Adrian Sutil

2014 United States Grand Prix

The United States Grand Prix just wrapped up in Austin and proved to be one of the more entertaining races of late with Lewis Hamilton taking his 10th win of the season.

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The F1 media tend to view everything with rose tinted glasses and the story that really isn’t being discussed is just what a bad position the sport is actually in. Neither Caterham nor Marussia where able to participate in today’s Grand Prix due to financial issues and their absence brings to light the overwhelming problem of cost control in the sport. Bernie Ecclestone, who at this point appears to be destroying F1 on purpose, has been insistent that not everyone deserves the privilege of racing in the pinnacle of professional motor sport. However, an 18 car grid with ticket prices being as astronomical as they are is a very bad thing. By the start of next season, that number could dwindle to just 16 cars. The idea of 3 car teams has been tossed around, but the debate has been 50/50 and the consensus that it isn’t really much of a solution at all. Ultimately F1’s issues come down to proper governance and the imposition of a cost cap for all teams. The front runners like Mercedes and Ferrari oppose a cost cap, naturally, but it’s what would keep the playing feel more even and allow smaller teams to still compete, which in theory would create better racing. Unfortunately the teams are currently governing themselves, a flawed system where everyone votes for their own best interests. FIA President Jean Todt, who’s arguably nothing more than a figurehead, should be the one to impose stricter standards on the cost of F1. He clearly isn’t the man for the job and what we now have is the most lame duck FIA in the history of the sport.

The media aren’t really discussing this and would have the fans believe otherwise. Ultimately this could be F1’s undoing if major changes aren’t put in place. With costs running through the roof and the show on track causing many longtime fans to bow out, something must be done.

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GP USA F1/2014

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Today’s race was an exercise in wheel to wheel racing and just how good the sport can still be when car, tires and track are all working properly in unison. The Mercedes Silver Arrows have been dominant all season, were quick at the start of the weekend and stayed that way through the race’s conclusion. Nico Rosberg who secured pole on Saturday was eager to get a much needed victory in his World Championship quest. After a solid start, a safety car bunched up the grid and Hamilton was eventually able to get the edge after struggling with his first set of tires. Rosberg blamed the overtake by his teammate on an inability to get in a rhythm. It’s hard not to sympathize just a little with Rosberg and it’s clear the scolding from his team following Spa and the subsequent backlash from fans and the British media have done a number on his self confidence. Unless Mercedes produce one hell of a dominant car again next season, this may be Rosberg’s only chance to win an elusive WDC.

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The way things stand now, Hamilton has the momentum and can just about taste his second WDC. With Hamilton being the fan favorite he is, it would be disastrous for F1 if Rosberg managed a double points win at Abu Dhabi to steal away the Championship. Imagine the backlash that would create, especially given how poorly the rule change was received in the first place.

F1 Grand Prix of USA - Previews

F1 Grand Prix of USA - Practice

Elsewhere on the grid, a house divided at Red Bull. Daniel Ricciardo continues to be one of the breakout stars in the sport while Sebastian Vettel’s woes continued. Last year’s USGP victor started today’s race from pit lane and spent a majority of the race floundering at the back of the pack. Ricciardo’s WDC hopes are officially over this season, but a 3rd place finish secured some much needed points for the team. While Ferrari still have yet to officially announce Vettel as their driver in 2015, it’s clear that the German and Red Bull are ready to part ways.

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GP USA F1/2014

GP USA F1/2014

Speaking of Ferrari, Fernando Alonso who also has yet to announce his plans for next season had some excellent battles with Ricciardo and Jenson Button today. The F14 T wasn’t really on the pace but Alonso managed 6th. His teammate Kimi Raikkonen continued to be absent from the points in 13th. The super team that everyone had hoped Ferrari would be in 2014 clearly hasn’t happened. Alonso addressed the media earlier this week and made it known he’s excited about his future plans but didn’t hint at what they may be. There have been all kinds of rumors, the most popular being that he’s heading to McLaren. Photos of Alonso speaking with Audi brass hinted at the German manufacturer possibly being interested in F1. Time will tell.

GP USA F1/2014

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Williams finished strong with Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas finishing 4th and 5th respectively. Massa will surely be challenging hard for a podium next weekend at his home race in Brazil.

