Archive for the ‘F1 Drivers’ Category

HUNGARY COVERThe Hungarian Grand Prix showed Formula 1 at its finest. It was an emotional weekend in Budapest, following the death of Jules Bianchi, but the Grand Prix drivers rose to the occasion – and produced an action-packed race, filled with surprises and fascinating from start to finish. And then, after the engines had fallen silent there were touching moments as the stars of the day remembered Bianchi. It was a great day for Red Bull as well, with Daniel and Daniil both on the podium, while Max Verstappen was fourth. Even McLaren-Honda went home with a bagful of points. It was not a day that Mercedes will remember fondly, but it keeps the World Championship interesting…

Also in GP+ this week…

– The F1 circus remembers Jules Bianchi
– We ask whether F1 needs better promotion and new technology
– Blue Bird runs at Pendine Sands
– Alex Lynn shines in GP2
– JS wonders why there are 21 races when the rules say 20
– DT worries about sports trying to control media coverage
– The Hack looks back to darker days
– Plus the usual fabulous photography from Peter Nygaard and his team.

GP+ is the fastest magazine in the Formula 1 world. It is published as the mechanics are still wiping down the cars after each and every race. It appears in PDF format so that you can read it on your computer, your tablet and even on your smartphone, but it’s an old style racing magazine in a modern format. It goes right to the heart of the sport, inside the F1 Paddock. We are there at every race and we get to the people that matter. We are also passionate about the history of the sport and love to share it with our readers.

GP+ is an amazing bargain. You get 21 issues for £29.99, covering the entire 2015 Formula 1 season.
For more information, go to http://www.grandprixplus.com.

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Franz Tost is not necessarily a great strategic thinker, indeed I have heard him described in a number of less than complimentary terms than “team principal” over the years. Still, one man’s bag carrier is another man’s legend. Anyway, when asked about whether F1 should go to Azerbaijan, Tost went into the usual spiel about how sport transcends politics and all is well in Cloudcuckooland. This is, of course, unadulterated tosh. Sport does not operate above politics, it is either used by politicians or not, depending on whether or not the sport is willing to sell itself to the highest bidder. The only people who try to make out that sport can solve problems are those with a vested interest. Tost was then asked if he felt it was right that accredited journalists should be denied visas on political grounds, as happened at the recent European Games in Baku.

“There must be a reason why the visa was denied,” he said. “I don’t know the background.”

The second part of this sentence was bang on the money, the first part showed that if one does not know what one is talking about it, it is best not to say anything, as one can end up looking ignorant.

“To be honest, I don’t care about this,” he said. “We go there, we race there and that’s it. It’s your problem how you get the visa.”

I have always believed that it is best that the teams and the media have respect for one another. We are all in this together and whether the sport likes it or not, it is the media that has created F1’s marketing power. I wonder if the people at Monster Energy’s rival understand that the media does not always need to be nice to those who lack understanding, charm and respect.

So, Franz, how shall I put it? We don’t care if your cars blow up or if you completely fail to meet the lofty ambitions you talked about at the start of the year.

That’s your problem – but we will remind everyone of it.

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Sauber has announced that it is extending the contracts of Marcus Ericsson in 2016. The news means that rumours of Nasr going to Williams can be discounted.

“This early signing shows that the drivers and the team are sure they are heading in the right direction,” said team boss Monisha Kaltenborn.”We have full confidence in the talents and skills of Marcus and Felipe. Both have shown solid performances, gained experience and learnt quickly. We enjoy having them in the team and they give it a positive boost.”

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You know that F1 is not really doing much when the lead F1 story on the news-clopping services is “Tamara Ecclestone puts her cleavage on full display in bikini in Mykonos”.

