Williams knows the score, it’s time we did too

Photo Credit: Williams Martini Racing

Recent news has told us the fairytale of Robert Kubica’s return to a Formula 1 grid looks to be all but over after recent tests with the Williams team, Russia’s Sergey Sirotkin also tested the car in Abu Dhabi and the team has concluded the Russian was faster. While some of you may be upset by the decision that could see Kubica out of the running, Williams knows the score and it’s time we did too.

It may sound ridiculous that a team of Williams’ stature has to resort to the possibility of signing yet another rookie driver in what looks to be for financial reasons, which in reality is complete hogwash. To sign fast and experienced drivers, you need to show you can deliver the results for them to compete at a high level and as hard is it to admit, the Grove-based team just haven’t done that.

Their last title came at the hands of Jacques Villeneuve in 1997 and have only won a single race in 13 years with Pastor Maldonado at the 2012 Spanish Grand Prix taking the only one since Juan Pablo Montoya’s last win for the team at Interlagos in 2004. When you think about it in that respect, it’s certainly a no-brainer Williams just cannot attract the type of great names from the past that lies in their trophy cabinets.

Having utilised the talents of Rubens Barrichello and Felipe Massa since 2010 in order to try and gain stability within the team having an experienced driver helping in the development of the car and the team, it could be time to abandon that ideology.

Paddy Lowe openly stated mid-season the design philosophy of the car would change for the FW41 into 2018 in order to climb back up the grid and it seemed that having an experienced driver could help with that. But with changes in the technical departments, maybe it’s time to change how they view a driver line-up too.

While Stroll had a very mixed bag of results and form in 2017, he did show glimpses of what he and the team were capable of, Should Sirotkin be the one to partner the 19-year old next season, it may not be the worst line-up imaginable. With a fresh perspective from both drivers and a solid leader technically in Paddy Lowe, maybe some youth and speed behind the wheel isn’t a bad way to change to look for a change of fortune.

Sirotkin may come with money from his backers at SMP racing, every driver brings some form of sponsorship/money with them to an F1 seat, that’s just how it works. The 22-year old has had relative success in the junior series but has shown he has pace in F1 machinery after Renault’s Alan Permane said he believes the young Russian deserves a shot at the top level.

On Kubica I admit, when I first got wind of his possible return to an F1 cockpit I was supremely excited, a man who impressed three world champions in Lewis Hamilton, Fernando Alonso and his new manager Nico Rosberg claim was one of the best they’ve ever raced, was going to get a chance that was never supposed to have been possible.

Having run for Renault at the test after the Hungarian Grand Prix, it all looked good on paper, but eventually the French team passed over on the Pole in favour of the youth in Carlos Sainz. A decision you certainly cannot blame them for, especially as they’re looking forward and working hard to return to the front of the grid in years to come.

Kubica’s pace at the Abu Dhabi test behind the wheel of Williams’ FW40 did look to be quick, but there always appeared to be question marks over his performance through the subtle comments the team did say after the two days of running.

With seven years out of the cockpit, it appears that despite the efforts made to make him comfortable in the car, the pace we were accustomed too from him just didn’t seem to materialise in order to get himself back on the grid. Despite everything the 32-year old should be enormously proud of himself to be able to drive an F1 car again at speed, having once been told he would never drive a racecar again.

There are opportunities for Kubica outside of F1 in sport cars, especially with the WEC LMP1 field growing after the departures of Audi and Porsche in recent seasons and the rapid growth of the IMSA series in the USA, there is plenty of room for him to still find a spot on a race track and continue his own journey, even if it is away from Williams and F1.

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Logos, the future and the blame game

Photo Credit: Mercedes AMG Motorsport

In light of the new logo for Formula 1 presented to the world after the 2017 season finale in Abu Dhabi, the backlash has been quite swift and critical of the new commercial owners in Liberty Media for replacing the old logo which had been in place since 1994. While their first season in F1 can be a relative success, their true challenges are only getting underway and with it will come wars of words and the blame game from fans and its inner sanctum.

The bigger issues

“Why focus on a logo instead of the bigger issues?” is the argument I’m hearing most from the fan base and while I can see their side of the story, it really doesn’t hold up as a talking point against Liberty’s actions. The new commercial owners have been fully aware of the problems at hand and are working hard in the background to resolve them.

Ross Brawn and Martin Brundle laid down some very harsh truths in a piece for Sky Sports F1 which I urge you to check out if you haven’t seen it already, both were very critical of the current situation F1 is finding itself in and rightly so.

Outrageous spending, vast performance and financial gaps with little in return for those at the back of the grid and the fans watching in the stands and at home, it is a sad and sorry image for what is supposed to be the ‘pinnacle’ of motorsport, something which F1 claims to be but must admit it’s not delivering on that statement.

