Archive — Formula 1

It’s time to go racing…Ben EdwardsBritish Motorsports Marshals Club

Ben Edwards with marshals

Formula 1 prepares to hold its first event of 2020 after the Australian Grand Prix had to be suddenly cancelled March, after everyone had arrived down under.

Now the first event takes place in Austria. A little easier to travel to. But the global nature of the sport — with personnel floating through Europe to congregate — seems particularly problematic.

Channel 4’s commentator Ben Edwards will be broadcasting this weekend from Silverstone, not Austria. But he thinks motorsport is more ideally suited to dealing with coronavirus than you might think.

At a circuit, awareness of gaps is crucial; a racing driver needs instantly to assess whether there is room to pass a piece of debris on the tarmac while marshals are constantly checking gaps between leaders and backmarkers to decide on blue flags, or positioning cars accurately in tightly formed assembly areas.

We are accustomed to checking distances, and unlike so many of the customers in supermarkets who appear to be oblivious to the rules that have been imposed, in my opinion the motorsport scene is naturally geared up for it and will cope accordingly.

I hope he’s right and there isn’t a situation like the one tennis has found itself in.

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FIA announces major safety changes following serious and fatal crashesKeith CollantineRaceFans

The FIA has announced a series of safety changes, including major improvements to the designs of F1 and other single-seater cars, following investigations of “28 serious and fatal accidents” at circuits during 2019.

It’s easy to talk about “freak accidents”. So it’s reassuring to see that the FIA are proposing a wide range of major safety improvements to cars and circuits. At first glace, the wide range of proposals — from strengthening chassis, to improving run-off areas, to implementing procedures around rejoining the circuit, to automated warning systems — seem largely sensible, and indicate that no stone has been left unturned in the quest to improve safety.

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F1 teams unanimously vote not to use Pirelli’s new 2020 tyresKeith CollantineRaceFans

Drivers had expressed doubts over the new constructions after testing the during the first practice session for the United States Grand Prix in November. They were given the chance to test the new compounds alongside the 2019 rubber at Yas Marina last week.

However that failed to ease concerns over the 2020 tyres. Following the test Romain Grosjean said the new tyres were not a clear improvement over the ones used this year.

How many more stories like this do there need to be before people start concluding that Pirelli simply aren’t up to the job of supplying tyres to Formula 1?

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Mercedes exit may hand Hamilton a Ferrari flingAdam Hay-NichollsMetro

Britta Seeger and Lewis Hamilton on the podium at Abu Dhabi

What might lead Lewis Hamilton to drive to Ferrari, and the pros and cons of doing so.

If Mercedes pull out of Formula 1 next year, moving to Ferrari would possibly be his only chance of surpassing Michael Schumacher as the most successful F1 driver of all time. But could he really bring himself to break his equally incredible record of racing with Mercedes power throughout his entire career?

Every race he has ever run has been with a three-pointed star on the car’s nose, which shows incredible loyalty. And he is very conscious of his future earnings.

He wants to continue bringing in eight figures a year. If he retires in a Mercedes he will be an ambassador for life, a lucrative deal I call ‘Fangio Plus’.

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Why Formula 1 is finished for meClive JamesThe Guardian

This article was written in the immediate aftermath of the 2002 Austrian Grand Prix, which was ruined by the most flagrant and offensive display of team orders in history. Rubens Barrichello, having had the upper-hand over Michael Schumacher for the entire weekend, ceded the victory to his team-mate literally at the finish line.

As you would expect from Clive James, this is a brilliant piece of writing. He really got to the appeal of motorsport like few could.

But seeing this article float through my Twitter timeline in the aftermath of Clive James’s death this week, it’s got me thinking.

Did Clive James stay true to his word? Did he never watch an F1 race again? I’m not aware of any contributions of his, beyond this moment. Am I wrong?

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Kimi Räikkönen: F1 looks “ridiculous” not running on wet tracksDieter Rencken and Keith CollantineRaceFans

For years certain people have been telling us not to criticise Pirelli’s high degradation tyres on the basis that “they were only delivering what the FIA asked”. Now, so many years on, and with so many different tyre degradation philosophies supposedly having been pursued, the question is unavoidable. Are Pirelli truly equipped enough to supply tyres to Formula 1, which is supposed to showcase the pinnacle of motorsport technology?

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McLaren’s Dennis ‘asked Brawn GP for secret car data in 2009’Keith CollantineRaceFans

Brawn GP and McLaren cars from 2009

This story isn’t quite as juicy as the headline suggests. Essentially Ron Dennis asked Nick Fry for Brawn GP’s chassis performance figures to help him benchmark the performance of the McLaren.

But it’s still an extraordinary revelation. And one quote in particular made me think of much more recent events.

