Daniel Ricciardo

2014 Russian Grand Prix

It’s hard not to connect the dots between propaganda and today’s Russian Grand Prix. But despite, the world feed director’s fascination with cutting to shots of Putin and Bernie chumming it up in a luxury suite, there was indeed a race to be had.

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I use the word race in the broadest sense because it was hard to not to be reminded of Valencia in today’s inaugural Russian Grand Prix. More a procession than anything else, it was at most an opportunity for Mercedes to clinch their first ever World Constructors Championship.

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F1 Grand Prix of Russia

At this point it would be a long shot for Lewis Hamilton not to clinch his second WDC in November. The momentum has clearly shifted in his favor as mechanical and confidence issues have slightly derailed Nico Rosberg’s charge. It’s hard not to feel slightly bad for Rosberg who’s done his best to be supportive of his teammate and accept responsibility for his actions in Belgium. Hamilton appears to be the far less receptive of the two teammates during podium celebrations and team interviews.

Jenson Button on track.

Elsewhere on the grid, it was an uneventful race. McLaren showed signs of life with Jenson Button securing one of his best results of the season. His future at McLaren is certainly up in the air amidst rumors that he’s been given an offer to join Mark Webber at Porsche next year – how awesome would that be?

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Valtteri Bottas continued to show signs of brilliance following an outstanding performance in qualifying yesterday. Williams should be the example to all of the ailing teams in the paddock – yes, Ferrari and McLaren included.

F1 Grand Prix of Russia

Things were less desirable for Red Bull and Ferrari the former unable to stay on the pace and the latter counting the days until they can put another terrible season in the history books.

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Even further back, a respectful gesture from Marussia choosing not to race Jules Bianchi’s car this afternoon and one of the most mind boggling moves of the season in Caterham choosing to retire Kamui Kobayashi for no apparent reason. Kobayashi said in an interview it was due to a lack of spare parts – horrendous.

GP RUSSIA F1/2014

The 2015 driver market continues to be in a state of limbo as Sebastian Vettel has yet to announce his contract with Ferrari and Fernando Alonso weighs his options. The way things stand right now, it’s looking more and more likely that Alonso may end up having to take some time away from the sport next season due to the lack of an open seat.

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All-in-all a pretty uninteresting Russian Grand Prix and hardly a viable replacement to the much maligned Korean Grand Prix. It’s hard not to be cynical of any new arrival to the Formula 1 calendar as geometric street circuits become the majority. Azerbaijan could be joining the World Championship as soon as 2016. My only question is were Paul Ricard and Imola fully booked?

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It’s unbelievable how quickly this 2014 season has flown by. There’s only 3 races to go as the teams head to Austin for the USGP in 3 weeks.

Photos courtesy of F1 Fanatic.

2014 Italian Grand Prix

Just like that, the European leg of the 2014 Formula 1 season was over…

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The lead up for today’s Italian Grand Prix at the Autodromo Nazionale Monza was almost completely overshadowed by F1’s rumor mill. Between the talk of Luca di Montezemolo leaving Ferrari, the contract extensions of both Williams drivers and the ongoing melodrama at Mercedes, everyone seems to have forgotten there was a race to be held.

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At this point the situation at Mercedes has created a 50-50 divide amongst fans and the media. The British tabloids are out for Rosberg’s head while the Germans would love to see Hamilton’s championship hopes extinguished. Ultimately it’s a useless debate and something the F1 media will look back on and wonder what the hell they were thinking, blowing this up to the degree they have. BBC’s 5 Live F1 broadcast has become a biweekly gossip column with Jeanie Gow and James Allen foaming at the mouth over the Mercedes driver updates. The whole thing is absurd and a commentary on how uninteresting (or in-comprehensive) the technical side of the sport has become in 2014. Ultimately one of the Mercedes drivers will take the WDC and the other (likely Hamilton) will be the odd man out.

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News has surfaced that Hamilton would have to take a pay cut to stay with Mercedes beyond his current contract. It’s a very good possibility he’ll look for a drive elsewhere in 2015 and have no trouble finding one as he’ll still be in the prime of his career. McLaren will certainly want him back and depending on Vettel’s status, Red Bull could be another option. That’s very far in the future and all speculative, but Mercedes has always felt like a layover for Hamilton, much the way McLaren was for Fernando Alonso. All of that being said, today’s victory at Monza was one that will surely give him a confidence boost heading into Singapore.

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After suffering his share of bad luck this season, it was a throwback drive from Felipe Massa to clinch 3rd overall. The pace of the Mercedes-powered FW36 was strong all weekend and Massa was able to make to most of a very good start.

