Tech-know-crat

Your Dose of obsession from Formula 1, Flying, Travel, Football, Watches, Collectibles and everything inspirational everywhere in daily life

Posts for Tag: GP

The Driver Merry-Go-Round... Musical Chairs in a Lockdown!

The 2020 F1 Season which was due to commence in March got postponed in the light of the pandemic COVID-19 which has wreaked havoc across the world. The calendar has been modified with the mid-summer break being preponed and the FIA hoping to have 15 to 16 race weekends in 2020.

The entire F1 Fraternity is in a state of lockdown but can there ever be calm and stillness in the world of F1??

There is a lot of paddock chatter at the start of every season about drivers moving to different teams, contracts being extended and hints being dropped to the media over every race weekend. The picture becomes clearer only during the mid-summer break, the time around which I used to make the Driver lineup predictions for the upcoming season. 

There have been major updates about Driver Lineups for 2021 since the past week, 2 of the biggest announcements coming in today. 


The 3 Major Announcements this week :

Sebastian Vettel will leave Scuderia Ferrari F1 Team at the end of the 2020 season, Daniel Ricciardo signs for McLaren F1 Team with a multi-year deal while Carlos Sainz Jr. makes the jump into the Ferrari seat vacated by Vettel!



The onset of the pandemic meant that no team was able to show their true capability. The FIA also decided to postpone the Technical Regulation overhaul which was due in 2021 to 2022. This means that teams would majorly run the same cars in 2021 ( as they would in a truncated 2020 season ) with their customary upgrades coming in in-season. This also means that drivers who are switching seats will carry vital R&D information to their new teams and this could bring the grid closer and make 2021 even more exciting.  


Let us have a look at teams who have their lineups confirmed and those which still have drives available.


Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team :

Mercedes have been the most successful team of the Turbo Era and the partnership of Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas ( since 2017 ) ensured that supremacy is maintained. Both are out of contract for 2021 though and there are a lot of takers for the best seats on the grid. Lewis Hamilton, the 6 Time World Champion and Mercedes' Prized Asset was rumoured to have been offered a deal by Ferrari but all the speculation came to an end after the appointment of Carlos Sainz Jr. today. Hamilton is capable of winning more titles and hasn't lost his edge, so staying put is the logical decision. Mercedes should announce the renewal of his contract soon.

Bottas, who was earlier managed by Toto Wolff, the Team Principal and CEO of the team has been through a hat-trick of one-year contract extensions with the team. The availability of Sebastian Vettel for 2021 means that Bottas' chances of contract extension are again down to his performances in 2020 ( if we go racing ). The chances of losing his seat seem bleak ( for now ) but if his performances aren't up to the mark then the team might have to do a rethink and probably convince Vettel ( if he is contemplating retirement ).  

If Mercedes were to consider signing the 4-time world champion ( Vettel ), Bottas would be relegated to a team further down the grid. Renault F1 Team would be the best bet in that case since Mercedes' Esteban Ocon got the nod for a drive in 2020 thanks to the efforts of Toto Wolff ( who might manage Bottas again if he is on the way out ). A lot hinges on what transpires on track for the Finn.  


There is George Russell as well ( who is a part of the team's driver program ) but is contracted at Williams till the end of 2021. The 2018 F2 Champion is a fantastic driver but will need more grooming before he is ready for the big jump.



Scuderia Ferrari F1 Team :

Carlos Sainz Jr. comes in to replace Sebastian Vettel for 2021 and will partner Charles Leclerc. Charles Leclerc had a great maiden season at Ferrari beating his more experienced team-mate and a 4 time World Champion in Vettel. He is the future and the team hope to see him as Champion one day!

Vettel joined Ferrari in 2015 with the dream of winning a championship with them, just like his idol Michael Schumacher. 5 years have passed and the dream is yet to be fulfilled. 2020 will be his last chance if we do have any races. Pre-season tests weren't the most encouraging but a lot can change at races ( as seen in the past ). Vettel had a lot more on his plate during his time at Ferrari than at Red Bull. There were frequent changes in the top brass, strategy calls weren't at their best, there were mechanical failures and then there were rookie mistakes at pivotal moments by the driver himself. He had to do a lot more within the team than just racing and that can take a toll on any individual. Not much has changed as is evident from the results of 2019. Vettel also knows that he might not have preferential status ( which was never the case despite public admission by the team ) and decided against renewing his contract. It is interesting to note that he took this decision after spending just one season with Leclerc as team-mate which hints at the fact that all was not well between them ( similar to his only season with Ricciardo in Red Bull in 2014 ).

What next for Sebastian Vettel :

Vettel still has the will to win. He is one of the top drivers on the grid and with the right team of people around him, can easily bring home his 5th World Title. The only teams capable of giving him those setups are Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 and Red Bull Racing F1, his former employers. Going elsewhere doesn't make sense. Dr Helmut Marko has made it clear that Red Bull has no vacancy for Vettel. Mercedes AMG F1 have won 6 Constructors Championships in a row with their prized asset Lewis Hamilton winning 5 Champions in the Turbo Era! Valtteri Bottas in the other seat is out of contract at the end of 2020. 

Would Mercedes want to have 2 serious contenders for the title in each of their cars? It would be a dream lineup but such a move seems highly improbable since Hamilton will have a say in such a decision. It could lead to stressful times and even clashes, something that was a regular feature during the Hamilton-Rosberg partnership from 2014 to 2016. Bottas who joined in 2017 has done a fine job as a dutiful team-mate, keeping the best interests of the team always. He has had his fair share of wins but can't match the class of a Hamilton. Hamilton and Bottas share a great equation, so why change something that works? If Vettel was to move to Mercedes...then where would Bottas go? ( Renault probably )

I feel Sebastian Vettel will take a sabbatical from the sport. It would be really sad to not see a 4 time World Champion on the grid. I hope I am wrong.


What's in Store for Carlos Sainz Jr?

