Season In Review – Caterham – New Lows

We start off the traditional end of season look with the last placed team – Caterham.

File:F1 2013 Barcelona test 2 - Caterham.jpg

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.

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5th Place Fight the Only Race Left this Season?

Sorry for the lack of posting recently but life has been rather busy and i’ve been away from internet conenctions recently. But Sebastian Vettel has moved within one point of the World Championship which should see him pick up the gong in Japan in two weeks time. Moto GP could also be nailed up next weekend by Casey Stoner.

Looking at the Constructors Red Bull are a shoe-in along with McLaren now having secured 2nd place as Ferrari have fallen off the back of them into third. Mercedes haven’t really troubled the top teams (with the exception of Nico Rosberg’s Spa charge) but now seem secure in 4th place as Renault have fallen off the pace.

Therefore looking at the table Renault are under real pressure from Force India (who took thier best result of the season) and Sauber:

1 RBR-Renault 491
2 McLaren-Mercedes 353
3 Ferrari 268
4 Mercedes 114
5 Renault 70
6 Force India-Mercedes 48
7 Sauber-Ferrari 36
8 STR-Ferrari 29
9 Williams-Cosworth 5
10 Lotus-Renault 0
11 HRT-Cosworth 0
12 Virgin-Cosworth 0

(Formula1.com)

Renault are only 22 points in front of Force India who have out scored them by more than that over the last 5 races.

1 RBR-Renault 491
2 McLaren-Mercedes 353
3 Ferrari 268
4 Mercedes 114
5 Renault 70
6 Force India-Mercedes 48
7 Sauber-Ferrari 36
8 STR-Ferrari 29
9 Williams-Cosworth 5
10 Lotus-Renault 0
11 HRT-Cosworth 0
12 Virgin-Cosworth 0

Whos Got The Money Leading Into Monza

Most of the news and rumours recently have been team related and their ownership. First up the Team Lotus Renault / Lotus Renault saga could finally be at an end with Tony Fernandes getting a chunk of Malaysia’s national air carrier and will concentrate it on the upper end of the market leaving his Air Asia brand to compete in the budget sector. This deal however is said to include him handing over the Team Lotus rights, which it makes very little sense for Fernandes to continue with. Group Lotus the car company need the heritage to promote their cars, the Lotus brand is great in F1 but it’s not the real Team Lotus after all.

However Fernandes is going to call his F1 team Team Caterham which has a nice synergy to it as Caterham cars came from Lotus originally and the F1 enthusiast market is the exact sector the small performance company aims at. This will leave the Renault team to re-name their chassis Lotus and still confuse everyone how Lotus shot up to the front of the grid. This has all been apparent for a while since the Team Lotus cars feature massive Caterham branding on their side and practically no Lotus branding what so ever.

Scuderia Torro Rosso have recived substantial investment from the UAE (you may have seen nova chemicals on their which they own part of) and their spanish owned oil arm will emblazen the cars this year. There has been conflicting reports about the team being bought out and becoming Team UAE with a development base at the Abu Dhabi Yas Marina island circuit. But the team are in the process of moving into an expensive new facility in Italy complete with wind tunnel and have made no hints that the team will be renamed. But if the team has been sold it does explain why Red Bull went looking for another development seat at HRT for Ricciardo rather than using their own development team.

HRT have been very quiet since being bought out by Thesan Capital other than dropping the Hispania tag for the rest of the year. I really hope they rename themselves to something other than Hormone Replacement Therapy because its a hilariously unfortunate name for a racing team in the English-speaking world. I’d expect the team to move to a permanent base in Spain (at least announce a move) and probably rename the team in the close season, but I reckon they’d do well to hold onto their driver line-up for next year if the funds are there. Furthermore they may need to find a new technical partner as Williams are moving to Renault power from next year but they may be able to use the Williams 2011 rear end package until the 2014 engine switch.

