Razia to Marussia?

With Marussia finally announcing their car launch for the 5th of February, it seems that the backmarker team is set to attend their first ever preseason test.

But, with this announcement came rumors of an imminent signing of Luiz Razia to the team. Could the young Brazilian fill the void that Timo Glock created?

This means that in their 4th season in the top level of Motorsport, Marussia might field two rookies. Que mental red flag.

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times. Vitaly Petrov is the man for Marussia. He is talented, dependable, he brings money and also major publicity for the team when the Russian Grand Prix comes around next year.

20130131-125506.jpg

Do Marussia really want to gamble away their 2013 season and uncertain future away with two rookies? I wouldn’t advise it.

Luiz Razia had a commendable 2012 season. He was vice champion of the GP2 series after leading the championship for much of the season. There is no doubt that he has talent.

20130131-125424.jpg

What he doesn’t have is credibility in a formula one car. He has had a couple one-off practice sessions for Caterham, but nothing long term or serious. I’m not saying that Razia would fail in his fist season of F1, but the risk Marussia would be taking with two rookies seems like a silly, avoidable mistake to me.

There is no doubt amongst the F1 paddock that Luiz is a very talented racing driver, but I don’t think the time is quite right for his F1 debut. A season as a Friday driver for a solid midfield team would do him no harm whatsoever.

If Marussia are serious about being an established midfield team, they can’t take a gamble with their drivers like this one. While it’s not confirmed, it does seem likely that a deal is imminent for Luiz. Marussia need to wait for their car to be up to scratch before they toss two rookies into it. They need an experienced driver with money who can do the development job while also being fast. This fantasy has not been fulfilled for the back marker squad just yet, and they would be wise to wait for it.

A Winner from Woking?

It seems strange that I would be writing this article with an underwhelming sense of satisfaction. I was expecting more from Mclaren for their 50th anniversary car. I suppose though, that is asking a lot from a team whose very structure is based on a ruthless sense of efficiency and a sometimes great sense of seriousness.

While I am not bashing the MP4-28, the car Mclaren hopes to take to its first Drivers’ and Constictors’ Championship since 2008 and 1998, respectively, I’m not thrilled with the lack of similarity to last year’s car. The livery could have done with some updating, perhaps adding an embellishment of color like Lotus did with their 2013 car.

The MP4-28 is still gorgeous, however. The Mclarens are usually the aesthetic class of the field. This is only a real benefit when it is the performance class of the field, though.

20130131-054006.jpg

There are three notable alterations to the MP4-28 from last year’s challenger. First the side pods have taken on a triangle shape again. Mclaren opted to use oval shaped side pods last year to make the airflow going over them as smooth as possible. This year, though, they have taken on the look of the sidepods of the 2012 Sauber, with a little indentation on the bottom of the sidepod.

The second notable difference is the presence of pull-rod front suspension. Ferrari surprised many in 2012 by running the same type of suspension on the front of their car. Nowadays, though, many are predicting this to soon become the norm.

Finally, the last thing I noticed was the bottom of the rear wing. It may just be the early morning causing me to see things, but I noticed that part of the wind is now gone from the bottom of the wing. I’m not technically versed so I don’t know if this was an aesthetic choice or whether this could be the big new performance secret of 2013, but be sure to watch out.

20130131-055536.jpg

 

With many saying that Mclaren will have the weakest lineup of any of the top teams in 2013, the Woking squad will really need the MP4-28 to deliver.  If Mclaren can start the year with the fastest car, I believe they will be able to keep that performance. Their staggering ability to develop a car over the course of a season will need to be on overdrove if it isn’t the fastest. The mechanical woes of 2012 will need to be ironed out as well, because as that very year has shown, reliability can determine the course of the championship.

Jenson-Button-Sergio-Perez-MP428_2893454

Could HRT Scor(e)pion Their Way Back Into F1?