Carlos Sainz Jr. has worked hard to get a top drive. A product of the Red Bull Driver Program, he partnered Max Verstappen who was chosen over him for promotion to the A-Team ( in-season in 2016 ) by Red Bull. He stayed with Toro Rosso ( now Alpha Tauri ) until his switch in-season to Renault F1 in 2017 and then stayed with them for 2018. He did an exceptional job for McLaren F1 Team ( his employers in 2019 ), bagging a podium, a feat achieved by them after 2072 days and finishing 6th in the Drivers' Standings ( Best of the rest ) in a highly competitive year. He was termed as "hot property" and McLaren chased the others away by signing him on a multi-year deal till 2022. Ferrari would have paid a hefty amount to McLaren to fulfil the exit clause on his contract.

The Spanish Media is overjoyed with this news, evident from the series of tweets which were like a countdown to the official announcement of his appointment ( on  Movistar F1 Reporter Noemi di Miguel's Twitter Handle ). The Spaniard is following the footsteps of his hero and double world champion Fernando Alonso and I am sure he will be a handful at Ferrari! He needed the drive to show what he is truly capable of...THIS IS HIS CHANCE! We wish the best for Carlos Sainz Jr...

Ferrari will have relatively younger drivers in their lineup, something that goes against their tradition of having a mix of youth and experience. Hope they can develop a strong package for 2021 and beyond. 

Daniel Ricciardo was another contender for this seat ( equally worthy of it and a multiple race winner ) but I think he would have decided against it because Leclerc enjoys the same amount of attention that Verstappen does at Red Bull. He also saved himself from the politics that come with bagging a seat at Ferrari.   


McLaren F1 Team :

McLaren is on the move, they have been improving since their switch to Renault Power from 2018 and 2019 saw them finish in a strong position ( 4th ) in the Constructors' Standings. They will be powered by Mercedes Benz from 2021 onwards, the return of the iconic "McLaren Mercedes" Partnership - reminiscent of the days of Mika Hakkinen, David Coulthard and a young Kimi Raikkonen! The switch to Mercedes power was due to the new technical regulations but due to the postponement of the same, considerable amount of work will be required on their 2020/21 chassis to accommodate the 2021 spec Mercedes Unit. 


Lando Norris, the McLaren protegee will be partnered by Daniel Ricciardo who makes his way from Renault F1 Team in 2021. Norris had a decent rookie year but will need to iron out the mistakes to bring the team closer to the top and ensure he enjoys an upper hand in the intra-team battle.


Daniel Ricciardo switched to Renault F1 at the start of the 2019 season on a 2 year deal with the hope to be part of a Factory Works Team that can return to winning ways. 2019 wasn't smooth sailing for either with experts and fans questioning the reason behind such a move. His switch to McLaren coincides with the arrival of the reliable and multi championship-winning Mercedes engine in 2021. This could be the boost that the team needs to propel themselves to the sharp end of the grid. Daniel Ricciardo was the driver of choice to land the Ferrari Seat ( for most of us ) but this switch isn't such a bad deal after all. He might not be in a Championship winning car yet but will be able to bag podiums and an occasional win. Will 2022 be the same? That is another matter.

Ricciardo and Norris are great entertainers in the world of F1 and the prospect of having them as team-mates will add more fans to an already popular and well-known team!


 


Red Bull Racing F1 Team :

Red Bull Racing F1 had some tough decisions to make in 2019. Pierre Gasly who had landed the drive alongside Max Verstappen had to be demoted to Scuderia Toro Rosso ( now known as Scuderia Alpha Tauri ) mid-season due to inconsistent performances. Alexander Albon, a rookie got the nod and he didn't disappoint. His performances warranted him a drive in 2020 but come 2021, that seat is once again up for grabs! Max Verstappen is the team leader and his contract extension of 3 years indicate he wants to win Championships at Red Bull. The one who comes on board as his team-mate will need to be equally good if not better since both drivers need to score big in the team's quest to win the Constructors' title again. 


The Contenders - Alexander Albon, Daniil Kvyat & Pierre Gasly. The trio has had a stint with the A-Team and is aware of the standards that need to be set to remain in that seat. 

If we don't have any racing in 2020, then the seat by default should land with Albon. The young Thai Driver has impressed the bosses with his consistent drives and almost bagged a podium in Brazil but to be taken out by Hamilton on the penultimate lap last year. 

Daniil Kvyat and Pierre Gasly ( after his demotion ) made a strong case for themselves in 2019, bagging a podium each. 2020 is the best chance to win back the trust of the top brass. Dr Helmut Marko, the head of the Red Bull Driver Program admitted that Kvyat was back in the reckoning for the Red Bull Seat after his performances in 2019 and Red Bull will take their time ( probably till the end of 2020 ) before making a decision. Dr Helmut Marko also shunned the possibility of Sebastian Vettel returning to Red Bull.


Albon is the favourite for 2021 ( according to me ).


 


Scuderia Alpha Tauri F1 Team :

Scuderia Alpha Tauri, Red Bull's "B" Team, has been a great launchpad for drivers of Red Bull's Driver Programme. The departures of Carlos Sainz Jr. and Daniel Ricciardo from the programme have seen their options dwindle. The most promising youngster in their ranks is the Estonian Juri Vips but he is still a year or two away from an F1 Drive. This leaves Red Bull with Alexander Albon, Daniil Kvyat and Pierre Gasly. Albon stays in the A team for 2020 while the other two are retained by Alpha Tauri. 

The trio is in the reckoning for the Red Bull Seat for 2021, so the pair that misses out is likely to be retained by the team for 2021. Red Bull can look outside their program and rope in the services of the next F2 Champion ( if he isn't of any other programme ) or sign another capable F2 driver. Too early to make that call and we shall have a better picture once racing in 2020 kicks off.   


( Jehan Daruvala, the Indian Racer in F2 has also been recruited to the Red Bull Junior Team )



Renault Sport F1 Team :

Renault Sport F1 had a challenging 2019. They snapped up the services of Esteban Ocon (2-year contract ) after he was released by Mercedes. Daniel Ricciardo was also offered a long term contract but the talks fell apart and the Australian moved to McLaren F1. 


The empty Renault seat is now a hotbed for speculation. They aren't where they should be but as a works team have a lot of resources and manpower to turn things around. This will attract the attention of the extremely talented but currently on a sabbatical, Fernando Alonso. Alonso had 2 fantastic stints with Renault, winning back to back Championships in 2005 and 2006. He knows the team well, knows how they operate and has the skill set to help them diagnose issues and turn things around. His experience will be invaluable. He will also be a great mentor to a younger Ocon. 


