Half Term Report: Ferrari

The quest for success continues for Ferrari and unfortunately for the Scuderia this season shows no sign of giving them anything to shout about, the F14T is fundamentally not the best car that has came out of Maranello though in the hands of Fernando Alonso it has shown some promise, the team may have entered the season with arguably the strongest driver pairing but Raikkonen has struggled, not only that but there have been changes within the team with Stefano Domenicali replaced by Marco Mattiaci as team principal, it is a tough year for the prancing horse but their main goal now is most likely to finish in the top three in the constructors.

Fernando Alonso
4th place – 115 points
2 podiums – China, Hungary

Fernando Alonso has once again shown that he is arguably the most complete driver on the grid with his performances this year, he is also the only driver to score points at every race so far in 2014, he is known for getting the absolute maximum from any car he drives and he has done just that on his way to the brace of podiums he has earned, came very close to winning in Hungary but had to settle for second, the goal for Alonso in the second half of the season is to continue what he is doing, to fight with the Red Bull and Williams drivers.

Rating: 9/10

Kimi Raikkonen
12th place – 27 points
Best finish – 6th – Hungary

When the deal was confirmed that Kimi Raikkonen would rejoin Ferrari from Lotus, the F1 world looked forward to what could have been a fascinating battle between the Finn and Fernando Alonso, but unfortunately for Raikkonen, it has been a long and difficult struggle, it isn’t helped by the fact Alonso is outperforming the car but to put it simply, Kimi hasn’t done well enough, 27 points for a Ferrari driver in a half-season is not good enough, hopefully we can see a big improvement during the second half of the season or his seat will come under pressure for 2015.

Rating: 4/10

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Hungarian GP: Driver of the Day

Was Lewis Hamilton right to disobey Mercedes orders?

During the Hungarian GP today, Lewis Hamilton was instructed over the team radio to allow his team-mate Nico Rosberg past him, the instruction was repeated a number of times but the British driver did not obey the order and remained ahead of the championship leader, Hamilton would finish 3rd with Rosberg just behind him.

At the end of lap 46 of the Grand Prix, Hamilton was told by engineer Pete Bonnigton that Rosberg was “on the option tyre, he has one more stop so don’t hold him up”

On lap 48, Hamilton said that he “couldn’t imagine these tyres lasting another 20 laps” which basically meant that if he was to pit again then he would be fighting Rosberg for on track position.

On lap 51, Rosberg asked on team radio “why is he not letting me through?” almost immediately after this, Hamilton was given the instruction to “let Nico past this lap, on the main start/finish straight” but with Rosberg around a second behind, if he was to do this then he would lose time in his chase of Ricciardo and Alonso.

Hamilton responded to the order by saying “I’m not slowing down for Nico, get close and then he can overtake me”

Rosberg didn’t get close and went into the pit, he would come out and closed on Hamilton again but couldn’t force his way through despite a late attempt in turns 2 and 3 which Hamilton forced Rosberg to the edge of the track with no way past.

I can fully understand why Mercedes would want to get Rosberg ahead of a Hamilton from a constructors point of view, they could have been looking at a double podium finish as supposed to P3 and P4 meaning they could have had 6 more points, so from the Mercedes perspective it would make sense to give the order.

However, the facts are that Mercedes are a long way clear of nearest challengers Red Bull, they have the fastest car and they will win the constructors championship with ease, the drivers championship is between their two drivers, so why give a team order that could have such a big impact on the drivers championship, if Hamilton had of obeyed the order, he would probably be leaving the Hungaroring with a 17 point disadvantage compared to what is now an 11 point gap.

Also, I would say that for Hamilton to let his championship rival through willingly would show weakness on his part and it would be something that could play on his mind throughout the summer break, by remaining ahead he showed mental strength that he will not be ordered and this ultimately could end up being a crucial factor in the title tussle.

I doubt that this will carry on into Belgium in a months time, Mercedes handled the controversy at Monaco in a proper fashion and I would expect them to do the same here, for them they will hope that briefings and internal discussions can sort out any potential problems or misunderstandings that this has caused.

