2014 German Grand Prix

Today’s German Grand Prix marked the halfway point in a 2014 Formula 1 season dominated by Mercedes AMG Petronas.

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The Hockenheimring played host to Round 10 of the World Championship but you wouldn’t have guessed much was at stake by the thousands of empty seats around the track. FOM have taken considerable criticism in recent months over the absurd prices they’re charging for tickets. Given that Germany is one of the wealthiest and most motorsport-crazed countries on the calendar, the lack of attendance further raises criticism.

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On the heels of the German National Football Team’s World Cup dominance, the Formula 1 media made sure the attention was on Nico Rosberg, who was coming off of a retirement at Silverstone. The driver has been particularly vocal about half German heritage in the last few weeks and it became one of the primary story lines in the weeks leading up to the Grand Prix. Ultimately Rosberg did his do diligence and took the first “home” victory of his career. Most have been under the impression the Monaco was Rosberg’s home race, but apparently he drives for Germany. The whole thing is very confusing as Lewis Hamilton illustrated in the press earlier in the week – “He is German-Finnish-Monaco-esque, or whatever.”

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Things didn’t fare so well for Hamilton on Saturday as he suffered a catastrophic failure of his right front brake caliper, which sent him into the barriers during Q2. He started the race from P20 and executed one hell of a drive, navigating a difficult field to ultimately finish on the podium in 3rd. Hamilton looked dejected during the podium ceremony, as he often does when the result isn’t a win.

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The tension in the Mercedes paddock has clearly boiled over and it appears both drivers are barely on speaking terms. It does seem awfully odd that Hamilton has been receiving the brunt of the bad luck this season, in terms of reliability and slow pitstops. Despite a retirement for Rosberg at Silverstone, the rest of his season has gone without incident. It’ll be interesting to see how the remainder of 2014 plays out for both drivers. Judging by the recent long-term contract extension for Rosberg and the overwhelming support of the team, Hamtilon will certainly feel as if he’s playing second fiddle at Mercedes.

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Elsewhere on the grid, more horrible luck for Williams and Felipe Massa. Massa can’t seem to catch a break this season and Germany marks the third Grand Prix in a row where he’s been involved in a crash. Luck wasn’t on his side at Silverstone as he became the collateral damage of Kimi Raikkonen’s off, but unfortunately heading into turn 1 at Hockenheim, Massa left McLaren’s Kevin Magnussen nowhere to go, which resulted in one of the worst looking crashes of 2014 and saw the Williams FW36 sliding on its top side.

Massa claims to have done nothing wrong, but this wouldn’t be the first time the Brazilian has refused to take responsibility. At times his mistakes have seemed very questionable for such a veteran racer. With the Mercedes-powered FW36 performing so well, Massa has all the opportunities to win races if he can keep himself out of harm’s way.

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His teammate Valtteri Bottas has been making increasing waves recently and started from P2 after an excellent Q3 on Saturday. Ailing tires in the final laps of the race did nothing to favor Bottas, who still managed to hold off a charging Hamilton to finish 2nd. It was a consistently solid performance from start to finish for the Finn.

F1 Grand Prix of Germany - Previews

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The real show of the day was an excellent bout between the F14 T of Fernando Alonso and the RB10 of Daniel Ricciardo. Germany was the second Grand Prix in a row where Alonso did what he does best against Red Bull Racing.

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After Vettel’s petulant whining over the job of battling Alonso at Silverstone, it was a breath of fresh air to see Ricciardo take the challenge in stride and put up an honorable fight against the Ferrari. With the increasing levels of gimmicks being added to the sport and the FIA’s absurd desire for more “road relevancy”, these kinds of battles will continue to be a rarity.

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Recently, Luca di Montezemolo called the drivers “taxi drivers” because the sport requires them to structure their races around fuel and tire savings. There’s a reason it’s called racing and fans want to see the very best drivers in the world going at the absolute limit for 58 laps. If refueling and longer lasting tires are required to do that, than so be it. Environmentalists have no shortage of other causes to seek out in place of exercising their blame game culture on international motorsport.

F1 Grand Prix of Germany

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With the summer break looming, the teams will have to make the tough choice of fighting until the end of the season or throwing in the towel on 2014. Outside of Mercedes, Red Bull and Williams, it’s likely most teams will choose the latter. Despite Alonso’s best efforts on Sundays, the F14 T has been another misstep for Ferrari. The same can be said for McLaren, who have been historically bad the last 2 seasons. Neither of Formula 1′s winningest teams will want to carry on like this in 2015, which is why early development will likely take the priority.