Valtteri Bottas is another option if Mercedes were to release him in 2021. He would have a fair amount of experience and bring in vital knowledge which could help the team build a formidable challenger next year. We shall know soon. The team must weigh all their option before making any decision.


The recently released Nico Hulkenberg is also an option for the team. The German failed to capitalize whenever an opportunity arose and might not bring anything new to the table...so his chances of being re-signed are low.


Renault lost the services of F2 Driver Jack Aitken ( who was their reserve driver ) to Williams but they have a good pool of talented drivers who will eventually be F1 worthy soon. 




Racing Point F1 Team :

Sergio Perez, the faithful one, announced that he would be sticking with the team for another 3 years. Lance Stroll's contract is due for renewal at the end of 2020 but he is likely to stay put. His Billionaire Father Lawrence Stroll has invested heavily in the team after saving it from going into administration in 2018. His acquisition of the Aston Martin brand brings an added impetus. There is a new factory on the way in 2021 and the team will be rechristened as Aston Martin Racing F1, so long term plans are already in place. There have also been reports of Toto Wolff, the current team principal and CEO of Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 moving to the team since he holds a stake in Aston Martin. I see it as highly improbable. Mercedes will do everything to retain their winning combination.

On the Driver Front, it seems the pairing of Sergio Perez and Lance Stroll will stay. The team need continuity in this rebuilding phase and the duo offer a right mix of Experience and Youth.



Haas F1 Team :

Haas F1 persisted with Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean for 2020. It was a big surprise to retain the duo because they don't get along and have brought a fair share of pain to the team with their on-track errors and tiffs. They need to improve their performances in 2020 to help the team come back up and make the bosses view the team's participation in the sport as a profitable and feasible venture. Both drivers are out of contract in 2020 and I see Grosjean being released by the team.  


Magnussen is feisty but is more consistent of the two which tips the scales in his favour. I see him being retained for 2021.


Nico Hulkenberg will be a great option for the team. The German was initially resistant to a move lower down the grid but was willing to bend to save his F1 Career last year. Haas had made their decision by then. They should consider him for 2021 though. He is quick and more dependable than their current lineup. His not-so-amicable interactions with Magnussen ( in the past ) will pose a hurdle should the team have such a pairing.   

I see Louis Deletraz ( a Renault protegee ) and Haas' test driver for 2020 as another contender for the seat. The promotion will hinge on his performances in F2 where he has been racing for the past 4 years and improving steadily. 



Alfa Romeo Racing Orlen F1 Team :

Alfa Romeo is going through a massive rebuilding phase. Kimi Raikkonen provided them with a mini-revival of sorts in the first half of 2019 but the lack of updates sent them backwards in the second half. Antonio Giovinazzi, on the other hand, had a much better second half with performances improving with each passing race. The duo was retained for 2020 but come 2021, both seats will be up for grabs at this team.


Antonio Giovinazzi deserves a drive in 2021. One must remember that he hadn't raced competitively for 2 years and he will go from strength to strength in 2020. He has the skills to be in a top team and Scuderia Ferrari will be closely monitoring his progress..who knows he might eventually get the call up to partner Leclerc in the Prancing Horse!


Kimi Raikkonen, my hero, is in the twilight of his glorious career and 2020 is slated to be his last year in F1. We are yet to go racing in 2020 and the delay of the new regulations to 2022 might tempt him to stay on for another year at Alfa Romeo. The team that gave him his debut way back in 2002 have reiterated that he is free to race with them as long as he wants, his expertise being pivotal in their revival. He has also been mentoring his team-mate with regards to racing in F1.


There are a few talents from the Ferrari Drivers' Program waiting in the wings should a seat become available - Mick Schumacher, the son of the legendary Michael Schumacher has been fast-tracked into F2, Callum Illot ( who tested for the team last year ), Marcus Armstrong and the F3 Champion of 2019 Robert Schwartzman.




Rokit Williams F1 Racing Team :

Williams F1, one of the oldest teams of the sport have lost their way in the Turbo Era. There have been the slowest on the grid for quite some time but there are glimpses of hope from the results in the second half of 2019. George Russell, the 2018 F2 Champion is retained and contracted till the end of 2021 while Nicolas Latifi, the 2019 F2 Runner Up bagged the second seat for 2020. He brings a significant amount of funding with him, something desperately needed at the team and this will work in his favour for 2021.

If Mercedes were to exercise the option of hiring George Russell in 2021, then Williams has a considerable pool of talent from their programme to replace the Brit - Reserve Car Driver Jack Aitken, Dan Ticktum, Roy Nissany and even Jamie Chadwick who could bring the return of females into F1 after 43 years!



I think Nyck de Vries, the 2019 F2 Champion also deserves a special mention. The talented Dutchman who finally won the coveted title couldn't find a drive for 2020 ( quite unfortunate ) and is plying his trade in Formula E. I do hope that he is considered by some team and doesn't fade into oblivion like Davide Valsecchi, the 2012 GP2 Champion!

I would love to see him in the Black and Yellow of Renault F1 and if he does...then remember that you first read it here!


The 2020 F1 Season hasn't even kicked off and it feels like 2021 is already upon us. The news of Drivers with New Drives have made many of us forget that they still have a full season of racing left with their current teams! Time is flying by in 2020.

Such has been these lockdowns in the time of COVID-19.... and the F1 Fraternity have been playing Musical Chairs!

The F1 Travel Guide : Suzuka Circuit, Japan

Japan is one motorsports crazy nation! Their passion for motorsport can easily rival that of the Europeans. The Land of the Rising Sun boasts of some legendary tracks - Fuji Speedway, Suzuka Circuit & Twin Ring Motegi which host races both on two wheels and four!

Suzuka Circuit has seen some memorable races over the years..be it the battles between Senna and Prost, the victories of Michael Schumacher and Mika Hakkinen or the unbelievable win of Kimi Raikkonen in 2005 after starting 17th on the grid and setting the circuit lap record in that race! Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 won the Constructors' Champions for the 2019 Season also at Suzuka! 

