Monthly Archives: July 2013

Mid-Season Report: Williams

Driver: Pastor Maldonado and Valtteri Bottas
Championship standings: 9th
Highest finish: 10th

For the fifth year in a row, Williams was starting the season with a new driver. Bruno Senna had lost his seat at the Grove based team while Pastor Maldonado would be joined by the team’s former test driver, Valtteri Bottas. The combination of the 2012 race winner and the hotly tipped rookie seemed to suggest a stronger year for the struggling team.

It was a disappointment then when the team out-qualified only the four ‘backmarkers’ and Esteban Gutierrez in the Sauber. It was hoped that the race would be more of a success but Maldonado spun out on lap 24 to retire from his third consecutive Australian Grand Prix. In the other Williams, Bottas finished ahead of only the backmarker quartet.

The next round in Malaysia was a mixed affair. Maldonado retired again to make it his third retirement out of three races in Sepang, while Valtteri Bottas converted a poor Quali performance into an eleventh in the race. Fifteenth and seventeenth for Maldonado and Bottas respectively in Chinese qualifying saw them finish in formation with Bottas thirteenth and Maldonado fourteenth.

Maldonado replicated the team’s best result when he finished eleventh in Bahrain while Bottas finished a distant fourteenth. Catalunya, the scene of Maldonado’s 2012 win, showed no mercy to the Venezuelan who dropped out of Q1 and started the race in eighteenth. He went on to finish the race in fourteenth ahead of Bottas in sixteenth, in a quiet race for the team. Moving onto Monaco, Maldonado suffered his third retirement of the season, and his third consecutive DNF at the principality when the Marussia of Max Chilton moved across in a botched overtaking attempt and sent the FW35 into the barrier at Tabac in a whopping 9G impact. The buckled barrier blocked the track and prompted a red flag. Bottas took advantage of the drama to move from sixteenth to twelfth, where he finished the race.

The Canadian Qualifying session saw an absolutely stunning performance from Bottas who placed his Williams in third place on the grid. Maldonado was nowhere near as fast and qualified in thirteenth. Despite the strong Quali pace, Bottas dropped steadily back to fourteenth in the race while Maldonado dropped from thirteenth to sixteenth by the end of the race. The duo took fifteenth and sixteenth in Qualifying at the British round and were spared the mid-race tyre dramas. However, they failed to use the drama to score a point, instead finishing painstakingly close when they placed eleventh and twelfth.

The German Grand Prix was the team’s 600th Grand Prix, although they held the celebrations at their home round in Silverstone. However, there were no cause for celebration as both drivers dropped from Qualifying during Q1. It was no more successful during the race when they finished fifteenth and sixteenth. The team’s first point was finally scored at the Hungarian Grand Prix when Maldonado went from fifteenth to tenth in the race. Valtteri Bottas suffered the first retirement of his Formula One career when he pulled over on the last corner with a smoking engine.

It’s not been the season Williams and their supporters were hoping for when they partnered Bottas with Maldonado. Claire Williams becoming the team principal in April saw no immediate improvement and they’ll have to knuckle down in the development race if they wish to fight more regularly for points finishes.


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Wing Damage Hurt My Race – Says Massa

Felipe Massa maintains that front wing damage sustained in a first lap incident at the Hungarian Grand Prix ruined his race.

The Brazilian made contact with Nico Rosberg at turn five on the first lap on Sunday which send shards of his front wing flying backwards and ripping part of Kimi Raikkonen’s Lotus. Massa believes the damage sustained in the incident saw him perform far below what he was capable of.

“It was a difficult race for us, and for me especially,” He said. “I lost a part of my front wing in the first lap, and I’m sure that was a big problem for my car. I lost the balance, more understeer, more oversteer, using the tires a bit more than I was supposed to because of that. I’m sure that was a big problem for me.

“To change the front wing would take a lot of time, and for sure my race would have been worse. You can never be satisfied to finish eighth. It was a difficult race anyway for us, we didn’t have the pace we expected to have. For sure, not satisfying.”

