all of the Grand Prix so far this season and finds himself in fourth place in the Driver's championship just five points behind Ferrari's Fernando Alonso.

Force India have hit the ground running with the new regulations that were introduced for 2014 and Sergio Perez did a fantastic job securing the teams first podium since 2009 when he finished in third place at the Bahrain night race behind the Mercedes duo.

Hulkenberg has yet to taste champagne this season, despite this however he is ahead of team mate Sergio Perez in the Driver's standings as he has been more consistent of the pair. 

Speaking to the media following a fantastic start to the season, Hulkenberg said that 'Winter testing was good but not that good'.

He went on to say: 'To score so many points is a big achievement'.

Force India have had one of the strongest starts to a Formula One season in their history and currently lie in third place in the Constructors championship just three points behind Red Bull Racing.

Hulkenberg is hopeful that consistency will enable his team to continue their points scoring run next time out in Barcelona next weekend.

The German does not see any reason why the team can't keep up with the rate of development this season and as a result the team must keep up performance.


©Ben Johnston 2014

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

San Marino 1994 - The weekend that changed Formula One forever Part 2


Qualifying for the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix at the Imola circuit started out like any other Saturday session however everyone's minds were still on the horrendous accident that Rubens Barrichello suffered during practice the day before. 

On Saturday 30th April, Banbury based Formula One team MTV Simtek Ford were taking part in their third qualifying session as a constructor with Australian David Brabham and Austrian Roland Ratzenberger behind the wheel of the car. The team was founded by Max Mosley, who just prior to the Grand Prix in San Marino was elected as FIA president. The team was co-founded by Nick Wirth.

Ratzenberger had only one race start to his name prior to the San Marino Grand Prix and that was at the previous race the Pacific Grand Prix. The Austrian finished the race in eleventh place albeit five laps down. However it was Simtek's best result that season as at the previous race in Brazil, David Brabham finished the race in 12th place. Unfortunately Ratzenberger failed to qualify for the opening race.

Shortly after the start of Saturday qualifying, the Simtek of Roland Ratzenberger went out on track to start his session. The Austrian crashed extremely heavily at approximately 190 MPH and sadly succumbed to his injuries. 

Following the event's of qualifying the day before the Simtek team decided that the best thing to do was to honor the memory of Roland Ratzenberger and took part in the race. Ratzenberger's death was the first driver fatality in Formula One since the 1982 Canadian Grand Prix when Italian driver Ricciardo Paletti, taking part in only his second Formula One race was killed at the start of the race while driving for Osella-Ford.

The Simtek Formula One Team stayed in the sport for the remainder of the 1994 season however the team folded following the 1995 Spanish Grand Prix.

Following Ratzenberger's crash qualifying was immediately red flagged however when it resumed Williams Renault's Ayrton Senna who had struggled in the first two race's of the season managed to put his FW16 on pole position for the San Marino Grand Prix on Sunday 1st May. Heading into Saturday night following the events of that day no one in Formula One could have known what was going to unfold the following day.

©Ben Johnston 2014

Spanish upgrade package key for Williams

(Williams Martini Racing)

Williams Martini Racing's Valtteri Bottas has stated that the outfit's upgrade package which will be on the FW36 for the Spanish Grand Prix next weekend will be key to the Grove based outfit continuing their great start to the 2014 season.

So far, in the first four Grand Prix of the season the team have scored points in every race and are currently 6th in the Constructors championship on 36 point's just seven behind McLaren. The team had hoped to have scored at least one podium this season but have not yet managed to do so. 

The team head to Barcelona next week where they won the 2012 event at the Circuit De Catalunya when Pastor Maldonado took victory for the team. Bottas finished the last race in China in 7th place which is where the Finnish driver started the race from.

Williams are in a far better position so far this season then they were at this stage last year and have scored more points in the opening four race's of the season then they did throughout the entire 2013 season. The team have a new title sponsor in Martini which allows them to carry out greater development on their current car.

Bottas believes that the Spanish Grand Prix weekend will give the team an extremely strong indication of the direction that they they should take in relation to the development of the FW36. 

The Finn was happy with the upgrade package that the team brought to the last race in China as they had no issues with the new parts and he is hopeful that the team can carry the momentum from China forward to Spain so that the team can continue their points scoring run.

Bottas has scored points in every race so far this season and as a result is currently in 7th place in the Driver's standing's on 24 points just one ahead of McLaren's Jenson Button.

