Knock and the door will be opened, or not in the case of Nico Hulkenberg who will return to Force India in 2014 after failing to find a drive with the top five. The German previously raced for the Silverstone based team in 2012 before setting sail for Sauber this year. However once again the fiscal situation didn’t all add up and there was a gaping hole in the colllumn marked salary at Hinwill. Nico is rumored to have taken a portion of his salary up front for next year after difficulties last time he raced in white, green and orange.
The most interesting aspect has not been the announcement but the lack of one with regards to his team mate. Force India have traditionally always waited until after the season ends and announced both drivers together. Current drivers Paul Di Resta and Adrian Sutil remain in contention alongside McLaren outcast Sergio Perez.
Continuing the season in review with the team who after 4 seasons of trying finally reached the lowly heights of 10th place in the Constructors Championship – Marussia
Marussia had in previous seasons been the last of the serious efforts on the grid but had managed to finish behind the shambolic HRT outfit in their previous guise as Virgin GP. With the team now folded it meant that the worst they could was finish 11th and 2013 was a season to be optimistic for the team. Charles Pic had been poached by rivals Caterham, leaving a hole in the budget rather than the talent department but this was to be easily filled by perennial GP2 challenger Max Chilton and his large chunk of his fathers Aon money. The team had also now long ditched its attempts to use only CFD to design their cars and had former world champion technical director Pat Symonds on the books.
The first stumbling block was the realisation that either they hadn’t got enough money for the season or that the real challenge would come in 2014 so it was worth covering their costs with a pay driver. The team sent Timo Glock off to DTM (in fact Charles Pic is the only driver to survive in F1 after driving for the team!) and managed to sign up GP2 runner up Luiz Razia. A risk surely but with a good junior pedigree he should of provided some speed and a stern test to Chilton. However it was not to be as the Brazilians sponsors didn’t pull through so despite testing the car the team were still on the lookout for another driver with support to pilot the MR-02 for the season. At this point an offer came along from the other more famous red team: Ferrari.
Jules Bianchi was offered to Marussia in exchange for what we believe to be a greatly reduced costs for engines in 2014 (as no other stickers appeared on the car) which would tick the boxes the team were looking for. Increasinly it seems the top teams are funding the really talented drivers and finding them births lower down the grid. Red Bull have Toro Rosso (and even got the wallet out again for Daniel Ricciardo to toddle around in an HRT for half a season), McLaren attempted it with Kevin Magnussen and now Ferrari have Marussia. But what a turn up for the books that deal would be.
With the team later confirming that the last real update they brought to the car was the Barcelona the business was done early with Jules Bianchi gaining a 13th place in Malaysia to seal 10th place in the Constructors and a nice little boost of prize money. However they will need to repeat the feat in the next two seasons to really reap the rewards and become a Category 2 team.
Max Chilton on the other hand didn’t posses the raw speed of Jules Bianchi but did manage to finish every single race of the season, a first in the history of the sport. Despite having the luxury of doing the complete testing programme he was regularly shown up come Saturday and a deficits of over a second were not uncommon, some progress was made in the latter half of the season but the Briton didn’t shine too brightly against the Ferrari back Bianchi. An average deficit of +0.585 (The worst apart from Esteban Gutierrez who did manage to overcome his issues during the season) over the season in qualifying and an average finishing position of 21st (compared to 19.89 for Jules) do not suggest he is the next World Champion.
Next season will see the team running Ferrari power and continue with Jules Bianchi, the strong indication that for the first time Marussia will stick with its driver pairing and give Chilton another season – and Marussia financials some stability. Its a big year for the two teams at the back of the grid as the new regulations present an opportunity to get on terms with the established teams, it really could be make or break in 2014.
We start off the traditional end of season look with the last placed team – Caterham.
In a first for the team in green after finishing ahead of their young team contemporaries, Caterham found themselves last in the standings after the wheels stopped turning in Brazil. With no HRT to create a rolling road block at the back of the pack, Jules Bianchi’s 13th place in Malaysia sealed the deal for the other 2010 entrant still surviving. At the back of the grid this year development was halted very early due to the massive shake up next year in the regulations so there was never going to be much hope for Caterham to really progress despite years of promises otherwise.
The team decided to release Vitaly Petrov and Heikki Kovalainen to replace them with Charles Pic from Marussia and rookie Geido Van Der Garder. In a change to the teams principles this saw no real experience in the garage (apart from Pic’s lone season at rivals Marussia) but plenty of cash to fill the coffers at Leafield. But it was telling that the team had to re-recruit Heikki to drive in FP1 to help develop the car throughout the year as the in-experience of their drivers showed.
