Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Honda will need experience

(McLaren Mercedes)

McLaren's Jenson Button believes that Honda will need experience next season as they embark on the latest stint in Formula One as a 'works' engine partner to the Woking based outfit next season. Button,who is the most experienced driver in Formula One and began his career in the year 2000 with the Williams team is out of contract with McLaren at the end of the current season.

The 2009 world champion joined the Woking based outfit in 2010 and despite having not won the championship with the team he has been on the podium numerous times and won countless Grand Prix during his time with the team.

The Englishman is confident of remaining with the McLaren-Honda Formula One team next season. Speaking to Autosport Button commented:

'It would help them if they had experienced drivers driving their car for development reasons.'

It has been well documented of the fact that Honda are keen on signing Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel with the Japanese manufacturer rumored to be prepared to pay $30 million to buy Alonso out of the two years that the Spaniard has remaining with Ferrari.

However Alonso is unlikely to want to leave Ferrari as he has always stated that he would like to win the his third driver's championship with Ferrari. As for Vettel he has stated that he will remain with Infiniti Red Bull Racing despite his poor 2014 season.

Button himself is used to how the Japanese company does business having driven for the Honda powered BAR team in 2003 before it later became Honda F1 Racing before winning the title with the Brawn GP in 2009 following Honda's withdrawal from Formula One as a team owner at the end of 2008 season. 

Button believes that having experienced drivers for next year that it would benefit Honda's long term development of their power unit due to the fact that they will be able to give greater technical input to the unit.

© Ben Johnston 2014

Williams head to Japan aiming to extend their advantage over Ferrari

(Williams Martini Racing Team)

The Williams Martini Racing Team head to this weekend's Japanese Grand Prix at the Suzuka circuit with a whole host of updates for the FW36 which they hope will help them extend their nine point advantage over Ferrari who are currently in fourth place in the Constructors championship.

Last time out in Singapore the Grove based outfit had mixed fortunes. Fresh from his first podium for the team at the Italian Grand Prix, Felipe Massa finished the race in fifth place place while Valtteri Bottas was left disappointed as the Finn just narrowly missed out on a top ten result ending the race in eleventh place.

Speaking ahead of this weekend's race, Williams Martini Racing's Head of Performance Engineering Rob Smedley stated:

'Japan is one of the last remaining old school tracks. It is incredibly important to get the cars set-up right and very difficult for the drivers to get the perfect lap. 

The track is one which tests all aspects of the car and so is very tough to get right. Tyre management is key, so we hope we have done all of our homework and getting on top of track conditions throughout the weekend will directly affect qualifying and the race. I personally enjoy Japan, the fans are immensely enthusiastic about the sport and incredibly welcoming of the teams.'

The Japanese Grand Prix is a favourite among the drivers and the Williams driver's are no exception. Speaking ahead of the race Felipe Massa stated:

'Japan is one of the best circuits on the calendar. 

The first sector is amazing and the elevation changes really add to the excitement of the track. We have good momentum at the moment and our car will hopefully be better than in Singapore. The Japanese fans are some of the most passionate fans. On a Thursday in the rain the stands are still full. I also love Japan and look forward to seeing more of the country.'

The Suzuka circuit should suit the characteristics of the FW36 which has shown great potential on high speed circuits such as Monza and Spa Francorchamps. Valtteri Bottas, who is currently in 6th place in the championship has scored four podium finished this season stated:

'Suzuka is my favourite circuit on the calendar. The high speed corners make it a very special track to drive and a lot of fun. For a driver it’s quite a challenge with no room for a mistake, but it’s fast which just makes it even better to drive. You need good downforce and stability which could bring the field closer together. One thing all drivers say about Japan is just how amazing the fans are, and I am looking forward to seeing them again and hope they enjoy the race.'

© Ben Johnston 2014

Renault Sport F1 Japanese Grand Prix Preview

Photo dy circuit
(Renault Sport F1)

Renault Sport F1 head to the Japanese Grand Prix in Suzuka this weekend hoping to build on an extremely result last time out in Singapore which saw Infiniti Red Bull Racing take second and third place on the podium with reigning world champion Sebastian Vettel achieving his best result of the season so far in second place while his team mate Daniel Ricciardo finished the race in third place. 

Renault powered Toro Rosso's Jean Eric Vergne did a fantastic job under the lights in Singapore to finish the race in 6th place strengthening the Italian team's position in 7th place in the Constructors championship which sees them extend their lead over fellow Renault powered outfit the Lotus F1 Team to 19 points with five race's remaining this season.

The Enstone outfit finished the Singapore Grand Prix in 12th and 13th place respectively for Pastor Maldonado and Romain Grosjean. 

Meanwhile Daniil Kvyat finished the race in 14th place in the second Toro Rosso. He will be joined on track in Japan on Friday by his new 2015 team mate Max Verstappen who will make his full test debut with the outfit in Free Practice One in Suzuka in place of Jean Eric Vergne.

Singapore was also a fantastic race for the Caterham F1 Team's Marcus Ericsson who ended the Grand Prix in 15th place which was the Swedish drivers best result since the Monaco Grand Prix back in May where he finished the race just outfit the points in 11th place. While Ericsson had a great race it was a disappointing race for his team mate Kamui Kobayashi as the Japanese driver retired from the race with a power unit failure.

The Japanese driver will be hoping for a strong result in front of his home crowd this weekend in Suzuka.

