Kunal's F1 Blog

2014 Hungarian Grand Prix: Hung(a)ry For More

Posted on | July 27, 2014 | No Comments

They say Formula1 has a problem. I agree! But the problem isn’t in the racing, I am certain. Those who witnessed the 2014 Hungarian Grand Prix will agree too. Yes, one could debate that the spectacle of the race was aided by multiple Safety Car periods and rain, but well, that is sport in its natural form yet. The only shame from today’s race is that the next is a month away. Possibly the longest month for Formula1 fans! (Read: 2014 F1 Season: Has The Dust Settled Yet?)

Daniel Ricciardo won his second race of the 2014 Formula1 season and is the only non-Mercedes driver to win yet. The beauty of his wins are that he’s made the moves on track in a car that clearly is low on horsepower. His moves on Alonso and Hamilton to grab the lead of the race could be classified as bold, creative and witty! While the Aussie is 43 points ahead of his quadruple World Champion team-mate in the Drivers’ Championship, what he’s shown even more so is that he’s able to win races even when Red Bull Racing isn’t the dominating team. Is he the best non-Mercedes driver on the grid? Well, the points table certainly indicates so.

2014 Hungarian Grand Prix

Fernando Alonso, who drove a fantastic race to finish second, classified this result as a victory for Ferrari. His defensive driving style and the Hamilton vs. Rosberg fight in the last few laps helped him keep second place, else he could’ve well been off the podium and in 4th place. His tyre management skills allowed him to finish the race with a pit stop less as he managed 33 laps on the soft compound. Interestingly, he led more laps in Hungary than all of the last 24 races added together!

The Spaniard is also the only driver on the grid to have scored points in all the 11 races concluded this season. Raikkonen finished 6th after starting 17th on the grid. The double points scoring result ensured that Ferrari overtook Williams for 3rd in the Constructors’ Championship. However, what would worry the bosses in Italy (Montezemolo in particular) more is the fact that Ferrari is the only constructor to have NOT won a single race in the new hybrid turbo era of Formula1.

This was the first race of the season where neither of the Mercedes drivers finished in the top 2 positions. This was also Nico Rosberg’s worst finish of the season; he finished 4th! Lewis Hamilton, who started from the pit lane, drove a superb race to finish 3rd and reduce the points deficit to Rosberg in the Drivers’ Championship. Should Mercedes celebrate a 3-4 result for themselves as they leave Hungary? Probably not! (Read: Fans Missed A Hamilton vs. Rosberg Fight)

The mid-race team orders saga will be the topic of discussion as the sport heads for a forced break for a few weeks, but it is also Hamilton’s disobedience of team orders that probably cost Rosberg and Mercedes race victory! A far fetched thought, maybe, but given how close the top 3 drivers finished by the end of the race, Rosberg had a better chance to win than Hamilton. So what happened?

As Hamilton rightly pointed out post-race, had he let Rosberg through, the German driver would’ve finished ahead of him and extended his lead in the championship. Did Hamilton do the right thing? For his sake, yes, for the team’s sake, no. And my mind only goes back to the 2013 Malaysian Grand Prix where team orders were used to aid Hamilton’s race and Rosberg complied. A case of hypocrisy? What was worse post-race was Wolff and Lauda siding with Hamilton’s disobedience. (Read: Team Orders And PR Talk)

So couldn’t Rosberg overtake Hamilton on track? That’s the question most fans (Hamilton ones!) would be right in asking. But the difference here (as opposed to Bahrain and other races) is that both the drivers were on different strategies. Hamilton was on a tyre saving strategy (two stopper) whereas Rosberg was on the aggressive tyre strategy (three stopper) given the difference in their starting positions. Rosberg, who possibly knew that Hamilton wouldn’t let him through, was smart enough to stay just out of the DRS range and manage his tyres from extra wear and tear.

What would’ve probably been worse was if Rosberg disobeyed team orders and not let Hamilton through. But I guess that’s what you get when a not so famous (yet!) driver is up against one of the most famous names in modern day Formula1. Hamilton might have walked away from Hungary with a few extra points and a podium, but it is Rosberg who still holds the championship lead and the mental edge. And after being robbed of Hamilton vs. Rosberg battles in the last few races, I hope the second half of the season sees the two drivers battle it out where it matters the most!

However, this doesn’t take away from the super race that Hamilton had this weekend. From the pit lane to P3 was something even he wasn’t sure of after his Mercedes caught fire and kept him away from qualifying yesterday. And interestingly enough, the British driver has gained some 50 odd track positions (in total) in the last few races to claw back points on Race Day!

What happened to Williams? A team that was the second quickest behind Mercedes could only manage a P5 (Massa) and P8 (Bottas). I think their strategy to use the medium compound (and slower of the two compounds) mid-race back fired as they lost time and track position to the front runners. For those who missed it, Ricciardo was trailed by Massa in P2 post the first Safety Car period.

Mclaren's Weather System In Hungary? (source: Twitter)

As for Mclaren, their ‘hero or zero’ decision to stick to inters in the opening part of the race and wait for rain to reappear proved to be a big zero! Ironically, it is Button who usually comes out as the hero in such situations. They eventually scored a point with Button finishing P10. They trail Sahara Force India by 1 point in 6th place!

Two other drivers worth mentioning would be Jean Eric Vergne and Adrian Sutil. Vergne managed P9 after running the first half of the race in the top 5. Sutil lost out on Sauber’s first point of the season by less than a second! And last but not the least, a race to forget for Sahara Force India as both their drivers crashed out due to driver errors. A substantial chunk of points would’ve been possible!

Tough choice to pick my ‘Racer of the Day’ as all three podium finishers deserve the tag in their own ways and so does Rosberg. But if I have to pick one, it would have to be Daniel Ricciardo.

Race Results:

  1. Daniel Ricciardo
  2. Fernando Alonso
  3. Lewis Hamilton
  4. Nico Rosberg
  5. Felipe Massa
  6. Kimi Raikkonen
  7. Sebastian Vettel
  8. Valtteri Bottas
  9. Jean Eric Vergne
  10. Jenson Button
  11. Adrian Sutil
  12. Kevin Magnussen
  13. Pastor Maldonado
  14. Daniil Kvyat
  15. Jules Bianchi
  16. Max Chilton

Did Not Finish:

  • Esteban Gutierrez
  • Kamui Kobayashi
  • Sergio Perez
  • Nico Hulkenberg
  • Romain Grosjean
  • Marcus Ericsson

And as we head to the month long Formula1 break, I will look to keep you entertained via a few planned blog posts and of course the Inside Line F1 Podcast! Keep Racing!

