Marussia

Manor Announce New Recruit

Step by step, Manor are performing the miracle. Formerly known as Marussia, Manor GP existed administration through a Company Voluntary Arrangement last week and have today announced Will Stevens as their first 2015 driver, along with a statement of intent, suggesting that the team are on course to appear on the grid at the curtain raiser in Melbourne.

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Strategy Group Veto Manor Entry

Its common knowledge that F1 is a sport where the headlines often deviate from sporting affairs and instead focus on political matters and over the past 24 hours, this has most certainly been the case. Unfortunately, the headlines have been a story of negativity, as Manor have been denied entry to the 2015 season, with the Strategy Group vetoing their use of a 2014 chassis. The verdict has provoked a vehement response for fans – for me, it is more a sigh of disappointment.

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Marussia Ready To Return

After a past three months where the possibility of Marussia’s return has looked off – then on – then off again, it seems as though we have been waiting an age for a definitive conclusion. Today, said conclusion has finally been reached, with the announcement arriving that Marussia will exit administration on February 19th, with an aim of racing in Melbourne. However, this is the first step on what promises to be a tight turn-around if the team are to fulfill this aspiration.

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Marussia Buyout Seems Possible

New hope of a potential return for Marussia in 2015 has been established today, as the team have cancelled their forthcoming auction of the remaining equipment. The Banbury based squad have looked unlikely to claim their 2015 Manor GP entry, with their failure to attend the 2014 season finale in Abu Dhabi leading many to predict that the popular outfit had run their race. However, with a third party investor seemingly entering the closing stages of buyout talks, Manor GP is now a far more feasible prospect for an Australian GP appearance.

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2014 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix: Weekend Preview

18 rounds in which Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg have suffered both the triumphs and tribulations experienced on any championship journey and now, they will face each-other for the final chapter of what has been a gripping season. Abu Dhabi will play host to the showdown, in which one of the two Mercedes men will become World Champion. With Hamilton only needing to finish in the top two in order to guarantee his second title, he has the advantage, but as many a title decider has shown in the past, strange things happen when a championship draws to its gripping climax.

The Facts…

  • The Yas Marina Circuit plays host to the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
  • The 5.554 kilometre circuit will see the race play out over the course of 55 laps.
  • The venue hosted its inaugural race in 2009, won by Sebastian Vettel, who secured second place in the drivers championship.
  • In 2010, Abu Dhabi hosted the season finale in which four drivers had an opportunity to win the title – Fernando Alonso, Mark Webber, Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton. Vettel emerged as the victor.
  • Lewis Hamilton took victory in 2011, before retiring from the lead in 2012, allowing Kimi Raikkonen to take his first win on his return to the sport.
  • Sebastian Vettel holds the lap record of 1:40.279, set in 2005 when driving the RB5.  

Rewind 12 Months

Sebastian Vettel took another victory in which he crushed the opposition. After being out-qualified by his outgoing teammate, Mark Webber, Vettel hit the front at the first corner, taking a lead which he never relinquished. Meanwhile, the Aussie, who had been jumped by Nico Rosberg as well, after another of his traditional poor launches, made it into P2. Following such a frantic equivalent race in 2012, 2013’s edition was somewhat of a slow-burner, yet notable incidents behind the leading trio came in an intriguing battle between Lewis Hamilton, Adrian Sutil and Felipe Massa, as well as Fernando Alonso’s curb-hopping antics, which saw him book a trip to the medical centre after the race. Lets hope Fernando can steer clear of excessive G-Force’s this time around.

Title Permutations

What would a title deciding weekend preview be without the ever complicated permutations. Albeit slightly less mind-numbing than the 2010 list, which had an endless pool of scenarios, the 2014 title will go one of two ways, in accordance with the following criteria;

  • If Rosberg is 1st, Hamilton needs 2nd
  • If Rosberg is 2nd, Hamilton needs 5th
  • If Rosberg is 3rd, Hamilton needs 6th
  • If Rosberg is 4th, Hamilton needs 8th
  • If Rosberg is 5th, Hamilton needs 9th
  • If Rosberg finishes lower than 5th, Hamilton is the champion.

