Tuesday, August 25, 2015

The Inexhaustible Smile of Driver Justin Wilson

Photo Credit: IndyCar

Monday night, sadness fell over the entire motorsport world as a competition embraced for its excitement and action claimed a great athlete. 37-year-old British driver Justin Wilson succumbed to a head injury suffered in a late-race incident at the Verizon IndyCar race at Pocono Raceway.

A penultimate round in the open wheel racing series for 2015, optimism for seeing a great battle for championship and race position was overshadowed quickly after a series of crashes proved evermore worrisome. On lap 180, a crash by leader Sage Karam into the turn 1 wall showered the track with debris. A nose cone compartment of Karam's #8 car is believed to be the piece that flew up and hit the #25 Andretti Autosport car's driver Justin Wilson in the helmet. Despite receiving swift attention from IndyCar's safety crew, the unconscious Wilson could not be revived at the scene and needed to be airlifted to an offsite hospital. Announced to be in a coma Sunday night, Justin Wilson's passing was announced at 9 pm Eastern time Monday night.

The 37-year-old British racer spent 28 years demonstrating incredible versatility behind the wheel of a vehicle. Moving from karting and eventually transitioning through the ranks of European open wheel racing, he reached the ceiling of the sport at the age of 24. He spent one full season in Formula 1 competing with two teams. Afterwards Wilson found success in American open wheel racing winning on the Champ Car World Series as well as in IndyCar. Justin Wilson will forever be remembered as a driver who battled hard simply to be part of big-time auto racing. Through every challenge he faced, a vibrant, warm personality was beamed outwards.

Photo Credit: Chris Nagy via Screenshot from Low-Res Video

At the age of 13, the future racing star was diagnosed with the learning block dyslexia after long-running scholastic struggles. In the process of overcoming the hurdle that challenged him in school, Wilson was gained notoriety on the race track. As his career grew, the driver committed himself to share lessons of fighting dyslexia publicly.

As Justin Wilson grew up, his physical stature also became a tricky hindrance. Growing to be a 6-foot, 4-inch man, a jockey-like size sought by major Formula 1 teams kept him out of consideration. Fortunately, Wilson's talent and determination towered over his own size enough to open the door with the European Minardi team for the 2003 Formula 1 season.

Like is often the case for Formula 1 drivers, money was needed to race on major grand prix tracks weighed on Justin Wilson. In order to raise funding for the 2003 season in Formula 1, his name was added to the London Stock Exchange in order to attract investors. Practically a Kickstarter campaign before it existed, Wilson and his management team succeeded in their goal of securing the funding needed to for the 2003 season in Formula 1. Running for the European Minardi team for the first 11 races, Jaguar Racing picked him up for the remaining five events where he scored a championship point in the United States Grand Prix at Indianapolis. Following the 2003 season, Wilson ultimately left Formula 1 due to losing the fight for sponsorship dollars against other funded drivers.

Taking the trip over the Atlantic Ocean, Justin Wilson's new career in the Champ Car World Series started in 2004 with Conquest Racing. Picked up by RuSPORT for the 2005 season in the series, he captured his maiden victory in major American open wheel racing on the streets of Toronto. While the Champ Car World Series was prominently competed on circuits in the United States, all four career victories on the tour occurred on tracks outside of the country (twice in Canada as well as in Mexico and the Netherlands). Wilson's first win in the United States in major open wheel racing occurred in 2008 in Detroit as part of the reunified IndyCar Series driving for Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing.

Photo Credit: Michael Levitt via IndyCar

In 2009, Justin Wilson once again challenged astronomical odds partnered with Dale Coyne Racing. A single-car operation against the superteams of Team Penske and Chip Ganassi Racing, Wilson pulled-off a popular victory at Watkins Glen in the #18 car. The win was Dale Coyne's first in major open wheel competition since entering team ownership in the 1980s. Running with Dreyer & Reinbold Racing for 2010 and 2011, Wilson returned to Dale Coyne Racing where they won the 2012 Firestone 550 at Texas Motor Speedway (the driver's one and only oval victory).

Also part of the 2012 calendar year was Wilson's participation in the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series' crown jewel round, the Rolex 24 at Daytona. Part of the #60 Michael Shank Racing, Justin Wilson paired with A.J. Allmendinger, Oswaldo Negri and John Pew in a Ford-powered Riley. A race that ended with a tight battle for the lead in the Daytona Prototype class, the #60 car pulled-off a popular win at the prestigious event. In 2013, the Grand Prix of Baltimore event presented Justin Wilson with the opportunity to race alongside his brother Stefan.

Photo Credit: Chris Nagy

Parting with Dale Coyne Racing after a disappointing 2014 IndyCar season, Justin Wilson ran a partial schedule with Andretti Autosport for 2015. Originally only with Indianapolis races in mind, Wilson was brought back into competition for July. At Mid-Ohio Sports car course (one race prior to the Pocono event), Justin Wilson and team took the runner-up position. Racing against eventual winner Graham Rahal, Wilson maintained a selfless tone in a post-race interview. "I had one more push-to-pass left but Graham was too quick (haha) - all the credit to him today because he was on fire. We pushed as hard as we could. I have to thank everyone at Andretti Autosport and Honda for all the work they’ve done. I’m pleased to get Honda a 1-2 finish at their home track." said Wilson. Earlier this year, Justin Wilson also ran a race in the revolutionary new all-electric Formula E tour finishing 10th in the Moscow round.