Given that the story is repeated (at different venues) on a fairly regular basis, I cannot say that this did much for my passion for the sport. Still, in this age of celebrity I guess one needs to keep strutting your stuff if you wish to stay famous for being famous. I don’t get it, because it seems to me that the goal of today’s celebrity is to get rich, using the fame to sell your brand of knickers/gumboots/nail varnish (etc). If you are already rich beyond the wildest dreams of almost everyone, I don’t see the point of fame. It just means that people will rush up and mistake you for a Kardashian, when you’re in the checkout queue in Tesco…

Anyway, I’ve been sleeping on the flight to Budapest, as catching it required a start at ridiculous o’clock. I’ve not been in an airport (deliberately) since Canada more than six weeks ago, having driven to the last few races. One forgets how little fun flying is in the summer holidays, when everything is blocked by amateurs of the bucket-and-spade brigade, sniffling kiddies, large-bottomed African ladies, minor celebrities, such as former Presidential mistresses, and normal folk to whom airports are not business tools but rather more baffling than Demotic script.

It’s hot here in Budapest, so with a wiggly track perhaps Ferrari will mount a strong challenge to the boys in silver and turquoise…

Let’s hope.

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Thoughts on a sad day

“We didn’t know any better in the old days,” the great Denny Hulme once told me. “Now we’ve got the most incredibly hygenic circuits you have ever seen. Some people criticise them. They say it’s terribly boring motor racing. Yes, compared to the old Nürburgring it is… but it’s better than going to a funeral every Tuesday morning.”

Today in Nice the world said farewell to Jules Bianchi. He had a short and sadly tragic life. His is a story of potential that will never be fulfilled; of talent that will never be rewarded; and yet, lest we forget, it is a story that has happened many times in the history of the sport. In my generation I think particularly of the young Stefan Bellof, but there have been dozens of other young men who rolled the dice and lost.

Death in sport is rather a new concept for a lot of people in the F1 paddock and one gets the feeling that many don’t quite know how to handle it. The older folks have seen it before, not just at Imola in 1994, but at many race meetings, far and wide. By the time I was Bianchi’s age I had seen four or five deaths at races. It happened more back then, but I am not old enough to have lived through the really bad years as those in their 60s and 70s today had to do.

And yet, let us keep things in perspective. The trials of previous generations who lived through wars remind one that we are fortunate in the modern age. The school I went to had World War I memorial boards. One day I stopped and counted the names.There were 600 of them and it struck me that this was the same number as my entire generation in the school that day. That shook me. We like to think that those who die young do not die in vain, that the world learns from such terrible waste. As Laurence Binyon famously wrote of his generation: “They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old: age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. At the going down of the sun and in the morning we will remember them”, but you cannot help but wonder.

In the end, there is no point in trying to find reason in all of this, nor even to take comfort from flowery words and phrases. The only value is that we learn from what happened and try to makes sure that it does not happen again.

Assuredly, at some point or other, circumstances in F1 will come together to kill again. We never know when that might be. You cannot make motor racing 100 percent safe. What has been achieved in F1 in the last 30 years is extraordinary, but we must never forget that every time a driver steps into the cockpit of a racing car, they are at risk. They accept that and, if not, they walk away. They have the choice. Big accidents still happen – and always will – but today the consequences are different. The drivers are unhurt after an accident that would have killed them 40 years ago.

That has happened because of advancing technology and a willingness to learn and do things differently.

In medieval times, people felt helpless in the face of the harshness of life and they sought solace in the romantic ideals of chivalry. They wanted to believe in pure and untainted actions and be inspired by them, even if they knew deep down that the world was a cynical and nasty place. At times like this, I like to hope that this lesson will be learned by the brilliant, positive and passionate people of the Formula 1 world. I hope that adversity will teach them to race like the heroes that they are, not like ruthless, money-grabbing rats, willing to do anything to get to the top. And when I think of this, I remember an evening in Brazil in 2008 when Lewis Hamilton beat Felipe Massa to the World Championship. I was proud of the sport that day, proud of the two men.

So let us move on in a positive way, remembering the shooting star that was Bianchi, and trying always to learn, to inspire and to do things in the right way.