Degners, Dunlop Curve, 130R are some of the iconic portions of the track and have seen some stunning overtakes over the years! Rains, a regular feature due to frequent occurrences of Typhoons make it one of the toughest circuits to race at!

I had the privilege of attending this race in 2019 and unfortunately, all sessions on Saturday had to be cancelled due to the onset of the Super Typhoon named "Hagibis". 

I would like to share my travel recommendations for those who plan to pay a visit in the future!


The Circuit Layout :


Official Website :


Location :

The circuit is situated in the Town of Suzuka, in the Mie Prefecture ( Province ). It is a small industrial town but well connected by road and rail to other parts of Japan. The town does seem to get overwhelmed by the congregation of Fans over the F1 Race Weekend since the circuit can accommodate more than 150000! Its another one of those "old school" tracks capable of running races in 5 different configurations ( catering to various other racing series )!


Closest Airports :

Chubu Centrair International Airport ( NGO ) is the closest airport to Suzuka, situated near the city of Nagoya. It has connections to multiple international destinations. Those planning to travel from India can fly on Cathay Pacific ( via Hong Kong ) or Singapore Airlines to Nagoya. Nagoya is also connected with other cities of Japan by domestic carriers ( although its best to use trains to commute inter-city )

Osaka Kansai International Airport ( KIX ) is one of the major International Hubs in Japan with a wide range of connections to the Americas, Australia, Europe and the Rest of Asia. 

Tokyo Narita International Airport ( NRT ) and Tokyo Haneda International Airport ( HND ) are the furthest but offer more connections than any other airport listed above. Tokyo Narita was the airport of choice for me. The national airline All Nippon Airways ( ANA ) offers direct flights from multiple cities to Tokyo with the option of onward connections to Nagoya.

I opted to fly ANA from Mumbai to Tokyo Narita. The experience is shared here :

https://tech-know-crat.posthaven.com/the-flying-diaries-bom-nrt-bom-ana-business



Where To Stay :

The Town of Suzuka has very limited options for accommodation ( which are sold out on race weekends every year ) so its best to find a room in cities like Nagoya or Osaka.  There is a camping facility at the circuit.  

There are a few F1 personnel, media reporters who prefer the town of Yokkaichi which is only 10 km from Suzuka but the story there is no different. Nagoya which is only 50 km away is the best bet for fans with options for all budgets! Osaka is a bigger city but it increases the commute time to the circuit ( more on that later ). Barring a couple of hotels ( adjoining the Central Stations of either city ), all others offer really good prices for stays over the weekend.

Nagoya was the city of choice for me and I stayed at the ANA Crowne Plaza in the area of Kanayama in Nagoya. Kanayama is only a station away from Nagoya's main terminal. The City has a great transport network along with multiple options for wining, dining and shopping! It isn't rare to meet some famous face from the F1 Fraternity on the streets of Nagoya! 


Japanese Rail Network :

I would like to share some info on the Japanese Rail Network before I get to "Circuit Access" since this information will be of great assistance to many. When I drew up plans to be at the Japanese GP, I was pretty apprehensive about using Rail Networks in Japan. At first, it felt so confusing that I almost gave up on the idea of attending the race. However, my good friend & avid F1 Traveller Mr Raul Martinez who had been to Suzuka a few times allayed all my fears and apprehensions over a telephonic conversation; having experienced first-hand the efficiency, the quality and the ease of use of Japan Rail, I can say that they have one of the best rail networks of the world. 


I chose to fly into Tokyo Narita ( as mentioned earlier ) even though it was the furthest of all airports from Suzuka ( pricing and flight connections were the reasons ). The airports in Tokyo or Osaka are outside city limits. 

Both airports operate Airport Express Trains to bring travellers into the city centre ( the most economical, fastest way and used by almost everyone ). There are Taxis, Uber and private car hire but they are very expensive! 


Shinkansen or Bullet Trains are used to travel inter-city. There are 3 types of Shinkansen :

Nozomi: the fastest and stops at major cities only

Hikari: slower than Nozomi and has more stops

Kodama: stops at all stations, the slowest train services.

Tickets are of 2 types: Open Date & Fixed Date with 2 classes on offer ( Ordinary and Green ). Information for these tickets is given on their website ( mentioned below ).


Tickets for the Airport Express and Inter-City Shinkansen are available online on :

https://shinkansen-ticket.com/


Like many countries, Japan Rail offers a Pass called the JR Pass ( Ordinary & Green ) which allows nationwide travel for a limited time ( 7, 14 & 21 days ) to foreigners. Travellers can reserve seats from any JR Office after producing their pass at the booking office. JR Pass is eligible for use on Hikari and Kodama trains.

Nozomi Shinkansen is not included in the JR Pass and tickets for those trains have to be purchased separately.


All information on the JR Pass can be found on this website :

https://japan-jr-pass.com/


Rail Tickets and JR Passes can be delivered to other countries ( shipping fee applies ), to hotels or the nearest post offices in Japan. 


The journey from Tokyo Narita International Airport to Nagoya :

I purchased a Green Ticket on Narita Express up to Tokyo Central and a Green Ticket on a Nozomi train to Nagoya

Travel time on the Narita Express is approximately one hour. Tokyo Central is a pretty big station and can get confusing. Its advisable to travel up to Shinagawa Station ( on the Narita Express ) instead of where connecting to inter-city Shinkansen is easier. The Nozomi train to Nagoya takes about one hour forty minutes.

Tickets were purchased from the Shinkansen Website and I opted for delivery to the Post Office at Narita International Airport. It is important to ensure one has ample time at hand while selecting trains from Narita Airport and Tokyo Central / Shinagawa Stations so that there is no last-minute rush for ticket collection or connections.

The journey from Osaka Kansai to Nagoya is no different... Haruka Airport Express from Kansai Airport to Shin-Osaka Station and then a Shinkansen Service to Nagoya.