©Ben Johnston 2014

Red Bull to fight Mercedes

(Eric Vargiolu DPP1 for Renault Sport F1)

Red Bull Racing have vowed to continue fighting Mercedes for the 2014 Formula One championship despite a difficult start to the season for the reigning world champions. The Milton Keynes based outfit, who went into 2014 having completed dominated the sport since 2010 have so far only managed to claim one podium finish since the start the season and that came at the hands of Sebastian Vettel in Malaysia when he finished in third place behind the two Mercedes.

Daniel Ricciardo was also left disappointed after he was disqualified from the opening race of the season Down Under in Australia where he finished the race in second place. Despite their tough start to the year, Red Bull currently lie second in the Constructors championship 97 points behind Mercedes.

When we consider where the team were at this stage last season, Sebastian Vettel had two win's and Mark Webber had secured a podium whereas this season the team have struggled with the new regulations and in particular Sebastian Vettel has appeared to have struggled with the set up of the RB10 compared to team mate Daniel Ricciardo. The Australian has finished ahead of Vettel in the last two Grand Prix. Speaking to Sky Sports F1 about Mercedes, Red Bull team boss Christian Horner said:

'We're going to give it everything. I believe we can take the fight to them, we just can't concede too much more ground.'

Despite the tough start to the 2014 campaign, Horner has been extremely impressed with Daniel Ricciardo's performances alongside Sebastian Vettel which has vindicated their decision to promote the Australian following Mark Webber's retirement from Formula One at the end of last season and his performances in the last two race's against Vettel where he has beaten the German show this.

The team head to the Spanish Grand Prix next weekend where Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber finished the event last year in fourth and fifth place respectively. The team will be hoping that they can mount a challenge to the Mercedes duo to make up some ground on the Brackley based outfit who at this stage in the championship appear to be sprinting ahead of the competition.

©Ben Johnston 2014

Raikkonen not concerned by slow start to the season

(Scuderia Ferrari SpA via Twitter)

Kimi Raikkonen says he has no concerns about his slow start to the 2014 Formula One season and is content with his progress in the opening four Grand Prix of the season. The Finn has struggled on his return to Ferrari and last time out in China saw his team mate Fernando Alonso secure the Italian teams first podium of the season as he finished in third place behind the two Mercedes.

Raikkonen, who is in Italy later this week for the Ayrton Senna memorial has admitted that he is happy with how he has performed despite struggling with the car. Raikkonen was happier with the F14T last time out in China where the Finn finished in 8th place just behind Williams Martini Racing's Valtteri Bottas.

Raikkonen has a good record in Barcelona however, having scored two victories there in 2005 with McLaren and again in 2008 with Ferrari. Fernando Alonso also has two wins at the Circuit De Catalunya having won there last season and in 2006.

Speaking ahead of the next weekend's race in Spain, Raikkonen, who is currently in 12th place in the Driver's standings said:

'I've been here long enough to know this is how it goes sometimes. Raikkonen went on to say: 'There's lots of work to do, we've not been happy with things all the time. One day has been good there, one day in another race, but things seem to have been pretty difficult overall. Once we get a bit more knowledge we can work things out but right now it's not been the easiest races for me but that's how it goes.'

©Ben Johnston 2014

Kovalainen set to join Mercedes

(Mercedes AMG F1 Team)

Former Renault, McLaren, Caterham and Lotus F1 driver Heikki Kovalainen could be on the verge of a return to Formula One according to media reports in Finland. 

Finnish newspaper Ilta Sanomat reports that the 32 year old is set to sign for the Mercedes AMG F1 Team as their official test and reserve driver. Kovalainen last drove in Formula One last season when replaced Kimi Raikkonen at the Lotus F1 Team for the final two Grand Prix of the season in the USA and Brazil.

The 2008 Hungarian Grand Prix winner had hoped to be considered as Raikkonen's replacement at the Lotus F1 Team for this season following the Iceman's return to Ferrari to partner Fernando Alonso. 

If the reports turn out to be true Kovalainen would once again team up with Lewis Hamilton who drove alongside at McLaren from 2008 to 2009 before joining the then Lotus team in 2010 alongside Jarno Trulli.

There would be plenty of opportunities for Kovalainen to test the Mercedes W05 because if he is confirmed by the team before next weekend's Spanish Grand Prix he would be able to drive during the two day test which will take place on the Tuesday and Wednesday following the Spanish Grand Prix.

