Rest easy, I’m back

It’s ridiculous how long its been since I’ve posted here. But in all honesty, I don’t have a real reason for it. Haven’t been particularly busier than normal, though my priorities perhaps have reshuffled in recent weeks what with my new role at RichlandF1.com (make that your one stop website for all things Formula One if it already isn’t. Fantastic group of talented and motivated young people with a passion for the sport led by our benevolent leader, Luke Smith.).

Anyways, I’ve decided to fire up the old blog again because it really is an interesting outlet for opinion. I certainly let the public know how I feel on Richland, but it’s a much higher profile website (obviously) and people react differently to glaring opinion there. I won’t stop though, because its just too fun.

Far too much has happened in the F1 circus since I last posted and I won’t even attempt to go through it all, for I know whoever reads this is most likely up to date with all things pertinent to F1. If you aren’t, then this blog probably isn’t your cup of tea. Fair warning.

I will tell you, though, that with the coming of the new season comes a new “Its an F1 Life”. I know all too well that my posts can be a bit wordy. In light of that, whatever is posted on this blog will be reasonable in length and digestible in its content. Sound good?

In the meantime, get ready for an interesting preseason, for what has already concluded is juicy and full of nuances and interesting sub-plots, like the Mclaren saga and what will come of Martin Whitmarsh and the recent appointment of Mr. Boullier as Race Director, or whether Fernando Alonso is indeed looking for a way out of Ferrari soon, as well as the fate of Caterham and Marussia who, realistically, could be on the verge of their final seasons in the sport.

2014 promises to be one of the most fascinating seasons in the sport’s history.

Follow it with me.

 

 

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On Fernando and Mark’s penalties

We are all upset by Webber’s penalty from yesterday. The interaction between him and Fernando was a sight for sore eyes. In the midst of intensifying rivalries and drivers enduring completely unwarranted booing as they receive their trophies on the podium, it was wonderful to see genuine friendship, even plain sportsmanship, come to the fore.

And for it all to end with both men given a reprimand, and subsequently for Webber a 10 place grid penalty, was very disheartening to see.

But it was necessary.

While it was nice to see Alonso give a ride to Mark after his car broke, it was dangerous. To top it off, it wasn’t even what Webber was penalized for. Only Alonso was reprimanded for offering, and eventually giving, Mark the lift.

No, Webber was punished for something completely justifiable and, frankly, necessary.

Mark entered the track, after he got out of his burning Red Bull, without the expressed permission of the Marshals. This is forbidden by FIA regulation, thus it was only correct that Mark received due punishment.

The fact that this happened to be Mark’s third reprimand of the season, thus giving him an automatic 10 place grid penalty in the next race, was a dreadfully unfortunate and terribly timed case of bad luck.

But that is all it was. Frankly, mark’s forbidden entrance to the track, and his subsequent ride with Fernando, is a much more pressing matter of safety than we all made it out to be. When you remove the rose-tinted glass, it was an outright and blatantly dangerous thing to do.

Yes, some of the sport’s most iconic images and beloved memories stem from these types of generous and sportsman-like acts of kindness, but safety must be considered.

It would take only the slightest of mistakes on Fernando’s part to offset Mark’s precarious position on the side of the car and throw him onto the track and into the path of oncoming cars. The fact that Hamilton and Kimi had to take evasive action when nearing Alonso (this was taken into account when the penalties were dolled out) speaks to the grave danger Mark could have been in should something have gone wrong.

Had Alonso pulled into a safer area of the track, and had Mark gotten the express permission from the marshals to enter the circuit, none of this would have happened. But it did.

We all love when drivers are nice to each other. It makes the sport more human. We can connect with it. It makes the drivers seem more like people than robots.

We all remember what happened in Germany, though. That rouge tire caused a lot of physical and mental trauma for that cameraman and his family. But that was a freak accident. Mark and Fernando were acting in complete consciousness.

I’m not suggesting for a second that any potential accident that could have happened would have been on purpose, but any accident that could have happened would have been a direct result of a conscious decision to do something that was, however consciously they thought about it, overtly dangerous.

Safety is the message here. Mark wasn’t punished for the ride, he was punished for getting back on the track in the first place.

Moving On

For those who may not know, I have recently begun my new job as Formula One writer for Rant Sports. I am the only full-time F1 writer so I will be very busy for the next year.

As a result, this blog may not be updated quite as often as usual. I will do my best to keep updating the standings pages and, if I have time, continue the “Aftermath” pieces I really enjoy writing.

