The picture gallery of the season’s opening Australian GP in Melbourne Grand Prix Circuit at Albert Park where Kimi Raikkonen beat Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel to register his second victory since coming back to the sport last year.
Pirelli’s current state of affair is literally complicated than we could anticipate. They now are expected to revert to the point this time last year where we had five different winners in as many races. The scenario was entirely different in the opening few races of 2012 as the clampdown on blown diffuser and the overhaul of tyres took a while for the teams to get in the right direction and utilise it to perfection.
As for me, I don’t want to see processions in racing again but only without impacting what the sport is meant for. No compromises at all to the speed and ability of a racing driver or the missile he drives while contributing to a narrow finish to the race. You see, that’s where it goes out of control in the name of strategy. It’s alright that tyre management is vitally factored but it’s been relied upon so much since the beginning of 2013, thanks to Pirelli.
The range of tyres made available for 2013 have been quite aggressive which are high performance oriented while quickly falling apart. The swift deformation is the reason why Pirelli are hit with vehement critics as the teams couldn’t fully access their machines’ true potential especially the aerodynamically obsessed Red Bull RB9. Pirelli openly agree that it has understated the 2013 cars’ abilities and it had expected slower lap times.
“They have basically been stressing everything too much, and probably we underestimated the performance,” Hembery said.
The part of the problem is driven by Pirelli using Renault R30 racer for on-track testing of its rubber which is needless to say significantly slower than the contenders of today. Red Bull has been vocal in their outburst against Pirelli as owner Dietrich Mateschitz has criticised the situation of F1 being “nothing to do with racing any more” despite winning two of the five outings we have had so far.
Pirelli brought revised hard compound tyres to Spain, which was in close relationship with the 2012 rubber, and rendered an extra set to help teams react to the situation. But the heat at Catalunya took its tole on the tyres as pit stops poured in at quick successions. Alonso had to contend with four stops on his way to victory just like most of the race finishers.
After the race though he said, “With this year’s degradation and this year’s tyres we see the races keep changing all the time. Whoever keeps the tyre alive normally is on the podium at least,”
Meanwhile, Vettel who came home just short of podium lamented that ”We are not going to the pace of the car, we are going to the pace of the tyre,”.
Surprisingly, Force India’s Paul di Resta has lend his support to Pirelli as he believes the aggressive nature would help the midfield teams to close the gap at the top. But his midfield counterpart Ricciardo thinks the other way round complaining that he couldn’t race at full speed. While admitting that four stops are too much, Pirelli had to deal with the flak rested upon itself in the wake of Spanish GP by fans, team personnel and Bernie.
The forthcoming Montreal race will see Pirelli making mid-season revisions to its 2013 compounds in a hope to reduce excessive tyre degradation. The tyre structures will incorporate certain characteristics from the previous two seasons’ rubbers to better cope with the demands of the 2013 cars. Hembery is hopeful that the pecking order is set to remain unaltered and the changes have been briefly stated to teams today. He commented,
“There have been concerns from some of the teams that the changes will favour one team or another, but we don’t think that will be the case,”
The revisions are likely to favour the struggling Red Bull and Mercedes teams, of which, the former couldn’t showcase the full potential of its car while the latter suffers from swift rear-tyre degradation. Lotus team is very keen in tyre management and safe to say understood the nuances better than any other. Raikkonen languishes just four points off the leading Sebastian Vettel and is in a good stead to take the fight to the reigning world champion until the end.
Lotus’ Eric Boullier is not particularly happy with Pirelli’s move as he thinks it would be unfair to change what is eventually same for everyone in the middle of the season.
“There aren’t many sports where there are such fundamental changes to an essential ingredient part-way through a season,”
“Just imagine for a moment that, because a football team can’t run as fast as its opponent, the dimensions of the pitch are changed at half time!” said Boullier.
The first priority should be preventing delamination encountered by Hamilton and Resta which was so scary and could have gone anywhere. Pirelli will be scrabbling for a perfect mix of durability and performance and it remains to be seen what Canadian GP holds for us as the tyre revision turns out to be a big gamble for the Italian manufacturer who is expected to announce the contract extension with F1 in the immediate future.