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McLaren were excited to unveil some yellow paint had been added to the SAP logo adorning their cars leading up the the USGP. The team will likely see the entire season through without a title sponsor. The MP4-29 just hasn’t lived up to expectations this season. Many are pegging the new partnership with Honda in 2015 the start of better things to come, however McLaren are currently running the best engine in sport and the car is still a midfield contender at best. Rumors have been floating around that Ron Dennis is set to be sacked at the end of the season and last week it was made public Sam Michael, the team’s Sporting Director would be stepping down in November. Things really aren’t looking great for McLaren as it still remains unknown who will be driving for the team next season.

Motor Racing - Formula One World Championship - United States Grand Prix - Race Day - Austin, USA

When all was said and done, just 15 cars managed to finish today’s race. A silly move from Sergio Perez took himself and Sauber’s Adrian Sutil out of the running in lap 1. Later on, another blow to Force India after Nico Hulkenberg was forced to retire.

F1 Grand Prix of USA

This being the 3rd USGP at Circuit of The Americas, we can conclude a few things by now: the popularity of F1 continues to grow in America, Mario Andretti needs to retire from conducting podium interviews and NBCSN continues to underestimate the intelligence of their audience. It was excellent to see just how many loyal fans turned up at COTA throughout the weekend – the sport’s fan base is alive and well in the United States. American F1 fans are not NASCAR fans which is something broadcasters need to understand. Comparing the two sports is the equivalent of comparing basketball to cricket – completely different. NBCSN needs to stop treating the sport like a novelty. The way the network has embraced English Premier League football is proof they’re capable of properly handling a globally watched sport. In its 2 years on NBCSN, F1 has been relegated to a smaller studio set with none of the upgrades to their broadcast fans had hoped for. While Will Buxton continues to be the broadcast team’s standout, Leigh Diffey has long worn out his welcome as ringleader. Surely their’s a more highly qualified motor racing commentator, with previous F1 experience who’s up for the job? Part of why F1 continues to miss the mark of its full potential with an American audience is because of how it continues to be represented on TV. Every year at the USGP, we’re treated to F1 For Dummies on one of the major networks. Stop underestimating your audience NBCSN!

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All in all a solid win for Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton as the teams head to Brazil for the penultimate round of the 2014 season.

Photos courtesy of F1 Fanatic.

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2014 Sauber C33

Have Sauber become the first team to design an attractive solution to Formula 1’s nose problem?

Sauber F1 Team C33 Press

The team have released just 2 images of the 2014 C33, so it’s tough to be sure. However based on what we can see, they may have cracked it.

Sauber F1 Team C33 Press

A lack of ugly sponsorship logos make the C33 stand out with one of the best liveries on the grid. However those missing sponsors also play a role in the team’s financial woes, but at least the car looks good!

I suspect more images of the C33 will be rolling out in the coming days, but for now a very promising start.

Photos courtesy of Sauber & F1 Fantaic.

The 2013 Korean Grand Prix

Since 2010, the Korean Grand Prix has been something of an enigma on the Formula 1 calendar. Originally intended as the first piece of a large development project near the coastal city of Mokpo, it never gained the same prestige or the audience as other contemporary events in Singapore and Austin. The Korea International Circuit produces a similar brand of racing we’ve become familiar with from other Herman Tilke tracks and its location, 400km south of Seoul, has made it a difficult destination for spectators.

Formula One World Championship, Rd14, Korean Grand Prix, Preparations, Korea International Circuit, Yeongam, South Korea, Thursday 3 October 2013.

The decision to hold a Formula 1 Grand Prix in Korea has always been a puzzling one. The country has little to no motor sports pedigree and the event has largely gone under the radar with local fans. In its earlier days, there were reports of year-old food being left to rot in the fridges of hospitality suites and a general lack of upkeep to the multi-million dollar facility. While this year’s turnout was significantly better than in years past, it’s very likely the Korean Grand Prix will suffer a similar fate to Turkey and be bumped from the calendar.

Formula One World Championship, Rd14, Korean Grand Prix, Race Day, Korea International Circuit, Yeongam, South Korea, Sunday 6 October 2013.

The Formula 1 media at large would have us all believe we’re watching a fantastic style of racing, but that would be a massive oversight. In what has become another season of total domination from Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull Racing, the sport’s recent Grands Prix have been uninspired and for the most part boring exercises of tire management.

Formula One World Championship, Rd14, Korean Grand Prix, Race Day, Korea International Circuit, Yeongam, South Korea, Sunday 6 October 2013.