Important Tip : 

There are 2 Prepaid cards ( Suica and Pasmo ) which can be used for Rail, Bus, taxi services and even for shopping within Tokyo and Nagoya ( similar to an Oyster Card in London ). I used a Suica Card purchased from one of the vending machines at Tokyo Central. A card costs 2000 yen, which includes a refundable deposit of 500 yen and 1500 yen is immediately available for train rides. These are available at any JR East Station ( only within Tokyo, so get one before leaving for Nagoya )

Do note that the cards issued at the Airports are against non-refundable deposits.

Leg 2 of the journey ( Nagoya to Suzuka ) will be shared in the Circuit Access Section.


There is the cheaper option of using a bus as well to commute to and fro from the airport and inter-city :



Circuit Access :

The fastest way to get to the circuit is by train. We did try a car hire ( a friend had already booked one ) on Friday but the journey was long and the bottleneck near the circuit meant that we missed a good part of Free Practice 1. We ditched it for the tried and tested Rail Option. There are taxis available to and fro from the circuit but they are the most expensive option.


The journey from Nagoya to Suzuka Circuit ( Leg 2 ):

Kintetsu Railways ( regional railway ) offer train services from both Nagoya to Shiroko Station, which is the nearest station to the circuit on this line. Both Express and Limited Express Trains ply on this route at frequent intervals. The trip takes about 40 to 50 minutes ( depending on the train ). It is best to purchase a Rail Pass for the entire weekend. There are shuttle buses every 15 minutes to take the fans to the main circuit gate. Taxis are also available at the station (which can drop VIP guests at the Paddock Club parking for their shuttle), be prepared to queue up for both options. ( Sunday evening is the worst hit )

More Details of the Rail Pass here :

https://www.kintetsu.co.jp/foreign/english/ticket/


The journey from Osaka to Suzuka Circuit :

Fans can also travel from Osaka-Namba Station via Kintetsu Railways to Shiroko. There is a direct service as well as one with a transfer via Tsu Station. One needs to reserve seats a day in advance even with a rail pass. The fastest journey takes about 100 minutes. 

It is best to stay at Nagoya and use a service from there.


Japan Railways Trains to Suzuka :

There is another station called Suzuka Circuit Inou which is also connected by rail to Nagoya. This line is operated by another company called Japan Railways. There are express trains tagged as "Suzuka Grand Prix" that run non-stop from Nagoya to Suzuka Inou. Reservations need to be made a day before travel. JR Pass ( mentioned earlier ) can be used for a partial portion of the journey on this route. However, it is a 30-minute walk to the circuit from the station and not such a popular option. 


 

F1 Village, Fan Zones :

The circuit has multiple merchandising outlets and the largest concentration of stores is near the circuit's main entrance ( closest to the final corner and pit grandstands ). These stores offer Circuit Merchandise, Support Races Merchandise, F1 Teams Merchandise and even Model Cars! The stores are well stocked and run late into Sunday night. Prices of some products are cheaper than those sold at races in Europe.  

Remember to carry sufficient cash since ATMs are limited around a track. Comfortable walking shoes and wet weather gear are equally important. 

Past the Ticket Scanning Gates, we have a huge F1 Village...known as the GP Square, behind the main grandstand area. It can easily rival F1 Villages at newer circuits. Each Team has its merchandising stalls and most of them are crowded! Kimi Raikkonen is the most popular driver and the Alfa Romeo merchandising stores were empty by Friday Afternoon! The F1 Store also puts up its kiosk and there are many unique products on sale, so do visit them. 

Fan Zones are pretty crowded. There are F1 Driver Appearances throughout the weekend and concerts are held every evening. Simulators, Pit Stop Challenges, Batak Machines are a regular feature. Food Outlets are reasonably priced ( both in GP Square and behind other stands ) with both local and western delicacies. Queues can be pretty long during peak hours of dining. 


Fan Experiences :

3-day Ticket Holders are eligible for a pit-lane walk on Thursdays. There is also a Drivers' Autograph session which is open only to ballot winners. There are multiple walks across various sections of the track at different times over the weekend. Refer the Circuit Website for more details. The circuit also offers "Free Friday" where fans can sit in any grandstand on a Friday (except for the Upper Grandstand ). This is a great opportunity to take in different views of the circuit. There is a trackside commentary both in English and the local language over the radio. 

F1 Experiences offer Pit Lane Walks, Paddock Guided Tours, Parade Truck Track Tours, Photo-op with Trophies and even Hot Laps ( in supercars driven by a racer ) of the track!

A Ride on the Iconic Ferris Wheel cannot be missed. The Wheel offers great views of the track and gets busier on the weekend. Best to visit on Thursday or Friday. 

I also plan on visiting their Amusement park and try the newly launched EV Attraction which one can drive on the F1 Track! ( details on Circuit Website )


Japanese People :

Suzuka is an iconic track but what makes it even more special are the fans who gather to witness their favourite sport! The Japanese are extremely polite, helpful and law-abiding citizens. They find innovative ways of expressing their love for the sport - from cardboard F1 Car hats, DRS Rear Wing hats, quirky helmets, cardboard cutouts of favourite drivers to having families dressed in replica racing overalls! They are extremely knowledgeable, respectful and will go that extra mile to help visitors. I was truly humbled meeting such an amazing race. They truly deserve a special mention!


Suzuka was a memorable experience. Once is not enough! I do hope to pay this country and circuit another visit in 2020 and explore more so that I can share more...God willing! 

The F1 Travel Guide : Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium

Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps is the home of The Belgian Grand Prix every year. Many drivers rate it as the best circuit on the calendar.  Kimi Raikkonen, my racing hero, earned the title of "King of Spa" for his brilliant performances here.

I have had the privilege of attending 4 races here - 2015, 2017, 2018 & 2019 and each experience was unique. Nestled in the Ardennes mountains, the track offers views that can only be rivalled by The Red Bull Ring in Spielberg, Austria and even then the latter might not appeal to all. Iconic turns like Eau Rouge, Raidillon, Les Combes, La Source, Blanchimont, the Bus Stop dot this legendary circuit, a great many battles have been fought here. The weather is very unpredictable with instances of heavy rain in one sector and bright sunshine in another. The 1998 & 2008 Belgian GPs were testaments to the weather playing havoc. The track also offered quite a lot of challenges with regards to marshalling and extrication of stricken cars due to its old-school layout but its a circuit like no other!