Please visit rantsports.com to get the latest news and updates on the world of F1. I, and hopefully others, will be doing my best to keep the public informed on all things Formula One. If you decide to make Rant Sports your destination for Formula One news, then I commend you.

To find the Formula One section of Rant Sports, go to rantsports.com and find the “More” tab on the main menu. In that tab, you will see a sub-tab marked “NASCAR”. Click on that link (I know, NASCAR is scary. But trust me) and you should be able to see the Formula One news towards the bottom of the page.

I understand that this is not among some of the more simple ways to get Formula One news, but I assure you that the news you get will be reliable, interesting and well written.

Thank you for all of the support over the past months of this blog’s life and I hope you continue to visit it over the years. My journey in Formula One is picking up steam and I cannot wait for the future. It won’t be easy, but that means it’s worth it.

Note: I should have a very interesting Q&A coming up with someone you may not know all that much about, but has recently gotten a hefty promotion…

Jack Harvey: Life as a Racing Driver (part 3)

Sorry for the long break between installments, but it’s been a busy couple of weeks.

With the first two installments, we got an intimate look into what life is like as an up and coming racing driver. We were able to understand the vast complexities that come with trying to race, get an education and balance the two effectively. But what does the future hold? That’s a tough question to ask any racing driver because they often don’t really know.

Nothing, other than uncertainty, is ever guaranteed in this sport, so speculation on the future needs to be done with an air of caution.

“I don’t know what the plans are for next season”. It’s that simple, really. In this business and at Jack’s stage of his career, it’s dangerous to make long-term plans. Even with the security of the RSF’s backing, Jack remains largely in the dark about what the future brings. He should be used to that, however, as most of the opportunities Jack has taken advantage of have been surprised all their own, allowing him to advance his career further than he has ever expected.

“It’s better to see how we start this [season] and see how we get on and then start focusing in next season.” Ha ha perspective on the realities of racing are very refreshing. He brings up a point that I’m sure is overlooked many times in the lives of young racing drivers. When your career is on the up, it’s all too easy to start planning ahead. Who could blame you? You’ve been successful so far, what makes it dangerous to plan ahead? It’s sound logic, but racing logic has a whole face of its own, and it differs vastly, in many ways, from the realities of everyday life. “If you jump the fun wondering about the future, you’re missing what you’re actually doing,” says Jack of his future. His reservations are completely understandable. The present is the most important thing. There is no point in planning for the future if what you’re doing now is below par. Jack understands this and applies this to everything he does. Perhaps it’s for he best that he doesn’t know his future plans.

Inevitably, the conversation turns to the unavoidable topic that plights every young racing driver: sponsorship. Jack’s situation is unique in that the RSF is not sponsorship. At least not monetarily. The RSF provides sponsorship in that they have faith in his abilities, and because the RSF is so reputable, Jack can take some consolation that his future has a relatively defined path. The RSF provides drivers with similar backing to the Red Bull young driver program. Both of these programs offer their drivers backing in the form of their reputations. Instead of making their drivers rely on personally attaining monetary backing, these foundations pay for their careers under the assumption they will achieve on a very high level in whichever category they happen to be in. It’s a nice arrangement these days. As any driver will tell you, getting sponsorship is becoming increasingly difficult to do, so having the backing by a foundation like the TSF, Jack is very lucky.

But what makes Formula One teams sit up and take notice? A little bit of green won’t do any harm at all, but at the heart of Formula One, despite what anyone else says on the subject, are results. This is precisely the answer I get from Jack when I ask him the question posed above and I’m not particularly surprised. If there is anything I’ve learned from this conversation, it is that Jack is focused on results. Above anything else, he pinpoints his targets and sets about the best way from him to achieve them.

Personally, I worry for the drivers like Jack who run the risk of falling out of the spotlight because of a lack of sponsorship. It’s becoming a vital part of running a Formula One team these days, as we all know, but if there is a heavily sponsored driver who does just as well as Jack this season, who will get the eventual call up to F1? “It’s tough at the minute” says Jack of his F1 chances. “I think anyone who said there wasn’t a worry [of missing out on a drive] would be kidding themselves. Ultimately, there is not a lot we can do to really change that apart from trying to beat them.”

As I’ve said before, Jacks perspective on not only racing, but on the realities of life, is very refreshing. He knows what he needs to do to succeed, but knows that there is they chance it might not work out. If you think about it, this mindset could be worth more than any amount of money.

