Fixing something that wasn’t broken: the sorry state of F1

F1 has changed dramatically in the past few years more so than ever before, whilst some of the new moves are certainly beneficial to the sport, I would argue that many of them are just spoiling the natural spectacle of F1 racing that we all loved and continue to love even today.

Firstly I want to start with the main ones which were introduced what seems like an age ago, DRS and KERS, both designed to increase overtaking which in turn would add more excitement to the sport, for me I believe that they are just about right, in most cases they do liven things up a bit without making everything too fake, some would argue that it isn’t real racing because of the way in which these aids allow a driver to simply get in front due to superior speed, but in the most part I don’t have much problem with it.

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Other slightly smaller changes that I agree with are things like the driver numbers, some may call it a gimmick, I like it because I see it as a way for fans to recognise their favourite driver and it can connect a driver forever to a particular number which is quite cool, think Villenueve and 27, more so with MotoGP with Rossi 46 and in recent times Marquez 93.

Plenty of steps have been taken that I won’t go into that I agree with but its a shame as they are massively outnumbered by the negative moves by those in the F1 positions of power led of course by Bernie Ecclestone, I want to take note of some of the crazy and ridiculous ideas that could have and may one day make F1 a laughing stock.

Sprinklers, yes you read that correctly, sprinklers. It may have been a joke but it sums up how little Ecclestone actually understands about what the fans want, I know my idea of F1 is that it is real racing, proper close and natural racing, whereas he said he would introduce sprinklers to turn on to soak the track which would cause more excitement, whilst it may have increased TV figures and what not, it would make F1 look incredibly stupid, fake and most importantly, it would destroy any hopes of natural racing.

At this weeks in-season testing at Silverstone, Lotus showed off new 18 inch wheels and from what I have read, the opinion is split, some say they look good, personally I am not a fan, they look a little unusual, almost a little tacky but it is only a trial run of course but they just don’t look right, perhaps it is a case that it may take time to get used to but at this moment, it is something I hope they don’t proceed with because they don’t need to as the current size is fine.

Now, for any of you reading that have attended a Grand Prix weekend, I’m sure you would agree that of course the main attention goes to the race day but the on-track spectacle starts on a Friday with the opening two practice sessions, earlier this season there had been some speculation that F1 would scrap Friday practice sessions altogether, of course it may have meant cheaper costs for the teams as they wouldn’t have to run cars an extra day but for fans of the sport it is just ripping them off somewhat, the loyal supporters deserve to see as much F1 action as possible and taking away FP1 and FP2 would be wrong in my view.

It has been a topic whispered around the F1 world for a while now, Customer Cars, whilst it may sound good to some of you, it would be a tragedy for the sport if it were to come into play, fortunately though it hasn’t yet, but if it was then it would be bad news for small teams as they already struggle to compete due to financial problems but surely if customer cars came in then it would hit the small teams hard.

Speaking of the new teams, yes they may be lapped every race and may not provide much to the sport but the fact is that F1 needs them, after the demise of HRT at the back end of 2012 only Caterham and Marussia remain of the new teams that burst onto the scene in 2010, both have had contrasting seasons, Marussia scored their first ever points at Monaco with a 9th place finish from Bianchi, whereas Caterham have struggled and recently changed their ownership after Tony Fernandes sold up, some people see the backmarkers as bad for the sport and want them to go as they could be replaced by third cars for frontrunning teams like Ferrari or Mercedes, but the fact is we need these teams, every team is needed in F1 and it would be a shame if they were to go or be pushed off the grid.

Double points, quite possibly the worst thing to hit F1 in years, the idea comes from America with the likes of IndyCar and Nascar, as far as I am concerned, it is a joke, what is the point in it, of course Bernie only cares about it benefitting the TV audiences and interest from sponsors, in a sporting degree it is fully unfair, if a driver wins the title purely because of double points then it just means they would not have won it if this ridiculous ruling didn’t happen, I’d almost go as far as to say they should have a little * beside their name to highlight the fact that they won it because of double points and nothing else, also it may increase interest in the season ending grand prix, but it also may make the organisers of the other races see their event quite literally as half as important which isn’t fair.