Another test session will take place following the British Grand Prix in July. We will just have to wait and see what happens in the coming days.

©Ben Johnston 2014

Hamilton has advice for Vettel

(Mercedes AMG F1 Team)

Mercedes AMG F1 Team's Lewis Hamilton has advised quadruple world champion Sebastian Vettel to 'demonstrate leadership' at Red Bull Racing.

Hamilton and team mate Nico Rosberg has completely dominated the opening four Grand Prix of the season with Hamilton takes three wins in a row for the first time in his career. However the 2008 world champion remains four points behind team mate Nico Rosberg who is leading the championship.

Red Bull Racing have endured a difficult start to the 2014 season and have so far secured just one podium compared to seven podiums for the Mercedes team.

Despite his team's current advantage, Hamilton believes that Red Bull will be more competitive in the coming Grand Prix as the reigning world champions will of course like all the other teams including Mercedes will be bringing major upgrade packages to their cars for next weekend's Spanish Grand Prix.

©Ben Johnston 2014

Ferrari duo heading to Imola for Senna memorial


Ferrari have confirmed this morning that both Kimi Raikkonen and Fernando Alonso will be in attendance as the Formula One world gets together at the Imola circuit in San Marino to mark the 20th anniversary of the death of triple world champion on Thursday.

Speaking ahead of the memorial, Fernando Alonso commented:

'I think Senna set the standard for all drivers and he was definitely the best of his generation. What made him special was his great will to win and the numbers speak for themselves. He always fought right to the bitter end and that earned him the respect of all his colleagues and it’s what makes him a legend today. I was very little at the time and Spanish TV did not show Formula 1, but I began to know something about him as my father was a fan and my first kart was painted in the same colours as his car.'

Kimi Raikkonen also commented about Senna as the 2007 champion said:

'Senna’s death was an incredibly sad moment for the world of Formula 1,” “I was still at school back then and even if I don’t remember much about him, because I was too young, that day has stayed fixed in my memory. I think he was a great driver and a benchmark for many who came after him.'

The Formula One community will also pay tribute to Roland Ratzenberger who was also tragically killed on the same weekend as Ayrton after a horrendous crash in his Simtek during qualifying for the San Marino Grand Prix.

©Ben Johnston 2014

Button fit and ready to race in Spain despite injury reports

(McLaren Mercedes)

McLaren Mercedes have rubbished media reports that Jenson Button will miss next weekend's Spanish Grand Prix in Barcelona. Over the weekend, speculation was rife that Button was suffering from a leg injury as he 2009 world champion elected to pull out of a triathlon on the Canary Islands.

A McLaren spokesman was quick to dismiss the speculation as he confirmed:

'Jenson decided not to complete the Canary Islands triathlon, but he is fit and well and has, contrary to a few rogue media reports, no injuries of any kind.'

He went on to confirm that Jenson was in the McLaren Technology Centre on Monday carrying out simulator work a he prepares for the start of the European season.

©Ben Johnston 2014

Monday, 28 April 2014

San Marino 1994 - The weekend that changed Formula One forever Part 1


The weekend of the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix started out like any other. Nobody in Formula One could have foreseen the events that would change the course of the sport forever. On Friday morning practice got underway as it normally did at every Grand Prix and everything was going well until the red flag's came out.

Jordan's Ruben's Barrichello, who had made his debut for the the Silverstone based team in South Africa the previous year was involved in an extremely violent crash. 

The Brazilian's car was launched into the air at over 150 MPH and flew into the tyre barriers at the side of the circuit, his Jordan car came to rest upside down and was put right side up the marshals at the side of the track. Fortunately the Brazilian escaped unscathed however he did not part in the Grand Prix on the Sunday and returned to racing for the following round of the championship in Monaco.

The left front suspension of the Jordan 194 failed and fortunately for Barrichello his car went sideways into the barriers and as the crash happened he managed to apply the brakes which meant that the the impact was slightly less but still extremely violent. 

The Brazilian did not take part in the San Marino Grand Prix following his accident however he went on to finish the 1994 season in 6th place in the driver's championship, 5 points behind Ferrari's Jean Alesi. 

©Ben Johnston 2014

Lotus looking good despite financial issues

(Eric Vargiolu/ DPPI for Renault Sport F1)

Lotus F1 Team owner Gerard Lopez has stated that reports his team are struggling financially were exaggerated. 