This circuit will kickstart my "F1 Travel Guide" series!!


The Circuit Layout :


Official Website :

https://www.spa-francorchamps.be/en


Location :

The Circuit is located in the town of Stavelot, close to a town called Spa ( the town famous for the Mineral Water company called Spa ) in the region of Wallonia. Nestled in the Ardennes Region, it is also close to the Nurburgring and its older brother Nordschleife ( better known as the Green Hell ) circuits situated on the German side of the hilly region ( also worth a visit ). 


Closest Airports :

International Airports :

Brussels Airport ( BRU ) is a major hub for all international airlines, serving most European Routes, The Americas, Middle-East and Asia. 

I fly Emirates to Brussels via Dubai, multiple connections every day! The Experience is shared here :

https://tech-know-crat.posthaven.com/the-flying-diaries-bom-bru-bom-emirates-first


Dusseldorf Airport ( DUS ) is another major hub ( on the German side ) catering to all the above routes as well.

Cologne Bonn Airport ( CGN ), is closer than Dusseldorf but offers limited connections to the region via the Middle-East.


Intra-Continental Airports :

Liege Airport ( LGG ) & Maastricht Aachen Airport ( MUS ), The closest Airports to the circuit offering limited connections via Spain.

Luxembourg Airport ( LUX ) caters to multiple destinations within Europe through various national and low-cost carriers.

Brussels South Charleroi Airport ( CRL ) is another hub for low-cost carriers in the city of Brussels.


There are a few other major airports like Frankfurt, Paris, Amsterdam, Dortmund but I wouldn't recommend them since they go beyond the 200 km radius of Spa-Francorchamps.



Where to stay :

The Towns of Spa, Stavelot, Verviers, Malmedy, Theux are the closest to the circuit and offer a lot of options from Hotels to Inns, Chalets and B&Bs. The rates are inflated over the race weekend and it is highly recommended to book at least 6 months in advance to get a good deal ( most of these are non-refundable rates ). The town of Spa is full of F1 Drivers & Personnel and many oblige those waiting with an autograph or a selfie! Camping is very popular in Europe and the circuit has some fantastic camping sites for those who prefer to bring in their RVs or set up a camping spot over the weekend. 

There is also a Hotel "de La Source" near Turn 1 of the circuit but its sold out ( almost always ) on the race dates. There are other inns and B&Bs near the circuit but be wary of the exorbitant rates over an F1 weekend. 

I prefer giving all the above a miss...


The circuit is also close to big cities like Liege ( Belgium ), Aachen ( Germany ), Maastricht ( Netherlands ) and Hasselt ( Belgium ). Hasselt is the furthest of the lot with the commuting time from the other three being only about 35 to 40 minutes. I haven't stayed at Liege ( yet ) ( haven't heard great reports about safety either ) but Liege is yet another town that fills up pretty quickly for the race weekend. Maastricht and Aachen see a great number of F1 fans and can cater to all budgets. Aachen is the livelier of the two with a mini Oktoberfest happening on the same weekend as F1. Maastricht boasts of equally good restaurants and bars and one can easily become a part of conversations over a drink or a meal! All these cities are well connected to the circuit by rail and the circuit organisers also offer a shuttle service to the track. 

More details on the circuit shuttle here: https://www.spagrandprix.com/en/tickets-city-shuttle 

The above shuttle can cater to fans coming in from Brussels or Amsterdam as well but one must be wary of the travel time which is 4 hours each way. This only gets longer on a Sunday!


Hasselt is my city of choice for the weekend. I have stayed in the city twice ( 2017 and 2019 ). It is only about an hour away from the circuit and offers great hotels at very economical rates. A Park Inn by Radisson costs about 50 Euros a night and there are some options even around the 20 25 Euro mark! The city is also the birthplace of the Rising Dutchman Max Verstappen.

The city has quite an interesting layout, designed in a circular shape...one can go around the bustling parts of town and come back to the starting point easily. The city has some fantastic places to wine and dine, not to forget the bakeries offering Speculoos, the spiced shortcrust biscuit! My friends and I drove down through the weekend and navigation in and out was easy with a parking pass. However, do note that the city isn't covered under the shuttle bus service ( so maybe one can pay the town a visit post or pre-race weekend ).

The cities of Cologne and Luxembourg are 2 other options that are well connected both by rail and shuttle. I did stay in the former during the weekend of the 2013 German GP held at Nurburgring but if one doesn't hire a car, I wouldn't recommend staying there.


Circuit Access :

The circuit isn't the easiest the get to, the expansive layout of the circuit and the forests surrounding it pose a considerable challenge with regards to navigating your way around the track. It can house around 70000 spectators with the stands majorly being around the start-finish straight, the Bus Stop, La Source and Eau Rouge and Raidillon sections. The other areas are general admission viewing areas and a good level of fitness is required to hike up and down the various pathways in and around the circuit. Some spots offer unparalleled views of the circuit so it is worth the effort! The weather is unpredictable ( as mentioned earlier ), so be prepared for the heat, the cold or the rain!

Over the F1 weekend, there are a lot of access restrictions and parking spots can be quite a long walk from certain stands. There is a circuit shuttle which helps reduce commute but is infrequent. Its highly recommended that one studies the circuit map well and opts for appropriate parking passes. There are taxi stands as well but they tend to be overcrowded on evenings (especially post-race ), so its best to wait until a couple of hours after the sessions ( or race ) to easily hail one. If you do hail a taxi to the circuit then be prepared to walk for 30 minutes to reach the grandstands or the paddock club parking area. The Paddock Club runs a shuttle for the VIP guests from thereon. 


F1 Village, Fan Zones :

One of the most frequented zones/areas of an F1 track are the Merchandising shops. There are stores spread across the track and some on the approach road to the Main gate of La Source. There is a heavy concentration of stores at that roundabout, even watches ( Casio Edifice ) are sold there. Those were the only stores selling Alfa - Romeo F1 Merchandise.