It will be interesting to see at the end of the season whether this has made a difference in the outcome of the world championship, if the title is won by six points or less then we can say that the events in Hungary were crucial to the final standings.

It has echoes of the Multi-21 incident in Malaysia in 2012 where Sebastian Vettel ignored team orders to pass Mark Webber and win the race, of course in that occasion it was an order discussed before the race that Vettel disobeyed, as supposed to a strategy meaning that it would be beneficial to give a car clear air as it was today.

I see it that Lewis Hamilton was perfectly entitled to do what he did today in the same way that Vettel was back in Kuala Lumpar, at the end of the day, Formula 1 is about close racing and pure racing, it may be a team sport but for me it is a better sport when the drivers are pushing each other to the limit with no orders or instructions involved.

Half Term Report: Red Bull

After the disaster that was winter testing, the world champion team have had an incredible recovery, the RB10 that could barely do a race distance around Bahrain or Jerez in the pre season, now they sit 2nd in the constructors with two wins to their name.

They have been dogged by unreliability with the Renault power unit especially with Sebastian Vettel, but for his new teammate Daniel Ricciardo it has been a dream start to his Red Bull career with victories in Canada and Hungary.

The announcement regarding Adrian Newey means that they may also need to look for some new technical genius from next year and the work to replace Newey must start soon.

It must be considered that realistically there is no chance of Red Bull winning the championship, so they should turn their attention to holding onto 2nd place and keeping at bay the challenge that will come likely from Williams.

Daniel Ricciardo
3rd place – 131 points
5 podiums – Spain, Monaco, Canada, Britain, Hungary
2 wins – Canada, Hungary

Daniel Ricciardo came into Red Bull very much the underdog in the team led by four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel, but the young Australian has proved a massive success so far and has made Vettel look poor at times this season, only halfway through the season but he is making a big impression and many consider him to be a future world champion himself, has two wins to his name, the victories at Canada and Hungary were both due to late charges, he has only led about half a dozen laps this year though he also has shown great pace on a Saturday as well as race-craft to match, he looks good to be best of the rest behind the Mercedes duo.

Rating: 9/10

Sebastian Vettel
6th place – 88 points
2 podiums – Malaysia, Canada

It can certainly be argued that 2014 is the worst season Sebastian Vettel has had to endure as a Red Bull driver since his move to the team in 2009, though he has nothing to prove as a four-time world champion, he has shown glimpses of his best but not enough to match his new teammate, will need a big step up in the second half of the season if he is to beat Ricciardo though his record in the second half of seasons gone by would suggest he can close the gap, whilst he has been simply slower than his team-mate on a number of occasions, he has also had to deal with unreliability from his Renault powered RB10.

Rating: 6/10

 

Half Term Report: Mercedes

So far this year, Mercedes have been far and away the fastest team and have practically got the constructors title wrapped up already, the battle between drivers Rosberg and Hamilton continues but as far as the team is concerned, it can be considered quite an incredible first half of the season with podiums in every race and a massive gap to Red Bull in the standings.

They have had a few issues so far, poor pit stops and unreliability being the main ones that they should hope to improve, but that being said they are probably too far ahead for it to be a major concern, so other than that it has been domination from the German team.

They have done well under the pressure of leading both championships and have behaved well in trying to dismiss the ludicrous and frankly idiotic claims of sabotage and underhand tactics favouring Rosberg.

Nico Rosberg
• 1st place – 202 points
• 6 poles – Bahrain, Monaco, Canada, Britain, Germany, Hungary
• 4 wins – Australia, Monaco, Austria, Germany

Nico Rosberg leads the world championship at the half way point and few could say he doesn’t deserve his place at the top of the tree, with four wins and a half-dozen pole positions, he has shown a mature head for the most part and has also perhaps had the benefit of some good fortune compared to Hamilton in the reliability stakes, although he has had problems of his own, for Rosberg it has been a great effort so far but there is still much work to do with Hamilton close behind, he will be keen to avoid any more controversy like we saw during the Monaco GP qualifying session. He sits in the best position and if he can maintain a cool head and keep winning then he is certainly a good bet for the championship.