If Vettel victories with 30 second gaps are your idea of Formula 1 at its best then maybe you disagree, but until the other teams step their games up significantly or Vettel experiences catastrophic levels of unreliability, we’re all witnessing another uncontested World Championship.

Formula One World Championship, Rd14, Korean Grand Prix, Race Day, Korea International Circuit, Yeongam, South Korea, Sunday 6 October 2013.

Rounding out the podium with Vettel was a Lotus 2-3 of Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean. The latter has been particularly quick in recent weeks and put on a strong showing today in Korea. While Ferrari didn’t have the best of luck, they were surely pleased to see their future driver (Raikkonen) maintain business as usual with another podium finish.

Formula One World Championship, Rd14, Korean Grand Prix, Race Day, Korea International Circuit, Yeongam, South Korea, Sunday 6 October 2013.

Grosjean is making a strong case for himself as Lotus’ leader in 2014 and it will be interesting to see who they sign as his teammate.

Formula One World Championship, Rd14, Korean Grand Prix, Race Day, Korea International Circuit, Yeongam, South Korea, Sunday 6 October 2013.

Mercedes were favored throughout the weekend with Lewis Hamilton starting in P2 and his teammate Nico Rosberg in P5. Unfortunately for Hamilton, the race was an uphill battle after starting from the dirty side of the track and spending most of the day holding off Fernando Alonso and looking at the back end of a very quick Nico Hulkenberg. The Mercedes driver didn’t hide his frustration over the team’s tire strategy which lead to one of the best radio transmissions of the season: “When are you gonna call me in man? These tires are fucked!” While Hamilton’s frustration with the way this season has played out is understandable, consider this is the same driver who was willing to call this season a bust just 12 months ago.

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Meanwhile, Rosberg suffered his own issues while attempting to overtake his teammate. The W04’s nose cone detached and forced an unscheduled pit stop. The time in the pits ruined any chances of Rosberg fighting for a podium.

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The Mercedes drivers finished in P5 and P7 respectively, with Hamilton ahead of his teammate.

After offering his friend a lift in Singapore 2 weeks ago, Fernando Alonso was highly critical of Pirelli’s tires following a difficult qualifying session on Saturday.

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Alonso’s growing frustration with all aspects of the sport could be attributed to yet another season of watching his World Championship hopes slip away. Alonso has given everything he can on Sundays, but the F138 just isn’t on par with the RB9.

GP KOREA F1/2013

His teammate Felipe Massa went off the track early in lap 1 but managed to keep his car in the points, ultimately finishing in P9 with his teammate ahead in P6.

Formula One World Championship, Rd14, Korean Grand Prix, Race Day, Korea International Circuit, Yeongam, South Korea, Sunday 6 October 2013.

McLaren’s Sergio Perez suffered his second on track blowout of the season, causing the first safety car of the day. Pirelli received a lot of criticism throughout the weekend for high tire degradation and a lack of rear grip.

Formula One World Championship, Rd14, Korean Grand Prix, Race Day, Korea International Circuit, Yeongam, South Korea, Sunday 6 October 2013.

The buildup of tire debris  was exceptionally high compared to other recent Grands Prix. Much of the criticisim has come from Mark Webber who suffered a puncture following Perez’s blow out: “I got a Pirelli puncture from a Pirelli tire so… impressive.”

F1 Grand Prix of Korea - Previews

For the second race in a row, Webber was unable to finish after being t-boned by Force India’s Adrian Sutil. The collision started a fire on the RB9 which Webber presumed was from the KERS. It’s become a frustrating final leg of the season for Webber and not the way he would hope to leave the sport.

On a brighter note, Sauber’s Nico Hulkenberg continues to make his case for a drive with a top flight team.

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Hulkenberg was outstanding after starting from P8 and making a charge past the Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton into P4. He spent most of the race fending off Hamilton who’s W04 was no match for the Sauber coming out of the turns. Why Hulkenberg has continually been overlooked by the likes of McLaren, Red Bull Racing and Scuderia Ferrari is one of the sport’s great mysteries. If Martin Whitmarsh has any sense, he’ll highly consider swapping the underperforming Perez for Hulkenberg – the driver McLaren should’ve signed all along. It was a great result for Sauber who are making their way into uncharted territory with the potential signing of Sergey Sirotkin, the 17-year-old son of a Russian billionaire.

Formula One World Championship, Rd14, Korean Grand Prix, Preparations, Korea International Circuit, Yeongam, South Korea, Thursday 3 October 2013.