2014 Hungarian Grand Prix Qualifying: Fans Denied A Hamilton vs. Rosberg Fight

Posted on | July 26, 2014 | No Comments

Nico Rosberg clinched his 6th pole position of the 2014 Formula1 Season. But that was sort of expected after Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes caught fire minutes into the session due to a suspected fuel leak. Failing to set a qualifying time, the British driver would need to start tomorrow’s race from the back of the grid or from the pit-lane, which was the sensible decision the team took last weekend too in Hockenheim. (Read: 2014 F1 Season: Has The Dust Settled Yet?)

2014 Hungarian Grand Prix Qualifying

However, Hungaroring isn’t a Hockenheim, it is more a Monaco, where starting position is crucial and overtaking is almost impossible. While I am dreading a processionary race tomorrow, Hamilton is dreading and mentally prepared to lose 20 points or thereabouts to his team-mate in the Drivers’ Championship. Funny that in a year where the fastest driver is in the fastest car, he is chasing down a fellow rival, who is his team-mate.

Hamilton has suffered in qualifying in the last few races. Driver errors got the better of him in a few sessions and the last couple were lost to mechanical gremlins. Has Hamilton sorted his head out yet as he prepares for one of his fiercest title battles, one wouldn’t know. But certainly, Mercedes need to sort out their mechanical issues. It would be unfair to settle this year’s championship on the basis of car reliability, but what’s worse is robbing the fans from witnessing a classic Hamilton vs. Rosberg duel like we did in a few races earlier in the year.

And while Hamilton fans mop over his second consecutive mechanical issue (and cook up yet another sabotage story), Rosberg deserves credit yet again. In changing conditions, he managed to keep calm and string a perfect qualifying lap in Q3 to qualify ahead of Vettel and Bottas. What was fun were his candid comments on missing a clean battle with his team-mate for pole! I don’t know if he meant it, but I certainly do!

Q1 is certainly where the action has been this season as we saw Raikkonen exit too. Ironically, he was bumped off by Bianchi (P16!), who I believe has done enough to bump off the Iceman and claim his cockpit! A sign of times to come for Ferrari? And while Raikkonen has been ‘blaming’ Ferrari for their decision to not run again in Q1, I think the Finn needs to wonder (and ponder) why he didn’t put a lap time as quick as Alonso in his first attempt itself! And for those who like their statistics, Raikkonen has scored seven podium finishes in Hungary. Is this is the last we see of Raikkonen? But Ferrari is known to hold on to their drivers long past their ‘use by’ date! (Read: Ferrari, Alonso, Raikkonen, 2014 And Beyond)

In the build-up to the 2014 Hungarian Grand Prix, there was an interesting observation that social media followers shared. Every time Hamilton has won here, Raikkonen has come second. I guess Raikkonen followed him off in Q1 to just keep up with the tradition! Podium would be a tall order for both the drivers tomorrow.

The lack of long straights allowed Red Bull to close the gap between themselves and Mercedes and Williams in this case. Vettel should be able to run a strong race tomorrow but wouldn’t be in a position to challenge Rosberg for victory. And it was surprising to see crowd cheer as Vettel claimed provisional pole! (Read: Has Formula1 Given Formula E A Chance?)

Bottas is possibly the most ‘complete’ Finnish driver and I mean from a media point of view as well. His pace has never been in question and he is as good as finishing whatever is left of Felipe Massa’s career. What’s best is that he is audible in the media conferences!

Alonso qualified 5th in his Ferrari and this is his 33rd P5 slot! Ferrari seem to be the fourth fastest team in Hungary, which means that fans will be treated to yet another dose of Alonso magic as he tries to salvage the Scuderia’s forgetful season! And there is speculation that Ferrari’s position of fourth in the Constructors’ Championship actually opens up the ‘exit clause’ in the Spaniard’s contract!

Kevin Magnussen made a rookie error in Q3 as he misjudged the grip levels at the entry of Turn 1 and skid off into the barriers. A change of gearbox means an added penalty and the team has decided to start him from the pit-lane. Interestingly, in the World Series by Renault last year, Magnussen started 16th and finished 2nd in the wet.

But that isn’t Mclaren’s most interesting story this weekend yet. It is about Jenson Button’s contract extension which is yet pending. If you were Ron Dennis, would you re-sign the 2009 World Champion for yet another season?

And a special mention to Sauber’s Adrian Sutil who finally had a session where he could showcase his talent. His P12 was ahead of Sahara Force India’s Perez (who had a hydraulic issue) and the Lotus cars of Grosjean and Maldonado. But can he score for Sauber and end their longest drought of championship points?

 Qualifying Results:

  1. Nico Rosberg
  2. Sebastian Vettel
  3. Valtteri Bottas
  4. Daniel Ricciardo
  5. Fernando Alonso
  6. Felipe Massa
  7. Jenson Button
  8. Jean Eric Vergne
  9. Nico Hulkenberg
  10. Kevin Magnussen
  11. Daniil Kvyat
  12. Adrian Sutil
  13. Sergio Perez
  14. Esteban Gutierrez
  15. Romain Grosjean
  16. Jules Bianchi
  17. Kimi Raikkonen
  18. Kamui Kobayashi
  19. Max Chilton
  20. Marcus Ericsson

Did Not Qualify:

  • Lewis Hamilton
  • Pastor Maldonado

2014 German Grand Prix Qualifying: Rosberg Gets A Pole As His Wedding Gift

Posted on | July 19, 2014 | No Comments

Mercedes AMG Petronas should’ve clinched yet another 1-2 in the qualifying session of their home Grand Prix in Hockenheim. However, it was ‘German Engineering’ that let Lewis Hamilton down again with a brake failure that spun the British driver in the barriers with an impact that measured up to 30Gs! It is surprising that while fans and most in the Paddock think that Mercedes have it easy this season, they too seem to be pushing their machinery on the limit in every session, which of course is good to know.