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F1 Grand Prix of Italy - Previews

The Red Bull’s weren’t ideally suited for the long, fast straights of Monza, but improvements in this second half of the season have kept both Daniel Ricciardo and Sebastian Vettle on the pace. Ricciardo continues to be the best part of the show every weekend with some brilliant driving through the field. Some excellent wheel-to-wheel battles with his teammate resulted in the advantage going to Ricciardo through the end of the race. Vettel has struggled with the RB10 all season long, although his pace has been improving. Ricciardo has the innate ability to save his best driving for the end of the race and it’s something that continues to set him apart this season. There’s still the very real possibility that he could make a run for the WDC, especially with all of the infighting going on at Mercedes.

F1 Grand Prix of Italy - Practice

Jenson Button on track.

Further back McLaren showed signs of life. Jenson Button did some of his best driving of the season throughout the weekend and his teammate Kevin Magnussen fought at the front of the pack for a majority of the race. For the second Grand Prix in a row, Magnussen was given a 5 second time penalty for allegedly “forcing” the Williams of Valtteri Bottas off track in turn 1. This is just another part of a much larger argument that the stewards are no longer letting the drivers race. The penalty was unreasonably harsh and feels more like the FIA making an example than anything else – Bottas’s race wasn’t affected, nothing was damaged, let the show go on. With the uncertainty of what’s to happen at McLaren next season, Magnussen feels compelled to prove his value to the team and rightfully so. For as good as Button has been in the past, he’s largely been shown up by his younger teammates the last 2 seasons.

Kevin Magnussen makes a pit stop.

If McLaren do indeed decide to make a driver change, Magnussen may be the unfortunate casualty for no other reasons than age and experience. Honda will be keen to have a veteran driver on the team to help develop and test their new V6 turbo power units. Button, who already has a great relationship with auto maker will likely be kept around at McLaren if it comes down to one or the other. Granted, all of this is mere speculation.

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Elsewhere it was an embarrassing showing for the Scuderia at their home race. Kimi Raikkonen’s return to Ferrari hasn’t worked out the way he or the team had hoped it would. It’s been a trying season for both parties as Raikkonen has struggled with the new car and the team have missed out on valuable points in the Constructor’s Championship.

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GP ITALIA F1/2014

Fernando Alonso looked promising heading into today’s battle and there was that ever present thought (as there always is) that he might be able to pull off a big finish despite the hurdles. Those hopes were quickly dismissed when in  lap 28 an ERS failure prematurely ended Alonso’s race. To add insult to injury, talk around the paddock is that Fiat want Luca di Montezemolo out as President of Ferrari. This weekend’s lackluster performance at home surely won’t help di Montezemolo’s chances but it would be an extremely unwise move on John Elkann’s part. In recent years, the Ferrari President has been one of the few remaining voices of reason in F1. Critics are also quick to forget that it was di Montezemolo who saved the Scuderia from similar circumstances in the 90’s when he brought in Ross Brawn and Michael Schumacher.

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All-in-all a decent race and probably helped by the stunning surroundings in which it was held. Monza is the kind of track that should have a permanent foundation on the Formula 1 calendar. The best leg of the season continues as the teams head to Singapore and then onto Japan. The next month should be fun.

Photos courtesy of F1 Fanatic.

2014 Hungarian Grand Prix

We all watch Formula 1 because we want to see the most skilled drivers in the world do what they do best. Today’s Hungarian Grand Prix give us so much of that and more.

F1 Grand Prix of Hungary - Previews

12 miles outside of Budapest stands the Hungaroring, a venue that’s been somewhat lost in a long pecking order of Formula 1 Grands Prix. However it’s at this small, twisty track where we’ve seen some of the very best driving on the calendar – today was no exception and may go down as the most exciting race we’ve seen in  2014.

F1 Grand Prix of Hungary

Today’s race was really about 3 stars defying the odds and digging deep. Daniel Ricciardo, who’s taken the challenge of driving for a top flight team and owned it with class. Lewis Hamilton, who after another mechanical meltdown in qualifying, started from pit lane for the second week in a row. Fernando Alonso, who’s struggled all season with another skittish creation from the Scuderia. In many ways these 3 drivers, above all others, should be fighting at the front of the pack every Sunday.

