Monthly Archives: February 2014

Perez Stays Quickest While Red Bull Show Signs Of Recovering

Sergio Perez stayed on top for Force India as pre-season testing continued at the Bahrain International Circuit. After topping the first day of the third test by a big margin, Perez marginally beat Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso to the top spot on the time sheets. Perez’s 108 laps in the VJM-07 was the second most of any driver while Alonso clocked up an impressive 122 laps of the Sakhir circuit.

However the talking point lay with those in third place overall; Daniel Ricciardo and his Red Bull who managed a solid 66 laps given the problems they had faced thus far. His run was completely smooth and the team say they were also able to use the laps to clock up some pit stop practices and aerodynamic evaluations.

Felipe Massa clocked up 103 laps on his way to fourth overall for Williams. The Brazilian’s run was flawless as he too practiced race simulations and pit stops. In fifth was Jenson Button whose day got off to a slow start when his MP4-29 ground to a halt on his twentieth lap. The team retired the car to repair it and it wasn’t until the last hour that Button re-emerged. His former team-mate, Lewis Hamilton, also ran into difficulties when a gearbox issue forced the team to call it a day after 89 laps.

Marussia had an extremely important day on track yesterday when they completed 75 laps. Having missed the first pre-season test, the team were blighted with issues during the second test which severely hampered their track time. Bianchi managed to clock up an un-interrupted 75 laps today; an extremely positive omen for the outfit.

Pastor Maldonado’s Lotus had a fiery end to his day and Lotus being Lotus took it in their stride and tweeted, “Sufficient char-grilling to render us out for the rest of today”, and this gave them a grand total of 31 laps. Marcus Ericsson also had a smokey exit to his day when the Caterham slowed out of turn four. His 55 laps until that point had given the team some information and this will be some consolation for the team.

Sergio Perez Force India 1.35.570 108 laps
Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1.35.634 122 laps
Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull 1.35.743 66 laps
Felipe Massa Williams 1.36.707 103 laps
Jenson Button McLaren 1.36.901 52 laps
Jules Bianchi Marussia 1.38.092 75 laps
Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1.39.041 89 laps
Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso 1.39.636 61 laps
Esteban Gutierrez Sauber 1.39.976 106 laps
Pastor Maldonado Lotus 1.41.613 31 laps
Marcus Ericsson Caterham 1.42.516 55 laps

Image courtesy Sahara Force India Formula One Team. 

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Perez Takes Force India To Top As Testing Continues In Sakhir

The third and final pre-season test got underway at the Bahrain International Circuit in Sakhir today and Sergio Perez was the man who finished the day on top of the order.

The Mexican set his fastest lap in the morning session and remained there until the chequered flag as his rivals completed race simulations or worked to fix issues on their respective cars. Williams’ Valtteri Bottas ran a race simulation in the afternoon but spent the remaining hour running fast laps and set the second fastest time in the final thirty minutes. Bottas clocked up an impressive 127 laps in total, with no issues.

Kimi Raikkonen was back in the car after his spin into the barriers last Saturday. The Iceman set a mediocre 53 laps with a fastest lap time of 1.36.432, compared to the 1.35.290 set by Checo in the Force India. Nico Rosberg in the promising looking Mercedes racked up 89 laps, again with no issues. Although it’s not a good policy to read too much into pre-season testing, Mercedes are emerging as the clear Championship favourites.

Their rivals at Red Bull should hold that honour but their problems, which Renault admitted should have been solved in Jerez, have spilled into the third week as Daniel Ricciardo’s running was limited due to overheating issues. Although there were no sudden grinding halts or fiery engines on the RB10, failing to get a clear-day running at this stage of the game is a very worrying omen indeed.

The other team who had issues was Caterham whose CT-03 started smoking from the rear during the morning session and prompted the red flags. This left Kobayashi’s lap count at a poor 19, but Caterham say they know what the issues were and what caused them, which is some consolation at least.

Adrian Sutil was fifth overall for Sauber with a smooth run of 88 laps for the Swiss outfit. McLaren’s Danish rookie Kevin Magnussen was sixth for the Woking based team, and used the afternoon session to practice a race distance.

The Lotus also stopped on track with Maldonado at the wheel. The exhaust issue which caused the stoppage (and subsequent red flag) was serious and the car was retired so it could be stipped down in the afternoon. This set Maldonado’s total lap tally at just 31 laps, a difficulty given that Lotus missed the first test. Max Chilton and Marussia also missed the first test and took a break from their consistent lack of running to complete 44 laps today, a strong performance compared to their technical misery last week. Daniil Kvyat was third from last, ahead of Lotus and Caterham, and completed 56 laps in his STR-9.