The Caterham F1 Team are hoping that they will be in a position to close the gap to the Lotus F1 Team and Sauber F1 Team this weekend. Speaking ahead of this weekend's race Renault Sport F1's Head of Track Operations Remi Taffin commented:

'Suzuka is one of the classic circuits on the calendar; a real rollercoaster of a circuit that challenges the drivers, engineers and strategists. Every part of the car needs to be optimized to deal with the high-speed turns, long periods of open throttle and tight hairpins, and a strong harmony between chassis and engine will really pay dividends.

With the risk of sounding like a cliché, the circuit really is a game of two halves. The majority of corners are found in the first part of the circuit, with the ‘power’ section coming in the last half. It’s therefore a circuit where each component of the Power Unit will get a work out and has to be on top of its game.

The first challenge of the lap is the Esses, a series of bends where the driver will dance with the throttle as he changes direction at high speed. Similar to Silverstone’s Maggotts and Becketts, the driver enters the complex at approximately 245kph and carries the speed through until the exit of the complex. He will spend approximately 15secs in fifth or sixth gear through this section. With plenty of quick lifts and changes of direction, a neutral handling car with good drive throughout the torque range is required. This section gives the MGU-H plenty of time to recover energy through the constant exhaust stream, while the MGU-K will also get a top up as the driver touches the brakes. The best opportunity for the K to recharge the battery, however, will be through the hairpin and then the chicane at the end of the lap.

The second part of the track will really tax the ICE and turbo. The distance from Turn 14 through the awesome 130R to the chicane is 1,250m and the driver will be at full throttle throughout. At full rpm that will take nearly 17secs, meaning the driver will cover 75m each sec. Inside the ICE the pistons will turn at an incredible 200 times per second, generating enormous internal forces.

Due to the strain on each part, we will, where possible, introduce new components for this race. Reliability will start to play a major role in results at this point in the season since every team and driver has had to mix and match as we have learnt more on the operation of the power unit. To keep aces in hand, we may even see teams run fewer miles in practice to save the engines for the rest of the year.

We are however fairly at ease on this front since we have committed ourselves to introduce a sixth power unit where needed. The picture is a lot clearer now and although not exactly ideal to have to introduce new parts and take penalties, we can do this at races where the impact will be minimised. We believe Suzuka will be a good challenge, but one that we are looking forward to with no worries.'

© Ben Johnston 2014

McLaren making progress but expect to struggle this weekend

Jenson Button on track.
(McLaren Mercedes)

McLaren Mercedes driver Jenson Button believes that the Woking based outfit are making progress with the development of this years MP4-29 despite what has been by their extremely high standards a difficult season. The outfit are currently in 6th place in the Constructors championship, 6 points behind the Sahara Force India Formula One Team with five race's to go this season.

The Woking based outfit have scored just two podium finishes this season which came at the season opening Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne. 

Button, who has yet to sign a new contract with McLaren for next season was left disappointed last time out in Singapore as the 2009 world champion was forced to retire form the race following a power box failure just eight laps from the end of the race. 

Button is a huge fan of the Suzuka circuit in Japan and has won there for McLaren in 2011 however the Englishman does not expect a repeat this season as he feels that the fact that the team are on an 'upward curve' he expects that the circuit will not suit the characteristics of this year's McLaren.

Despite his retirement from the Singapore Grand Prix and admitting that he feels the team will struggle Button is hoping that he will be able to return to the points for the Woking based outfit to help them to close the gap to the Sahara Force India F1 Team in the race for fifth pace in the Constructors championship which is currently held by the Silverstone outfit.

The race in Japan will be of extra importance for both McLaren drivers, Jenson Button and Kevin Magnussen as the circuit is owned by McLaren's new engine supllier Honda who will take over from Mercedes in 2015.

© Ben Johnston 2014

Ferrari remain hopeful of overtaking Williams in the championship

Embedded image permalink
(Scuderia Ferrari SpA via Twitter)

Ferrari Technical Director James Allison is confident that the Italian outfit can overhaul the Williams Martini Racing Team and reclaim third place in the Constructors championship in the final five Grand Prix of the season starting with this weekend's Japanese Grand Prix at the Suzuka circuit. Ferrari are currently in fourth place, nine points behind the Grove based outfit.

Ferrari have endured an extremely difficult 2014 season which has seen the outfit score just two podium finishes which came at the Chinese Grand Prix in April and the Hungarian Grand Prix both courtesy of Fernando Alonso.

The team have also undergone a major change in management with Marco Mattiacci replacing Stefano Domenicali as team principal while FIAT chairman Sergio Marchionne replaced Luca Di Montezemelo as Ferrari chairman and president following the Italian Grand Prix. Speaking to the official Ferrari website ahead of this weekend's Japanese Grand Prix, Allison stated:

'In Singapore, I think Mercedes probably had a bit more pace in hand, so that brought the front of the grid a bit closer together than normal, Also, it’s a track where the engine has a smaller effect compared with nearly all of the other tracks this year, so that provided another opportunity for the field to close up a bit. And finally, the nature of the corners at Singapore are also sensitive to the amount of mechanical grip that you can get from your package. That’s certainly an area where Ferrari has been working recently and it allowed us to have a rather better weekend.' 

Allison went on to say:

'We left Singapore with some satisfaction that areas we’d been working on the car, to improve its mechanical grip for example, appear to be paying off for us, So we go to Suzuka and the remaining races determined to close the gap to Williams and then try and actually pull ahead of them, with the aim of securing a third place in the championship. We also plan to learn what lessons we can during the remainder of this season, to help guide us for the following year.'

Last time out in Singapore, Fernando Alonso finished the race in 4th place while Kimi Raikkonen finished the race in 8th place.

