motor sports

Prodrive’s Isle Of Man STI

The current (VA) STI has never really done it for me. A car that was cultivated after the relationship between Subaru and Toyota began and it appears too much of the latter seeped into its styling. AFTER /DRIVE described it as “corporate ugly” and I agree with them. The design-by-committee handbook has become the standard for Subaru’s entire lineup. If the new Toyota GT-86 (BRZ) and Impreza are any indicators, the future isn’t looking promising either.

The good news is we can always count on racing outfits and the performance market to show a car’s true potential. Prodrive is a name that’s become synonymous with Subaru and the two have teamed up to produce a car with one goal – set a new lap record at the Isle of Man.

isle_man_va_sti_01

Road & Track were the first to show pictures of the car and it’s a stunning thing.

isle_man_va_sti_02

Three parts WRC, GT and Time Attack, it shows the potential of the VA STI when the right people (Prodrive) get a hold of it.

isle_man_va_sti_03

Driver Mark Higgins will attempt the lap record before this year’s Isle of Man TT. No performance figures have been released, but expect more details about the car in the coming months.

Now if Prodive could just put that aero kit into production, I may rethink my position on the VA STI.

Photos courtesy of James Gibson.

Advertisements

Volvo’s Evil S60 Polestar TC1 WTCC Racer

The World Touring Car Championship just got a little darker with its latest entry, Volvo’s S60 Polestar TC1.

volvo_polestar_wtcc_01

volvo_polestar_wtcc_02

The TC1 makes a strong case for race cars that look far superior without their sponsorship liveries.

The car’s turbocharged 4-cylinder puts out 400 horsepower, a figure lower than expected and part of the WTCC’s 2016 regulations.

volvo_polestar_wtcc_03

volvo_polestar_wtcc_04

volvo_polestar_wtcc_05

Volvo have signed a multi-year deal with the WTCC so we’ll be seeing the TC1 for years to come.

Photos courtesy of Volvo.

Nothing To See Here – 2015 Chinese Grand Prix

What can be said about today’s Formula 1 Chinese Grand Prix? To be honest, I could barely get through the thing.

f1_china_gp_15_01

There’s been endless talk over “the show” that Formula 1 and the FIA are putting in front of fans on race day. At best, it’s a technical exercise where manufacturers can strut their stuff and fan favorite Lewis Hamilton can cruise his way to uncontested victories. At worst, it’s a case of mistaken identities and a fanbase who views the sport with rose-tinted glasses, only too quick to hark back to Hunt-Lauda or Prost-Senna as McLaren barely manage to finish races in 2015. The reality is Formula 1 lies somewhere in the middle of those two extremes, but if things carry on as they have, the circus will continue to lose its place of relevance on motorsport’s biggest stage. Today’s Chinese Grand Prix didn’t exactly help matters and as the cars rolled through the finish behind the safety car, the over-bloated, over-funded F1 machine was hoping you had not decided to change the channel already.

F1 Grand Prix of China

For American fans, NBCSN’s coverage offers absolutely nothing at this point. We’re well aware that Will Buxton and Steve Matchett have plenty to offer from their extensive databases of Formula 1 knowledge but the network’s decision to repress that knowledge has left us with cringeworthy impersonations of Sherlock Holmes from David Hobbs and Leigh Diffey flapping on about the weather and the divorce of Max Verstappen’s parents – honestly Leigh, who the hell cares? With NBC’s deep pockets, you would think they could employ the very best commentators Formula 1 has to offer in a bid to really sell it to an emerging American audience. Instead it’s SPEED’s coverage with a new coat of paint and Diffey turned up to 11.

f1_china_gp_15_02

Mercedes were back to form this weekend with Hamilton and Nico Rosberg leading qualifying and the German missing pole by just 0.4 seconds. From Rosberg’s point of view things have to be unbelievably frustrating as the team continue to favor Hamilton. For everyone else it’s clear that Rosberg just doesn’t have the same elite skills that Hamilton, Vettel and Alonso possess. Today was an easy win for Hamilton who lead Rosberg by 5 seconds for most of the race.

GP CINA F1/2015

GP CINA F1/2015

Ferrari looked strong on the back of a surprise Malaysian Grand Prix win 2 weeks ago. Kimi Raikkonen mucked up in qualifying again on Saturday but had the pace all race long. His transmissions about the woeful McLarens made for some of the few high points of Sunday’s race. Vettel meanwhile looked strong in qualifying and put the pressure on Rosberg. It will be very interesting to see how the Ferraris do at the slower, tighter European tracks.

GP CINA F1/2015

f1_china_gp_15_07

Williams rounded out the top 6 with Felipe Massa still having the advantage over teammate Valtteri Bottas. Elsewhere on the field it was a mixed bag of reliability issues, driver errors and more Pastor Maldonado acting as a human chicane for Jenson Button in the McLaren.

Fernando Alonso.

It really is shocking that Honda have botched this Formula 1 return quite so badly. Has Ron Dennis completely given up on finding a title sponsor and showing us all that “new” livery? Where is all that 650S money going?