According to Fry, Dennis told him McLaren’s MP4-24 chassis “is totally under-performing, as you have no doubt noticed, but my engineers say our aerodynamic package is on the money. The thing is I just don’t believe them.”

McLaren’s engineering director at the time was Paddy Lowe, whose recent spell at Williams appeared to be… under-performing.

Meanwhile, the denial at McLaren about their chassis performance continued up until last year. Then, it became crystal clear that blaming all their problems on Honda engines wasn’t going to wash.

I’ve written many times about how McLaren’s (and Williams’) problems go back many years. This new insight gives us a clue that senior figures were beginning to cotton onto that as early as 2009.

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F1 responds to criticism of television broadcastsKeith CollantineRaceFans

The best bit about this is the fact that they are apologising in advance for the inevitably poor quality of coverage in Singapore…

…we have to really convey what the city is like, this amazing skyline and these fantastic buildings.

How about no?

I’m sure it’s in the contract with the Singapore Grand Prix race promoters, that they must allot a certain amount of the broadcast to showing the city, and not the race. The same goes with Abu Dhabi and that ridiculous vibrator-shaped hotel.

And the Russian Grand Prix. Every year, without fail, they have cut away from the live action to broadcast footage of Vladimir Putin arriving by helicopter about a third of the way through the race. Then some laps later they show him gormlessly sitting next to Bernie Ecclestone in a near-empty grandstand, looking about as interested in the race as some lichen would. Every year. Watch it this year and take a drink when it happens.

The sooner F1 becomes less reliant on these ridiculous publicity-hungry governments, and goes back to real racing on proper circuits, the better. But then, it will be harder to excuse the bad TV coverage.

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Daniel Ricciardo — Danger and DeathChequered Flag Formula 1BBC Radio 5 live

Daniel Ricciardo

A very frank, in-depth interview with Daniel Riccardo talking about the aftermath of Anthoine Hubert’s death and how he got back into the cockpit to start the race less than 24 hours later.

The interview by Andrew Benson is summarised here.

I found his description of going through Raidillon for the first time particularly powerful:

I told myself: ‘Go full throttle, and just don’t over-think this corner, don’t over-think any of it.’ Out of the pits… held it full. That was a relief but it felt good to get out there and do that. And that also told me that I was ready to go.

I think if I was, big lift and scared, then that would be a sign that maybe I shouldn’t be on the track right now. I guess I wanted to do that to test myself and then it all felt right.

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Albon replaces Gasly at Red Bull for Belgian Grand PrixKeith CollantineRaceFans

At this stage, I wonder how Helmut Marko gets away with this. His driver/vanity programme is a monumental failure. Pierre Gasly’s demotion to Toro Rosso after only 12 races is just the latest in a trail of destruction wreaked upon drivers ever since Red Bull Junior Team’s inception.

At Toro Rosso he joins Daniil Kvyat, who has also been rejected by Red Bull’s programme multiple times, only to be invited back due to the scheme’s utter dearth of talent.

Meanwhile, Red Bull lack the patience required to build their drivers’ confidence and skill.

Luke Smith’s tweet sums it up neatly:

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Bottas considering ‘plan B and C’ if Mercedes drop himDieter Rencken and Keith CollantineRaceFans

I fear the writing is on the wall for Valtteri Bottas. It was bad enough that Toto Wolff has now explicitly said he’s considering replacing Bottas with Esteban Ocon.

But when even Bottas himself is talking about having a plan B and plan C, surely the game is up. It’s not just the fact that he’s considering it. That’s only sensible for anyone to do.

But in talking about it, he is exposing his weakness. A more driven individual (even if he is talking to other teams behind the scenes) would surely still say he is fully committed to Mercedes and, determined to retain his drive, and not thinking about anything else.

Talking like this just makes Bottas seem like he’s already thrown in the towel.

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The paint-scraping myth: Why the story behind Mercedes’ special livery isn’t trueKeith Collantine and Dieter RenckenRaceFans

Mercedes' special livery - halo detail

Spoilsports! 😉

In all seriousness, I’m impressed at the effort Mercedes have put in to celebrating 125 years in motorsport and their 200th F1 race.

While having all the team personnel (including mechanics!) dressed up in 1950s-style outfits looks fun, it surely must be distracting. Watching the mechanics working on the cars in the garage with their baggy overalls dangling all over the place, I had to think some of these mechanics must find it all annoying.

Lewis Hamilton certainly seemed to find his special gloves annoying during free practice 3 yesterday when he tetchily requested his normal gloves as the session was about to start.