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FIA retires number 17

The FIA says that it believes it is an appropriate gesture to retire Jules Bianchi’s number 17 from the Formula One World Championship in honour of the dead Frenchman. Car numbers are now personally chosen by each driver and this means that the number can no longer be used for a car competing in the FIA Formula One World Championship.

It is an interesting discussion as to whether this is more of a tribute than allowing the number to be used again. There are, at the moment, very few numbers in F1 that are specifically linked to one specific driver because the system meant that they were always being switched around, particularly if one was successful. The World Champion would take the number 1, or if he retired his car would carry number 0, the old World Champion would get his successor’s previous number.

One thinks, obviously, of Gilles Villeneuve and number 27, which is today being used by Nico Hulkenberg, although some older fans argue that they always link the number to Alan Jones, when he was a Williams driver. The only number with the same kind of status in F1 is number five, which was linked to Nigel Mansell.

The process of linking drivers to numbers is still new in F1 but has been used a lot in US racing where the late Dale Earnhardt, for example, was famous for his number 3. That number was retired for a while after his death, but is now being used by Austin Dillon. Dan Ricciardo, incidentally, chose the number three because he was a fan of Earnhardt.

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A little realism please

I read a headline somewhere about how the Lotus F1 team has nearly $1 million of unpaid bills. I should think that most of the F1 teams have much the same at any one time. To single out Lotus is a fairly daft thing to do, although – to be fair – the team has not helped itself by not dealing with its creditors unless they take the organisation to court, or threaten to wind up the operation. But stop and think about it for a moment. Yes, to you, me and a lot of other people $1 million sounds like a great deal of money. But it is not something that the Greek Prime Minister would lose any sleep over. These kind of people worry about hundreds of millions and billions. The media has been making a huge fuss of late about Greek debt and it seems that almost no-one noticed that between June 12 and July 8 the value of the Shanghai Stock Exchange Composite companies dropped by 33 percent, wiping more than $3.2 trillion off the value of the companies involved. To put that into some perspective, it is 10 times that size of the entire Greek economy… So one needs to put things into perspective. The current Formula 1 teams are all owned by people who can afford to own them. If they reach the point where it becomes impossible, they will sell them, but they don’t want to lose money and so they are all holding on, hoping that the sport will change and that costs will come down and rewards increase. In the interim they are investing as little as they possibly can. You have to remember that the sport’s costs are astonishing, with the small teams burning through more than $1 million a week and the big teams spending that amount EVERY DAY. So big headlines claiming that a team that owes a million is in trouble are simply naive.

Similarly, there are reports that the Russian Grand Prix is in financial trouble and might not happen, on the basis that the local interim governor Veniamin Kondratiev told the media that the region was not going to be paying the fees for the race. This was spun into a big story, without anyone actually stopping to think it through. Kondratiev is clearly not the kind of man who is going to go against the will of President Putin, who wants the race to happen because it makes him look good, if only in the eyes of his own people. Kondratiev was appointed only a few months ago and prior to the appointment was serving on Putin’s presidential staff. So, it is fair to suggest that he probably does what he is told…

The truth is that the deal between Bernie Ecclestone and the Russian authorities is guaranteed by the Ministry of Finance. In order to pay the fees the government is loaning the money required to the rights holder, OAO Omega Centre, which provides construction and engineering services in the Krasnodar region. This organisation then pays the fees to the Formula One group. The word is that the money required this year is $70 million, which perhaps explains why Bernie Ecclestone always makes such a fuss about Vladimir Putin. Anyone who pays that much for an F1 race deserves to be pampered. That is an amazing amount of money to pay each year for a motor race.

The race promotion company is operating the circuit and all it needs to do is to cover its operating costs. The word is that this year there are only 20,000 tickets sold, which if true is disappointing, although it is not unusual for the crowd to drop off significantly in the second year of a new event. The Russians don’t much like the date that they have and are moving to the May 1 holiday next year, in the hope that this will make the race more successful.

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