Toro Rosso

Right Place At The Right Time – 2015 Monaco Grand Prix

Part of racing is putting yourself in a position to take advantage of any and every opportunity that presents itself. Nico Rosberg and Sebastian Vettel both found themselves in positions to overtake the race leader Lewis Hamilton during one of the most controversial pit stops in Formula 1 history.

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Overtaking rarely happens in Monaco and track position is all that matters. Qualify in pole and you have a 99% chance at winning. Screw up a pit strategy and you’ll end up like Hamilton, watching over 60 laps of hard work go to waste.

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The (mostly) British F1 Media will likely spend the next week denouncing Rosberg and his victory today on the streets of Monte Carlo. However, what they should be doing is calling both the judgment of Hamilton and his race engineers into question. Both parties are equally responsible for today’s botched strategy and both should take it on the chin as a harsh learning experience.

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Hamilton started the day the favorite to win after securing a dominant pole in qualifying. He went on to comfortably lead 64 laps of the race until the Toro Rosso of Max Verstappen found itself in the barriers at Sainte Devote,after coming into contact with the Lotus of Romain Grosjean. The crash was one of the most violent to happen in the sport this season. Luckily, Verstappen walked away without serious injury. The incident brought out a virtual safety car and prompted race leader Hamilton to stop for a set of super soft tires to finish the remaining 14 laps. Unbeknownst to the Mercedes driver or his engineers, the actual safety car went out on track enabling Rosberg and Vettel who were in P2 and P3 respectively to overtake Hamilton coming out of the pits. After some initial confusion, from pit lane the reality of their mistake began to set in as Hamilton found himself in P3 and very unlikely recapture his lead.

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The remaining laps saw Rosberg easily get away from Vettel who had the job of keeping a very angry Hamilton at bay. Nervous radio transmissions from Hamilton’s engineers followed, but they were little consolation for the situation they had all gotten themselves into. The arrival of the victors to the starting grid for the traditional Monaco podium ceremony saw Hamilton taking his time and eventually crashing into the “3rd place” sign. Even Charlie Whiting was smart to keep his distance as the Mercedes driver collected his thoughts before getting out of the car. The scene was certainly setting itself up to be one of the all time great meltdowns in motorsports. Shockingly however, Hamilton conducted himself with class and said all the right things during the interviews, even though he was visibly distraught. Rosberg meanwhile joins an elite list that includes Ayrton Senna, Graham Hill and Michael Schumacher as a 3-time winner of the Monaco Grand Prix.

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Ferrari continue to be one of the most entertaining teams in Formula 1 this season. Between Kimi’s brilliant radio transmissions throughout the race to Vettel’s exuberance and “I’m just here for the show” attitude on the podium, they are the team to route for right now. Vettel’s PR has done a 180 since his time at Red Bull and it’s been genuinely fun to see him helping Ferrari get back on top.

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Speaking of Red Bull, outstanding performances from both Daniil Kvyat and Daniel Ricciardo. Something about Monaco just seems to work for Ricciardo who had an excellent drive and was chasing the leaders up until the final laps, even if he did eventually return a position to his teammate.

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Elsewhere disappointment for Williams who were unable to score points. Saturday yielded subpar results in qualifying for Valtteri Bottas and a shunt at the start for Felipe Massa did his race in just as it was beginning.

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It was a bittersweet day for McLaren as a gearbox failure ended Fernando Alonso’s race on lap 41. His teammate Jenson Button however managed to secure the team’s first points of the season finishing 8th. That doesn’t sound like much to be excited about, but considering where McLaren started the season, it’s huge progress.

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It’s ironic to consider that just days ago, Lewis Hamilton signed a new 3 year deal with Mercedes that would not only make him the highest paid driver in Formula 1, but one of the 10 highest paid athletes in the world. Had that contract not been signed before the events that unfolded today, we may be seeing a very different story unfold for the World Champion. Perhaps Ferrari would’ve been back on the table?

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“Sad Lewis” will be the dominating storyline heading into the Canadian Grand Prix in 2 weeks.

Photos courtesy of F1 Fanatic & McLaren Honda.

2015 Bahrain Grand Prix

Last year’s Bahrain Grand Prix proved to be one of the most exciting races of 2014 when the Mercedes teammates battled head-to-head, resulting in a win for Lewis Hamilton. Sunday’s event didn’t have quite the same spectacle, but the chess match between Mercedes and Ferrari is becoming ever more interesting as the sport heads to Europe.