Nico Rosberg - 2014 German Grand Prix

With Hamilton being forced to accept a P16 on the timing sheets, there was little doubt that Nico Rosberg would clinch pole position and he did. However, it wasn’t a walk in the park as it has been in the earlier half of the season. Whether this is due to the FRIC ban or the high track temperatures one wouldn’t know. I would expect the German-Finnish driver to claim race honours tomorrow and extend his lead in the Drivers’ World Championship.

As for Hamilton, today’s GP2 race result, where Mitchell Evans won the race from P15, should motivate him further to charge up the grid, which I am sure will be a sight to watch. And I am slightly disturbed by the conspiracy theorists who think that Mercedes purposely fitted faulty brake pads on Hamilton’s car! Aside from the controversy, there’s a discussion that the team is considering to ditch the Brembo brake pads and switch to an alternate supplier. I wouldn’t be surprised if they did so given that the failure happened only in the 5th lap of the qualifying session. Fans should know that teams would put on fresh brake pads pre-FP3 and expect them to last till the end of the race.

Should Mercedes decide to change the brake pads, Hamilton’s car will need to start from the pits given that it would mean a change in car configuration post-qualifying. If it ensures the driver’s safety, I am sure that the team will exercise the option. And luckily they have the pace advantage over the field to do so.

Williams looked the best of the rest yet again as they claimed P2 and P3 with Bottas out-qualifying Massa. Will Massa join Raikkonen and Button as the list of drivers who could be replaced in 2015? I expect the movements in the driver market for 2015 to get more exciting than the Mercedes vs. The Others battle we are witnessing.

The pace difference between Mercedes and the rest seemed the least amongst all races concluded yet. Does this mean that Williams could challenge Rosberg in the race tomorrow? I wouldn’t think so, but I do hope that their pit-wall allows their drivers a fair chance to fight in the pit-stops by coming up with an aggressive tyre strategy.

Ferrari and Red Bull Racing have a chance to score a podium tomorrow with rain expected and even though Button could only manage a P11, I would keep a watch out for him. The other driver who could do with some rain advantage is Nico Hulkenberg who qualified ahead of Perez in P9.

While the TV broadcast didn’t focus much on him, my ‘Driver of the Day’ would be Daniil Kvyat who out-qualified his much experienced team-mate Vergne to P8. It is always heartening to see young drivers do well and this holds true for Ricciardo and Magnussen who also qualified ahead of their World Champion team-mates.

Bianchi’s performance needs a highlight as much Raikkonen’s dismal one. The French racer qualified P18 and ahead of a Lotus (of Maldonado) who claimed that the FRIC ban has affected their performance drastically. Raikkonen looked completely out of sync with his car as he struggled to P12. Are Ferrari already considering a replacement this early in the Iceman’s second stint with them? I would think so!

Qualifying Results:

  1. Nico Rosberg
  2. Valtteri Bottas
  3. Felipe Massa
  4. Kevin Magnussen
  5. Daniel Ricciardo
  6. Sebastian Vettel
  7. Fernando Alonso
  8. Daniil Kvyat
  9. Nico Hulkenberg
  10. Sergio Perez
  11. Jenson Button
  12. Kimi Raikkonen
  13. Jean-Eric Vergne
  14. Esteban Gutierrez (penalty applicable)
  15. Romain Grosjean
  16. Lewis Hamilton
  17. Adrian Sutil
  18. Jules Bianchi
  19. Pastor Maldonado
  20. Kamui Kobayashi
  21. Max Chilton

Did Not Qualify

  • Marcus Ericsson

Has Formula1 Given Formula E A Chance?

Posted on | July 17, 2014 | 4 Comments

When Formula E came into the news a few years ago, I dismissed it. I thought to myself, here’s another championship that is trying to make a mark on the global stage in the world of Motorsport where Formula1 rules the roost. Yes, I did follow the A1 Grand Prix and its debacle well to have learned my lessons, as a fan and maybe a marketer.

Let’s face it, Formula1 is in a state of monopoly if you consider the global arena. DTM, Australian V8s, Indy Car, etc. have most of their appeal local, very little global. Formula1, is the world’s most and best marketed Motorsport series. And on that note, it is only surprising that it feels insecure! (Read: 2014 Formula1 Season: Has The Dust Settled Yet?)

FIA Formula E (Courtesy: Formula E)

When the Formula E cars and their specs were revealed, I still dismissed it. I dismiss it even more now so after reading about the ‘Fan Boost’ plan, which I don’t think anyone can yet convince me that it isn’t anything but a gimmick. But I must give credit where it is due. The organisers are at least trying to woo the new age consumer via mediums he/she would relate to. (Read: Formula1 Needs Better Marketing)

But even in this dismissive mood of mine, I think, Formula E stands a chance. And that isn’t because of the series itself (because it is yet to register its first race), but maybe because Formula1 has lost its way, or seems to have and is offering a chance, possibly at the best juncture in Formula E’s yet to be written history. (Read: Just What Formula1 Should Be)

A single make series, ex-Formula1 drivers (not the biggest names, but well), high profile team owners (celebrities and entrepreneurs) and races held in the middle of the cities seems like just the mix that fans would relish. And not to forget the affordable access to tickets (that’s what they say!)! On social media, Formula E has already put more content than Formula1 has.

If Formula E is able to produce exciting wheel to wheel racing action on a consistent basis (Alonso vs. Vettel in Silverstone), which I think is possible given the single make of the cars, they’ve a big chance of occupying the sporting-tainment space which Formula1 is struggling to do so. Could this be our wish of seeing top Formula1 (former for now!) drivers race in similar machinery? (Read: Permanent No. 1?)

If Formula E focuses more on racing of the cars than their engineering, there’s a big chance that fans who are put off by Formula1′s excessively complex technical regulations will deflect to a series which claims to be the future of automobile and racing and is possibly simpler to understand. And let’s face it, up until 2013, it was the aerodynamic structure of the Formula1 cars that was difficult to understand. Starting 2014, the FIA and other stakeholders have added the engine to the list too. Err! Wait, it is no longer an engine, but a power train.

Given that the series is currently only testing their machines, it is way too early to call their success or failure. This post is about stating that there does seem to be a definite chance for the organisers to make a mark with their revolutionary series and a strong one at that even though the positioning and claim is that the series isn’t competing with Formula1 that has been around for more than 60 years.