Marussia Virgin (who are possibly another team looking to re-brand the chassis) are introducing a large update this weekend at Monza which will be the first overseen in part by Pat Symonds. Its a comprehensive update for the team who have had little development since the team split with Nick Wirth due to poor results. Initially the update was discarded but once Symonds became familiar with the car and CFD it has been updated and produced. “It is engine cover, sidepods, exhaust, and rear floor. Obviously there will be a Monza wing as well, but this bodywork package will be on for the rest of the year. It will pull the whole back of the car in much tighter. ” – John Booth, Team Principle

Williams continue their slide into obscurity with the rumour that they are weighing up taking on a second pay driver instead of experienced Reubens Barrichello next season. And their number 2 paying driver has been going so well this year……

 

Next season there are very few seats available as Sauber, Team Lotus, Ferrari, Red Bull, McLaren and Merecedes are all expected to keep their driver line-ups intact. But the 10 big names looking for a drive next year are:

  1. Nico Hulkenberg – He should get a drive if there is a god but a lack of sponsorship from a German heavy grid could hold him back
  2. Romain Grosjean – Destroyed GP2 this year and has now won everything in the junior categories, he has attoned well for his failed attempt back in 2009
  3. Bruno Senna – Doing the same as Romain and sitting in for the second half of the season at Renault. However he already has 1 season under his belt and has secured a lot of Brazilian Reals to support his drive. So far so good after one weekend behind the wheel too
  4. Karun Chandok – The other doomed HRT driver has had one trip out in the Team Lotus car this year, which was a disaster. We expect to see him in India for the race but he better put in a better performance than last time.
  5. Giedo Van de Garde – A distant second to Grosjean but likely to take another season in GP2 with the reserve spot at Sauber held down
  6. Jules Bianchi – The Ferrari development driver hasn’t shone as much as the Scuderia would of probably liked. Has a face off with Sergio Perez soon in a 2009 Ferrari.
  7. Charles Pic – An abundance of Frenchmen this year on the grid and a decent campaign from Pic should put him in the spot for at least some form of reserve roll next year.
  8. Nick Heidfeld – Probably has had too many chances and there are rumours that his development work does not suit most other drivers. But if someone needs experience theres few others to turn to
  9. Esteban Gutiérrez – Pick of the rookies in GP2 this year with a win in Valencia, one for the Future one would assume
  10. Sam Bird – Mercedes supported Britian has a battle on his hands with so many top pilots queing up for the Silver Arrows

So far so good? So What? (Welcome back)

So after a little summer break the world of racing is getting going again with Moto GP kicking back into life with a great race yesterday at Brno, with Stoner winning and Simoncelli finally reaching the podium. It seems the cavalier Italian is calming down and learning when to attack and when to hold back – he could be a real threat next year if Honda provide him with the full fire breating 1000cc bike from the get go as all riders will be reset slightly. Rossi had a better weekend on the Ducati dueling with Spies most of the race, however Nicky Hayden wasn’t miles behind so it remains to be seen how much improvement has really been made. Today is the test for next years 1000cc bikes with no word yet from Suzuki if they will enter a challenger at all after only racing one bike this year.

As for F1 nothing much has been going on as everyone is away on holiday during the enforced shut down so I thought it was time for the inevitable mid-term report. Which we will look at in a reverse Constructors Championship order, for those of you that wonder why sometimes we talk so much about the Constructors table is because it is what decides the teams prize money.

12. Marussia Virgin Racing – Cosworth (0)

The newly cristened Russian team (aka Manor racing from Sheffield) haven’t had the second season they’d been dreaming of, once again finding themselves at the bottom of the standings. The team however have some things to look forward to with the all CFD approach being binned and Pat Symmonds coming on board to lead the technical team. All of this was enough to keep Timo Glock on their books for a few more years. In the other car Jerome D’Ambrosio hasn’t made an impression at all, regulary getting beaten by the HRT’s and his team mate it could be another partner for Timo next year.

