Ferrari

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.

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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. 

2016 Singapore Grand Prix Review

Photo: Mercedes AMG Petronas F1

The heat, The humidity and the back drop of a beautiful brightly lit city alongside the Marina bay set the scene for a Singapore Grand Prix that had a tense feeling in the air. The final third of championship was to begin here and the heat is now well and truly on.

Unfortunately for Romain Grosjean the race didn’t even get going after brake by wire issues hampered his attempts to even make the grid, this meant a DNS for the frenchman who clearly isn’t happy with his current situation, especially after  qualifying describing his VF-16 as “The worst he has ever driven”.

As the rest of the drivers lined up in their respective grid slots, the tension was palpable. 

When the lights went out Nico Rosberg got a great start while everyone else bogged down especially Max Verstappen, while Carlos Sainz and Nico Hulkenberg went to pass the slow Dutchman, it was Hulkenberg getting squeezed into a gap that swiftly closed, causing massive damage including a hit into the pit wall. No one was at fault for the incident, it was just an unfortunate set of circumstances.

Jenson Button and Valtteri Bottas also got caught up in the melee, while Button moved to avoid the spinning Hulkenberg he clipped the rear of Bottas’ Williams, this meant a broken front wing, damaged brake ducts and broken floor for the McLaren driver while Bottas luckily only suffered a puncture.

As a safety car was called to slow the pack down so marshals could collect the wrecked Force India, due to the amount of shattered carbon fibre across the pit straight the cars were ordered to travel through the pit lane to avoid the huge chucks of debris. 

In a strange set of circumstances messages from race control on lap two appeared confusing and the safety car ducked in at the end of that lap, however that message either wasn’t passed on correctly or that race control got the call wrong, but this led to a marshal running for his life at turn one as Rosberg led 20 other Formula One cars at full speed as the race restarted. No doubt there will be a swift investigation as to how on earth this happened.

With the race still in it’s infacy both Mercedes cars already were managing brake issues, while brakes are always on the limit in Singapore managing them this early on was a concern for those in the team.

Despite starting on the red marked supersoft tyre, Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo couldn’t quite keep up with Rosberg in the early stages of the race allowing Rosberg to get away, this however would later change.

While the race continued to be a slow burner and the strategies played out, we were treated to a great tussle between Max Verstappen versus the man he replaced at Red Bull; Danil Kyvat. The Russian did not give a quarter to Verstappen at all, you could get the sense this was personal for him, to prove he can race and be just as good as he has shown before. 

Valtteri Bottas had a very strange issue with his seatbelts coming undone on lap 30, despite pitting immediately to get them done back, unfortunately he had to retire five laps later with mechanical issues, Jenson Button also had to retire following damage to car causing too many issues with his Mclaren caused by the first lap clash with Bottas avoiding the spinning Hulkenberg.

However when all thought the race was run after the second stops were made, it all burst into life on lap 45 when Mercedes ignited an inspired strategy to help Hamilton get back third place from Raikkonen, this triggered the Ferrari to stop the Finn the next lap in an attempt to prevent the powerful undercut on fresh tyres. Despite the Scuderia’s efforts Hamilton made the outlap count to pass Raikkonen as he exited the pitlane.

Because of the respective stops Hamilton and Raikkonen made, this allowed Red Bull to pull the trigger and try to do the same for Ricciardo to catch Rosberg. With the undercut being so strong the Mercedes strategists had to make a do or die call whether to pit the leader or keep him out and gamble with the race victory, or put him for fresh tyres and risk losing the lead to fight with the Red Bull for the final 14 laps.

Mercedes decided to stay out and gamble, meanwhile Ricciardo was using his fresh supersofts to full effect, closing Rosberg down at two to three seconds a lap. It was starting to look as if the win was in jeopardy because the gap between the two was in freefall, however in the final five laps Rosberg was granted a repreive in the shape of lapped traffic.