The series will need at least 5 – 7 years before it moves from an investment mode to generating adequate revenues to self-sustain to generating profits while giving fans a chance to embrace and adjust to the newer technology of racing and their apparent lack of sound. In this time period, Formula E will try and attract newer venues, team owners and crucially, former and well known Formula1 drivers to increase the equity and follower-ship of their series. I wouldn’t be surprised if a few drivers from the current grid of 2014 will find themselves a cockpit in the new series in the years to come. And I hope Maldonado isn’t one of them!

A couple of months left before Formula E’s debut race and while the stakes are high for the new series organisers, I hope the powers of Formula1 are keeping a tab on the developments. If I were Mr. E, I would be cautiously curious, but well, I am certain the real Mr. E isn’t bothered whatsoever!

Read about India’s Mahindra Racing and their entry in Formula E: ‘Mahindra Racing Expands Footprint, Enters Formula E

2014 Formula1 Season: Has The Dust Settled Yet?

Posted on | July 11, 2014 | 2 Comments

Technically, we are nine races into the nineteen race calendar of the 2014 Formula1 Season and that means we are half way through, whichever way you prefer your math. Time flies, they say, and if you’re a Formula1 fan, it flies a tad bit faster from March till November!

Much like every new season in the recent past, I had my own set of apprehensions before the start of the current season. Notwithstanding my team’s performance, I was worried if Formula1 would put up a ‘good show’ for their fans, after all we had a complete overhaul in regulations from last season. Would we be subjected to races where multiple cars wouldn’t complete due to power train issues? Would we have yet another season of dominance by a single team and driver? Would we have a team or two succumb to the financial difficulties? Will fans understand the new regulations? And then of course, will the Formula1 cars sound ‘right’? (Read: Engine No-ise)

Nine races and nearly 5 months into the season, it would be safe to say that the season has exceeded my expectations (yes, I have expectations as a fan since I ‘eat, sleep, drink and live’ Formula1). We’ve seen dominance from one team, but they’ve been kind enough (and sensible enough) to let their drivers race each other. We’ve seen the regulations turn out to be extremely complex, but I guess, like most others, I have chosen to ignore them (MGU-K, MGU-K, blah!). We’ve seen Red Bull Racing almost prove that pre-season testing form is no factor! We’ve had Tony Fernandes complain and finally quit, but I don’t think his absence matters to sport, since his presence certainly didn’t. Yes, the cars don’t sound loud enough, but somehow, given the fun that this season has been, I think I have begun to ignore the engine sounds, enjoy the now audible tyre screeches and crowd cheers! (Read: More Torque, Less Talk)

Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton

The big revelation this season to me has been Nico Rosberg. I believe that his talent and grit was grossly underestimated during his Williams and early Mercedes days with Schumacher. His fight with Hamilton, who is regarded as the quicker of the two, will be the talk of this season irrespective of who wins the title fight. Not surprisingly that Rosberg isn’t the public favourite but he is my bet and that is because I don’t think this year’s fight will be decided by speed alone. (Read: Still Friends #NoProblem)

(Nico was the first ever Formula1 driver to be featured on the Inside Line F1 Podcast. Hear him: Nico Rosberg Debuts On The Inside Line F1 Podcast)

Much as Rosberg has been a pleasant surprise, Hamilton, to me, has been a little bit of a disappointment. Not so much so in the cockpit, but outside of it. His comments, supposedly to unsettle Rosberg, have been a little far fetched, but as results have proved yet, worthless. His multiple driving errors in qualifying prove that the pressure on the two drivers is massive and he’s the one who is letting the pressure get to himself which makes me wonder if his ‘steely’ self during his Mclaren days was a bit of a PR gimmick! But then again, I could be made to eat up my words as the season progresses. And of course, I scoffed at the question ‘Is Mercedes Unfair To Hamilton?’. (Read: Lewis Has A Nico And A ‘Nico’le To Deal With)

While I have praised their drivers, Mercedes too deserve much praise for letting their drivers race fair and square. Yes, they decide the fate of their drivers from the pit wall, but had they adopted Red Bull Racing’s strategy of favouring one driver over the other, we’d have probably had Rosberg play second fiddle to Hamilton! Much cheer! (Read: Mercedes Is The New Red Bull Racing, Well Almost)

The second note of thanks to Mercedes would be for developing a far more superior power train than their competitors on-track and in the showroom. And I absolutely love their marketing campaigns post their race victory on Sundays! Silverstorm, yeah! A strong personal wish for the second half of the season would be for a team to rise to the challenge of beating them on sheer pace; currently, life seems a tad too easy for them on track, barring the one Sunday in Canada. (Read: Someone Please Fight Back)

Silverstorm (Courtesy: Mercedes AMG Petronas)

Apart from the Championship leaders, the mid-field teams Sahara Force India and Williams have brought much delight and are locked in an intense battle for 4th place in the Constructors’ Championship. To be specific, Williams seem to have found pace but seem too surprised when they arrive at a GP weekend often wondering who they’re battling! And this can often happen when you come out of hibernation suddenly.

While the mid-field teams may not have been able to challenge for victory, them being in the mix for the final step on the podium does make for an interesting race every fortnight even though Ferrari and Mclaren have disappointed yet and both teams don’t seem too positive of an immediate recovery. And to me, the two most iconic and experienced teams in Formula1 seem to be stuck in a mindset which doesn’t allow them to embrace the new and ever changing era of the sport and their return to the front of the grid might take longer than their fans would expect.

While Red Bull Racing’s title defence may be hampered due to Renault’s supposed power train issues and apparent horsepower deficit, I credit them for treating Ricciardo and Vettel equally. This not only ensures a better future for Ricciardo (inside and outside of Red Bull), but also proves that Red Bull is willing to back graduates from their Junior Driver Program so long as they can put up a fight with their quadruple World Champion. (Read: Red Bull Needs Wings)

Daniel Ricciardo and Sebastian Vettel

On the driver front, we’ve had more than a few drivers spring surprise already. Magnussen, Hulkenberg, Perez, Bianchi, Kvyat and even Vergne. The best part of such competitive mid-field drivers is that they are constantly challenging the drivers with top machinery, grabbing points available and making themselves more relevant in the Championship challenge.

The interesting challenge now would be to see which driver would break into the top racing teams in the coming seasons. Sadly for them, the top four teams seem to have their cockpits booked for the long term, but this is Formula1 where the drivers are always playing musical chairs!

Button and Raikkonen are the two World Champions who could find themselves in a spot as the season progresses. Experience notwithstanding, their poor string of results might just make it tough for them to retain their cockpits, although replacing them would be an extremely difficult decision to make, on-track and in the banks!