Another Korean Grand Prix is in the books. With a positively stacked preliminary schedule for 2014, it may be Formula 1’s final visit to Yeongnam. The last of the sport’s truly great races is just a week away as the teams head to Suzuka Circuit for the Japanese Grand Prix.

Photos courtesy of F1 Fanatic.

The 2013 Italian Grand Prix

Monza – it just sounds fantastic doesn’t it? One of Formula 1’s last true temples of speed played host to the Italian Grand Prix today and it was a race that says a lot about what we can expect for the remainder of the 2013 season.

F1 Grand Prix of Italy - Race

“We need to be lucky and we need to have some DNFs from Sebastian or something to win the championship.”

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The words of Fernando Alonso following today’s race. It was Ferrari’s home race and all of the team’s top brass were on hand, adding to the tension in the paddock. Felipe Massa’s career as a Ferrari driver is on the line and it was an important weekend for him to prove himself. After a failed drafting strategy by the team in yesterday’s Q3, Massa qualified ahead of his teammate, starting from P4. It’s the quickest we’ve seen Massa all season and begs the question of where his pace has been hiding? Massa has a history of doing some of his best driving under pressure, but why does his job need to be on the line in order for him to perform? Ferrari may be realizing that and his fate could already be determined. Despite Massa’s 4th place finish, there’s plenty of excellent talent vying for one of the top seats in Formula 1.

GP MONZA F1/2013

Despite his best attempts at a race win, Alonso came up short, unable to match the pace of Vettel’s Red Bull. It was a heroic drive in front of the tifosi and had there been another 5 laps in the race, we may have seen a different outcome. Both Red Bull’s were suffering from gearbox trouble in the final laps of the race and Alonso was closing in on Vettel.  However, time ran out and the day ended with the Ferrari driver finishing 2nd. Say what you will about Alonso, he’s not afraid to get everything he can from the car.

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Today’s race was telling because for the 4th year in a row, the Driver’s Championship may already be in the books. Harking back to Alonso’s comments earlier, it would take a severe turn of events to knock Vettel out of the lead. He’s now won half of all the Grands Prix in 2013 and we’re just over the halfway mark of the season.

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Granted there’s a long second leg in Asia before the penultimate races in the Americas, but Vettel has such a commanding lead that reliability may be his only competition at this point. While a 4th Driver’s Championship would further cement his legacy, fans have become bored with the predictable nature of Red Bull’s near weekly success.

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For the 7th race in a row, Vettel has been met with raucous boos on the podium. Everyone loves a winner, but win too much and they just might turn on you. It’s something Vettel will have to deal with for as long as he’s a Red Bull driver in an Adrian Newey car. Despite his skill, there are still questions of how much his success can be attributed to the car. If Vettel were to join another team and experience the same levels of success, the questions (and the boos) would cease.

F1 Grand Prix of Italy - Race

Rounding out the podium was Mark Webber. Today was his best result at the track and a fitting end to his final European leg in the sport. Webber is one of the last gentleman racers in Formula 1 and the sport will be lacking in his absence. His retirement brings attention to the “old guard” moving on and the transitional period to come. More seats at the front runners will begin to open up over the next 5 years and it will be interesting to see who will rise to the occasion.

GP Spanien 2013

Nico Hulkenberg could be one such driver. Labeled by many (myself included) as the “best of the rest,” Hulkenberg had a fantastic weekend at Monza and a much needed boost to a woeful season at Sauber. After qualifying P3 yesterday, Hulkenberg did his best to fend off attacks from Nico Rosberg and Daniel Ricciardo to finish 5th overall. It’s a massively impressive result, especially considering the lack of pace Sauber have had all season. I argued that McLaren were foolish to pass over Hulkenberg when Lewis Hamilton left the team last year. He’s got all of the qualifications to be a future World Champion, he just needs the right team behind him. One seat that he would be the ideal candidate for is Massa’s at Ferrari. While it’s not certain whether Massa will leave the team, the chance for Hulkenberg to drive alongside Alonso would be his best opportunity for 2014.

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While Monza played to the advantages of Red Bull and Ferrari this weekend, Mercedes, Lotus and McLaren struggled. After winning it last year, many projected Hamilton to be the favorite in Italy. In yesterday’s Q2, he was held up in the Parabolica by Force India’s Adrian Sutil – read into that what you will. Sutil was handed a 3 grid spot penalty and Hamilton was unable to break into Q3. After starting from 12th, the Mercedes driver suffered a slow puncture that forced an early, unscheduled pit stop. Hamilton did his best to fight his way up the grid, including some nice wheel-to-wheel racing with Kimi Raikkonen and Jenson Button, but ultimately the best he could do was a 9th place finish.