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F1 - BAHRAIN GRAND PRIX 2015

Much of the talk this week centered around accusations of Hamilton’s strategy made by Nico Rosberg following the Chinese Grand Prix. In an effort to save his tires, Hamilton reduced his pace putting Rosberg on the defensive to a charging Sebastian Vettel in the Ferrari. It was a clear sign that not only was Rosberg beginning to succumb to the pressure, but Ferrari were bringing the fight to Mercedes.

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A much more reserved Rosberg showed up in Bahrain this weekend and it was clear he would need to let his driving do the talking. After an excellent showing in qualifying on Saturday, it was Vettel who shared the front row with Hamilton in pole. Rosberg and Kimi Raikkonen rounded out the top 4. Contrary to what many, including Mercedes had suggested, both drivers followed the same strategy in Sunday’s race.

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The start saw Ferrari on the offensive with Raikkonen outpacing Rosberg for 3rd. The remainder of the race would be a tire strategy battle that saw Vettel taking a similar course to the Mercedes drivers doing 2 stints on the softs and finishing on the mediums. Raikkonen on the other hand ran his second stint on the mediums and finished on the softs. It was a strategy that ultimately paid off brilliantly and put the Ferrari driver in a position to exploit Rosberg, who cooked his brakes into turn 1 on lap 56. Raikkonen who was outpacing both Mercedes at that point finished 2nd, his first podium of the season. Vettel’s luck wasn’t as good and after a misstep off track damaged his front wing causing the German to head back to the pits for a replacement. The stop left Vettel behind the Williams of Valtteri Bottas who was having none of the Ferrari. Vettel’s mistake ultimately had him finishing in 5th.

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GP BAHRAIN F1/2015

Ferrari executed a brilliant strategy with Raikkonen and his unbelievable pace on the medium tires made for a well deserved podium finish. In many ways Mercedes dodged a bullet on Sunday when during the final lap, Hamilton began having brake issues. Reliability has been a factor for Mercedes before and with Ferrari’s pace, they will be there to exploit each and every opportunity as the season progresses. For every bit as good as Vettel and Raikkonen have been so far this season, Maurizio Arrivabene and James Allison are also hugely responsible for the Ferrari turnaround.

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F1 Grand Prix of Bahrain

Elsewhere on the track it was more of a GP2 race than anything that corresponded with the battle up front. Apart from Williams, none of the other teams have been able to match the pace of Ferrari in an attempt to challenge the World Champions. After qualifying 6th, Felipe Massa started the race from pit lane but managed to finish 10th after an excellent recovery drive. Daniel Riccardo showed some pace in the Red Bull who’s Renault power unit went kaput meters before the finish line. Christian Horner and Adrian Newey must be loving this very public display of Renault’s “reliability”. You have to feel for Ricciardo who had one hell of a 2014 season. Now he has the opportunity to lead Red Bull and the team are threatening to pull out of the sport completely.

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F1 Grand Prix of Bahrain

Fernando Alonso on track.

In a very predictable, no less disappointing series of events, Jenson Button was unable to start Sunday’s race due to an ERS failure. McLaren Honda said that had Button started he would have been unable to finish the Bahrain Grand Prix. It’s been an uphill battle for McLaren Honda who have somehow managed to become one of the most likable teams in Formula 1 purely because of how well they’re rolling with the punches. As Red Bull are all too willing to complain to anyone who will listen, the Woking outfit have kept their heads down and steadily improved their pace every race weekend. As any fan of the sport will tell you, seconds equal years in Formula 1 and there’s something to be said about Fernando Alonso finishing just one place (11th) outside of the points on Sunday. What McLaren Honda need is testing and although that won’t happen, the European leg of the season should tell a very different story as the team receives upgrades from the factory and continues to dial in the new chassis.

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Overall the Bahrain Grand Prix was an interesting strategic exercise for Mercedes and Ferrari. How fantastic did the sparks look on track? They’re gimmicky yes, but no doubt improve the look of Formula 1. The flyaway races are over for now as the teams head back to Europe for the summer. Can you believe Monaco is nearly a month away? It’s hard to believe how fast this season is moving. See you in Barcelona at the Spanish Grand Prix in 3 weeks.

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Photos courtesy of F1 Fanatic.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

2014 Toro Rosso STR9

Testing at Jerez begins this week and Toro Rosso was there to debut the 2014 STR9.

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Some have suggested this is a prelude to what we’ll be seeing from Red Bull later this week. I hope not.

