A belated happy Christmas to all readers – I hope you have enjoyed the days of festive fun, and are looking forward to New Year’s Eve celebrations. Of course, this is a critical period for blogger’s as it is a time to reflect upon a year of content.
Ferrari are rarely away from the Formula 1 headlines, but this past week as been a busy one even by their high standards. After their first season without a win since 1993 and arguably, their worst campaign since the ill-fated double floor of the F92A, few would doubt that change has become a necessity. However, no-one expected change to be quite so rapid and in a whirlwind week, Gutierrez and Vergne have been confirmed as new recruits, with Mercedes’ Jock Clear heavily linked with a move, while Pat Fry, Nikolas Tombazis and Pedro De La Rosa, are all confirmed departures. Maranello now looks markedly different in comparison to just a week ago.
by Francisco Antunes [CC-BY-2.0]
Just weeks after being dropped by Sauber and facing the daunting reality of an early end to his Formula 1 career, Esteban Gutierrez is now once again employed – and by one of the most famous names in motorsport, no less. Ferrari have snapped up the 23-year-old Mexican, who will be their reserve driver for 2015. Esteban has certainly made the best of a bad situation this winter.
|“Esteban Gutierrez 2014 Singapore FP1“
By Morio (photo taken by Morio) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons
In terms of disappointing season’s, Sauber’s 2014 campaign is has to rank as one of the worst and neither Adrian Sutil nor Esteban Gutierrez could overhaul the deficit created by their sub-par machinery. The hope is that the Hinwil-based outfit can have a more prosperous 2015, with two new drivers in-bound.
|“Adrian Sutil – Sauber C33“
By Mariom990 (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
- Sauber finished 10th in the championship, failing to score a single point.
- Adrian Sutil and Esteban Gutierrez suffered 13 retirements between them across the course of the campaign.
- Gutierrez was eliminated at the Q1 stage of qualifying on four occasions, including at Canada, where an accident in FP3 ruled him out of the session.
- Sutil’s P10 in Austin marked the team’s best qualifying performance of the season and the only time that either car made it into the final phase of qualifying.
Tug Of War
After enjoying two years of relative prosperity, Sauber came down to earth with a bang in 2014, as the C33 failed to match the performance of its predecessors. As such, this campaign has been the worst in the team’s history – since their entry in 1992, they had never failed to score a point in a season. Certainly, a streak that Monisha Kaltenborn et al did not want to break.
Character-building is one particular sporting cliche which springs to mind. To compound the on-track performance issues, Sauber faced an on-going political battle off-track, as it united alongside Lotus, Force India, Caterham and Marussia, in what became a tug-of-war between F1’s “have’s” and “have not’s.” While Kaltenborn has been particularly vocal in regards to the financial unsustainability of the sport for quite some time, her argument was made more potent in the closing stages of the campaign as Caterham and Marussia slipped into administration. Regardless, the situation is yet unresolved, even if Sauber’s financial predicament seems to have been alleviated in the short term by their latest driver appointments. Every cloud has a silver lining though and the political issues did somewhat detract the attention away from Sauber’s on-track woes.
Driving The Changes
Reluctantly, drivers will always come and go in this sport and we may have seen the last of both Adrian Sutil and Esteban Gutierrez in F1, after disappointing campaigns. Albeit hamstrung by a challenging car, neither driver demonstrated the type of credentials which would either make them a candidate in the eyes of potential employers or their current employers, for 2015.
Gutierrez’s 2014 season seemed particularly discouraging. The Mexican, driven by a desire to compete in his home race next season, failed to improve his performance after a difficult rookie campaign, in which he scored just 6 points to teammate Nico Hulkenberg’s 51. While his poor returns last season were somewhat understandable, a second lackluster performance has seen his credentials drawn into question. While he may have narrowly beaten Adrian Sutil over the course of the campaign 8-7, the notable mentions go to the German – two 11th place finishes in Australia and Hungary and a Q3 appearance at Austin. The clumsy accident in Monaco did nothing to improve the perception that was growing in regards to an underachieving Esteban.
However, both Esteban and Sauber in general have been hugely unlucky this season. Gutierrez’s retirement in Singapore is perhaps the most unfortunate moment of their trouble filled campaign, as the Mexican looked likely to secure points until an electrical issue halted his progress and prompted his famous glove-throwing exploits, captured on FOM’s world feed. Meanwhile, following his impressive result on Saturday, Sutil’s US Grand Prix was abruptly concluded when Sergio Perez misjudged his speed Turn 15 and careered into the back of the Sauber. While Gutierrez’s race pace suggests that Sutil may have struggled to maintain his top ten placing, his qualifying account predicted otherwise. I guess we will never know what could have been on that November afternoon.
Best Moment of the Season
In a year of trials and tribulations, Adrian Sutil’s incredible qualifying performance at Austin was both spectacular and unexpected – the highlight of an otherwise gloomy season.
Best Performance of the Season
Sauber’s 177 lap total in the final day of testing that stole the headlines.
