2016 F1 Teams’ Review of the Season: 1-10

  1. Mercedes (1st, 765 points- Nico Rosberg (1st, 385pts)/Lewis Hamilton (2nd, 380pts)) 10.0

A third consecutive season of processional dominance for the boys from Brackley. Out of 59 Grands Prix since the start of 2014, they have won 51 races, 56 poles and 34 fastest laps.  Out of an accumulated total of 3,551 laps, they have led 2,969 of them- a whopping 83.6%. They have consistently maintained a qualifying lap average of 0.7 seconds over their rivals, so there have a few conspiracy theorists, who have suggested that the Mercedes hierarchy secretly harboured to see a Nico Rosberg WDC victory to prove their accomplishments stemmed from the engineering solely. No team has sustained such dominance within such a time frame- not even Ferrari succeeded in doing this between 1999-01 and 2002-04, when they won an unprecedented six consecutive constructors’ world championships.

From 1999-2001, Ferrari won 25 races, 24 poles & 14 fastest laps out of 50 Grands Prix. Out of 3,139 laps, the Scuderia led 1,531 of them (48.8%). From 2002-2004, Ferrari won 38 races, 30 poles & 34 fastest laps (66.6%) (this is the only statistic higher than Mercedes’) out of 51 Grands Prix. Out of 3,230 laps, the Maranello boys led 2,033 of them (62.9%). During these years, F2002 & F2004 were their two most prominent cars, which were praised for their excellent mechanical grip, neutral handling and near bullet-proof reliability- F2002 recording just one mechanical failure, whilst F2004 clocked up none.

Red Bull, from 2011-13, won 32 races, 37 poles & 29 fastest laps out of 58 Grands Prix. Out of 3,456 laps, they led 1,985 of those laps (57.4%). During these years, RB11 & RB13 were their two most prominent cars, which were estimated by aerodynamicists as producing the most amount of downforce seen in any F1 cars before or since.

Williams, from 1992-1994, won 27 races, 36 poles & 29 fastest laps out of 48 Grands Prix. Out of 3,127 laps, they led 1,829 of them (58.5%). During these cars, FW14B & FW15C were their two most prominent cars, acknowledged by experts to be the most technologically complex machinery- active suspension, ABS brakes, traction control plus numerous other gizmos, leading Alain Prost to describe FW15c as a “mini Airbus”.

McLaren, from 1988-1990, won 31 races, 42 poles & 23 fastest laps out of 48 Grands Prix. Out of 3,122 laps, they led 2,376 of them (76.1%). In qualifying, their two prominent cars MP4-4 & MP4-5 blew their rivals away, capable of defeating the fastest non-McLaren car by up to three seconds in the hands of one-lap master Ayrton Senna. If the relationship between Prost and Senna hadn’t been so acrimonious and reliability wasn’t such a prevalent issue, it is possible the statistics in this period would match or even beat what Mercedes have achieved.

In terms of what Mercedes have achieved compared to rival teams in the modern era, it is similar to the astounding dominance achieved by individual drivers such as Juan Manuel Fangio, Jim Clark, Michael Schumacher and Sebastian Vettel. It is unlikely we’ll ever see such supremacy from a team on such a totalitarian scale, so that should be a welcome sigh of relief for fans.

Of course, the 10.0 mark was not only awarded for their car’s third consecutive year of crushing superiority, but also the team’s management. Despite controversy in Spain, Canada & Austria, relations remained stable between their star drivers, allowing them to seal the WCC at Suzuka with four races to spare.

2. Red Bull-TAG Heuer (2nd, 468 points- Daniel Ricciardo (3rd, 256 pts)/Max Verstappen (5th, 204 pts)/Daniil Kvyat (14th, 25 pts)) 9.0

After last year’s debacle, which led to Red Bull badging their Renault engines after their new sponsor, 2016 showed a huge leap forward. 2017 should present a permissible opportunity to return to the front, with Ricciardo and Verstappen hogging the headlines. It is expected star designer Adrian Newey will pen a chassis to exploit the aggressively increased downforce and tyres regulations to the absolute maximum, whilst Renault provide a power unit with ample grunt.

3. Force India-Mercedes (4th, 173 points- Sergio Perez (7th, 101 points)/Nico Hulkenberg (9th, 72 points)) 8.5

The Silverstone-based team’s gradual ascent through F1’s hierarchy was richly rewarded with their best-ever WCC finish of 4th. It is unlikely such a result will be achieved in 2017, but credit where credit is due. The designers exploited the current regulations’ need for drag reduction and straight-line speed, which permitted the chassis to lap quickly thanks to the invaluablely-endowed Mercedes power unit. It is debatable that in the hands of the best drivers (i.e. Alonso, Hamilton & Verstappen), the VJM09 could have pushed Ferrari for 3rd in the WCC. Loyal stalwart Hulkenberg will leave for Renault, so for 2017, promising talent Esteban Ocon takes his place.