11. HRT-Cosworth (0)

HRT are having a funny year, after a shambolic start to the season (again) the car rolled off the blocks properly at the second race of the year where….. it actually wasn’t too bad and the team have managed to find themselves above Virgin racing (perhaps more on merit this year than last) with a decent technical team in place this time and new owners who seem to have a little more knowledge about what to do (providing some of those driver swaps prove false) we could see the team improve further next year with a properly designed car. The driver pairing the team has sort of lucked into by this point of the season could be the reason the team could nick something out of this year.

10. Team Lotus – Renault (0)

At the start of this year if you offered Tony Fernandes 4 points off Williams he would of bitten your hand off for it, however not like this. With so much promise this year with a new engine and world championship winning gearbox we really expected more from Team Lotus, but signs are good with yet more money from General Electric and some really solid backing and great drivers they really seem stable. The team have had to work hard to re-invent their power steering after Trulli found it far too dull to drive. An odd outing for Karun in Germany has been the only slight eyebrow raising moment, with Hekki placing the car in Q2 a few times but still no points.

9. Williams – Cosworth (4)

Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear. It really has been a torrid year for the Grove team, their worst ever start to the season and still a paltry 4 points at the halfway stage. Their have been casualties with Sam Michael and some of the other technical team heads rolling. Mike Coughlan (yes the one of the Ferrari esponiage fame) is designing next years car with a return to Renault power, with Michael seeing out the season. The drivers however have been a pleasant surprise with Maldonado really being on the pace (cruely robbed of points by dicing with Hamilton late on – although he did turn in on him)  when many expected him to be another pay driver.

8. Scuderia Torro Rosso – Ferrari (22)

On the face of it STR are again sitting down the bottom of the table in 8th place, however both drivers have really been on their game recently (at least in the race) and a really tight battle in the midfield for 6th place in the championship. They really just have a headache now of 3 drivers who could really be deserving of a place next year.

7. Force India – Mercedes (26)

The team have had a shakey ish start but have just started to really unlock some speed in their car just in time for their traditional stomping ground of Spa & Monza. Both drivers really now seem on it with Sutil back up to speed in qualifying and Paul smoothing out his style and recording some great results. Sauber will be looking behind them more than ahead….

6. Sauber – Ferrari (35)

A great year for Sauber after a torrid first half last year. Mostly due to its race pace and looking after its tires rather than outright speed the team from Hinwill have been quietly collecting points with their young line up of Kobayashi & Perez, both of whom are staying for next year. It wouldn’t be too far fetched to see one of them in a Ferrari in 2013 to make way for Jules Bianchi. The do have to fend off renewed challenge from Force India in the second half of the season to hold onto a lot of cash for next year.

5. Renault (66)

Renault or erm Lotus Renault or erm Lotus Genii Capital – Renault or whoever the hell owns them have had an odd season. After loosing Robert Kubica to a rally accident per-season “Quick Nick” Heidfeld was drafted in to partner Vitaly Petrov who opened his campaign with a podium, and Nick quickly responded with his own the next race. Since then the team has slowly tailed off with a steady stream of staff leaving through the door marked “exit”. They’ve really started to fall back off Mercedes and the cars catch fire – never a good sign. Wobbly.

4. Mercedes (80)

A team with a lot of attention and not so much in the way of results. Again the German national team haven’t impressed although they’ve slowly improved and really seem to have the measure of Renault (ie Lotus Genii Capital – Reanult or whatever – GAH!) but are a long way off the top 3. Schumacher has had some improved performances but it remains to be seen how good Nico Rosberg is or how much the old Meister’s talents have faded.

