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Features published on AUTOSPORT+ May 8, 2014 - May 14, 2014

1980s star thinks F1 2014 is the best - by Jonathan Noble


Why F1 should still fear Vettel - by Ben Anderson
Hamilton faster than he looks - by Edd Straw and Gary Anderson
Spanish GP technical blog - by Craig Scarborough
AUTOSPORT's Spanish GP driver ratings - by Edd Straw
How Hamilton found the decisive six tenths - by Edd Straw
Jaime Alguersuari's new life after F1 - by Matt Beer
How far ahead is Mercedes? - by Gary Anderson
How Indy's road course gamble paid off - by Mark Glendenning
F1's GP promoters miss their chance - by Dieter Rencken
F1 is making an easy thing difficult - by Edd Straw
Features published on AUTOSPORT+ May 8, 2014 - May 14, 2014 1
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1980s star thinks F1 2014 is the best
There's been a lot of doom and gloom around Formula 1's 2014 format, but JONATHAN NOBLE heard from a
top name from the last turbo era who reckons these are GP racing's greatest days...
There are few people you meet in Formula 1 who are more 'glass half full' than Derek Warwick.
Having seen it all during his years in stock cars, grands prix racing and sportscars, if you spark up a
conversation about anything to do with motor racing, you'll find a man instantly firing on all cylinders.
However, the start to the 2014 season has left even him needing to muster all his enthusiasm to stop getting
dragged down by the negativity that's surrounded F1.
"I, like everybody else, was caught up in that whole story from Australia about the noise," he said, chatting
during a British Grand Prix media event at Silverstone last week.
"I always take as an example my [car dealership] garage, because they are all F1 nuts," continued Warwick.
"Everyone there fell into the same trap of it being negative.
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"But I said to them, hang on a minute, guys, for the first time in many a year, I'm watching racers - the best in
the world - driving cars that are biting them. The cars now have too much power and not enough downforce.
That's fantastic."
Warwick's perspective backs up a growing belief that the real reason F1 faced such bad PR this year - and
has been struggling to convince fans not to turn off - has had little to do with what's been happening on the
track.
Instead, it has everything to do with the fact that those whose jobs it is to promote the sport and deliver a
bigger audience have caused the bad press themselves.
For beyond the noise issue - which everyone now accepts has tapped into the emotions of fans - there's
nothing about the racing this year that can justify ringing alarm bells.
One team may be winning everything, but that's nothing new in our sport, after all. The talk of taxi-cab driving
and extreme fuel saving has also proved wide of the mark - some teams are already short filling, for instance.
And just wait for Monaco, where the less-thirsty engines may use under 85kg of fuel for the race.
Warwick concurs that the real problem F1 faced at the start of this year was the negative PR from on high.
"That's 100 per cent," he says. "I never understand any sport or any business doing its dirty washing in public.
"Everyone's mentioned Gerald Ratner [former boss of the Ratners jewellery group], who said he sold junk -
his company nearly went bankrupt a few years later. So I've been a bit surprised and disappointed by Ferrari,
Red Bull and Bernie Ecclestone.
"I put a lot back into my sport as a steward, on the safety side and on the FIA side. I am president of the
BRDC and I do what I can for Silverstone. I do it all for nothing. So when I see people hurting my sport, I get
very defensive about it."
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But while all the doom and gloom has undoubtedly caused some damage, equally none of F1's stakeholders
has done enough to ram home the message to fans about why the new technology is better, and why it
matters to every fan who switches on a television set.
The endless paranoia among the teams that revealing any technical details could hand the opposition an
advantage has resulted in very little being said about the brilliance going on under those engine covers.
Last week, the city of Sheffield unveiled a new fleet of buses using the same hybrid technology that's been
pioneered in F1. This is exactly the sort of thing grand prix chiefs should be shouting about, because it
highlights that the sport is relevant again, and leading with expertise that's going to benefit everyone in years
to come.
It's why Warwick, despite the bad press, is still buoyant about the state of F1.
"I'm excited," he said. "I have been an anorak all my life about F1, and I see this as the best era ever.
"But some of the technology is difficult for the punter to understand, because it's not something you can see or
touch. You can't watch it work on television like DRS - so we need to show the fans more about what is going
on."
I couldn't agree more.
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Why F1 should still fear Vettel
The four-time champion has endured a difficult start to the new season, but BEN ANDERSON argues that it's
only a matter of time before he'll be back to his best
Nobody becomes a world champion at anything by accident, let alone a four-time world champion of Formula
1.
But people have short memories, and it's only taken four relatively underwhelming (by his own high
standards) races for the critics to start climbing all over Sebastian Vettel's back.
Those who write off Vettel as an average driver who romped into the record books by lucking into the best car
ignore the qualities that allowed him to make the most of the machinery at his disposal.
A point of order here: I'm taking nothing away from Vettel's new Red Bull team-mate Daniel Ricciardo, who
has done a superb job since stepping up from Toro Rosso and clearly has a better handle on how to drive this
new generation of F1 car at the moment.
But the intra-team battle is closer than you might think at first glance, for Vettel was hampered by technical
issues in Australia and Bahrain (not a fair fight), and was quicker than Ricciardo in Malaysia. So at best you
could say it's a score draw between them at the moment.
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As Red Bull team boss Christian Horner says: "When Seb has worked out his issues, he'll be back with a
bang."
And there's no reason to believe this won't happen. The qualities that made Vettel a multiple world champion
are the same qualities that will drag him out of his current malaise.
All he needs is time.
Remember that exhaust-blown downforce became a key tenet of Red Bull's competitive advantage during the
last rules cycle, and Vettel adapted his driving accordingly.
In fact, he became such a proponent of the particular style required that Red Bull began developing its car
around his technique - with devastating results, as his run of nine consecutive victories at the end of last
season attests.
The latest F1 rulebook has effectively outlawed exhaust blowing, by mandating that the exhausts exit through
a single tailpipe opening, 170-185mm behind the rear-wheel centreline.
Not only has this robbed Red Bull of a big technical advantage, but it will also have rendered some details of
Vettel's driving redundant.
The problem for anyone in this situation is that it's always easier to learn something than unlearn it, especially
when so much of top-level professional driving is a subconscious art.
For Vettel, further down the road with this type of driving than his rivals, the process is bound to take a little
longer.
Add in the fact that chronic unreliability from Red Bull and Renault ruined his pre-season - robbing Vettel of
crucial track time to unravel his old techniques and refine new ones and it seems apparent that we're
witnessing a certain amount of dirty laundry being washed in public here.
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The added problem for the reigning champion is one of compound interest. His difficulties in driving the RB10
correctly (mainly related to the lack of rear downforce and instability caused by energy harvesting under
braking) mean he will struggle to hone the correct set-up on any given weekend, which has a knock-on effect
on the tyres.
The result is a heavy defeat (to the tune of more than 20 seconds) to his team-mate at last month's Chinese
Grand Prix, which involved some terse radio exchanges as the team tried to manoeuvre the slower Vettel out
of Ricciardo's way.
This will all no doubt have been a fantastic confidence boost for Ricciardo, a superb driver with the perfect
attitude to succeed in top-level motorsport, and whose early performances are worthy of the plaudits currently
being lavished upon him.
But one swallow does not a summer make. A single-minded focus and restless workrate have underpinned
the Vettel phenomenon since he burst onto the F1 scene, and that same drive and determination will also pull
him out of this mini-slump.
'When', and not 'if', things start to click back into place for Vettel, he will become an absolute force to be
reckoned with once more.
And it will be no accident when he does.
This week's AUTOSPORT magazine - available in shops and online - includes a focus on the Red Bull
team-mate battle between Ricciardo and Vettel
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Hamilton faster than he looks
Lewis Hamilton had an advantage of 0.449s on the timesheets during Friday practice in Spain, but as GARY
ANDERSON and EDD STRAW explain, his advantage was even bigger than that
Speaking yesterday, Lewis Hamilton stressed that the configuration of what is now officially, and
cumbersomely, dubbed Circuit de Barcelona Catalunya, would mitigate the advantage of Mercedes.
But even though mitigate does not mean eradicate, Friday practice suggests that not only is Mercedes still
ahead, but its advantage is as big as ever.
"If you look at data, or you look at the GPS of other teams, their loss is in the latter part of the straights," said
Lewis Hamilton. "You can reduce that significantly here so it should naturally, before everyone has put the
upgrades on, be a closer gap I think.
"Everybody is bringing upgrades this weekend, some more than others, so it will be interesting to see if that
gap is still there of not."
Hamilton will have found today doubly interesting, because not only does the Silver Arrows have a clear
advantage, but he appears to have a decisive edge over team-mate and championship rival Nico Rosberg.
Based on Friday practice, it would be a surprise if Hamilton did not finally claim the points lead with a fourth
consecutive victory.
SINGLE-LAP PACE
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The fastest times of the day were all set on medium-compound Pirellis during Friday afternoon practice, with
the order of the top five matching exactly the ranking based on lap times on the slower rubber.
The ranking is hardly wildly different to what we saw on Friday practice in China, with a couple of teams one
place better or worse off, but little in the way of big changes.
But what is interesting is that the gap from the front to best-of-the-rest was double what it was at Shanghai.
Pace
1. Mercedes (Hamilton), 1m25.524s
2. Red Bull (Daniel Ricciardo), +0.985s
3. Ferrari (Fernando Alonso), +1.597s
4. McLaren (Kevin Magnussen), +2.264s
5. Williams (Felipe Massa), +2.300s
6. Lotus (Pastor Maldonado), +2.342s
7. Toro Rosso (Daniil Kvyat), +2.525s
8. Force India (Nico Hulkenberg), +2.550s
9. Sauber (Adrian Sutil), +2.760s
10. Marussia (Jules Bianchi), +4.467s
11. Caterham (Kamui Kobayashi), +5.814s
HAMILTON VERSUS ROSBERG
With the rest in their own fight for third, it makes sense to look at the Mercedes drivers' performance in
isolation.