4. Toro Rosso-Ferrari (7th, 63 points- Carlos Sainz (12th, 46 pts)/Daniil Kvyat (14th, 25 pts)/Max Verstappen (5th, 204 pts)) 8.0

A second consecutive season of progress for Faenza boys was rewarded with another 7th in the WCC. If Verstappen had remained at the team for the entirety of the season, they might have caught McLaren for 6th, but their 2015-spec Ferrari power unit proved their Achilles’ Heel. It is expected for Toro Rosso to move up in 2017, with the excellent Carlos Sainz spearheading their challenge.

5. McLaren-Honda (6th, 76 points- Fernando Alonso (10th, 54 pts)/Jenson Button (15th, 21 pts)/Stoffel Vandoorne (20th, 1 pt)) 7.5

A steady, if unspectacular, second season of the reunited fabled McLaren-Honda partnership. The car still suffered from a fair degree of understeer and the Honda power unit underwhelming in its overall output, but reliability was a welcome boost. Alonso did his usual miracle job, whilst Button floundered, scoring just five more points than last year. In his place for 2017 will be Vandoorne, who lit the paddock with illuminating reviews with his dazzling performance at his sole outing at Bahrain, whilst deputising for Alonso. The Spaniard will be not be feeling too comfortable, though, as memories of a particular rookie tearing his reputation to shreds will see its tenth anniversary.

6. Haas-Ferrari (8th, 29 points- Romain Grosjean (13th, 29 pts)/Esteban Gutierrez (21st, o pts)) 7.0

In their first two races, America’s newest team became the first team since Toyota in their debut consecutive Grands Prix to score points. What’s more, Grosjean finished P6 in Melbourne, then P5 in Bahrain thanks to excellent pit calls. As the season progressed, though, Haas ran through the typical stumbling blocks every new team encounters in their early hurdles of the unforgiving environment of F1. Lack of experience of set-ups and the narrow operating windows of the Pirellis, as well as dubious feedback from their drivers exacerbated their acute struggles at certain races, with Mexico being their nadir with P19 & P20. Gutierrez finished P11 five times and did well to beat his French team-mate during mid-season, but he never appeared to have the spark to produce a vital points finish. In his place for 2017 will be Kevin Magnussen, who will be hoping to improve upon his lacklustre 2016.

7. Williams-Mercedes (5th, 138 points- Valtteri Bottas (8th, 85 pts)/Felipe Massa (11th, 53 pts)) 6.5

After two years of enjoying the fruits of a remarkable revival with two consecutive 3rds in the WCC, my prediction of a third consecutive P3 was pathetically wrong. Strategic errors remained prevalent, which were exacerbated further by lack of development and critics slamming their low-drag, low-downforce design philosophy as one-dimensional. Lance Stroll will be a welcome addition with exorbitant funding by his billionaire tycoon father, but with Nico Rosberg’s shock retirement, the second seat is a major conundrum. Will Bottas go to Mercedes? And if he does, will Felipe Massa postpone his retirement for one more season?

8. Renault (9th, 8 points- Kevin Magnussen (16th, 7 pts)/Jolyon Palmer (18th, 1 pt)) 5.5

Were they racing in 2016? It was a poor return to F1 for the double WCC-winning French marque, who insisted upon using a revised 2015 Lotus chassis as their challenger this season. It is understandable that due to cash flow issues Lotus suffered, as well as time constraints linked with their late buyout, that the car was hurried, but development did not produce desired improvements. Cyril Abitedoul stated an intent to sign a “charismatic” lead driver, so it remains to be seen if Nico Hulkenberg can live up to such a lofty position.

9. Manor-Mercedes (11th, 1 point (Pascal Wehrlein (19th, 1 pt)/Esteban Ocon (23rd, 0 pts)/Rio Haryanto (24th, 0 pts) 5.0

A decent season for the Banbury-based squad. In spite of a car that lacked downforce, it topped top speed sheets regularly thanks to drawing inspiration from technical partners Williams, who sourced out their suspension and transmission. Wehrlein impressed in parts, whilst Pertamina-backed Haryanto lost his drive when the dollars dried up, as his race performances were inadequately under par. Ocon took his place, producing a great drive in Brazil before he spun. The point he lost for P10 proved academic as Sauber’s Felipe Nasr scored two vital points in P9, thrusting the Hinwil squad into 10th in the WCC. So that left Manor languishing in 11th for a second consecutive year. As ever with the backmarkers, their driver line-up will announced at the last minute before next year’s much anticipated tests.

10. Sauber-Ferrari (10th, 2 points- Felipe Nasr (17th, 2 pts)/Marcus Ericsson (22nd, o pts)) 4.0

In a season of mounting financial pressures, further burdened by two mediocre pay drivers and a bland corporate image, it was a miracle Sauber escaped the wooden spoon in the WCC and on this list. To be frankly honest, Monisha Kaltenborn clearly has a lucky charm somewhere. The car was rehash of last year’s decent contender, so it was inevitably predictable how poor this season was going to be.  All year, the Hinwil team appeared destined to see a 11th finish to darken their worries over the long-term existence of Sauber, but the heavens opened in Interlagos and the rest is history. Marcus Ericsson is confirmed in one of their seats for 2017, but it remains to seen whether Nasr has the funding to continue.

