Haas and Dallara

The FIA has confirmed that three teams have submitted applications to be considered for entry in 2015, once again allowing existing teams one year of running before new entrants are allowed in – a la 2010.

Eternal optimists Stefan GP have entered again alongside an entry from ex-HRT boss Colin Kolles with Romanian backing. However the biggest surprise was the application of the Haas racing team, a serious US racer who runs Stewart-Haas and is apparently looking to create a proper state side F1 entry. This is no USF1.

Haas already own a F1 standard wind tunnel which is often rented out by teams to assist them in development and apparently will use Dallara to build a chassis for use with Ferrari engines. There has been some derision of Dallara after their dressing down from HRT – who were cronically under-funded, developed etc. and tried to portion the blame on the Italian company. First off Dallara is a great starting point if only used for construction as they currently make the chassis for Indy Car, Indy Lights, GP2, GP3 and World Series – their previous F1 trips have been relatively decent aside from HRT. There is no word on funding but its a serious entry from a serious racing guy.

Kolles is surely the second best option on the list as Stefan GP has had a series of dubious failed bids to enter the sport which have not endeared him to the FIA, CVC or fans. There is theoretically another two places up for grabs with the maximum number of teams currently set at 13 and after the demise of HRT 2013 saw only 11 squads take to the track.

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The Unlikley Lads Part-1

With the racing season back on after the summer breaks we have finally woken up with a thrilling Silverstone Moto GP race at the weekend with Jorge Lorenzo holding off the ever impressive Marc Marquez. After F1 returned with a rather dull race at Spa (for about the first time ever right?) we have to be left wondering if the current crop of rules create good racing at awful tracks. Moto GP also returned on the same weekend and offered a rather samey affair (Qualifying aside) at Brno in the Czech Republic.

With the least surprising news of the summer announced overnight that Daniel Ricciardo is going to move up to the full Red Bull team next year replacing countryman Mark Webber we are starting a new feature on the blog taking a look at the less likely F1 drivers over time.

This week we start with the most recent member of the Unlikely Lads – Narain Karthikeyan

Narain Karthikeyan – India – 48 Races (46 Starts) – 5 points – 2005, 2011 – 2012

In 2005 Jordan Grand Prix was sold to the Midland Group, although the team retained the name – something that doesn’t happen these days and subsequently teams towards the back constantly loose brand power – with an engine deal in place with Toyota the new team owners set about finding drivers for their first season in charge. How they came to conclude that their main driver should be Indian rookie Narain will be puzzling scientists until the end the of time. The Indian charger had come off the back of 3 seasons in world series, the last season saw Narain take two wins but languish in 6th place overall, while Heikki Kovalainen romped home in front of Narain’s team mate for 2005, Tiago Monterio. Thus the decision to announce him as lead driver surely had something to do with that Tata cash that came along with him, although sense possibly prevailed and Tiago got handed the lead car number for the season.

An average junior career but he was at the back of the pack that moved up the ladder to F1/Le Mans thus he was arguably worth a shot. He was beaten in a poor car by his team mate as the pair brought home Jordan to 9th (out of 10) in the constructors championship. This was achieved largely by the farcical 2005 US Grand Prix where issues with the tyres lead to only 6 cars taking to the grid allowing Narain to take his only World Championship points with a 4th. His rookie team mate managed a podium and also managed to squeak a point in the Belgium Grand Prix, but the overall battle was relatively even although Tiago started to look a better driver towards the back end of the season.

The following year the team re-branded as Midland / Spyker F1 and dropped Karthikeyan while retaining his team mate. He signed a testing deal with Williams for 2006/7 but Tata withdrew support leaving him very little track time, thus he spent 3 uninspiring years trundling round the back in A1 Grand Prix for Team India. Now normally this is where the story would end, notched up in the history books as the best candidate thus far from India to have been placed in a F1 car and a spirited if average showing. Narain’s career then tread a familiar path with outings in Superleague Formula alongside a failed Nascar Trucks season. However in 2009 a decent showing at LeMans, finishing 7th for Colin Kolles would lead to one of the most surprising comebacks in F1 history.

The Flying Indian Returns

Forget Mansell or Schumacher the most surprising return of any driver in the past 20 odd years happened in 2011 when HRT replaced Karun Chandok (also from India) with Narain. 5 years after his rookie season Karthikeyan was back on the grid in a move that no-one saw coming. In fact veteran commentator Martin Brundel was left speechless in pre-season shows about the choice, but he brought the cash strapped team some much needed funds from old partners in crime Tata and would allow the team to run Vitantonio Luizzi in the other car, who promptly thrashed him which was a surprise to no-one. But then again the team had no pre-seaon running at all (a constant theme over the 3 years at HRT) and Luizzi had come from Force India and was battle fresh. However by round 9 patience (or cash) had run out and the team accepted a loan deal to place Daniel Ricciardo in the car for the rest of the season. The single reprieve was the inaugural Indian Grand Prix where Luizzi’s car was handed to Narain to drive around at the back.