The Luxembourgian, who attended his first race of the season in China confirmed that the Enstone outfit are in a better position now following a recent management reshuffle which has seen Technical Director Nick Chester and Head of Trackside Operations Alan Permane assume the responsibilities that were held by former team boss Eric Boullier.

Lopez revealed that the investment that was due from the Quantum Motorsports Group did arrive to the team however it was sent back due to 'issues relating to those people'. As a result it meant that there was a delay in certain payments.

Lopez also confirmed that Eric Boullier's departure from the team was unfortunate as he was the communication into the team for Lopez but he now feels that the new structure in place at the team is better now because there is now direct communication between the two rather than using Boullier. 

The team were forced to make 95 staff redundant as part of the restructuring process although many of these staff members were put in place with the specific task of working on the 2014 car. 

Lotus have yet to secure a point so far this season, however they have received an engine upgrade from Renault which they hope will enable them to start scoring point's. 

The team will bring a major upgrade package for the E22 to the next race in Barcelona which they hope will bring them closer to the likes of Force India and McLaren. 

©Ben Johnston 2014

Sunday, 27 April 2014

Successful end to first F1 test for Simona De Silvestro

(Sauber F1 Team)
The Sauber F1 Team's affiliated driver Simona De Silvestro completed her first Formula One test in Fiorano, Italy on Sunday. The Swiss driver completed 68 laps covering a total distance of 204 kilometres.
The Swiss driver has now completed a total of 180 laps in the 2012 Sauber C31 and has completed 530 kilometres. Speaking following the test, the former IndyCar driver stated:
“It was another good day. Everything feels more familiar to me compared to yesterday, when things were new to me. We made some changes to the set-up, which gave me the opportunity to get a feeling for those changes and learn how the car reacts to them. I can say that I already feel confident in the car, which is very positive.
I’m quite happy with what I was able to achieve over the two days. A big thank you to the team who did a fabulous job explaining everything to me, and giving me the time to reflect on this. I had a lot of questions, and I got all the answers from the engineers, who took the time to show me the data and discuss it with me in all detail. I’m already looking forward to my next opportunity to test the C31.'
The test was extra special for De Silvestro has she experienced a completely trouble free two day's for the Hinwil based outfit. The team were extremely impressed with De Silvestro's progress over the two day programme at Ferrari's test track.
De Silvestro's test engineer, Paul Russell commented:
'We continued today where we left off yesterday with the acclimatisation programme for Simona. Over night she had the time to reflect on a lot of things and was able to adapt her driving accordingly. She learned the track well yesterday, so we had the opportunity to get some set-up work done today. Simona drove very well, had a good pace and was consistent. Overall these were two very positive days.'
The Hinwil based outfit confirmed that De Silvestro will be back behind the wheel of the C31 in Valencia from 25th - 27th June, three day's after the Austrian Grand Prix.
You can see footage of Simona's first F1 run here:
©Ben Johnston 2014

Hamilton and Button top Britain's highest paid Sportsmen list

(McLaren Mercedes)
Formula One has come out on top of the list of the highest paid sport men in Britain with Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button taking first and second in the list. According to Sky Mercedes Lewis Hamilton will take home a reported £68 million in 2014 which is an increase of £8 million on what the 2008 world champion earned last season.
McLaren's Jenson Button will reportedly earn £63 million in 2014 which is an increase of £5 million compared to 2013.
Driver salaries has become a hot topic in Formula One recently with a number of them confirming that they have not been paid outstanding salaries with suggestions prior to the Chinese Grand Prix that a number of them were set to strike. However Sahara Force India's Nico Hulkenberg poured cold water on this report saying that although situation was not ideal there was never any talk about driver's striking over unpaid wages.
Following the story, the Lotus F1 Team's Romain Grosjean confirmed that he has been paid the outstanding salary that was owed to him by the Enstone based outfit.
According to reports in the media Ferrari's Fernando Alonso is the highest paid F1 driver in 2014 with the Spaniard earning in the region of £20 million with Ferrari sponsor Santander financing part of the deal. In contrast Kimi Raikkonen, who did bring sponsorship with him when he re-joined Ferrari for this season is reportedly set to earn £10 million.
World champion Sebastian Vettel earned a reported figure of €12 million in 2013, however it is not known how much the German can expect to receive this season.
A number of driver's for example, Pastor Maldonado have managed to bring substantial sponsorship packages with them to a team for example the Venezuelan brought oil giant PDVSA with him to the Lotus F1 Team following his departure from the Williams F1 Team at he end of last season.
However, it is believed that the oil giant have pumped a lot less money into the Lotus F1 Team then they did with the Williams team. In 2012, it was estimated that Maldonado brought an estimated £45 million in sponsorship from PDVSA to the Williams team.
In recent season's due to the economic down turn worldwide we have seen a drop off in massive sponsorship deals being announced in Formula One. However that changed this season as the Williams F1 Team have managed to plug the hole left by the departure of PDVSA by announcing Martin as their title sponsor with the Grove outfit being renamed Williams Martini Racing.
McLaren, who lost title sponsor Vodafone at the end of last season have said that financially they are in an extremely strong position and are currently in negotiation with a number of company's over a new title sponsorship and will be in a position to announce who it is in the near future.
©Ben Johnston 2014 