Unfortunately for Caterham a slow start hampered them and although they were generally faster than Marussia throughout the year the “other car in red” was definitely the faster package out of the box. The drop to last place wont harm Caterham’s financials too much as to stay a category 2 team (which Caterham have become bringing much more prize money) you have to finish 10th or higher in 2 of the last 3 seasons. This leaves it imperative that the team can outscore Marussia next year and could see Heikki return to the car.
As for the drivers Geido Van Der Garder’s heroics in Spa spring to mind and by the half-way mark the Dutchman had certainly turned the tables on his more experienced French team mate and looks the better of the pair. However how good either are is up for debate as neither provide a good yard stick.
Next season is going to be key with a huge spike in costs and without new sponsors or big money pay drivers expect there to only be 10 teams rolling into Australia in 2015.
Its been a week since the Grand Prix circus rolled into the last stop on its world tour in Brazil, with the world title already decided in Vettel’s favour and with the German having collected enough points to win the constructors outright on his own it was all about goodbyes. The 2013 Brazilian Grand Prix waved goodbye to the V8 engines (which Romain Grosjean gave an unfortunate explosive send off to), the 2009 aero rules and Mark Webber. After 217 Grand Prix’s and 9 victories Mark Webber has hung up his helmet at Milton Keynes to head to Porsche and the World Endurance series, a much loved out spoken Aussie who found as much support at Silverstone as he did in Melbourne.
Its been interesting in the build up to his departure that Newey stated that Mark was the better driver at feeling changes within the car so he could be sorely missed next year at Milton Keynes who will now have to rely on Vettel’s and Ricciardo’s feedback over the course of the season.
Furthermore it emerged after much speculation that Ross Brawn will also be standing down at Mercedes and will have two men taking his place. Toto Wolff will take over the business and organisational side while Paddy Lowe will look after the technical, a structure very similar to that of Red Bull’s with Horner and Newey.
Also leaving will be certain other drivers but who they are still remains a mystery. Teams are desperate for cash due to the hike in costs for next seasons V6 engine package and the new development costs associated with the rule change leaving many a pay driver rubbing his hands with glee. Pastor Maldonado has been confirmed at Lotus alongside Romain Grosjean after the Quatum investment deal has still not come to fruition. Giving Lotus up to 30 million of PVDSA cash and a race winning driver (not the worst combination) and leaving Nico Hulkenberg still searching for that top team drive. This leaves 2 seats at Sauber, Force India and Caterham with another lone seat at Marussia to fill. Force India is the likely destination for Sergio Perez who has found sponsorship to offset the salary of Nico Hulkenberg next year, as for the other seats not much else is known for sure as Force India will be the next piece of the jigsaw. Paul Di Resta is looking more and more like switching to Indy Car where his cousin Dario Franchitti had great success until an accident this year caused the 40 year old to retire on medical advice.
Also for next year the FIA have proposed giving out a trophy for most pole positions in a season, which is surely a good thing. Hopefully we will see qualifying league tables on Saturdays too to keep track of the bid for the trophy. Finally Bahrain is set to be a night race as expected in 2014.
6 weeks to go until the 2014 cars fire up for January testing!
The Austin Grand Prix saw another Sebastian Vettel Grand Prix victory allowing him to take hold of the record of most consecutive wins in Formula 1 with 8 from Michael Schumacher (However Ascari recorded 9 but skipped the Indy 500 when it was part of the World Championship – but Seb could match that this weekend in Interlagos). This situation has arisen when after the summer break and the tyre change Red Bull broke the back of the leading teams who gave up and pored their resources into 2014 and the new regulations. Teams getting to it early and stealing a march on Red Bull could be the best chance of stopping the Milton Keynes squad steam rolling another year.
But with further details revealed of the punishments for next year we could see a heck of a lot of penalties handed out next season. With only 5 engines for the season (which now include KERS and the new ERS unit) teams will be up against it with 3,5 and 10 place penalties for having to replace parts on the engine and having to use a 6th resulting in starting from the pit lane – we could expect quite a queue of cars towards the end of the season if a manufacturer doesn’t get it quite right. Furthermore additional rumours have come out over the weekend that Renault want the Rev limit raised and Ferrari the maximum fuel increased – however Mercedes are happy for the rules to remain as is. Now one then assumes that Renault have the fuel efficiency sorted but are possibly down a little on power (or just want more) whereas Ferrari are the opposite. Mercedes aren’t necessarily in the lead they could just be more level between the two trade off’s. More fuel is not really a viable option as the tanks will already be designed and already in the mock up 2014 cars this late in November.