Both completed their long runs on the medium-compound Pirellis, which are expected to be the tyre of choice
on Sunday. Rosberg's run was 18 laps, with Hamilton completing one more.
Knocking out the anomalous laps, that cuts Rosberg's run to 13 counted flying laps, which can be compared
against a run of the same length by Hamilton.
Long-run average (based on 13-lap run)
1 Hamilton, 1m31.187s
2 Rosberg, +0.619s
So let's say the pair start first and second, that would equate to Hamilton having a decisive lead of eight
seconds over a hypothetical 13-lap opening stint. The 2008 world champion was certainly happy with the
range he achieved on the mediums.
"They didn't seem so bad," he said after the session. "When they told me I had to do 14 laps on the option
tyre, I was like 'you're crazy, that's not going to happen' but I think I did more than that."
All of this is encouraging for Hamilton in his private battle. But there are some caveats.
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Rosberg's day was compromised by an ERS problem in the morning that restricted him to nine laps. He
admitted he was not particular comfortable with the car. But he also went significantly quicker than Hamilton in
the first two fliers of his run, 0.438s faster on the first and then 1.039s on the second.
This might have compromised his pace over the long run, but there can be little doubt that he needs to make
some progress overnight.
GARY ANDERSON: "Hamilton is nearly five tenths faster on raw pace, so there's no reason why he should
not be six tenths quicker on that run.
"This track is all about the tyres. If you lose performance in the rear tyres, Turn 3 becomes a nightmare, which
compounds the situation and it becomes an ever-worsening spiral.
"You can talk about taking it easy and you certainly can with the fronts, but you have to lean on the rears so
much there not to give away laptime that if you are struggling with degradation it's a massive challenge.
"Were I in Hamilton's shoes, I'd be very happy that I had a good understanding of what is going on, which
explains exactly why he's said he doesn't feel he needs the help of a psychologist!
"Understanding the car here is key and you need the right balance. Hamilton seems to have that now."
RED BULL vs FERRARI
"It's the Red Bulls and the Ferraris that you have got to keep an eye on," said Hamilton yesterday.
What happened on Friday backed this up, with Daniel Ricciardo and Fernando Alonso next in the queue on
single-lap pace and with an edge over the chasing pack.
But even with Red Bull hurt by Sebastian Vettel's day being ruined by an electrical problem that then
damaged the wiring loom, restricting him to just four slow laps all day, it appears to be comfortably ahead.
Ricciardo was, on average, half a second quicker than the Ferrari, using Kimi Raikkonen's long run as the
comparison. There were some hints that Alonso had the potential to be quicker, but his run was shorter. Even
so, Ferrari is playing catch up.
Battle for second place (based on 13-lap run)
1 Red Bull, 1m31.928s
2 Ferrari, 1m32.433s
Most encouraging for Ricciardo was the fact he was able to complete a significantly longer run and still lap
competitively at the end of the stint, suggesting his China tyre management strength has carried over into this
weekend.
GARY ANDERSON: "I was watching at Turn 10 and then at the complex during FP2 and the Red Bull looks
mega in the hands of Ricciardo. Obviously I didn't see anything of Vettel.
"You can see he is able to lean on the car and it behaves very neatly. Other cars, including the Mercedes,
when they lean on it one end or the other gives up and there is a small twitch. But not with the Red Bull, in
which Ricciardo can push with reasonable confidence.
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"On single-lap pace, Ricciardo was about a second slower than Hamilton and the gap is there on long-run
pace, which you would expect.
"As for Vettel, we've seen him missing parts of Friday before and shining the next day. But that's when he's
completely happy with the car. Ricciardo has shown what can be done and therefore Vettel can do the same,
but he needs to ensure that he drives the car to its limits, and not get frustrated and overdo it.
"If he still drives in this way and expects exhaust-blown downforce to help, he will be in trouble. That's what he
needs to come to terms with tomorrow."
"Ferrari does appear to have made progress and Raikkonen in particular has found his feet. But the car is still
well off Red Bull on pace."
BATTLE FOR SEVENTH
While things are not that close up front, the scrap for the minor points positions will be intense based on
Friday's long-run pace.
Here, the single-lap form is turned on its head, with Force India, which couldn't crack the top 10 on headline
pace, actually producing the most competitive long run courtesy of Sergio Perez.
But with qualifying pace looking underwhelming, this speed might never be unlocked in the race given how
difficult it is to pass during the Spanish GP.
The below ranking, which disregards Sauber because the team did not complete a meaningful long-run and is
therefore considered an unknown quantity, shows how tight this battle will be.
The midfield battle (based on 13-lap run)
4 Force India, 1m33.161s
5 Toro Rosso, 1m33.286s
6 Williams, 1m33.425s
7 Lotus, 1m33.549s
8 McLaren, 1m33.688s
GARY ANDERSON: "We haven't seen any great revolution in the competitive order. McLaren was much
stronger on single-lap pace than it is on the long runs, which is surprising.
"One of the things that really stands out is how big the offset is throughout the field for raw pace versus long
runs, with a five second offset, when you would expect 90kg of fuel to cost you only three seconds.
"The Williams doesn't look to be getting better and still has the combination of strong front end with a nervous
rear, that makes things harder on the tyre.
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"Force India looked nothing special, but was OK on the long run, while Lotus does appear to have improved. I
watched Pastor Maldonado on his medium run and on his quick lap he did lose some time with traffic, so it's
encouraging for Lotus."
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Spanish GP technical blog
The start of the European season is usually where Formula 1 teams bring their first major develpoments. But
there is an element of conservatism in Spain, as CRAIG SCARBOROUGH explains
Barcelona has typically been a pivotal race for Formula 1 teams' development programmes, but while there
were plenty of updates on display the anticipated raft of new parts did not materialise this time.
Unusually, the track has not been used for winter testing and the chance to run here outside of a grand prix
weekend next week has perhaps led teams to be more conservative with untested components.
The track features a range of corners, a long straight and an abrasive surface. It's the mix of long turns and
the track texture that is the most challenging for teams, and if a car works well around here it is normally good
at most circuits.
Good aero is required for speed in these turns and then the front left tyre is worked hard, leading to premature
wear. For this year, the high torque output of the power units, allied to warmer than expected temperatures,
could lead also to rear tyre degradation in Sunday's race.
MERCEDES
Mercedes arrived with the biggest performance advantage and one of the biggest upgrade packages. Its W05
now features a revised front wing and redesigned sidepod bodywork.
Attached to the shorter nosecone introduced at the last race, the revised front wing has only subtle changes.
The footplate at the wing tip now has slots corresponding to those in the wing itself.
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Additionally there's a new turning vane fitted inside and the turning vane outside of the endplate has been
reshaped.
More subtle changes have been made to the sidepod panels, but these appear to be a new shape wrapped
around the same internal cooling package.
Most notable are the smaller inlets and the hot air outlet at the tail of the bodywork.
Whereas the tail of the sidepod previously had a central exit and two separate side outlets flanking the tail, the
new bodywork now merges these into one smaller outlet at the very back of the car.
Reducing these two areas and a general shrinking of the bodywork around the internal mechanical package
will increase the car's efficiency, leading to more downforce with reduced drag.
RED BULL
There might have been more new parts to appear on the Red Bull but Sebastian Vettel's electrical problem on
Friday morning potentially scuppered any plans to roll new parts into practice.
On his second run in the morning, the car's electrics died completely and he stopped out on track. Clearly
something fundamental had failed and this was reported as an issue with the wiring loom.
Although this is made from many sub sections, at its core there's a central spine of cables. These connect the
various electrical systems to the other looms and it would appear that the problem, possibly heat, damaged
this part of the car's wiring loom.
Even though Vettel's machine was swiftly returned to the pits the damage to the loom was such that it could
not run again on Friday.
One detail that did catch the eye was the new infrared cameras mounted inside the wing mirrors. The
reflection off the lens gave their location away.
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Here, the front tyres get a hard time around some of the longer corners and more accurate reading of tyre
temperatures will help the team make the most of the tyres on the longer runs.
Aiding Red Bull's chase of Mercedes are new updates for its power unit. Despite the engine specification
freeze some of these updates are hardware, but the major gains are with new software.
These are expected to bring better drivability, if not more peak horsepower.
Such progress is possible as the coordinating of the power delivery from both the petrol engine and Energy
Recovery Systems is largely a software mapping exercise.
Large gains can be made without the need for physical changes to the engine. These updates are available to
all the Renault-powered teams.
FERRARI
Although a larger upgrade was expected, the F14 T did not appear with any major changes.
Instead, Ferrari's two cars ran in slightly different specifications. Fernando Alonso's car sported the blown
front axles seen in China, along with a new exhaust and wings. Kimi Raikkonen's car had a new rear wing
mount, sidepods and the pointy unblown front axles.
Of all the updates, the rear wing mount on the Finn's car was the most interesting upgrade. It follows
McLaren's concept of an inverted Y-shaped wing mounting pillar.
This works efficiently both because the top rear wing is not obstructed by two pillar mountings and the way the
base wraps around the exhaust aids extracting hot air from the sidepods.
But Ferrari has gone further. The pillar passes in front of the rear wing and curls back 180 degrees to support
the wing from above.
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This is often termed a 'swan neck' mounting. It helps aerodynamics as the upper surface of the wing is less
upset by the obstruction of the pillar joining the wing.
This was popular up until 2011 when the area in front of the wing was excluded from having bodywork,
including these mounts. To make Ferrari's design legal, the rear wing must be a little shorter to allow the pillar
to squeeze in between the wing and the exclusion zone.
Ferrari has changed the exhaust tailpipe design slightly for a new tapering design. However, this is a
performance upgrade and not a sound boosting 'megaphone' design as being tested next week by Mercedes.
As the exit of the tailpipe is restricted to a maximum circular cross section, the section of tailpipe exiting the
turbo must now be smaller. The pipes section then tapers to the maximum diameter in the last 100mm.