Photo Credit: IndyCar

As is so often the case in auto racing, the spirit of community has united all parties involved in motorsports to honour a life. Andretti Autosport posted the following condolence on their Facebook page.

We are deeply saddened by the passing of Justin Wilson. He was a tremendous racer, a valuable member of the team and...
Posted by Andretti Autosport on Monday, August 24, 2015

Justin Wilson's car owner for four years in IndyCar competition Dale Coyne said, "Justin was the kindest, gentlest racer that we have ever known. His wife Julia and their adorable girls, Jane and Jessica, are shining lights of Justin's spirit." as part of a statement on the team's website.

Off the track, Justin Wilson was also a husband and father of two daughters. Wilson's family posted a statement following the announcement of their close, heartfelt loss. "The family would like to thank the staff at the Lehigh Valley Health Network Cedar Crest Hospital,  Pocono Raceway, Andretti Autosport, and the Verizon IndyCar Series as well as the entire racing community for the amazing outpouring of support from fans around the world". The family of Justin Wilson requests that in lieu of flowers, people wishing to bid tribute to the driver send donations to the Wilson Children's Fund.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Sixth Grand Prix Win of 2015 for Hamilton in Belgium

Photo Credit: Foto Studio Colombo Per Pirelli Media

Taking almost a month off since a late July race in Hungary, the 2015 Formula 1 season restarts with a little less than half of the events left to be run. Competing on the longest circuit on the active Formula 1 tour at 7.004 kilometers in length, the Belgian Grand Prix welcomes back some of the world's best open wheel drivers with a blend of high-speed sections as well as technical corners.

The winner of all-but 2 of the first 10 grand prix races on the 2015 Formula 1 tour, Mercedes AMG would appear to have a storybook season. However, after the British Grand Prix and the most recent Hungarian Grand Prix, the Silver Arrows appeared to firing more crookedly than usual. Almost losing the first race on a poor start by two cars and a series of miscues costing victory at the Hungoraring has been rare team-wide mistakes from the factory-backed German outfit. In fact, the Hungarian Grand Prix was the first race since the 2013 Brazilian Grand Prix where a Mercedes AMG team car did not obtain a podium spot. Receiving almost a month to put the lackluster effort in Hungary behind them, Mercedes AMG returned to competition by dominating practice. In qualifying, Lewis Hamilton topped teammate Nico Rosberg netting a 1-2 start for the team.

Restarting the 2015 Formula 1 season, it was again a moment for Mercedes AMG to either command a race right from the start or to surprise the grand prix audience with a struggle. When the lights went out for the start of the 2015 Belgian Grand Prix, both incidents occurred. While Lewis Hamilton had a sterling start, Nico Rosberg immediately fell three places dropping to fifth.

Early in the race, some under-appreciated effort in the 2015 season were presented with a moment to shine behind Hamilton. Sergio Perez was running second in the Force India-powered Mercedes-Benz as part of very stunning weekend at the Spa-Francorchamps circuit. Hovering around the top-5 in practice and qualifying Perez was enjoying a massive confidence boost. While the one Force India driver shined, the second vehicle driven by Nico Hulkenberg's Belgian Grand Prix didn't even start. From the warm-up lap, the German encountered a power unit problem leaving Sergio Perez as the team's one and only chance at greatness. Behind the Force India was the Red Bull-Renault of Daniel Ricciardo.

Photo Credit: Force India F1 Team

After the first round of pit stops for the leaders, Nico Rosberg was able to climb his way back into the runner-up spot behind his teammate Lewis Hamilton. While neither Mercedes AMG parted from each other over the course of the event, Hamilton retained a comfortable gap of several seconds over his fellow team car.

Seeking to follow-up on success in Hungary, Daniel Ricciardo's race went south after 19 laps. Minutes after almost loosing his car in the Eau Rouge section of Spa-Francorchamps, the Red Bull-Renault dropped out of the event for what was accounted as an electrical fault. The Australian's retirement from was from a race he won in 2014. Overall official retirements in the 2015 Belgian Grand Prix was limited to four cars. In addition to the already-mentioned Nico Hulkenberg and Daniel Ricciardo, Pastor Maldonado slid out of the grand prix after just two laps while Carlos Sainz Jr. suffered a loss of power to the Renault-propelled Toro Rosso.

While the Mercedes AMG cars held the first and second place spots without harassment in the late laps, a daring plan was undertaken by Ferrari to score a podium finish. Attempting a one-stop strategy in a 44-lap race in Belgium, Ferrari launched their lead pilot Sebastian Vettel into third place. With two laps remaining, the right rear Pirelli tire failed on the Ferrari resulting in Vettel needing to surrender his podium spot late. With Vettel upset with the failure costing him third in the race, Pirelli released a statement implying the reason for the tire failure was excessive distance. The tire provider for Formula 1 claimed they wanted to institute a maximum distance for Pirelli racing slicks.