MotoGP in recent years has led the way in showing the world what a motorsport should be, something that is gripping, edge of your seat action, with possibilities up and down the grid to succeed regardless of whether it’s a factory or satellite team.

One of the standout markers from their teams is the willingness to do what is in the best interest of the sport. They wish to make sure there is competition, parity while maintaining their own identities and put on a show with the best riders from around the world, something which F1 has failed to do for numerous years and it’s a constantly degrading problem which is so blatantly evident.

A necessary culture change

A completely new mindset is required to move the sport into a more sustainable future. In the past, it may have worked for some to adopt the selfish strategy, but in the modern age we live in where hegemony is despised, it is now time for a change in how F1 operates in order to literally save itself from burning itself out entirely.

Liberty Media wants to see the sport become cheaper, fairer and most of all sustainable. Right now teams are burning through their purses quicker than ever before just to find those precious tenths or even hundredths of a second just to get that competitive edge over their opponents, while those who have to reign in their spending are languishing behind unable to catch up.

Despite the recent criticisms of Chase Carey and his team regarding the move to a new logo, it must be understood changes are afoot to shift away from the completely unfair prize money structure former commercial boss Bernie Ecclestone had arranged in this current Concorde Agreement which was created back in 2013.

On top of that, Ferrari recently made threats to quit the sport and the narrative coming out from the management is they are prepared to work with Ferrari… to a point. However I suspect in the background, they would be ready to allow the Scuderia to walk away.

Why? You may ask. Ferrari is part of the DNA of F1 and would suffer greatly from their departure is the common argument against it, however, while they have been integral to the sport, sometimes a great loss is needed to make the necessary changes needed to move forward.

I suspect when the time comes to sign on the dotted line for 2021 and beyond Chase Carey will hand Ferrari the contract and a pen to say, “These are the rules and regulations, up to you if you want to sign it and continue to be a part of the sport.”

The future is bright despite the criticisms

While we are a long way away from seeing any part their vision come to life, everything they have laid down thus far appears to be on the right track. I fully understand why fans are unhappy with the way the sport has performed in recent years for one reason or another.

However, despite this, I am almost certain of a much brighter future for F1 as the years roll on through.

Once we can get teams onboard with a much fairer financial structure, a better aerodynamic package as well as more exciting engines to race with and listen too, then we all soon have a series we can enjoy once more, but it must be remembered this is no overnight fix. We have years of hard work, drama and even potential walkouts to come before our current problems are made better.

I urge as many fans as possible to stay along for the ride because I have no doubt we will all be rewarded when the time comes.

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Ferrari must prepare to have its bluff called

Photo Credit: Ferrari Media

Ferrari has yet again threatened to leave Formula 1 if Liberty Media’s future plans do not fit with the Italian manufacturer’s plans then they will not ‘play’ according to president Sergio Marchionne, but the time has come for Ferrari to stop trying to call the sports bluff.

It feels like a Ross & Rachel will they won’t they won’t they story but in complete reverse. Ferrari does have a unique history with F1 having competed every year since the inception of the championship in 1950. However I can’t help feel despite the historic success of the Scuderia, it’s behaving like a petulant child demanding sweets from a shop despite a parent saying no.

Threats to leave are nothing new from Ferrari and some would be quick to suggest it’s nothing more than that, as the old saying claims ‘F1 can’t live without Ferrari and vice versa. But I would argue this time is different and Ferrari must prepare to have its bluff called by Liberty Media.

No more security

Bernie Ecclestone is no longer in charge of the commercial aspects of the sport having sold Liberty Media almost a year ago and while most of 2017 has been awash with glossy smiles and token gestures, the time has come for the owners to lay their cards on the table as the future of F1 is uncertain beyond 2020.

With the 87-year old no longer part of the power structure they could once rely on, Ferrari now finds itself in a position where its position within the status quo no longer exists.

Liberty’s CEO Chase Carey has been abundantly clear from the outset he wants to see the sport more competitive and made more fair in as many ways as possible. He and his fellow executives Ross Brawn and Sean Bratches wish to see a far more even keel for all the teams to allow for those ‘Leicester City’ moments we would all love to witness, everyone loves an underdog right?

A loss of potentially $100m a year could be taken away from them in bonus payments just for being a ‘Long-standing team’ within the sport, budget caps are planned to be set in place and run by external auditors as well as many other issues on the table are set to leave Ferrari in a position just like the rest in position where they no longer have the power and influence to maintain its status as they see it.

The perspective has changed

With a new ownership of F1 comes a new mantra not just from those in power, but it runs right down to the fans are arguably the ones that make F1 what it is. As they say, no one driver or team is bigger than the sport they participate in, certainly, an argument can be made for that here.