This allowed Rosberg some breathing space while Ricciardo had to make his way through it at some of the slower points of the circuit, by the time Ricciardo got clear of the traffic it appeared his tyres were beginning to scream enough and he would not make it to Rosberg. On the final lap he gave it everything he could, the nailbiter in all of us would of watched as he gained through every corner, the gap was visibily shrinking every second. 

Despite all of his efforts Ricciardo lost out by just 0.488 of a second in his hunt for victory (pictured above), both drivers looked exhausted not only through the physical endurance of the event, but also through how much they had put in to fight for that win.

Other inspirational performances from the race were Sebastian Vettel, definitely deserving his driver of the day award after coming back from last to fifth with an inspired strategy to get through the field, also a great result for Fernando Alonso in seventh place giving McLaren a boost. Danil Kyvat also made the points helping his fight to keep his F1 career alive and Kevin Magnussen who got Renault’s second points finsh of the season.

The 2016 Singapore Grand Prix was a race of many stories which culminated in a nailbiting finish, I was certainly happy with what the race has to offer and it’s given another twist in tale of the drivers chanpionship too. With Nico Rosberg taking his eighth win of the year and snatching the lead of the championship in the process, the onus is now on Lewis Hamilton to make a comeback if he wants that fourth title and to prevent Nico taking his first.

Next stop is in Malaysia. I wonder what’s next in the magical story of the 2016 championship, no doubt there will still be twists to come. 

The Final Push

Photo: Mercedes AMG Petronas F1

With the european season is now over as Formula One begins it’s final third of the season, teams will be preparing for the final push, the onslaught of seven more races from the bright night lights of Singapore right through to the heat of the desert for the grand finale in Abu Dhabi.

Just two points now separate title protagonists Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg in the championship standings, the closest it’s been for a very long time. Both drivers will be looking across the garage at each other knowing that one mistake, one reliability issue or one clash could end their respective title bids, but do not expect they’ll give each other any quarter to claim the grand prize.

The fight behind the warring silver arrows couldn’t more alive, Red Bull have really pushed on in 2016 by taking on the mught of Ferrari and beating them. With Max Verstappen taking victory in Spain ahead of Kimi Raikkonen and Daniel Ricciardo’s pole position and near Monaco victory, Ferrari still have not managed to record neither a victory or pole position through major inconsistancies much Sebastian Vettel’s dismay.

The fight for second place will get more intense as each race gets crossed off the list, despite the big prize being out of reach, pride is on the line for both Red Bull and Ferrari. Neither will back down without a fight with just 11 points between them, so don’t expect niceties, expect a dogfight to the bitter end.

Same could be said for the fight for fourth place in the constructors between Williams and Force India, both teams are  performing valiantly for their much more smaller outfits compared to those ahead of them. There is no telling who may come out on top of this fight with them both being so evenly matched. Just three points lie between the two privateers, so every position & overtake matters greatly.

McLaren-Honda recently pinched sixth place from Toro Rosso and with their recent upgrades taking to great effect with both chassis and their power unit. Despite Jenson Button’s recently announced sabbatical and the always fired up Fernando Alonso relishing a fight, it could be a tall order for the junior Red Bull squad to take it back. With no power upgrades available to them and just chassis improvements the only weapon in their arsenal, it’ll no doubt make their efforts more tricky.

The criticism that Renault have faced all season for their results has been quite unfounded, the car was what was leftover from the very underfunded and deeply in debt Lotus team last season. With only six points to their name so far in 2016, it may seem from the outset they’ve had very poor season for a manufacturer, but don’t be fooled, with both Jolyon Palmer and Kevin Magnussen always pushing to prove their critics wrong, I’d be wary of what the results that could be possible. 

Locked in a fight for that coveted tenth place in the constructors standings, Manor and Sauber are pushing like crazy to beat each other. Manor hold the high ground having scored a crucial single point with Pascal Wehrlein in Austria, while the swiss outfit have struggled all season long with financial woes that have hampered much of their intended progress, there are still seven races that could throw a surprise result in either teams favour, so don’t the fight isn’t over yet. 