The next article will focus on this year’s Reject Team of the Year. Don’t miss it!

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2016 Malaysian Grand Prix Review: Up In Smoke

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DRIVER OF THE DAY

Nico Rosberg (P3)

A superb comeback after having been tapped around at Turn 1 on the first lap by Sebastian Vettel, thus being dropped to 21st. He may have been lucky in regards to Lewis Hamilton’s engine failure, which extended his championship lead to 23 points, but his tenacious overtakes were a sight to behold. His final pass of the race on Kimi Raikkonen was awe-inspiring in its execution, which was greeted by tumultuous approval from spectators. The stewards strangely decided to punished him with ten seconds added to his race time, but this was rendered academic by the German’s finishing margin of 13 seconds over the Finn. It was a performance of an increasingly probable world champion.

REJECT OF THE DAY

Lewis Hamilton (Ret, Engine)

Someone doesn’t want me to win this year but I won’t give up.

We have so many engines, but mine are the only ones failing. Someone needs to give me some answers.

A plethora of conspiracy theorists returned when the Briton appeared to insinuate accusations of sabotage within his Mercedes team. Hamilton is once again playing the victim card in the vein of his idol Ayrton Senna, leaving neutrals perturbed. The race result leaves the Briton requiring him to win all five remaining Grands Prix in order to win the WDC as a minimum requirement, barring any misfortunes for his embittered team-mate.

THE REST OF THE FIELD

Red Bull secured their first 1-2 since 2013 Brazilian Grand Prix, with a thrilling tussle through turns 5-8 on lap 39, but the Virtual Safety Car summoned on lap 41 due to Hamilton’s engine denotation saw team orders enforce a processional finish. Daniel Ricciardo took a well-deserved first victory since 2014, whilst Max Verstappen was content with a strong display. Kimi Raikkonen had an average race with P4, whilst Valtteri Bottas brought cheer to his beleaguered Williams team, finishing P5 after starting P11. Sergio Perez again toppled team-mate Nico Hulkenberg, as the Force India achieved P6 and P8, which consolidated P4 in the constructors’ standings and stretched their lead over Williams by three points. McLaren highlighted their immerse progress once again, with Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button securing P7 and P9. Button’s qualifying lap of 1:34.518 was a staggering seven seconds faster than his 2015 qualifying lap at Sepang of 1:41.636. Alonso started P22 thanks to an egregious 45-place grid penalty, but pounced at the chaos at turn 1 in order to elevate himself to P12 when the Virtual Safety Car was enforced on lap 1. Jolyon Palmer finally scored his first ever point in F1, which atoned for his lamentable spin in Hungary where he had been running P10 likewise. The lack of horsepower of 2015-spec Ferrari engines proved a major nuisance for Toro Rosso, whose drivers Carlos Sainz and Daniil Kvyat coasted home in P11 and P14. Marcus Ericsson drove a composed race to P12 for Sauber, but Felipe Massa suffered a hellish race, where his car’s throttle failed temporarily on the parade laps and his race was littered by tyre punctures and various maladies, finishing P13. The Manors of Pascal Wehrlein and Esteban Ocon had a feisty dice throughout the race, finishing P15 and P16, last of the classified finishers. Haas had a calamitous day, with Romain Grosjean’s brakes failing on lap 8 whilst running P10 and Esteban Gutierrez forced to park up after his insufficiently secured wheel came loose on lap 40. Sebastian Vettel was eliminated with his overzealous lunge on Verstappen at turn 1, where contact with Rosberg wedged his front-left wheel askewed. The stewards punished the 29 year old German with a three grid penalty retrospectively for the next weekend’s Japanese Grand Prix. Kevin Magnussen and Felipe Nasr were the two other retirees, with power loss and brake failures respectively.

DOFD

Grosjean (2) Rosberg (3) Magnussen (1) Verstappen (3) Ricciardo (2) Bottas (1) Perez (1) Raikkonen (1) Alonso (1) Vettel (1)

ROFD

F1 Authorities X2 Williams X1 Vettel X1 Kvyat X1  Rosberg X2 Hamilton X3 Hulkenberg X1 Gutierrez X1 Palmer X1 Verstappen X2 Nasr X2 Ericsson X1

F1 Silly Season 2016: September

The announcement of Felipe Massa’s retirement and Jenson Button’s demotion to reserve driver at McLaren sent shock waves throughout the sport during this year’s Italian Grand Prix. It was universally agreed everyone was pleased to see Stoffel Vandoorne finally be handed a full-time ride with McLaren, but Button’s talents being lost to midfield teams, who may need an experienced driver to fill a void. The decision by Ron Dennis and associates to rearrange their driver line-up for 2017 was shrewd and assuring: Vandoorne finally gets his chance, Button is kept on board to please sponsors as McLaren’s British commercial representative, whilst if Fernando Alonso decides to retire from F1 earlier than expected, Button would be a competent and reliable substitute.