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A downbeat Hamilton said after the race that he wasn’t happy to fight for bad positions, this coming from a driver who came into the season happy to write the whole thing off in favor of 2014. Hamilton has certainly experienced great success (relatively speaking) with his new team but the funk he was in during his final seasons with McLaren seems to have carried over somewhat into 2013. More than any other driver currently in the sport, Hamilton’s private life plays an immense role in his on track performance. It raises questions that he may be his biggest enemy, when it comes to winning Championships in the future.

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McLaren have publicly written off 2013 in favor of putting all of their efforts into next season. It’s an unusual sight for a McLaren team to be pleased just scoring points, rather than fighting for podiums and this will go down as one of the team’s worst seasons ever. The hope is that a renewed alliance with Honda and the massive change in technical regulations will play to McLaren’s favor in the coming seasons.

Jenson Button on track

Button has made it known that he’d like to finish his career with the team, as he goes into contract negotiations at the end of this season. While he’ll likely stay, questions surround his teammate’s fate. One of the primary reason’s in McLaren’s split second hiring of Sergio Perez was for the benefit of potential funding from the World’s richest man, Carlos Slim, who has ties to the driver.

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With Vodafone ending their partnership with McLaren, the presence of Perez invites Mexican business interest in the team moving forward. The pay driver argument comes into play, given Perez’s performance this season and should Slim opt out of funding the team, there’s little reason for McLaren to stay loyal to the Mexican after 2014. That story line will be an interesting one as it plays out next season.

GP MONZA F1/2013

The 2013 Italian Grand Prix was hardly the most exciting Formula 1 race of the season, but the passionate tifosi and historic venue made it the usual spectacle we’ve come to love.

For those of us watching the race in the United State, NBC Sports’s coverage seems to be resembling that of SPEED’s more and more each race weekend. A smaller studio set and the network’s acquisition of Barclay’s Premier League telecasts, hints at less of NBC’s attention being put into Formula 1. While they have upped their game on extended coverage throughout the race weekend, the sheer volume of commercial breaks during live coverage has become infuriating. While the network has no control over FOM’s World feed, the cutaways to “Wish You Were Here” spotlights of the venues and promos for the network’s other featured sports during the race, is unfortunate. 2 weeks ago, many of the Spa’s best moments were overlooked during commercial breaks and unnecessary replays. While I commend the work of Will Buxton and the insight of Steve Matchett (two of the best in the business), surely NBC Sports – a premium pay channel – could be offering so much more, including commercial free coverage during qualifying and races.

F1 Grand Prix of Italy - Race

The European leg of Formula 1’s 2013 season is officially in the books. The teams now head back to Asia for the second time this season. The Singapore Grand Prix in 2 weeks!

Photos courtesy of F1 Fanatic.

The 2013 Monaco Grand Prix

It’s difficult not to become all nostalgic when talking about the Monaco Grand Prix. It is of course the most famous event on Formula 1’s expanding calendar. But strip away the glamor and the stunning location and what you have quite a difficult race for the drivers. Things really get underway on Saturday’s qualifying where grid spot positions hold a greater importance than at other venues. To get pole at Monaco will vastly increase your chances of winning the race and that’s precisely what Mercedes and Nico Rosberg accomplished.

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Hats off to Rosberg and his first victory at Monaco – 30 years to the day his father Keke won there. It was an error free drive and despite the numerous safety cars and a restart, Rosberg kept his composure and got the job done. Things didn’t fare so well for his teammate Lewis Hamilton, who spent the early part of the race playing body guard to Rosberg’s car – possibly payback for Malaysia? Hamilton has struggled with tire wear all season long and admits that he hasn’t felt confident behind the wheel at times.

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The Brit isn’t used to playing second fiddle to his teammates and the frustration will continue to grow if things don’t start clicking. Despite a successful campaign in Monaco, Mercedes didn’t escape controversy over the weekend. It had been revealed that the team took part in a “safety” test with Pirelli following the Spanish Grand Prix. A Mercedes Silver Arrow did 1000km on Pirelli’s current tire compounds. Pirelli maintains that it’s their decision which teams to work with for testing, however in the past older cars have always been used.