F1 Grand Prix of China

F1 Grand Prix of China - Practice

The true embarrassment of today however was the utter incompetence of the trackside marshals, attempting to return Max Verstappen’s Toro Rosso to pit lane, after the car’s Renault engine blew. To the delight of perhaps Red Bull alone, the stranded car resulted in the safety car being deployed with 3 laps to go and one of the most chaotic and dimwitted displays the sold out crowd has likely seen, as the marshals managed to inflict as much damage to the Toro Rosso as possible while performing a 1000-point turn getting it into pit lane. Could this display support an argument about the much larger problem of flyaway races to countries with no motorsports pedigree? Absolutely. But all of these marshals should have been briefed and trained so there are really no excuses. If anyone wants to argue that point, I urge you to watch the Monaco Grand Prix and see how long it takes them to remove a car from track. With the safety car in a lap sooner, we could have been treated to one of the most exciting finishes in years.

F1 Grand Prix of China - Previews

Formula 1 feels like a bad remake right now. The set pieces are certainly more spectacular, but any semblance of a plot is difficult to find and the cast really isn’t that good. As long as it makes money at the box office, it’s done the job. The cynic in me says the show’s over and once we wrap up the Hamilton-Vettel era, Formula 1 will well and truly be done. The optimist in me says I’ll look back on all of this with fond memories as we all do with seasons gone by. Ultimately if Formula 1 has any chance of surviving this rut, it really needs to figure out what it is and what it ultimately wants to become because the rest of us are packing our bags.

Photos courtesy of F1 Fanatic.

2015 Malaysian Grand Prix

The Malaysian Grand Prix has always been able to provide an interesting Formula 1 Grand Prix and Sunday’s bout between Mercedes and Ferrari was true to form.

f1_malaysia_15_01

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

Unless you’re a Mercedes supporter, most fans of the sport have probably had enough of seeing the Silver Arrows of Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg winning every race. A new face on the podium’s top step is exactly what Formula 1 needed on Sunday and ironically Sebastian Vettel, in a Ferrari was the man to do it.

GP MALESIA F1 2015 - ©FOTO STUDIO COLOMBO

After a hellacious 2014 season and a complete reorganization of the team, Scuderia Ferrari have come out fighting in 2015 and may be one of the few opponents able to challenge Mercedes’s dominance. It was 2013 the last time a Ferrari won a Formula 1 Grand Prix so a collective sigh of relief was definitely in order for the team on Sunday. Vettel executed a solid drive and harked back to his World Championship Red Bull days by creating a dominant gap ahead of the field. After a safety car early in the race and a botched strategy by Mercedes, Hamilton had little chance of catching the German.

GP MALESIA F1/2015

Vettel managed to win in only his second race for the Scuderia and fulfilled “life long dream.” I doubt it’s the last will we see of Vettel or Ferrari standing at the top of the podium this season.

f1_malaysia_15_05

f1_malaysia_15_06

Hamilton managed 2nd with Rosberg rounding out the podium in 3rd and interestingly today was the first we saw of a very calculated, clinical Mercedes team becoming slightly unraveled. The trouble started following the safety car in which Hamilton’s strategy resulted in Vettel creating that massive gap. This was followed by a conflict in tire choice between the driver and his team and some mixed radio messages from Paddy Lowe. The message which Hamilton clearly wasn’t supposed to hear suggested a third pitstop before the end of the race. This didn’t happen and left a confused Hamilton frustrated with the team and finishing off the top step in what was shaping to be another easy win for Mercedes.

f1_malaysia_15_07

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

Elsewhere on the field Toro Rosso continued to make the Red Bull factory team look very bad. The Red Bull-Renault public feud continued through the week and you can’t help but feel bad for Daniel Ricciardo who had such an excellent finish to last season. Now the team’s clear number one and he’s treated to a front row seat of Christian Horner’s public tantrum. Red Bull are continuing to dig their own grave with the way they’re handling the Renault situation and fans are quickly growing tired of listening. Renault on the other hand called Red Bull racing “liars” and are looking to buy a team of their own, severing ties with Milton Keynes outfit completely. That soap opera will continue throughout the season no doubt.

F1 Grand Prix of Malaysia

GP MALESIA F1/2015

An excellent drive from Kimi Raikkonen who started in 11th after a botched qualifying on Saturday and a tire rupture early in Sunday’s race. He managed 4th overall which further proves just how much Ferrari have their act together this season. Some inter-team battles from Williams and Force India kept the midfield busy and an truly woeful performance from McLaren ensured neither driver was able to finish the Grand Prix.

F1 Grand Prix of Malaysia - Previews

Fernando Alonso made his season debut Sunday after sitting out in Australia, while recovering from a concussion during testing. During media day there were conflicting reports from Alonso’s version of what happened and team’s. Bizarrely, Alonso blamed the crash on a steering lockup and denied wind had anything to do with it – the reason McLaren stated for the crash. It’s all very strange what’s happening at one of the sport’s winningest teams. On a positive note, everyone involved with McLaren including the drivers are firm in their support of the team. Expectations at the start of this season must have been extremely low.