Here is my perspective of the future of the sport’s current incumbents:

Force India

Huge interest circulating, but no concrete decisions yet

Nico Hulkenberg and Sergio Perez have refuse to refute rumours linking to other teams. Hulkenberg has a contact which ties him to Force India until the end of 2017, but has made no secret of his desires to land Kimi Raikkonen’s seat at Ferrari, when the Finn’s current deal finishes. Perez is linked to Williams, which would be a move sideways, and Renault, where huge investment into their 2017 car may yield immediate rewards. The team have made no secret of their desire to retain both drivers for the foreseeable future, so therefore have not talked about replacements.

Haas

A bump in the road for the American new boys

The two G’s of America’s only F1 teams are very much part of the silly season rumour mill. There has been condemnation over Romain Grosjean’s ability to perform the role of team leader, something which has disgruntled Gene Haas and reports link Grosjean returning to Renault (named Lotus when he drove for them). Esteban Gutierrez continues to polarise pundits over his ability; he has outpaced Grosjean recently, but is unable to rid himself of his knack of failing to finish able 11th. Reports of his poor feedback have circulated, so maybe the clock is indeed ticking on the cordial Mexican’s career. If Gutierrez does remain in F1, though, it will be mostly likely to be a second season with Haas. Prospective GP3 champion Charles LeClerc has emerged as a contender for a seat at Haas, along with Alexander Rossi.

Manor MRT

So far, so good

Pascal Wehrlein is expected to spend a second season at Manor for 2017, but some feel this is a waste of his sizeable talent. Some believe Mercedes would help to accelerate his progress by placing him in the soon-to-be vacated second seat at Williams, allowing the German to compete in midfield battles more regularly instead of trundling at the rear of the grid. Rio Haryanto was recently demoted to the position of reserve driver after Pertamina’s funding extinguished, but his associates have made noises about new sources of sponsorship, which may help Haryanto return to a full-time seat in 2017 at Manor. An option to retain Esteban Ocon is on cards, as long as the Banbury-based squad can negotiate the conundrum of his intertwined contracts with Renault and Mercedes.

Renault Sport

A year in transition

Kevin Magnussen and Jolyon Palmer have done little to impress pundits this season. Magnussen’s P7 at Russia remains his only highlight thus far, whilst Palmer threw away a potential points finish when he spun at Hungary, running in P10 beforehand. Sponsorship funding will be key to the future of these youngsters, although no interest has been affirmed from rival outfits as of yet. Cyril Abiteboul has spoken of the need for a “charismatic” driver to lead the Enstone-based squad, which was possibly the French boss pillorying the efforts of his team’s incumbent drivers. Carlos Sainz, Sergio Perez, Romain Grosjean and Esteban Ocon have  been mentioned to be targets for this iconic outfit.

Sauber

A light at the end of the tunnel?

This season has proven to be a truly state of affairs for this Hinwil-based squad. A takeover by Longbow Finance, though, has been stated to be securing Sauber’s future, although one cannot always take these statements literally in the rapid, cut-throat world of F1. Marcus Ericsson and Felipe Nasr have not had a car in which either has had the opportunity to impress; indeed, this season has been the nadir of Sauber’s Grand Prix racing history. With little money to spend on development, their current drivers are hoping Monisha Kaltenborn is not eyeing up other drivers, as no rival teams have expressed interest in their services. Nasr, however, was once Williams’ test driver and many feel the Grove-based squad would welcome his injection of Banco do Brasil cash. It would make commercial business sense to replace an ageing Brazilian favourite with another emerging Brazilian talent, appeasing sponsors and retaining global identity.

Toro Rosso

What became of the broken hearted? 

Carlos Sainz has been confirmed for a third season at the Faenza-based squad, although some feel this will be his last if a promotion to the Red Bull senior isn’t beckoning. A move to Renault has been rumoured, although the Spanish press have also stoked rumours of a move to Force India or even Ferrari. A potential move to the Maranello-based squad may tempt Sainz, but he would do so at the age of just 23- his lack of experience with politics within a team entrenched by Machiavellian tendencies may deter him, though. His cerebral and embattled team-mate Daniil Kvyat is fighting an intense battle to save his F1 career; his relations with Franz Tost and Helmut Marko are believed to be at ground zero and with no hints of interest from rival teams, Kvyat’s best hopes lay with an undisclosed Russian backer buying him a seat at Williams, Sauber, Manor or Force India.

