Goodbyes and the End of Term

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!

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A strike back for non-Tilke Circuits

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

Austin doing the Buisness

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.

Magnussen Poised for McLaren in Silly Season Shock

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.

The Driver Queue

This weekend saw the excess spectacle that is the Abu Dhabi grand prix take place on the man made Yas Marina Island. The facility is spectacular and the feature hotel looks fantastic on TV, the location seems perfect for a sport that is so money driven. Abu Dhabi is currently at the centre of the world with it being an international airport hub and is attracting more and more tourists each year out of the airport and into the hotels. Unfortunately while the track is in the right place with a huge amount of finance behind it, it is terrible for lack of a better word.

The track configuration is a bit of a head scratcher with slow speed hair pins followed by straights into chicanes etc. Furthermore with the huge amount of money spent on the circuit and the climate it is built in the grandstands are all permanent meaning any track changes would either be limited or hugely expensive.

But at least there was some excitement in the desert this weekend which also hosted the climax of the GP2 and GP3 seasons.

First up Daniil Kvyat wrapped up the GP3 title as was expected of him after his confirmation next year of driving for Toro Rosso. The 200,000 Euro prize from Pirelli however went to Facu Regalia to support him in securing a drive next season in GP2 which leaves him only needing a couple of million to find right?

In GP2 James Calado managed to win the final race of the season to secure 3rd in the standings despite a tough year at ART where they failed to get the best out of the tires. The Swiss driver Fabio Leimer lead home Mercedes test and reserve driver Sam Bird in the standings but it does raise a question, where are they going to next?

Last years champion Davide Valsecci failed to find a grid spot and has spent all year on the bench at Lotus and is looking like being passed over for Nico Hulkenberg and appears to have not even been considered for the drive despite an impressive championship in GP2 last year. Runner up Luiz Razia also failed to find a birth in F1 after his backing failed to materialise and he lost his spot at Marussia. However the drivers who finished 3rd (Gutierrez), 4th (Chilton) and 6th (Van Der Garde) found spots on the grid.

Fabio Leimer now has to find a spot on the grid as he does not have an option of returning to the series, a bizarre unnecessary rule that excludes drivers who have won the championship from returning. GP2 and GP3 are a bit of a mess, the series costs too much money for what it is and is primarily there to fill CVC’s pockets with more gold and extract more money from TV companies. This has lead World Series to be a popular choice of feeder category which has been favoured by Red Bull as they view GP2 as too expensive and the back half of the grid is filled with pay drivers with no hope of moving forward.

Sam Bird has had a strange career thus far after completing two lack luster years in GP2 the Briton went to World Series where he finished 3rd behind Robert Frijns and Jules Bianchi. This lead him back to another year in GP2 but the chances of him getting a drive in F1 are slim with Mercedes having a very stable line up and looking unlikely to cut him a deal to go elsewhere.

James Calado could either do another year in GP2 or become reserve driver at Force India and take up the expanded testing next season alongside FP1 at select Grand Prix’s following in the footsteps of Nico Hulkenberg and Paul Di Resta.

But with Pastor Maldonado, Heikki Kovalinen, Nico Hulkenberg, Felipe Massa, Paul Di Resta, Adrain Sutil, Valterri Bottas, Charles Pic, Giedo Van Der Garde, Max Chilton, Esteban Guiterrez and a long list of others looking to finalise spots there are very few opportunities for drivers to move up to the category. The best hope for these rookies is to grab a testing role, which could be more useful than years gone by with in addition to the pre-season tests there will be 4 lots of two day tests after European Grand Prix’s alongside an expanded FP1 with extra tyres in the first 30 minutes which could see teams running rookie or test drivers each weekend. However with the huge price hike in engines next season the pay driver factor is coming into play with Sergy Sirotkin being considered at Sauber (either this year or next year) and expect teams at the rear of the grid to find drivers who bring lots of money to go testing for the team. Pastor Maldonado has a rumoured 14 Million from PVDSA and Felipe Massa has secured money from Petrobras to drive next season. Max Chilton is also being looked at for Force India as he provides sizeable backing from Aon, Guiterrez has some Telmex backing and Sutil, Pic and Van De Garde all provide sponsors. There is a lot of talent and a lot of money for not many seats – if we exclude McLaren and Lotus it leaves Sauber, Force India, Williams (who want to continue with Bottas), Caterham and one seat at Marussia.