All the other changes were in detail only, with the cut-outs on the endplate of both the front and rear wings
being altered and the sidepods being slightly slimmer around the Coke bottle area.
McLAREN
The MP4-29 appeared in familiar guise for free practice.
While many updates may have gone on unseen beneath the skin, the only external difference appears to be
some front wing tweaks and a regression to the launch style rear brake ducts.
At the car's launch, the rear brake ducts sported a tear drop profile section around the upper wishbone mount.
This profile had inlets moulded into to feed the rear brakes with cooling air. Subsequently at the last test, this
was replaced with a complicated vaned set up.
Now, the earlier concept appears to have been reworked with a less teardrop shaped duct formed at the top
of the suspension.
LOTUS
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A couple of nice details appeared on the E22, showing the team still has some interesting ideas to introduce.
Firstly, there's a small new winglet fitted above the tail light structure, known as a monkey seat. Due to the
asymmetric wing support, its connection to the winglet requires an intricate twisted mounting to sit in its
correct position.
Further forward on the car, the left-hand sidepod has an odd bulge and crease on its top surface. This
sidepod houses the water cooler for the engine and the turbo intercooler.
I suspect that the shape is to create an extraction effect for the cooling outlet mounted next the cockpit.
The bulge sits ahead of the outlet and the crease is in line with it.
The resulting step will create a low pressure area aft of the outlet, which would help pull hot air from the
radiators.
FORCE INDIA
To complement the revise sidepod shape introduced at the Chinese Grand Prix, the team has made detail
changes to the floor.
One interesting incident on Friday morning was when the left-hand mirror on the Sergio Perez car broke off.
For the practice session the mirror houses a thermal camera, similar to that on the Red Bull.
The USB cable connecting the camera to the logging system held the camera pod in place until the car was
able to get back to the pits.
That left Perez struggling to downshift, with the housing in the way of the gearshift paddles.
WILLIAMS
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Like many teams, Williams had detail changes to its sidepods. While the bodywork was a little narrower, the
bigger change was to the mirror and vane set up beside the cockpit.
Williams has run intricate double mounting stems for the mirror pods, flanked by triangular fins. Now, the
mirrors are far more conventionally mounted and below the single mounting stem is a trio of fins.
This change is not likely to be for an improved rear view, but to alter the vortices that are shed by the mirrors
and fins.
TORO ROSSO
It is the rear of the car that has been updated on the STR9. Both the rear wing its endplates and the diffuser
below are new for this weekend.
SAUBER
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Having run the car overweight for both its drivers for the opening races, the early season development priority
has been to get lighter.
This has been achieved largely with a reduced cooling set-up. With smaller aluminium radiators, weight has
been shed, with the added benefit that the sidepods can now be slimmer, with smaller inlets and outlets.
Aerodynamics has also been revised with a new front wing cascade winglet set up and new vertical turning
vane in front of the sidepods.
CATERHAM
There were just small changes to the chassis for Caterham, affecting the front and rear wings along with the
floor seeing detail changes.
MARUSSIA
At its launch the Marussia followed Red Bull's keel nose solution.
This created a high and conventional nose, with the mandatory lower tip formed by a pod hanging off the front
of the upper nose.
The square fronted keel pod was faired in rapidly to be flush with the upper nose tip.
In Spain this abrupt design was smoothed with a trim to merge the pod with the upper nose much further back
for better streamlining.
The new nose design now resembles the more common anteater noses of other teams, although the fairing is
not part of the crash structure as it is on the other cars.
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AUTOSPORT's Spanish GP driver ratings
From the lead combatants to the midfield disappointments, EDD STRAW analyses and rates the
performances of all 22 drivers in the field
1 SEBASTIAN VETTEL
Red Bull-Renault RB10
Start: 15th
Finish: 4th
Strategy: 3 stops (medium/hard/medium/medium)
Rating: 9
Vettel responded superbly to the double disappointments of an electrical problem that ruined Friday and a
gearbox problem that struck early in Q3 and, thanks to the resulting five-place penalty, left him 15th on the
grid.
Struggled to make progress in the midfield morass, but flew after his early stop as he climbed to fourth.
Was particularly incisive clearing slower cars after the first stint, earning him the best finish possible.
Was he quite as quick as Ricciardo? Probably not, but in the circumstances a good effort.
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3 DANIEL RICCIARDO
Red Bull-Renault RB10
Start: 3rd
Finish: 3rd
Strategy: 2 stops (medium/medium/hard)
Rating: 9
From the first moment of Friday practice, Ricciardo looked utterly at one with the Red Bull RB10.
"We looked like a third-place car and in the end that's what it was," was Ricciardo's very accurate summary.
Looked to have the legs of Vettel even if his team-mate hadn't hit trouble in Q3.
Only criticism is he couldn't pass Bottas on track and had to rely on undercutting him, but given the
straightline speed advantage of the Williams that's hardly a crime.
6 NICO ROSBERG
Mercedes F1 W05
Start: 2nd
Finish: 2nd
Strategy: 2 stops (medium/hard/medium)
Rating: 8
Looked to be well behind on Friday, which he blamed partly on the ERS problem that curtailed his morning
running.
Bounced back on Saturday, but while he appeared to have the quicker car he simply wasn't able to reach the
same heights as Hamilton when it came to a balls-out lap.
Mediocre start condemned him to adopting the alternative strategy in the race and he was close to Hamilton
by the finish, but even with a few more laps he would have been hard-pushed to have got past.
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44 LEWIS HAMILTON
Mercedes F1 W05
Start: 1st
Finish: 1st
Strategy: 2 stops (medium/medium/hard)
Rating: 10
While Hamilton didn't have to go to the same lengths in wheel-to-wheel battle as he did in holding off Rosberg
in Bahrain, this was arguably the more impressive overall performance.
He looked streets ahead of Rosberg on Friday, but was up against it in qualifying before a glorious,
on-the-edge qualifying lap to snatch pole.
Once he had held the lead at the start, kept his head in a tense, race-long strategic battle.
A mature, commanding performance to win on a weekend when he might easily have lost.
7 KIMI RAIKKONEN
Ferrari F14 T
Start: 6th
Finish: 7th
Strategy: 2 stops (medium/medium/hard)
Rating: 7
Seemed a little more in control in the fast corners on Friday than his team-mate, but was wilder in the slow
stuff.
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While he outqualified Alonso, he admitted he was still far from comfortable with the Ferrari.
Was unhappy with the strategy adopted by his team-mate in the race, although it was Raikkonen who stayed
on the optimum tactic.
The reality is, the pair was pretty evenly matched in the race and Alonso's strategic gamble gave him an
advantage late on.
14 FERNANDO ALONSO
Ferrari F14 T
Start: 7th
Finish: 6th
Strategy: 3 stops (medium/medium/hard/medium)
Rating: 7
The home hero was shaded by his team-mate in qualifying and in the race couldn't get track position before
switching to a three-stop strategy thanks to his struggles with tyre degradation.
This move paid off, leaving him on the faster medium tyre in the final stint of the race.
This allowed him to chase down Raikkonen and, in a well-measured move that relied upon a strong run
through Turn 3, a corner where Alonso excels, use his extra grip to get ahead.
8 ROMAIN GROSJEAN
Lotus-Renault E22
Start: 5th
Finish: 8th
Strategy: 2 stops (medium/medium/hard)
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Rating: 8
Grosjean didn't always look completely comfortable at the wheel of the E22, but when it really counted he
drove superbly.
Fifth, on merit, in qualifying shows that the car has strong pace and he would have finished ahead of both
Ferraris in the race but for a sensor problem that slowed him during the second stint.
Even then, he avoided falling into the clutches of the Force Indias.
An excellent performance in a car that, while improved, still looked a handful at times.
13 PASTOR MALDONADO
Lotus-Renault E22
Start: 22nd
Finish: 15th
Strategy: 2 stops (medium/medium/hard)
Rating: 3
There were times during the weekend when Maldonado looked to have a better handle on the Lotus than his
team-mate.
But what he didn't need to do was shunt at Turn 3 on his first Q1 lap.
He suspected low tyre pressures were to blame for the mid-corner moment that spat him wide and led to him
losing it on the green paint, but a more circumspect approach might have served him better.
His race was fine, save for hitting Ericsson's Caterham needlessly early on.
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22 JENSON BUTTON
McLaren-Mercedes MP4-29
Start: 8th
Finish: 11th
Strategy: 2 stops (medium/medium/hard)
Rating: 5
Button was hopeful that the McLaren might be a little better in Spain than it had been in China, but the net
result was much the same as he was unable to score.
Did a good job in qualifying to get the car into Q3, with fresh rubber offering the extra grip needed to mask
some of the downforce deficit.
In the race, he did have a shot at points, but a poor first lap, dropping to 13th, meant he was left with too much
to do.
20 KEVIN MAGNUSSEN
McLaren-Mercedes MP4-29
Start: 14th
Finish: 12th
Strategy: 2 stops (medium/medium/hard)
Rating: 5
After a difficult time in recent races, the Dane had a decent run through practice, though an ERS problem
during qualifying prevented him from participating in Q2.
Was perhaps a little too aggressive on the first lap, first taking to the grass then running wide at Turn 13 while
trying to find a way around his team-mate and losing a place.
After that, drove well and finished right behind Button in what was probably a par result.
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27 NICO HULKENBERG
Force India-Mercedes VJM07
Start: 10th
Finish: 10th
Strategy: 2 stops (medium/medium/hard)
Rating: 6
During practice, Hulkenberg characteristically was working the rear of the car a little harder than team-mate
Perez.
This made him a bit faster, as qualifying attested, but in the race it was harder on the tyres.
Hulkenberg traditionally has to work hard on rear tyre management and in the race Perez had a slight edge.
The German's race was effectively a private battle with his team-mate, one he lost when he was passed in the
middle stint while battling tyre degradation.