© Ben Johnston 2014

Relationship with Seb as good as expected

(Bernard Asset DPPI for Renault Sport F1)

Infiniti Red Bull Racing's Daniel Ricciardo has stated that his relationship with world champion team mate Sebastian Vettel is 'as good as it can be.' The Australian who arrived at the reigning world champions ahead of the 2014 season has out-performed Vettel and finds himself in third place in the championship, 57 points ahead of Sebastian Vettel. 

Speaking to Australia's Sunday Night Ricciardo stated that he and Vettel have a regular team mate relationship and that he and Vettel often speak about the German's daughter and that they work well together when discussing the car.

Ricciardo has won three Grand Prix this season compared to none for Vettel so far and he has stated that this has not changed the dynamic of their relationship.

When it comes to podiums, Ricciardo has secured seven podium finishes this season while Sebastian Vettel has secured three podium finishes so far this season.

© Ben Johnston 2014

Monday, 29 September 2014

Magnussen under no illusions

Kevin Magnussen in the garage.
(McLaren Mercedes)

McLaren Mercedes driver Kevin Magnussen has confirmed that should he be dropped by the Woking based outfit at the end of the season that he does not feel that he deserves another chance in Formula One. The Dane began his Formula One career in style after finishing the season opening Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne's Albert Park on the podium in second place.

Since his podium finish, Magnussen's best result has been a seventh place finish at both the Austrian and British Grand Prix respectively, while his best qualifying result was a fourth place in Australia and again in Germany. 

The Dane is currently in eleventh place in the championship on 39 points. six behind Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen. 

McLaren, who make the switch from Mercedes power units to Honda have yet to confirm their driver line up for next season with just five race's remaining this season. The Woking based outfit have endured a tough 2014 season which has yielded just two podium finishes which came at the season opening Australian Grand Prix. 

McLaren are currently in sixth place in the Constructors championship, six points behind the Sahara Force India F1 Team. Speaking to Crash.net, Magnussen stated:

'The way I see it is I've always known that if I don't deliver this year then that's it, I've got one chance and I think I'm doing OK. It does put pressure on you because when the press starts talking about it, it makes many people talk about it and you can feel a bit of negative energy coming from that.'

Magnussen is McLaren's third driver in the past three season's. Championship leader Lewis Hamilton moved to Mercedes ahead of last season and was replaced by Sergio Perez last season while Perez in turn was replaced by Kevin Magnussen for this season.

Magnussen went on to say that he wants to win race's and championship's in the future and if he can't see that happening then he will do something different.

© Ben Johnston 2014

Verstappen to make F1 debut in Free Practice in Japan on Friday


The Toro Rosso Formula One team have confirmed that their new driver for 2015 Max Verstappen will make his Formula One debut for the team during Free Practice One for this weekend's Japanese Grand Prix at the Suzuka circuit. Verstappen confirmed that he has spent one day in the Red Bull simulator learning the circuit.

The Dutch driver will become the youngest driver in the history of Formula One to take part in an official Grand Prix session at 17 years and three days old breaking the record that was previously held by reigning world champion Sebastian Vettel when he tested for BMW Sauber at the Turkish Grand Prix in 2006.

Verstappen will drive in Free Practice One on Friday in Jean Eric Vergne's Toro Rosso, the man that he is replacing at the Italian team next season,

The Dutch teenager stated that he is just looking for experience and not looking to make history. Japan will be his first of four test outings for Toro Rosso as he will also drive in the US, Brazil and the season ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in November.

© Ben Johnston 2014

Pirelli Japanese Grand Prix Preview

(Pirelli Motorsport Media)

This weekend Pirelli will for only the fifth time this season bring the tyre combination of the Pirelli P-Zero White Medium compound along with the P-Zero Orange Hard compound tyre for the Japanese Grand Prix at the Suzuka circuit.

The Pirelli strategy guide predicts that team's will run a two to three stop strategy It is likely that most teams will opt to run the Medium compound tyre at the start of the race as the compound allows for optimum performance at low temperatures before they switch to the Hard compound tyre at the first stop before switching back to the Medium compound tyre for the second stint.

Speaking about the Japanese Grand Prix, Pirelli motorsport director Paul Hembery commented:

'Japan is one of the highlights of the year, not just for ourselves but for the whole of Formula One. The fans are absolutely brilliant, with huge enthusiasm and knowledge of the sport, which is almost unparalleled anywhere in the world. Suzuka is a real drivers’ circuit, and because of that it is a considerable challenge for the tyres, with some of the biggest lateral energy loads of the year. 

As a result, it would probably be realistic to look at between two to three pit stops, with tyre management forming a key part of the race. However, we’ll obviously know more about that after free practice. It’s a track where several forces are often acting on the tyre at once, and the increased torque but decreased downforce of this year’s cars will only place more demands on mechanical grip. If a tyre can perform well in Suzuka, it can perform well almost everywhere.'

Pirelli tyre consultant and former F1 driver Jean Alesi commented saying:

'Suzuka is just an amazing track from a driver’s perspective. It’s very technical, with each bit of the circuit very different from the others. I would say that 130R is one of the most demanding corners of the entire year, which requires the right set-up and a car that is absolutely planted to the ground. 

The esses are also extremely demanding: if you make just one mistake here that will disrupt the whole sequence and you lose a lot of time. We’ve raced many times at Suzuka in the rain: in those situations, visibility is extremely low. We also tend to see a lot of track evolution over the course of the weekend. So we start off with a surface that is very abrasive and ‘green’ but the driver has to pay a lot of attention to how the situation changes over the weekend and how in turn that affects the tyres.'