The Mclaren-Honda revival has officially been confirmed for 2015, evoking a partnership that’s has created history in the past, as Mclaren signed a new multi-year technology deal with Honda. When the Tokyo based automaker returned after more than a decade long sabbatical in the early 1980s, it clinched eleven championships overall with Williams and Mclaren.
Back then, the Japanese manufacturer reached new heights with their unique turbo V6 engines and mulling to do so as an engine supplier yet again as F1 switches to a radical new era come next term. The 1.6 litre turbocharged V6 F1 spec engines will be developed at Honda R&D facility in Tochigi, Japan for the Woking based team.
In its 50th anniversary this year, Mclaren has also extended contracts with its long-lasting F1 partners Hugo Boss, TAG Heuer and Kenwood. Between 1988-1992, McLaren-Honda pair won eight world championships including 44 grand prix wins while taking 53 pole positions. Arguably one of the scarily fast and dominant F1 cars was developed in that period – Mclaren MP4/4 of 1988 – conquering 15 out of 16 race victories.
Speaking on the occasion, Mclaren Team Principal Martin Whitmarsh said,
“It’s fantastic news for everyone who loves Formula 1 to be able to welcome Honda back to Formula 1,”
“Together, we’re about to embark on a new and extremely exciting chapter in McLaren’s history.”
Honda’s President Takanobu Ito was equally delighted to get back in the pinnacle of motor racing. He stated that the challenging environment and the advanced technology incorporated for the new turbo chapter has inspired them to make a comeback.
“Ever since its establishment, Honda has been a company which grows by taking on challenges in racing.
“Honda has a long history of advancing our technologies and nurturing our people by participating in the world’s most prestigious automobile racing series. The new F1 regulations with their significant environmental focus will inspire even greater development of our own advanced technologies and this is central to our participation in F1.” he said.
Mclaren’s world champion at the helm, Jenson Button, has expressed his elation about the announcement. He was quoted as saying,
“I’ve already enjoyed a long and successful working relationship with Honda. I first raced a Formula 1 car powered by a Honda engine in 2003, and I was a works Honda Formula 1 driver between 2006 and ’08, winning my first grand prix in Hungary in 2006 in a Honda Formula 1 car, so I know exactly how passionate Honda is about motorsport, and Formula 1 in particular.”
Sergio Perez believes that it is the start of a new era and the announcement re-instigated the auspicious times Mclaren underwent in that golden era with Honda.
“I was born in 1990 – the year Ayrton Senna won the second of his three world championships driving for McLaren-Honda – and I’ve grown up always knowing just how much that era lives on in the hearts and minds of motorsport fans around the world.
“Of course, Ayrton is my hero, as he’s a hero to many millions of people living in Central America and South America. So today’s announcement not only rekindles all the fantastic memories of that successful era, but it also starts a new age – which can be even more exciting.”
Mclaren struggling big time this year having built a car from a new approach. An intriguing fact is that, for 2014, Mclaren has to engineer its cars around the Mercedes turbo engine while having to react to the mammoth challenge put in front with a newly designed power plant by Honda for the following season. Mclaren will surely have full-access to the Honda turbo V6 engines better than anybody well before it appears on the F1 market I reckon.
So, what do you make out of this renewed alliance?
It is more likely that the time has come sooner than we expected. As evident with my recent post, Honda will be hosting a motor sport related press conference today. This could probably be about the declaration of what we have been waiting for so long – the return of Honda back to F1. It has all the ingredients to rekindle the ultra-successful era Honda had with Mclaren in the late 1980s. Moreover, the chances of Honda powering other customer teams are firmly in sight as well.
Since 1988, Mclaren-Honda alliance was crowned as both drivers and constructors champions four years in a row. The mighty powerful Honda RA168-E 1.5L turbo V6 engine was born in that period allowing the world to witness the greatest duo ever fought for F1 kingship in that golden era. They literally blown away the competition and left the rest of the field in wake. As a consequence of the emergence of technologically advanced Williams cars, the firms decided to part ways in 1993. After failing to win titles under Ford and Peugeot power, Mclaren developed a long-term partnership with Mercedes since 1995 that continues till date.