Photo Credit: Mercedes AMG

Winning his 39th career Formula 1 event, Lewis Hamilton won the 2015 Belgian Grand Prix by 2.058 seconds over teammate Nico Rosberg. The sixth win for Hamilton this season, the reigning drivers' champion holds a 28-point lead in the championship. While Mercedes-Benz has won at Belgium's Spa-Francorchamps track six times with McLaren (including a 2010 win by Hamilton), the last factory Silver Arrow machine to take the checkered flag was accomplished in 1955.

Behind the Mercedes AMG squad's most recent 1-2 performance this season at Spa-Francorchamps, there was a member of season-topping runs mounted by some competitors including the man who claimed the remaining podium spot. In third-place Romain Grosjean brought his Lotus-Mercedes across the finish line in a dazzling performance aided by Sebastian Vettel's late problems. The third place run was the first for Grosjean since the 2013 United States Grand Prix. The effort by the Frenchman and the team could also be much-needed medicine after recent legal issues for the Lotus F1 Team organization. The dispute relates with former 2014 test driver Charles Pic and has bailiffs threatening to seize race cars and equipment. The financial state of the Lotus F1 Team has been a measure of stipulation for years and this latest legal chapter has involved a certain that a seizure of the team's cars could have taken place following the Belgian Grand Prix.

Photo Credit: Foto Studio Colombo Per Pirelli Media

Backing up a first-ever podium finish accomplished by Daniil Kvyat overcame an early race misadventure to place just outside of the top-three. Kvyat's fourth-place finish came in a race where he briefly slid his Red Bull-Renault into a run-off area. The Russian driver carved his way up from a 12th place starting position to be the high-placed Renault powered machine at the 2015 Belgian Grand Prix.

After a hard-fought effort throughout the weekend, Mexican Sergio Perez rewarded himself as well as his Force India teams with a fifth place finish. The run was Perez and Force India's best result of the season as well as pairing the pair's first top-five grand prix finish since Bahrain of 2014. Closely behind the Force India-Mercedes was the Williams-Mercedes driven by Felipe Massa. The effort for the Williams Martini Racing team was a double-point finish that occurred despite an unusual error in the race. During a pit stop, Valtteri Bottas' car received two different tire compounds. Required to serve a drive-through penalty for the mistake, Bottas still managed a ninth-place run.

Rounding out the top-10 for the Belgian Grand Prix is Kimi Raikkonen, Max Verstappen and Sauber driver Marcus Ericsson.

The next Formula 1 race is the Italian Grand Prix at the very fast Monza circuit.

2015 Formula 1

Belgian Grand Prix

Race Results

Pos # Car # Driver Team Engine

1 44 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes AMG Mercedes-Benz
2 6 Nico Rosberg Mercedes AMG Mercedes-Benz
3 77 Valtteri Bottas Williams F1 Renault
3 8 Romain Grosjean Lotus Mercedes-Benz
4 26 Daniil Kvyat Red Bull Renault
5 11 Sergio Perez Force India Mercedes-Benz
6 19 Felipe Massa Williams Mercedes-Benz
7 7 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari Ferrari
8 33 Max Verstappen Scuderia Toro Rosso Renault
10 9 Marcus Ericsson Sauber Ferrari
11 12 Felipe Nasr Sauber Ferrari
12 5 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari Ferrari
13 14 Fernando Alonso McLaren Honda
14 22 Jenson Button McLaren Honda
15 98 Roberto Merhi Manor Marussia Ferrari
16 28 Will Stevens Manor Marussia Ferrari
17 55 Carlos Sainz Jr Scuderia Toro Rosso Renault
18 3 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull Renault
19 13 Pastor Maldonado Lotus Mercedes-Benz
20 27 Nico Hulkenberg Force India Mercedes-Benz

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Hamilton's Pole Leads Magnificent Mercedes-Benz Showing in Belgian Grand Prix Qualifying

Photo Credit: Mercedes AMG

With almost a month passing between late July's Hungarian Grand Prix and this weekend's event on the famed Spa-Francorchamps course, a summer break must have certainly given drivers as well as whole teams time to consider their progress in the 2015 Formula 1 season. After 10 races down, the Belgian Grand Prix provides the ideal opportunity to advance on success found in the season so far or to establish a better course through the nine remaining events on the tour.

Back in the saddle again, 20 drivers belted into their highly-tuned, hybrid-powered race machines were unleashed for Belgian Grand Prix qualifying on the quick, challenging 7.004-kilometer track. Transitioning from a slower, tight circuit they last competed on in July, pilots of Formula 1 drivers once again familiarized themselves with blazing fast speeds. For drivers seated inside vehicles propelled by Mercedes-Benz, the time trial was an exceptional return to 2015 competition.

As if nothing his changed over the static period of August, the Mercedes AMG added to their undefeated streak in qualifying for 2015. Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg decided not to play any games by sweeping 1-2 in all sessions of the Saturday time trials at Spa-Francorchamps. Trading the top spot in Q1 and Q2, the Mercedes AMG teammates fought in a contentious Q3 session. With a 1-minute, 47.197-second lap time, the pole went to Lewis Hamilton. Hamilton`s top time was 0.458 seconds faster than teammate Nico Rosberg`s best run and more than 1.3 seconds quicker than third place in qualifying. The front row start for Mercedes AMG in Belgium is also the team`s 22nd consecutive pole. The current Formula 1 record of pole positions claimed by the vehicles of a single constructor is Williams with 24 scored from 1992 through to 1993.