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2013 Australian Grand Prix Preview

It’s safe to say that no one really knows who is going to win the season opener. Belting out laps over and over again may prove that your car is reliable, but it doesn’t reveal the most important part: speed. While testing has clouded our judgement of the cars rather than clear it up, the fans can rest assured that whatever happens come Sunday, they most likely will not have expected it.

For the teams, preparing for the race will involve some new and interesting challenges. First off, not everyone completed their testing programs entirely. The rain and cold temperatures made sure of that. This means that rather than just getting re-aquainted with the smooth surface of the Melbourne track, all the teams will still be testing new parts. The significance of all of their impacts is yet to be deciphered, but it would be a good bet to say that the Friday practices will be hectic; more so than any other time we will see this year.

For the top teams, they will also have to prepare for the possibility of the midfield teams springing an early surprise. No one was expecting the fight between Sauber and Ferrari in Malaysia last year (although the rain made sure of a mixed race). Regardless, Red Bull, Mclaren, Ferrari and Lotus will be on the lookout for the likes of Sauber, Williams and even Force India to force their way to the front.

Another part of this preparation will be coming to grips with the relationship between the tires and the track surface. The rough tarmac of Jerez and Barcelona will make way for the smooth surface that characterizes the Melbourne street circuit. Pirelli have been brave to bring the Supersoft and Medium tires to Australia. This will be the former’s first appearance Down Under, prompting many to question the Italian company after the tire debacle we saw in testing. Pirelli assures the paddock, however, that despite all the concerns from testing, two to three stops should be expected this Sunday.

With the step in tire compounds comes an increased importance in strategy. Long gone are the days where drivers drove flat out until they got low on fuel and then pitted. Now, there is a huge degree of tire management that often defines the outcomes of races. The step between the Supersoft and Medium tires is expected to offer more than a second between lap times. Indeed, starting position, along with what tire you start on, will be major factors that influence race strategy.

With all the unknowns surrounding strategy and the running order, the season opener promises to be even more unpredictable than last year’s. The only certainty in uncertainty! Only 58 laps are allocated for the race, ensuring there will be an epic battle for supremacy this weekend.

Qualifying Prediction:

I feel a shoot-out between the top-5 teams is entirely possible. This doesn’t mean, though, that the midfield teams will be left out of the top-10 entirely (although that might be good for strategy). For pole, though, I am not going to discount Mercedes and expect Lewis Hamilton to come out on top.

Race Prediction:

I expect an entirely different narrative for the race. Despite all their flashes of speed and brilliance, I am not convinced Mercedes have what it takes to win right off the bat. With a Ferrari that is much improved compared to last year’s and a driver that is only more determined, I don’t see why Ferrari and Fernando Alonso won’t come out on top. Look out, though, for the likes of Vettel, Button and Raikkonen to fight it out to the checkered flag.

Race Stats:

Track distance: 5.303 Km (3.295 miles)

Race distance: 58 laps or 307.574 Km (191.11 miles)

Expected weather: Sunny for practice and the race with rain predicted for qualifying. Temperature is set to drop over the course of the weekend.

2013 Season Preview: Sauber

Sauber:

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Along with Lotus, Sauber was another of the great surprises of the season. Their pace was apparent in preseason testing in 2012, and they duly performed throughout the season. Four podiums and a couple near wins sealed 6th place in the Constructors’ Championship for the Swiss team.

While they enjoyed their best season since becoming a privateer outfit, the season was mired with inconsistency. Front-running pace in Malaysia and Germany sometimes turned to back marker pace in Hungary. For 2013, Sauber will be looking to consistently challenge the frontrunners rather than challenge when the conditions happen to allow it.

Sauber have gone relatively radical with their car and their driver lineup for 2013. While evolution was the general direction for the new cars, Sauber have taken a leap into the unknown with some radical design features. Massively narrow sidepods and a passive DRS shows the team’s intentions for 2013.

Nico Hulkenberg and Esteban Gutierrez join the race team at Sauber this year with a lot of expectation. Regardless of testing form, the team will be expecting podium pace at least once during the year. The drivers are capable of this, for sure.

Nico Hulkenberg:

The defacto team leader for 2013, Nico Hulkenberg will be hoping he can match his giant killing performances that became a feature of the second half of 2012. Those performances only served to justify everyone’s claims that the German is a champion in the making. One can only wonder what might have been if Mclaren chose Nico over Perez.