© Ben Johnston 2014

Hamilton hoping to continue Singapore momentum in Japan on Sunday while Rosberg hopes to bounce back - Mercedes Japanese GP Preview

(Mercedes AMG F1 Team)

The Mercedes AMG F1 PETRONAS Team head to the Japanese Grand Prix following Lewis Hamilton's second consecutive victory after the 2008 world champion took the win at the Singapore night race two weeks to take the lead in the championship from team mate Nico Rosberg for the first time since the Spanish Grand Prix in May. The Englishman goes to the Suzuka circuit fully away that if Rosberg wins on Sunday he will reclaim the championship lead. Speaking ahead of the race on Sunday, Hamilton said:

'Singapore was a good weekend for me. It’s the first time in quite a few races that I’ve not had to fight through the pack to get a result which made life a lot easier. In the final stint, I had to clear Sebastian quickly after making the extra stop. But the car just felt fantastic and I could push whenever I needed to throughout the race. 

Of course, it was disappointing for the team to have another retirement but I know they have made this a priority moving forwards. It’s levelled things up in the Drivers’ Championship, so hopefully we’ll now have a straight battle right to the flag in Abu Dhabi. Suzuka is one of the races on the calendar that drivers love the most – and arguably one of the greatest tracks in the world. There’s so much history and there have been so many defining moments there – like those unforgettable battles between Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost. 

I’ve never won at this circuit and have only made the podium once, on my first visit way back in 2009. I’ve had a couple of chances and last season was probably the best of those. This year, though, we have an exceptional car and I’m really hoping I’ll finally have my shot at the top step. All the greats of Formula One have won at Suzuka since the sport first came there in the 1980s and I’m determined to add my name to that list this weekend.'

In contrast to his team mate, Nico Rosberg had an extremely disappointing race last time out in Singapore as the German was forced to retire from the race after the Brackley based outfit discovered a problem with his W05 while the then championship leader was on the grid getting ready for the start of the race. 

Rosberg was forced to retire from the race on lap 13 of the race as a result of a wiring loom failure in the steering column. As a result of his second retirement of the season Rosberg is now on 238 points while Hamilton is on 241 points. Speaking ahead of the Japanese Grand Prix the German stated: 

'I said at the time that Sunday in Singapore was probably the toughest moment of my year so far and, looking back on it, I still think that is true. To have the chance for a top result basically taken away before you even reach the grid is hard to swallow and, of course, it was a lot of points lost in the Championship battle. 

I can’t fault the effort of the team, though. I go to the factory and I see how hard everyone is working, so it’s clear that they want the results just as much as us drivers do. I have faith in my colleagues to improve our reliability and I know they will get it right. Next up we have the Japanese Grand Prix – which really is one of the special races in motorsport. There’s so much history at this race – especially at Suzuka. 

It’s definitely one of the best tracks in the world. The fans, too, are just unbelievable. They go absolutely crazy for Formula One and it’s so nice to see their enthusiasm for the sport. They show us so much support – the teams and all of us drivers individually – so we all really enjoy going there and seeing them all. I’m looking forward to this weekend – particularly with the car we have at the moment which should give us a good chance to get a great result.'

Mercedes head into this weekend's race in Japan with a 174 point advantage over Infiniti Red Bull Racing with just five race's to go in the 2014 season. Speaking about last time time in Singapore and indeed looking ahead to this weekend's race Mercedes Executive Director of Business Toto Wolff commented:

'Singapore was a bittersweet event for the team, with both of our drivers producing strong performances throughout the weekend but only one leaving with the result he deserved on Sunday. 

Whilst it was good to see the pace of our car used to full effect by Lewis in the race, Nico’s problems left us under no illusions that our reliability must improve. With five races to go and three points separating Lewis and Nico, it is now a straight fight between the two of them and each will be looking to gain the first advantage in Suzuka, one of the best driver’s circuits in the sport. We are also now entering arguably the most intense phase of the racing season: the final quarter. Inside the team, motivation is stronger now than at any point so far this year. Every single one of us wants to finish 2014 in style.‎'

Meanwhile Mercedes Executive Director (Technical) Paddy Lowe commented:

'We left Singapore with mixed emotions. Lewis produced a fantastic drive in difficult circumstances with the safety car to take a great victory. Credit must go to the team in terms of the strategy – which was bold but absolutely the right call. It demanded a lot from Lewis in terms of his performance in the final phase of the race – but as always he delivered faultlessly. On the other side of the garage, it was very disappointing to have lost Nico’s car in Singapore. 

This was down to the failure of a part which we have been running faultlessly since its introduction six years ago and so demonstrates the challenge of ensuring reliability in a modern Formula One car. Clearly, this is an area in which we need to perform a lot better in the future. Reliability is something we have been working on intensively over the past 12 months and we will redouble our efforts moving forwards. Now, we look ahead to Suzuka. It’s a fantastic track – unique in its figure-of-eight configuration with some spectacular corners, and a very well-liked circuit amongst the drivers. It demands the utmost skill from the driver in order to get the right lines – particularly through the ‘S’ Curves – and good all-round performance from the car in terms of power, braking and cornering. 

We hope that will play to our advantage and that we can bring home another good result. The Japanese fans are some of the very best on the planet – we particularly look forward to seeing what interesting costumes they produce each year. Their enthusiasm for the sport is second to none and we hope to reward them with a good show.'