Jenson Button.

Neither MP4-30 was able to finish Sunday’s main event and you have to wonder what Honda have spent the last 2 years doing? It’s a shock to see such a big name come so ill prepared to motor sport’s biggest stage. Things can only go up at this point and I would expect to see McLaren become more competitive by the start of the European season, but that’s still 6 weeks away.

f1_malaysia_15_13

Was Rosberg standing off to the side as Hamilton, Vettel and Eddie Jordan sat and chatted during the podium interviews not ridiculously awkward? Rosberg has really taken a lot of heat and continues to. In the eyes of the predominately British F1 media, Hamilton can do no wrong and that leaves Rosberg constantly having to justify every move. Maybe he truly isn’t one for the spotlight but that podium interview was painful. Also, what’s up with Vettel and Hamilton all buddy-buddy now? Is Hamilton suddenly okay being friendly with Vettel now that he himself is a multiple World Champion or is it yet another excuse to make his teammate feel unwelcome?

GP MALESIA F1/2015

It was great to see Ferrari back on form at Sunday’s Malaysian Grand Prix. Now the teams head to Shanghai for the Chinese Grand Prix in 2 weeks – stay tuned.

Photos courtesy of F1 Fanatic.

The Glorious Ferrari 488 GTB

Ferrari are one of the few remaining automotive manufacturers designing new cars that are arguably their best ever. Look towards Germany and you’ll find 3 manufacturers playing top trumps and producing carbon copies of one another’s increasingly difficult to identify ranges. Japan has become somewhat of a laughing stock in recent years as Honda and Toyota do their best to blend in with their Korean competitors who are far ahead of the curve. The Brits and the Americans remain firm in the belief that bigger engines are best and more power to them. In the increasingly environmentally conscious, safety obsessed automotive industry, fun cars are few and far between.

Luckily the Italians aren’t very interested in any of that, they’re still of the old school – form over function, unless function looks absolutely beautiful. The 488 GTB is no exception.

ferrari_488_gtb_01

On first impressions it’s shocking that Ferrari have managed to produce a car even better looking than the stunning 458 Italia.

ferrari_488_gtb_02

Design cues to LaFerrari are all over the 488 GTB.

ferrari_488_gtb_03

ferrari_488_gtb_04

The Formula 1 DNA is strong with this one. Active aero has become a big part of Ferrari’s road cars and it’s no exception on the latest model.

ferrari_488_gtb_05

The black and red contrasting interior is a nice departure from the standard tan leather which will most certainly be part of the long options list.

ferrari_488_gtb_06

ferrari_488_gtb_07

Positively stunning from every angle.

So where does the 488 GTB stack up exactly? Well for starters, gone is the 4L naturally aspirated V8. In its place is a twin turbo 3.9L V8 producing 670 HP. Purists will initially question the decision to go turbo, but it wasn’t necessarily Ferrari’s choice.

Emissions have become a crucial part of the automotive industry and under Ferrari’s new leadership, the brand has vowed to produce a greater number of cars. More cars being sold within more markets including the very strict European Union, North American and Chinese means smaller, more environmentally sound power plants. No longer will large displacement engines pass emissions regulations so to increase the power, most manufacturers have gone turbo. Ultimately it was a change that was bound to happen, even for Ferrari. Some solace can be found in the fact that Formula 1’s current power units are also turbocharged so there is a direct connection to racing.

Ferrari claims the 488 GTB is half a second faster at Fiorano than the 458 Speciale. While the 458 is likely Ferrari’s final naturally aspirated “entry-level” offering, they’ve certainly upped the ante with the successor. The 488 GTB will be officially unveiled at the Geneva Motor Show next month. Expect a Challenge Stradale version at some point as well.

The future is looking promising for Ferrari’s road car division, hopefully their Formula 1 team follows suit.

Photos courtesy of Ferrari.

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.

usgp_2014_01

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.

usgp_2014_02

GP USA F1/2014

usgp_2014_04

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.

usgp_2014_05

usgp_2014_06

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.

F1 Grand Prix of USA

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

usgp_2014_13

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.

usgp_2014_14

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!

F1 Grand Prix of USA

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.

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.

f1_russian_gp_01

f1_russian_gp_02

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.

f1_russian_gp_03

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?

f1_russian_gp_06

f1_russian_gp_07

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.

f1_russian_gp_10

Even further back, 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.

f1_russian_gp_11

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?

f1_russian_gp_12

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…

GP ITALIA F1/2014

italian_gp_2014_02

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.

italian_gp_2014_03

italian_gp_2014_04

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.

GP ITALIA F1/2014

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.

italian_gp_2014_06

italian_gp_2014_07

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.

italian_gp_2014_08

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.

GP ITALIA F1/2014

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.

GP ITALIA F1/2014

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.

italian_gp_2014_16

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.