A season-best effort, Williams Martini Racing driver Valtteri Bottas will be starting in third place. The result for Bottas equals the team's best qualifying spot of the year obtained by Felipe Massa in Australia. Massa starts in sixth place on Sunday. Once again, the efforts of Mercedes-Benz power units proved to be the go-to method for going fast in the 2015 Formula 1 season. The top-five vehicles in Belgian Grand Prix qualifying are powered by gasoline/electric propulsion from the German automaker. Unfortunately, a gearbox charge for the Lotus-Mercedes race car of Romain Grosjean will demote the entry to the ninth-place spot on Sunday's starting grid. Taking the fourth place position Grosjean occupied, Force India and driver Sergio Perez have backed-up on a stunning performance in practice at Spa-Francorchamps. The Mercedes-powered Force India's best finish this season is a sixth-place effort accomplished by Nico Hulkenberg. 

First to break the Mercedes-Benz brigade in qualifying for the 2015 Belgian Grand Prix, Daniel Ricciardo and his Red Bull-Renault's lap time was narrowly placed between Perez and Massa. With Ricciardo's Red Bull Racing car starting 5th on the grid Sunday, the second team car driven by Daniil Kvyat will start the race in the 12th place spot.

Starting on the fourth row of the 2015 Belgian Grand Prix grid beside the Lotus-Mercedes of Pastor Maldonado is the Ferrari of Sebastian Vettel. The most recent Formula 1 race winner, Vettel's car will be the only Ferrari-powered vehicle within the top-10 for the main event. Ferrari factory teammate Kimi Raikkonen is starting in 14th spot after not making a lap in Q2. The reason for Raikkonen's inaction after Q1 was an oil pressure issue.

This weekend, the McLaren Honda team has been utilizing revised power unit for the Belgian Grand Prix. Despite the cars driven by Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso being assessed a collective 105-grid position penalty for changes made by the team, the result is only a back of the grid starting spot for both McLaren-Honda vehicles. Thanks to a recently amended rule in Formula 1, there will be no further penalties in future races for this weekend's changes. On-track, it appears the Honda power unit with the McLaren chassis is still struggling to find speed to outrun all-but the Manor Maruassia cars in Belgium.

Sunday's Belgian Grand Prix is scheduled for 44 laps for a 2:00pm local time start (8:00am Eastern time).


2015 Formula 1

Belgian 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 77 Valtteri Bottas Williams F1 Renault
4 11 Sergio Perez Force India Mercedes-Benz
5 3 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull Renault
6 19 Felipe Massa Williams Mercedes-Benz
7 13 Pastor Maldonado Lotus Mercedes-Benz
8 5 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari Ferrari
9 8 Romain Grosjean Lotus Mercedes-Benz
10 55 Carlos Sainz Jr Scuderia Toro Rosso Renault
11 27 Nico Hulkenberg Force India Mercedes-Benz
12 26 Daniil Kvyat Red Bull Renault
13 9 Marcus Ericsson Sauber Ferrari
14 7 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari Ferrari
15 12 Felipe Nasr Sauber Ferrari
16 28 Will Stevens Manor Marussia Ferrari
17 98 Roberto Merhi Manor Marussia Ferrari
18 33 Max Verstappen Scuderia Toro Rosso Renault
19 22 Jenson Button McLaren Honda
20 14 Fernando Alonso McLaren Honda

Thursday, August 20, 2015

1 Racing Mind 2015 Formula 1 Mid-season Report Card: Manor Marussia F1 Team

Manor Marussia F1 Team


Team Score: C


Roberto Merhi: C

Will Stevens: C

In the case of Manor Marussia, maybe they deserve a passing grade for just competing this season. The 'C' rating is in recognition for what is expected from an organization that was formed out of administration in February. The purchased remains of the Marussia F1 team, the Manor Marussia F1 Team's quickly prepared for the 2015 season with drivers Will Stevens and Roberto Merhi.

Showing up in Australia with Ferrari-powered MR03B race cars (2014 Marussia chassis with modifications for the 2015 season), there efforts were literally stalled by a computer software issue with their car. The computer software problem was the answer delivered by the team for not competing but some felt Manor Marussia had no intentions of competing but only appeared by a formality. As a penalty for not being in competitive form for the Formula 1 season opener, the team was forced to pay its freight to the event.

Returning for the Malaysian Grand Prix, both Manor Marussia race cars practiced and qualified but only Roberto Merhi was able to run. Stevens' car didn't start the race due to a fuel system problem. Running just one car, some accused the team of being up to the same shenanigans as suggested was done at the Australian Grand Prix. Races after Malaysia saw both vehicles regularly competing. Since the difficult start to 2015, Stevens and Merhi had each registered to have completed all-but one race a piece.