11 SERGIO PEREZ
Force India-Mercedes VJM07
Start: 11th
Finish: 9th
Strategy: 2 stops (medium/hard/medium)
Rating: 7
On a weekend when the characteristics of the circuit showed up some of the weaknesses of the Force India,
Perez was slightly behind his team-mate on single-lap pace as shown by his qualifying performance.
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But he was a little better on tyre management during the race.
This, combined with an excellent stint on the hard tyre in the middle of the race, allowed him to catch and
pass Hulkenberg to win the intra-team battle.
21 ESTEBAN GUTIERREZ
Sauber-Ferrari C33
Start: 13th
Finish: 16th
Strategy: 3 stops (medium/medium/hard/medium)
Rating: 7
With the weight advantage he previously had over his team-mate significantly mitigated, although not
removed entirely, it's easier to compare Gutierrez to Sutil.
By that yardstick, the Mexican had a decent weekend, beating him by two tenths in qualifying and heading
him in the race.
Gave it a go on the first lap and briefly climbed as high as 11th before reality kicked in and he dropped back.
Even so, it was a decent weekend's work in a limited car.
99 ADRIAN SUTIL
Sauber-Ferrari C33
Start: 16th
Finish: 17th
Strategy: 2 stops (medium/medium/hard)
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Rating: 5
Sutil was delighted to have a new, lighter Sauber with associated performance upgrades, although he was still
a little over the weight limit thanks to the unchangeable dimensions of his body.
Beaten by Gutierrez by two tenths in Q1, he struggled badly with tyres overheating.
There's not much you can say about his race performance, save that it reflected the lack of competitiveness of
the Sauber although he could not catch and pass Gutierrez.
25 JEAN-ERIC VERGNE
Toro Rosso-Renault STR9
Start: 21st
Finish: DNF
Strategy: retired (hard/medium/retired)
Rating: 6
Vergne's weekend was effectively ruined by a 10-place grid penalty as a result of his right-rear wheel flying off
during practice two courtesy of the team failing to attach it properly.
Battled a brake problem during the first stint before his race ended prematurely with an exhaust problem.
Sixth place in Q1 was somewhat illusory as Vergne used two sets of mediums knowing he wouldn't bother
running in Q2, but gave a hint of the Q3 pace he reckoned he had.
Very unfortunate.
26 DANIIL KVYAT
Toro Rosso-Ferrari STR9
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Start: 13th
Finish: 14th
Strategy: 3 stops (medium/medium/hard/medium)
Rating: 5
This was probably the trickiest weekend of Kvyat's grand prix career to date.
He was characteristically hard on himself after a disappointing showing in qualifying, missing out on Q3 by
0.4s.
In the race, he did a good job in the first stint, climbing to 11th after passing Gutierrez on lap eight.
But that was as good as it got and the lack of pace and tyre management struggles told.
Points weren't possible, but probably didn't get the maximum out of the package.
19 FELIPE MASSA
Williams-Mercedes FW36
Start: 9th
Finish: 13th
Strategy: 3 stops (medium/medium/hard/medium)
Rating: 4
Things looked very encouraging for Massa on Friday, during which he exploited the pace of the car
beautifully.
Looked to have a slight edge on Bottas in qualifying, but a mistake at Turn 10 on his Q3 lap relegated him to
ninth.
Couldn't make the tyres last during the race and quickly faded from the points picture.
Hard to say how much he should be blamed, but had he not made the error in qualifying his race might have
been very different.
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77 VALTTERI BOTTAS
Williams-Renault FW36
Start: 4th
Finish: 5th
Strategy: 2 stops (medium/medium/hard)
Rating: 8
Bottas had to modify his approach having struggled to hustle the Williams to the kind of laptimes Massa
managed early in the weekend.
When it really mattered, he drove superbly in qualifying which, combined with a good start to run third, laid the
foundations for his fifth place.
Would have been hard-pressed to hold Vettel back, but made it easy by allowing himself to be ambushed late
on.
But it's unfair to hold that against him too much on an otherwise strong weekend.
17 JULES BIANCHI
Marussia-Ferrari MR-03
Start: 18th
Finish: 18th
Strategy: 2 stops (medium/medium/hard)
Rating: 7
A mistake in qualifying when he locked up at Turn 10 after braking 15 metres later than he had previously
ruined a lap that he reckoned would have been at least seven tenths faster.
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That put him behind Chilton, but he made a good start to get ahead of his team-mate.
And that was about all that was possible, for the Saubers that finished ahead were slightly quicker.
Qualifying mistake was a negative, but the race drive was excellent.
4 MAX CHILTON
Marussia-Ferrari MR-03
Start: 17th
Finish: 19th
Strategy: 3 stops (medium/medium/medium/hard)
Rating: 6
Chilton found pace coming more easily to him when he didn't try to force the issue, despite parking his
Marussia in the gravel trap a couple of times during practice.
In qualifying, he strung together a good lap to beat Bianchi by six tenths but a poor start made life difficult.
The 40.691s gap to his team-mate was partly a result of switching to a three-stopper, itself a consequence of
getting stuck behind Kobayashi in the first stint.
Good qualifying, OK race.
9 MARCUS ERICSSON
Caterham-Renault CT05
Start: 19th
Finish: 20th
Strategy: 2 stops (medium/medium/hard)
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Rating: 5
Outqualified Kobayashi for the first time, and although the Japanese was struggling for grip, that was a good
achievement for the rookie in equal machinery.
Was lined up behind Kobayashi on the first lap of the race when he was hit by Maldonado, which dropped him
to last.
The stewards took a dim view of Maldonado's over-ambitious move, hitting him with a five-second penalty.
From there, Ericsson battled understeer in the quick stuff and oversteer in the slow stuff on his way to last.
Respectable enough.
10 KAMUI KOBAYASHI
Caterham-Renault CT05
Start: 20th
Finish: DNF
Strategy: retired (medium/medium/retired)
Rating: 5
Kobayashi had a troubled weekend, struggling throughout for grip.
After keeping Chilton's faster Marussia behind him during the first stint, eventually retired with a brake
problem after showing some decent pace at times during the race.
Traffic did hinder him a little in qualifying, although to his credit he didn't over-egg that excuse, but balance
problems made it difficult.
A hard weekend but deserves credit for sticking at it.
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How Hamilton found the decisive six tenths
Nico Rosberg missed out on victory in the Spanish GP by just two thirds of a second. EDD STRAW explains
exactly how such a tiny margin came to decide not just a grand prix, but the world championship lead
Six tenths of a second. It's a long time in motorsport, but think about how long it really is. This was the margin
- 0.636 seconds to be precise - that separated Lewis Hamilton from Nico Rosberg at the end of the Spanish
Grand Prix. Next to nothing.
Those two thirds of a second mean that Rosberg no longer leads the world championship, with the pendulum
swinging ominously towards Hamilton thanks to four consecutive wins. It means the world to Hamilton, or at
least it will if he's still ahead after 14 more races.
But as a measurement of time to human perception, it's not much more than the blink of an eye. So where did
those six tenths come from?
This was another weekend when the other 20 cars faded into the background. They were once again the
B-feature but, to the credit of Hamilton and Rosberg, even with just the two Silver Arrows on track this grand
prix would have held the attention.
It was an old-school strategic battle that tested the two drivers to their limits in ways not obvious to the naked
eye. It wasn't the wheel-to-wheel thrill ride provided by the pair in Bahrain, but it was a different kind of
spectacle.
Bahrain was the big-budget action blockbuster, Spain the immersive psychological thriller. Less popular
appeal, certainly, but one that delighted the connoisseur all the more for its relative rarity in this era of F1.
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The first act, on Friday, gave us a hint of what was to come. While Hamilton's advantage on the timesheets
was just over 0.4s, he had an even bigger margin over Rosberg on long-run pace. Crunch the numbers and
there was that fraction again: six tenths per lap.
Over a race distance, that would add up to a lead of 40 seconds, so clearly something changed overnight.
There were reasons for Rosberg struggling relative to Hamilton. On Friday morning an ERS problem had
restricted him to nine laps, and the car was not at all to his liking come the afternoon session. But Rosberg
turned the tables.
"I wasn't feeling comfortable and yes, in the morning I missed out on one run, which just knocks me back a
bit," said Rosberg on Saturday. "There was a little bit of catching up to do from then on because I wasn't able
to get the car right by the end of Friday."
In 24 hours, Hamilton had gone from dead cert for pole position, fastest lap and the world championship to
playing catch-up. His car was not faster in qualifying and Rosberg had the edge through Q1 and Q2, but
Hamilton dug deep, hung it all out and pocketed pole. You could argue that his quietly spectacular lap, 0.168s
faster than Rosberg's, was where those magic six tenths really came from. After all, once he had the lead at
the start, the race was in his control.
But was it really a virtuoso qualifying performance that earned Hamilton that cushion? Perhaps it was really
Rosberg's disappointing start. After all, with a 730-metre blast to the apex of Turn 1 (the longest on the
calendar), the German had every chance of seizing the initiative on the first lap. He reckoned he had the edge
on pace, so once up front the race would be his.
Unfortunately, getting a good start in an F1 car is not as easy as some would have you believe. Relying on a
multitude of factors - the quality of the practice start, the right clutch settings, tyre temperature, the precise
operation of the clutch paddles - there's a lot to get right and wrong. Rosberg has been getting more wrong of
late, while Hamilton has been on the money. The clutch operation appears to be the problem.
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"The start unfortunately was poor," said Rosberg. "It's a bit of a weakness that we have at the moment, just
inconsistent, and now I've had a couple of bad starts in a row that's costly. Always losing at the start, that's not
good. We need to work on that."
On the plus side he was still second. Just as in Bahrain, whichever driver was behind was always likely to
switch to the alternative strategy. Hamilton stuck with the orthodox medium/medium/hard strategy and
Rosberg, knowing he would switch to hards, sat two seconds back from his team-mate in the hope that his
first stint would be better.