While many analysts were beginning to guesstimate that Christmas could come before the McLaren driver saga drew to a close, the team have finally given their verdict – and it is pleasing news for Jenson Button’s army of fans. The Brit has retained his seat at the team, at the expense of Kevin Mganussen, who has been ousted to a reserve driver role. In regards to the worst kept secret of the season, Fernando Alonso was confirmed as Button’s teammate today and means that McLaren will field the oldest driver line-up in the sport next season – yet with 500 races and 47 wins between the duo, it promises to be a successful combination.
|“McLaren, Button, Cross The Line“
By emperornie (Mclaren, Button) [CC-BY-SA-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Button In, Magnussen Less So…
Burying The Hatchet
|“Fernando Alonso 2007 USA 2“
By Matthew Blasi from Fredericksburg Va & Washington DC, USA (2007 US Grand Prix)
[CC-BY-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Regardless, McLaren seem to have made a wise choice in terms of drivers. Experience over youth is an age old argument and is applicable to most sports, yet as circumstances suggest a rocky road ahead as McLaren and Honda reacquaint themselves, a safe pair of hands behind the wheel is an excellent place to start. They have elected for the safe option, but as a famous saying suggests, discretion is the better part of valour.
Politics, politics and more politics have plagued the Leafield based squad this season and their trials and tribulations have highlighted just how challenging life at the back of the grid can be.
|“Caterham Pit Box 2014 Singapore“
By Morio (photo taken by Morio) [CC-BY-SA-4.0], via Wikimedia Commons
- Caterham finished P11 in the Constructors Championship, failing to score a single point
- The team gave F1 debuts to Marcus Ericsson, Andre Lotterer and Will Stevens across the course of the season.
- 2014 was Caterham’s fifth season in the sport.
- Their best result of the season came in Monaco, where Ericsson narrowly missed out on points, finishing in P11.
The concept of crowdfunding, in which private donations were made to the team, ranging in both shape and size, was controversial to say the least. Christian Horner was one particularly vocal opponent to the scheme, yet O’Connell had clear justification for the plan – evidently, making it to Abu Dhabi and demonstrating to the world that Caterham F1 Team was still operational would greatly increase the potential for more sustainable, long-term investment. While I myself questioned the ethics of crowdfunding, the justification was undoubted and the fact that Caterham made it to Abu Dhabi demonstrated just how significant “fan-power” can be. As for long-term investment, official news has been in short supply, yet speculation suggests that potential investors are on the horizon and a spot on the grid in Melbourne is far from an impossibility, even if the team have to run a 2014 specification car, (for which they have received the required dispensation to do.)
Adverse Driving Conditions
Best Moment of the Season
Despite the adversities faced by the team, Caterham made it to Abu Dhabi and managed to guide Will Stevens to the chequered flag – a great advert for the team.
Best Performance of the Season
Marcus Ericsson’s drive to P15 in Singapore
Heading into today’s World Motorsport Council meeting in Qatar, all talk centred around double points and standing restarts, yet yesterday evenings main headlines have been dominated by some surprise notices. Perhaps the most surprising of all storylines is that the Korean Grand Prix has reappeared, taking a spot on the provisional 2015 calender and on a date which could cause some headaches. Meanwhile, Max Verstappen could have etched his name into the history books for good – It was certainly a seismic day for F1 news.
|“Yeongam Korean Grand Prix October 2012“
By calflier001 [CC-BY-SA-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
A Recording Breaking Calender…
Ultimately, the headline came as a massive surprise to almost everyone. Talk of the Indian Grand Prix making a reappearance was rife when it was initially dropped this time last year, yet with speculation in regards to this thread falling quiet, the provisional 20 race schedule, (featuring the Mexico Grand Prix) looked set to be ratified by the WMSC. However 20 has become 21 and in uncharacteristic circumstances, a secret was kept as just that.
The return of the Korean Grand Prix is intriguing for a number of reasons. Not only has it emerged out of the blue, but a race which has failed to attract the audiences which Ecclestone desires has reappeared after just a year away- so what has changed? Other than the date on the calender, it is difficult to see what. It was suggested that the landscape around Yeongam would be vastly altered as part of a development plan when the venue initally appeared and this could be a first step towards remounting the road towards this end goal. It is certainly an exciting prospect.
One issue surrounding the race is its scheduling. I imagine that it will lead to logistical headaches for all the teams, with it placement on May 3th meaning that it will be a back-to-back event with the Spanish Grand Prix. In terms of development programmes, teams may be forced to alter their usual schedules, as the typical three week hiatus prior to the European season will now be disrupted by a fifth fly-away in succession – not-to-mention the logistical nightmare that will be travelling from Mokpo to Barcelona in a week. Regardless, it is another race and another weekend of entertainment in 2015.
The Youngest EVER
Another piece of news which slithered under the radar yesterday will certainly have caught young Max Verstappen’s attention. After criticisms have been made in regards to the simplicity of the super-licence process, the WMSC have clamped down on youngsters entering the F1 scene, placing an age restriction on qualification – in short, anyone under the age of 18 will not be able to obtain a super-licence from next season. Fortunately for family Vertsappen, Max has already earned his and as such, he has dodged the new regulation.
Not only that, but the news suggests that Max Vertsappen’s name could be etched into the history books forever. If this age restriction becomes a cornerstone of the super-licence process, (and it is difficult to see it ever coming under scrutiny), Vertsappen will be the youngest F1 driver ever, forever, as a 17-year-old débutante. Entering the fray with a record already established is certainly pleasing, particularly when it seems as though it will be entrenched.