Massa should be thanking his lucky stars that he actually finished a race. The 32-year-old has been on a string of consecutive poor performances since Monaco where he crashed on two separate occasions into the barrier at turn 1. In Canada he crashed during Q2, In Silverstone he spun in FP3 and then suffered a tyre delamination in the race before spinning out of the German Grand Prix.

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Mid-Season Review: Marussia

Drivers: Jules Bianchi and Max Chilton
Championship standing: 10th
Highest finish: 13th

The decision to employ two rookies was met with raised eyebrows, especially for a team locked in a vicious back-of-the-grid battle with Caterham, who had just stolen Marussia’s 2012 star Charles Pic.

However, the idea of having two rookies wasn’t planned from the start. Just two weeks before the new cars rolled out at Jerez for the first of three pre-season tests, Timo Glock announced he was off to DTM which left Marussia scrambling for a replacement. Force India had lost Nico Hulkenberg to Sauber and needed a replacement. Jules Bianchi and Adrian Sutil were the team’s two possible drivers and the Silverstone based outfit eventually chose Sutil. Bianchi, stuck for a drive, decided to take a seat with Marussia instead of returning to the feeder series. It turned out to be a stroke of good luck .

From the very first race in Australia Bianchi stood out. Out-qualifying both team-mate Max Chilton and the Caterham duo, he went on to beat the trio in the race en route to finishing an impressive fifteen. Chilton on the other hand, was behind Pic but ahead of Van der Garde.

Malaysia brought more impressive form from Bianchi. The Frenchman again out-qualified his three back-marker colleagues and went on to record thirteenth in the race, finishing ahead of Pic, Van der Garde, Chilton, Button and Ricciardo. The thirteenth in Malaysia stands as the team’s best result this season and helped pull them to tenth in the Championship. In China, the Marrusia duo, led by Bianchi, once again out-qualified the Caterhams and Jules went on to again finish ahead of Pic, this time taking fifteen while Chilton finished seventeenth.

Charles Pic’s nineteenth in Qualifying ahead of the Bahrain Grand Prix was the first time Bianchi was out-qualified at the back. Chilton was twenty-second and last. Pic went on to out-race the Marussias although they both finished in front of Giedo van der Garde. The Spanish Grand Prix was yet another quiet weekend for the team who slowly but surely seemed to be losing out to Caterham in the development race.

Marussia’s Monaco Grand Prix was hugely disappointing. Bianchi qualified dead last after his Marussia pulled over merely seconds into Q1 with an engine fire. The race was no better as Bianchi failed to make it off the grid for the Parade lap and so had to start from the pitlane. In the other Marussia, Chilton overtook Pastor Maldonado into Tabac but moved back across the Williams too soon and sent the Venezuelan into the TecPro barriers in a tank-slapping 9G impact. The buckled barrier blocked the track and prompted a red flag while Chilton was penalised for the incident. Bianchi eventually retired with a brakes issue while Chilton finished fourteenth.

Canada was a mediocre, uneventful race for the team before the British round where Chilton qualified at the back of the grid for his home Grand Prix. The team was spared of the Pirelli tyre dramas and took advantage of the drama to finish sixteenth and seventeenth, although Charles Pic was once again one step ahead.

Both drivers were involved in separate but scary incidents in Germany. Max Chilton was struck by something during Practice and it was the Zylon strip above his helmet, which was only recently introduced, that stopped the object, most probably a pebble, from penetrating the helmet. During the race Jules Bianchi’s car caught fire into the final chicane and he pulled over. However, once he had climbed from the car, it began rolling back down the hill towards turn 13, crossed the track and hit an advertising board, prompting a Safety Car. Chilton went on to finish nineteenth, last of the remaining cars.

And so to Hungary, the last race before the summer break. It was a poor showing for the team in comparison with Caterham who out-qualified and out-raced both Marussias to bring a disappointing end to the first half of the season which started so promisingly. Although the team started strong in Australia, they slowly but surely dropped behind Caterham in the development race. Bianchi’s thirteenth in Malaysia stands as their best result this season and has them standing above Caterham in the Constructors battle. However, without strong updates over the summer, one would imagine they wont be long slipping behind their rivals.