The largest concentration of stores ( catering to almost all needs ) is at the F1 Village which is on the outside of the circuit between La Source and Eau Rouge. A lot of Fan events such as performances, drivers' meet and greet, F1 Personnel Interviews and games like Simulator Skills test, Pit Stop or Batak Challenges are held. Those who ace the F1 Simulators get couple passes of the Paddock Club for Sunday! There are a lot of food stalls and Beer Stations along with lounging areas for fans to enjoy the action on track thanks to the giant screens put up there. I have never missed visiting this village, one of the largest on the calendar.


Fan Experiences :

A Pit Lane walk is offered on Thursday to the 3 Day ticket holders. Its a once in a lifetime experience for many. You even get to walk the track and some have been fortunate enough to meet their favourite drivers on their track walks! There are also Drivers' Autograph sessions, details for which are shared by the organisers closer to the dates. It is imperative to reach early to bag that special sign and possibly a selfie with the best in the world of motorsport! F1 Experiences, the official hospitality partner to F1's worldwide races offers various packages and upgrades to existing tickets...these include guided paddock tours, a photo-op with the Race Winning Trophy on Pit Straight, a tour of the Track on the Parade Truck.. a great way to add to the memories made over the weekend.

Finally, the fans are allowed to enter the track after the end of the race and when deemed safe by the marshalls ( better known as "track invasion" ). This is a must-do! I had the privilege of walking up the entire length of Eau Rouge and Raidillon in 2015 and the elevation change is unbelievable!



Apologies in advance for missing any other detail. I shall update this article/guide when I make another visit to the track...the chances of this in 2020 seem bleak..but we hope for the best! Stay home, Stay Safe everyone!

 

2020 F1 Season Preview - Now or Never!

The 2019 F1 Season saw new challengers to the crown. It even produced some stunning races at Germany and Brazil where the title favourites came up short. However, at the end of it all,  Mercedes AMG Petronas and Lewis Hamilton reigned supreme..for the sixth time.

The sport celebrates 70 years of racing in 2020. It is the last year before there is an overhaul of technical regulations by the FIA to bring more parity to the playing field. 2020 also sees a couple of driver changes - Esteban Ocon comes in to replace Nico Hulkenberg at Renault while Nicolas Latifi, 2019 F2 Championship Runner-up ( a rookie ) replaces Robert Kubica at Rokit Williams F1 Team who took up a reserve driver role at Alfa Romeo Racing Orlen F1 Team. Sadly, Nyck de Vries, the reigning F2 Champion couldn't make a place for himself in the world of F1 and left the McLaren Driver Program to race with Mercedes in Formula E.

The Vietnam GP ( to be held in the capital city of Hanoi ) and the Dutch GP at Zandvoort are the new tracks added to the F1 Calendar. The German Grand Prix, unfortunately, made its exit for 2020.


So what has changed on the Regulations side for 2020?

1) Teams will be allowed to use one more MGU-K unit compared to 2019 to compensate for the increased demands of contesting twenty-two races.

2) Pre-season tests are shortened from 4 days to 3 and the mid-season tests of Bahrain and Spain have been done away with to ease the strain of a longer season.

3) Teams aren't allowed to hide their cars / put up screens during the Test Days.

4) The Hours of Curfew are extended from Eight to Nine, allowing mechanics some more rest on Race Weekends. Teams, however, are allowed to break the curfew twice in one season without attracting a penalty.

5) The rules surrounding jump-starts and missing the weighbridge procedure ( in-session ) have been softened. This will allow stewards to dish out less severe punishments ( based on steward discretion ). 

6) The "Waving of the Chequered Flag" makes a return. The Chequered Light Panel has been done away with after a glitch caused the Japanese GP to end a lap earlier in 2019. 

7) Drivers will have more control at Race Starts. 90% of the engine’s torque will be controlled directly on the driver’s command with their clutch paddle or paddles ( which the rules now stipulate to be “pull-type” paddles ). Drivers will still have stall prevention and bite point finder functions available to them – but the onus is now even more on them to make sure they get a good getaway.


The pre-season tests are done and dusted. The Season Opener in Australia is next. 

Let us have a look at the report card of each team post-testing!


Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team :

Mercedes AMG Petronas has been the strongest team in the Turbo Era. They have snapped up all the titles on offer since 2014. The pre-season tests in 2020 suggest it might be no different. Mercedes always find novel ways to stay ahead of the competition and the latest addition to their arsenal was the Dual Axis Steering system or DAS. 

So what is DAS? I quote formula1.com "The DAS system works by Bottas and Hamilton pushing and pulling on the steering wheel in the cockpit of their W11, the action affecting a change on the car’s front wheel toe angle – with conjecture remaining about the exact benefits the system brings." They will be using it in Melbourne as the tests revealed the system works brilliantly. 

Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas stay with the team for 2020. They enjoy an amicable relationship with a fair bit of competitiveness on track. Bottas had a better outing in 2019 and will be hoping to mount a bigger challenge for the title. Lewis Hamilton is chasing the dream of equaling Michael Schumacher's record of 7 World Titles! Hamilton had a near-perfect 2019 but in 2020 Bottas won't be the only challenger to the title. Max Verstappen and the Ferrari Duo will be gunning for it as well. Hamilton has been there, done that on 6 occasions...so he has an edge.

Mercedes clocked the highest number of laps in the pre-season tests while Bottas was the only driver to go set a 1min 15s lap. The only hiccup came in the form of a breakdown in the power unit during testing ( something they will address before Australia ). Their pace on track is also backed up by brilliant strategic calls, something that was a regular feature at races where they weren't the quickest. 

Mercedes are once again the team to beat in 2020. Period.



Red Bull Racing F1 Team :

Red Bull had a challenging start to 2019.  Max Verstappen brought home a chunk of points, podiums and victories up while Pierre Gasly, the recruit that replaced Daniel Ricciardo found it hard to make things work in the A-team. He was eventually demoted ( at Spa, Belgium ) and replaced by Alexander Albon who hit the track running with very strong performances. His finishes in the second half of the season warranted him a seat for 2020, to partner Max Verstappen. If Mercedes boast about their DAS System then Red Bull have some innovations of their own - a clever new steering and double bulkhead arrangement that is seen on their challenger RB 16.