Spanish Grand Prix Preview

(Mercedes AMG F1 Team)

Formula One returns to Europe for the first time since winter testing in under two weeks time as the Spanish Grand Prix gets underway at the Circuit De Catalunya in Barcelona. The circuit will host the new era of Formula One for the first time as in 2014 preseason testing took place at the Jerez circuit.

The Spanish Grand Prix is traditionally ear marked by the teams as the race that they bring their first major upgrade package to the track and this year there is added importance to the upgrades as a number of teams seems to be struggling with the era of Formula One.

One team who are not struggling however are Mercedes as the Brackley based outfit have taken victory in all of the first four Grand Prix of the season and they head to Barcelona with a sizable points advantage at the top of the Constructors championship and their two driver's Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton are one and two in the Drivers classification. 

Last years race was won by Ferrari's Fernando Alonso who finished the race 9.3 seconds ahead of Kimi Raikkonen who was driving for Lotus. Felipe Massa finished the race in third in the second Ferrari while Lewis Hamilton finished in 12th place one lap down. Nico Rosberg, who is currently the championship leader finished last seasons race in 6th place having started the race from pole position.

The Mercedes duo locked out the front row in Barcelona last season and it is likely that with their current advantage the Brackley based outfit may very well repeat this feat. We will just have to wait and see if any of the other team's like Ferrari, Red Bull, McLaren or Williams can challenge the Mercedes duo. 

The track temperatures are expected to be very high in Barcelona so as a result teams will have to manage their tyre wear very carefully. The Mercedes driver's seem to be able to cope with tyre wear in particular Lewis Hamilton. It will be interesting to see what they can do.

The race will be extra special for Paddock Eye as I will be attending the race which is my first Grand Prix since the 2010 Italian Grand Prix and with the new era of Formula One having proven to be extremely exciting so far I can not wait to see and indeed hear the new cars up close and indeed to hear the new power units first hand is going to be absolutely fantastic.

I can't wait for the Grand Prix and to share my experience with the fans.

©Ben Johnston 2014

Hakkinen critical of Vettel over team orders

 (Frederic Le Floc'h /DPPI for Renault Sport F1)

Former world champion Mika Hakkinen has criticized reigning quadruple world champion Sebastian Vettel over the German's failure to obey team orders. In China last weekend, Vettel was asked by his engineer to let team mate Daniel Ricciardo past him however, after asking what tyre's Ricciardo was on the German replied 'Tough Luck' upon hearing that he was on the same tyre as the German.

It was not the first time that the German had failed to obey a team order. There was the infamous Multi 21 incident with Mark Webber in Malaysia last season. At that race Vettel was heard on the radio saying: 'Mark is too slow, get him out of the way'.

Vettel has had the measure of his previous team mate's and has now come up again Ricciardo in the sister Red Bull who has been able to out-qualify and out race him this season and Hakkinen, who won  the championship in 1998 and 99 believes it is only a matter of time before Vettel's actions will come back to haunt him. Writing in his column for Hermes, the Finn stated:

'Vettel is behaving in a way that will sooner or later hurt himself as such things one remembers when he wants to change teams'.

Hakkinen's comments come as Vettel appears to be struggling with the set-up of the new RB10, whereas Ricciardo has found a sweet spot with the car. Despite his struggles however Vettel is ahead of Ricciardo in the championship and has secured a podium finish.

The few Grand Prix are going to be extremely interesting in determining which one of the Red Bull driver's will have the upper hand going into the second half of the 2014 season.