Ultimately, the numbers to focus on this weekend are 1 and 2. If Hamilton finishes in the top two, he will be champion regardless of what Rosberg manages. It is key to note that whenever both Mercedes have enjoyed trouble-free weekends, they have finished first and second, suggesting that the only ways in which Hamilton can loose the title are by suffering a mechanical failure or by making an error in qualifying or the race. However, if the final two rounds of the titanic 2007 season taught him anything, it is that the sport is unpredictable. The fact that Mercedes’ reliability has been far from infallible this season also adds to the tension which will inevitably be present throughout Sunday.

Will Hamilton Go For Gold?

The fact that Lewis does not need to win on Sunday may shape the race. At Interlagos in 2007, it could be argued that Hamilton, (who only needed fifth on the day), was a touch overzealous in his assault on Alonso at Turn Four. He arrived at the corner with far too much speed and went wide, loosing several positions. Ultimately, it was the mysterious gearbox issue which cost him the title on that occasion, but his first lap antics were unnecessary in the circumstances.
If Rosberg secures Pole on Saturday, it will be intriguing to see how Lewis approaches the first corner. The Hamilton of 2007 would arguably attempt to exit the corner in the lead, should the circumstances even supply him a sniff of an opportunity, but the Lewis of 2014 has seemed far more calm and considered. I imagine that if Nico looks menacing during the race, Hamilton will not pose much of a threat in response – I’m not suggesting that it will be a final lap of 1997, Villeneuve-esque, display of caution from Hamilton, but he cannot afford contact. The events of Spa have not been forgotten.

Back To 22?

Aside from the championship tussle, Caterham will make a return to the paddock this weekend, after their crowdfunding efforts have proved dividend. Interim Team Principal, Finbarr O’Connell, hopes that the team’s appearance will galvanise investment interest.
When the announcement was made, and I published my thoughts on this blog, the team had two seats to fill with drivers. Since then, Kamui Kobayashi was confirmed as returning with the team, yet at the time of writing, his teammate for the event has not yet been disclosed. My hope is that we see an exciting new prospect receive their first chance to impress in a race situation – Roberto Merhi has been suggested as a likely candidate, after enjoying two FP1 sessions with the team so far this season, while my outside bet remains as Pierre Gasly. 
While 20 are confirmed, the grid could be back to a full compliment this weekend, as Marussia are currently waiting for confirmation of investment. Their freight has arrived at the circuit, but the final packages, boxes and bags await confirmation of their entry. This has to be established in the very near future, (so much so, that official news is likely to have been announced by the time you are reading this.) It would be great to see the team return to the paddock, on the back of today’s news regarding Jules Bianchi’s improved condition. My thoughts continue to be with the Frenchman and his family. Hopefully, Marussia can return and seal the ninth place in the constructors championship that Jules fought so hard for in Monaco. 

An Emotional Weekend

This weekend is set to be an emotional rollercoaster at Mercedes, but elsewhere, it could be a weekend for farewells. Sebastian Vettel will complete his final race as a Red Bull driver, in a partnership which has proved to be astoundingly fruitful. Meanwhile, it could potentially be Jenson Button’s final race in Formula 1, as McLaren are yet to decided their 2015 driver line-up. For Button to be involved in such uncertainty is frustrating and certainly does not reflect his status as a World Champion. In addition, speculation of Fernando Alonso’s switch from Ferrari to McLaren means that Abu Dhabi 2014 could prove to be Alonso’s final race in the famous red chassis. McLaren Sporting Director, Sam Michael, will also undertake his final weekend in the sport, after 21 years in F1.