Ingredients for Second-Half of 2015:

Manor Marussia is the only team to have not scored points in the 2015 Formula 1 championship. Odds are slim that will change this season. One or two events with a massive retirement list could open the top-10 to the team by default.

Despite being at the back of the grid for the entire season so far, Manor Marussia has been building updates to their race car and his spoken optimistically about 2016.

1 Racing Mind 2015 Formula 1 Mid-season Report Card: McLaren Honda


McLaren Honda: D


Fernando Alonso: C+

Jenson Button: C

McLaren is a used to being a front-runner in Formula 1 competition. Winning eight constructors titles, the race team rekindled a relationship with an organization that together enjoyed a dynasty similar to what Mercedes AMG is currently forging. From 1988 to 1993, McLaren and Japanese automaker Honda claimed four constructors' titles as a partnership. In 2013, Honda's return to the sport with a new hybrid power unit came with the anticipation for the 2015 season.

When Honda chose to sit out 2014 season to work on their power unit, it seemed acceptable to believe they would have ironed out all the bugs as they readied for 2015. Unfortunately for the new McLaren Honda team, missteps they would have wanted to see in a lab is appearing on the race track.

The new Honda powerplant was been shown low on power and durability right from the start of the season. For the 2015 Australian Grand Prix season opener, the McLaren-Honda #20 of Kevin Magnussen suffered a power unit failure when before taking to the grid. On 11 occasions in the first 10 races of 2015 including two times competitors were not even able to start a race, the McLaren Honda team cars failed to make it to the finish line.

Though retirements reflect poorly for the McLaren Honda team in the first half of the 2015 season, there is some optimism. Despite the understandably pessimistic attitude surround the McLaren Honda team, the organization has scored points so-far this season (an almost bewildering outcome from some rather nightmarish circumstances). Two McLaren Honda drivers scored points in two races.

The performance-plagued McLaren race car has made it difficult to evaluate the two former world champions in the team's drivers' line-up. Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso are involved with the less-familiar position of running deeper in the Formula 1 grid. Fernando Alonso's season started in the worst possible manner with a crash in pre-season testing. Missing the Australian Grand Prix, Alonso returned to the track in Malaysia in a race that lasted just 20 laps for the Spaniard ending with a power unit failure. While finishing races has plagued Fernando Alonso so far in 2015, the two races prior to the summer break resulted in a tenth at Silverstone and a fifth in Hungary.

Jenson Button joined the team in 2010 as a teammate with Alonso. Bringing the Honda powerplant to the finish for its first event, Button also scored the first championship points for the new McLaren-Honda combination. Signs seem to indicate this could be his last season. Nothing is confirmed for 2016 by the team or driver and news is mostly pure speculation. 


Ingredients for Second-Half of 2015:

When Bruce McLaren first competed with a chassis of his own constructor name in 1966, it wasn't until the McLaren's third season when the team claimed its first victory. The first win in 1968 occurred interestingly enough in the Belgian Grand Prix. In 2015, McLaren is thinking smaller heading into the Spa-Francorchamps track. Honda touts a revised power unit for the McLaren race car starting in Belgium said to have "updated the combustion characteristics" according the Honda R&D's Chief Officer of Motorsports Yasuhisa Arai. What this means for the upcoming grand prix and the remainder of the 2015 season is a mystery.

1 Racing Mind 2015 Formula 1 Mid-season Report Card: Sauber

Photo Credit: Sauber Motorsport AG




Team Score: B


Felipe Nasr: B-

Marcus Ericsson: C+

If Formula 1 hands out a most improved award, the Sauber team would be in the running alongside Ferrari for the 2015 season. Ending the 2014 season scoreless in the constructors' points, a revamped car and a completely new driver line-up brought instant results for the Swiss-based team.

In the opening round of the 2015 Formula 1 schedule, Sauber debuted a new blue paint scheme on cars piloted by former Caterham F1 driver Marcus Ericsson and rookie Felipe Nasr. For the first time in his career in the Australian Grand Prix, Ericsson recorded a top-10 points result in Formula 1 finishing eighth. An impressive debut for the team, the Swedish driver was upstaged by his Brazilian teammate. Felipe Nasr started his Formula 1 career was a stunning fifth-place finish at Albert Park in Australia.

With only two non-finishes in 2015 after 10 races, the Sauber C34 chassis accompanied by Ferrari power has been a reliable vehicle. With exception to a gearbox problem that prevented the Brazilian from completing a single lap at the British Grand Prix, Nasr has registered the admirable rookie feat of finishing every grand prix so far in 2015. Marcus Ericsson's only retirement for 2015 occurred at the Malaysian Grand Prix caused by a spin out early in the event.

Ingredients for Second-Half of 2015:

The improvements made by the Sauber F1 team has provided the extra positions they needed to be an occasional top-10 finishing team. Coming close to some decent finishes last year in the races during second part of the season, Sauber could prevail in adding to their points tally for 2015. Sauber's reliability might also come in handy in races through the second part of 2015.