©Ben Johnston 2014

Saturday, 26 April 2014

Hulkenberg looking for consistency throughout the season

(Sahara Force India Formula One Team)
Sahara Force India driver Nico Hulkenberg heads to the Spanish Grand Prix in Barcelona in two week's time with the aim to secure his first podium for the Silverstone based team following an extremely strong start to the season which sees the German currently 4th in Driver's standing's three point's ahead of Sebastian Vettel.
Hulkenberg has recorded a string of top ten finishes in the first four Grand Prix of the season. Last time out in China he finished the race in 6th place just ahead of the Williams driver of Valtteri Bottas and Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen.
Force India have given their driver's Nico Hulkenberg and Sergio Perez the car which has allowed them to show their true pace and particularly in the hands of Hulkenberg as he has been the more consistent of the two and that is why the team head to Barcelona in third place in Constructors championship just three points behind reigning world champions Red Bull Racing.
When asked by the Times of India, Hulkenberg about getting on the podium, Hulknberg said:
'It's definitely the goal, but the most important thing is consistency over the year and to make sure we are scoring points at each race.'

The team have already secured their first podium of the season as Sergio Perez finished the Bahrain GrandPrix in third place with the Hulk coming through the field from eleventh on the grid to finish in fifth place.

Hulkenberg went on to say that he feels that the sacrifices that the team made last season have so far paid off and that along with the new regulations have allowed the team to be more competitive this season.

The team are certainly well ahead of where they were at this point in the season last year. Heading to Barcelona last year they were on 26 point's, however fast forward 12 months and they are doubt that and will be hoping that the upgrades that they bring to Spain will enable them to move closer to Red Bull Racing.


©Ben Johnston 2014

Special Saturday for Simona as she tests for Sauber for the first time

(Sauber F1 Team)

This weekend marks a very special moment for former IndyCar driver Simona De Silvestro as the Swiss driver makes her test debut for the Sauber F1 Team at Ferrari's test track in Fiorano, Italy.

The Swiss driver is testing for the team in a 2012 Sauber car after joining the Swiss based team in February. De Silvestro will be eligible for her mandatory FIA Super Licence once she has completed 300 Kilometres in the Sauber F1 car.

As she is testing for the team this weekend it means that she will eligible for her Super Licence following this weekend's test provided that she has completed the required mileage.
(Sauber F1 Team)

Prior to the start of her test De Silvestro carried out an awful lot of work behind the scenes at the team's HQ in Hinwil. The team have also confirmed their intention to give Simona a run in the 2014 C33 which would be fantastic for the former IndyCar driver.
(Sauber F1 Team)
Simona was extremely successful in the American IndyCar Series and there is absolutely no reason at all as to why she can't repeat tat success in Formula One.

©Ben Johnston 2014

No F1 return for Long Beach in the near future


The news means that the venue would not be available for Formula One until at least 2019 so Formula One team's and indeed its fans will be hoping that the race in New Jersey will go ahead next season.

New Jersey was die to host a second United States Grand Prix this season however authorities in New Jersey were unable to meet the deadline to secure a place on the Formula One calendar for this season. Chris Pook, the organizer of the Long Beach event was keen to bring Formula One back to California and had even proposed that $10 million would be invested in the circuit to upgrade it and make it Formula One standard.

However, the city council have decided to stick with IndyCar as the sports contract was due to run out at the end of next season. Long Beach council have stated in their decision that the door has been left open for the possible return of Formula One to the circuit in 2019.

A Formula One race was held in Long Beach from 1976 to 1983 with Northern Ireland's John Watson the last Grand Prix driver to take victory at the the Californian circuit for McLaren.

Formula One has become more popular in the United States in recent years following the incredible success of the Circuit of the Americas track in Austin, Texas which has proven to be extremely popular among driver's and fan's alike with many European based Formula fans choosing to travel to the United States to watch the race. There is a real carnival atmosphere in the city when the F1 circus rolls into town.

Formula One needs a second race in the US and it would be fantastic to see New Jersey on the calendar. Austin is approximately 1,716 miles driving wise away from New Jersey and with an American team set to come into the sport in 2015 or 2016 means that the sports fan base in the US is going to expand rapidly.

It will be a case of wait and see what happens with New Jersey.