It is widely known that HRT was doomed to fail at some point in their short and rather glamour less stint in Formula One.  A team that never once attended a pre-season test and failed to qualify for the season opener two times out of three attempts wasn’t exactly on the fast track to the World Championship.  The fact that the team never once finished in the all important 10th place in the Constructors’ Championship, and therefore earning no money, also didn’t help their situation.

Image

So, while it was obvious that the team would fail, less obvious was the hint that they might be revamped for the 2013 season.

It was confirmed yesterday that an American/Canadian company called Scorpion Racing was/ interested in buying what was left of the HRT squad and returning it back to its former…glory…?  While the team doesn’t have a lot to jump and shout about in regards to their first three years in F1, they could be jumping and shouting at the potential of a new owner.

Scorpion Racing said that it would base the team at Silverstone rather than Madrid in order to keep it within the general Formula One hub.  This seems a viable option, especially when a majority of the successful F1 teams are based in England.

Details of the whole situation are scarce, but it is known that the team will most likely have to wait until 2014 to enter the championship, as the FIA closed the 2013 to 11 teams when HRT failed to meet the entry deadline.

If this whole situation seems familiar to you, then you’re very clever indeed.  At the end of the 2008 season, Honda pulled out of F1.  This left their drivers with no seat for the next season and hundreds of engineers and mechanics also out of a job.  Luckily, Ross Brawn was there to pick up the pieces and in 2009, the Brawn F1 team took both championships in convincing fashion.  This success also came in the first year of a new generation of F1 cars.  The regulations were completely different, the cars were totally knew and everyone started from scratch.  This revamp of the regulations allowed for some significant technical advantages for some teams, and disadvantages for others.  In the case of the Brawn team, the introduction of the double diffuser meant that it won six of the first seven races.

Image

Formula One faces the exact same scenario in 2014.  The cars will be totally new, the engines will be totally new, and the regulations will be altered.  It seems that waiting an extra year could be just what Scorpion Racing needs to get a leg up on the competition.  One thing holding the squad back is a large workforce.  While Honda wasn’t very competitive in 2008, it still had hundreds of talented employees.  I’m not saying the HRT employees weren’t talented, but having such small numbers of them will be a setback.

If Scorpion Racing end up buying the remains of the HRT squad, we could see a potential surprise in 2014.  Even though the global financial situation isn’t exactly accommodating for starting a new F1 team, it seems Scorpion Racing couldn’t have come at a better time.

The Circus Kicks off in Enstone

IMG_2269

The world watched with bated breath as Romain and Kimi slowly drew back the barely see-through cover. Will this finally be the car that puts the Enstone squad back on top? Will this be the car that makes Kimi a double world champion. Will this be the first car that Romain doesn’t crash?

All of these questions will have to wait until Melbourne, for even testing doesn’t give a clear indication of what will be the performance hierarchy of that particular season. Mclaren and 2011 testing can attest to this.

What the world does know is that F1 in 2013 is fully underway, even though we have yet to see a new car on track. Right from the moment that cream colored canvas was drawn away from the Lotus E21, Red Bull, Mclaren, Ferrari, Mercedes and all the other teams on the grid for this year were scrutinizing the car to the last detail to see if there was something they missed that Lotus though of. While good looks of the car on the technical side of things wasn’t realistic, you’d be surprised what you can notice from a quick glance.

For example, the Lotus E21 has vanes over the side pods. If they look familiar to you, you should recognize them from the post-Germany 2012 Mclaren. These additions help direct airflow down over the exhaust, manipulating the direction of the airflow to the diffuser. Exhaust flow will once again be a bid talking point throughout the season as teams try to regain lost downforce after the blown-diffusers were banned after 2011.

20130128-171701.jpg

Lotus have also drawn some technical inspiration from Red Bull (who wouldn’t?) with their exhausts. The Coanda effect was put to use in the latter half of 2012 to improve exhaust flow towards the diffuser. This technique utilizes a sort of concave part at the exhaust exits to which the gases will adhere to, thus keeping the flow in the direction of the floor. What Lotus have done, is taken inspiration from Red Bull’s design, with a tunnel shape. This shape is more vertical than last years’.