While all of the teams have now converted their full focus to the new chassis regulations of the 2017 season that lies ahead, updates that were pre-planned are still filtering through. Despite this the pecking order we see won’t change dramatically if at all, what we will see is the gladiatorial clashes of that will keep us on the edge of our seats.

With still plenty to fight for regardless of their positions whether it’s the prized world title or the pride of a top ten finish, this season is far from over, I expect the final third of the season to showcase the best of what Formula One always has to offer. 

Let’s Race!

The Growing Dilemma For Sebastian Vettel

Photo: Scuderia Ferrari

Sebastian Vettel; four time Formula One world champion and winner of 42 grand prix so far, will enter the final year of his contract with Ferrari heading into the 2017 season, one I feel that will be a pivotal moment in his near ten year career in Formula One so far. 

2016 has so far been a winless season for Ferrari and by their standards it’s been branded a failure. After the anticipation and aims set by Scuderia from winter testing they were clearly aiming for Mercedes to take them on in a straight fight for title, yet this hasn’t materialised and now they find themselves in a fight with Red Bull rather than the silver arrows.

After potential victories that were squandered earlier on in the season in Australia, Spain & Canada and first corner incidents between themselves in China and Belgium have really shown the struggles they have had so far.

Vettel moved to Ferrari in an attempt to emulate his hero Michael Schumacher and win further more grand prix and titles, but in the near two years with the team he has spent so far, just one pole position three victories so far have been the fruits of their efforts together. 

With massive regulation changes coming for 2017 and one final year left in his contract at the Scuderia despite an offer on the table to extend until 2020, Vettel has a lot to think about. It’s becoming ever more evident through his persona in interviews and body language that he is slowly getting fed up with being so close to victory but is always missing out, sometimes by the finest of margins.

Despite his goals to emulate his hero at the Scuderia will be a continued burning desire in his heart, the will to win burns harder and brighter. If Ferrari do not deliver in 2017 under the new regulations, could it just be possible for Vettel to leave Ferrari after just only three years? 

While I don’t think it’s possible to give a straight answer to that question, I do believe that it is a distinct possibility. 

Ferrari are failing to deliver outright performances that match the rhetoric they’ve been making. CEO of Ferrari Sergio Marchionne is demanding results happen fast. All of this including losing James Allison from the team will also effect the development moving forward despite their profuse attempts that it won’t be the case.

If Maranello don’t provide the car capable of victories for Vettel next year he could decide to depart the team. There is no visible disharmony at present, but who is to say that feelings behind closed doors might be different.

Vettel is clearly missing the success he once enjoyed at Red Bull as Lewis Hamilton did in his later years at McLaren but; For how long will Seb put up with the current efforts from Ferrari before he gets fed up and feels his future lies elsewhere?

That I feel is the biggest question of all.

SC

Felipe Massa Announces Retirement from F1

Photo: Williams Martini Racing

In a press conference with team principal Claire Williams in in the Williams motorhome, Felipe Massa has decided to announce his retirement from Formula One after 14 seasons in the sport.

Massa said “Every team I have been a part of has been a special experience, and not only in Formula One. I have so many great memories over the years and thank everyone in all the teams I have come through to help me get to where I am today. My career has been more than I ever expected and I am proud of what I have achieved. Finally, it is a great honour to finish my career at such an amazing team as Williams Martini Racing. It will be an emotional day when I finally conclude my Formula One career with my 250th Grand Prix start in Abu Dhabi.”

Claire Williams went on to say “It has been a pleasure to work with Felipe these past three seasons and we will all be sad to see him leave. Felipe came to us at a time of huge change and his blend of experience, talent and enthusiasm have been an important factor in the turnaround of the team. Anyone who knows Felipe knows what a warm and caring person he is, with an infectious personality. He has done a great deal for our sport over the years and I think every team that has had the pleasure of working with him has great affection for him. I know this has not been an easy decision for him, but we all respect his decision to bring his Formula One career to its conclusion at the end of this season. I would like to thank him, on behalf of all the team, for all his hard work over the last three years and we wish him the best of luck for whatever the future holds. He will always be a member of the Williams family and we hope that he will always feel welcome within our team.”