3. Ferrari (215)

Looking at the points gap between 3rd and 4th place you can see how far ahead the big 3 are. Ferrari had a bit of a false start with a wind tunnel issue (the team went from 50% to 60% models in the Maranello wind tunnel), but with Pat Fry in for Alberto Costa the Prancing Horse has been galloping once again. Fernando hasn’t been off the podium in the last 4 races and with a ever improving car looks dangerous for the rest of the season, but he is going to need all the help he can get to beat Vettel. Massa on the other hand has been really off the pace this year and it would be madness to put him in a seat next year…

2. McLaren –  Mercedes (280)

Well McLaren have done it again in record time. By that I mean produce a dire car and then fix it, there has been one consistant challenger to the mighty bull this year and its been the Brits. Fielding their British all star team again, one driver is always there or there abouts. Not too bad but they really really need to get on the pace at the start of the year.

1. Red Bull – Renault (383)

A dominant campaign from Red Bull with Sebastian Vettel all but having the season sown up and the constructors won. Mark Webber has floundered to the point of people questioning his seat, he’s failed to win in the fastest car and now the others have caught up its only going to get harder. A few wins for Mark in the back half of the season should see everyone in the team happy, happy days right?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Newey admits worries ahead of tasty British Grand Prix

This weekend sees the F1 circus return home to were it all began in 1950 to Silverstone, home of the first ever World Championship race. This weekend see’s the off-throttle ban of the blown diffusers essentially neutralising their benefit. Red Bull design guru Adrian Newey has admitted to the BBC he is baffled that the ban has suddenly come in and he is worried as Red Bull designed their car around the exhaust design.

Teams like Merecedes and McLaren have had different non-blown exhaust designs on their car already this year and could see an increase in pace this race as they know how to set up their cars. The biggest issue facing the teams will be the weather along with the change in rules. The weather over Britain this weekend is expected to be very poor, with Scotland having some extreme weather warnings.

HRT all loaned out as Virgin reach out to McLaren

Its this time of year when plans for next seasons car’s and technical partnerships happen. Rumours are abound that HRT has been bought out by the bank that loaned the Cabrante’s the money in the first place.

Secondly Virgin have announced a technical partnership with McLaren (a la Force India) to give them wind tunnel and simulator time. Furthermore the team have bought out Wirth research so remain for now in the same place as before.

Silly season continues in full swing

Its hard to know whether driver rumours are their own agents trying to bump up their price or teams staking an interest. Planet F1 are claiming that Ferrari are interested in securing Jenson Button to race for the scuderia next year. Its a double edged sword as driving for Ferrari would be another great thing to achieve but at the same time Alonso is number 1 in that team. He has capably taken on Lewis Hamilton at McLaren so far and he has been the only team mate of Alonso to really trouble him.

The point is a bit moot as McLaren have an option on Jenson for another year and recently Ferrari were keen to state that Massa has another year on contract. I think this year will see some driver movement at the top table, after Ferrari, Red Bull, McLaren, Merecedes and Renault have all kept the same drivers (despite Kubica’s injury replacement but we expect him to return to his seat at somepoint). Massa and Webber are the two drivers in top seats under pressure, Schumachers recent upswing in form has resulted in contract extension rumours and Rosberg is doing a sterling job. I think Renault are pretty happy with Petrov, he brings a lot of exposure and money to the team and is maturing. The remaining 4 are genuine title contenders but Ferrari really need a better partner for alonso for the constructors places, which is how the teams make their money.

Further down the field I expect to see less changes than last year, although I reckon someone will sign Nico Hulkenberg. But since the sport has been left by many manufactuers and the end of the Tobbacco era (with the exception of Ferrari continuing their sponsorship with phillip morris until 2014) many teams are having to sign drivers with financial backing, Hulkenberg has bags of talent but is short on cash. Although if Di Resta beats Sutil but doesn’t move to Merecedes (he’s being lined up to replace grandaddy Schumacher at some point) it’d be hard to see how the team could resist fielding that line up next year.

The other shaker is possibly Daniel Riccardo, the man whos been running in FP1 for Torro Rosso this year and could find himself promoted with a strong showing from the Aussie driver.

Let me know about your thoughts about the 2012 driver line-up.