20130128-172147.jpg

With a lot of technical inspiration drawn from other teams, will Lotus have something original up their sleeves to spank the competition?  Most likely not.  The stable regulations for this season don’t exactly encourage revolution.  Evolution is more on the menu for 2013.  The revolution will come for 2014. Something that Lotus could have an advantage with, though, is their passive double DRS.  They explored this concept during the middle part of the season.  What this system does is stall the rear wing via an attachment near the gearbox which will activate at certain speeds.  They tested this in Hungary, Spa and Italy but abandoned the project for the 2012 season so they could focus on it during testing.  Their experience with it will certainly be an advantage, especially considering this technology will be the most highly explored 2013.

Aesthetically, I find the E20 very pleasing.  The splashes of red on the side-pods (which reminds me of the red on the Mclaren side-pods), front wing and roll hoop gives the famous black and gold livery a bit of excitement.  The car as a whole is pretty slick if you ask me.  The stepped nose is still here for 2013.  Technical director, James Allison, said at the launch that the extra (if minute) weight from the optional panels available to use to cover the step was not worth it.  He did say that if they could make a panel that added downforce, they would explore it, but for now, it’s baby steps to their acceptance.  I don’t find the noses particularly annoying, even though they aren’t that good looking.  Everyone thought they would hate the F1 cars that came from the 2009 regulation changes, but now we love them.  They’re just something we’ll get used to.

IMG_2278

Certainly, the Lotus will be at the sharp end of the grid in 2013. Whether it will be a contender for the occasional win or the whole championship is another matter.  Regardless, the future looks bright for the Enstone squad.  They have two extremely talented drivers capable of wins and championships.  They just need the car to do the same.  Only time and testing will tell if this circus we call Formula One will have a black, gold and red machine as the star of the show.

Team Expectations in 2013: Part Three

In the final installment of “Team Expectations”, I will be talking about the two backmarker teams and what they should expect from the 2013 season, and what they can do to ensure success.

Caterham:

While it looks like Heikki Kovalainen won’t be on the grid in 2013, hopes should still be high for the new season.

Gaining Charles Pic for 2013 and beyond was a good move. I think he could be a long term driver who the team can build themselves around. Their other seat, yet to be announced, is still up for grabs. Though. Whoever Caterham choose, he needs to fast, reliable but also bring money. Money is the only thing that will bring Caterham up the grid fast.

With the regulations largely unaltered for 2013, I don’t expect Caterham to make any huge progress. They have everything going against them: barely any money and not many employees. 2014 is when I expect Caterham to make the step they need to the midfield.

20130127-075328.jpg

Marussia:

With the news of Tomorrow Glock’s departure, Marussia have said they are still confident for 2013. New recruit, Max Chilton is the fourth in as many years for the team. One hopes they can find some stability now that their most experience driver has left.

Getting KERS for 2013 should help the team a lot. Especially when you consider how they closed the gap to the KERS-powered Caterham significantly at the end of last season.

I expect Marussia to have a new engine supplier in 2014, most likely Mercedes, given their connections with Mclaren.

All of these new and potential mechanical additions to the team in the near future gives me the hunch that Maurssia will be the first of the “new” teams to score a point.

20130127-075354.jpg

Team Expectations in 2013: Part Two

In Part two of this series, I will focus on the 2012 midfield and what they should expect and focus on for next year.

Mercedes:

It seems strange that a giant team like Mercedes would be feature in a midfield group, but their 2012 performances justify this.

They may have won the third race if the season, but by Hungary, the Mercedes team was firmly in the midfield, often struggling for points.

Signing Lewis Hamilton will surely give the team a boost for 2013, but this can only do so much.