© Ben Johnston 2014

Q&A with Sahara Force India Team principal and managing director Dr Vijay Mallya ahead of this weekend's Japanese Grand Prix

(Sahara Force India Formula One Team)

The Sahara Force India Formula One Team have had a fantastic 2014 season which has seen them compete against and beat team's that have greater financial resources at their disposal. The Silverstone based outfit have invested well this season and their on track results show this. As part of the team's Japanese Grand Prix preview team principal and managing director Dr Vijay Mallya spoke to the team:

Q - Vijay, the result in Singapore must have been a big boost for the team…

'I was very pleased. The call to make the last pit stop with Checo was an aggressive gamble. We had nothing to lose and everything to gain. 

We didn't do the same with Nico because he was already running in the points and there was a reluctance to take a huge gamble with him. 

As Checo was out of the points, a gamble could either pay off, or we would lose nothing. Fortunately it paid off. As a team we were very happy and both drivers performed brilliantly.'

Q - The team reclaimed fifth in the championship – that surely brings a smile to your face…

'It’s been the story of our season. We were ahead, then we fell behind, and now we're back in fifth place. 

I think we all recognise that the fight is only going to become even more intense as the end of the season approaches. 

To be in this position after fourteen races says a lot about what we have achieved this year. We’ve also scored more points than ever before [117] and there is still a quarter of the season to go. Whatever happens in the remaining races, I’m already very proud of our achievements in 2014.'

Q - What are you feelings ahead of the next race in Japan?

'We haven't had the best of results in Suzuka over the years, but hopefully with this car and these two drivers we can come away with some points. 

We brought an aero update to Singapore and, in terms of race pace, it worked well. Suzuka will give us another chance to evaluate those parts because it’s a track that is dominated by medium-speed corners. There are also a few more bits and pieces coming before the end of the year, so we're continuing to push hard and not giving up.'

© Ben Johnston 2014

Sahara Force India Japanese Grand Prix Preview

Click to Download
(Sahara Force India Formula One Team)

The Sahara Force India Formula One Team head to this weekend's Japanese Grand Prix in Suzuka this weekend having reclaimed fifth place in the Constructors championship from McLaren Mercedes last time out at the Singapore Grand Prix. The Silverstone based outfit are currently six points ahead of the McLaren Mercedes team with five race's to go this season.

Sahara Force India have now scored points in every race so far this season with the exception of the Hungarian Grand Prix.

Speaking ahead of this weekend's Japanese Grand Prix, Nico Hulkenberg commented:

'Suzuka is one of the best circuits of the year. I think it’s quite similar to Spa in terms of the feeling you get inside the car. 

It’s just a great place to experience a Formula One car and it’s a lot of fun. There are some big corners, especially the ‘S’ curves, which are very technical. Finding the right balance is very important for being quick in these long, sweeping corners. The last couple of years I’ve scored good points in Japan so I want to add some more this year.

It’s also a fun weekend outside of the car: the fans really show their love for the teams and drivers, and they’re very sweet and respectful. When we travel from the hotel to the track they are always there standing on the side of the road waving at us with both hands. 

I’m also a big fan of Japanese food, so it’s a good chance to enjoy the local food, especially the teppanyaki.'

Last time out in Singapore, Sergio Perez drove a fantastic race to come from 15th place on the grid to finish the race in 7th place. Commentig ahead of this weekend's race the Mexican said:

'Suzuka is such an exciting circuit. It’s a classic full of great corners in every sector. It’s a track where confidence with your car is especially important because you need to find the flow of the lap, especially in the first sector from turns two to seven where you have to be totally committed. The key is to be precise, but it’s very technical and not easy to hit every apex.
“Because there are so many high-speed corners, it’s not easy to follow cars closely and overtaking is very difficult. It’s possible, though, and I remember having a good battle with Lewis [Hamilton] two years ago.
“We meet great fans during the season wherever we go, but I would rate the fans in Japan as some of the best. They have a lot of love for Formula One and they have always been very kind to me. It is always fantastic to come back to this country because they help make this race a special one.'

The team will be hoping that thy can continue their 2014 points scoring run and extend their lead over McLaren Mercedes in the race for fifth place in the Constructors championship with just five race's remaining this season.

© Ben Johnston 2014

Sauber F1 Team Japanese Grand Prix Preview

(Sauber F1 Team)

The Sauber F1 Team head to the Japanese Grand Prix at the Suzuka circuit this weekend aiming to score their first world championship points of the 2014 Formula One season. The Swiss outfit have endured an extremely tough 2014 season so far ad in recent weeks they has been speculation surrounding the team's future in Formula One.

At last season's Japanese Grand Prix the team scored a double point's finish with Nico Hulkenberg finishing the race in 6th place while Esteban Gutierrez finished the race in 7th place having started the race from 14th place on the grid. 

This season, sees Adrian Suitl with the team having raced for the Sahara Force India Formula One team.last season 

Last time out at the Singapore Grand Prix the team suffered a double retirement with Adrian Sutil suffering a water leak after 40 laps while Esteban Gutierrez suffered an electrical issue 17 laps into the race.

The team will be hoping that this weekend they will be able to close the gap the Toro Rosso and the Lotus F1 Team which will allow them to score their first points of the season. Speaking about this weekend's Japanese Grand Prix Esteban Gutierrez commented by saying:

'The track in Suzuka is one of my favourites. I actually have many tracks that I like a lot, but this one is really unique. The layout of the circuit is very different to other ones, so the set-up of the car is also special. 

The track has many fast corners which can be challenging from an aerodynamic point of view, but there are also some medium speed ones. The first sector is simply amazing, it is a sequence of left-right corners, and it is fantastic driving through it. Also the very fast left corner, called 130R, is a very nice one. I have good memories from Suzuka, as last year, I scored my first points in Formula One there. 