If not, do I Bianchi see spending yet another year in Marussia? Will the 2015 Formula1 Season see Hulkenberg settle for a mid-field team? And what about Kvyat and Vergne, will they have options outside of the Red Bull Racing ladder? Formula1 has seen many a good driver deflect from the sport for the lack of availability of a ‘faster’ cockpit. If not for the coming season, I do expect major changes in the driver line-up come 2016! (Read: Three Car Teams Should Be Allowed)

Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen

The ‘fire and ice’ pairing created much positive hype for Ferrari but it seems to be going all awry for the Italian team as Raikkonen has struggled to settle in and a settled Alonso now possibly is seeking options outside. After years of waiting for a ‘good’ car, I wouldn’t be surprised if Alonso departs for a Mclaren-Honda pairing for next season (Read: Alonso Has No Option But Ferrari). As for Raikkonen, I hope he can match and beat Alonso before he hangs up his helmet for good next season. It would be sad for a driver of his calibre to retire as a ‘has been’! (Read: Ferrari, Alonso, Raikkonen, 2014 And Beyond)

Given that so much happening in the sport, (so much so that I am struggling to limit my word count!) I am extremely surprised that Formula1 is feeling insecure. The regulatory changes are okay with me (I am now used to them!), but the general consensus (and some research shows) is that the average fan has walked away or is inclined to do so. In the attempt to be technologically the most advanced series in the world, has Formula1 forgotten that ‘racing’ is their DNA over ‘technology’? Yes, one could argue that the both could go hand in hand in the case of our sport, but I guess racing will and should always hold the upper edge, after all, we aren’t the Formula1 World Engineering Championship. (Read: Racing First, Engineering Later)

What the sport is trying to ‘engineer’ and the fans are expecting is to see an Alonso vs. Vettel in Silverstone at every race of the season a multiple times over. While I don’t think I am entirely qualified (technically) to comment on how to make that happen, I think the fans (me included!) need to hold back some flak! In our new age world, a sport run by wise (?) old men is trying to find its own space, social media and entertainment wise. (Read: Formula1 Puts Fans First)

And while fans may or may not be patient, the administrators of the sport certainly need to be so and avoid knee jerk reactions and mid-season rule and regulatory changes. I for one, am staunchly against mid-season rule changes.

In the sporting-tainment (sports + entertainment) context, Formula1 tilts more towards sport than entertainment, but I guess that is the nature of the sport and restoring the balance isn’t as easy as one would make it to be. And in an attempt to restore that balance, I hope that marketing professionals like me would possibly find more prominence in the otherwise engineering obsessed world of Formula1. (Read: Formula1 Needs Better Marketing)

2014 Austrian Grand Prix: Nico Beats Keke

Posted on | June 22, 2014 | No Comments

Before I get on with my views on the race, I must say that the Red Bull Ring was one helluva spectacularly beautiful racing circuit. And I don’t just mean the race track, but the adjoining terrain as well. After witnessing the race today, the Red Bull Ring has been added to my list of ‘must visit’ circuits! (Read: Just What Formula1 Should Be)

Nico Rosberg won the 2014 Austrian Grand Prix. Many expected to, I almost didn’t. I expected Lewis Hamilton, possibly the faster of the two Mercedes drivers, to return to his winning ways and beat Nico Rosberg, possibly the mentally stronger of the two. And on most occasions in Austria, it was Hamilton who was faster, but that Rosberg won almost convincingly possibly proves that this title fight may not be about outright pace after all.

Nico Rosberg Wins The 2014 Austrian GP (courtesy: Twitter)

Rosberg’s worse finish in the 2014 Formula1 Season has been second place! And with this win, he surpassed his father and 1982 World Champion Keke Rosberg’s overall win tally of 5! Proud father, I hope!

Hamilton’s twin errors in Q3 of qualifying indicate that he is under pressure since he’s doing all the chasing. What’s worse is that Rosberg’s win moves him more than a race win ahead in terms of crawling back points should there be a retirement from the current championship leader. And the championship is after all about points! (Read: Winning Matters In Formula1, Not Participation)

That said, Hamilton’s opening lap is one of the best we’ve seen since a long long time and to go from P9 to P2 just goes to show the pace of the car and the confidence of the driver! Although from an entertainment point of view, I only wished his fight back wasn’t as simple and short lived! Yes, I end up thinking and writing like a marketer sometimes! (Read: Red Bull Ring Became Mercedes Ring)

And for those wondering if Mercedes is purposely executing slower pitstops for Hamilton to give Rosberg that slight advantage on-track; the lesser said the better and this is me saying the least!

Red Bull Ring or Mercedes Ring?

Williams will celebrate their much deserved podium and so will Bottas, his maiden Formula1 podium. I guess no body expected them to win, but everyone did expect them to put up a fight and in my view, they put up half a fight. In theory, had they pitted their drivers on the same or the next lap of the Mercedes drivers, they’d have possibly had a chance to be in the mix and not let Mercedes score their fifth 1-2 finish of the season. Post-race, what’s worse to know is that Hamilton’s pit-stops were relatively slower and maybe this is the chance Williams needed too. But I guess, given the points, stakes and the money, Williams were happy to score ‘big’ points than chase for win! Sigh!

Massa got pole, but I was certain that should a Williams finish in the top 3, it would be Bottas over Massa. The manner in which Hamilton overtook him into Turn 2 after the first round of pit-stops was almost shameful! And Bottas is now 7th out of the 8 Finns who have completed in Formula1 to step onto the podium. A high podium percentage for that nationality!

Sergio Perez’s reverse tyre strategy and precise driving saw him leap from P16 and finish in P6 in a race which he briefly led too. The Mexican driver’s surge of confidence and race craft management was reminiscent of his debut season in Sauber! The super consistent Hulkenberg finished 9th to register yet another double points finish for Sahara Force India. Strangely, Hulkenberg is the only driver to have been overtaken on the final lap two times (in separate races!) this season.

Alonso’s P5 was possibly the best Ferrari could do whereas his World Champion team-mate Raikkonen could only manage P10 and a finish that was +30 seconds from the Spaniard. The other World Champions Button and Vettel failed to score and were out-scored by their rookie team-mates!