Massa’s F1 career began in 2002 with Sauber pairing up with Nick Heidfeld, scoring four points and a best finish of fifth at the Spanish Grand Prix certainly showed that despite his youth he was going to be a great talent of the future.

In 2003 he was replaced by Heinz-Harold Frentzen at the Sauber team, however Massa spent that year with Sauber’s long term engine supplier Ferrari, he completed testing duties gaining more experience during the Scuderia’s most successful era.

Massa rejoined Sauber for 2004-05 and still produced some good results including a best of the season fourth place at the 2004 Belgian Grand Prix. In 2005 he outpaced his team mate Jacques Villeneuve comfortably through the season.

When compatriot Rubens Barrichello announced he was moving to Honda for 2006, Massa’s career really took off after it was announced as he was Barrichello’s replacement. After enjoying a great first season with the Maranello team he secured his first pole position and victory at the Turkish Grand Prix, then to cap off the season he also won his home Grand Prix at Interlagos. 

After a strong season with three victories in 2007 including having a new team mate in the shape of Kimi Raikkonen after Michael Schumacher announced his first retirement, Massa was really announcing himself at the top end of the field.

It was in 2008 that came Massa’s chance to shine with six victories he was almost world champion, this was spoiled by the last gasp moments of Lewis Hamilton passing Toyota’s Timo Glock at the final corner to claim the fifth place needed to beat Massa to the championship. Massa was gracious in defeat and showing his pride in front of his home fans who came out to back him.

The 2009 season saw a very different shape to himself and Ferrari with the new regulations and the team did not perform well, however at the Hungarian Grand Prix in qualifying a rear suspension spring came loose from Barrichello’s Brawn who was in circuit in front of him, as Massa exited turn three he didn’t see the spring bouncing in the road and subsequently it hit him the head at 150mph rendering him unconcious, because of this incident he duly missed the rest of 2009 with a fractured skull.

After recovering well he returned back to the cockpit in 2010 and after four more seasons at Ferrari with strong results reluctant to appear despite numerous podium appearances, a race win kept failing to appear although it came close in the 2010 German Grand Prix, however he  was told through a coded message that he had to allow Alonso to pass to gain maximum points towards the title.

In the November of 2013 it was announced he would be leaving the Scuderia to head to Williams for the 2014 season on a three year deal partnering the young Finn in Valtteri Bottas, his best moment with the team came at the 2014 Austrian Grand Prix snatching a surprise pole position ahead of his team mate and both Mercedes, since then he has secured five more podiums and continued to show  he still had the speed to compete at a high level

His subsequant time with Williams has been a solid relationship as he has been  imperative in helping the team secure third place in the constructors championship for the 2014 and 2015 seasons. 

There is no doubt he’ll want to help see out his career on a high in helping keep Williams ahead of Force India for the 2016 constructors championship.

Felpie Massa will be a missed figure in the field having gone from an aggressive rookie to a very near world champion, he has always carried the latin charisma that has helped him become a well liked member of the F1 paddock.

2016 Belgian Grand Prix Review

Photo: Red Bull Racing

The hills, the forest, it calls to them. A sacred ribbon of tarmac that weaves it’s way through the forest of the Ardennes. Many drivers have conquered the legendary 7.004km Spa-Francorchamps circuit, come rain or shine. The weekend certainly saw the bright sunshine and the unusually hot conditions that made this a Belgian Grand Prix we won’t forget.

During the free practice sessions on Friday, the unfamiliar high temperatures were causing the drivers a great deal of problems in managing their Pirelli rubber through the high speed nature of the demanding Spa circuit, it was clear the race was never going to be straightforward from then on.