Having had the regime as an engine supplier, it was only in 2006 Honda returned full-fledged to F1 buying out majority shares in the defunct BAR team with Button and Barrichello at the helm. Despite handing Button his first victory in 2006 Hungary, they hardly had any milestones achieved. It was a matter of will, rather than where they would finish a race as ironically reliability issues hampered their progress so hard. Honda scuppered and withdrew all its F1 activities blaming the global economic crisis in 2008… Enough for a history lesson I guess!
Oh! coming back to the proposition in hand, the 1.6 litre turbocharged V6 powerplant is the reason why Honda are rejoining F1 as they could implement the lessons learnt here on its vehicle sector which heavily prioritises engine downsizing in recent times. The emergency press conference will commence from 16:00 and ends at 16:10 (JST). You can watch it streaming live by following this link:
The Rome born racing driver made his debut in F1 after becoming Italian F3 champion in 1977. Elio took up the challenge on his young shoulders with Shadows in 1979 and came inches closer to be crowned as the youngest ever grand prix winner at the age of twenty two in the 1980′s race at Brazil.
His moment finally arrived at Osterreichring two years later in 1982 when he nursed his Lotus 91 to victory in an awe-inspiring close encounter with his close friend Keke Rosberg. That was the last time the legendary Chapman’s cap flew in the air before his death in December the same year. He finished ahead of team-mate Nigel Mansell with twenty three points from the fifteen race calendar.
After the stressful run in 1983, when he retired in all but two races competed, Elio progressed to third in the standings with four podiums to his credit the next season. He teamed up with the young gun Ayrton Senna in what thought to be Lotus’ revival year and the pair turned out to be successful as Senna stunned the whole of the paddock with some storming qualifying laps and victories in Portugal and Belgium.
Closing the season with five points adrift of Senna, the consistent finisher in Elio was tough enough and gave the Brazilian a run for his money with taking the chequered flag in San Marino after Prost disqualified for technical infringement. That win regretfully turned out to be his last one. As Senna started playing political games, Elio decided to switch elsewhere.
In his last year, Angelis moved to Brabham and replaced Nelson Piquet. He took behind the wheel of the radical Brabham BT55, designed by Gordon Murray and David North, with a tilted BMW four-pot engine to allow substantial flow to the rear wing. Some early glitches meant that the car wasn’t a championship challenger but Angelis pushed it to the very limit.
Elio de Angelis perished on May 15th 1986 at a test session in Paul Ricard when the rear wing of his Brabham BT55 disconnected and resulted in the lose of downforce. He was unable to get out by himself from the stricken car that caught fire. The lack of track safety and inadequate marshal support to blame for the tragedy as Elio’s soul rested in peace a day after he was hospitalised.
Described as ‘the last gentleman player’, Elio de Angelis was a great human on and off the track, a consistent performer and a very skillful pianist. Unluckily he was also one of the last victims of F1′s negligence to driver safety. The young Roman will ever be remembered in our hearts!
Amidst all the criticism on Pirelli since the four-stopped Spanish race, there are reports emerging that Honda is about to announce the much awaited comeback to Formula One this week.
When Auto Motor und Sport reported Mclaren’s optional clause on the contract to stay put with Mercedes after the end of 2014 ran out this April, the speculations of a possible return for Honda was further instigated.
As I mentioned earlier in March, the return of Honda could certainly be fruitful for F1 as the most-vaunted ‘green switch’ plays by the idea of captivating more volume manufacturer to the paddock. Nonetheless, sadly we have to live with the fact that Cosworth would end its relationship with F1 at the end of this season.
According to Bernama, the Japanese news agency Jiji Press reported an anonymous source stating that the announcement will take place in a press conference any time this week. It goes as long as saying, Honda’s President Takanobu Ito will herald the arrival of Honda as an engine supplier to Mclaren for 2015.
The source said, ”Honda has not officially denied these reports,”. “Please prepare yourself for the announcement.”
Mclaren decided to switch from a rather successful TAG Porsche alliance to the Japanese Honda engines for 1988. It was a rather logical move as Williams-Honda scored nearly twice as many points as the Mclaren duo the previous year and lifted the final jewel for Nelson Piquet.
For the next four years, Mclaren were literally on top of the tree in every race bout, courtesy of the technical assets and monstrous Honda RA power units, and captivated millions to witness the greatest duo ever fought for honours in our sport.