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Yeah… Welcome to Formula 1 2014. Elitists who are above the kind of humor these new cars have spawned are quick to point out that the designs are all in the name of safety. Don’t get me wrong, having lower noses as a precaution to any t-bone related head injuries is crucial, but there must be a better way. Don’t think for a second that the jokes aren’t flooding throughout the paddock either. It’s tough to escape, especially with the STR9. Something tells me that Jean-Eric Vergne and Daniil Kvyat were looking to get this launch over with quickly.

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Things get a little more sane towards the rear of the car.

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At the back, STR begins their new engine partnership with Renault after parting ways with Ferrari. The new single exhausts on the 2014 cars should give us a nice light show come Bahrain and Singapore.

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More from Jerez in the coming days. 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.

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“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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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 Equal Opportunity Employer

Infiniti Red Bull Racing RB9 Launch

Formula 1’s Silly Season is far from over and the fates of drivers including Kimi Raikkonen and Felipe Massa remain undecided. In fact, we’re just a few weeks shy of a year since Lewis Hamilton announced he’d be leaving McLaren – has it really been that long? With the F1 rumor mill churning at full speed, Red Bull took it upon themselves to clear the air, with the announcement that Toro Rosso driver Daniel Ricciardo, would be taking the place of Mark Webber in 2014. It’s exciting news for both Ricciardo and those exhausted by pay drivers diluting the sport.

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Ricciardo did things the old-fashioned way. After a successful campaign in Formula 3, he worked his way into a drive with Toro Rosso. This season, the Australian had his best finish in China, placing 7th overall. Ricciardo has certainly got the pace and it will be exciting to see him in a truly great car, but given Red Bull’s history, you have to wonder if he’ll  have the full support of his team to challenge for race wins.

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Red Bull is no stranger to controversy. The Multi 21 incident in Malaysia earlier this year is what many consider the final straw in Webber’s decision to leave the team (and the sport). Sebastian Vettel’s success is hard to ignore – 3 Driver’s Championships in 3 years with the potential for a 4th in 2013. With that success rate comes certain liberties within the team – some may even say preferential treatment. The intent isn’t to feed conspiracies, but it’s ironic that a vast majority of the team’s mechanical issues have been on Webber’s cars. There’s also the issue of team orders, which Red Bull like to downplay, only for conversation’s sake. Could Ricciardo be setting himself up for a similar situation within the team?

Earlier today, Christian Horner responded to the hiring of Ricciardo:

“We expect him to challenge Sebastian. He’s employed by the team to do the best job that he can. He’ll get equal opportunity. He’ll get the same chance, the same equipment (as Sebastian) and it will be down to what he does on the circuit that counts at the end of the day.”

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Truth or more comedy from the Red Bull camp? Unless anyone has managed to acquire a copy of Ricciardo’s contract with the team, we won’t know until this thing plays out next season.

Vettel’s contract with Red Bull will expire at the end of 2014. With the potential for a 4th Driver’s Championship this season, Red Bull will be eager to keep Vettel and will in no way want to jeopardize that relationship. That may cause some collateral damage, namely Ricciardo getting stripped of his fair shot to shine on the team.

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Granted, all of this is purely speculation but it’s hard not to consider when we see how things ended with Webber – one of the last true gentlemen racers in Formula 1. It’s a massive opportunity Ricciardo and time will ultimately tell.

Red Bull Confirms Ricciardo As Webber’s Replacement

Earlier today, Red Bull confirmed that Daniel Ricciardo will replace Mark Webber in 2014.

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Who would fill Webber’s seat, has been one of the most discussed topics in F1. Many expected Kimi Raikkonen to make the move from Lotus. However, questions arose as to how well he’d fit in with Sebastian Vettel. Red Bull have made little effort to downplay claims that they favor Vettel as the clear Number 1 at the team. Given Raikkonen’s aggressive style and disinterest in team orders, the pairing seemed like a match made in hell.

While speculation remains over where Raikkonen is headed, it’s a good day for Ricciardo. As F1 grows increasingly heavy with pay drivers, it’s great to see a development program serve its intended purpose. Ricciardo did things the old-fashioned way. It’s going to be very exciting to see what he can do in an Adrian Newey car next season. Until then, let’s enjoy the final races of one of the true good guys of the sport, Mark Webber.

Photo & video courtesy of Red Bull.

The 2013 Belgian Grand Prix

Was it Sebastian Vettel or Greenpeace who had the last laugh at today’s Belgian Grand Prix?

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Spa-Francorchamps has always been a bright spot on the Formula 1 World Championship calendar. Set amongst the hills of the Ardennes Forest, Spa’s beautiful landscape, unpredictable weather conditions and challenging layout have made it a longtime favorite amongst the drivers and fans.  After the exceedingly long August break, Spa is the perfect place to get back to racing.