It was tested during the Austria GP weekend, Fake sparks, designed to improve the show that is Formula 1, it looked great back in the day when the sparks would fly out of the rear end of the cars, but that was then and this is now, what is the point in producing artificial sparks, it just doesn’t make sense to me.

We see on social media most sports able to connect to the fans, F1 teams in the most part do a superb job with interacting with the supporters through the likes of Twitter and I like so many others appreciate their effort, but compared to other sports like Football, F1 is nowhere near as strong socially, of course you may say that the fact is that Football is a more popular sport but really F1 whilst it uses social media to some degree, it misses out on a lot when it comes to attracting new fans with the power that social media has.

FOM, where do I begin with this, it really is a pet hate as far as I am concerned, whilst it is small, it is annoying and I can’t help but point it out, the virtual advertising and text that is plastered all over F1 coverage, it can be advertising for Rolex or Emirates to name a few brands, it can be random phrases, from ‘Bernie says think before you drive’ or ‘F1 the worlds fastest brand’ to the more ridiculous as was noticed by eagle-eyed viewers with the ‘Thank you Mr Mateschitz’ message as the Red Bull supremo helped bring F1 back to Austria, I just think it looks unbelievably tacky and it is not needed, there is space for advertising on near enough every corner of a track, why should we have to see more of it through graphical advertising, as well as that it is distracting from the actual racing.

I know for a fact that people will disagree with me on some of these issues, don’t forget this is just my opinion, I just feel that over the past few years F1 has changed and is getting to a point where it is becoming more of an advertising platform rather than a sport that is followed by millions across the world.

Let me know what you think in the comments below!

 

Silverstone testing times: Day 1

Felipe Massa topped the first day of F1 testing at Silverstone, the Brazilian was 0.006 quicker than Red Bull driver Daniel Ricciardo with championship leader Nico Rosberg third fastest three tenths slower than the front duo.

Adrian Sutil would manage 73 laps with his fastest good enough for 4th place, Marussia completed the most mileage today with Jules Bianchi setting 108 laps and posting the 5th quickest time.

Stoffel Vandoorne took up his role as test driver for McLaren and produced 71 laps and would end the day in 6th ahead of regular race drivers, Force India’s Sergio Perez, Jean Eric Vergne who in his Toro Rosso was only able to lap the track 28 times and the Lotus of Pastor Maldonado.

Pedro de La Rosa filled in for Kimi Raikkonen at Ferrari and it took a long time to get up to speed, he would be second slowest but just in front of young British hopeful Will Stevens in his Caterham.

Testing continues tomorrow.

Day 1 Times

1. Massa – Williams – 1:35.242 – 42 laps
2. Ricciardo – Red Bull – 1:35.248 – 72 laps
3. Rosberg – Mercedes – 1:35.573 – 90 laps
4. Sutil – Sauber – 1:35.674 – 73 laps
5. Bianchi – Marussia – 1:36.148 – 108 laps
6. Vandoorne – McLaren – 1:36.148 – 71 laps
7. Perez – Force India – 1:36.583 – 79 laps
8. Vergne – Toro Rosso – 1:36.688 – 28 laps
9. Maldonado – Lotus, 1:37.131 – 97 laps
10. De La Rosa – Ferrari, 1:37.988 – 49 laps
11. Stevens – Caterham, 1:40.627 – 95 laps

brilliant Bottas on his way to a bright future in F1

Even before he reached F1 in 2013, Valtteri Bottas had been tipped by many as a future F1 star and by some even as a future world champion, so far in his second season he is not disappointing with back to back podiums.

The tell-tale signs were there showing off the talent that the young Finn has even from his 2011 GP3 Series win where he took to the top step of the podium seven times.

He took a year out from competitive racing in 2012 to become test and reserve driver for Williams, clearly he had been doing something right to impress the team as he was given the race seat for 2013.

In what was a season of disappointment for Williams in 2013 with one of their worst cars ever, Bottas provided proof that he could be the man to turn the team around, firstly the stunning P3 in qualifying for the Canadian GP which shocked so many, then with the 8th place points finish at Texas he would bring Williams four of their five points of the campaign.

Williams provided a much better car for Bottas and new team-mate Massa in 2014 and it wouldn’t take him long to show his skill and racing ability with a comeback drive from 15th to 5th, he would have likely made the podium had he not clattered the wall during the race.