1 Racing Mind 2015 Formula 1 Mid-season Report Card: Scuderia Toro Rosso


Scuderia Toro Rosso


Team Score: B-


Max Verstappen: B-

Carlos Sainz Jr: C

Considered a farm team for Red Bull Racing, Scuderia Toro Rosso had recently been the source of both Daniel Ricciardo and Daniil Kvyat. For 2015, the team's development team roster consists of a pair of young drivers with recognizable motorsport surnames. In car #55 is Carlos Sainz Jr. (son of two-time World Rally Championship title winner Carlos Sainz). Car #33 for Toro Rosso was filled by 17-year-old Max Verstappen. Considered to be a hot future talent at such a young age, the Dutch son of former Formula 1 competitor Jos Verstappen has been watched carefully this season.

Wheeling Toro Rosso cars powered by Renault, Sainz Jr. and Verstappen quickly earned points on the Formula 1 tour. Max Verstappen scored a ninth in his debut in Australia while Carlos Sainz Jr. took his first championship points in seventh spot. While both talented, incidents have reminded observers we are watching rookie drivers. At the Monaco Grand Prix, Max Verstappen's collided with the Lotus of Romain Grosjean. Despite Verstappen claim of innocence on his part, the consensus among other drivers as well as the Formula 1 sanctioning body led to a five grid position penalty for the following race in Canada. Four races after Monaco, the Hungarian Grand Prix was the site where Max Verstappen recovered a great deal of spotlight scoring a monumental fourth-place. 
For the most part, Toro Rosso's STR10 race car has given the rookie driving pair to show off their abilities. In some Formula 1 events, the Toro Rosso cars has actually appeared better than their Red Bull Racing parent team's machines. Dramatically displayed at the Spanish Grand Prix qualifying, appearances showed up on the time sheet. Regretfully, the STR10 race cars have also retired eight times with vehicle faults contributors on most occasions.

Ingredients for Second-Half of 2015:

Scuderia Toro Rosso actually appears to have a steady package heading into the second-half of the 2015 Formula 1 season. Occasional mechanical and electrical bugs with the STR10 seem to be more of performance challenge than the rookie drivers.

1 Racing Mind 2015 Formula 1 Mid-season Report Card: Lotus F1 Team



Lotus F1 Team


Team Score: C+


Romain Grosjean: C

Pastor Maldonado: C-

In 2014, Lotus F1 Team finished in the points on only three occasions over the course of the entire season. For the first 10 races of the 2015 Formula 1 tour, the two cars of Lotus have grabbed positions in the points seven times.

Maintaining the same driver line-up of Frenchman Romain Grosjean and Venezuelan Pastor Maldonado, the credited reason for the team's increased appearance in the top-10 has been with a power unit change. Powered by Renault for 2014, Lotus has shifted to Mercedes-Benz powerplants for 2015. Performance gains were noticeable through grand prix qualifying while top-10 contending race speed and reliability has led to a more fruitful season.

Lotus F1 Team's driver pairing on two of the most checkered veterans in current Formula 1 competition. Romain Grosjean's early career was marked with some many incidents that the sanctioning body parked him for a race. Having a pole and win to his credit for the 2012 Spanish Grand Prix, Pastor Maldonado also has a reputation for making costly mistakes. Both drivers have been involved with high-profile on-track incidents that have added penalty points to their Super License (Both drivers have an active total of six points assessed to them with twelve points equating to a one-race ban). Whether trying to gain any advantage possible to outwit competitors or simply making mistakes, Grosjean and Maldonado can be an unpredictable duo.

The Lotus-Mercedes has been a fairly consistently quick car in qualifying. For the Canadian Grand Prix, Romain Grosjean qualified 5th while Pastor Maldonado started in sixth place. The effort resulted in the Lotus F1 Team's only double-point finish for 2015.

Ingredients for Second-Half of 2015: 

With 9 in-race retirements for 2015, the Lotus F1 Team has almost reached its 2014 total for DNFs. Insuring their vehicles can finish the remaining Formula 1 races with their quick but volatile drivers tamed could early lead to more top-10 race finishes for 2015.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

1 Racing Mind 2015 Formula 1 Mid-season Report Card: Sahara Force India

Photo Credit: Sahara Force India F1 Team

Team Score: C


Sergio Perez: C

Nico Hulkenberg: C

Three of the mid-marker teams in the sport are separated by just 8 points after 10 races. Leading the tight collection of constructors is Sahara Force India. Since the team's entry into Formula 1 in 2008, Force India has maintained a holding pattern within the middle of the Formula 1 grid. Before the 2015 season started, the team had many advantages on paper. Mercedes-Benz power units, adequate sponsorship as well as a driver line-up consisting of two talented wheelmen Sergio Perez and Nico Hulkenberg were aces found with front-running Formula 1 organizations. However, 2015 has done little to nothing to advance the team to the next level.

An equally matched driver line-up that was resigned for a second-consecutive year, Force India's Sergio Perez and Nico Hulkenberg has each shown strength in Formula 1 in past seasons. The 2015 tour has proven challenging to a qualified driver's morale.