F1 Grand Prix of Hungary

F1 Grand Prix of Hungary

For the casual Formula 1 fan, Daniel Ricciardo has come from virtually nowhere. There were a lot of discussions coming into the season over how Ricciardo would handle the move up from Toro Rosso. Would he make his own mark or would he succumb to the pressures of being Vettel’s number 2? Those questions were answered early on in the season and he’s since become the dominant driver at Red Bull. While his teammate has continued to struggle with the new V6 power units and a less than ideal RB10 chassis, Ricciardo has made the car work for him and been all smiles throughout the process. The Australian has proven all season long that he has every right to be up front battling World Champions, as exhibited last weekend in Germany and today in Hungary. He’s the dark horse of Formula 1 right now and could be the biggest threat to the 1-2 punch of Mercedes. With Alonso’s endorsement, the Scuderia will surely be seeing what they can do to coax the Australian into a future contract.

F1 Grand Prix of Hungary

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Lewis Hamilton can’t seem to catch a break lately and has been experiencing Felipe Massa levels of bad luck. After a brilliant drive from pit lane to a podium finish at Hockenheim, it was déjà vu in Budapest after his car was engulfed in flames during Saturday’s Q1. Sunday would see another start from pit lane for Hamilton and another pole for his teammate Nico Rosberg. It’s been hard to argue the conspiracy theorists over German favoritism at the Mercedes camp, but in reality what good would the team favoring Rosberg actually do? Hamilton over the years has been a driver of extremes – epically fast, skilled and riddled with bad luck. On the notoriously tight and difficult to pass Hungaroring, Hamilton yet again drove to epic levels, navigating his way through the field to take the fight up front. Midway through the race, he was ordered to let his teammate through. It was a strange request considering Rosberg was over a second behind at the time. Hamilton challenged the order and didn’t relinquish the position, which probably saved him later in the race.

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GP UNGHERIA F1/2014

Despite epic drives from Ricciardo and Hamilton, it was Fernando Alonso who was the true hero in Hungary. Alonso managed only his second podium of the season, but it was as good as a win for the Scuderia who have struggled all season long. The 2nd place finish was hard fought and Alonso managed one hell of a stint for 10 laps on ruined tires. Despite the car, Alonso manages to pull 110% from it every race weekend, it really is astounding. Some of the other, more vocal drivers on the grid should be talking notes on how it’s done. The way he managed to hold off 2 superior cars for as long as he did was world class and hopefully the beginning of many more podium finishes for Alonso this season.

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F1 Grand Prix of Hungary

Weather played a major role in today’s race and tire strategy was crucial. Some teams like Mercedes got it right, while others namely McLaren did their drivers in on poor strategies. Given the conditions, there were real possibilities Jenson Button could’ve been fighting up front at the end of the race, however a bad call from the team to put him on inters ruined any hopes of a podium. Others lost control entirely and suffered major crashes including Lotus’ Romain Grosjean and Force India’s Sergio Perez. Neither of the Force India cars finished, closing the door on the long running points streak Nico Hulkenberg had.

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Jenson Button in the pit lane.

A disheveled Nico Rosberg looked to have been crying prior to the media scrum following the race. The reality is that the German is an inferior driver to his teammate, he just has the good fortune of driving the most competitive car on the grid. Given the field were completely equal in terms of performance, Rosberg would contend for a spot in the top 10, but not be fighting up front. Should he win the WDC this year, it’s likely to be a 1 and done. The true stars of the show were alive and well in Hungary. It was a battle between 3 of the most naturally gifted drivers in international motor sport and it was quite a show.

F1 Grand Prix of Hungary

F1 Grand Prix of Hungary

We’re past the halfway mark of the 2014 season – it’s absolutely flown by hasn’t it? The annual summer holiday will take us through the end of August to some of the sport’s truly epic Grands Prix at Spa Francorchamps and Monza. In the meantime, bravo Hungary!

Photos courtesy of F1 Fanatic.

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.

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.

Canadian F1 Grand Prix - Practice

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.

Canadian F1 Grand Prix

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!

Canadian F1 Grand Prix

Canadian F1 Grand Prix

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.

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.

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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…

2014 Australian Grand Prix

Formula 1 had an interesting and at times controversial offseason heading into 2014. The FIA imposed the biggest technical and sporting rules changes the sport has seen in decades and this weekend marked the beginning of Formula 1’s next turbo era. After a slew of driver shakeups in the winter months and testing heavily dominated by Mercedes power, the teams arrived at Melbourne’s Albert Park not really knowing what to expect.

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Historically, the Australian Grand Prix is unique in the way that virtually anything can happen, while at the same time telling us very little of how the season will ultimately play out. In many ways it’s an extension of winter testing, a exhibition race and a chance for the teams and drivers to feel things out and readjust to the grueling schedule of the next 9 months.