A tremendous amount of the fan-base I have spoken to are fed-up with the dogmatic view Ferrari have been holding onto for years when it comes to their participation in F1 and it appears Liberty Media won’t put up with it either to a certain degree, while it can be argued Ferrari do deserve some perks, it should not be anywhere near to the tune of what they get currently.

For too long F1 has been dominated by money and power and with new commercial owners, the slate has effectively been wiped clean putting all the teams in the same position and rightly so.

Former professional race driver Tiff Needell setup a poll on his Twitter account asking fans whether Ferrari’s bluff should be called or be made happy and the poll results have certainly given a clear answer with nearly 5000 people voting a 91% in favour of having their bluff called.

Prove heritage means something

Having won 15 drivers titles and 16 constructors titles, Ferrari has a history in F1 whose success can only be rivalled currently by Williams and McLaren, but moving forward into the future the Scuderia must prove now more than ever their heritage means something and prove it has not been won just by holding onto a position of power.

Should Ferrari take a new perspective going into the 2021 regulations and commercial agreements set by the FIA and Liberty Media, there is a chance can the prancing horse can win back the respect of the fans who have felt disillusioned in recent years by the erratic behaviour shown by their predecessors.

A future where we no longer could see those scarlet cars roaring past at 200mph chasing down yet another victory against their rivals would certainly be a true sombre moment in the sport’s history.

Ferrari’s success in the echelons of motorsport history is untouchable, but the time has now come for those in Maranello to understand that clawing onto the money and power is no longer the answer.

Ferrari needs F1 and F1 needs Ferrari. but the latter can survive without them if it has to. Let us hope that it does not come to that and we can continue to witness the prancing battle for glory in years to come.

A new dawn approaches…

It appears with breaking news this evening that Bernie Ecclestone, the FOM chairman and CEO of Formula One has been removed from his post effective immediately.

With the aquisition of the Liberty Media group in it’s final stages, it was clear that a shift in the heirarchy of the paddock walls was going to change.

Liberty Media are a company well versed in sports management and broadcasting, making them a great fit into the fold of F1 despite not having any prior experience of the sport to begin with.

Many are quick to point that fact out and hold, what almost feels like resentment towards the new owners despite not really knowing anything about them.

Some even think that the buyout of F1 is nothing more than another investment to create a cashcow.

This is not the case, because of what Liberty are as a company, their investment now rests on the sport to be successful, in all areas. Only then will they see return on their $8bn purchase of F1.

Rumours have been rife for months about the potential plans Liberty are plotting, yet none have been proven to be truthful thus far.

However, it has been pointed out in the last week that CEO Greg Maffei has made comments about how Ferrari recieve too much prize money for their participation in F1, this will no doubt cause feathers to be ruffled in Maranello. 

But, this is a signal of intent by the new owners, Bernie is now no longer the go to guy to help get deals through in their favour. 

This postering by Liberty is a power play that is clearly showing they have intentions and are willing to put them into action, however this could well yet take a while as the current concorde agreement which binds the teams to F1 still has until 2020 to expire.

However, when the time comes, radical changes will no doubt be in the pipeline to be made part of the championship in the future. 

Whatever the future may hold for the F1 world championship, It is now in a pair of hands that will do what’s best for the sport. 

I certainly look forward to what they’ll bring to the table. 

Social Media & Formula One

Disclaimer: First off, I want to start off with the fact that I DO NOT in any shape or form want to take away anyone’s right to having their own opinion and voicing it. 

Now that I’ve got that bit out of the way, I want to address what I feel is a very touchy subject that I personally feel is very close to my heart.

I fully understand that everyone will habe their favourite drivers or teams for whatever reason they feel is right for them, and that’s exactly what I want to see from people. The fans at the end of the day are the ones that fill the grandstands and cheer on their heroes.

To not do so would very much indeed kill the sport off as a whole, so I must emphasise that the fans are very much at the heart of the sport, that there is no question.

The issue I have noticed over the years lies with fan intergration with social media. With the technology to reach news more instantaniously and that we can post our reactions online is a revelation to the world.

With our love for motorsport, the ability to unite ourselves for our passion of the fastest sport in the world should bring about a great wave of discussion and light-hearted debate. Now, while I see a lot of this through some of the groups I am apart of, I have seen far more often this season more than any other a great divide amongst fans.

It hurts and pains me to witness it. 

To critisise another’s opinion or to ignore facts is a very immature behaviour that is becoming all too common. The wealth of knowledge that is available on the world wide web is incomprehensible and it often frustrates me that too many people often fail to utilise that fact.

I also understand the fact that many become more confident their virtual worlds than in real life and this has been noted in many psychological studies over the years.

