Thursday, October 16, 2014

New Caterham F1 Team Management Sets Record Straight on Various Reports

Photo Credit: Caterham F1 Team/ Sam Bloxham/LAT Photographic

The status of the Caterham F1 Team has been a lingering source paddock talk in the recent months.

A July sale of the four-year-old Formula 1 organization by the Tony Fernandes-led ownership group to a collective of Swiss and Middle Eastern investors (1MRT) has been followed by various reports. The first story revolved around a sizable 50-person layoff occurring around time the new owners assumed command of the team. The majority of the affected staff members have filed suit against Caterham F1 Team for alleged unfair termination of employment. Earlier this month, a story circulated a bailiff moved in to seize items belonging to the Caterham F1 Team fanning rumours of a failing financial state of the Leafield, England based team. Following publication of this story, Caterham issued a statement citing the information as "uncontrolled rumours" stating the seizure related to a supplier for their company.

On the competition side of Caterham F1 Team, the two cars fielded by the group is still struggling as a Formula 1 back-marker. Having never scored a world championship point in five seasons in the sport under several personas (Lotus Racing in 2010 and Team Lotus in 2011), 2014 drivers Marcus Ericsson and Kamui Kobayashi of the Reanult-powered machines are typically spotted at the bottom of grand prix time sheets for much of the season. Recently Christijan Albers, named Team Principal in July for Caterham F1 under the new ownership group, stepped down from his role. Deputy Team Principal and General Manager Manfredi Ravetto assumed the spot.

In order to combat differing reports of the team, Ravetto answered several questions relating to the team's operations. "We are on a high and we keep fighting day after day, even if there are a few negative comments or skepticism from some people who would be happy to see us failing: we can live with this, we have no problem at all; what we do is answer with facts, starting with the technical improvement of the car and stabilizing of the team's financial side – but we just want to remind everybody that we are those brave ones who try to firefight; we are not the ones who left the team in a critical status! I can tolerate misinterpretations on everything except this. And, by the way, we historically seem to be quite successful in contradicting the rumour mill" said the Team Principal for Caterham F1. Stating the team was destined to stop racing after the British Grand Prix under its former ownership, Manfredi Ravetto proudly asserts their commitment through the remainder of the 2014 season. "Our performance is steadily improving and recent results plus our great qualifying performance in Sochi are putting us on a level the team has hardly shown previously." Ravetto responded citing Ericsson's 16th place effort in Russian Grand Prix qualifying. "Sochi was definitely the place to be: we enjoyed racing there and contributing to bring F1 to Russia; the event was fantastic, the atmosphere was breathtaking and the circuit is at the highest of standards."

Caterham F1 Team Principal Manfredi Ravetto also addressed comments made by team driver Kamui Kobayashi following his retirement from the Russian Grand Prix. While some reports had Kobayashi referring to fuel mileage issues related to the departure from the race, Ravetto recounts it as a brake problem. "Actually, I was very surprised to hear Kamui referring to some mileage-saving instruction coming from the team's management: we saw via telemetry that there was a potential issue with the brakes and we decided to avoid any risks; Kamui officially confirmed this as well and I’d like to add that he had also asked us to change the previous set before qualifying because he felt some vibration. To be clear: yes, we instructed Kamui to retire because the safety of our drivers is our first concern! Regarding Kamui's comment, all I can say – and again, I’m answering with facts – is that the team has continuously made progress since the British Grand Prix, we've managed to qualify very well in the last two races, getting very close to Q2, and in Suzuka we repaired Kamui's heavily damaged car in time for the next session without any problems, so I cannot understand his comment." In Caterham F1's release following the race, Kamui Kobayashi's quote referring to the #10 went as follows: “A disappointing Sunday. When I heard over the radio that I needed to pit I thought it was just a normal pit-stop, but then I was told that I needed to retire. It was all a bit of a surprise to me and at first I didn’t really know what the reason for having to stop was. The team has now analysed the telemetry and it was clear that my brakes were overheating too much. It’s a shame to end the weekend like this, but there’s not much more I could do today.”