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Ferrari Confirm Allison Is Maranello Bound

Ferrari have finally ended speculation by officially confirming that James Allison is to join the Scuderia.

The former Ferrari Head of Aerodynamics left his position at Lotus in May where he was the team’s technical director. Now Ferrari have confirmed that Allison will join the team as chassis technical director as of September 1st.

Current Ferrari technical director Pat Fry will take up the position of director of engineering.

“Ferrari announces that, as from this coming 1st September, James Allison will join the Scuderia in the role of Chassis Technical Director,” Ferrari said in a statement. “At the same time, Pat Fry will take on the new position of Director of Engineering. Both men will report directly to the Team Principal of the Gestione Sportiva, Stefano Domenicali.”

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India In The Firing Line

The Indian Grand Prix could be set to lose its place on the Formula One calendar.

F1 ringmaster Bernie Ecclestone was asked about India’s place on the F1 calendar next year and he replied with: “Is India going to happen next year? Probably not,” He said this weekend in Hungary. When asked why it was in danger, Ecclestone said the Grand Prix was “very political”.

The comments come amid the need to lose two races from the 2014 calendar. With the introduction of the New Jersey, Russian and Austrian rounds, it brings the total tally of races to twenty-two, although Ecclestone maintains a season will never have more than twenty races.

Last month, Indian GP promoters moved to cement the track’s position on the calendar, but now it looks like India, which has held a race since 2011, not be hosting a Grand Prix in 2014. The Korean Grand Prix also looks at risk due to its poor ticket sales, but Ecclestone has not commented either way.

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Mid-Season Review: Caterham

Drivers: Charles Pic and Giedo van der Garde
Championship standing: 11th
Highest finish: 14th

Caterham decided to drop Vitaly Petrov at the end of 2012 and stole Frenchman Charles Pic from rivals Marussia to partner Heikki Kovalainen. However, after the Finn’s refusal to pay for his seat in Formula One, he left the team and was replaced by Giedo van der Garde who had been lurking in the wings whilst racing in GP2 and waiting for the opportunity to be called to F1. Van der Garde’s drive was met with a mixed reaction as some felt he wasn’t entirely deserving of the seat, and that Kovalainen would have been a much better driver to pull the team towards the points finishes.

Regardless, Pic and Van der Garde lined up for the lean, mean, green machine in Australia. With much pre-season talk about 2013 being the year of the much desired points finish, Qualifying in Australia was a sharp awakening. While rookie Jules Bianchi stole the headlines with an impressive effort in his Marussia, the Caterhams locked out the back row of the grid, with Pic even failing to make it safely into the 107% race time. Race stewards eventually allowed Pic to race and he went on to finish 16th while team-mate Giedo finished 18th, which was the last of the remaining cars.

Malaysia saw Giedo take last place in Qualifying while Pic finished ahead of Chilton’s Marussia, but behind Bianchi who seemed quite untouchable. Indeed when Pic went on to finish fourteenth and record Caterham’s best result of the season (to date), it was with Bianchi ahead of him in thirteenth to place Marussia above Caterham in the constructors fight.

Unfortunately, it was back to the back for both drivers in China as van der Garde lined up last with Pic right in front of him. Once again, both drivers improved during the race (albeit due to the retirements of other drivers) but Pic’s 16th was infuriatingly beaten by Bianchi who took fifteenth. As per Australia, Van der Garde was eighteenth which served as last place.

With Van der Garde seemingly struggling in comparison to his team-mate, although lets not forget that Giedo is a rookie, Kovalainen was reintroduced to the team when he ran the first free practice session for the team in Bahrain. The team already had two reserve drivers, Alexander Rossi and Ma Qinghua and so one could guess that Heikki was brought in to try to motivate Giedo, although the official team line was that they were using Heikki’s experience to help the team progress. Either way it had no apparent effect on Van der Garde who finished twenty-first, and last, while Pic outraced the Sauber of Gutierrez and both Marussias.