Sergio Perez Force India 1.35.290 104 laps
Valtteri Bottas Williams 1.36.184 127 laps
Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1.36.432 53 laps
Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1.36.624 89 laps
Adrian Sutil Sauber 1.37.700 88 laps
Kevin Magnussen McLaren 1.37.825 109 laps
Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull 1.37.908 35 laps
Max Chilton Marussia 1.38.610 44 laps
Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso 1.39.242 56 laps
Pastor Maldonado Lotus 1.40.599 31 laps
Kamui Kobayashi Caterham 1.42.285 19 laps

Image courtesy Sahara Force India.

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Wolff To Be First Woman In 22 Years To Drive During Race Weekend

Susie Wolff is to become the first woman of the twenty-first century to drive during a race weekend.

Wolff, who works as a development driver with Williams F1 Team, is to take the Williams FW36 out on track for two Free Practice sessions this year, without specifying which two.

“I’m grateful for the support and belief Williams continue to show in me and 2014 promises to be a very important milestone in my career,” She said in a statement. “Competing in two FP1 sessions, alongside an additional full test day this season will be a big step and I am looking forward to the opportunity to get behind the wheel of the FW36 on a grand prix weekend.”

The news comes just two days after Brazilian GP2 driver Felipe Nasr was confirmed as Williams’ test driver for the season.

To see a history of Women in Formula One, click here.

Image courtesy of the Susie Wolff website. 

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Rosberg Keeps Mercedes Striving, Red Bull Still Struggling

Nico Rosberg brought the fourth and final day of the second pre-season test to a close today, while their front-of-the-grid rivals over at Red Bull endured another frustrating day.

After yesterday joking that everyday brought a new issue, that was true of today also. Red Bull had prematurely ended their running on Friday to focus on fixing the issue and getting a solid day running today, but managed to only complete a mere 15 laps throughout the day as a new issue reared its head this morning. They managed to fix the issue and sent Ricciardo out on tap until, after 10 laps, another problem emerged and they brought the car into the garage to end another frustrating week.

Meanwhile Nico Rosberg took the Mercedes to within a second of his 2013 pole lap at the Bahrain International Circuit, essentially quelling fears that the new ‘greener’ cars would be slower than their V8 counterparts. Jenson Button ended the day second overall, a whopping 1.7 seconds behind Nico’s fastest lap.

Kimi Raikkonen was third for Ferrari and was looking to move himself up the order with a late hot lap, but a mistake sent him into the barrier in the closing seconds, smashing the front left of the car and losing his front left Pirelli. His day until that point had been straightforward and had completed 81 laps when he hit the barrier at turn 4.

Pastor Maldonado led the way for the Renault supplied teams, completing 59 laps for Lotus. His day was interrupted when he had to have a software and electronic reset, but otherwise his day showed a move in the right direction for Lotus who struggled earlier this week.

Felipe Nasr was out on track for Williams after he was announced as their new reserve driver last night. His first run in the car was nothing to be ashamed of with his 87 lap run completely uninterrupted en route to fourth on the time sheets. Marcus Ericsson suffered a mechanical failure out on track for Caterham who also use a Renault engine.

Adrian Sutil had a particularly unproductive day as he ran a mere 7 laps today with Sauber incurring a chassis problem on the C33. At least he had track time today with Bianchi failing to get a single lap for Marussia as they battled yet more problems. Unfortunately for the Frenchman, he was about to head out on track for the final five minutes before Kimi crashed and brought out the red flags.

Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1.33.238 89 laps
Jenson Button McLaren 1.34.957 66 laps
Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1.36.718 81 laps
Felipe Nasr Williams 1.37.569 87 laps
Pastor Maldonado Lotus 1.38.707 59 laps
Sergio Perez Force India 1.39.258 19 laps
Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull 1.39.837 15 laps
Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso 1.40.472 19 laps
Kamui Kobayashi Caterham 1.43.027 17 laps
Marcus Ericsson Caterham 1.45.094 4 laps
Adrian Sutil Sauber 7 laps
Jules Bianchi Marussia 5 laps

Image courtesy Mercedes F1 Team.

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Mercedes Strong As Red Bull Falter Again

Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes topped the timesheets today as the third day of pre-season testing in Bahrain drew to a close.

The Briton clocked up a tally of 67 laps between the morning and afternoon sessions which gave him a best lap almost half a second clear of his former team-mate, Jenson Button in the McLaren MP4-29. Button, whose engagement to girlfriend Jessica Michibata also became public knowledge today, set a noble 103 laps and came close to trumping the time set by team-mate Magnussen who took the car out yesterday.