The fan base in Japan is great, and I am impressed with how enthusiastic and passionate the people are about racing. Once we drivers arrive there, the fans make us feel special, and they appreciate what we are doing. This is a good motivation for us.'

Last season Adrian Sutil finished the race in 14th place for the Sahara Force India Formula One Team one lap down having started the race from 22nd place on the grid. Speaking about the Japanese Grand Prix this weekend the German said:

'The Japanese Grand Prix is a nice event with many great fans at the track. For me it is a very special Grand Prix, as in the past I lived in Japan for a year. 

Due to the fact that I won the Japanese Formula 3 Championship in 2006, I have great memories, and it is always a special feeling to come back. The track in Suzuka is with its many fast corners one of my favourites. The first sector especially is tricky, as it has a sequence of left-right-corners which can be driven very fast. 

From a technical point of view, this part of the track is quite challenging, so we need to have a stable car with a lot of down-force, and a front that responds quickly while turing in. 

The last sector is good for overtaking due to the DRS zone. In general the track is narrower compared to the more modern ones, and the run-off areas have gravel and grass, which does not allow room for mistakes. Moreover, I believe it will be difficult  to go flat out through the very fast 130R left corner due to the reduced downforce of this year’s cars. All in all, I would say this track is challenging and fascinating.'

The Sauber F1 Team currently find themselves in 9th place in the Constructors championship, eight points behind the Lotus F1 Team. Speaking about the Suzuka circuit, The Sauber F1 Team's Head of Trackside Engineering Giampaolo Dall'Ara commented:

'The Suzuka circuit is another one of those drivers‘ and engineers‘ favourites, due to the diversification of the challenges faced throughout a lap. 

After a flowing and high-speed biased sector one in which the aerodynamic performance dominates, sector two demands stability and traction. Sector three at the end of the lap is dominated by the straight, in which the drivers negotiate the ultra-high speed 130R corner, and the very-low speed chicane.  

Due to the abrasiveness of the tarmac and the high lateral energy through the high speed corners, Pirelli has allocated the hard and the medium compounds. In the last few years, the Sauber F1 Team has produced some of its best races at Suzuka. This is a source of pride, and keeps us motivated in working hard for results that so far this season we haven’t been able to achieve.'

© Ben Johnston 2014

Sunday, 28 September 2014

The 2015 driver market taking shape

Jenson Button in the garage.
(McLaren Mercedes)

There are five Grand Prix remaining in 2014 and there are still a number of unknowns for 2015 mainly who goes where? There have been a number of rumors in recent days and weeks surrounding the future of Ferrari's Fernando Alonso and his plans for next season however the Spaniard will without doubt remain at Ferrari next season. Alonso has contract with team until the end of the 2016 season.

So this is what we know for certain:

Mercedes have both Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg locked into contracts for the 2015. Rosberg signed a long term contract over the Summer and with Hamilton in the middle of a three year deal it is strongly believed that the team will sit down with him next season and thrash out a long term contract with the 2008 world champion.

Reigning world champions Infiniti Red Bull Racing have Sebastian Vettel under contract until at least the end of next season. Daniel Ricciardo, who joined the Milton Keynes based outfit for the 2014 season having replaced Mark Webber is under a long term contract with Red Bull and following a sensational season so far with the team is certain to remain with them in 2015.

Ferrari team principal Marco Mattiacci has confirmed that both Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen will remain with the Italian team in 2015 despite Alonso been linked with a move back to McLaren who he drove for in 2007. However this is not the case and he will remain with the Prancing Horse. Kimi Raikkonen stated that he will finish his F1 career with Ferrari but has refused to be drawn on when that will be.

At Sahara Force India, Nico Hulkenberg is tied in to a deal for next season and possibly beyond then while as his deal for 2014 was a last minute one, Sergio 'Checco' Perez is set to remain with the team next season following what has been a fantastic season for the Mexican.

At the Italian Grand Prix in Monza at the start of September, Williams Martini Racing confirmed that Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa will remain with the Grove based outfit who have had an absolutely incredible season in 2014 and currently find themselves in third place in the Constructors championship.

The Toro Rosso team have Daniil Kvyat and F1 rookie Max Verstappen in place for next season. Verstappen replaces Frenchman Jean Eric Vergne who is now searching for a drive elsewhere.

McLaren Mercedes make the move to Honda power next season and with both Jenson Button and Kevin Magnussen yet to be confirmed for next season speculation has been rife throughout the season about Button's Formula One future. However the 2009 champion has recently hinted that he will be extending his stay at Woking for the 2015 season while it is likely that Magnussen who was promoted by the team this season will also be retained for next season.

It is unclear what the Sauber F1 Team will do regarding their 2015 line-up with the team's test driver Sergey Siroktin set to drive a Free Practice session for the Swiss based outfit at the inaugural Russian Grand Prix at the Sochi circuit next month with Adrian Sutil's future with the team uncertain.

The Lotus F1 Team have confirmed that Pastor Maldonado will remain with the Enstone outfit next season while it is also likely that Romain Grosjean will remain with the team despite venting his frustration with the outfit recently as the Frenchman's only possible competitive drive for next season could be McLaren Honda next season as he has worked with McLaren Racing Director Eric Boullier during their time together at the Lotus F1 Team.

It is unlikely that Grosjean will head from Enstone to Woking as McLaren are likely to retain Button and Magnussen so that leaves a stay at the Lotus F1 Team the most likely outcome.