Sure enough, Rosberg's confidence in his car set-up was well placed. He and his crew knew that there was a
way to seize back all the ground he had lost, plus the crucial six tenths advantage.
Just as in Bahrain, his tyres held up slightly better in the first stint. He ran three laps longer than Hamilton to
offset his strategy and hopefully gain an advantage later on. And this throws up some more numbers.
Rosberg was 1.635s behind Hamilton when the leader pitted.
Once the pitstop cycle was complete, he was 3.757s behind. In the context of the six tenths, that's a huge
amount of time. It was a reasonable trade-off, and that was mitigated by the fact that Hamilton lost a second
or so with a slow stop (although only seven tenths in the pitlane as a whole).
This was the key stint of the race. Rosberg needed to get himself to within two seconds of Hamilton, which
would open up the possibility of stopping a lap early and undercutting him. Hamilton simply needed to keep
Rosberg around four seconds back.
It was a tense stint as the gap ebbed and flowed. But the net result was that Hamilton managed to deliver the
goods. At the start of the 42nd lap, on which he dived into the pits for a set of the slower hard-compound
Pirellis, Hamilton's advantage was 3.898s.
That's a net gain of 0.141s over 20 of the most-tense laps of the season. Doesn't sound like much, but in the
chase for those crucial six tenths every little helps.
Rosberg seemed destined to pit on the following lap, but in fact he stayed out a lap beyond that. It was
perhaps a move borne of conservatism but all it did was allow Hamilton to pick up a little more time on his
fresh rubber. When Rosberg did pit, it was inevitable that he would lose the lead, even though he was stopped
for 1.3s less than Hamilton.
That time might have come in handy for Rosberg in the chase for the magical six tenths had he been a bit
closer, but by now it was clear that gaining track position strategically was an impossibility. He needed to do
what he had failed to do in Bahrain; overtake Hamilton.
The equation was simple. With 20 laps to go, Rosberg trailed Hamilton by 4.856s. He had the faster medium
tyres on, which gave him an advantage, and his rubber was also two laps fresher. The chase was on.
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Lap 46 +4.856s
Lap 47 +4.658s
Lap 48 +3.682s
Lap 49 +3.716s
Lap 50 +3.149s
Lap 51 +2.359s
Lap 52 +2.067s
Lap 53 +2.796s
Lap 54 +2.773s
Lap 55 +2.628s
Lap 56 +2.196s
Lap 57 +1.871s
Lap 58 +1.460s
Lap 59 +0.984s
With seven laps remaining, Rosberg crossed the line just within the one-second margin he needed to get use
his DRS. But Hamilton responded brilliantly and picked up the pace for a few laps.
Lap 60 +1.322s
Lap 61 +1.264s
Lap 62 +1.102s
Lap 63 +0.940s
By doing so, he delayed the endgame by four laps. Now things were getting serious. Hamilton, who
complained of front-tyre graining and understeer during the final stint, locked up at the end of the back straight
on lap 64 with Rosberg now right behind him.
Rosberg pushed as hard as he could, having his own lock-up at the end of the back straight on the last lap, a
point where he said after the race he could have attempted a "kamikaze move", but even with the DRS he
couldn't mount a credible attack. Hamilton weaved his way across the line in jubilation. The timing screen
updated the gap: 0.636s.
Hamilton had absorbed the pressure brilliantly. Just as in Bahrain, he had been a little behind in terms of
pace, but he'd turned that into victory. In Bahrain, it was with some superb, and sometimes forceful,
defending. Here, it was with a combination of stunning qualifying speed and mental fortitude under pressure,
with only the occasional chippy radio message suggesting he was feeling anything.
He had struggled for car balance during the race and wanted the front wing eased back for the final stint. But
with rubber debris also being cleared, Mercedes had to take a punt on how much to ease it off. Again, it's
about fine margins, for Hamilton did struggle in the final stint with that lack of front-end grip, but he still had the
car under him to win.
"I wasn't fast enough really today," he admitted after the race. "Nico was quicker.
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"Those last laps, there was a huge amount of pressure and he was very, very close to taking it. I don't like
that, being in that position. I like to say it was no problem and under control - but it wasn't!"
Now, remember the decision to run two laps longer at the end of the second stint, which cost Rosberg a little
time to Hamilton? Well, in the context of what Rosberg said after the race, specifically that with "one more lap
I could have given it a good go", you could argue that this was where that sixth tenths margin was really
established by Hamilton.
But realistically, could Rosberg really be expected to pull off a pass on his team-mate with an extra lap or
even two? Probably not, although Hamilton would certainly have been forced to defend.
So how do we account for those six tenths and balance the books? Here are the ingredients: a
Friday-morning ERS problem, a change in track conditions, one car improving on Saturday and one getting
worse, a virtuoso qualifying lap, a poor start, running one lap longer in the second stint, a couple of slow
pitstops, and 66 laps.
Those elements, plus thousands more, all played their part in what added up to a marginal win for Hamilton.
He was the one who negotiated all the pitfalls and kept Rosberg at arm's length when required, and the
reward was arguably an even better victory than the one in Bahrain.
Was there ever a better illustration of how infinitesimal the margins in grand prix racing can be? Perhaps not,
given that if you looked at what might be called 'Class B', there was a whole other race going on populated by
20 other cars that Hamilton and Rosberg only encountered while lapping.
Daniel Ricciardo finished a massive 49 seconds behind this victory battle, albeit after losing time in the first
stint bottled up behind the Williams of Valtteri Bottas. At a track where even the Mercedes drivers suggested
the gap might be reduced, this was a stunning demonstration of the supremacy of the Silver Arrows.
Only six cars finished on the lead lap, the others being Sebastian Vettel's Red Bull, which surged through
from 15th on the grid to fourth after committing early to a three-stop strategy, and Fernando Alonso's Ferrari.
But this race was really all about the two Mercedes. After the race, Rosberg made very clear where he
believes Hamilton found that 0.636s.
"The race was really lost in qualifying and at the start," he said. "Those were the two opportunities I had.
Qualifying was very, very close and I even had a bit of a problem which we found in hindsight where I was a
little bit down on power on the straight. But the difference was not enough to get pole.
"Then I just had a poor start, so those were the two shots that I had at it and it didn't work out. In the race, I
nearly got another opportunity at the very end, but again just not enough. One more lap and I could have
given it a go.
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"But I would have done the same again at the start of the weekend. Of course, I also missed FP1, which didn't
help either.
"Many small things add up, and there are only very small gaps. So next time..."
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Jaime Alguersuari's new life after F1
Jaime Alguersuari made an abrupt exit from F1 - and racing - after losing his Toro Rosso drive at the end of
2011. Now he's back in the public eye for the inaugural Formula E season and, as he tells MATT BEER, he's
extremely determined
"I'm not going to lie, I don't feel I have a lot to show. I think I showed enough of what I could do in Formula 1."
Has motorsport missed Jaime Alguersuari since he was jettisoned from Formula 1 at the end of 2011?
Probably not as much as it should've done. Any sympathy at the abrupt Toro Rosso slate-wiping that
swapped Alguersuari and Sebastien Buemi for Daniel Ricciardo and Jean-Eric Vergne dissipated as the new
recruits proved their worth.
And Alguersuari had been given 46 grands prix - which the likes of Tonio Liuzzi, Scott Speed and Sebastien
Bourdais, the four-time Champ Car champion kicked out to make way for the young Spaniard, might consider
generous.
That's the blunt interpretation of Alguersuari's career. But you could also make a case for him being the most
unfairly disregarded of the jilted Red Bull proteges.
He still holds the record for being the youngest man to start a grand prix, aged just 19 years, four months and
three days when he lined up on the Hungaroring grid in the ex-Bourdais Toro Rosso in July 2009. And he was
one of the least well-prepared in history, without a single proper test under his belt when Red Bull promoted
him.
The theory was that amid the then-new testing ban, he could do his learning in-field. Cue vocal scepticism
from drivers, pundits and ex-champions, a reaction that perhaps coloured views of his F1 career.
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If the timing of Alguersuari's F1 move was debatable, that he deserved a shot at the world championship at
some stage was less contentious. His 2008 British Formula 3 title was earned with a last-gasp defeat of his
Carlin team-mates, future Porsche LMP1 driver Brendon Hartley and McLaren F1 tester Oliver Turvey. And
fourth and fifth in the points behind that trio were current F1 drivers Sergio Perez and Marcus Ericsson.
Aged 21 years and eight months when he made his last F1 appearance, Alguersuari doesn't quite have the
record for F1's youngest exit, though aside from Esteban Tuero, every other driver who beats him on that
unhappy list owes their stat to a tragic early death.
The manner of Alguersuari's departure from F1 clearly still stings - he recalls the date of the fateful phone call
(December 16, 2011) without a moment's hesitation, and mitigating factors are listed with defensive urgency:
"It was the second season of that car being built in Italy, the team was growing up and it's a very different
team now.
"I scored more points than my team-mate. I did great races with the material we had. I knew what we could do
with that car and I knew what they were asking for was not possible."
And yet you completely believe him when he adds "it's the past, I've moved forward" and dismisses any
thought of Formula E being a route back to F1.
Yes, he feels F1 spurned him unfairly, it annoys him and he wants to defend his record. But he has a new life
now, and the slightly evangelistic passion with which he speaks of Formula E underlines his belief in and
commitment to it.
This is not an interview where opinions have to be cajoled out, his responses full of quick-fire bulletpoint
streams of unique FE selling points ("Zero emissions... races in cities... tyres you can use on your road car...
completely electric...") like a man ready to preach to doubters, though he admits he's a recent convert himself.
"If I have to tell you the truth, four months ago I didn't see this championship in the way I'm looking at it now. It
can only grow. Motorsport needs to get green. Maybe this is the future of life.
"I don't know if it's too early or too late to make a change, but this is something huge."
F1's environmental conversion hasn't captured the public's imagination so far, as the vehement scorn for the
sounds of its eco-ish 2014 engines underlines. Formula E will be quieter still, and also breaks convention with
its all-street calendar, all-weather tyres and mid-race car swaps.