Valtteri Bottas had control of the FW36 in the morning and ran 55 laps while Felipe Massa was also back in the car for Williams and set 60 laps. With their reliability already looking good, the Grove based team opted to focus on a lot of pit-stop simulations which took up the bulk of their running.

Force India had their garage door closed for the first two hours this morning as they battled a battery issue that hit them last night. Sergio Perez finally got out on track and clocked up a best time that was over three seconds shy of Hamilton’s best, but still good enough for fifth in the standings. The Prancing Horse also suffered problems in the morning which limited Kimi Raikkonen’s lap count to 12. The afternoon session saw the Finn completing a further 32 laps, bringing his total to 44.

Pastor Maldonado caused two red flags today due to a Gearbox and Energy Recovery System failure respectively. With a big chunk of time lost to repairing the issues, Lotus only managed to run 26 laps which put Maldonado eighth overall. Marcus Ericsson was in the Caterham today and completed 98 laps which he says was enough to earn him his FIA Super License. By regulation a driver must complete 300 miles in an F1 car to earn a Super License, which all drivers must have before competing in an F1 race meet.

Daniil Kvyat finally had a solid day of running for Toro Rosso while Marussia’s Max Chilton was left bemoaning another day of issues when, after four laps, he had to jump from his smoking car. The team’s woes show no sign of going away.

The last day of the second pre-season test is tomorrow at the Bahrain International Circuit.

Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1.34.263 67 laps
Jenson Button McLaren 1.34.976 103 laps
Felipe Massa Williams 1.37.066 60 laps
Esteban Gutierrez Sauber 1.37.180 95 laps
Sergio Perez Force India 1.37.367 57 laps
Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1.37.467 44 laps
Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso 1.38.974 57 laps
Pastor Maldonado Lotus 1.39.642 26 laps
Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull 1.40.781 28 laps
Marcus Ericcson Caterham 1.42.130 98 laps
Max Chilton Marussia 1.46.672 4 laps
Valtteri Bottas Williams 55 laps

Image courtesy Mercedes F1 Team. 

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The 1903 Paris-Madrid Race Tragedy

Marcel Renault and his riding mechanic shortly before their fatal crash

Long before Formula One’s birth, or the safety crusade initiated by Jackie Stewart in the sixties and which is still causing ripples across Motorsport today, the Paris-Madrid road race was organised by the ACF (Automobile Club de France).

The proposed track for the race stretched to over 1,300 kilometres – roughly four and a half times the distance of a contemporary Formula One race. It would kick off from Versailles on May 24th and would take the competitors 554 kilometres to Bordeaux. The second stint would be the 335 kilometres from Bordeaux to Vitoria, and the third and final stint would be the 420 kilometre stretch between Vitoria and Madrid. Two hundred and twenty-four entries took their place on the start line, the entries split into 170 cars and 54 motorcycles.

The race kicked off at 2.30am with competitors being launched at intervals of one minute. Almost immediately the track became clogged with spectators after the soldiers, whose job it was to keep the track clear of human obstacles, failed to hold back the 300,000 or so spectators. Some drivers opted to slow down to a relative crawl in order to give people time to move out of the path of the heavy cars, but this had no effect as people simply waited longer to move over.

By 6.45am, all two hundred and twenty-four cars had left the start line and were making the journey, which would be the longest run of the race, to Bordeaux. To worsen an already dangerous situation, severe dust hampered the drivers’ vision and in some locations the drivers reported a visibility of no more than a few feet in front of their cars. This made it near impossible for the drivers to effectively weave around the careless spectators. It was due to these conditions that the first death occurred; a young soldier who stepped in front of a car to save the life of a toddler who had innocently strayed into the path of the car.

The brave soldier wasn’t the only person to lose their life over the course of the first day. Marcel Renault, co-founder of the car brand which shares his name, and his mechanic were killed when Renault’s car left the road at Poitiers. A mechanic riding on Porter’s car was killed instantly and Porter himself was badly injured when his car hit a rail crossing guard and overturned. A driver and two spectators died when a car left the road while trying to avoid a dog in the latter part of the day and hit the crowd. Loraine Barrow crashed his De Dietrich into a tree, killing the mechanic. A woman who was obscured by dust was killed while crossing the road when she was struck by another driver.

Over the course of the first day, half of the cars left the race, either through retirements or crashes, while four spectators and five drivers or mechanics were killed.