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It’s presumed that following the testing, Mercedes made modifications to theirs cars, giving them the advantage at Monaco. Following complaints from Ferrari and Red Bull, the FIA (who were unaware of the testing) have gotten involved. There are rumblings that Mercedes could be suspended for the Canadian Grand Prix, following an investigation by the FIA.

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The situation has definitely muddied what was an otherwise excellent weekend for Rosberg and the team.

Following a brilliant showing in Spain, Ferrari’s success didn’t last the weekend in Monaco.

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After missing qualifying following a crash Sainte Devote Felipe Massa started at the back of the grid on Sunday. In lap 28 of the Grand Prix déjà vu – Massa crashed again at Sainte Devote, ending his race prematurely. His teammate Fernando Alonso spent most of the race struggling to move up the grid while fending off an overly ambitious Sergio Perez.

GP MONACO F1/2013

It wasn’t the showing Ferrari had hoped for in Monaco. Alonso finished  7th overall.

Red Bull had a mostly quiet race on Sunday. Sebastian Vettel qualified 3rd on Saturday and appeared upset in the press conference that followed – no doubt the frustration was tire related. After the start of the race, Vettel was held up by Hamilton and was never able to catch back up to Rosberg to contend for 1st.

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He drove an error free race and finished 2nd overall. His teammate Mark Webber did the same, finishing 3rd. Webber did his best to downplay rumors that he’s leaving Formula 1 after the 2013 season.

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There’s been talk amongst the paddack that Toro Rosso driver Jean-Éric Vergne would likely be Webber’s replacement at Red Bull next season.

Force India’s Adrian Sutil had a good drive on Sunday. After breaking into Q3 on Saturday, Sutil started in 8th. Some aggressive, but smart driving during the Grand Prix saw the German finish 5th. It’s been an interesting season for Force India – a team who have attracted controversy financially, but have still managed to produce an excellent car.

2013 Monaco Grand Prix - Sunday

Things started well for Lotus, but sloppy driving from Romain Grosjean and a late pit stop for Kimi Raikkonen, extinguished hopes of a podium finish. Raikkonen made contact with Sergio Perez heading into the Nouvelle Chicane. The incident ultimately ended Perez’s race and forced Raikkonen to make the untimely pit stop for a puncture. When asked about Perez following the race, he responded with “maybe someone should punch him in the face”.

Monaco was another weekend of peaks and (mostly) valleys for McLaren. The Woking team have been in a slump all season long. Gentleman Jenson Button has been candid about his frustrations in the media – including his teammate Sergio Perez. Button’s race was nearly ruined multiple times by the Mexican who’s made it his personal mission to irritate as many drivers on the track as possible.

Sergio Perez in action

Perez is eager to prove himself which is understandable, but his style of driving in Monaco was bordering idiotic. His race eventually came to an end after suffering damage, following the shunt with Kimi Raikkonen – that wasn’t before he nearly took out his teammate  heading out of La Rascasse. Button is clearly frustrated this season and is suffering with a car that won’t perform.

Jenson Button

There’s been a lot of upheaval behind the scenes at McLaren, including the official departure of technical director Paddy Lowe – who like Hamilton has headed to Mercedes. After a clean pass on Alonso, Button was able to secure his 6th place finish on Sunday.

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Overall it wasn’t the most exciting Monaco Grand Prix ever, but it certainly kept things interesting. The European season proper will be in full swing following a brief stop in Montreal. The Canadian Grand Prix is in 2 weeks.

Photos courtesy of F1 Fanatic.

The 2013 Malaysian Grand Prix

Formula 1 wrapped up the Malaysian Grand Prix earlier today and what is typically a rain soaked procession, turned out to be one of the most dramatic races in recent memory. The events at Sepang International Circuit conjured up memories of the Senna-Prost era at McLaren and cemented Formula 1’s identity as a team sport.

F1 Grand Prix of Malaysia

There’s an infinite amount of story lines to discuss as Europe’s sporting columns are ablaze with Red Bull and Mercedes gossip. With pit stop foibles, mechanical maladies and host of very unhappy teammates, lets get straight to it.

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Ferrari came out of qualifying in prime position to score their first race win of the season, with Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa starting P2 and P3. After an aggressive start by the Red Bulls, Alonso fought for position, coming out of turn 1. The Ferrari driver’s front wing became dislodged after making contact with Sebastian Vettel and then Mark Webber as he fought the Red Bulls. Alsonso was expected to come into the pits after the first lap to have his wing replaced, but failed to do so.