Prediction Corner

The only thing predictable about a final race, title showdown, is that it will be unpredictable. While Hamilton is the likely candidate for championship glory, Rosberg is in prime position to snatch his maiden title should his teammate falter. You may be disappointed to hear that I will not be making any firm predictions to do with the top duo in this edition of prediction corner.
Behind the Mercedes pair, I would imagine that Red Bull will have a strong final weekend, but the manner in which Williams have progressed in the past few weeks is truly impressive, and brings this into question. The Red Bull chassis should pay dividend at Abu Dhabi, but Williams’ pace at Interlagos surprised me and I wouldn’t be surprised to be surprised again this weekend, (if that all makes sense.) Noises from Maranello over the Brazilian Grand Prix weekend suggest that Ferrari are less focussed on mounting a final assault on Williams in the final round, but instead are watching McLaren looming in their mirrors. It would take a herculean effort from McLaren to overhaul the prancing horse and as such, I anticipate the constructors standings will remain stagnant this weekend.

Will there be a change at the top of the drivers standings? Lets wait and see.

2014 US Grand Prix: Weekend Preview

As the F1 paddock arrives in Austin for the third time, they prepare to assemble the smallest grid since the Monaco Grand Prix in 2005, with just 18 cars making the journey following a disastrous week for both Marussia and Caterham. The 18 car grid and latest incarnation of the points scoring system means that this weekend will mark the first time that over half of entrants will score points, in the history of the sport. Financial sustainability will be a buzz word, (or should I say, phrase) this time out, but talk of the ever intensifying rivalry between the title protagonists will dominate the headlines. With 17 points splitting Lewis Hamilton from Nico Rosberg, the latter is in dire need of a triumph over his chief rival.

The Facts…

  • The Circuit of the Americas (otherwise known as COTA) is a 5.5 kilometer layout which hosts a wide range of motorsport series including MotoGP, WEC and of course, Formula 1.
  • The race takes pace over 56 laps
  • Lewis Hamilton won the first ever US Grand Prix to be held at COTA in 2012, from Sebastian Vettel in second.
  • Sebastian Vettel went one better in 2013, taking a comfortable victory and his eighth in succession.
  • Vettel holds the lap record at COTA with a 1:39.347, posted in 2012 behind the wheel of the RB8. 
  • Valtteri Bottas scored the first points of his F1 career in the equivalent event last year, with a solid eight place finish.

Rewind 12 Months

Unlike the 2012 US Grand Prix, the 2013 event was a largely forgettable affair. Sebastian Vettel further etched his name into the history books with his eighth consecutive victory in what was a textbook Sebastian Vettel drive. The German bolted away from his competitors in the opening laps and never looked back. Romain Grosjean continued what had been a timely run of form by securing his career best result with P2. It was an accomplished drive, particularly considering that Mark Webber posed a significant threat in the Frenchman’s mirrors for the entire second and final stint. However, Grosjean’s glory as driver of the day had to be shared with Valtteri Bottas, as the rookie scored the first points of his career with a sublime drive to P8. While Pastor Maldonado suffered an early skirmish with Adrian Sutil, Bottas remained cool, calm and collected, even challenging Fernando Alonso in the opening exchanges – something that he has come accustomed to doing in 2014.

Light In Numbers

This weekend will unquestionably be headlined by those not making the trip to Austin. Marussia and Caterham have made several appearances on the back pages over the last few days, as the pair fell into administration after finally crippling under the weight of financial burdens. Caterham’s fiasco has been defined by a season long saga as Tony Fernandes fell out of love with the sport and passed the baton, (or at least we think) to the mysterious Swiss Middle Eastern consortium, who have failed to halt the runaway train of debts. Meanwhile, Marussia’s news came as far more of a surprise – it was common knowledge that the Banbury squad were on the breadline, as highlighted by the curious Chilton story at Spa, but it was not evident that such a crisis was looming. October has been a truly awful month for the team and sentiments of #ForzaJules will of course be prominent again this weekend.
With neither team making the trip to Texas, the grid will be composed of just 18 cars, making it the smallest grid since the 2005 Monaco Grand Prix, where BAR Honda were excluded due the running of illegal fuel tanks in the prior San Marino Grand Prix. If you are wondering, ‘but surely the infamous US Grand Prix of 2005 had fewer cars,’ it does not count in regards to this statistic, as it technically had 20 entrants, even if only six of those started the race.