©Ben Johnston 2014

Friday, 25 April 2014

Marussia pushing for cost cutting

(Ben Johnston 2014)

Marussia F1 Team President and Sporting Director Graeme Lowdon has urged Formula One to adopt an affect way of cutting costs or face failure. The sport was set to bring in a budget gap to help to reduce the expense of running a team in the series however, this idea was dismissed by Lotus, Ferrari, McLaren, Mercedes, Red Bull Racing and Williams who are all part of Formula One's Strategy Group. 

Speaking to the Press Association Sport Lowdon said: 

'There are two elements that are a feature of those sports; one is an equitable distribution of finances within the sport, and the second is cost control of some description.'

He went on to say

Financial accountability is the cornerstone of commerce, and the methods of auditing and accounting are as tried and tested as measuring the size of wings in scrutineering, or anything else like that.'.

Cost cutting has been a major talking point in Formula One for many years now and the fact that a cost cap wasn't introduced a number of years ago forced the likes of Eddie Jordan and Paul Stoddart of the of the sport due to the fact that it become too expensive for them to run their team's and as a result they were unable to compete with the larger team's like Ferrari and McLaren.

Peter Sauber managed to sell his team to BMW but the Germany car manufacturer eventually felt that for the investment they were pumping into their F1 programme was not worth it as they were not getting the desired results on track.

If we look back at the recent history of Formula One we have had Ferrari, BMW, Mercedes, Renault, Toyota and Honda all involved as manufacturers, however it became too expensive for BMW, Honda, Renault and Toyota so they all pulled out of the sport as they were not achieving the results that their huge investment warranted. Renault now supply four team's while Honda will return next season as they will supply McLaren with engines and technical support.

If manufacturer's find it tough to survive in Formula One then one can only imagine what it is like for team's such as Marussia and Caterham to survive let alone compete at the front so it is major balancing act.

Formula One has just spent millions in developing new technology such as Energy Recovery Systems and the new 1.6 litre turbo charged engines so it is extremely surprising that the teams are not willing to introduce some sort of cost cap to ensure the financial security of all the team's especially during the current economic climate.

It would be extremely beneficial for Formula One to adopt a similar system to the Financial Fare Play scheme that is currently in place in Football.

©Ben Johnston 2014

Caterham confirm tests for Rossi

(Francois Flamand - DPPI for Renault Sport F1)

The Caterham F1 Team confirmed this morning that they will run their test and reserve driver Alexander Rossi during Friday practice at the Canadian Grand Prix in June and later in the season at his home race in Austin, Texas at the start of November. The American is currently part of Caterham's GP2 programme and has been carrying out substantial simulator work at the team's base in Leafield.

It will be Rossi's first opportunity to drive the new era 1.6 litre turbo charged power unit and he said:

'Each time I step into F1 machinery there is an important job to do, "Montreal and Austin are important races for me and I want to thank Caterham for the opportunity to continue my development to a full time race seat in F1.'Grand Prix and also the American 

Rossi drove for the team during practice for last season's Canadian and also the United States Grand Prix in Austin.

Caterham team principal Cyril Abiteboul says that his team are extremely excited to see Rossi back behind the wheel of a Formula One car.

He commented:

'Alexander will be continuing his development with two more FP1 sessions for us in Canada and the USA, While his focus this year is firmly on GP2 we are pleased to give him more opportunities to play an active role in the F1 team's race weekends and to have him help us develop our car at two races that are very important for us, both in terms of our season overall and with the strong support we have commercially in the North American continent.'

It is a fantastic opportunity for Rossi to show what he can do with a Formula One car and to be able to do it on the North American stage is even better as it could help him to attract the attention of American sponsors.

More importantly for Rossi is could also prove valuable as Gene Haas, CEO of Haas Formula are on the lookout for driver's as they are aiming to be on the Formula One grid in 2015 or 2016. It would be great to see an American driver on the grid with an American team particularly as Rossi would have recent experience driving the new generation of Formula One car.

©Ben Johnston 2014

Thursday, 24 April 2014

Hamilton happier then ever

(Mercedes AMG F1 Team)

Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton has said that 'I'm in the happiest mood then I have ever been' after the 2008 world champion claimed his third victory in a row and Mercedes fourth win in succession. 

Hamilton has credited his Mercedes team for the fantastic string of results that he has had. Speaking about his engineers Hamilton said: 

'My engineers are just fantastic and we're really pulling together. We're not thinking, 'We won the last race, let's chill this weekend', we're working even harder the next time and there's more things we've uncovered setup-wise. I'm constantly learning through the year, physically feeling even better, mentally I feel strong, and I owe that to the team.'