Strangely, every race this season where Mark Webber has been present, Sebastial Vettel has suffered from a retirement and such was the case in Austria too! Does that mean that this was the last we’ve seen of Webber for a long long time?

Up next is the 2014 British Grand Prix, which is vastly different from Canada and Austria in terms of circuit configuration. The sweeping bends at Silverstone will demand higher downforce from the cars and while I expect Mercedes to dominate as usual, we should see Red Bull Racing go back to being the primary challenger. Hopefully, Sahara Force India too will have the edge over Ferrari, Mclaren and Williams and add to their points haul.

Last but not the least, do tune in to the latest episode of the Inside Line F1 Podcast tomorrow where we will discuss the 2014 Austrian Grand Prix and some other ridiculous changes in the sporting regulations that the fans could see coming their way in the 2015 Formula1 Season.

Race Results:

  1. Nico Rosberg
  2. Lewis Hamilton
  3. Valtteri Bottas
  4. Felipe Massa
  5. Fernando Alonso
  6. Sergio Perez
  7. Kevin Magnussen
  8. Daniel Ricciardo
  9. Nico Hulkenberg
  10. Kimi Raikkonen
  11. Jenson Button
  12. Pastor Maldonado
  13. Adrian Sutil
  14. Romain Grosjean
  15. Jules Bianchi
  16. Kamui Kobayashi
  17. Max Chilton
  18. Marcus Ericsson
  19. Esteban Gutierrez

Retired:

  • Jean Eric Vergne
  • Sebastian Vettel
  • Daniil Kvyat

Before I sign off, a note of thanks to Jim Bamber for entertaining us for so many years with his Formula1 cartoons and for inspiring us to add humour to the sport via the Inside Line F1 Podcast. And do check out this interesting graphic from Red Bull Racing on how many people actually worked in the scenes (behind and otherwise) to bring to you a successful Austrian Grand Prix!

2014 Austrian Grand Prix Qualifying: Massa On Pole, Williams 1-2

Posted on | June 21, 2014 | No Comments

Formula1 couldn’t have scripted the 2014 Austrian Grand Prix week better. After losing ‘share of voice’ to Football across every possible platform and media, the sport pulled out two trump cards out of nowhere to somewhat try and balance the scales. On Twitter India trends, Massa was trending over Valencia and Xabi Alonso! (Yay!)

First, Michael Schumacher’s exit from coma (Read: Michael’s 92nd Victory) and now Felipe Massa’s surprising and pleasing pole position in the Austria. I am hoping that the media in Brazil would be mad about something other than Football for a change!

Massa’s pole position proves a few things true. First, nice guys do get pole position, sometimes. And second, which is more crucial, experience does score over raw pace, sometimes. Notice the use of the word ‘sometimes’!

Felipe Massa On Pole - 2014 Austrian Grand Prix

The Williams pair has been evenly matched and sometimes Massa has seemed a shade slower than Bottas, which isn’t too surprising to many. Infact, Bottas was on provisional pole before a mistake on his final attempt couldn’t help him go quicker. This is where Massa’s experience let him keep calm and put in a lap in the dying minutes to clinch his first pole position since the 2008 Brazilian Grand Prix! If I were Bottas, I would be disappointed and I think he visibly was!

The qualifying times at the 2014 Austrian Grand Prix indicate that Formula1 cars are only a second slower than the ones used in the 2003 edition (V10s), which isn’t too bad for the sport. Although, the FIA does seem to have gotten more stringent on their policing of the ‘white lines’ that define track limits.

A number of drivers saw their laps deleted after crossing over the white line on the exit of Turn 8. While strict policing is good for the sport, I wonder why the kerb between Turns 6 & 7 (sweeping left / right sequence) wasn’t as strictly policed! And in a way I am glad that it wasn’t. Seeing the cars go quickly through that sequence with fast directional changes is fun!

While Williams and Massa are the talk of the evening, the team in the Mercedes garage would be wondering where they went wrong in today’s qualifying session. Strange that despite having the fastest car on the grid, they gave away victory in the 2014 Canadian Grand Prix and lost pole position today.

Was Hamilton a bundle of nerves as he goofed up his first attempt in Q3? And did something break on his car under-braking for Turn 2 on his second attempt? Some bit of information from Mercedes is due. A good result is needed to keep him within reach of Rosberg’s championship advantage. (Read: Hamilton Deals With A Nico And A ‘Nico’le)

As for Rosberg, he seemed certain that he could’ve got pole had Hamilton’s spin not resulted in yellow flags which ultimately required him to back off to avoid a penalty. And someone needs to tell Hamilton that he needs to put a lap time faster than Rosberg before spinning to bring out yellow flags and hamper Rosberg’s attempt!!

The last fortnight (Canada and now Austria) has made me value Ferrari’s Schumacher era and their dominance even more. All it takes is one small mistake to ruin a perfect weekend and Mercedes have had two back to back errors already! And no wonder they say that a Formula1 season can be long, very long. (I guess Sauber feel that too!).

Ricciardo, Magnussen and Kvyat were the other drivers that impressed yet again as they managed to out-qualify their more experienced team-mates. In Ricciardo’s case, this is the 6th time in 8 races where he’s out-qualified his quadrule World Champion team-mate! Some soul (and speed too?) searching needed for Vettel!

In tomorrow’s race, I expect Mercedes to win and given their starting positions Rosberg has a better chance than Hamilton. And I am relishing the prospect of seeing Hamilton climb his way back to the podium. For those wondering if Williams can hold positions in the race tomorrow, it’ll be interesting to note that on super-softs, they are evenly matched in pace with the Mercedes, but on softs, the German team is probably quicker over the one-lap and over a race stint.

But, I will be disappointed if either of the Williams don’t make it to the podium. Given FP times, I expect the Ferrari (Alonso in particular) to be quick enough to challenge for the podium and hopefully the Sahara Force India’s too. Will Renault’s power deficit hamper a Ricciardo challenge for the podium?

And in the race, I expect the pit-lane entry to stir up a controversy given that it hogs the apex of the super quick Turn 8. Also, will track limit be defined for attacking and defending tomorrow? I hope the FIA’s ambiguity in this matter doesn’t influence a good racing result. All in all, I expect a power packed race tomorrow, so tune in!