Rating: 8/10

Lewis Hamilton
• 2nd place – 191 points
• 4 poles – Australia, Malaysia, China, Spain
• 5 wins – Malaysia, Bahrain, China, Spain, Britain

Lewis Hamilton has had what you could describe as an inconsistent opening 11 races, when it goes well for him there would be no stopping him but there have been a number of problems that have set him back, failures to finish in Australia and Canada along with more recently a trio of qualifying problems in Austria, Germany and Hungary, although despite that he managed to make the podium in all three of those races, he has finished on the podium in every race he has finished and will hope that his bad luck shifts away from the 44 car and towards Rosberg and that he can pounce on it to chip away at the 11 point gap, has recovered from a large points deficit earlier on this season and there is no reason why he can’t go on and become a double world champion.

Rating: 8/10

What the FRIC?

In recent weeks there has been one word setting the paddock alight with speculation and discussion, FRIC.

Before you ask, what the FRIC? well to try and explain simply, FRIC is an acronym for Front-Rear-Interconnected Suspension.

The basic purpose of FRIC is to keep a car stable when it is going through a corner, it does so by maintaining a consistent ride-height from the rear of the car through to the front of it.

The big fuss seems to be over how teams are using the system to gain an advantage with ride height and how extreme their system is, with the FIA rules that outline the use of aerodynamic moving parts on a car, it seems that someone feels that a team has pushed the rules to a point where they are gaining an unfair advantage over the rest.

They had for long enough been legal but recently the Race Director Charlie Whiting sent a letter to all the teams which made it clear that in his view, FRIC was now illegal although if teams could come to a unanimous decision that it would be kept until the end of the season.

The teams were unable to reach a decision and so the FRIC system is banned for this weekends German GP, we are unsure of how it will affect the teams with performance, though it will be very interesting to see the gap Mercedes have at the front, or in fact if it is still there now that FRIC is not.

Sainz Jr close to Caterham drive

Carlos Sainz Jr is in negotiations with Caterham about a possible drive this season, the Red Bull backed driver has spent the year dominating the FR3.5 series with 4 wins so far and a 33 point championship advantage over his nearest rival Pierre Gasly, It would appear that the young Spaniard has impressed new Caterham bosses enough for them to consider him for a drive.

It comes just a short time after the Caterham team was sold by Tony Fernandes to a consortium based in Switzerland and the Middle East which appointed Colin Kolles and Christian Albers as team bosses and it looks as if they haven’t wasted any time in ringing the changes.

So there must be a victim in all this, if Sainz is to take the step up to F1 then either Kamui Kobayashi or Marcus Ericsson will make way, judging by performances so far this season I would expect the Swede to be axed, for me personally I haven’t seen anything that has made me think he is ready and capable to compete in F1, that despite securing the teams best result at the Monaco GP though he was still beaten by Marussia rival Jules Bianchi.

Sainz has backing from Red Bull and was seen as a potential candidate to drive for Toro Rosso this season before the role was handed to Daniil Kvyat but they rate him highly at Red Bull and if he does get the Caterham drive then it will provide a similar way to analyse his performance as they did with Daniel Ricciardo when they put him in the HRT in 2011, Sainz will hope that his F1 career can follow that of Ricciardo and see him move into a position to compete for wins in F1

Interestingly a few points to take note of, Colin Kolles was in charge at HRT when Red Bull gave Ricciardo the chance to drive for them in 2011 and was key in allowing the deal to go through. Also with Caterham using Red Bull technology and also the Renault engines, there is certainly a realistic chance that Red Bull may want to use Caterham as a measuring point for Sainz Jr ahead of what may end up as a move to Toro Rosso in 2015, most likely to replace Jean Eric Vergne.

Sainz is a good racer, whether he is yet ready for the move up to F1 remains to be seen, if the talks do end up in a drive for him then it will be interesting to see how it pans out.