In response to what the team expects for final three races and beyond, Manfredi Ravetto was candid. "We know there are still some bumpy roads ahead and we don’t expect an easy ride, but we will deal with each situation as it arrives. For avoidance of any doubt, I’d also like to add that Leafield remains the team’s base, even though it’s no secret that we are looking for a more suitable alternative. We look forward to the final three races of the season; we will keep fighting, we will keep improving and we will introduce some positive surprises: stay tuned! said the Team Principal.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull Racing to Part Ways After 2014 Formula 1 Season

Photo Credit: Infiniti

Numerous Formula 1 seasons have resulted in one team or even one driver appears to own the podium. Due to the competitive nature of the sport, it is less frequent when a team and driver hit on a victory stride that carries through for four seasons. From 2010 to 2013, the Formula 1 world witnessed a great dynasty when young German driver Sebastian Vettel and the fairly young Red Bull Racing team reached a combined zenith in the sport. Winning 34 of his 39 career races in those four years and becoming the only driver ever to win four-consecutive World Drivers’ Championships during that time, Vettel was a feared competitor who wheeled a Renault-powered blue racing machine with Red Bull livery.

This season, the wheels have appeared to have fallen off what had been a roll in Formula 1. Winless this season, Vettel is on the verge of his first full Formula 1 season without a grand prix victory. While Vettel’s newly acquired teammate Daniel Ricciardo scoring three wins with his Red Bull-Renault in 2014, the team has so far been eclipsed by the dominant Mercedes AMG organization. Bracing to lose the #1 on his race car after this season, Sebastian Vettel has now announced his Red Bull-Renault will also lose its driver after 2014.

For what continues to be regarded as a shocking development, media in the Suzuka garage for this weekend’s Japanese Grand Prix were taken aback by breaking news that the four-time Formula 1 champion Sebastian Vettel will leave his ride after six seasons. While he was regularly in the cockpit of a race car for the Red Bull Racing Formula 1 team since 2009, much of his driving career has involved the energy drink company’s support. Every full season Vettel has spent in Formula 1 has been part of Red Bull Racing or with their sister team Toro Rosso in which he started with in 2008. Publishing a release on his website, Sebastian Vettel published a brief thanked Red Bull for 15 years of fostering his career to the point of becoming one of the most renowned race car drivers in the world. “Now I have decided to take the next step in my career but first I would like to express once again big thanks to Dietrich Mateschitz, Dr Helmut Marko, Christian Horner, the whole Red Bull Family, Infiniti Red Bull Racing and Scuderia Toro Rosso.” said Vettel in his Saturday statement.

Photo credit: Infiniti

On the Red Bull Racing team website, Team Principal Christian Horner responded to the news implying Sebastian Vettel had only formally informed him of this 2015 career direction the night before the announcement. Prior to that conversation, Horner suggested that he might have known the move was happening for some time. “I know him well on and off track and you can see he's had a lot on his mind recently; inevitably you don't take a decision like this lightly, but it was last night that he sat down with us and told us for the first time.” the Red Bull Racing Team Principal replied in his statement. A main fixture of the Red Bull Racing team, Sebastian Vettel also represented luxury car maker Infiniti as the brand's Director of Performance. A team sponsor of Red Bull Racing and corporately affiliated with engine supplier Renault, Infiniti's support of Vettel will likely conclude also at the end of the this year.

Shortly after the news of Vettel’s departure, Red Bull Racing quickly announced their 2015 driver line-up. Daniel Ricciardo, who has impressed with his first year with the team, will be joined by Russian Daniil Kvyat. A 2014 rookie driver competing with Scuderia Toro Rosso (operating as a satellite driver development organization for Red Bull Racing) will travel along the same path as Vettel and Ricciardo to the major team.

Vettel’s four championships were coupled with the Red Bull Racing team celebrated a constructors’ title after each season. Chasing their fourth-straight titles heading into the Japanese Grand Prix in 2013, such news of a split between the team and driver occurring at that same event just one year later would have been near unbelievable. However, just as the object of being competitive in Formula 1 is rapidly moving forward, Sebastian Vettel’s abrupt yet amicable parting from Red Bull Racing following the 2014 season is obviously about finding a new, faster line for the future. Having not announced his 2015 plans officially, rumours have strongly pinned the German as destined for Ferrari. Though finding little success with his 2014 Red Bull-Renault, it’s hard to presently figure out if Vettel would be found a winning edge with the Italian Formula 1 team. Ferrari is currently enduring a winless season with former world champions Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen. If Sebastian Vettel is seated in a Ferrari next season, the situation will somewhat mirror his hero Michael Schumacher’s arrival at the team in 1996.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Hamilton Takes Pole in Tightly Competitive Singapore Grand Prix Qualifying

Photo Credit: Mercedes AMG

There is only six races remaining on the 2014 Formula 1 schedule as teams proceed into a two-race Asian tour. A unique event on the Formula 1 calendar, the Singapore Grand Prix contents the challenge of being a street circuit and a night race for the 22 drivers. In Saturday's time trials, the 5.07-kilometer Marina Bay Street Circuit provided a rather surreal thriller.