Qualifying Results:

  1. Felipe Massa
  2. Valtteri Bottas
  3. Nico Rosberg
  4. Fernando Alonso
  5. Daniel Ricciardo
  6. Kevin Magnussen
  7. Daniil Kvyat
  8. Kimi Raikkonen
  9. Lewis Hamilton
  10. Nico Hulkenberg
  11. Sergio Perez
  12. Jenson Button
  13. Sebastian Vettel
  14. Pastor Maldonado
  15. Jean Eric Vergne
  16. Romain Grosjean
  17. Adrian Sutil
  18. Esteban Gutierrez
  19. Jules Bianchi
  20. Kamui Kobayashi
  21. Max Chilton
  22. Marcus Ericsson

Hear our pre-Austrian GP episode of the Inside Line F1 Podcast

The Inside Line F1 Podcast is now available on various platforms and I would urge you to choose your platform to listen to the humour that we add to the otherwise serious and complex sport of Formula1. And while our podcast frequency is weekly, come ‘like‘ the Inside Line F1 Podcast on Facebook and on Google+ for far frequent updates on the humour in the world of Formula1.

If you are an Apple user, you can subscribe to the Inside Line F1 Podcast on the iTunes Podcast Store or via our RSS feed (for Android/Windows/Blackberry users).

The Inside Line Formula1 Podcast is produced and hosted by Rishi Kapoor and Kunal Shah. Follow us on Twitter and on our SoundcloudSpreakerMixCloud and YouTube channels.

Inside Line F1 Podcast: Michael’s 92nd Victory

Posted on | June 17, 2014 | 2 Comments

The moment that almost every Formula1 fan (a Schumacher one or not) was waiting for finally arrived yesterday. Schumacher’s manager finally released news that the German legend was no longer in coma and was being moved to a rehabilitation centre for further recovery.

As someone who understands media and PR, this piece of news was just that. There is ambiguity in the news, much like the previous public updates, and as one of our listeners Lucien Byfieldt put it, the truth somewhere lies in between these updates!

Michael Schumacher

However, in a week where there’s an overdose of Football news and updates, Formula1 brought Michael Schumacher back to life to bring itself back in focus! No complaints!

So in this week’s episode of the Inside Line F1 Podcast, we talk about how this piece of news is victory in itself. Yes, there’s no guarantee on the quality of life that Schumacher will live here on, but to us, the best part of the news is that he will live.

Hear / read our previous episodes and columns on Michael Schumacher:

Here’s what else is in store in our Formula1 Podcast:

  • Michael’s 92nd victory and that too on a Monday!
  • Is it only a coincidence that Schumacher timed his ‘coma’ exit in time for the Germany vs. Portugal clash? And a nice gesture by Germany to dedicate their win to him.
  • Talking of exits, can Ferrari really exit Formula1? (Read: Ferrari, Alonso, Raikkonen, 2014 And Beyond)
  • What’ll happen if they do decide to leave the sport?
  • Alonso to Le Mans, is that a possibility? (Read: Alonso And Ferrari Had No Option But Renew Till 2016)
  • Newey to sailing, Vettel will go where?
  • Maldonado calls the E22 a ‘real raze-r’!?
  • And after 11 years, the A1 Ring makes a comeback as the Red Bull Ring! (Read: A1 Ring To Red Bull Ring)
  • Our best memories of the A1 Ring includes those with Schumacher, Barrichello and Montoya! Hear!
  • Predictions?

AND this is where we love the love from our listeners. Upon hearing Michael Schumacher’s exit from coma, Mr. Oberoi landed up with a box of Indian sweets (gulab jamuns) for Rishi Kapoor!! Thank you, thank you and thank you!

Listener Mr. Oberoi visited Rishi Kapoor with Indian sweets

Mercedes had their hybrid power unit encounter issues last weekend in Canada. Should the issue arise again, there’ll be chance for a Red Bull Racing or another Constructor to score a surprise win. If not, Red Bull Racing could well be renamed to Mercedes Ring this weekend.

The Inside Line F1 Podcast is now available on various platforms and I would urge you to choose your platform to listen to the humour that we add to the otherwise serious and complex sport of Formula1. And while our podcast frequency is weekly, come ‘like‘ the Inside Line F1 Podcast page on Facebook for far frequent updates on the humour in the world of Formula1.

If you are an Apple user, you can subscribe to the Inside Line F1 Podcast on the iTunes Podcast Store or via our RSS feed (for Android/Windows/Blackberry users).

The Inside Line Formula1 Podcast is produced and hosted by Rishi Kapoor and Kunal Shah. Follow us on Twitter and on our SoundcloudSpreakerMixCloud and YouTube channels.

Inside Line F1 Podcast: The Mont-Real Deal

Posted on | June 11, 2014 | No Comments

So I did an FIA, so to say, while uploading this week’s episode of the Inside Line F1 Podcast. I uploaded the unedited file (yeah, they passed the draft resolution that included the ‘double points’ in Abu Dhabi!) Just what a boo-boo! I am sure the surprised many who heard the unedited version (some 150 of you!) realized the fun and hard work (of course) that Rishi and I go through each week to bring to you our Formula1 Podcast. (Read: Canadian GP, Just What Formula1 Should Be)

Daniel Ricciardo Wins The 2014 Canadian GP (Courtesy: Red Bull Racing)

Thanks to the 2014 Canadian Grand Prix, we had this episode cross nearly 20mins before some smart editing and packaging that brought the time close to Rishi’s liking. If it were up to me, I would possibly have a live broadcast of my daily thoughts, which many wouldn’t be surprised are about Formula1 mainly.

Jokes apart, below is what is in store for you in this episode:

  • We have a fan question. This time, Mithila Mehta asks if Circuit Gilles Villeneuve is the only circuit named after a former Formula1 driver.
  • 10 more years of enjoying Formula1 in Canada. Now can we race there like 10 times a year please?
  • Ricciardo’s win! Kudos! Congratulations! Can Vettel go quicker?
  • Speed differential between a Mercedes, Sahara Force India and Red Bull Racing
  • Don’t we love Rosberg’s cheeky side! And are his German roots helping him gain more support in the Mercedes camp? (Read: Winning Matters In Formula1, Not Participation)
  • No prizes for guessing which current driver will value the double points scoring system in Abu Dhabi. (Read: Fed Up Of Rule Changes In Formula1)
  • Still Friends #NoProblem
  • Our verdict: Perez vs. Massa clash. Did the FIA get a little too enthusiastic?
  • Should Ferrari quit F1 and race in GP2? (Read: F1 Cars, GP2 Lap Times)
  • Sport is a great equalizer as Marussia would’ve realized it.
  • And what happens when Chilton decides to go racing for a change?
  • Should Formula1 re-think the Friday practice schedules?
  • Red Bull Racing’s ploy to keep Newey away from Ferrari
  • Is selling a stake or sell-out the next step in the lifecycle of Sauber F1 Team?
  • Forza Rossa, who?