He would continue to score points at every race up until the Monaco GP where he would retire, but it didn’t hold him back as he returned to form with another points finish in Canada, then came the big step up for Valtteri.

Austria and the return to Spielberg provided a thriller for Williams with a one-two in qualifying which Bottas took P2, the young Finn would put in a superb race to take his maiden F1 podium in 3rd place, he kept his composure and would only come home 8.6 seconds behind the dominant Mercedes.

Williams home race weekend in Silverstone didn’t get off to the best of starts for Bottas, firstly he didn’t take part in first practice as he handed the car over to reserve driver Susie Wolff, then when he did get in the car it didn’t break into the top 5 during practice 2 and 3.

Then came qualifying and in the mixed conditions Williams and also Ferrari struggled massively with Bottas only qualifying 17th though he would start the British GP from 14th due to other penalties around him, he had one of the quicker cars in the grid but could he rescue what had been a shocking weekend for the Grove based team?

Of course he could, Bottas turned in one of his best drives in his short career so far and was charging his way through the field and into points positions within a handful of laps, he made some cracking overtakes along the way to get into the position where he could challenge for a podium.

After the retirement of Rosberg, Bottas would be relatively unchallenged behind race winner Hamilton to secure his second podium in succession and his best result in F1 in front of the Silverstone crowd.

What next for Bottas? Sitting pretty in 5th in the drivers championship with 73 points, it would be no surprise to see Bottas perhaps move into a position to be the so-called ‘best of the rest’ which is currently occupied by Red Bull man Daniel Ricciardo who has 98 points, 25 ahead of the young Finn.

For sure we should expect a few more high points results and podiums, a race win isn’t beyond him either but he would need to benefit from Mercedes misfortune it would have to be said.

At just 24, Bottas is already turning heads in F1 and I am sure I’m not the only one that tips him as a potential world champion one day, whether it is with Williams or elsewhere I’m not sure, but he has the cool, the talent and the racing skill to go very far in the sport.

The Next Generation: Stoffel Vandoorne

Stoffel Vandoorne is one of the brightest young talents in motorsport and with backing from McLaren, we will most likely be seeing a lot more of the Belgian in years to come. For now though he is racing in the GP2 Series for ART Grand Prix and has already raised eyebrows in the F1 paddock with his performance in Bahrain where he took a debut win in the feature race.

Belgium and Formula 1 have only a few connections, the country has produced a handful of drivers to grace the highest level of single seater racing, the likes of Jacky Ickx and Thierry Boutsen, more recently of course Jerome d’Ambrosio, but the fact remains that they haven’t had much in the way of success in F1 despite having one of the best circuits on the calendar at Spa-Francorchamps, a real fan favourite every year. But now it looks like the Belgian fans will have a new hero of their own very soon.

Vandoorne started motorsport at the young age of 6 and made a good start racing in karting and he soon grabbed the headlines in his homeland when he became Belgian KF2 Champion in 2008.

In 2009, Stoffel began to race internationally for the first time in the KF2 series, it would be a good year for Vandoorne with some great showings in the European Championships and the World Cup, though it would be his final year in karting because it was now time for Stoffel to properly begin his journey to reach the promised land of Formula 1.

It was 2010 and the next port of call for Vandoorne would be the F4 Eurocup 1.6 series, he performed very well in this with six wins from fourteen races and claimed the title with two races to spare, the following season would be another step in the right direction for Stoffel as he raced in the Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 championship and finished fifth, that wouldn’t be all for the Belgian during 2011 though, he also took part in the Formula Renault 2.0 Northern European Cup and finished third in the series with eight podiums.

He would continue to race in these championships during 2012 but this time he was able to challenge for race wins and the title, his main rival would be now Toro Rosso star Daniil Kvyat, Vandoorne got the better of the young Russian though and scored four wins on his way to the championship victory with a margin of 10 points over Kvyat.

2013 started with an exciting development for Vandoorne even before his racing season got underway, It was announced in February that he had been selected to become part of McLaren’s Young Driver Programme, this meant that there was a serious chance that he could make his F1 dream a reality in the near future, but that would only become a possibility if Stoffel could first showcase his talent in Formula Renault 3.5.