As for the livery, Toto Wolff said:

“I can tell you it’s definitely not making the car lighter… In all the briefing sheets prior to this weekend the engineers pointed out ‘too heavy stickers’…”

I’m sure it’s a small thing, but I’ve always wondered if thick stickers have an effect on aerodynamics. If you look at the photos on the RaceFans article, you can actually see how thick some of the decals are.

I’m sure they wouldn’t do it if it was a problem. But surely thick stickers would be more of a factor than matt paint?

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Note — 2019-07-15

I just watched the British Grand Prix. 😱 Sebastian Vettel needs to retire as soon as possible, before he does any further damage to his reputation. So sad to see a once great driver reduced to this.

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Why this is a bad time for Red Bull to drop their leading junior talentDieter RenckenRaceFans

It’s good to see this issue getting some more attention, from none other than Dieter Rencken. I’ve been saying this for years.

If the aim of the Junior programme is to develop F1 drivers such situations point to something seriously amiss with the selection process. In 20 years and over 350 grands prix, just three alumni – Sebastian Vettel, Daniel Ricciardo and Verstappen – won grands prix. Of these only Ricciardo can be considered a fully ‘homegrown’ product of Red Bull’s system, the other two having been schooled elsewhere.

Dan Ticktum’s meltdown was seemingly brought about by the high-pressure environment of Red Bull’s driver programme. But this just the latest in a very long line of failures.

It’s easy to say this from the outside, but if I was a driver with some talent I would steer well clear of the Red Bull programme. The list of unnecessarily ruined careers is far, far longer than the successes.

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Horner wants kerb changes after ‘£250,000 damage’ in first practiceKeith CollantineRaceFans

Kerbs at Red Bull Ring

As usual, Christian Horner seems to be talking bull.

On the one hand, he’s bemoaning the damage being caused to cars by the kerbs. On the other hand, he’s saying they are “too inviting”. It can’t be both.

Horner believes they are “too inviting” for drivers. “They know they’re there, I just think the angle that they’re at, I think that’s what they really need to look at.”…

“It needs something either more substantial that is a real deterrent because the invitation is there for the drivers to try to use it.”

Damaging your front wing isn’t a deterrent enough?

Given this, and other recent events in Canada and France, I’m starting to wonder if F1’s biggest problem is that drivers have formed a sense of entitlement that they should be allowed to leave the circuit without consequence.

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Note — 2019-03-14

I was sorry to hear about the death of Charlie Whiting, Formula 1’s race director, less than 24 hours before he was due to oversee the first session of the season.

Charlie Whiting has been one person in the FIA I have always respected. It was very difficult to question his judgement, and you rarely heard anyone ever seriously question it.

Charlie Whiting at the fanzone during the 2018 Belgian Grand Prix weekend

We saw Charlie Whiting addressing fans when we went to the Belgian Grand Prix last year, and he seemed happy to be speaking to fans and telling them more about the sport and his job.

It has seemed, from my distant vantage point, that the FIA have had trouble finding a successor to Charlie Whiting in the role of race director. He has held the job since 1997. I couldn’t tell you who was the race director before him, and it’s difficult to imagine who it will be after him. They are big shoes to fill.

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The game changed and they didn't: The true cause of Williams' declineDieter RenckenRaceFans

An excellent analysis setting the decline of Williams into a historical context. Dieter Rencken traces the decline back to 1998, the commencement of the first Concorde Agreement following Bernie Ecclestone’s acquisition of Formula 1’s commercial rights. This is when Bernie Ecclestone began acting in his own interests, and not that of the teams.

That certainly explains why the number of independent teams has decreased since then. The remaining teams, as Dieter Rencken notes, have changed their business models to adapt to the modern commercial realities of the sport.

Williams’s dogged determination to stick to the same business model it had in the 1980s and 1990s may be seen as noble by some. But increasingly it’s being shown to be foolhardy.

Claire Williams may refuse to allow Williams to be a B-team. But let’s not forget that Frank Williams first entered F1 with a customer chassis. Why should they continue to tie their own hands?

See also: Williams have hit a new Lowe

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Williams have hit a new Lowe

Robert Kubica testing for Williams

It would have been an embarrassing start to the year by anyone’s standards. But for a team like Williams, it has been utterly mortifying. Formerly known as Williams Grand Prix Engineering, this team has always taken a great pride in its engineering excellence. In the past couple of years, that reputation has been shattered. Read full article

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Sauber and Alfa Romeo to keep fighting for ambitious results as Alfa Romeo Racing

Alfa Romeo Sauber car

Sauber and Alfa Romeo to keep fighting for ambitious results as Alfa Romeo Racing

The 2019 Formula One World Championship will see two of the most historical brands in motorsport – Sauber and Alfa Romeo – return to circuits across the globe with 2007 World Champion Kimi Räikkönen and the young Italian Antonio Giovinazzi driving for Alfa Romeo Racing, formerly referred to as the Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 Team.