Motor Racing - Formula One World Championship - Belgian Grand Prix - Practice Day - Spa Francorchamps, Belgium

With the Silly Season in full swing, there’s been a lot of talk about where certain drivers will end up in 2014.

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The most hotly discussed topic has been over who will fill Mark Webber’s seat at Red Bull Racing. It’s long been assumed that Kimi Raikkonen would be Webber’s successor, however earlier this week reports surfaced that Toro Rosso driver and fellow Australian Daniel Ricciardo would be Red Bull’s new driver. That development has everyone wondering where Raikkonen will end up next season. It’s very likely that he will stay at Lotus, as the only other alternative would be Felipe Massa’s seat at Scuderia Ferrari and we all know how that ended the first time around. Despite all the rumors and talk of next season, we’re still only half way through 2013 so let’s get to it.

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Spa has produced some of the sport’s most memorable racing over the years, but today’s Belgian Grand Prix was particularly underwhelming. For all of the hype leading into the race, the weather held off and we saw yet another Sunday where Sebastian Vettel maintained a massive lead from the first lap onwards.

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The RB9 was massively quick, as demonstrated by Vettel on pole sitter Lewis Hamilton through Eau Rouge. The Silver Arrows are tough to beat in qualifying but have continued to struggle on race days.

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Hamilton was able to do little in the way of fending off Fernando Alonso, who after a fantastic start from 9th, managed a 2nd place finish. Perhaps Alonso had an extra bit of motivation after a very public row with team boss Luca di Montezemolo, following the Hungarian Grand Prix. A stint of wheel-to-wheel racing and Alonso’s subsequent out-braking of Hamilton to take 2nd was Formula 1 at its best.

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Further back, Jenson Button managed to get his McLaren MP4-28 into 1st briefly, before a poorly managed tire strategy had him finishing 6th. McLaren have stated that they will no longer be developing this season’s car and focusing all of their efforts on 2014.

Jenson Button on track

It’s been one of the worst seasons in the team’s history and the signing of Sergio Perez hasn’t helped matters. While Perez has exhibited moments of brilliance, he was and is the wrong man for the job. Nico Hulkenberg is the best of the rest and should’ve been the man alongside Button.  A dismal season at Sauber will surely see him looking for greener pastures and a potential move to Ferrari in 2014.

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Felipe Massa has been warned by the team that he needs to prove himself over the next couple of races. These last few season’s have felt like deja vu for Massa. He’s never quite been able to come back from the injury he suffered in Hungary. While there’s no doubt Massa could’ve been a Formula 1 World Champion, he’s hardly qualified to continue holding a seat at one of the biggest teams in the sport. A 7th place finish today at Spa probably isn’t what the Scuderia were looking for and I suspect 2013 will be the last we see of Massa in a Ferrari.

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Red Bull continues to dominate the sport and it seems as though everything Adrian Newey touches turns to gold. Vettel now has a commanding lead in the World Championship points and it would take a hellacious second half of the season to keep him from taking his 4th consecutive WDC.

F1 Grand Prix of Belgium - Race

The new technical regulations could impact Red Bull’s success moving forward, but that would probably have less to do with Newey’s designs and more to do with Renault’s new V6 twin-turbo engines. There are still 8 Grands Prix remaining this season but it’s hard not to anticipate next season, as it will see so many big changes to the sport.

Today’s race was capped off with yet another cringeworthy podium interview conducted by David Coulthard. FOM’s love affair with this fan-friendly format needs to be squashed. Any sort of genuine feedback or critique from the drivers will surely be left off the podium and we’ve all seen enough of Coulthard being embarrassed by the drivers  – I’m surprised he keeps signing up for more.

F1 Grand Prix of Belgium - Race

Get ready for the Tifosi, the Italian Grand Prix at Monza is in 2 weeks!

Photos courtesy of F1 Fanatic.

The 2013 Toro Rosso STR8

Red Bull’s junior team Toro Rosso unveiled their 2013 STR8 earlier today.

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STR teammates Daniel Ricciardo and Jean-Eric Vergne were at Jerez to unveil the car, ahead of the first day of testing beginning tomorrow.

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After finishing 9th overall in 2012, STR Team Principal Franz Tost expects the team to finish 6th in 2013. It’s an optimistic goal, but after last season anything can happen.

All of the cars are looking much better heading into 2013 with their new nose jobs. The season’s first testing doesn’t usually tell us a lot, but it’s still going to be interesting to see how everyone performs tomorrow.

Photos courtesy of F1 Fanatic.