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

 

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.

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

Hamilton cruises to Silverstone success

Home favourite Lewis Hamilton drove a controlled and unchallenged effort to take victory at the British GP at Silverstone in front of thousands of adoring fans.

The Mercedes man finished around 20 seconds clear of Williams driver Valtteri Bottas in 2nd and Daniel Ricciardo in 3rd for Red Bull, the big factor of this race was the retirement of the championship leader Nico Rosberg, his Mercedes stopped near the halfway point of the Grand Prix.

Rosberg would start from pole but the start was overshadowed by a nasty accident for Kimi Raikkonen, the Finn ran wide before spinning into the barrier on the Wellington straight in a heavy impact crash which resulted in an hour delay as the barrier was fixed and some ankle worries for the Ferrari driver.

The incident also saw Felipe Massa retire as he nearly smashed Raikkonen, luckily though he managed to spin the car before the collision which meant there would be less damage.

Just over an hour later, the Grand Prix would start again, though with Hamilton now upto fourth after his quick start the first time round, he would quickly dispose of McLaren duo Magnussen and Button before setting his sights on Rosberg.

Having showed relentless pace in catching Rosberg, Hamilton would in fact take the lead on lap 29, after the German had gearbox issues which forced him to retire from the lead and in doing so close the championship tussle to only 4 points.

With Hamilton far clear and Bottas a comfortable second place, the fights were between Daniel Ricciardo and Jenson Button but mainly the epic duel between Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso.

Ricciardo made the tyres last a remarkable 37 laps and was only just able to hold off Button for the final spot on the podium, another top three for the smiling Aussie whilst the McLaren driver would make do with 4th in front of largely pink grandstands in honour of his father John with the #PinkforPapa campaign.

Vettel and Alonso, the names which for the past few years would be at the front contesting race wins and even championships was now a battle for 5th place, however you could not tell that on the way the two men pushed each other to the very limit.

Fernando would find a way past Sebastian at Copse with a brilliant and brave move around Copse but from then on it would be close combat between these two great champions.

Alonso who had already served a stop-go penalty for overshooting his grid slot provided a very effective defence which despite coming close to on many occasions, Vettel could just not make the pass work much to his anger as he complained over team radio repeatedly.

Eventually though Vettel would find a way through, like Alonso it would be at Copse in a battle of who would brake the latest, the German made the move stick and there was nothing Alonso could do to really get back through.

Behind the great scrap was Magnussen, Hulkenberg, Kvyat and Vergne to round out the points scorers.

Race result
1 HAMILTON – MERCEDES – 2:26:52.094
2 BOTTAS – WILLIAMS +30.100
3 RICCIARDO – RED BULL +46.400
4 BUTTON – MCLAREN +47.100
5 VETTEL – RED BULL +53.500
6 ALONSO – FERRARI +59.500
7 MAGNUSSEN – MCLAREN +62.100
8 HULKENBERG – FORCE INDIA +88.200
9 KVYAT – TORO ROSSO +88.800
10 VERGNE – TORO ROSSO +101.000

Changing of the guard

If one thing was evident during the Australian GP, it was that the talk that the 2014 era would favour the more experienced drivers on the grid was totally wrong, the main stand out performances came from the youngster and in particular three men, Kevin Magnussen, Valtteri Bottas and Daniil Kvyat.

Magnussen has been on McLaren’s radar for a long time now and after winning the FR3.5 series, the next step was for him to replace the disappointing Sergio Perez for the 2014 season.

Fast forward to the Australian GP and the Dane had impressed in testing but the big question was, could he do it on a F1 race weekend, he silenced any doubters immediately with his solid performances during the practice sessions, he followed this up with a hugely impressive 4th place on the grid in what was a tricky Q3 for all the drivers, he had now shown he had the raw pace but was the race craft there? Again he proved his ability with a stunning drive which saw him battle throughout the race with Red Bull and Daniel Ricciardo, after the Australian got disqualified it meant that Magnussen had secured 2nd on his Formula 1 debut, one place better of than the debut of the last rookie to race for McLaren, Lewis Hamilton.

Valtteri Bottas enjoyed the better of his more experienced team mate last year as he out-pointed Pastor Maldonado although the fact was that it was one of the worst seasons in the history of the Williams team, with huge changes at the Grove based outfit over the winter, including a new team-mate in Felipe Massa, could he show his talent this year?

Judging on the Finns performance at Albert Park, he is going to have a great year, despite a poor qualifying performance which was made worse by a grid penalty which had him starting from 15th, he fought his way through the midfield runners before colliding with the wall sending him back to the pits with a puncture, despite that setback Bottas came back again and finished well in the points in 5th place.

Perhaps the biggest surprise from the first race weekend was the performance of Toro Rosso teen Daniil Kvyat, his selection last year surprised many within the F1 paddock but his debut was one to remember,

The Russian had a few nervy moments during the practice sessions although what else would you expect from a teenager making his debut in F1, however he recovered from this in qualifying and coped with the wet conditions superbly putting himself 8th on the grid and followed that with a solid drive to finish 9th, in doing so he became the youngest ever points scorer in F1 history, not a bad way to announce yourself to the Formula 1 world.

Many said before the season started that experience would be vital in the new era of F1 but as it turns out it may be the youngsters like Magnussen, Bottas and Kvyat that can become the new faces of the sport.

Malaysia GP Preview

A fortnight ago, we all welcomed Formula One back onto the scene at the Australian GP and in doing so witnessed the first step into the unknown that is the 2014 F1 season, after the dominant drive from Nico Rosberg and the DNF’s of his title rivals Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel but the main talking point was a decision reached over six hours after the race.