The Mercedes team head to the opening race of the European season in Spain in two week's time as the clear favorites to take the win. Despite his team's fantastic run of results recently Hamilton has said that the team aren't getting carried away by becoming complacent. 

He went on to say:

'I'm in the happiest mood that I can remember, It's where I am in my life, family, girlfriend, all things, where I live, everything, having the right people in place, management, being in the right team.'

At last years Spanish Grand Prix, Hamilton finished in 12th place one lap down on race winner Fernando Alonso after starting the race the front row in 2nd place while team mate Nico Rosberg finished the Grand Prix in 6th place having started the race from pole position. Mercedes are currently the team with the momentum heading to Europe having won the opening four Grand Prix. 

The team will no doubt face stiff competition from Ferrari and Red Bull who finished best of the rest in the last race in China and McLaren will also be extremely keen to bounce back from two poor Grand Prix outings.

©Ben Johnston 2014

Mercedes may impose team orders

(Mercedes AMG F1 Team)

Mercedes Motorsport boss Toto Wolff that the Brackley based outfit may impose team orders on their driver's if Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton's on track rivalry gets out of hand. The pair have finished 1-2 in the last three Grand Prix in a row with Lewis Hamilton aiming to make it four Grand Prix victories in a row next time out in Spain.

Nico Rosberg currently leads the championship, four point's ahead of Lewis Hamilton and Wolff has stated:

'Bahrain was particular because our package worked very well and we had quite a competitive advantage there, so it's easier to take a decision for the sake of racing because you know you're going to have quite a margin to the car in third place.'

Mercedes will be hoping that they do not experience something similar to what happened at McLaren in the late 1980's when Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost were team mate's which caused friction within the team which eventually resulted in Prost leaving the team at the end of the 1989 and moved to Ferrari.

Wolff confirmed that rule number one within Mercedes is that your team mate is not your number one competitor as the team comes first and not the individual. 

Mercedes won't care who wins the Driver's championship as long as it is one of their driver's as the Constructors championship is where the money is for the team. The high track temperatures expected in Barcelona should suit the W05 and in particular Lewis Hamilton as he has been able to manage his tyre wear better then team mate Nico Rosberg.

©Ben Johnston 2014

Sato doubts a Formula One return to Long Beach will work


Former Formula One driver Takuma Sato believes a plan to bring the sport back to Long Beach in California when IndyCar's contract expires at the end of 2015 will not work.

The Japanese driver who raced for Jordan, BAR-Honda and Super Aguri in F1 from 2002 - 2008 has stated that due to the circuit standard in Long Beach means that it will not return to the Formula One calendar is in his opinion to bumpy for the modern Formula One car. Sato won the Grand Prix of Long Beach in IndyCar in 2013.

Sato believes that if they are successful in getting Formula One back to Long Beach there will be an awful lot of work to be done. Formula One has enjoyed a renewed relationship with America since the introduction of the Circuit of the America's in Austin Texas in 2012 and this has helped the popularity of the sport to sky rocket State side in recent season's, so much so that a second race was due to be held in New Jersey this year, however that has been put back to next year.

Long Beach has now been put forward as a possible replacement venue should New Jersey fail to make it onto the calendar next season. Bernie Ecclestone has backed the plan to bring Formula One back to California however the Englishman's bribery trial started in Germany today over alleged corrupt payments and should he be convicted it is likely that he will be forced to step down as the commercial rights holder of Formula One.

It would depend on whether or not any potential successor to Ecclestone is happy to bring the sport back to Long Beach. America is such a massive market for the sport that it would be silly for the sport not to consider a return to California particularly as Gene Haas has been granted a licence to enter Formula One from next season while will substantially increase the United States involvement in the sport as the team will be based in North Carolina next to his NASCAR operation.

Former F1 driver Justin Wilson echoed Sato's skepticism by saying: 'There is no way an F1 race could happen around here anymore.'

The Englishman who raced for Minardi and Jaguar in Formula One in 2003 believes that the track surface in Long beach would have to be ripped up and completely replaced to enable Formula One cars to race on the circuit and he does not believe that this will happen.

However despite Sato and Wilson's concerns if Bernie Ecclestone says there will be a race in Long Beach then Formula One will have a Grand Prix at the circuit regardless of what happens with Ecclestone in the future.

©Ben Johnston 2014