Williams

F1’s Tottenham Hotspur

The Grove-based squad is yet to confirm Valtteri Bottas for a fourth season, but many feel it is just a matter of applying pen to paper. The career prospects of Finland’s best prospect have flatlined, with interest from Ferrari seemingly a distant past. With Felipe Massa’s retirement at the end of this season confirmed, the speculation over Williams’ second seat escalated when Jenson Button announced his role with McLaren for the next two years. Lance Stroll, Nasr, Kvyat, Perez, Wehrlein are just several out of many names linked to this seat, but some feel their inclusion may be a stop-gap solution for the foreseeable future.

F1 Stars of the Future: GP2 and Development Drivers

It has been a heated matter of conjecture concerning whether GP2 is a conducive breeding ground. A sad trend of pay drivers (i.e. Sergio Canamasas) occupying seats worthy of more talented prodigies has irked fans and journalists, with many questioning driving standards.

It has also become an emerging trend for F1 teams to select starlets from lower series, with Daniil Kyvat & Valtteri Bottas plucked straight from GP3 and Carlos Sainz Jr & Kevin Magnussen graduating from Formula Renault 3.5 (now Formula V8 3.5). However, hope is not lost for GP2, as the implemention of the FIA Superlicence points system will rigorously enforce prospects to accumulate experience steadily through junior formulae.

*Eligibility for F1 requires a minimum of 40 Superlicence points (Points listed from conclusion of 2015 racing seasons)

Alexander Rossi

Current series: Indycar (Bryan Herta Autosport w/ Andretti Autosport #98)

Indycar 2016 position: 11th (370 points, one race remaining)

Superlicence points: 43

F1 2017 Likelihood: 6/10

The Californian displayed flashes of brilliance against the all-conquering Stoffel Vandoorne in 2015, where he made the most of resources supplied to him by Racing Engineering to finish ahead of Rio Haryanto and current GP2 ace Sergey Sirotkin. Rossi fared favourably against Formula Renault 3.5 veteran Will Stevens, but lack of sponsorship funding meant a switch to the notoriously competitive Indycar Series and a reserve role with Manor. In spite of his meticulously calculated Indy 500 victory, progress has been steady if unspectacular. Rumours swing from a return to a race seat with Manor or Haas in F1 to remaining where he is, but no one can doubt his versatility would hold him in strong stead against Pascal Wehrlein or Romain Grosjean if he was selected.

Alex Lynn

Current series: GP2 (DAMS #5)

GP2 2016 position: (8th- 93 points, 4 races remaining)

Superlicence points: 58

F1 Likelihood: 5/10

Once a highly touted prospect, Lynn’s sparking progress has fizzed out in the F1’s top feeder series. The Essex exocet’s performances this season have mirrored that of his debut season, with both seasons seeing him win twice, but performing inconsistently thoughout. His development driver contract with Williams may be terminated if he fails to emerge as a championship contender in 2017.

Antonio Giovinazzi

Current series: GP2 (Prema #20)

GP2 2016 position: (2nd- 164 points, 4 races remaining)

Superlicence points: 43

F1 Likelihood: 7/10

A native of Martina Franca, Giovinazzi has spent much of his junior career beneath the radar of F1 scouts- until now. His recent invitation to a simulator test with Ferrari is justified recognition of his vastly-improved performances, transforming himself from a F3 journeyman to a championship contender in GP2. A brilliant double win in Baku with back-to-back victories in Belgium and Italy were just exactly what the doctor ordered, leaving the Italian ten points behind team-mate & championship leader Pierre Gasly with 96 points remaining. He may not debut in F1 next year, but a test seat is certainly not out of question.

Artem Markelov

Current series: GP2 (Russian Time #10)

GP2 2016 position: (11th- 80 points, 4 races remaining)

Superlicence points: 10 (Insufficient)

F1 Likelihood: 2/10

Rumours of the young Russian and his investors enquiring F1 teams about a 2017 race seat have circulated in the paddock, but it would be wholly undeserved on the basis of his results achieved in his three years of GP2. Just a single win from an incident-filled Monaco feature race this year has proved to be an exception on an otherwise unimpressive CV.

Charles LeClerc

Current series: GP3 (ART Grand Prix #1)

GP3 2016 position: (1st- 177 points, 4 races remaining)

Superlicence points: 20 (Will be increased to 45 if he wins GP3 title)

F1 2017 Likelihood: 5.5/10

A fabulous record in karting followed by accolades in Formula Renault 2.0 and European F3 were proof that the Monegasque was a probable championship victor when he made his GP3 debut and his supporters have been indicated. He only turns 19 next month, but he has completed three Friday practice sessions with Haas at Silverstone, Hungaroring and Hockenheim. Some may consider 2017 too soon for his F1 debut, but a reserve role intertwined with a seat in DTM appears preferable to the rough-and-tumble nature of GP2.