Heading into the weekend one thing was abundantly clear, Red Bull were not the favorites.

Australian F1 Grand Prix - Race

After a very difficult showing at winter testing, Red Bull struggled to keep the RB10 on track. A slew of mechanical problems from the new Renault V6 turbo engines and Red Bull’s own chassis design faults had many jumping ship on hope that they would win their 5th consecutive championship. The season is still in its infancy however and anything can happen. This point was proven when Daniel Ricciardo outdrove his teammate Sebastian Vettel all weekend long, eventually finishing in 2nd place, his first Formula 1 podium. But for as fast as Ricciardo tasted success in front of his countrymen, it was taken away when the FIA disqualified him.

Australian F1 Grand Prix - Race

With the introduction of the new V6 turbo engines, a slew of complex and frankly boring technical regulations have been implemented in 2014. The intricacies of exactly why Ricciardo was disqualified are complex and difficult to understand but ultimately the RB10 exceed the required fuel flow of 100kg/h. In short, his team let him down.

Australian F1 Grand Prix - Practice

Red Bull were well aware of this particular rule and rather than using an FIA approved fuel sensor, they opted to use their own. Conspiracy theorists have claimed that the move was intentional and Red Bull remain confident that they can win their appeal of the ruling. In the meantime, Ricciardo will have to play the waiting game and emotions of yesterday’s podium will reduced to what ifs. Despite the technicalities, Ricciardo had an excellent drive and showed everyone that he’s ready to take on Vettel and hold his own at one of the sport’s most successful organizations.

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Questions loomed as to how many of the cars would actually finish the Austrailan Grand Prix. With so many unknowns following testing, it was a coin toss as to who would come out on top. Embarrassingly both Marussias had to start from pit lane after stalling on the grid and causing a second formation lap. Also starting from the pits was the Lotus of Romain Grosjean who suffered a gearbox failure on Saturday. After the highs of last season, Lotus have had a hellacious start to 2014 after losing Kimi Raikkonen to Ferrari and Team Principal Eric Boullier to McLaren.

After an unspectacular start, the Caterham of Kamui Kobayashi experienced a KERS failure which caused his rear brakes not to work. He collided with a rejuvenated Felipe Massa in the Williams, ending their days prematurely.

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Pole sitter and favorite to win, Lewis Hamilton retired within the first 5 laps after the engine of his Mercedes Silver Arrow went kaput. It was a surprising development after both Mercedes’ looked fantastic heading into the season opener. Hamilton’s teammate Nico Rosberg on the other hand, built a fantastic lead and piloted the W05 to his first victory at Albert Park. The drive was Vettel-esque and showed everyone just what an advantage the works Mercedes team has over the competition.

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A little further back McLaren had their own rejuvenation. 2013 was a disaster for McLaren and their worst season since 1980. After a brief, unsuccessful stint with Sergio Perez, the team signed rookie Kevin Magnussen in the offseason. Hoping to catch a similar lightening in a bottle to Hamilton’s rookie debut, the Dane didn’t disappoint.

Kevin Magnussen celebrates his podium finish.

McLaren had one of the busiest off seasons of any team in Formula 1. After last year’s disaster, Team Principal Martin Whitmarsh was shown the exit. The move allowed Ron Dennis to re-shift his focus to the company’s motor sports program after stepping away to oversee McLaren’s road car division.

Racing Director Eric Boullier in the garage.

With Dennis back at the helm, Eric Boullier made a sudden exit from Lotus to join the Woking team. McLaren are certainly in rebuilding mode in 2014 and will continue to be through the end of next season as they adapt to their new partnership with Honda. In the meantime, they had a fantastic showing at Albert Park. Magnussen drove as cool as a cucumber and secured a comfortable 3rd place finish with his teammate Jenson Button 3 seconds behind in 4th. If the Ricciardo disqualification holds, the McLaren boys will be bumped up to 2nd and 3rd place respectively. The team’s consistency has them leading the Constructor’s Championship headed to Sepang. Though it’s only the first race of the season, it’s a remarkable result for a team that lost it’s identity in 2013.

Jenson Button on track.

McLaren’s main rivals at Scuderia Ferrari proved they still have a lot of work to do. Kimi Raikkonen appeared uninspired throughout most of the weekend, while Fernando Alosno did his best to cope with the new car. Ferrari have struggled with the learning curve over the last few seasons and proved they have a lot of work to do still. Alonso finished 4th overall with his teammate Raikkonen in 7th.

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Further back Valterri Bottas produced a solid drive in the new look Williams Martini Racing FW36. The start of his second season in Formula 1 saw the Finn finish 5th overall. Williams were heavy favorites heading into the weekend and I suspect we’ll be seeing a lot more of them up front in 2014.