The Inside Line F1 Podcast is now available on various platforms and I would urge you to choose your platform to listen to the humour that we add to the otherwise serious and complex sport of Formula1. And while our podcast frequency is weekly, come ‘like‘ the Inside Line F1 Podcast page on Facebook for far frequent updates on the humour in the world of Formula1.

If you are an Apple user, you can subscribe to the Inside Line F1 Podcast on the iTunes Podcast Store or via our RSS feed (for Android/Windows/Blackberry users).

The Inside Line Formula1 Podcast is produced and hosted by Rishi Kapoor and Kunal Shah. Follow us on Twitter and on our SoundcloudSpreakerMixCloud and YouTube channels.

2014 Canadian Grand Prix: Just What Formula1 Should Be

Posted on | June 8, 2014 | 1 Comment

The Canadian Grand Prix seldom ceases to amaze and entertain. And I am only glad that the organisers have managed to find the money to afford another 10 year extension! Yay!

In what should’ve been a straightforward 1-2 finish for Mercedes, a mid-race issue with their electrical power units saw both cars lose pace, but still hold place. Eventually, braking issues saw Hamilton retire, his second of the season, whereas Rosberg did well to adjust to a lower powered car and keep ahead for most part of the race and eventually finish 2nd. In the Drivers’ Championship, Rosberg’s lead over Hamilton is now stretched to 22 points!!

Rosberg did well to hold fort and only let a Red Bull Racing car sneak by! I would stop short of calling it a ‘champion’s drive’ just yet. But goes to show that a Mercedes with power issues is almost as quick as a Sahara Force India car with DRS issues and a perfectly abled Red Bull Racing car! And to think of it, the race may not have been as much of an entertainer had the Mercedes cars not encountered their issues. Can Mercedes race the remainder of their season without the electrical power units?

Daniel Ricciardo (Courtesy: Red Bull Racing)

Daniel Ricciardo’s maiden win makes him the fourth Australian to win a Formula1 Grand Prix, but that isn’t the kind of statistic I would really go after. His win was unexpected and came at a time when the favourites were not at the top of their game. But this is what sport is all about. Ricciardo ensured that he was there to grab the cake when the Mercedes drivers were unable to eat it. And of course his sneaking Vettel’s position in the first round of pit-stops will make for some post-race debrief drama.

For a change, there are multiple ‘Driver of the Day’ choices for me to choose from. And it is too late in this post for me to mention the superior driving of Sergio Perez who managed 35 laps on the super-soft and held back the faster Red Bull Racing cars for most part of the race and almost finished 2nd today. The Mexican reported rear brake issues which possibly led Massa to crash into him on the last lap. Loss of some very valuable championship points for Sahara Force India who are just 10 points off Ferrari in 3rd place! Hulkenberg’s 7 out of 7 points finish adds strength to the tally. He finished P5 in Canada.

Perez and Hulkenberg were on varied strategies at the start of the race. Had they both been on the same strategy, could both cars have finished on the podium? Much to ponder about…

‘Oh Felipe!’ was the first reaction to his last lap shunt that involved and spoiled Perez’s brilliant race too. While both drivers have reported to be safe, I wonder if Massa’s experience could’ve helped him avoid this collision. To be fair to him, Perez had already reported rear brake issues and maybe his braking earlier caught out Massa?

On that topic, I believe that Massa (and possibly Smedley) could possibly do better and bring his Ferrari experience to Williams. The team’s eventual finishes in Canada do not reflect their true pace. Whether it was overtaking Vettel for position or choosing tyre strategy, I think Massa and the Williams team have rusted a little after being away from the sharper end of the grid for a few seasons.

Talking of experience, I am amazed at how Vettel managed to stay out of the Perez-Massa tumble and the below vine video is the best way to explain the peripheral vision that top racing car drivers have. Super!

I am somewhat beginning to like Rosberg’s attitude in his fight with Hamilton. Maybe he doesn’t have the outright pace as his team-mate, but surely he seems cheekier of the two as he bent another rule today to stay ahead in the battle and this is after a cheeky out-braking manoeuvre at the start. And today’s race showed just how much on the edge Mercedes and both their drivers are. They almost stared at a double retirement spoiling their dreams of finishing a perfect season. And Rosberg almost put it in the wall while driving on the limit, followed by a braking error in the heat of the battle with Hamilton. Just what Formula1 should be like, every possible race!

But this is also not how I would like the Drivers’ Championship to be decided in the 2014 Formula1 Season. Hamilton brake bias was rearwards as disclosed on team radio and maybe in all the chasing he was made to do, it was only the brakes that could fail and Canada is known to be notorious on the brakes historically.

It is only prudent that the Ferraris get a mention this late in my post-race post. They raced, alright, but I don’t recollect much of TV cameras covering their race. Alonso and Raikkonen finished in the points due to the retirement of three cars at the front (Hamilton, Perez and Massa). Now usually, Alonso would’ve been in the hunt for win had such a slip up happened with the dominating team. But today, he had to settle for P6!

And lastly, the double retirement for Marussia on the opening lap of the race! Sport can be such an equaliser! After the high in Monaco, the team’s lowest low in Canada!

I am excited to record the post-Canada episode of the Inside Line F1 Podcast. Tune in tomorrow!

Race Results:

  1. Daniel Ricciardo
  2. Nico Rosberg
  3. Sebastian Vettel
  4. Jenson Button
  5. Nico Hulkenberg
  6. Fernando Alonso
  7. Valtteri Bottas
  8. Jean Eric Vergne
  9. Kevin Magnussen
  10. Kimi Raikkonen
  11. Sergio Perez
  12. Felipe Massa
  13. Adrian Sutil
  14. Esteban Gutierrez

Did Not Finish:

  • Romain Grosjean
  • Daniil Kvyat
  • Lewis Hamilton
  • Kamui Kobayashi
  • Pastor Maldonado
  • Marcus Ericsson
  • Max Chilton
  • Jules Bianchi

keep looking »