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The Hockenheimring may have played host to it’s last German Grand Prix. With their FOM contract expiring, it’s likely the event will remain at the Nürburgring annually. It wouldn’t be a huge loss to the sport as the track’s changed layout diminished everything that made it so brilliant in the first place. Today’s foibles by the stewards were highly unacceptable and a far cry from the Germany’s stereotypical efficiency. The safety car absolutely should’ve been deployed after Adrian Sutil’s Sauber became stranded on the home straight during lap 47. The trackside marshalls were also very slow to respond and it’s this level of confusion than can be so dangerous for the other drivers. The fact that the FIA can overlook incidents like this, while trying to enforce more “road relevant” cars shows just what a fractured and outlandish organization Jean Todt is running.

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F1 Grand Prix of Germany

The teams head to Budapest this week for the Hungarian Grand Prix next Sunday. The Hungaroring is a track where Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button have done well historically so next weekend should be very interesting indeed.

Photos courtesy of F1 Fanatic.

An Ode To The Original

Once Jalopnik does one of their “buy this now” posts, it’s already too late. Earlier this year, it was classic 911s, then the E46 M3 and most recently the original Impreza GC.

It’s becoming ever more difficult to find an Impreza 2.5 RS in good shape. Most have been poorly modified, abused or a combination of the two. While most GC owners opt for more aggressive, WRC and track day looks, t3hWIT has gone a different route by channeling the original WRX STI RA.

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It’s a brilliant take on a classic and in many owner’s opinions, the true embodiment of the Impreza.

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A nod to Colin McRae on the rear wing.

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th3WIT’s car helps to explain why the Impreza is so unique. Unlike most other performance cars, the are 2 very distinctive camps in which it resides – rally and track. Having had great success in both arenas, Subaru owners have had a difficult decision when they arrive at the fork in the road of which route to take with their builds. Many GC owners in particular go the rally path. It’s what makes the Subaru community so unique in the way that one car is able to adopt so many different personalities. Go to any Subaru meet and you’re likely to find lifted off-road ready WRXs sharing the same space as their slammed, tucked, and caged counterparts.

However this particular car incapsulates something a bit different – heritage. There are no front lips, fancy forged wheels, wide fenders or aftermarket trim pieces, it’s just an honest representation of the best Subaru OEM had to offer at the time. As the GC continues to get older, the word classic will start getting thrown around more. These are the kind of builds that people will be gravitating towards at their local Saturday morning coffee meets.

Photos courtesy of th3WIT.

2014 Canadian Grand Prix

Much of what will have people talking about today’s Canadian Grand Prix happened in the final 5 laps of the race. It was a test of endurance as mechanical issues plagued the field and a massive crash left 2 potential podium sitters in the barrier at turn 1.

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Heading into the weekend, most of the attention was on the Mercedes pair of Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg. Fresh off a PR good faith bid to his teammate, Hamilton treaded carefully and kept the talk about his performance. Mercedes were the undisputed favorites at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, a track of extremes – high speed straits and tight hairpins. With an 8mph speed advantage, it was a question of which Mercedes driver would take 1st.

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Rosberg silenced any pro-Hamilton doubters, securing pole on Saturday and reigniting the “mind games” debate. Ultimately it was little more than a mistake by Hamilton on his final lap of Q3 that did him in.

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Sunday told a very different story however. After 6 races of near faultless reliability, Hamilton was forced to retire after over cooking his brakes. The retirement opened the gates for Rosberg to secure an easy win, but the brake problems also infected his Silver Arrow and put him right in the sights Red Bull, Force India and Williams. Ultimately Rosberg would finish 2nd after being overtaken by Daniel Ricciardo in a a sensational drive.

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The only thing consistent about Red Bull’s season thus far has been Daniel Ricciardo’s dominance over his teammate Sebastian Vettel. Vettel’s struggled to come to terms with the RB10′s performance and suffered a number of reliability issues, but in Montreal things started to click.

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After starting from P3, Vettel managed to hold on until the checkered flag, but not without persistent threats from his teammate who eventually overtook him to battle Rosberg for the lead.

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The battle for the top 5 was the highlight of an otherwise formulaic Canadian Grand Prix. Flashes of brilliance from Force India and Williams hinted that it was a sure fire bet that we’d see one, if not both Felipe Massa and Sergio Perez on the podium. However, in the final lap of the race the two came into contact, resulting in a massive crash heading into turn 1. It was the most violent crash on track since the Romain Grosjean incident at Spa in 2012. Luckily no one was seriously hurt.

Motor Racing - Formula One World Championship - Canadian Grand Prix - Race Day - Montreal, Canada

Perez was deemed at fault and handed a 5 grid spot penalty heading to Austria.