It’s a bit of a shame to see the Sauber name disappear. Even when BMW owned the team they kept Sauber in the name.

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Michael Schumacher’s son progresses to bring hope in tragic F1 tale — Richard Williams, the Guardian

Mick Schumacher

Michael Schumacher’s son progresses to bring hope in tragic F1 tale — Richard Williams, the Guardian

As always, Richard Williams is well worth reading. This time, a sensitive piece on the mixed feelings some people have about Michael Schumacher, five years on from his skiing accident, as his son Mick prepares to make the step up to Formula 2.

The centrepiece of this article is an interview with Damon Hill, one of Schumacher’s fiercest rivals. As usual, Hill is thoughtful when reflecting back.

Today, everyone with any direct relationship to Michael Schumacher, past or present, chooses their words with extreme care when discussing his life since the accident. “To even contemplate it is frightening,” Hill says. “Whatever my feeling was about Michael and the way he went about his career became irrelevant. From a human point of view, it was so upsetting.”

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Slow LMP1s: you asked for it

Slow LMP1s: you asked for it

Hazel Southwell explains why hybrid technology is the future, and why reverting back to old-fashioned V8s wouldn’t solve anything, by looking at how the current LMP1 regulations are panning out.

…the privateer P1s do not go as fast because they are not as good [as the hybrids]…

When a combustion-only car storms up the Le Mans pit straight and then brakes into the curve of turn one, all the energy and fuel burnt through to accelerate turns to heat in the brakes – and is gone. When it gears up the torque to get up the hill to Dunlop, the heat the engine fires up disappears into the night as nothing, fumes out of the exhaust that don’t move the car forwards.

👏

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F1 season ends and building of the broadcasting paywall begins

David Coulthard interviewing Pierre Gasly

F1 season ends and building of the broadcasting paywall begins

Channel 4’s Formula 1 commentator Ben Edwards began his broadcast yesterday saying, “For many of us, it’s an end of an era.” He talked about it being Fernando Alonso’s final race, and Kimi Räikkönen’s swansong at Ferrari. Not directly mentioned, but telegraphed, was the fact that this was also the last F1 race to be shown on free-to-air TV in the UK, with the exception of next year’s British Grand Prix.

Channel 4 have done an exceptional job of covering the sport over the past three years. I share Richard Williams’s weary assessment of the Sky coverage we must pay through the nose for:

There are aspects that stretch the patience, like the rushed and inane encounters of the grid walk and the plethora of pensioned-off drivers saying nothing very much.

When Sky first shared the rights with the BBC in 2012, the big names went to Sky — but the good names stayed with the BBC. Channel 4 have continued in that vein, if anything improving on the BBC. Their diverse range of pundits are sharper, wittier, more perceptive, more insightful, with more recent race experience.

From now, British viewers are left worse off — and so is F1 itself.

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Robert Kubica will return to Williams F1 in 2019…

Robert Kubica

Robert Kubica will return to Williams F1 in 2019…

Analysis from Mark Hughes.

I was always a huge fan of Robert Kubica. So on the one hand it is delightful that he will return to race in F1, eight years on from his horrific rally accident.

But I really hope Williams are doing this for the right reasons. Knowing Williams’s history with drivers, they are probably not doing it for the right reasons.

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Fernando Alonso: the F1 great who couldn’t catch a break

Fernando Alonso on his deckchair

Fernando Alonso: the F1 great who couldn’t catch a break

On the eve of Fernando Alonso’s final Formula 1 race, Andrew Benson has written a brilliant five-part article on the key moments in his career. This series is full of fascinating anecdotes and new details about the breakdown of his relationship with McLaren in 2007, what he was really like with Ferrari, and what drove him to move back to McLaren.

More than ever, it’s clear that those who have worked most closely with Fernando Alonso regard him as one of the greatest F1 drivers of all time. It’s all the more shocking that his career has delivered so little in terms of silverware. This series helps explain exactly why that is.

This is probably one of the best articles about Formula 1 I have read for several years.

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A farewell from BadgerGP.com

A farewell from BadgerGP.com

After a decade (yes, a decade!) of BadgerGP.com we’re closing down after the 2018 season.

One of the first — and best — Formula 1 blogs is closing its doors.

In 2010, I was honoured to be asked if I would like to contribute an article to BadgerGP. The outcome was, The Vettel-Webber backlash: Are Red Bull losing their Fizz?

As noted by the F1 Broadcasting Blog on Twitter, it’s a shame to see another independent motorsport website close.

Thanks to Adam Le Feuvre, and everyone involved with F1 Badger and BadgerGP over the years.

See also: The survival of independent motorsport websites

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