But F1 2014's bad reception hasn't given Alguersuari any worries about how FE will be perceived, as he's
sure its lack of baggage means it will get a fair hearing.
"When we talk about Formula E, we need to understand that there is no aim of comparing to Formula 1. F1 is
another world; a different planet. That's why comparisons could be misunderstood.
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"I'm so excited to be part of Formula E because it's new. We all know Formula 1 and so many of its positive
and negative aspects. Here we have a new championship. No one knows anything.
"It has huge potential to convince huge audiences all over the world as just racing in cities will help to get
everyone to understand the idea of zero emissions and electric racing."
An unconventional racing series will benefit from an unconventional ambassador, and Alguersuari has never
been conformist, as his sideline DJ career under the pseudonym Squire hinted in his F1 days.
He took an unusual approach to his post-F1 career too. The only thing he has raced in what will be an almost
three-year gap since his last grand prix is a kart, with the rest of his motorsport mileage coming from Pirelli
tyre testing.
Racing anything anywhere just for the sake of it wasn't on his agenda, which is why he says he was very
picky about his choice of Formula E team too, committing to Virgin because of its pedigree for innovation
across multiple industries.
"For sure it's important to be active and important to race, but not at any cost. That's why for two years I was
just testing with Pirelli.
"There was something going on, especially in Formula 1, but I didn't have the budget to get some deals done
and therefore I couldn't get the drive. But I had huge experience with developing the tyres and I'm very proud
of that.
"I've learned a lot and kept myself active. I didn't race, but testing kept me alive.
"I turned down other things in GTs and other series because of external factors. I was the first one who
wanted to go racing; but big opportunities like this are very few in professional racing."
He shrugs off any suggestion that such a long lay-off will leave him rusty, insisting that with Formula E so
different, recent seat time won't be as valuable as the bedrock of top-level knowledge he has from F1.
His career twists have left Alguersuari accustomed to the unexpected - which is ideal with so many unknowns
in Formula E - and extremely determined. The Virgin FE seat has ignited his passion in a way it's doubtful a
return in an established series would have done.
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He's been Jaime Alguersuari the F1 aspirant, the Red Bull protege and the F1 reject. Now all that matters is
being Jaime Alguersuari Formula E champion, and he's convinced he's psychologically ready to achieve that.
"I never knew I was going into Formula 1 and I never knew I was about to go out of Formula 1 when they
called me on December 16. I guess this is life. It works like that. You have to be prepared for each day and to
understand both a good opportunity and very bad news.
"I grew up as a person because I think you always learn from every situation. It was a good way to [become]
how I am as a person in all areas, not just as a driver.
"I don't feel like I'm an old man and I think I've learned a lot in my career. I'm ready to take part in this
championship. I'm here to win because I won other championships in my past career. I really need this. I
really want this."
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How far ahead is Mercedes?
AUTOSPORT's technical expert GARY ANDERSON analyses the performance of Mercedes and the chasing
pack, and picks out one area where Lewis Hamilton has a clear advantage over Nico Rosberg
Heading into the Spanish Grand Prix weekend, the talk was all about Mercedes being reeled in by the rest.
Instead it effortlessly bagged its fourth one-two in five races, which but for a split in a small rubber tube
covering a spark plug in Australia would have been its fifth.
Looking at those one-twos more closely, one of the reasons Lewis Hamilton has beaten Nico Rosberg on all
four occasions is revealed in the fuel-use graphic that appears during the race.
Hamilton seems to use less fuel than his team-mate, so how he can do that and still beat him is a bit of a
head-scratcher. It would be easy simply to say he's just faster, but there's more to it than that.
He appears to have learned a consistent way of driving and using less fuel while still doing the required lap
time. That means he is able to start the race with less fuel.
Looking at the graphic, it appears to be an average of 3.5kg less fuel over the race distance. So on a pure
weight-versus-laptime calculation, this is worth 0.1 seconds per lap. That's 6.6s over the Spanish GP. If both
drivers and their respective cars have identical performance, that gives Hamilton an advantage of almost
seven seconds over the race distance.
Mercedes is racking up the points, but its advantage is being amplified by the fact that everyone else is
jostling for position behind. In Australia, it was the McLarens of Kevin Magnussen and Jenson Button on the
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podium; in Malaysia Sebastian Vettel; in Bahrain Sergio Perez and then Fernando Alonso in China.
With Daniel Ricciardo third in Spain, there is no clear rival chasing Mercedes down. Everyone in Brackley,
Brixworth and Stuttgart must be rubbing their hands in glee at the situation.
Mercedes' overall performance has been very impressive. Using my performance statistics, which take the
fastest lap set by each team on a grand prix weekend and convert it into a percentage of the outright fastest,
this is how the teams average out over the first five races of 2014.
Mercedes
Red Bull +0.948%
Ferrari +1.197%
Williams +1.289%
McLaren +1.623%
Force India +1.779%
Toro Rosso +2.085%
Sauber +2.833%
Lotus +2.906%
Marussia +4.578%
Caterham +5.287%
By way of comparison, this is how the teams stacked up over the 2013 season.
Red Bull
Mercedes +0.070%
Lotus +0.472%
Ferrari +0.552%
McLaren +1.102%
Force India +1.190%
Sauber +1.291%
Toro Rosso +1.294%
Williams +1.911%
Caterham +3.762%
Marussia +3.987%
If you look at the two sets of statistics and compare the relative performance, you could say Mercedes has
just about stood still and that it's the others that have fallen away. Some of them dramatically.
One thing that confuses me a little about Mercedes' race performance in Barcelona is that this is the first
grand prix of 2014 where they haven't had the fastest race lap.
Rosberg had the means, motive and opportunity. In the latter stages of the race he was chasing down his
team-mate. He was on the softer of the two tyres and he was reasonably low on fuel, so all the stars were
aligned.
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But it didn't happen and the honour went to Vettel on lap 55. Yes, his tyres were a little bit fresher than
Rosberg's were on lap 51 when the Spanish GP runner-up set his personal best, but with the performance
margin that Mercedes had, it should have been enough for fastest lap.
Ricciardo in the other Red Bull started third and ended up third. He was around 49 seconds behind both
Hamilton and Rosberg, and all three did two stops.
This is an average of a 0.74s per lap advantage for Mercedes, which is not far away from what it was in
qualifying.
On the other hand, Vettel came from 15th on the grid, did a three-stop race and ended up 76 seconds behind
the leading two.
Take away 22 seconds for that extra stop and you get a 54s deficit, or an average of 0.82s per lap slower than
the winner.
Any advantage he got from that extra set of tyres would have been negated by traffic, so why was he able to
get the fastest lap in a car that on average was knocking on the door of being a second a lap slower than the
winning car?
Does this mean that Vettel has finally got his head around how to drive this year's car? He's a driver that really
does try to exploit a car's DNA - last year with the blown diffuser system he was without doubt the one that
exploited it the most.
When I go out on the circuit during practice sessions, I'm still seeing a car being driven to exploit the extra
rear grip that last year's cars had when you got the throttle open.
Vettel has had a fairly troubled start to the season and not had the consistency of running that a driver needs
in order to adapt his driving style. In contrast, Ricciardo had never really driven a car with a good blown
diffuser system and when I watch him on track he is very precise and consistent.
His Red Bull looks the class of the field, very stable, and as he builds up steering angle on corner entry he can
just lean on the car; you can see the car build up roll, but not break away.
The others, including the Mercedes, all look that bit more nervous and one end or the other will ultimately give
up.
Red Bull did enjoy a step in engine performance from Renault, but as engines are a lot less important in
Monaco perhaps at last we will see the car's true performance.
As for the others, the statistics tell the whole story. Williams is the only team that has made any real progress
and the rest have gone backwards relative to Mercedes.
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Lotus was really off the pace at the start of the season, so that hurts its average, but even in China it was at
+1.243 per cent and in Spain that increased to +2.027 per cent off Mercedes. I think this shows that grid
position can be confusing - in the end it is ultimate pace that's important.
I always used to look at the grid average being separated by 0.1s per position. In Barcelona, Button - who was
eighth on the grid would have been roughly 0.8s off pole, but was actually 2.1s behind Hamilton. This is a
lifetime in F1.
As for Ferrari, which should be mixing it with the best for race wins, Barcelona was a reality check. New team
principal Marco Mattiacci probably thought that after Alonso's third place in China this F1 lark was easy. What
a difference a few weeks can make.
The team said after China that the result was a surprise, and the same will be said about sixth last weekend.
Looking at the car out on circuit, every corner of every lap is a new experience. It just doesn't look like it has
any consistency, and the rear end is critical.
This is a problem that needs to be addressed if they are ever to get the drivers confident enough to allow
them to push nearer the limit.
But Monaco in two weeks is a very different track. Rosberg won there last year, so will Mercedes dominate
again? With all that extra torque from this year's power unit, these cars will take a bit of driving there, but after
all, that's why these guys get paid the big bucks.
When we last had turbos, the Brabham-BMWs were reputed to have something like 1400bhp. Actually, they
couldn't measure it as the dyno would only run to 1000hp, but whatever they had, Piquet was able to leave
black marks from the chicane all the way to Tabac.
It's going to be fun watching trackside. I wonder who can leave the longest black marks this time around?
If you have a question that you would like Gary Anderson to answer in his regular feature where he
takes reader questions ahead of a Grand Prix, Tweet using #askgaryF1 and he will choose a selection
to answer.
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How Indy's road course gamble paid off
Some felt the idea of racing Indycars on the Indianapolis road course was unwise, and that to do it in May was
sacrilege. But, as MARK GLENDENNING explains, the debut event silenced the doubters
Last Friday afternoon in Indianapolis, it began to rain - and Twitter went briefly mad.