Esteban Ocon

Current series: F1 (Manor MRT #31)

Previous series: DTM (Mercedes ART #34)

F1 2017 Likelihood: 7/10

Esteban Ocon is an enigma. Two ordinary seasons in Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 followed by immediate championship success in European F3 and GP3 is evidence of his ability to toil through strenuous self improvement, but perhaps a slight lack of raw natural talent. His GP3 season saw him win the title with ten second places, but just a solitary win in the season opener. His partial season in DTM yielded just two points, guaranteeing an eventual championship position of no higher than 24th. His initial full Grand Prix outings with Manor have laid the bricks for gradual improvement, but whether Renault or another team will be convinced to offer him a full-time seat remains a mystery.

Lance Stroll

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Current series: FIA European F3 (Prema #1)

F3 2016 position: (1st- 364 points, 6 races remaining)

Superlicence points: 20 (Will be increased to 60 if he wins F3 title)

F1 2017 Likelihood: 6.5/10

Widely dismissed as a rich kid freeloading from a tycoon father, the Montreal native has stiffen his credentials annually, with honours galore in karting and titles in Italian F4 and Toyota Racing Series and an almost probable championship win in this year’s FIA European Formula 3 championship. However, many will pontificate the vast sums invested into Prema Powerteam he drives for and how it has taken two years to claim the title at this level, but he is yet to turn 18. He retains a watertight development contract with Williams, whom are doubtless appreciative of lucrative funding provided by his father.

Pierre Gasly

Current series: GP2 (Prema #21)

GP2 2016 position: (1st- 174 points, 4 races remaining)

Superlicence points: 39 (Will be increased to 69 if he wins GP2 title)

F1 2017 Likelihood: 9/10

With stories of Daniil Kvyat’s relationship with the Red Bull hierarchy declining, the well regarded Frenchman appears a dead cert for the Russian’s Toro Rosso seat. As the most likely of this year’s junior hotshots to cement a seat in F1 next season, you’d think pundits would praise him highly, but many feel impassive by his steady yet unspectacular path to prominence. His solitary season in Formula Renault 3.5, where he finished runner up, yielded no wins and his first season in GP2 produced four podiums and no wins. His feature race victory at Silverstone this season ended his three year winning duck, stretching back to his Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 title-winning campaign, an omen Gasly will not want to carry into his F1 career.

Other GP2 stars

Oliver Rowland, Sergey Sirotkin and Raffaele Marciello currently hold the required number of points for FIA Superlicence eligibility, but their chances of appearing in F1 are heavily reliant upon sponsorship funding. Mitch Evans is yet to match the stunning heights he achieved in his earlier junior formulae career, with five victories throughout his four year GP2 career, but a slim chance of finishing 5th in this year’s championship has rendered the Kiwi unlikely to ever drive in F1. Manor development driver Jordan King and Norman Nato have also impressed, but will remain ineligible for a Superlicence if they finish where they currently stand (5th & 6th).

F1 decision making won’t improve for another 4 years | DN&C 06/04/16

thejudge13

F1 could be stuck in political quagmire until 2020

FIA president Jean Todt does not see Formula One’s governance changing before the current Concorde Agreement and commercial contracts with teams expire in 2020.s always the goal – but to be honest my attention was elsewhere at that point.

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The FIA agreed to the existing system (see below for details) in 2013, and at the time heralded “a strong and stable sporting governance framework which includes the Formula One Group, the FIA and the participating teams”

F1’s rule-making process

Strategy Group

Rules are formulated in the F1 Strategy Group, which is made up of six of the 11 teams, the FIA and the Commercial Rights Holder, which is represented by Bernie Ecclestone. Ferrari, Mercedes, McLaren, Red Bull and Williams have permanent seats on the Strategy Group, while Force India is the sixth member this year because it was the best placed of…

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2016 F1 Season Preview Part 4 (Sauber, Haas, Manor)

Life at the back of the grid is tough and has little financial reward, but a new team from across the Atlantic has joined the fight for 2016. Here’s the run-down of the teams fighting to avoid the wooden spoon:

Sauber F1 Team

Chassis: C35

Engine: Ferrari

Predicted championship position: 9th

Pre-season testing proved to be solid, if unspectacular affair for the Hinwil-based squad, but another year of lower midfield mediocrity awaits plucky Sauber. Deputy Team Principal, CEO and 33% stake holder Monisha Kaltenborn remains in charge, whilst Mark Smith will oversee the technical department. The well-remunerated pair of Felipe Nasr and Marcus Ericsson are retained as drivers, but it would be egregious to suggest another court battle over drivers’ contracts will re-emerge. Sauber had signed contracts with Adrian Sutil and Giedo van der Garde for 2015 race seats, but the settlement they agreed leaves the team in a perilous financial position. Sadly, this means technical development will remain as primitive as ever.