The corporate reshuffling going on recently in the team could also prove beneficial, but it could also be deleterious. With Haug gone, Wolff in, Brawn rumored to go, Lauda in there doing something important (maybe) and Paddy Lowe rumored to come in, there could be a serious clash if egos which could derail the team’s focus.

Mercedes also need to not forget Nick Rosberg. He may not be as fantastic as Lewis, but he’s still very goodand a driver which has been very loyal to a team which has broken its promises for the last three years.

Mercedes need to do one this this season. Build a reliable, fast car. The drivers will do the rest of the work.

Mercedes-W03-2012-Barcelona-fotoshowImage-dabdbb70-571452

Sauber:

A team that nearly took two wins and which could have fought for more on other occasions will be very optimistic for 2013, indeed!

2012 was Sauber’s most successful year since it became private in 2010. The car proved extremely easy on its tires and good on most tracks.

The drivers were also pretty reliable for the most part, with a few niggles along the way. Perez’s move to Mclaren left and open seat for Hulkenberg, and the decision to not resign Kobayashi opened the door for Esteban Gutierrez. An all new line up for 2013 could be cause for concern especially as Esteban has proved a bit raw, but hopes are high for this season.

Sauber just needs to keep up the work on their design and make sure that they provide a calm environment for the young Mexican rookie. If this happens, then they could challenge the big boys more often than not.

sauber-c31-test-jerez-2012-fotoshowimage-9612ad92-569320

Force India:

Hopes were high for 2012, but they weren’t always met. They were slightly overshadowed by Sauber and Williams but strong performances from their drivers ensured the most points ever hauled in the team’s history.

Losing Hulkenberg to Sauber puts Force India at a bit of a disadvantage because he was their star performer of 2012. His replacement is eat to be announced (as is, surprisingly, di Resta) but I don’t think his replacement will be quite as good. Bianchi seems the best option for the seat to me.

Their future is uncertain in monetary terms, but if they sort out their drivers and produce a good car in 2013, they are sure to improve on last years’ position.

force-india-vjmo5-2012-9659-2g

Williams:

After the near farce that was 2011, 2012 was an exponential improvement. A win in Spain was very emotional for the team. Also great were Maldonado’s qualifying performances, the Venezuelan starting in the top 5 on several occasions. His tendency to get into accidents put a dent on his season, but he is no doubt a great driver.

Senna was a disappointment, however. He didn’t show the type of star quality drives that his teammate did and it was good that Bottas got the seat. They now have a team for the long haul.

Williams need to keep Maldonado under control and provide a nurturing environment for Bottas. If they do this while improving upon their 2012 car, the only way is up.

williams

Torro Rosso:

What to say about this team? Well, their car is fast in a straight line. This, unfortunately was the extent of their performance in 2012.

They have two promising, if unspectacular drivers who did a decent job with a less than decent car.

If Torro Rosso are to do anything for 2013, they need to come up with a car that will show off their drivers’ talents. This team is not designed to move up the grid because the last thing Red bull wants is another Monza 2008. Red Bull don’t want to be shown up by their junior team.

I don’t know if Vergne or Ricciardo have what it takes to be the next big thing for Red Bull, but 2013 could be the year we all find out.

Formula One Testing, Day 3, Barcelona, Spain, Saturday 3 March 2012.

 

Team Expectations In 2013: Part One

With the 2013 Formula One season fast approaching, I felt it an appropriate time to evaluate what each team needs to accomplish across the upcoming 19, maybe 20, races. Here are my views regarding the first four teams.

Red Bull:

Red Bull are a team which thrives on a combination of passion for the sport and a Mclaren-like level of precision and perfection in their operations. They have one of the best drivers in the world in their car, and another driver, who, on his day can run with the best of them.

Red Bull’s technical prowess staggers most teams up and down the grid. One can only marvel at the fact that in a time of economic uncertainty and technological advancement, this one team has managed to dominate since the latter half of the 2009 season. Even more mind-boggling is the fact that they have managed to maintain a decent working relationship between the two drivers.