For qualifying while Lewis Hamilton was out of the running for pole position after his three power unit changes left him at the back of the grid with penalties, it was up to the Ferrari’s and Red Bull’s to challenge the other Mercedes of Nico Rosberg for the front row. It turned out that no one could, Rosberg had just enough in hand to keep pole position but not by much. 

Heading into Sunday with the hot tempretures not abating, it was clear that tyre strategies were going to play a great role in how the drivers and teams negotiated the 44 laps of the day. Rosberg, Ricciardo and both Ferrari’s were smart in Q2 to utilise a strategy of starting of the yellow marked soft tyres to start the race with in the hope it would benefit them at the start of the race.

As the lights went out Max Verstappen got a poor getaway and tried to repass Kimi Raikkonen on the inside of La Source, unfortunately both were pinched by Sebastian Vettel making his way around the outside of both drivers, this led to a three way collision that damaged all three cars.

With Vettel left stranded at La Source waiting for the rest of the field to pass, Verstappen fought side by side with Raikkonen down the hill to Eau Rouge. On the other hand Rosberg made a great getaway and missed out on all the shenanigans going on behind.

Unfortunately it didn’t end there, into Les Combes Manor’s Pascal Werhlein ended up in the back of Jenson Button’s McLaren ending both of their races, this is a shame considering both of their great efforts from qualifying, luckily Werhlein’s new team mate Esteban Ocon managed to avoid the debris.

Kimi Raikkonen pitted to change his broken front wing but in the process of his mechanics trying to fit a new one, the underside of the car kept trying to catch fire, thankfully they managed to put it out and get the wing on.

On Lap 6 the race took a turn, after making a great start both Renaults of Jolyon Palmer and Kevin Magnussen were running in the top ten and doing well, unfortunately on the exit of Radillion Magnussen lost the rear of his car and spun at high speed into the barrier, luckily he managed to hobble out of the car despite a noticeable limp. Thankfully after checks in the medical centre and more later at the local hospital, he only suffered a cut to his left ankle and should be fine to race in Monza next week. 

Unfortunately his R.S16 Renault was a total write off, the most concerning part of his accident as that the head rest that bolts to the inside of the cockpit came loose from it’s fixings and left the car with quite a bit of ease. The FIA are going to look into the incident to find out why it happened and to perhaps see if there is something that can be learned from it.

With the barriers needing repair a red flag was called, prior to this Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton had made their way through the pack to end up fourth and fifth respectively, not a bad effort from the back of the grid.

As the race got underway once more, Nico Rosberg had swapped to medium tyre and quickly made a break for it to escape the clutches Hulkenberg who was under immediate pressure from Ricciardo. It didn’t take him long to pass the Force India in front and try to hunt down Rosberg, however the Mercedes had the pace to eventually sprint away.

Jolyon Palmer suffered after the red flag due to high temperatures to his car much to his dismay, the British rookie really hasn’t enjoyed much luck in F1 since his arrival.

As the race wore on Verstappen and Raikkonen found themselves on the same piece of tarmac once again, this time with the Finn on the offensive, Verstappen makes a late defence move to protect his position much to the dismay of the 2007 world champion. Verstappen faced further criticisms when he ran Raikkonen and Sergio Perez off the road at Les Combes with defensive manoeuvres that led to him not even staying on the race track himself. 

At the final set of pit stops Hamilton was chasing Hulkenberg for third and passed him quite quickly leaving the German still without a podium finish from his 107 starts so far in Formula One.

Fernando Alonso managed to hold off the advances of both Williams and Raikkonen in latter stages of the race after a very impressive drive, with Honda having brought updates to the car, it certainly showed at Spa, however Monza will be the ultimate proving ground as to whether they’ve made true ground on their rivals.

Ultimately Hamilton only lost ten points in the title battle with his team mate and he’ll certainly be grateful for the race he had, while Rosberg will wondering what else he’ll have to 

Just nine points seperate them with eight races left to go, 1 dnf apiece, 6 pole positions and 6 victories between them, it could hardly be a closer run in, there is still plenty of action, speed and no doubt controversy yet to come.

Monza up next!