Qualifying for IndyCar's inaugural race on the IMS road course had just started, but if the burst of
fan-generated images that appeared on the track's official Twitter feed was any guide then the sporting
spectacle had taken a back seat to a more tangible one: the huge rooster tails pluming out behind the cars as
they hammered down a soaked main straight.
The long history of the Indianapolis 500 is a source of immense pride in its home city, but that passion doesn't
necessarily spill over to the rest of the IndyCar schedule.
For many, that single-mindedness has also created some pretty firm notions of what you can expect to see
when you spend a day at the Brickyard, and the sight of cars racing in the rain is not on that list. At least, it
wasn't until last week.
IndyCar and IMS came up with the idea of a race on the road course as a way to inject extra energy into the
start of the Month of May, but a secondary objective was to remind the fans living in IndyCar's heartland - the
series' corporate offices are directly across the road from the speedway that IndyCars do a lot more than
spend a couple of weeks turning left every year.
So while the rain was only a small part of the story of the weekend, and something that would barely have
registered at all with regular fans of IndyCar, or Formula 1, or the British Touring Car Championship, or pretty
much any other series that uses road courses, it was a neat symbol of just how groundbreaking an IndyCar
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race on the Indy road course was for many of those in the stands.
"I got a lot of feedback about the rain on Friday," IMS president Doug Boles told AUTOSPORT. "People were
very surprised at how fast the cars ran in the rain, and how cool the rooster tails were.
"From my standpoint it would be great to have a full weekend where the weather was tremendous, but having
that bit of rain on Friday, especially with this market where they're not used to cars doing anything in the rain,
it helped to remind them that IndyCars can race in the wet."
That the crowd was excited by the prospect of standing on a hill for an hour getting soaked (Boles: "I was
surprised at how many of them stood there in the rain so that they didn't miss anything") encapsulates a
weekend overwhelmingly pervaded with a sense of excitement and goodwill.
Boles said final crowd figures are still being tallied, but he claims that pre-weekend predictions of 40,000 over
the three days were comfortably exceeded.
Most of the main grandstand was closed, encouraging fans to make the most of the road course layout by
sitting in stands at the first and last corners, and the spectator mounds and temporary stands within the infield.
The mounds in particular were visibly bustling on the first two days and jam-packed for the race. Indeed, the
mound at Turn 2/3 proved so popular that it's now being considered for use for the 500.
"That mound was designed specifically for the road course, and an unexpected consequence is that it could
become a really strong spectator point for the 500 as well," Boles said.
"But the thing that I heard the most from our fans was just how entertaining the race was, and how much fun it
was to see so many corners on the track. For a lot of people that came, it was their first road race. Some had
been here for F1, but very few had seen IndyCars race on a road course."
The feel-good vibes carried over into the paddock too, which marked a significant departure from the
scepticism that surrounded the event when it was first announced. A small degree of the criticism was the
standard resistance that accompanies any sort of change, but Boles believes the success of the event
answered its more strident doubters.
"The criticism from the hardcore race fan was whether we could make a proper road course, and I think we
did a pretty good job of that," he said.
"Then there is the traditionalist group which in some way I count myself as a member of that struggles
with the idea that we're running a race on the road course, and furthermore, that we're doing it in May.
"But every time I had the opportunity I'd explain to them the business reasons behind it, and that the purpose
is to elevate the month of May, which is ultimately going to make the Indy 500 stronger.
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"Even those folks that struggled with it and came out against it... I ran into a couple of them and they said,
'You know what? The number of people here, and the energy level here... we get it now'.
"I'm sure we still have some folks that aren't on board yet, but I think for the most part we've let people know
that we're going to protect the brand of the Indianapolis 500, and we think this is a great way to start the
month of May."
There were few complaints from the teams. Andretti Autosport's Michael Andretti believes the fans will be the
final judge of the event's success, but said that it was an easy fit for teams like his.
"As a race track, they've done a great job," he said. "For me as an owner it's a good race to have it is very
cost-effective for us to be here; it's our hometown race and it's quite easy. It's not a big deal to get the cars
turned around for Indy 500 practice the next day. Logistics-wise, we like it."
And the layout, which was completely rebuilt from its previous F1 iteration, proved to be popular with the
drivers.
"For us it's been a real pleasure to be back at this place, starting the month a little bit earlier," said Scott
Dixon. "They did a fantastic job on the track: one, with the grip level, and two, with the long straights and big
braking zones."
Rookie Mikhail Aleshin was equally enthusiastic. "I really like this track, it's amazing," he said. "Very smooth,
very nice. Nice curving, nice configuration it's interesting. There are definitely good places to overtake."
And for a neutral observer? In the case of this writer, any claim to neutrality is not being entirely honest. I had
doubts about the series' motives for racing on the IMS road course, doubts about how good the track would
be; even doubts about the wisdom of calling it the 'Grand Prix of Indianapolis', considering the memories that
combination of words could evoke for anyone who was there in 2005.
And I was swiftly proven wrong. The extent to which the event achieves its aim of boosting the Indy 500 will
only become apparent with time, but even without taking that into account, last weekend proved that the IMS
road course is a worthy addition to the IndyCar calendar in its own right.
The atmosphere was excellent, the racing spectacular, and the organisation flawless. IndyCar's not above the
occasional misstep, but along with IMS, it absolutely nailed this.
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F1's GP promoters miss their chance
A meeting of Formula 1 race promoters in Spain was a golden opportunity to start tackling pressing issues like
outrageous ticket prices, but the chance was missed, reveals DIETER RENCKEN
One of the features of the Spanish Grand Prix weekend was the number of race promoters swanning about
the place, with representatives from 17 of 2014's 19 grands prix present at the Catalunya circuit.
It seems Ronald J Walker, Australian Grand Prix promoter and long-standing Bernie Ecclestone-ite, called the
first meeting of the Formula One Promoters' Association - an organisation founded two years ago which
would, in the words of a disciple, "forever change F1's political landscape" - explaining the plethora of
promoters mainly hanging about Red Bull's Energy Station.
If FOPA an acronym shared with the sport's photographic association wishes to impact on the landscape
it must surely do better, for despite agreement among its members not to talk to the media, more than a few
admitted feeling underwhelmed after flying halfway across the world, for they had sight of the agenda only
upon arrival.
To their dismay they discovered their most burning shared issue horrific race hosting fees charged by the
commercial rights holder, which in turn manifest themselves in outrageous ticket prices paid by fans, whether
in Montreal, Melbourne or Malaysia was, in the words of one delegate, "totally off-limits. We agreed to
discuss fees, but nobody had the balls to table it, and it was not on the agenda."
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Asked on Sunday's grid by television reporters what had been agreed, Ecclestone who, according to the
official five-line post-meeting blurb, "attended the meeting in support of the promoters [ie his major
customers]" stated: "We agreed the date for the next meeting."
Retorted one attendee on Sunday: "That about sums it up, except we didn't even agree that, and, if we did, I
didn't hear it..."
The blurb states that the forum discussed "various aspects of Formula 1 for the benefit of all the fans who are
concerned about maintaining the unique feeling of Formula 1". Given that there is little chance of ticket prices
reducing in the near future, that's one unique aspect of the sport that will surely be maintained...
The mere fact that the promoters collectively failed to share with fans their primary customer base,
remember any detail whatsoever surely proves the meeting was thick on air and thin on substance.
That said, one of the topics was the (lack of) noise produced by the current cars, a topic which was thrashed
to death during the previous four races, with the jury still out on that one.
Other items on the agenda included plummeting TV and live audience ratings and ways to arrest the
wholesale slides of both, and here's betting that if the sport reduced its ticket prices by 50 per cent it would
double attendances across the globe, even if the cars were dead quiet.
That said, one of the weekend's more humorous cures for the aural dilemma was a proposal to fit silencers to
GP2 and GP3 cars to reduce the contrast in noise levels for punters not that it would solve the issue for
television viewers!
Also present was a delegation from Sochi, obviously anxious to share news with this column after it last week
cast doubts about the Russian GP in view of the ongoing Ukraine crisis.
Granted right-of-reply, they reinforced the thrust of AUTOSPORT's article, namely that it was likely that any
decision to cancel the race would fall at the very last minute. This writer suggested could be as late as Suzuka
Sunday, when the cars would leave Japan for Russia's race a week later on October 12.
Present in Spain were Alexander Saurin, vice-governor of Krasnodar (the Russian province in which Sochi is
situated) and Sergey Vorobyev, deputy general manager OJSC 'Center Omega', ie the promoter, who granted
this column an exclusive interview.
Richard Cregan, former Toyota F1 sporting director-turned Abu Dhabi promoter and now acting as
international consultant to Sochi, joined us later.
The obvious opening discussion point is the current status of the event, and progress made towards hosting it.
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"Basically, I'm speaking about three diverse directions," said Saurin, confirming that the contract runs for
seven years, with the race to be held annually until 2020.
"First, we are bound [by] the necessary legal documents, which confirm we are in good standing for the 2014
Russian Grand Prix. We have the contracts; we have the mutual obligation with the Formula One Group."
The second leg is what he termed the "constructional readiness of the facility. The construction is basically
done, according to the timescale. We understand that 60 days before the race the facility will be completed.
So we estimate that the constructional readiness at the moment is about 90 per cent."
The final obligation is operational readiness, and Saurin confirmed that they were working with the structures
"in charge of the Formula 1 race the Formula One Group, the FIA.
"Also, we see no operational risks regarding the hosting of our grand prix, specifically after the [Winter]
Olympic experience. So when you're asking, 'Why do you consider the race will happen?' we have basically
three grounds: legal, constructional and operational, and in every direction we're good."
This, though, overlooks the prevailing political situation, and he was quick to underscore that they are working
to the contract, with political issues being outside their remit.
"In terms of the contract, this does not have any force majeure implications on the grand prix, so we confirm
that from our side we'll fulfil all the necessary requirements: operational, sporting readiness, and safety. So we
are sure the [race] will happen [from our perspective]."