Haas F1 Team

Chassis: VF-16

Engine: Ferrari

Predicted constructors’ position: 10th

America’s first F1 team since Penske will take their bow in Melbourne in just two weeks’ time and the atmosphere within the Kannapolis/Banbury-based squad is one of optimism. Gene Haas has had question marks aimed at him for his belief that he can run a NASCAR and F1 operation simultaneously, but having Günther Steiner as team principal and Ben Agathangelou as Head of Aerodynamics is a step towards a good foundation. Romain Grosjean and Esteban Gutierrez have been employed to provide star quality and experience and Haas have a realistic chance pressurising their Ferrari customer counterparts Sauber. The technical relationship that Haas have with Ferrari may not yield success immediately for the Americans, but later success is forthcoming.

Manor Racing MRT

Chassis: MRT05

Engine: Mercedes

Predicted constructors’ position: 11th

The MRT05 chassis is the first new model that Manor will have designed in two years and a quantum leap in performance in pre-season testing has been achieved. However, the Banbury-based squad will remain as the whipping boys of F1. Yet huge and very promising changes in management have taken place. Team owner Stephen Fitzpatrick has installed Dave Ryan (ex-McLaren) as Racing Director, John McQuilliam (ex-Williams) as Technical Director, Nicholas Tombazis (ex-Ferrari & McLaren) as Head of Aerodynamics and Pat Fry (ex-Ferrari & McLaren) as Technical Consultant. Reigning DTM champion Pascal Wehrlein has been installed as the team’s lead driver, whilst there are question marks over whether heavily-remunerated Rio Haryanto will complete this season. Haryanto makes history as Indonesia’s first F1 driver, but his junior formula CV in GP2 and GP3 is underwhelming to say the least. Signs of progress may not be immediate, but a strong future awaits for Manor Racing.*

*Manor Motorsport is the WEC team ran by the team’s former president and sporting director John Booth and Graeme Lowdon. This team has no links to the Manor Racing F1 operation.

Formula 1’s Three Biggest Enemies

Wednesday 24th February may appear as just another day in the world for an average person, but for a Formula 1 fan it goes down as yet another footnote of F1’s numerous PR woes.  For a sport that is clearly searching for direction and vision, the powers that be decided to shake up qualifying. Just as the majority of its fanbase was flabbergasted when the FIA announced the mandate of a single helmet paint scheme before the eve of last season, social media was filled with more proverbial long faces over another unnecessary rule change.

It stems from three issues that engulf Formula 1 worse than ever: bureaucracy, ennui and nostalgia. It appears the FIA have suffered a diminishing control over its premier sport since Max Mosley left, who although many saw him to be a figure of ridicule and detachment from salient issues, he knew how to avoid the inmates running the asylum throughout the majority of his tenure. Whilst many cringed at Bernie Ecclestone’s recent quips about his hatred of democracy, in the context of F1 it is a political system which fails to work well at all. The infamous FOTA (Formula One Teams Association) was proof of F1’s constructors’ inability to work and harmonise as a working group. Formed at a meeting in Maranello on 29 July 2008, the organisation became notorious for partaking within the FIA-FOTA dispute of 2009. Mosley stanchly proposed a £40 million budget cap for 2010 in an attempt to attract new independent constructors, but FOTA rejected this, as well as many of the FIA’s additional proposals. FOTA announced they wanted a unanimous agreement upon technical and sporting regulations between themselves and the FIA before renewing the Concorde Agreement, which was due for review. There were attempts between both parties to smear each other with claims that both were jeopardising the existence of F1, which led to six of the FOTA teams announcing a withdrawal from submitting entries for the 2010 season. Eventually, it dawned upon FOTA the regulations had already been set in Paris at the FIA’s headquarters. The reputation of Mosley had already fallen on a slippery slope from his Nazi sex orgy allegations from the previous year, which meant FOTA were able to demand his removal. Whilst FOTA eventually withdrew their threat of creating a breakaway series, the teams eventually became disinterested with running FOTA and it was discontinued by early 2014.

Ennui is a feeling that not only affects the actions of the political figures within the sport, regardless of the organisation they work for, but particularly that of the fans and drivers. Whilst it is a great thing that Bernie Ecclestone’s Formula 1 website has taken social media far more seriously over the past year, it has profited upon a whim which leaves fans yearning for a worrying and unhealthy nostalgia. Watching videos of Juan Pablo Montoya set the fastest average lap speed record at Monza during 2004 is something that provides a weapon for fans to lampoon modern Formula 1 as a depilated, inferior sporting product. The visceral sensation of the noise emitted by an old fashioned V10 engine leaves viewers harking back to an era when Michael Schumacher and Ferrari drove the masses to tedium and boredom. Back in 2004, many retired superstars such as Alain Prost and Nigel Mansell bemoaned the lack of overtaking and competition, as well as a perception that the electronically-aided cars were less challenging to drive (sound familiar?). However, Prost also spoke of the task he faced in his era of fuel saving and tyre management during the 1980’s, driving heavy turbocharged monsters that broke down with alarming regularity. Prost and Mansell were many who berated the V10 chassis regulations of the time, which allowed refuelling and tyre changes. Michael Schumacher’s ingenious victory at that year’s French Grand Prix illustrated what many saw as farcical, where he won having seized advantage of Magny Cours’ short pitlane to pit four times to achieve the optimum strategy to beat Fernando Alonso’s pole-sitting Renault by 8.329 seconds.