The home favourite Daniel Ricciardo put in a stellar performance to get a 2nd place finish to the delight of the Australian fans and the Red Bull team, but he would have it cruelly taken away from him due to the RB10 breaking a fuel flow rule, he was subsequently disqualified from the race result and the matter will now rage on with Red Bull confirming their appeal of the decision, it is fair to say then that the Malaysia GP should be another dramatic race in the soaring heat of the Sepang circuit.

Malaysia, of course is a site of controversy, just think back 12 months to the race last year and the now infamous Multi-21 incident involving the Red Bull team and their drivers Vettel and Mark Webber but the main controversy as mentioned is the appeal to the exclusion of Ricciardo from the results.

The Sepang international circuit is a much more proper purpose built race track than Albert Park and with the long straights and fast corners we can expect a good race, add to this of course the weather in Kuala Lumpar, in recent years it has been more unpredictable than the pecking order of the 2014 season itself, that pecking order may become somewhat more clear on Sunday.

It promises to be an interesting weekend with many teams and the fans still somewhat in the dark about where everyone sits in terms of the pecking order.

The all important times for the weekend are as follows and remember that the clocks go forward by one hour so adjust the alarms!!!

Friday
Practice 1 – 02:00 – 03:30
Practice 2 – 06:00 – 07:30
Saturday
Practice 3 – 05:00 – 06:00
Qualifying – 08:00 – 09:00
Sunday
Race – 09:00

The Chequered Flag Blog Prediction

I think that it will be another Mercedes domination although the DNF of Hamilton showed that they are not totally there with reliability, behind them are a number of teams, Williams, McLaren, Ferrari and Red Bull but with the lack of reliability, a few of those cars may not finish so the midfield teams may once again be able to snatch a point or two, my prediction is:
1. Rosberg 2. Hamilton 3. Bottas

Australian GP – Rosberg win overshadowed by fuel flow farce

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Nico Rosberg crushed the rest of the field on his way to winning the season opening Australian GP ahead of the McLaren duo of Kevin Magnussen and Jenson Button, the race was filled with drama throughout the 57 laps and in the case of Red Bull and Daniel Ricciardo, much later into the Melbourne night.

The race and with it the 2014 season started after not one, but two formation laps, the Marussia cars both unable to get off the grid so they joined Romain Grosjean in the pit lane, eventually the race was ready to start.

The lights went out and the battle to lead into turn 1 was close, Pole-sitter Lewis Hamilton got a poor start and was pounced on by his team-mate Nico Rosberg and then Ricciardo although it would turn out that the Brit had a big problem which contributed to the lack of pace he had, as for the rest, Kevin Magnussen did very well to keep his car facing the right way after his tyres spun out nearly taking him into Alonso, Raikkonen got a decent start and took a few places as did Bottas however his Williams team-mate Felipe Massa would take no further part after he was smashed in the rear by Kobayashi in his Caterham, it had a brakes problem and that was both their races over.

Then came the retirements of two of the major players as Lewis Hamilton retired after just 4 laps with a misfiring cylinder, he would be followed by Sebastian Vettel only a few moments later with a loss of power in his Red Bull.

Williams remaining driver Bottas was on a charge, that was until he brushed the wall at turn 10 which left him with a rear right puncture forcing him into the pits and forcing the safety car out for the first time this season, in and around that period the majority of the field pitted, it would work into the hands of Button as he jumped a few places up to sixth.

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From the moment the safety car returned to the pits it was even more clear that Rosberg was going to be far into the distance and that was exactly the case as he charged to the chequered flag, Ricciardo and Magnussen looked set for a podium but they battled until the end of the race with the Red Bull man edging out the Danish rookie who had done a great race to score a podium on his McLaren and F1 debut, just behind that duo was Jenson Button in 4th, a great drive for him coming from tenth on the grid.

Bottas had managed to fight his way back through the field and may be left to wonder how much the puncture cost him but despite that he came home 6th ahead of Force India star Nico Hulkenberg in 7th, the German once again showed his talent as he kept the car always in contention for the points.whilst it was not a good day for Ferrari, problems limiting Alonso and Raikkonen to 5th and 8th, they were followed by another Italian team, Toro Rosso managed to keep both cars in the points after their excellent qualifying display, Vergne took 9th while a piece of history was made as Daniil Kvyat secured 10th to become the youngest ever points scorer in F1 taking the record from Sebastian Vettel.

Perez finished the race just outside the points in 11th and was the last of the drivers on the lead lap. Sutil in 12th along with Gutierrez and the Marussia of Max Chilton finished a lap behind the race winner Rosberg.

As for those who failed to finish, it was a number of issues, Bianchi was always playing catch up after his problems at the start, Lotus didn’t finish either but compared to their earlier pace or lack of it, it was good that Grosjean got 45 laps in before eventually calling it a day and the rest were a combination of problems.

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However… Soon after the race, rumours began to circulate that Ricciardo was under investigation for a fuel flow irregularity, the issue had seemingly been highlighted by the FIA earlier in the weekend but Red Bull claim that the FIA equipment that they use to measure the fuel however around six hours later it was confirmed that Ricciardo was disqualified from the race, Red Bull have confirmed that they will appeal the decision.

1) Rosberg – Mercedes
2) Magnussen – McLaren
3) Button – McLaren
4) Alonso – Ferrari
5) Bottas – Williams
6) Hulkenberg – Force India
7) Raikkonen – Ferrari
8) Vergne – Toro Rosso
9) Kvyat – Toro Rosso
10) Perez – Force India