Regardless of Mclaren’s non-decision, the 2013 season will hopefully serve to prove the immense talent of the young and hungry German.

Rarely involved in accidents, the calm and calculated nature that defines Nico Hulkenberg will be a welcome change from the fast but slightly erratic nature of 2012 team members Sergio Perez and Kamui Kobayashi.

Some have criticized Nico for sidestepping in the paddock. His move from Force India to Sauber won’t provide a huge improvement in terms of car pace and potential but will hopefully serve as an opportunity for Nico to demonstrate his versatility.

Esteban Gutierrez:

After three years as a Sauber reserve driver, Esteban has finally been given his big break as a Formula One driver. Drawing parallels between his and countryman Perez’s junior category journeys is easy to do, but Esteban will be hoping to make a name for himself, separate from Sergio.

Finishing third in the 2012 GP2 championship wasn’t a complete representation of the Mexican’s talent. Some careless errors throughout the season ended his realistic hopes for a championship challenge towards the end of the season.

His reputation as a pay driver is a bit harsh, as Mexican company Telmex, owned by richest man in the world, Carlos Slim, was always going to stay with Sauber regardless of Perez or Gutierrez’s presence in the team.

He will be hoping to put this reputation behind him as he joins the impressive Sauber team for the 2013 campaign. He goes into the new season, however, with very little Formula One experience. He only drove one practice session last year and the rest of his experience is limited to the Young Driver tests in Abu Dhabi. Otherwise, he is a genuine rookie. This may be looming in the back of his mind as he prepares himself mentally for the season ahead.

GP2 testing Concludes in Jerez

With an all new season of GP2 about to get underway in 2013, it is important to get the new young drivers acclimatized to the car and operational procedures of the teams, if the driver is new to the series. For the veterans, the preseason is just an opportunity to get back into the groove and understand the tires.

The first preseason test took place in Jerez and concluded today. There were some notable participants in the test in the form of Sauber reserve driver and 2012 FR3.5 champion Robin Frijns and Ma Qing Hua, former HRT reserve driver. These two are looking to secure seats in the competitive feeder series for 2013 to keep their racing options open.

These two drivers would not feature at the top of the time sheets during the test, through Robin did impress considering this was his first taste of GP2 machinery.

The first two days were dominated by Frenchman Tom Dillmann. The young driver was a race winner in last year’s championship and is looking to secure a full time race seat for 2013.

The final day was topped by sophomore driver, James Calado. The Brit impressed in his rookie year last season by taking 5th in the championship. Staying in ART Grand Prix machinery certainly makes him a favorite for the championship in 2013, and the best poised driver to break into F1 in the near future.

GP3 graduates Daniel Abt and Mitch Evans were also present for what was their first taste of GP2 machinery as well. They will have a steep learning curve this year but are well poised to succeed in the championship. The former is lucky enough to James Calado as his teammate.

Here are today’s times:

Driver Team Laptime Laps
1. James Calado ART Grand Prix 1:24.659 54
2. Simon Trummer Rapax 1:25.045 26
3. Fabio Leimer Racing Engineering 1:25.133 27
4. Stefano Coletti Rapax 1:25.138 35
5. Stéphane Richelmi DAMS 1:25.148 38
6. Marcus Ericsson DAMS 1:25.269 39
7. Jolyon Palmer Carlin 1:25.276 38
8. Mitch Evans Arden International 1:25.309 41
9. Julian Leal Racing Engineering 1:25.318 44
10. Kevin Giovesi Venezuela GP Lazarus 1:25.497 40
11. Robin Frijns Trident Racing 1:25.572 23
12. Daniel Abt ART Grand Prix 1:25.695 56
13. Johnny Cecotto Arden International 1:25.829 37
14. Sergio Canamasas Caterham Racing 1:25.833 47
15. Rene Binder Venezuela GP Lazarus 1:25.862 17
16. Felipe Nasr Carlin 1:25.883 33
17. Ma Qing Hua Caterham Racing 1:25.896 43
18. Daniel De Jong MP Motorsport` 1:25.959 31
19. Adrian Quaife-Hobbs MP Motorsport 1:26.031 39
20. Nathanaël Berthon Trident Racing 1:26.049 21
21. Jake Rosenzweig Barwa Addax Team 1:26.133 43
22. Rio Haryanto Barwa Addax Team 1:26.767 38