Conincidentally, it set the FIA’s Overtaking Working Group into intense study and action. The regulations derived from its studies led to the narrowing of wings, removal of aero appendages and slick tyres by the advent of 2009. Thanks to the FIA-FOTA dispute, it was an organisation that became discredited and the current Strategy Group now influences a lot of regulations within the sport. It has been subjected to many complaints, particularly from Force India and Sauber who filed reports of its legality to the EU commission, vilifying its lack of concern for fiscal controls for constructors and its manipulation of power between group members. The Strategy Group permits the top five constructors from the previous season’s constructor standings to dictate the organisation’s decisions. In deference to a refusal to learn from the past, it is calling for a return to bigger aero appendages and a return of refuelling despite many statistics proving the introduction of the refuel ban, the much-maligned DRS and heat sensitive Pirelli almost trebling overtaking in the past five years in comparison to the seasons between 2005-09. This was an era where cars struggled to overtake due to pit strategies which attempted to seize of refuelling to move cars up the order through tactical ingenuity rather than wheel-to-wheel action.

Having been a fan of Formula 1 since 2002, Martin Brundle produced a tweet during Tuesday which aptly summed Formula 1’s problems. The number of rule changes causes endless confusion for not just fans, but its participants who are persistently dissatisfied by the sport’s politicking. Tinkering and manipulating rules to fit whims with artificial solutions is clearly not the way to go and it leaves fans nostalgic. Many egregious regulations since 2003 include:

  • One lap qualifying (manipulated into an aggregate system for the early races of 2005)
  • Parc Ferme rules (no tinkering with car’s setup post-qualifying, with aberrations later permitted for reliability and safety)
  • The fuel burn credit system implement for the newly introduced three tier qualifying of 2006. This was abolished when refuelling was banned for 2010.
  • The maximum time for cars returning to the pits during safety car periods, leaving myself and others confused when Felipe Massa and Giancarlo Fisichella were disqualified during 2007 Canadian Grand Prix
  • Banning teams from doing a pit-stop “dummy”- where pit crews pretend their car would enter the pits by rushing into pit box positions to fool rival teams
  • The engine freeze on V8s post-2006, which left a lot of its technology obsolete to car manufacturers and eventually led to the much-maligned V6 turbo hybrids
  • The KERS system (which none of the teams had called for), causing the weight limits of cars to be increased and penalise heavier drivers such as Mark Webber plus many more

As a fan of this sport I am at my wits’ end, particularly with older fans that yearn for the 1980’s. Ironically, this was the era infamous for the FISA-FOCA war (a forbearer of the FIA-FOTA dispute), where issues such as prize money, political power, superlicences and various issues set the tone of a poisonous atmosphere of strenuous political turmoil for decades to come within F1. From reading historical websites dedicated to motorsports, the arrivals of car manufacturers during this era such as BMW, Renault, Honda & Alfa Romeo sparked astronomical budget increases, with lower teams such as Tyrrell & Ligier, who were once competitive, to become also-rans who would get lapped five or six times come the end of this decade. In my time as F1 fan, many teams have closed down or sold due to financial issues. Prost, Arrows, HRT & Caterham were liquated due to huge debts, whilst BAR, Jordan and Virgin were sold and re-sold to their current guises of Mercedes, Force India & Manor. In addition, Minardi became Toro Rosso (thanks to Red Bull’s buyout), Jaguar sold what it saw as a sinking ship to Red Bull, Sauber became BMW Sauber, but reverted back to its original guise when the Bavarian giant grew tired of funding its grand project, whilst Toyota admitted defeat after spending billions through a stubborn committee-led management system. It is clear the vested interests of manufacturers cannot commit to unanimity and the FIA needs to set a blueprint upon this criterion:

  • Financial viability through budget constraints
  • Value for money and entertainment for fans
  • Limits upon the political powers of manufacturers and corporations
  • A safety back-up plan when major teams and sponsors flee the sport
  • An agreement to find corporations to commit to investing within independent outfits such as Williams, Haas, Sauber & Manor without jeopardising their futures or threatening to overhaul their management in favour of their brands’ identities
  • A fairer share of TV money between the CVC and constructors (as well as reviewing historical payments to successful teams such as Ferrari)
  • Removal of lengthy, tedious press conferences which pander too heavily towards sponsors
  • A stable, coherent set of regulations easy to understand by all and requiring little tinkering.

I love Formula 1 to pieces, but it is not immune to criticism. My view of its relationship with social media is that whilst has improved, its Twitter and Instagram have become complacent. It needs to explore why fans love their drivers and their teams, where maybe perhaps a “fan-board” on the Formula 1 website with pictures and messages supporting whoever will appear. This would lessen the need to show old videos of races gone past and a cessation of glorifying the sport’s murky and questionable past.