The Caterham F1 Team have stated that they are in talks with Marcus Ericsson over extending his current race deal into the 2015 season while it not yet known what the future holds for Kamui Kobayashi.

Finally at the Marussia F1 Team it is uncertain what the future holds for the Banbury based outfit it not yet known what the future has in store for their drivers Jules Bianchi and Max Chilton.

© Ben Johnston 2014

Japanese Grand Prix Timetable

(Mercedes AMG F1 Team)

The Formula One road show heads to The Land Of The Rising Sun for the Japanese Grand Prix at the Suzuka International circuit next weekend where Mercedes Lewis Hamilton will be looking to extend his three point lead in the championship over team mate Nico Rosberg.

The race will be shown live on Sky Sports F1 HD and live across the BBC TV and Radio platforms. TV times (Japan is nine hours ahead of the UK)

Thursday 2nd October 

3PM - FIA Drivers Press Conference

Friday 3rd October

10 -11:30AM - Free Practice 1
2 - 3PM - Free Practice 2
4PM -  FIA Team Principals Press Conference

Saturday 4th October

11AM - Midday - Free Practice 3
2- 3PM - Qualifying
3PM - Qualifying Press Conference

Sunday 5th October 

3 - 5PM 53 lap Japanese Grand Prix 
5PM Post Race Press Conference 

BBC 2 HD F1 coverage on Friday

01:50AM Free Practice 1
05:55AM Free Practice 2


02:55AM Free Practice 3
5AM Qualifying


6AM Race

Sky Sports F1 HD's coverage gets underway on Friday morning:

01:45AM Free Practice 1
05:45AM Free Practice 2


02.45AM Free Practice 3
5AM Qualifying


05:30AM Race

© Ben Johnston 2014

Caterham will be on the grid next season

(Florent Gooden DPPI for Renault Sport F1)

The Caterham F1 Team are fully confident that they will be on the grid next season according to team boss Manfredi Ravetto. 

A Swiss/Middle Eastern consortium bought the Leafield based outfit earlier this season and immediately st about making changes. The team was sold just prior to the British Grand Prix amid rumors that they would have to fold and not see out the rest of the 2014 season. Manfredi commented however by saying not only did the team race in Silverstone but they have also raced last time out in Singapore.

The team also feel that they are closing the gap to Sauber, the Marussia F1 Team and the Lotus F1 Team in the closing stages of the of the 2014 season. The Caterham F1 Team have yet to score point's in Formula One since they entered the sport in 2010.

Speaking to the official Formula One website Manfredi Ravetto commented that his outfit

'Are set to deliver a miracle'.

The team have already started wind-tunnel work on their 2015 chassis. Ravetto has also confirmed that the team are working hard on securing a contract extension with Sweden's Marcus Ericson who made his debut with outfit this season.

Ravetto confirmed that the team have already opened discussions with Ericsson's management team and his financial backers in relation to extending his contract into next season. The Caterham boss has stated that they are very very happy with the Swedish driver.

© Ben Johnston 2014

Mallya delighted with team progress

Click to Download
(Sahara Force India Formula One Team)

Sahara Force India F1 Team principal and managing director Dr Vijay Mallya has hailed his outfit's performance this season as the sport heads into the closing stages of the current campaign. The Silverstone based outfit head to the Japanese Grand Prix at the Suzuka circuit next weekend in 5th place in the Constructors championship, on 117 points 6 ahead of the 'great McLaren'

Force India have had an incredible 2014 season which has seen the team score their first podium finish since the 2009 Belgian Grand Prix as Sergio Perez finished the Bahrain Gran Prix on the podium in third place behind the Mercedes pair Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg.

When asked about their battle with McLaren, Mallya commented:

'Of course I'm loving it, Let's make it clear - when you race with the big boys and are ahead of them, it gives you that extra bit of a high, doesn't it? I'm a racer myself and I get excited about these things.'

In contrast to Force India, McLaren have endured an extremely difficult season in 2014 by their standards and have scored just two podium finishes. McLaren CEO Ron Dennis has stated that the restructuring programme that was put in place will take 18 months to 2 years to yield results.

'McLaren are going to fight, so we have to continue the fight to the last race. We have a few updates coming and I'm sure they have too. I don't have the budget that McLaren has - that's a known fact and something I don't have to prove or disprove. 

I don't know what they do or how they spend their money, but I certainly keep a tight watch on how we spend our money. I know there is another upgrade coming for later on this season and that's all part of the plan.'

Mallya has also confirmed that for the first time since he took over the Silverstone based outfit he has signed off on developing this year's VJM07 right up until the last race of the season as he has stated that there will be very little change in terms of new regulations regarding the chassis following the huge regulation changes that were brought in prior to the start of this season.

If the Silverstone based outfit go on to finish the championship in fifth place in the Constructors championship it would be their highest finishing position since the team entered Formula One in 2008.

© Ben Johnston 2014

Saturday, 27 September 2014

Russian Grand Prix at Sochi forms part of an F1 double header


Formula One heads to the Sochi circuit in two weeks time as the sport gets ready for the inaugural Russian Grand Prix. The race takes place just one week after the Japanese Grand Prix at the Suzuka circuit. 

The Sochi circuit looks absolutely fantastic and from this virtual onboard lap with Toro Rosso's Daniil Kvyat the circuit is extremely fast. 

Earlier this season, reigning world champion Sebastian Vettel became the first Formula One driver to take to the circuit when he drove a lap in an Infiniti Q50 Hybrid road car in August. 