The Titanic Title Fight Continues

17 points is the latest margin between Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg in a dice which has swung back and forward throughout the last 16 races. Momentum has proved to be a powerful tool in the title fight so far and it is very much in the hands of Hamilton at the moment, as the Brit heads to Austin on the back of four consecutive wins. It is an ominous statistic that a driver is yet to win four consecutive races in a season and fail to claim the ultimate prize – Hamilton fans will hope that he does not become the first exception to the rule.
Certainly, Nico Rosberg is in need of a win. The critical error made in Sochi cost him a chance of victory and suggested that the German is beginning to overdrive. He needs to return to his mid-season form, where he managed to control races from the front near faultlessly, with the Austrian and German Grand Prix springing to mind.
With the margin as it stands, there are of course countless permutations, but essentially Rosberg needs to win ‘Abu Double’ plus either the US or Brazilian Grand Prix in order to claim the title, assuming that Hamilton finishes no better than second in the three remaining rounds. Consequently, if Rosberg can record his fifth win of the campaign this weekend, he will relieve some pressure ahead of Brazil, which will otherwise become a must win race. However, considering Hamilton’s prior form on US soil, it could be tough for Nico to shake Lewis out of his current purple patch.

Prediction Corner

Despite the form book suggesting that another Hamilton victory is on the cards for Sunday, I cannot help but think that the 2014 title fight will suffer another significant twist. From the unforgettable qualifying session in Monaco to the famed contact at Les Combes, the duel between Hamilton and Rosberg has had so many story lines and chapters, it would seem contradictory to have a smooth road to the title for Lewis. As such, I cannot help but think that Rosberg will win at least one more round this season and why should it not come this weekend?
Aside from the Mercedes scrap, I would expect Red Bull to be strong in Austin, with the technically demanding sector one playing to their strengths. Meanwhile, Williams could find themselves in the now unfamiliar position of being behind Ferrari this weekend, with just the one long straight allowing them to highlight their straight line advantage. However, after his heroics last season, Bottas could establish himself as a COTA specialist this weekend and as such, is a candidate for the final spot on the podium – he certainly knows how to claim a P3 after recording three so far in 2014.  

Marussia Fall Into Administration

The lack of sustainability in the sport was brought into sharp focus once again yesterday, as Marussia have followed Caterham into the hands of administrators. The Banbury squad have faced an arduous few weeks and after F1-supremo Bernie Ecclestone announced that they would not attend the US Grand Prix two days ago, yesterday’s news was hugely disappointing yet somewhat predictable. The race is now on to find a buyer, yet reports would suggest that they are closer to investment than Caterham.

Marussia Chilton” by emporernie
Licensed under CC-BY-2.0

The Search Begins

After writing an article based on the lack of financial sustainability in the sport just three days ago, I am not about to evaluate the reasons why such a predicament has occurred. However, missing the US Grand Prix due to financial issues is a significantly less poignant issue than missing the event in the hands of the administrators. The problem faced by both Marussia and Caterham has suddenly become a far more distinguishable issue and the threat of three car teams, which seemed a more theoretical concept up until a few days ago, is now a daunting prospect. Should neither of the two aforementioned teams reappear, then the sport is only one team away from a structural metamorphosis and a largely unwelcome one at that.
However, it is important to note that reports paint a far more positive picture of the Banbury affairs compared with their Leafield counterparts. Prior to the announcement of their administration, it was rumored in The Telegraph that Marussia were close to sealing an investment deal worth £55 million. Regardless of whether these investors are still interested in the team, the fact that no redundancies have been made at the factory gives Marussia a sizable advantage over Caterham. The prospect of a £40 million payday for finishing in ninth place in the constructors should also be an attractive proposition to potential investors.
Regardless, I think I speak for everyone when I say that I hope that both Marussia and Caterham attract the injection of funding that is needed to not only return them to the grid, but make them a more potent force in the future. With each and every 2010 inductee team suffering at the hands of finances, there needs to be evidence that in the right conditions, a new team can challenge the establishment.