The war of words I see throughout the streams of social media is a minefield of poor knowledge, trolling, sheer games of ‘follow the leader’ and the just completely unfounded accusations and it almost often looks like it would be a slanging match between two opposing football clubs.

Motorsport has always often been thought of as a sport that goes against the grain, to go against a parent’s decision to go racing and do something unconventional. 

Niki Lauda, James Hunt and even Sir Jackie Stewart all defied their familes and went racing against their families desires.

Fans too are often frowned upon for it too, as I the writer and you the reader will have no doubt experienced at one time or another utter ridicule for taking a preference to motorsport over other conventional sports.

So, I often find myself dumbfounded that, through our unity of the motorsports we love, we cannot find a way to not act like complete football holligans over the digital network.

I have loved motorsport ever since I was a young lad, I love to debate and enjoy conversations all about motorsport. It’s what helped me turn my passion into journalism.

We’re all fans at the end of the day and we should all turn our passion for it into something constructive. Don’t riducle someone if they don’t know something, enlighten them with the facts, don’t hate on someone for liking a different driver or team, treat them as an equal that they are.

If you’ve read this far, I thank you. 

 I hope too can share our passion and help make social media a more friendly place to enjoy the sports we love.

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Tactics – Doing what you can to win

Nico Rosberg is now a world champion after taking second place at the 21st and final race of the 2016 season. Now while it certainly has not been the most exciting season I can recall, it did provide thrills and spills of course. 

Lewis Hamilton claimed his 61st career pole position and led pretty much from start to finish to claim a 53rd career win. But were his tactics on his attempt to destabilise Rosberg’s momentum by backing him into the Ferrari’s and Red Bull’s behind justified?

Absolutely.

The social media backlash on Hamilton’s tactics have been completely outragous and utterly unfounded.

The three-time world champion had to do what he could in order to win the world chanpionship, if he had cleared off into the distance, there would not have been anyway he could affect the result Rosberg’s.

This is the top rung in the ladder of motorsport, the drivers are well versed in their skills and abilties to deal with a plethora of scenarios that can be thrown their way. They are adults who have shown the maturity to earn such a drive.

To depict Hamilton as unsporting in his behaviour on circuit is completely unfounded. 

Many other drivers have made tactical decisions in the past that some may or may not disagree with, Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna come to mind straight away. Both very different drivers who went about their racing in completely polar opposite ways. 

But it never changed their desire to win. 

Nico Rosberg is now a world champion, a muchly deserved title through all of his efforts in 2016. Hamilton was deserved of a fourth world title too to comeback from the brink on two occasions.

No matter who you support, motorsport is a love we should all share, not take sides and argue like football hooligans over who is better and why.

Roll on 2017 & whatever it may bring. 

Jordan King Q&A

Thanks to Influence Associates I recently had the opportunity to catch up with Jordan King, driver for Racing Engineering in GP2 and Manor Racing development driver. 

Here’s what he had to say.

Recently Monza was looking like a good weekend for you; How do you feel the weekend went?

“Race 1 was a bit of a disaster as we were on for 3rd but with the safety car coming out at just the wrong time and not managing to pick up the leaders it meant I had to settle for 7th.

Race 2 didn’t go well at all I really struggled with pace and tyre wear and it was really difficult to find out why in the debrief as there wasn’t a clear reason why the tyres well apart”

With just Abu Dhabi left, do you feel you had a shot at the title prior to Malaysia?

“Well after Malaysia unfortunately the title is out of reach now which is very annoying with me being so competitive but I can still get a top 3 so I’ll be pushing as hard as I can.”

You tested for Manor at the Silverstone test, how was the experience?

“They were both amazing experiences and really did put a smile on my face from ear to ear, it was a dream come true to drive an F1 but I still feel like there is more I can do and more to the dream.”

Do you feel confident that you have a shot at a Manor seat for 2017?

“I feel confident that I have shown I am capable to be in an F1 car in 2017 but to get a seat is the million dollar question I don’t have the answer to yet.”

What is your favourite race of the year so far?

“It is a toss-up between a few. Austria was special as it was my first win in GP2, Silverstone was special as I won at my home GP, Spa was great as it was the perfect race for our strategy ok I didn’t win but still finished 2nd.”

As a fellow racer, Do you feel Max Verstappen’s critics are right in their comments after his Spa performance?

“I think the T1 incident wasn’t his fault not at all, so he shouldn’t be getting any criticism for lap one turn one but as the race went on he defended his position by running other drivers along with himself off the track which I think is too far, it is dangerous if you can’t make the corners yourself while defending a position then that can’t be right surely? 

As you leave the other driver no room or option to stay on the track.”