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Upon completing the first straight of lap 2, his font wing broke free, lodging itself under the F138’s front tires and sending Alonso off the track. With his race over, it left most scratching their heads at Alonso’s bizarre decision to stay on track. The assumption was a strategy to complete 1 more lap and pit for a wing and tire change, as the track began to dry. Unfortunately things ended differently and costed Alonso valuable points in his bid to win the 2013 World Driver’s Championship. It’s still early enough in the season, but as we’ve seen so many times before, mishaps from earlier in the season tend to rear their ugly face in November. His teammate Felipe Massa completed a solid drive, finishing 5th overall.

Motor Racing - Formula One World Championship - Malaysian Grand Prix - Race Day - Sepang, Malaysia

Pit stop woes followed Alonso’s retirement for the remainder of Malaysia’s first half. In an unfortunate turn, Force India had to retire both cars as they experienced a number of issues with improperly securing wheel nuts. A collision in the pits involving Caterham and a Freudian Slip saw Lewis Hamilton pull into the McLaren pits for a brief second. Early in the race McLaren displayed flashes of brilliance with some very quick tire changes and saw Jenson Button leading the race. His success was short lived after another horrendous stop in which the mechanics sent Button out, after failing to secure the MP4-28’s right front wheel nut.

Jenson Button leaves the pits

The team did manage to rescuer it, only to have Button return to the track in 14th and later retire with 3 laps to go. McLaren have gotten off to another tough start in 2013. With an admittedly sluggish car, the team can’t afford to make costly mistakes in the pits. The question is how long Team Principal Martin Whitmarsh will have to right his ship before his job comes into question. Sergio Perez secured 1 point after finishing 10th overall.

F1 Grand Prix of Malaysia

With an abundance of drama happening throughout pit lane, it was Red Bull and Mercedes that stole the show. Both teams dealt with similar issues involving team orders in an effort to conserve fuel and keep both cars on the track. Mark Webber displayed some brilliant driving as he lead most of the race and it seemed inevitable that he would secure his first win since last year’s British Grand Prix. Unfortunately his teammate Sebastian Vettel struggled with playing second fiddle and had a number of exchanges with race engineers in a bid to overtake Webber. After an excellent pit stop on lap 44, Webber emerged ahead of Vettel in P1. The two drivers battled for the next 2 laps, fighting for the lead which Webber maintained. After some interjection by team bosses, the Red Bull drivers were told to maintain the gap and bring the cars home for some valuable points. The strategy didn’t sit well with Vettel as he took to the inside, nearly colliding with the pit wall to overtake Webber in turn 1. The move was a blatant disregard for team orders and a fuming Webber showed his lack of gratitude by giving Vettel the finger. The pass has been the most talked about event following the race and in many ways brings to light the internal problems that have followed Red Bull the last few seasons. It’s no secret that Webber and Vettel aren’t the greatest of friends and Webber’s response to the move and a complete lack of sympathy on behalf of Vettel go on to illustrate a mutual dislike between the teammates. Vettel ultimately won the race, his 27th career win, with Webber finishing a close 2nd.

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Mercedes experienced their own issues resulting from team orders as Lewis Hamilton struggled to outpace his teammate Nico Roseberg, in an effort to maintain tires and fuel. Rosberg had a number of exchanges with Team Principal Ross Brawn, urging him to allow a pass on Hamilton. There was concern for both cars’ fuel loads following the race and Rosberg was instructed to maintain his position. Had fuel levels not been an issue for Mercedes, it’s likely that both drivers would’ve caught the Red Bulls and there may have been a different outcome. Hamilton finished 3rd overall with Rosberg in 4th. Mercedes should be very pleased with their efforts this weekend. Many speculated that the success of the team would be a work in progress for most of 2013, however in the 2nd race of the season the team are fighting for race wins. Their time will certainly come and soon.

F1 Grand Prix of Malaysia

Once the checkered flag was raised everyone was talking about the pending podium ceremonies. A very dejected Lewis Hamilton joined fueding Red Bull teammates Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel. A very uncelebratory air surrounded the podium as everyone anxiously awaited the driver’s interviews, lead by Martin Brundle.