He enjoyed a fantastic debut season, taking four wins and a string of podiums ensured that he finished 2nd in the championship behind Kevin Magnussen, unfortunately for Stoffel it would be Magnussen that would take the step into F1 with McLaren for the 2014 season replacing the axed Sergio Perez, some rumours did link Vandoorne with an F1 seat but instead he moved to the GP2 Series with a race seat at ART.

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Being part of the GP2 Series will help Stoffel especially as it is a support series to F1 so those within the paddock can see him in action whilst he would also step up to the role of McLaren reserve driver this year and has been able to get a taste of what F1 is like with some test appearances.

He would announce his arrival in GP2 in spectacular fashion in Bahrain, taking 2nd on the grid was impressive enough, but nothing compared to the way he utterly controlled the Feature Race leading from lights to flag at the Sakhir circuit, since then he has had bad luck with a number of non-points finishes although a pair of feature race podiums in the last two events leaves him sitting 7th in the Drivers standings.

McLaren is a huge possibility for Stoffel, with Jenson Button it must be considered that he is moving towards the latter stages of his career, at 34 he is the oldest driver on the grid and McLaren may see Vandoorne and Magnussen as a future pairing that could bring them glory once again having not won the Constructors Championship since 1998.

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He may also be edged into Formula 1 with a smaller team the same way Daniel Ricciardo was in 2011 when he joined Hispania for the second half of the season before moving to Toro Rosso, this approach may be beneficial both to Stoffel and also McLaren as it would allow him to gain experience and then join the team with some experience in F1 under his belt.

Either way, one thing is for sure and that is that we will see Stoffel Vandoorne star in Formula 1 in the near future and from what he has shown so far in his career, he may even go right to the very top and become the first Belgian F1 World Champion.

Silverstone testing lineups

Tuesday

Red Bull – Ricciardo
Mercedes – Rosberg
Ferrari – De La Rosa
McLaren – Vandoorne
Lotus – Maldonado
Force India – Perez
Sauber – Sutil
Toro Rosso – Vergne
Williams – Massa
Marussia – Bianchi
Caterham – Leal/Stevens

Wednesday

Red Bull – Vettel
Mercedes – Hamilton
Ferrari – Bianchi
McLaren – Magnussen
Lotus – Pic
Force India – Juncadella
Sauber – Van Der Garde
Toro Rosso – Kvyat
Williams – Bottas
Marussia – Chilton
Caterham – Haryanto

Lucky escape for Chilton

Marussia driver Max Chilton may not have had a great day of racing yesterday but he was actually a very lucky man to return to the paddock unscathed.

Chilton was very close to being hit on the head with what appears to be part of a tyre that has fallen off during Kimi Raikkonens accident on the opening lap of the race, it is quite unclear whether it is just the tyre carcass or the rim as well but either way it looked a very close and scary incident for Max.

It draws comparisons with the awful accident that Felipe Massa suffered in Hungary 2009 where he was hit on the helmet by a part of the Brawn car of Rubens Barrichello, also it reminds me of the awful loss of Henry Surtees where he was hit by a flying tyre.

I feel that something needs to be done to ensure that these sort of accidents don’t happen and that parts of the cars remain safely on the car, that should anything fall off that it is not being sent into the air and towards other drivers.

It isn’t impossible that the FIA could look into the incident because it is quite clear that Chilton was very close to getting seriously injured and they may well look to fine Ferrari for it, I doubt they will but it can’t be ruled out.

Fortunately though the main thing is that Max is okay and like Kimi, wasn’t hurt.

Lotus to use Mercedes engines in 2015

It isn’t yet official but many F1 sources and those in the know are certain that in 2015, Lotus will switch from Renault engines to those made by Mercedes.

The move comes after a poor season so far not only for the Lotus team who have only scored eight points in the first nine races, but also for the Renault powered teams in general, they have been unreliable and not particularly quick either whereas Mercedes powered teams have benefitted this year from the german engines, with Mercedes domination and the impressive performances of teams such as Williams and Force India.

Renault recently came in for some heavy criticism from Red Bull boss Christian Horner after the retirement of Sebastian Vettel in Austria labelling their engine woes as ‘unacceptable’ and now it looks as though Lotus have had enough as well and will become the fourth Mercedes powered team on the grid in 2015.