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With the safety car on track, it was a cruise to the finish with Ricciardo taking his maiden win in Formula 1. Rosberg and Vettel rounded out the podium and Mercedes winning streak was over.

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Further back on track McLaren and Ferrari remained in limbo. The Scuderia came into the weekend with high hopes for the F14 T’s upgraded engine mapping, but it did little to give Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen a competitive edge. There have been rumblings around the paddock that Raikkonen will be asked to step aside at the end of the season if his performance doesn’t improve, but from the way the cars have performed, the demotion seems absurd.

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Jenson Button on track.

McLaren, still without a title sponsor maintained their vanilla performance throughout the weekend. It feels weird to watch a Formula 1 broadcast and not even see a McLaren on screen. Shockingly however Jenson Button managed to sneak into 4th to end the race ahead of Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg. Alonso finished 6th behind Hulkenberg, with Raikkonen way back in 10th.

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Despite the crash, the Mercedes drama and everything else that happened in Montreal, it was Daniel Ricciardo’s day. The Red Bull driver has had a stunning debut season with the World Championship team and things only look to get better. He’s got the respect of his teammate and has never backed down from a challenge all season long. I doubt this is the last time we’ll see Ricciardo winning a race this season – bravo!

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The teams are heading back to Europe where they’ll remain through September. Next up is a return to Austria at the Red Bull Ring. See you in 2 weeks!

Photos courtesy of F1 Fanatic.

2014 Monaco Grand Prix

While the rivalry at Mercedes is hardly the Senna-Prost sequel the media keep alluding to, things definitely got awkward following yesterday’s Monaco Grand Prix.

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Over the past couple of months Lewis Hamilton hasn’t passed on an opportunity to take jabs at his Mercedes teammate. Whether it be commentary on Rosberg’s lavish upbringing or claims that their friendship is far more distant than it seems, Hamilton has made it abundantly clear that he’s vying for top driver’s honors within the team. Watching the teammates’ body language following the last few races has become a favorite past time of the F1 media and while things have grown progressively more awkward, it all came to a head in Monaco.

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Saturday’s qualifying saw both Silver Arrows comfortably ahead of the pack and it really was a question of which Mercedes driver would take pole. Rosberg looked more comfortable on track all weekend but a mistake at the end of Q3 cost the remainder of the grid their flying laps, including a very unhappy Hamilton who would start from P2.

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In the press conference that followed, a downtrodden Hamilton sat alongside an exuberant Rosberg and attempted to downplay the incident.

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While the glitz and glamor have always made the Monaco Grand Prix the hottest ticket on the F1 calendar, the racing has been less than spectacular in recent years. Yesterday’s running was no exception with plenty of safety car laps and very little passing on track.

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Ferrari entered the weekend with realistic aspirations and appeared to be slightly more competitive up front. Kimi Raikkonen got off to an excellent start but ultimately fell back in the field after getting hit by Marussia’s Max Chilton and suffering a puncture.

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Things fared better for Fernando Alonso who finished a respectable 4th, while struggling to keep up with the much quicker Silver Arrows and the RB10 of Daniel Ricciardo.

F1 Grand Prix of Monaco - Previews

The situation between Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull continued to fracture. After starting from P4, Vettel experienced turbo issues which cut his race short after 5 laps. Somewhere on a yacht in the Monaco harbor, Mark Webber was celebrating. The 4 times World Champion has gotten little support from Red Bull’s top brass all season long.

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It really does appear that Vettel is out on an island by himself at this point. Perhaps a Ferrari contract is in his back pocket and the team knows it? His teammate Daniel Ricciardo isn’t helping Vettel’s case.

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After a solid qualifying which Ricciardo discribed as “disappointing”, he was able to close the gap with Hamilton in the final laps of the race. Had there been a few more laps, it may have been Ricciardo finishing 2nd instead of 3rd.

Jenson Button on track.

Retirements were abundant throughout the grid, as they tend to be in Monaco. Both Williams and McLaren had mediocre weekends. Valtteri Bottas failed to finish while his teammate Felipe Massa came 7th behind the McLaren of Jenson Button. Signs of age appear to be showing for both veterans who are being out-performed by their much younger teammates.

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It will be interesting to see how much longer McLaren are willing to hold on to Button and Williams to Massa.