© Ben Johnston 2014

Mercedes get to the bottom of Rosberg's retirement in Singapore

(Mercedes AMG F1 Team)

Following a forensic investigation, the Mercedes AMG F1 PETRONAS Team have determined that Nico Rosberg's retirement from the Singapore Grand Prix caused by a 'foreign substance' The team took to their official Twitter page to say:

'Forensic analysis has revealed that the steering column electronic circuits were contaminated with a foreign substance'

Minute's before the start of the Singapore Grand Prix last weekend, Nico Rosberg's engineers discovered that there was an issue with the steering column of his W05. The team changed his steering wheel which unfortunately for the German didn't work.

He got going but when he made his first pit-stop he told the team to retire the car. The team took to Twitter once again to explain:

'To clarify, the contaminant was a substance used in normal pre-event servicing of the component. '

The team also confirmed that the issue only manifested itself on Sunday prior to the start of the Singapore event. The team have also confirmed that there will be a fresh batch of components for the final Grand Prix of the season starting with next weekend's Japanese Grand Prix.

© Ben Johnston 2014

Friday, 26 September 2014

Infiniti Red Bull Racing Japanese Grand Prix Preview

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

Infiniti Red Bull Racing head to next weekend's Japanese Grand Prix at the Suzuka circuit hoping for a repeat of their result there last season where reigning world champion Sebastian Vettel took victory. At the Singapore Grand Prix last weekend, the German who has suffered a difficult season in 2014 (as the car does not suit his driving style) secured his best finish so far this season as he ended the race on the podium in second place with team mate Daniel Ricciardo finishing the race in third place.

The Japanese Grand at Suzuka is the first of an F1 double header as the following weekend sees the sport travel to Sochi for the first time for the inaugural Russian Grand Prix and speaking about the upcoming events Sebastian Vettel stated:

'Suzuka has been a very positive place for me in the past, I’ve won the race three times and I also won the World Championship there in 2011 which was a fantastic experience. Suzuka as a whole is a fantastic circuit, probably the only circuit you can compare it to on the calendar is Spa. 

It is a very challenging circuit, especially the first sector where there is a lot of high speed corners. I really enjoy those, but later on you also have the spoon corner, which is very technical and a big challenge, as well as 130R. The fans are very special and the atmosphere is incredible, the crowds really appreciate what people in F1 do, so it is great to see that.

SOCHI: The track is unique as it is the only one on the F1 calendar to be located on an Olympic site. As for the circuit, there are definitely similarities to other tracks, perhaps the best comparison is Singapore. But unlike Singapore, the layout is more fluid, so it will be much faster. 

Some sectors remind me a bit of South Korea or Abu Dhabi. Generally, I think it has a very successful mix of corners with different characters, some of them will be very difficult, and that’s ultimately what we want as drivers. It will be quite slippery at the beginning of the weekend and I’m expecting a few driving errors, not only because the track is new for everyone, but also because the surface is still so green. So it will be a while until we feel comfortable on the track.'

Vettel is currently in fifth place in the championship, 57 points behind team mate Daniel Ricciardo who has taken three wins so far this season and is currently in third place in the championship. Speaking ahead of the F1 double header the Australian commented:

'Suzuka is all good, but for me the first sector is just a delight. It’s a dream. You have those fast changes of directions through the Esses, hard around the Dunlop Curve and then, arguably the best bit, turns Eight and Nine: Degner. 

Through Eight you’re hanging on, it’s so narrow and there’s no room for error but you want to push as hard as you can. Then just as you straighten up the car, you’re on the brakes, throwing it into this cambered right-hander and hoping you’ve got it right because if you haven’t then it’s all over. Getting to do that 53 times in a row is a pretty good way to earn a living. What you maybe don’t see on TV is that it’s a real rollercoaster, dropping into valleys and climbing up again, so that you’re rarely on a level surface.

SOCHI: I think firstly, it’s always exciting to go a new venue, particularly a new circuit. As a driver it’s always nice to have something fresh and new and obviously Russia provides a new layout for us. I drove a few laps on the simulator already and I think it should be interesting. 

It’s always different in real life but I hope it can be a fun track. I don’t think we’ll know until we get there, but let’s hope it’s a good challenge for us.'

Q and A with Infiniti Red Bull Racing Engineering Co-ordinator Andy Damerum on getting ready for a new circuit and it entails:

How much information do you get when a new circuit comes onto the calendar?

We do have access to a lot of data from the circuit before we go there, this is available to all teams from the circuit architects so we will have a good understanding of what the layout of the circuit will be like.

What information do you use in terms of modelling the track for simulation?

We can model the circuit data on our simulator, and using the image and video resources available you’re able to build up a picture of the grandstands and surroundings. This will give visual aids for the drivers. So going to a new track, we will be fairly settled on the layout of the circuit. Through the simulations we do we can try to work out the best set up for the car for that circuit. So there is quite a lot we can try and do to prepare.

Can you do anything in terms of tyre data based on existing knowledge of the compounds being used?

We know already ahead of the race what two compounds we’ll have but we don’t know what the roughness of the surface will be until we get there. It’s going to be after Free Practice 1 when we’re going to get a better understanding of what the circuit’s like and its challenges.

Is there any change in procedure for the team travelling to the race. Does the garage build happen earlier to see the finished facilities?

Normally at new circuits we will get there a day ahead, to familiarise ourselves with the area, with the garage etc. and also with Russia it’s a double header with Japan. Other than that, not really, it’s going to be new for everybody. You turn up with your own expectation of what the circuit’s going to be like from a virtual world, but none of us have been there before. The anticipation and excitement when you turn up to a new circuit is definitely there.

©  Ben Johnston 2014