F1 Grand Prix of Malaysia

This is a scenario where the podium interviews are useless because rarely do we get honest emotion from the drivers as they maintain composure under the spotlight. Everyone had hoped for Vettel to provide some reasoning for his actions but ended up getting a half hearted apology for not following the team’s orders. Webber was considerably more candid, however his choice in words held back most of what he was probably thinking. Hamilton showed real class in his acceptance of 3rd with his mention of Rosberg and a lack of willingness to accept his trophy. It appears as though Hamilton is desperate to turn over a new leaf this season and change people’s perceptions of himself. He certainly won a few fans back today.

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It was a fantastically exciting Malaysian Grand Prix and a departure from the boring race F1 fans have grown accustomed to. It’s a 2 week break until the teams are in Shanghai for the Chinese Grand Prix.

Photos courtesy of F1 Fanatic.

The 2013 Australian Grand Prix

It’s a new year and with it, a new season of Formula 1. After months of designing, prototyping and testing, the teams were back at Albert Park for the Grand Prix of Australia.

Australian F1 Grand Prix - Race

Here are a few takeaways from today’s race.

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On the back of last year’s biggest story, Lewis Hamilton made his Mercedes debut and it was a fine one indeed. Despite finishing 5th overall, Hamilton was on pace with the leaders and surpassed the expectations held by most. The Silver Arrows looked quick all weekend, but as the season moves forward, keep an eye on their reliability. Nico Rosberg’s race was cut short due to an electrical failure on lap 26.

Jenson Button makes a pit stop

McLaren struggled all weekend and it quickly became apparent that the MP4-28 is not on par with the rest of the front runners. Jenson Button started 10th and a bad tire strategy had him in the pits well before the rest of the grid. Sergio Perez’s debut with the team wasn’t memorable and he failed to score a single point. It’s still early and Perez may be working out some growing pains, but McLaren aren’t the kind of team to give a driver too many opportunities to get up to speed, as we all saw with Heikki Kovalainen. It was a disappointing weekend and after the loss of their top driver, technical director and title sponsor, they have some major work to do in Woking.

Australian F1 Grand Prix - Race

Mark Webber got off to another shockingly bad start after qualifying 2nd overall. It’s a trend that plagued most of his 2012 season and it’s not a good sign to see it happening again at the start of 2013. His teammate Sebastian Vettel built an early lead but fell back as the race progressed. Despite Vettel’s 3rd place finish, expect Red Bull to pull away from the rest of the field in the coming races.

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Ferrari looked strong all weekend with both drivers doing well in qualifying and in the race. Felipe Massa has done a complete 180 from where he was at this time last season and even out qualified his teammate Fernando Alonso. Massa is driving with a newfound confidence that we saw glimpses of at the end of 2012 and it appears to have carried over into the new season. Alsonso had a few brilliant moments this weekend including a fantastic battle with Hamilton. Romain Grosjean should watch and learn how to execute proper wheel-to-wheel racing.

Australian F1 Grand Prix - Race

Alonso finished 2nd and Ferrari are well on their way to another successful Championship run in 2013.

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

Despite lots of good performances, there were 3 that really stood out. The first didn’t even get a podium finish and that was Force India’s Adrian Sutil. I’m not a fan but you have to respect a driver who spent a year away from the sport, only to come back and lead a good chunk of the Australian Grand Prix. In the end it was the tires that kept Sutil back but I doubt we’ll be seeing the last of him at the front of the pack in 2013.

2013 Australian Grand Prix - Sunday

Then there’s Kimi Raikkonen, today’s race winner. Could the Australian Grand Prix have ended any better? The Iceman finished the race by telling his engineer “I told you the car was fast”, it was classic Kimi through and through. Lotus is everyone’s favorite underdog team in Formula 1 and with this strong of a start to the season, there will be more race wins to come. Expect Grosjean to improve his pace in the coming months and Kimi to keep being Kimi.

2013 Australian Grand Prix - Sunday

Finally, hats off to NBC Sports. We all wondered what would happen to Formula 1 in the United States after SPEED lost their broadcast rights. I think it’s the best thing to happen for American fans since Circuit of the Americas broke ground in Austin. Formula 1 deserves a proper home on American television and the guys at NBC did an absolutely brilliant job all weekend. The continuing race coverage during commercial breaks, the broadcast of delayed qualifying sessions and a fantastic post race show are just a few examples of just how seriously NBC is taking Formula 1. Well done!

Things are just getting started and it’s only going to get better! The Malaysian Grand Prix is less than a week away!

Photos courtesy of F1 Fanatic.