Motor Racing - Formula One World Championship - Monaco Grand Prix - Saturday - Monte Carlo, Monaco

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Despite safety cars and the supposed debris in Hamilton’s eye, the real story of the weekend didn’t happen out on track, but directly following the race in pit lane. After Rosberg accepted his 2nd of back-to-back Monaco wins, all eyes were on the Mercedes teammates and how they would receive one another. A sour grapes Hamilton avoided making eye contact and quickly left the scene after answering a few questions from Benedict Cumberbatch. No handshakes and certainly no congratulations where given. The UK tabloids will be especially busy in the lead up to Montreal.

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F1 Grand Prix of Monaco

Speculations aside, I love a good rivalry. This social movement that demands we should all be PC and great friends with one another just doesn’t work in sports – it doesn’t work in real life either. Watching 2 NBA teams hug it out at the end of a hard fought Playoffs battle, dilutes everything fans just witnessed. Seeing athletes at the top of them game is seeing individuals completely focused on one thing – winning. I don’t blame either of the Mercedes drivers for their respective moods over the outcome of yesterday’s Monaco Grand Prix. In fact, I’d like to see more of it between all the drivers. Rivalries are good for business. They keep people engaged, they keep the media talking, they put eyeballs on the TV come race day. We complain when F1 is a procession and nothing happens on track. Now we’re on the cusp of a truly great interteam rivalry. Maybe it won’t be Senna-Prost II, but it will keep things interesting for Formula 1 and interesting is good for business.

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Montreal is in 2 weeks.

Photos courtesy of F1 Fanatic.

McLaren’s Identity Crisis

Successful automotive manufacturer, dealer and now animation studio – did McLaren forget they’re a racing team?

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2 years on and it’s looking more and more like Lewis Hamilton made absolutely the right decision. We’re headed into the 6th race of the season and still no title sponsorship. How about a little less Tooned and a little more get your shit together on track?

Monaco is this Sunday!

Photo courtesy of McLaren.

Audi A3 Clubsport Quattro

Build it and they will buy it.

Every once in a while a car comes along that makes enthusiasts question the decision to buy a BMW M3 or go a different route. The Mercedes C63 AMG has always been an enticing option with one of the truly great motors ever produced. Audi has also risen to the occasion in the past with the RS4. Neither were quite in the same league as the M3 in terms of offering the total package, but they got close.

The Audi A3 Clubsport Quattro however may get more than a few to switch allegiances. If they can be bothered to put it into production.

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If in fact you have an Internet connection and the most fleeting of interests in cars, you already know the specs: 2.5L 5-cylinder engine capable of 525 horsepower.

It puts the car right in the crosshairs of the upcoming M3 or M4, if you’re into BMW’s bizarro naming conventions.

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The A3 Clubsport Quattro is set to debut as a concept at this year’s Wörthersee, a uniquely Austrian cruise/meet/show that brings out some of the best modified cars in Europe. It’s a place where VW have long shown special skunk works style projects.

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The Audi looks absolutely stunning from every angle but take it in with a grain of salt. Auto manufacturers love teasing enthusiasts with these kinds of concepts. It wouldn’t be the first time Audi has tried to rebrand the original Quattro name on something too good to be true.

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Audi A3 clubsport quattro concept

What this car really is, is a glimpse of the upcoming RS3 and if it looks and performs anything as good as this, the M3 will most certainly have a new rival on its hands.

Photos courtesy of Audi.

Pleasure Racing Service GRB Impreza

Pleasure Racing Service may not be one of the most well known Japanese tuning shops, but they’re certainly one of the most impressive. Where so many shops have shifted their focus towards marketability and the industry’s latest hype, PRS have stuck to their roots and remain heavily involved in motor sports. From time attack to rallying, they cater to the group of enthusiasts more interested in driving their cars than looking at them. It’s one of the reasons why this shop maintains a successful business while so many of their competitors have faded into obscurity.

With footholds in the Impreza and Evo markets, PRS has more recently experienced success in the BRZ market. The shop’s exceedingly large lineup of demo cars is fronted by their GRB Impreza.

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While the styling may not be to everyone’s taste, I never was an INGS fan myself, you can be sure this car lays it down on the track.

With an over saturation of ridiculous aero kits and an all show, no go mantra flooding the industry, there’s something to be said for proper driver’s cars standing their ground.

Photo courtesy of PRS.

2014 Spanish Grand Prix

Many would consider the Spanish Grand Prix to be the actual start of the 2014 Formula 1 season, kicking off the European leg of the sport. As with quite a few of the Grands Prix we’ve seen this season, the interteam dynamics and off track storylines have been far more interesting than what we’ve seen on track. For the most part the Spanish Grand Prix at the newly renamed Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya was an uneventful affair, with teams sticking to their strategies in this 2 stopper.