Motor Racing - Formula One World Championship - Australian Grand Prix - Race Day - Melbourne, Australia

Nico Hulkenberg had a nice showing in the Force India and proved he made exactly the right decision to leave Sauber. The German was very racy and had a proper wheel-to-wheel bout with Alonso. The Force India pairing of Hulkenberg and Sergio Perez could prove to be the most exciting young driver combination of 2014. After Raikkonen’s weak Ferrari debut, many are scratching their heads over whether or not the Scuderia made the right driver signing.

Retirements were abundant at Albert Park on Sunday. With Hamilton and Vettel forced to call it quits in the opening laps, we leave the season opener with even more questions than answers. It was interesting to see the way the young drivers have adapted more quickly to the new cars than the veterans. Pirelli also remained largely out of the controversial limelight with longer lasting tire compounds which saw a 1 stopper.

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For all the hype about the new V6 turbos, they’ve fallen short in nearly every regard. While seeing and hearing the cars in person is a massively different experience, the majority of fans at home have been left largely unimpressed. The new engine notes are so quiet they’re virtually unheard on TV. The cars also appear quite a bit slower than last year’s spec. From a spectacle standpoint the 2014 cars have (so far) fallen flat. Promises of heavy oversteer, more competitive wheel-to-wheel battles, steeped in a space age soundtrack where largely missing from the weekend’s events. While it’s still very early, you can’t help but question if Formula 1 has indeed sold it’s soul to the environmentalists. Motor sports should be an escape for fans. We should be treated to something that’s wildly different than what we encounter on the daily commute. Pushing the envelope and doing so in stunning style has always been Formula 1’s party piece. They’ve become too sensible, too governed, too vanilla. The result is 10 teams running scared. There are so many rules to follow, so many technical regulations to adhere to that rather than push for 58 laps, Formula 1 Grands Prix have become exercises in conservation. The sport’s bottom line as been reduced to such a level that many fans are jumping ship.

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We’ll witness many exciting personal and team story lines this season but the product on track will continue to be marginalized I fear. The changes need to start at the top. The FIA just need to let the drivers go out and race.

Photos courtesy of F1 Fanatic.

2014 Red Bull Racing RB10

The Red Bull Racing RB10 rounds out the list of 2014 cars currently testing at Jerez. We still have yet to see what Marussia has concocted, but does anyone really care?

Coming off of 3 consecutive World Championship sweeps, Red Bull are the obvious favorites going into 2014. Adrian Newey’s latest creation is arguably the best looking car on the grid, which isn’t much of an achievement.

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At first glance the RB10 looks largely the same as its predecessor. Last year’s livery remains intact with the most noticeable change in the form of a sloped nose, similar to what we’ve already seen from Ferrari and Mercedes.

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Granted it’s only testing, but things haven’t been so smooth for Red Bull out on the track. The issues have stemmed largely from the car’s energy recovery unit, even causing a fire at one point earlier today.

Newey has already been very vocal in the media, questioning the 2014 technical regulations. This comes as no surprise, but I find it interesting the way teams love to complain after they’ve had plenty of opportunities to voice their concerns during the rule writing process. It’s a similar situation to the double points debacle in which all of the team principals had a pow wow in Geneva and the subject wasn’t brought up once. Will Buxton did an excellent job analyzing the current predicament Formula 1 is in right now.

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2014 marks the arrival of Daniel Ricciardo as Sebastian Vettel’s new teammate after Mark Webber retired last season. Webber didn’t leave under the greatest of circumstances with top brass and it will be interesting to follow Ricciardo’s experience with the team.

I still can’t decide if the RB10 is a good looking car or it’s just the best of the worst. Formula 1 is in a very strange place right now. At one time it really was the pinnacle of professional motor sports. These days I’m not so sure anymore. As the new cars were revealed to fans there was a wave of laughter and a perception that the sport had lost it’s collective mind. What we should be talking about are the new V6 turbos and how surprisingly good they sound, Kimi driving a Ferrari again, Ricciardo fitting in at Red Bull, the young guns at Force India and just who on earth could potentially steel the crown from Vettel. Instead we’re making penis jokes, complaining about fuel conservation and double points – all of which shouldn’t even exist in the sport.

I sincerely hope Formula 1 gets it together and realizes what it used to be and what it’s unfortunately becoming. If last season was any indication of the style of racing we’ll see in 2014, fans will simply walk away and never look back.

Photos courtesy of Red Bull Racing.