Finally a revised 2014 calendar was released/leaked over the race weekend with Korea and India out alongside the canning of Mexico and New Jersey leaving Russia and Austria as the new additions to make 19 races. It makes for pleasing reading as the Tilke dominance appears to be fading with a re-introduction of the A1 Ring (Now Red Bull Ring – although it was modified by Tilke to make the current layout) and the new Russian track. USA and Singapore are new-ish tracks but the track layouts weren’t handled by Tilke (I mean no one is criticising his experience on track safety or amazing architecture so its a no brainier to get Tilke in to design your buildings and give the track a once over). This leaves 2014 with 5 pure Tilke tracks plus Singapore and the USA alongside classic tracks from around the globe – a nice mix I’m sure you’ll agree especially since no-one minds a nice spin round Malaysia or China.
2014 F1 calendar (Expected)
16 March – Australia
30 March – Malaysia
6 April – Bahrain
20 April – China
11 May – Spain
25 May – Monaco
8 June – Canada
22 June – Austria
6 July – GB
20 July – Germany
27 July – Hungary;
24 August – Belgium
7 Sep Italy
21 Sep Singapore
5 Oct Japan
12 Oct Russia
26 Oct USA
2 Nov Brazil
16 Nov Abu Dhabi
source – http://www.jamesallenonf1.com
Its 5pm UK time and Free Practice has been delayed and shortened to 40 minutes after fog stopped the medical chopper from taking off (familiar Moto GP fans?) but in the build up to the second Grand Prix of the United States at the Circuit of the Americas its all been about business.
As expected McLaren announced that Kevin Magnussen will drive for the team in 2014, using the build up to the penultimate race of the season to dish out this news in the closest Sergio Perez comes to a home Grand Prix (for now) has been tough. The Mexican has also admitted that the timing has left him few oppertunities to find a seat for next year.
Lotus have revealed that Heikki Kovalienen will race for the team as the replacement for injured countryman Kimi Raikkonen in the last two races of the year. The rumblings from Joe Saward have been that Caterham have loaned their reserve driver in exchange for letting some engineering staff they poached leave without serving their Gardening leave. The Finn who last raced in Brazil 2012 but has had a few FP1 outings this year revealed that he is close to signing with Caterham next year.
Pastor Maldonado seems very up beat after leaving Williams revealing that he probably “gave the team more than they gave me” – an interesting one as there have been many a late night for a Williams engineer over Pastors career fixing his wrecked car. But the up beat mood appears linked to the fact that the Quantum money that has supposed to be arriving at Lotus all year may now not arrive at all meaning the Enstone team will plonk for Maldonado alongside Grosjean and the PVDSA money to prop up the balance sheet.
This is leaving one heck of a queue at the door of Force India with Paul Di Resta, Adrian Sutil, Nico Hulkenberg, Sergio Perez and Pastor Maldonado all in talks with the Silverstone based squad. It remains to be seen if anyone from GP2 will graduate into the premier class of open wheel racing this year with Danill Kyvat coming from GP3 and Magnussen from Renault 3.5. No word on Fabio Leimer, Sam Bird or James Calado (P1,2 and 3 respectivily in the GP2 championship this year) are in talks with any teams but James Calado is doing some FP1 outings for Force India and will look to secure that role next year I believe.
Finally we all wait with baited breather for the Austin crowd figures after last years 120,000 turn out, the hope is that many of that number will be retained for a second year after a stormer of a race. However this years event looks set to be duller with no title on the line and Sebastian Vettel romping home come rain, shine, hard tyre, soft tyre, classic track or Tilke track.
This years “silly season” where drivers shuffle around has moved from its usual summer slot to the end of the year with this morning Sergio Perez confiming that he is to leave the Woking team at the end of the year. The 23 year old Mexican struggled to match Jenson Button this season in an uncompetitive car (By McLaren’s standard). The team are set to promote Danish rookie Kevin Magnussen in his place which will be a big jump for the 21 year old driver who won the Formula Renault 3.5 series this season. Most of the noise coming out of the team this year had been that Perez hadn’t been given the equipment to fight properly and would be given another season but the team believes that Magnussen is World Champion material. It is likely the team made the move to give the Dane a year before the big push in 2015 when the team will become the works Honda powered team and have high expectations.
Personally it appears as though Magnussen will give McLaren a different type of driver who will deliver in qualifying in the same mould of departed Champion Lewis Hamilton did to balance Jenson’s more methodical wiley race craft approach. It is still a risk as the 21 year old has had very little F1 mileage and will step into a team who expect victories and championships rather than scrapping for points.
Finally Lotus are still to announce who will replace the injured Kimi Raikkonen for the last two races of the season with it looking like either Heikki Kovalienen or reserve driver Davide Valsecci looking likely. Nico Hulkenberg reportedly turned down the offer to remain at Sauber another season and Michael Schumacher rejected another comeback. The issue with Heikki is that he is in the frame for a drive with Caterham next season and a move away from the team to Lotus could complicate the issue of his 2014 seat.