Qualifying under the nights on the Marina Bay Circuit overall provided one of the most pleasing outings of the season for Formula 1 onlookers wanting to see more parity among the teams. The time difference between first through ninth in qualifying was separated by a 0.569-second margin. Coming as the most interesting occurrence in the first two qualifying sessions was who topped the time charts following those rounds. In Q1 and Q2, the Scuderia Ferrari team led the way with Kimi Raikkonen topping the first and Fernando Alonso leading the second. The weekend has already proven optimistic for Ferrari as both race cars matched the pace the team demonstrated in the practice sessions. However, Mercedes AMG surged back into their customary leading role in 2014 Formula 1 qualifying by taking the top spot in the most important Q3 round.

Photo Credit: Andrew Hone Photographer/Pirelli

2009 Singapore Grand Prix winner Lewis Hamilton took pole at the Marina Bay Street Circuit with a 1-minute, 45.681-second lap time. The entire Q3 session was a contest where the biggest gain came from a small advantage. The difference between Lewis Hamilton and second-place qualifier Nico Rosberg was a mere 0.007 seconds. With the Mercedes AMG Formula 1 cars in a virtual dead heat after qualifying was settled, the start of the Singapore Grand Prix will be another hotly contested affair between the teammates and 2014 title contending rivals.

In third and fourth place, Red Bull Racing continues to follow the Mercedes AMG cars but has mounted one of the most aggressive fights against the German factory team. A little more than one-eighth of a second slower than Rosberg, Daniel Ricciardo placed his Red Bull-Renault behind Hamilton for the main event. Sebastian Vettel was a shade slower than his teammate settling with a fourth-place qualifying effort. So far still winless in 2014, Vettel has won the Singapore Grand Prix for the past three seasons.

Performing some stunning runs on the earlier rounds of qualifying, the Ferrari cars both enjoyed a mid-mark efforts in the Q3 sessions. Fernando Alonso will start fifth while Kimi Raikkonen has mounted a seventh-best time in his Ferrari. The Williams team cars sandwich Raikkonen's Ferrari as Felipe Massa is planted in sixth while Valtteri Bottas obtained eighth on the grid. Rounding out the top-10 on the grid for the 2014 Singapore Grand Prix is Kevin Magnussen and Daniil Kvyat.

A 61-lap race, the 2014 Singapore Grand Prix will be held at 8 PM local time (translating to 8 AM Eastern time).

2014 Formula 1
Singapore Grand Prix
Starting Grid

Pos # Car # Driver Team Engine

1 44 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes AMG Mercedes-Benz
2 6 Nico Rosberg Mercedes AMG Mercedes-Benz
3 3 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull Renault
4 1 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull Renault
5 14 Fernando Alonso Ferrari Ferrari
6 19 Felipe Massa Williams Mercedes-Benz
7 7 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari Ferrari
8 77 Valtteri Bottas Williams F1 Renault
9 22 Kevin Magnussen McLaren Mercedes-Benz
10 26 Daniil Kvyat Scuderia Toro Rosso Renault
11 22 Jenson Button McLaren Mercedes-Benz
12 25 Jean-Eric Vergne Scuderia Toro Rosso Renault
13 27 Nico Hulkenberg Force India Mercedes-Benz
14 21 Esteban Gutierrez Sauber Ferrari
15 11 Sergio Perez Force India Mercedes-Benz
16 8 Romain Grosjean Lotus Renault
17 99 Adrian Sutil Sauber Ferrari
18 13 Pastor Maldonado Lotus Renault
19 17 Jules Bianchi Marussia Ferrari
20 45 Kamui Kobayashi Caterham Renault
21 4 Max Chilton Marussia Ferrari
22 9 Marcus Ericsson Caterham Renault