Motor Racing - Formula One World Championship - Spanish Grand Prix - Race Day - Barcelona, Spain

One of the most interesting aspects of the 2014 season has been the interteam battles, most notably Mercedes. The duo of Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg started the 2014 campaign as 2 of the friendliest teammates in Formula 1, but as the season’s progressed, the relationship has deteriorated to that of respectful coworkers and nothing more. Hamilton was quoted in the media saying of all his closest friends Rosberg wasn’t one of them. His teammate made similar comments and it made abundantly clear that both would be vying for the clear number 1 within the team.

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On paper, Rosberg was favored all weekend long. He put down consistently better lap times in Friday practice and qualifying but in the end it was Hamilton who was able to dig deep and put the W05 on pole. While not particularly a champion’s drive today, Hamilton maintained consistency from the start and took his 4th consecutive victory this season. Rosberg finished within 1 second of his teammate to take 2nd place and the body language following the race was anything but friendly.

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Hamilton’s dynamic with the team was a departure from this season’s previous races. Lots of second guessing over the radio and a general frustration from the driver over the car’s twitchy performance. It was a telling sign of just how tense things have become in the Mercedes garages and it will be an interesting storyline to follow as the season progresses. The team’s domination over the sport right now is very Red Bull-esque and by the end of the race both Mercedes’ drivers had lapped the entire field with the exception of the 2 Red Bulls, the Williams of Valtteri Bottas and the Ferrari of Fernando Alonso. There was an expectation that the other teams would bring more of a fight to Mercedes after the 3 week break, but no one is close. Right now the World Championship is Hamilton’s to lose.

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Things throughout the rest of the field were business as usual. Ferrari seemed to have made some improvements during the 3 week break and Kimi Raikkonen was clearly communicating better with the F14 T, much to the dismay of Alonso who was keen to capture a podium at his home Grand Prix. Despite the car’s lack of performance Alonso gives it his all every race weekend.

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Say what you will about his past indiscretions with McLaren and Renault, the guy cares immensely and is able to squeeze every ounce of performance from every car. Alonso remained behind his teammate for much of the race but was able to overtake Raikkonen and finished 6th overall. The real question is how much longer Alonso will put up with Ferrari’s lack of performance. With more competition from his teammate, it seems a matter of time before the driver heads somewhere else.

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Red Bull remained inconsistent all weekend. While Daniel Ricciardo settled into the RB10, Sebastian Vettel had a hellacious Friday practice and qualifying. To top things off, he was handed a 5 grid spot penalty and started in 15th. Vettel has been very vocal in the media all season long about his distaste for the new cars and Red Bull’s performance. This week he called for more aggressive cars, which seems to be the very reason he’s currently struggling. Without the exhaust blown diffusers of last season, Vettel has been unable to get the same kind of traction out of the corners. This has largely been his achilles heel in 2014 – in season’s past Vettel could hold down the accelerator at the exit with full confidence that the car would maintain grip.

Spanish F1 Grand Prix - Race

Most of his complaints boil down to a lack of success and the fact that Ricciardo is outdriving him certainly isn’t helping. It’s interesting how the team have largely abandoned Vettel’s corner. Horner and Newey have nearly resorted to radio silence in the media and it begs the question that Vettel could be leaving soon for Ferrari, where he may have already signed a pre-contract. Loyalties certainly seem to be shifting in the Red Bull paddock and Mark Webber must be enjoying every minute of it.

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Elsewhere on the grid, Valtteri Bottas gave Williams another reason to keep believing. He once again outdrove his teammate Felipe Massa and finished a very respectable 5th. The Lotus of Romain Grosjean and the Force Indias of Sergio Perez and Nico Hulkenberg rounded out the top 10 spots. McLaren were yet again nowhere to be found all race.

Motor Racing - Formula One World Championship - Spanish Grand Prix - Race Day - Barcelona, Spain

After some respectable times on Friday, Jenson Button barely made it into Q3 on Saturday and struggled today, finishing 11th with his teammate Kevin Magnussen just behind in 12th. Still without a title sponsor 5 races into the season and one really has to wonder what’s going on at McLaren. Theoretically they should be doing far better with the superior Mercedes engines. They looked strong in pre season testing and have fallen every race since. Not good enough Ron.

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With Spain in the books and the teams back in Europe, it’s really starting to feel like Formula 1 is properly underway. Next stop is Monaco in 2 weeks!

Photos courtesy of F1 Fanatic.

Game Of Thrones

Came across this photo from an F1 drivers dinner  about 2-3 years ago.

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Notice Vettel, the odd man out from the winner’s circle at the opposite end of the table. The conversation amongst Webber, Button, Hamilton and Alonso must have been interesting. If walls could talk…