For Nico Hulkenberg, his strength as a professional superstar driver was demonstrated at this year's 24 Hours of Le Mans sports car race with Porsche. A confidence boost for the German driver who only collected 24 points in the first 10 races of the 2015 Formula 1 season. In previous Formula 1 seasons with other teams, Hulkenberg made a name for himself by extracting great finishes from vehicles perceived to be weaker. Hulkenberg obtained the team's top finish in Austria with a sixth-place run and has a nine-point advantage on Perez in the drivers' standing. Sergio Perez's season in the #11 Force India-Mercedes has as the German driver topped by a seventh-place result at the Monaco Grand Prix.

Development for this season's Force India chassis has likely played a part in some lackluster efforts. The VJM08 race car was prepared later in pre-season Formula 1 testing due to changes in the way the team built the 2015 vehicle.

Ingredients for Second-Half of 2015:

Since the British Grand Prix, Sahara Force India has been competing with an updated VJM08B chassis. Launched successfully with a double-point finish at Silverstone, two retirements at the following event in Hungary resulted in only the second and third DNFs for the team in 2015. Discounting the Hungarian Grand Prix, early feedback about the refitted car is positive from the team and drivers. Faster circuits should provide Force India with an opportunity to utilize their Mercedes-Benz powerplants.

1 Racing Mind 2015 Formula 1 Mid-season Report Card: Red Bull Racing


Red Bull Racing


Team Score: C


Daniel Ricciardo: B-

Daniil Kvyat: C+

After four consecutive championships from 2010 to 2013, a new engine package appeared to have rattled the near-invincible Red Bull-Renault. Scoring three wins in 2014 season by Daniel Ricciardo, the overall performance as well as a winless season for the team's reigning championship driver Sebastian Vettel left many to consider the season as lackluster. If 2014 was considered lousy, 2015 would, for the most part, be called a disaster.

From watching the Red Bull Racing organization in the first 10 races of 2015, they're a far-cry from the team was the most-feared outfit on the grand prix circuit. The instrumental driver to Red Bull's success, Sebastian Vettel, left the team after the 2014 season for Ferrari resulting in the promotion of Russian Daniil Kvyat to the team from satellite organization Scuderia Toro Rosso. Kvyat joined Daniel Ricciardo who completed the same path to his Red Bull-Renault just one year prior. The efforts of Kvyat and Ricciardo has been exhaustive just attempting to keep their cars in point-paying positions. For the most part, the drivers succeeded resulting in five double-point finishes in the ten races this season. At the final race before the summer break for Formula 1 in 2015, Daniil Kvyat finished in a runner-up position while Daniel Ricciardo grabbed third. For Kvyat, the result could have been the Russian's most important finish in Formula 1

Much of the blame for Red Bull Racing's struggles has been directed towards the team's engine supplier Renault. Since Formula 1 adopted the latest hybrid powerplant format in 2014, concerns mounted whether the French manufacturer could compete on the same level as Mercedes-Benz. As the Red Bull Racing has been approaching the midway point in the 2015 season, rumours revolve around the team switching to Mercedes-Benz power in the future.

So far this season, the only saving grave for the Red Bull Racing team has come with two of the slowest tracks in Formula 1 at Monaco and the Hungaroring.


Ingredients for Second-Half of 2015: 

While Red Bull Racing's position of scoring points in almost every grand prix is envied by some Formula 1 outfits, the effort comes from a team that was regularly competing for podium results as early as last year. Some may consider the year for Red Bull Racing would be considered a disaster if the team cannot muster a single win before the end of the season. However, the 2015 season hasn't been an entire loss thanks to a solid driver line-up. Any possible performance improvements that could be obtained from the Renault powerplant would definitely be appreciated as Formula 1 approaches Spa-Francorchamps and Monza.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

1 Racing Mind 2015 Formula 1 Mid-season Report Card: Williams Martini Racing


Williams Martini Racing


Team Score: C


Felipe Massa: C+

Valtteri Bottas: B

The Williams Martini Racing's 2014 season was seen as a very positive year. Making the right move by choosing the Mercedes-Benz power unit last season, the team has enjoyed near-equal pace with the factory Mercedes AMG organization. Williams Martini Racing's effort biggest success was a pole for the 2014 Austrian Grand Prix. With many expecting a race victory for the team in 2014, 2015 has featured high hopes for Williams. Though a productive Formula 1 campaign in the first 10 races this season, it may not be unfair to say some were looking for bigger things from the Williams-Mercedes race cars in 2015. 

There seemed to be no fault in the decision to preserve the driver line-up after the 2014 season. Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas performed well last season and have continued to be consistent for 2015. Both Massa and Bottas have appeared on the podium with a third place finish Unfortunately, the 2015 Williams-Mercedes race car appeared is lacking the front-running pace that was presented with the 2014 vehicle.

Similar to last year, the Williams Martini Racing team's progression back to the victory lane has shown periods of weakness. Slow, handling-focused circuits such as Monaco and the Hungaroring concluded with no points being scored by either race car. In the British Grand Prix, Williams driver Massa snatched the lead from the Mercedes AMG race cars in the early stages but faded to fourth. In the second scenario, race conditions contributed to result but the finish left many within the team disappointed. Bad luck for the Williams Martini Racing also occurred at the opening round in Australia when Valtteri Bottas suffered a back injury that sidelined him for the round.