Mark Webber has been with the team for quite some time now, building relationships with the people of Milton Keynes. One relationship which has turned rather sour is that of the one between Mark and Helmut Marko.

A man who has garnered the hatred of many in the F1 world, Helmut Marko recently said that he expects Webber to play a supporting role to Vettel in the upcoming season. While this may seem like old news to avid followers of the sport, it is also known that Mark still thinks he has what it takes to win the World Championship. Conflicting views, then.

If Red Bull can keep relationships under control, there is no reason why they shouldn’t run away with both championships in 2013.

Formula one - Pre-Season Testing  - Barcelona - Day 2

Mclaren:

With Lewis Hamilton taking the plunge into the Mercedes F1 team, Mclaren signed up Mexican Sergio Perez to fill his seat. Perez is highly regarded in the F1 community on the whole, but many question his ability to be consistent and fast every time he steps into the car. His qualifying performances over the course of the 2012 season justify these concerns. At Mclaren, Sergio won’t be able to rely on clever tire strategy to move him up the field during a race. He will be expected to fight for pole position at every race.

Jenson Button on the other hand, is a very reliable ,if not blindingly fast over one lap, driver who has proven that he can fight for the championship if the car allows him to. Struggling to find the right set up throughout the season will not be allowed in 2013 as, had Jenson not experienced so many handling difficulties last season, he might have been in the championship fight.

What Mclaren need to do is provide their drivers with a car that is not only easy to develop, but reliable and fast. If so, maybe Mclaren could be fighting up there with Red Bull, though I personally doubt it this year.

8018508730_9c485a0752_z

Ferrari:

What can I say? It is fairly obvious what Ferrari need to do for the 2013 season: build a fast car. The F2012 was very reliable, but was never the fastest car on any weekend. While I feel that the car was perfectly fine in terms of pace by the end of the season and that too big of a deal was made over the subject, it is clear that Ferrari have issues to solve. Not since 2008 have Ferrari had a car that could consistently fight for wins. 2010 wasn’t a bad year for the team, but even then, the car was only third fastest.

Ferrari will not doubt be focussing on fixing their simulator and wind tunnel issues to ensure that whatever development parts the team wants to run on the car, they actually do what they suggest they will.

Felipe Massa is also an important topic of discussion. He is no doubt a great driver, but what we and Ferrari still don’t know is can if he back Fernando Alonso up in a championship fight. He did a commendable job in the latter third of last season, but the first two thirds didn’t even suggest that he deserved his seat in F1. Felipe’s performance in 2013 will be just as integral to Ferrari’s success or downfall in 2013 as Fernando’s.

8260426318_d8f0fcbb80_z

Lotus:

What a fantastic year this team had in 2012! After the utter disappointment of 2011, Lotus were keen to prove to new hire, Kimi Raikkonen, that his choice to drive for the team was the right one.

They couldn’t have proved this point better. Fans of F1 knew all along that even if Lotus built a race winning car, they wouldn’t be in the championship fight at the end of the season. The fans were right. What I’m sure the fans didn’t expect, though, was for Kimi Raikkonen to be in the Drivers’ Championship fight until the third to last race, a race in which he won. Kimi’s remarkable comeback to the sport will be the type of performance the team and the fans will be expecting again in 2013.

Kimi’s teammate, however, has a lot to be worried about. Crashing out of 7 races (not all his fault) in 2012 was not the way the Romain Grosjean wanted to begin his first full season in F1. Labeled a “first lap nutcase” by Mark Webber, Romain needs to make sure that he is both cautious and quick in 2013. If he isn’t, I’m afraid that the F1 door will close early for the Frenchman.

Screen-Shot-2013-01-23-at-17.53.18

In the next edition of “Team Expectations in 2013” I will be discussing Mercedes, Sauber, Force India, Williams and Torro Rosso.