It was a different story at the Spanish Grand Prix a few weeks later however. Van der Garde put in a fantastic qualifying to set himself higher than Pic, who qualified last, and both Marussias. It was a great physiological pick-up for the Dutchman but only served to add to the disappointment when his wheel fell off mid-race. His Pirelli came loose between turns 10 and 11 and although he made it back to the pits, the damage to his undertray was too substantial to continue racing. Charles, the sole remaining Caterham, took seventeenth in the race, beating both Marussia drivers.

Monaco was yet another superb Qualifying session for Giedo who was clearly getting accustomed to life in the F1 cockpit. In Qualifying, he not only beat his team-mate and both Marussias, but also Esteban Gutierrez, Pastor Maldonado, Paul di Resta and Felipe Massa. Fifteenth in Monaco seemed like a good shot at points but Sunday brought the team down from their Saturday high. Pic’s car burst into flames on Lap 9 and led to his retirement while Van der Garde was caught up in the Maldonado/Chilton crash. Throughout all the drama, Van der Garde still managed to finish fifteenth, but left the circuit knowing that much higher could have been on the cards.

Van der Garde’s impressive Qualifying pace seemed to have taken a knock from the events in Monaco and he lined up twenty-second and dead-last in Canada. Pic however, took the baton for the team and out-qualified both Marussias and the Lotus of Romain Grosjean. It was a disastrous race for Van der Garde who was the first to retire from the race. When Red Bull’s Mark Webber went to lap the Dutchman, he blocked him before moving across the Aussie at the hairpin. He was awarded a drive-through penalty for this and soon afterwards came to blows with Sauber’s Nico Hulkenberg which left both men out of the race. Pic finished an average eighteenth for the team, dropping behind Bianchi during the race.

The F1 circus moved to Silverstone and Caterham were spared any of the tyre dramas that blighted other teams. From twentieth on the grid, Van der Garde progressed to eighteenth, although he was once again the last of the remaining cars. Pic moved from eighteenth to fifteenth in the race, finishing in front of Bianchi.

The German Grand Prix acted as a make-do home Grand Prix for Giedo van der Garde but he saw no special home performances. He was made the quickest Caterham in Qualifying when Pic incurred a five-place grid penalty for an unscheduled gearbox change. It was a quiet race for the Caterham duo which saw Pic finish 17th and Van der Garde finish 18th, but they did unleash the wrath of McLaren’s Jenson Button who was held up by Charles during the closing stages of the race.

And so to Hungary where both Caterhams lined up ahead of the two Marussias. Pic was nineteenth ahead of Van der Garde in twentieth, but it was the rookie who outscored his team-mate when Van der Garde finished fourteenth to equal the team’s best result this season. Pic finished fifteenth with Bianchi and Chilton right behind him in sixteenth and seventeenth.

As you can see, Caterham went from being outqualified by both Marussias at the first round, to qualifying ahead of both Marussias in the last round before the summer break. It’s far from the points finish which were dreamed about pre-season but it does seem to show promise in the backmarker battle – although Bianchi’s thirteenth in Malaysia is keeping Marussia ahead of Caterham in the constructors table. The rumours that Heikki would be coming in to replace Van der Garde are not subsiding, but don’t seem to have any reputable source. The Dutchman has come under intense criticism as it’s easy to forget that the 27-year-old is still a rookie in F1. However, if they can merely match Marussia in the development race then I should imagine that the Leafield based outfit will emerge the victors in the small, but important battle at the back.

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Alonso Under Investigation

Stewards at the Hungarian Grand Prix are investigating Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso after it emerged that the Spaniard used his DRS when it should have been disabled.

“After the race DRS activation data from car number three were analysed. It was found that the driver has activated the adjustable bodywork in threeoccasions when he was more than one second behind another car.” read a statement from FIA technical delegate Jo Bauer. 

“As this is not in conformity with Article 27.5 (b) of the 2013 Formula One Sporting Regulations I am referring this matter to the stewards for their consideration.”

Stewards have been busy this weekend penalizing Lotus’ Romain Grosjean and will have to make a decision on Alonso. Using DRS when restricted could result in a drive-through penalty which, as the race has ended, translates into a twenty-second time penalty. This would not have an affect on Alonso as the closest driver behind him, Grosjean, was also handed a twenty-second penalty and so means Alonso would keep his fifth place.

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