Gene Haas Ferrari Feeling

In the build up to Monza all eyes usually start to look at the following season with many agents using the last weekend in Europe and the modern showcase event in Singapore to do their deals along with their commercial partners. (Which I have to say these two events next to each other demonstrate some lovely symmetry of the history and modernism of F1).

But all the sounds coming from the PR men have been regarding 2016 not 2015 and the arrival of Gene Haas’ new American based F1 entry. Firstly there has been the confirmation that the team will use the name “Haas F1 Team” and have launched their official website. Secondly and more importantly has been the announcement that the team will run the full Ferrari power unit in a multi-year commercial deal. America is a hugely important market for Ferrari and the two teams commercial interest have little overlap outside of racing so the tie up has long been expected.

Surprisingly (or not as the case may be) there has been little heard from Forza Rosa the new Romanian team that had been accepted onto the grid for 2015! Colin Kolles was meant to be heading up the team but he’s currently knee deep in tearing up Caterham. One can image the Caterham team merging with Forza Rosa but if they are serious about making the grid for next season a power plant deal needs to be sorted imminently and with no races in Europe left one can’t see any other perfect PR opportunities to go and make some noise.

Finally despite the press releases and bravado from Honda, the engine which will power McLaren next year is late. A full systems test was meant to be carried out with the engine running on a dyno by the end of the month but the time for the check has come and gone and there are growing concerns out of Woking about the state of the engine. The delay will impact performance more than reliability and all things point to another quiet season for Ron and his boys. A final interesting side note, for everyone who thought there was a rabid pack of Honda engineers waiting for the Mercedes engine to arrive at Woking to dissect it, they may have been waiting some time! Mercedes only provided McLaren a block shape for development and don’t allow them to keep the engines, they are brought to every race and installed by Mercedes engineers from Brixworth (The engine factory). So the closest that engine got the MTC in McLaren hands was Silverstone!!!!

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The F1 Rookies of 2014

With Formula 1 having its largest rule shake up in decades we expected many of the teams to retain their drivers for this season, however the silly season produced a game of musical chairs that left only Mercedes and Marussia with the same drivers as in 2013. The movement was prompted by the retirement of Mark Webber and Ferrari finally losing patience with Felipe Massa and hiring Raikkonen from cash strapped Lotus to try and improve their constructors standing. That said there are still 3 fresh new faces to follow this year over the 19 race calendar:

Kevin Magnussen

Kevin Magnussen the 2012 Formula Renault 3.5 series champion replaces Sergio Perez at McLaren to be the first rookie at McLaren since a certain Hamilton quietly joined in 2008. The Dane is the son of former F1 driver Jan Magnussen and has looked like he could certainly improve on his father’s career tally of 1 point. In testing the youngster has impressed many watching by jumping in the car and getting on with it, he could well prove to be a World Champion but its early days and the pressure is most certainly off.

However he has build a solid junior career and been with McLaren for a few years in their junior programme. He battled hard with fellow McLaren driver Stoffel Vandoorne (who finished 2nd and will race in GP2 this year) and Red Bull youngester Antonio Felix Da Costa (3rd) to claim the championship and has been richly rewarded. There were strong rumours that McLaren had tried to place him in a smaller team for this season but failed to find him a drive leading to them to dispose of Sergio Perez after a year and go for the young Dane in the main team. He will need to prove himself and quick to make sure he stays at Woking.

Daniil Kyvat

Many eyebrows (and spell checkers) were raised when Toro Rosso announced that Russian GP3 driver Daniil Kyvat would be joining the Red Bull junior team to replace the recently promoted Daniel Ricciardo. He was chosen over Antonio Felix Da Costa who was loosing his battle to beat the McLaren young drivers in Formula Renault 3.5 and Carlos Sainz Jr who was also racing in GP3. Both men had more experience but the decision may yet be vindicated as after his signing the Russian 19 year old romped home to the GP3 title in his rookie year taking pole, win and fastest lap in the last two feature races of the year and followed it up with solid drives in F1 tests/practices.

The more you look into the Russian you realise that he is a super talent and stands to do better than any of his country men before him in the premier class of motorsport but will he fall foul of the Red Bull curse? While the Red Bull young drivers program is a shining example of what to do to bring on young drivers the real question has always been is it the time to do it? The 19 year old has only had 4 seasons of open wheel racing under his belt none of which has been in a category that people consider to be the rung below F1 (E.G. GP2 or FR 3.5).

There’s great potential but I wonder if it will be a bit too much of an ask for him to jump from GP3 straight to F1, while Valterri Bottas did it he was nurtured by Williams with plenty of test outings. Kvyatt had just got his super license by Brazil last year.

Marcus Ericsson

Caterham is host to the final rookie of 2014, 23 year old Swedish driver Marcus Ericsson who was spotted when racing karts at 9 years old. The Swede wasn’t on any ones radar until Brazil when it popped up that he was talking to Caterham that weekend in the paddock. Ericsson has had average GP2 results with 2 feature wins (Germany 2013 & Belgium 2012) along with a sprint victory (Valencia 2010). His championship standings over the past 4 years show a steady improvement – 17th, 10th, 8th and 6th suggesting he possibly reached GP2 a little too early in his career. However a feature win in Spa aside there is very little to pick Ericsson out from the crowd so one would have to assume (and Caterham have alluded to it) that he brings with him a decent wad of cash.

He’s up against another driver who didn’t have a fantastic GP2 career in Kamui Kobayashi (Although he did win the 08/09 GP2 Asia Series), however the Japanese racer has shown that he has what it takes to overtake in F1 and is a strong fan favourite who has won his place on the grid through gutsy performances after Toyota pulled out leaving him without backing in 2010.

Unfortunately we’ve seen far too much of this driver selection over the past few years in F1, drivers with middling GP2 results but large wallets snapped up by teams to help fund them (and its always been so but just very so over the past few years). But at least this season Caterham have paired him with an established and popular name on the grid – hurrah!

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.

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.

It’s Not Ugly!!!

Today at Woking, McLaren took the wraps off their 2012 car and to the relief of many fans around the world the car is actually a bit of a looker!

After Ferrari stated that their car is not very pretty and the duck billed Caterham, it was looking like a season not to be watching in HD.

For fans of the British squad let’s hope it’s fast and runs well out of the box after last years testing debacle.

We’re pretty sure that’s a 2011 front wing and the exhausts will be moved but it doesn’t look revolutionary more evolutionary.

Weekend reflections

Well what a race weekend we had Ferrari seemed really back on form and it looks like Alonso could of won without the unusual slip up in the pits from Red Bull who finished 2nd and 3rd. Although once again in Silverstone team favouritism at Red Bull reared its ugly head with Webber being told not to overtake Vettel in the closing stages. However the Austrialian has publically stated he ignored the request and went for the overtake, which makes one wonder how long he will be racing for the bull. This has smacks of Austria 2002 about it where Ferrari ordered Reubens to allow Michael Schumacher through despite his huge points gap.

Last year Ferrari allowed Alonso through in a similar manner, which despite being illegal (which this was not) set the Championship alive as Alonso was really struggling for points and Massa was effectivly out of the Championship.

It was a torrid weekend for McLaren at their home race, the British team probably enjoy the largest home support with their all British, all Word Champion driver line up. Lewis battled to 4th place (to the line) while the wheels literally came off for Jenson.

Paul di Resta had an immense qualifying underlining his talent, but another mix up in the pits underlined a bad day for the home team.

Roll on Deustchland.