Still showing potential, the Williams-Mercedes has shown reliability and Felipe Massa has finished in the top-10 for all but two races this season. Last year by the tenth race, Massa had three DNFs. Despite missing a race, the young Bottas continues to impress currently in fourth place in the overall points standing. As a team, Williams is holding steady in third-place in the manufacturers' points.

Ingredients for Second-Half of 2015:

Last year, Williams Martini Racing's season enjoyed a very productive second-half of the schedule that resulted in six of nine podiums for 2014. With the strong Mercedes-Benz hybrid power unit and a Williams engineers that can provide a quick, well-engineered vehicle, there could be still be potential for the team to steal a win in 2015 figuring a little fortune finds the team.

1 Racing Mind 2015 Formula 1 Mid-season Report Card: Scuderia Ferrari

Photo Source: Ferrari S.p.A.,


Scuderia Ferrari


Team Score: B+


Sebastian Vettel: A

Kimi Raikkonen: C

The 2014 formula 1 campaign was largely a disaster for Ferrari. The Italian team appeared to have dealt with an unfavourable outcome related to their attempts to adjust to new powerplant regulations as well as balance problems with their car. The pains of struggle were compounded by the fact Ferrari had two proven championship drivers with Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen. 

In many respects, 2015 as being a rebuilding year for Ferrari. For a team that was used to winning, the SF15-T was the necessary improvement needed for the storied organization. Adopting a more conventional nose design than last year's F14 T, the SF15-T has attractively been seen as the second-best car on track.

Alonso left to the McLaren organization for 2015 while his vacated seat was filled by four-time World Champion Sebastian Vettel. In the first Grand Prix in Australia, Ferrari appeared to be regaining its traditional podium-contending form. At the Malaysian Grand Prix (only the second race since Vettel and Scuderia Ferrari had paired), they overcame the Mercedes AMG team cars to win. A second win for Sebastian Vettel came recently in Hungary cementing the Prancing Horse as an effective spoiler to the Silver Arrows attempt to dominate the 2015 Formula 1 season. Third place in points following 10 races, Vettel has finished in the points for all of the races in 2015 during his debut season with Ferrari.

While Vettel's arrival with Ferrari has been marked by early success, Vettel's teammate and a 2007 Formula 1 champion Kimi Raikkonen has still be trying to find contingency. Last year's return to the team he had won a world driving title has been largely disastrous for Raikkonen. Compared to 2014, 2015 has been a vast improvement for the Finnish driver topped by a runner-up position in the Bahrain Grand Prix. However, Kimi Raikkonen is well off course of some of his best Formula 1 drives. Mistakes may have cost him the potential of at least one other podium finish this season.   

Ingredients for Second-Half of 2015:

Despite Ferrari's improvements, the team is still second-best to Mercedes AMG on track. Part of Formula 1 since its inception, Ferrari has demonstrated time and time again they can overcome struggles from previous seasons. A car capable of sizzling the race track, a new, hot driver and a warming veteran could ignite the fire in making Ferrari a viable challenger to Mercedes AMG.

1 Racing Mind 2015 Formula 1 Mid-season Report Card: Mercedes AMG

Photo Credit: Mercedes AMG

Mercedes AMG

Team Score: A-

Lewis Hamilton: A
Nico Rosberg: A-

For the most part in the case of Mercedes AMG, it seems like reposting the 2014 midseason report would have sufficed. The team's pace in qualifying and under race conditions has largely been unmatched by other teams during the 2015 Formula 1 race season. Defending drivers’ champion Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg have combined to win eight races. Qualifying for the first ten grand prix races reflects pure dominance for the Mercedes AMG team as the F1 W06 Hybrid race car has sat on pole for every event.

Again this season, much of the team’s focus appears to be around Lewis Hamilton. Hamilton has won five races and nine of the ten poles for Mercedes AMG for 2015. Also just last year, Nico Rosberg has rallied to win twice. After the Hungarian Grand Prix, the German driver is only 21 points behind his reigning champion teammate. As is often the case in Formula 1 organizations with two strong drivers competing for the championship, the relationship between Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton has appeared tense on the track on occasions.

In the latest two races, some cracks have shown up in the nearly bulletproof armour Mercedes AMG wore. Poor starts by both Hamilton and Rosberg in the British Grand Prix and the Hungarian Grand Prix have actually cost them their familiar leading positions. While the effort was able to overcome the Williams Martini Racing, Mercedes AMG’s performance in Hungary was among the team’s worst in a long time. For the first time since the 2013 season, the poor start and a series of mistakes during the course of the event resulted in neither one of the Silver Arrows placing on the podium for a Formula 1 race. While Mercedes-Benz fans would celebrate the continuation of the brand’s modern dynasty in the sport, many others are eager to see an opening of a more competitive 2015 Formula 1 season.

Ingredients for Second-Half of 2015:

As apparent by the British Grand Prix and Hungarian Grand Prix races, the Mercedes AMG team cannot afford to get complacent on successes earlier in the season. Approaching the Belgian Grand Prix, it will also mark an anniversary where we saw the inter-team rivalry between Hamilton and Rosberg reach critical mass last year. Head of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport Toto Wolff will once again have a struggle on his hands if the championship battle comes down to his two team drivers.