Asked what he meant by "safety", Saurin explained that all levels of security would be implemented "for all
participants and many guests of the event", the plans for which are modelled on their experiences with the
Olympics.
"We have just completed the Olympic Winter Games in Sochi and the level of security at the Games is our
level, our criteria, for the F1 event."
All very reassuring, but the Olympics were staged before the annexation of Crimea, the coast of which lies
within 500km of Sochi.
"Sochi is basically far away, a distance from Ukraine; at the perimeter of Russia. No special difficulties with
safety are occurring. And as we understand, this crisis in the Ukraine is de-escalated and solved. But anyway,
we're working on the basis of the contract and confirm that all the obligations will be fulfilled from all sides."
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The column had also cast doubts on spectator numbers, suggested that fewer than 20,000 would be catered
for. While the group refused to speculate, Saurin did allow that ticketing details would be announced on May
20, 10 days after this interview.
"On May 20 we will announce details about the ticketing programme, how many tickets, how many spectators
we expect at the first grand prix.
"We have two options at the moment; the final decision has not been made, so let's wait until May 20 when
we announce the final decision. We know for sure the prices, we know the minimum ticket price and this is not
high."
That said, given that the facilities are allegedly 90 per cent there, the grandstand must surely be in place
"As for the main grandstand," he said, "it's the final finishing of that. [It was] in place even during the Olympic
Games. Now we're speaking about the final roads, preparation for the final [surface] and so on. As for the
temporary grandstands, a final decision as to the quantity will be announced on May 20.
"Regarding the volume, we'll announce everything on the 20th. We're now completing the final economics,
and ticket sales will start soon after the announcement."
However, this column was essentially on the money with its projection, for other sources have since advised
that the first model is for 23,000 spectators, with a further 5500 catered for in the high-end Paddock Club. The
other model accommodates 46,000 plus 5500. The final number, said our source, would lie between the two
extremes, with the Paddock Club fixed at 5500.
Either way it's a far cry from the original 100,000 the promoters targeted, and the worst-case scenario rates as
the lowest planned attendance of any contemporary race.
Saurin believes 80 per cent of spectators will come from within Russia, with the rest drawn mainly from
neighbouring states. But from where in Russia, given the logistics challenges outlined in last week's column?
"Basically the whole country: we have 12 million people following Formula 1 in Russia, plus we have a
national driver, Daniil Kvyat, and we have national drivers in support races as well. The interest from across
Russia is quite big."
Logistics and customs inspection programmes have been developed, and Saurin anticipates no serious risks
in terms of logistics, while "the logistics models that were used for the games received a high rating from the
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International Olympic Committee, and we are basically keeping [them]. Sochi will be a comfortable place to
visit."
He also has no doubts that the paddock will be ready to host the 11 teams: "First of all, this is a flyaway race,
so [motorhomes] will not be [required]. [The paddock] has permanent team buildings in place, already done.
So the level of constructional readiness in terms of the facilities will be 100 per cent and operational.
"Together with FOM we'll guarantee all the procedures necessary. When cargo comes in, we'll have it
unloaded, swiftly gone through customs and put in place as it should be."
Cregan underscored the arrangements: "I think what's very positive at the moment is that since the Olympics
have been completed, all of the local authorities are coming together, under the direction of Mr Saurin.
"So customs, immigration, airports authority, transport the same as in another event this is coming
together and is starting to work really well, because Formula 1 is now the main event for Sochi. I think that's
very positive."
Reacting to comments in last week's column that passenger-flight capacity between major centres and Sochi
is limited, Saurin advised: "The government made the decision to announce Sochi as an open-sky city, so it
will be much easier; this will be done with national as well as international airlines. It will be much easier to get
landing slots," adding he was "absolutely sure" the plans could be implemented by October.
He also believes the weather should be perfect for racing despite the late-autumn slot, with daytime
temperatures ranging from 15 to 20C, and "no rain during this period. [Sochi] is a subtropical area; this is the
only place in Russia with a subtropical climate."
He conceded, though, that spring would be more suitable, admitting: "We're also considering discussing the
option of the race in spring "
Unless politics intervene, Saurin's plan is to use his province's inaugural race to attract mainly Russian fans to
"prove on an international level that Sochi is the right place for F1, so that for the next event we can have
many more international visitors.
"We will prove it by the quality of the first event."
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F1 is making an easy thing difficult
Grand prix racing is a complicated sport that doesn't lend itself to easy answers. But EDD STRAW offers up
one area where big gains can be made without any difficulty
One of the fundamentals of a great sporting spectacle is making it as easy as possible for your fans to follow
what's happening. So why does Formula 1 consistently fail to grasp this?
That opening statement could be used as a launchpad for a critique of any number of facets of grand prix
racing, but the topic at hand is arguably one of the most straightforward to solve, one that doesn't involve
complicated technical implications and expensive changes to the car.
Simply make it easier to differentiate between team-mates while watching either at the circuit or on television.
It's not difficult; it's not expensive. All it requires is the will to make some minor cosmetic changes.
Having watched trackside at every pre-season test and all five race weekends so far this year, I find there are
still too many times when it's difficult to know which of a team's cars has just gone past.
Obviously, put two cars side by side and it's easy enough, but when you're watching a car on track you want
to enjoy it and digest a little of what it's doing dynamically. The act of identifying which driver it is should not
occupy any of your mental capacity. It should be effortless, less so for any journalists watching than for those
who have paid to watch.
The ease with which you can identify the drivers varies from team to team. In the case of Williams, for
example, you have a predominantly white car that allows the very different colours of Felipe Massa's and
Valtteri Bottas's helmets to show without having to look for them. But when it's a Toro Rosso going past, you
have to think about it.
Raised cockpit sides, combined with the tendency of some drivers to change their lid paintwork on an almost
daily basis and the often over-cluttered designs, mean that using helmet colours to differentiate between
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drivers is not always the easiest method.
So why does F1 not do something about the car numbers? The change to the rules to allow drivers to
compete throughout their grand prix career with the same number, allowing it to be incorporated into their
brand, shows that there is recognition of the power of this.
Yet despite the rule demanding numbers be incorporated into the helmet design, nothing has been done
about the cars themselves. It's self-defeating: without having a clear, identifiable number central to the look of
the car, how exactly will a driver be indelibly associated with it?
Glance at a photograph of Gilles Villeneuve and the number 27 is immediately obvious (well, it is from 1981
and '82, the only years he actually carried it). It's the same with Valentino Rossi's number 46.
F1 has tried to make a virtue of numbers and then allowed them to be completely hidden. Perhaps this is
rooted in a fundamental misunderstanding of how most consume the sport. Very few spend their time staring
at timing screens on a pitwall. The car's number stands for much more than just a digit or two on a timesheet.
A cynic could, with some justification, say that teams would much rather it was their own brand that was
presented by the look of the car rather than that of a single employee. Any team subscribing to that opinion
underestimates the fact that, for most people, the drivers are the stars.
If this were not the case, the constructors' championship would be considered the biggest prize by the outside
world.
There are obstacles. The nose designs of many cars make it difficult for a number to be easily visible from
head-on. The Ferrari's is probably the easiest to see thanks to its unique nose design. But there's no such
excuse on the sides of the cars.
There have been occasional discussions about improving this. The most obvious way is to set number
locations and sizes, but inevitably that raises objections that it interferes with liveries.
But there's no reason why there can't be some better size guidelines, along with a stipulation that the number
must be easily visible from side-on at a certain range.
So what do the regulations actually say? Article 21 of the sporting regulations deals with this. Here is the
regulation in full:
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21.1 The provisions of the Code relating to national colours shall not apply to the Championship.
Both cars entered by a competitor must be presented in substantially the same livery at each Event, any
change to this livery during a Championship season may only be made with the agreement of the Formula
One Commission.
In order that the cars of each team may be easily distinguished from one another whilst they are on the track,
the on board cameras located above the principal roll structure of the first car must remain as it is supplied to
the team and the second car must be predominantly fluorescent yellow.
21.2 Each car will carry the race number of its driver (or his replacement) as published by the FIA at the
beginning of the season. This number must be clearly visible from the front of the car.
21.3 The name or the emblem of the make of the car must appear on the front of the nose of the car and in
either case be at least 25mm in its largest dimension. The name of the driver must appear on the external
bodywork and be clearly legible.
Considering how important the identification of cars should be, this regulation is too vague. The camera above
the roll structure relies on everyone memorising which driver in each team carries the higher number. Far from
intuitive.
As for the rule dictating that the number must be clearly legible from the front of the car, that is so vague as to
be meaningless. It's clearly visible from an elevated angle, perhaps, but unless you make more precise
stipulations - for example from a non-elevated position and a set range - the rule is of limited use. Add in a
catch-all allowing the FIA to make enforced changes if it's not to satisfaction, and the problem can be solved.
There are other potential measures that can be considered. In 2012 Mercedes tested with an elongated
engine cover to allow driver identification. This is the kind of thinking that could lead to the best solution, with
drivers' names - or fragments of names at least easily visible.
But there is the danger of it making the cars look worse, which should be avoided. This is an area where
further analysis needs to be done, but the ideal would be for clearly-visible driver names to appear on the car.
Touring car racing has made identifying drivers a key objective in recent decades. The World Touring Car
Championship took a big step this year by mandating huge numbers on the windscreens, along with very
clear names.
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Single-seaters don't lend themselves to such obvious identification marks, which make the sport far more
accessible.
As usual, this is an area where F1 has fallen behind other sports.
In football, names on the backs of shirts have become ubiquitous, making it easier to identify players on the
pitch and bolstering a market in replica shirts.
Even cricket, a sport usually seen as the last bastion of tradition, has embraced names, numbers and colours
for limited-overs forms of the game.
If anything, grand prix racing has gone backwards, with numbers in particular going from a necessity to an
increasingly marginalised nuisance in the way they're treated.
It's not about dumbing down the sport, it's about making something fundamental to the enjoyment of it second
nature.
Most of all, it's an easy win.
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