In a knee-jerk reaction to the carnage, Ministers from the French government held an overnight conference and ordered that the race be stopped, the cars transported to the Spanish border, and the race be restarted there. The Spanish government, also disgusted at the death toll, refused to allow the race be held on Spanish ground and so the race end was announced. As the clear up began, newspapers went to press proclaiming the death of racing for sport. This turned out to be true to an extent as there were no races held again until 1927.

La Locomotion Automobile set up an inquiry to investigate the disaster. They highlighted several key causes:

  • The speed of cars, which reached over 140 km/h while providing little (if any) protection to drivers or ride along mechanics, was found to be an obvious but important cause of the deaths.
  • The aforementioned dust, caused as a result of several weeks of hot weather leading up to the event, was found to be the direct cause of several accidents (such as the death of the soldier, Wolseley’s mechanic and the woman who was struck while crossing the road).
  • The starting order of the race, which was randomly selected, was found to have caused havoc throughout, with the minute wait between cars also found to be too short. Eventually the heavier, slower cars were intertwined with and racing the lighter, speedier models. This led to many unnecessary overtakes on unsuitable (bumpy, thin, windy) roads which, inevitably, will cause an accident – such as that suffered by Renault.
  • The mismanagement of the spectators by soldiers was also found to be a cause for accidents. The enquiry found that organisers failed to adequately organise crowd control measures to ensure that the bystanders, who underestimated the danger involved, were kept off the track. A warning was given to the crowd, however, that they should not attempt to cross the roads for the duration of the race.

Looking back at the race after 111 years, it seems strange that the investigators made no mention of inadequate safety conditions (for example helmets which would offer no protection against rain – nevermind protecting a head in an accident). However, despite the horror caused by the accidents, not just in this race but across all forms of motorsport at the time, a lack of consideration towards safety was very much the norm.

After the Paris-Madrid road race, there were no sudden reforms to safety like there were after the dark days of the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix. Nor were there changes after the 1955 Le Mans disaster – which remains the deadliest motorsport crash ever. Similarly, Jim Clark’s tragic death, although it shook the motorsport world, caused no major ripples across motorsport safety.  The only thing that the Paris-Madrid race did in terms of safety was to act as a catalyst for the slow but sure move towards permanent racing facilities.

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Magnussen Leads The Way In Bahrain

McLaren’s rookie Kevin Magnussen returned to the top of the timesheets as pre-season testing continued at the Bahrain International Circuit. The Dane finished the day in a world of his own; his fastest lap time a comfortable second and a half clear of the second quickest man, Nico Hulkenberg, who was fastest on day one.

Red Bull, whose Jerez woes continued yesterday, had a much more productive day today with Vettel’s 59 laps easily beating the team’s total lap tally set over the first five days. Although today was a positive omen for the reigning Champions, they’re lost running could prove costly in the opening rounds. Their sister team, Toro Rosso, were today also recovering from a disrupted Tuesday, with Jean-Eric Vergne completing 48 laps in the morning session. His afternoon running was limited to a mere five laps however, with his STR9 crawling to a halt soon after he took to the track.

Fernando Alonso’s ninety-seven lap running had him perched at the top of the timesheets in the morning session and, although a late quick lap looked promising, he finished the day third overall. Nico Rosberg was fourth for Mercedes and was one of the several drivers who prompted a red flag after his MGP W05 crawled to a halt five laps into a race simulation due to a faulty sensor. After a prolonged stay in the garage, the car was repaired and sent back on track where it completed a total of 84 laps.

The honor for most laps fell to Williams who completed a meagre five laps on Wednesday but clocked up 116 today. Massa was piloting the FW36 which, remarkably, given the unreliability or incident one comes to expect from pre-season testing, had a flawless run. The same could not be said for Esteban Gutierrez who, after running 55 laps, stopped on track in the afternoon and returned to the garage to end his track time.

Romain Grosjean was on-track for Lotus today but his running was curtailed to 18 laps. Similarly Max Chilton had a short running of 17 laps, and that was the least of any driver on day two. Testing resumes at the Bahrain International Circuit tomorrow until Saturday.

Kevin Magnussen McLaren 1.34.910 46 laps
Nico Hulkenberg Force India 1.36.445 59 laps
Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1.36.516 97 laps
Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1.36.965 85 laps
Valtteri Bottas Williams 1.37.328 116 laps
Kamui Kobayashi Caterham 1.39.855 66 laps
Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 1.40.340 59 laps
Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso 1.40.609 58 laps
Esteban Gutierrez Sauber 1.40.717 55 laps
Romain Grosjean Lotus 1.41.670 18 laps
Max Chilton Marussia 1.42.511 17 laps

Image courtesy of McLaren. 

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