Now once again this half season showing would of been filed in the history books as an oddity but……

In 2011 HRT took the madness one step further and announced Narain Karthikeyan would return to drive for them alongside vetran test driver Pedro De La Rosa (who had spent the previous 2 years racing off and on for Sauber). This gave the team a combined driver age of 76! Despite the new technical infrastructure and chest beating the team failed to qualify within the 107% rule and were excluded from the first race of the year. Another year fighting for a coveted 13th place ensued, Narain managed to keep it out of the barriers at Monaco and finish 15th and last of the runners to finish ahead of De La Rosa in the standings. However the general mood in the paddock was that the 41 year old Spaniard had the measure of the Indian all year.

HRT folded over the winter leaving Narain without a driver but thanks to modern reliability the record holder of the lowest place F1 finish, twice, a 23rd and a 24th place.

Return to the lower ladders

Bizarrely (or possibly not in the case of one of the strangest careers ever in F1) without a driver for 2013 Narain could of followed the standard path for a F1 exile:

  1. Become a Test/Simulator driver for a F1 team
  2. Go to race in the LeMans series
  3. Go to race in GT cars
  4. Go to race in the DTM
  5. Go to race in Indy Cars in America

These 5 options have been the standard respected career moves post F1, however these weren’t for Narain. No sir. With no single seater rival series such as A1 or Superleague he chose…..Auto GP.

Auto GP – formerly Euroseries 3000. 7 of the drivers are under 21 and eligible for the young drivers trophy. Regarded as a step below both GP2 and World Series its an incredible fall from the glitz and glamour of F1.

But then its a truly fitting footnote to one very strange motor racing career. See you in 2015 Narain?


You never know!

Teams gear up for Europe while HRT collect stickers

This weekend sees the start of the traditional main European season which will see the teams visit the classic tracks of Monaco, Silverstone, Spa and Monza. There are only 8 European races (split by the trip to Canada and the modern Summer break) this year a vast change from 10 years ago when 11 of the 17 races were in Europe. The first race will be at the Circuit de Catalyuna which is a highly technical circuit that many think will sort out the correct order of the grid and usually features a Noah’s ark qualifying (All the teams in order). However last year it was a great race thanks to Pirelli whereas in previous years its been quite processional as its so aerodynamically dependant – hence why the teams use it for Pre-season testing.

HRT missed the mid-season test in Mugello to move to their new base in Madrid which I was a little sceptical of, however the new factilty does look good and was visted by Jean Todt. Furthermore the team have announced two new sponsorships with olive oil producer Carbonell and windscreen replacement company Cristalbox. This is good news for the team as cars have been looking increasingly unbranded down towards the back of the grid. The spanish team will bring an update for their home Grand Prix this weekend along with running GP2 driver Dani Clos in FP1.

McLaren are also going to be running their new higher nose (dont worry theres still no step) at the 5th race of the season at Barcelona. We expect to see all teams with a large amount of new parts for this race.

Just as I’ve said that

In the few hours that have passed since my previous post HRT and Ferrari have outlined their plans for next weeks 3 day test at the Mugello circuit and they fit in perfectly with the stereotypes associated with the teams.

Ferrari will run Fernando Alonso for 2 days leaving the struggling Massa a single day in the middle.

HRT will skip the test completly as they will not have any new parts until the Spanish Grand Prix and are concentrating on moving their headquaters to Madrid. It is baffeling how the team would have any upgrades as the car was designed by the previous design team that were based in Germany. The team for the 3rd year in a row missed pre-season testing all together and highlights a lack of finance more than anything as it would be useful seat time for 3rd driver Luizzi to give feedback on the car alongside Pedro De La Rosa.

HRT on the move while Ferrari Struggle?

HRT have confirmed they are moving not to Valencia but to Madrid and will be moving operations there before the start of the European season. It is another odd choice for HRT that are currently having their cars designed and built in Germany to move to Spain where there is very little infastructure for motorsport there. Most of the teams are based in “Motor Sport Valley” in the South East of England (M4 Corridoor) or in Northern Italy/Switzerland around Ferrari and Sauber.

Felipe Massa has made noises that the Scuderia are struggling out of the box this year with their ugly duckling of a car. The car is a radical departure from last years car and of course it could all be smoke and mirrors. But we haven’t seen the usual glut of laps of Ferrari so far, last year they covered more mileage then an entire season in the tests (although there were 4 pre-season tests rather than the 3 pre-season and 1 mid-season test this year)