Mclaren has a miserable campaign already this year while having to pay for engines for the first time since the Mclaren-Mercedes bonding in 1995. The Woking based squad is expected to receive free 1.6 litre V6 Honda engines in the first year of Mclaren-Honda revival.
Mclaren can neither opt for Ferrari or Renault powertrain and reportedly the Mercedes engines are costlier with a price tag of € 20m for its basic package. Renault engines need an even greater spending as well. So the prospect of Honda returning to F1 is purely logical in my view to not just help out Mclaren but a few other midfield teams with an attractive engine offer.
However, Mclaren Team Principal Martin Whitmarsh denied rumours about the elapsed option in the contract with Mercedes.
“The discussions about ’15 are between myself and Mercedes and not for newspapers,” quoted Sky Sports F1.
The re-appearance of Honda will help in spicing up the ‘Hybrid-Turbo’ F1 era and if that spurs any success perhaps we could see Toyota or any other OEMs making a lavish comeback in the near future!
Circuit de Catalunya hosts the annual Spanish Grand Prix of 2013 and here is a compilation of some of the fascinating statistics leading up to the race.
Over the years, Spanish Grand Prix took place at various venues around Spain notably Jarama, Montjuïc, Jerez and Catalunya. Catalunya is the home for F1 since 1991.
- Most wins : Michael Schumacher (6)
- Most consecutive wins : Michael Schumacher (2001-2004)
- Most races won by constructor : Ferrari (11)
- Most poles : Michael Schumacher (6)
- Fastest Lap : 1:15.641 Giancarlo Fisichella 2005 (Catalunya)
- Schumacher’s first win for Ferrari came at this track in 1996
- Since 1997, the driver on pole has gone on to win the race at Catalunya with exceptional being Mark Webber. Vettel snatched the victory from his team-mate in 2011.
- Only driver on the grid who has secured victories more than once at Catalunya was Kimi Raikkonen (2005 & 2008).
- Among the five world champions, Lewis Hamilton was the only driver never to have tasted success in Spain.
- Since 1981 Mark Webber and Felipe Massa were the only two non-world champions stood on the top step of the podium.
- Two Spanish drivers have won the Spanish Grand Prix: Carlos de Salamanca in 1923 and Alonso in 2006.
- Last victory for the immortal Gilles Villeneuve came during the 1981 Spanish GP in Jarama and also one of his finest as he fended off four cars with his incompetent Ferrari.
- Only victory for Jochen Mass in his career was witnessed in Spain and Lella Lombardi became the first and only woman to score point in that tragic race of 1975.
- In 1986 at the Spanish GP (Jerez) Ayrton Senna and Nigel Mansell finished side by side, just 0.014 sec separating them – one of the closest finishes ever recorded in F1.
- Last year, Maldonado recorded the first ever victory for a Venezuelan in F1 while ending Williams’ victory drought since 2004 Brazilian GP.
Let me rewind the past two races at Barcelona for you.
2011 Spanish GP :
In 2011, the race turned out to be a true spectacle after Vettel’s dominating victories in the opening races. Alonso’s move at the start was obviously the start of the season – from fourth to first in a blitz. Though he maintained the lead, his struggle with the Pirelli rubber caught him out big time. After the first round of stops, victory started drowning for him as Vettel took the lead.
He went back down the order further after getting passed by Hamilton, Button and Webber. Hamilton’s bold strategy let him to challenge for the lead with Vettel. He was so quick but Vettel’s RB7 was even quicker despite much tyre wear. Alonso could only manage fifth behind Webber who came back from 18th on the grid. Jenson had a successful race to finish behind Vettel and Hamilton. Sergio Perez secured his first point here in his rookie season with Sauber.
2012 Spanish GP:
The intensive and unpredictable last season saw Hamilton taking pole for Mclaren. Nonetheless, he was stripped out of it later due to fuel infringement issues. Pastor Maldonado was promoted to pole and won from there after regaining the lead from Alonso in the early parts of the race.
Maldonado managed his tyres pretty well to dismiss the threat from the Spaniard who finished second ahead of Raikkonen’s Lotus ahead of Grosjean. Hamilton finished eighth after starting from the back of the grid. After the race, Michael Schumacher received a five-place grid penalty for Monaco for crashing into the back of Bruno Senna.