Max Verstappen will be the leader at Red Bull while Albon will provide a solid supporting role. Verstappen's Orange Army will be looking forward to flooding the stands for the maiden Dutch GP in Zandvoort. Verstappen even got a few laps on the circuit thanks to a Red Bull event there. It will be interesting to see how the cars cope with the Banking that makes a return after the races at Indianapolis in the US.

Red Bull will need Albon to bring home some podiums and possibly wins that will aid them in the Constructors' fight. Honda proved to be the 2nd fastest engine after Mercedes in pre-season testing, so the signs look promising. They need to ensure that the engines stay reliable though, something that hurt them in the business end of 2019.

Red Bull will be hot on Mercedes' heels. Will they be able to sustain a challenge consistently throughout the season is another question. Unlike 2019, there isn't as much uncertainty about the competitiveness of their drivers and the team can channelize their energies towards reducing the gap at the front.



Scuderia Ferrari F1 Team :

Ferrari, the most successful team in F1 is going through one of the longest droughts in terms of winning a Championship. They have worked hard to make it back up since the onset of the Turbo Era but their best hasn't been good enough vs the might of the Mercedes. 2019 was going to be their year, with the fastest car and an amazing driver pairing ( mix of experience and youth ). However, it all fell apart with strategic howlers, driver errors, on track skirmishes and reliability problems. They even went on to admit that there was a fundamental flaw in the design of the car, something that couldn't be undone. There were also questions raised and an investigation launched by the FIA over the legality of their engine with regards to fuel consumption and their sensors. A settlement was done recently, something that didn't go down well with the other teams ( the ones not powered by Ferrari ). Nonetheless, they finished P2 in the Constructors' Championship with their drivers finishing 4th and 5th. 

The team already seem to be on the backfoot before the start of 2020. They were consistently lapping half a second slower than the Mercedes on the straights in their effort to improve cornering speeds at the pre-season tests. Some Experts suggest that Ferrari were sandbagging, something that they aren't good at. Based on the results from the pre-season tests, Ferrari seems to be the 3rd fastest team on the grid. Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc renew their partnership. It remains to be seen who will enjoy the number 1 status ( although it fell apart after a few races ). Vettel is aware of the fact that this is his last chance at winning a championship with Ferrari; Leclerc wants to establish himself as the driver to back for the title fight. Ferrari function well with a clear Number 1 and Number 2, they must ensure it stays that way if they wish to mount a challenge of any kind this year. There can be no room for politics or in-fighting within the team. The top brass must ensure that they back their personnel in their respective areas of expertise.



Racing Point F1 Team :

Racing Point had a mercurial 2019, finishing P7 in the Constructors' Championship. The bulk of the points were scored by Sergio Perez while the new entrant Lance Stroll took some time to find his feet. The team has been on the rebuild ( albeit with new owners ) and there is no doubt that they are here to stay and are serious about taking the fight to the big boys. The 2020 Challenger has striking similarities to the W10, Mercedes' Championship Winning Car from last year, thereby attracting the attention of many in the paddock. It has been setting swift lap times in the pre-season tests and being dubbed the 4th fastest car ( possibly ) by the experts. Perez too admitted that this was the best car he has ever driven in F1. Perez will be the driver to lead the charge according to me. He is well versed with the way the team works and capable of providing precise information for developing the car even further. It is still early days for Stroll but he will need to bring his A-game to the table if the team wants to move up the grid. This season will reveal his true abilities and hopefully address all reservations that experts had about him. 

Racing Point has been there, done that. They have a really strong contender for 2020. Hopefully, it can deliver consistent performances every race weekend. The unreliable ( for now ) Mercedes Powertrain could be the chink in their armour..time will tell.



Renault Sport F1 Team :

Renault had a good outing in Barcelona in the pre-season tests. They were the 3rd fastest team ( on one lap pace ), even beating the mighty Scuderia Ferrari. The French-based outfit landed the services of the Flying Frenchman Esteban Ocon to partner Daniel Ricciardo for 2020. Cyril Abiteboul, the Team Principal has to start delivering in 2020, especially after the disappointments of 2019 or his place is in peril. The team are also aware of the fact that another mediocre year and they stand to lose their prized asset in Daniel Ricciardo to another team. Esteban Ocon will take some time in settling into the team so the onus will be on Ricciardo to deliver from the word go. The signs look positive from the results in Barcelona but the real capabilities of the car will be revealed in Bahrain ( a power track ). They have an equally good driver pairing, if not better, in their battle with their immediate rivals in McLaren. Both drivers will be pushing each other all through the season and if they can perform at the level that they are capable of performing, then they can be the best of the rest.

I still believe that getting into the Top 3 won't be possible, even though the deficit has reduced. The Team have the resources, the personnel, the facilities to keep developing their challenger throughout the year. Hopefully, 2020 is the Year of Revival!



McLaren F1 Team :

McLaren worked hard in 2019 and reaped the rewards with their 4th place finish in the Constructors' and a 3rd place finish for Carlos Sainz Jr. in Brazil.. their first podium in 2072 days. However, its a known fact that the higher you go up the grid, the tougher it becomes. McLaren will be well aware of the fact that the Renault works team will leave no stone unturned in reclaiming the 4th place that they lost in 2019. Their biggest asset in this battle is their Driver Pairing of Lando Norris and Carlos Sainz Jr. The latter finished 6th ( best of the rest ) winning what is known as the "B Championship" in the media circles. while Norris had a great year as a rookie. Both are capable of replicating ( if not going better ) their performances in 2020. The Team will look upon Sainz to spearhead the challenge. They should hope to score more podiums in 2020 to assert themselves as a force to reckon with. Norris has worked hard over the winter break to get fitter and faster. He could be the next best thing for Britain ( after Hamilton ) in racing. 

This year, pre-season tests suggest that it is going to be a close contest between the two Renault powered teams. It is tough to put your money on either. The team was slow off the blocks but came into their own after a few rounds in 2019; but as of now, based on the data received, they seem to be the 6th fastest team on the grid. 



Scuderia Alpha Tauri F1 Team ( formerly Scuderia Toro Rosso ) :

Scuderia Alpha Tauri which was formerly known as Scuderia Toro Rosso had a memorable 2019 with 2 podium finishes for both their drivers, something that other mid-field placed teams weren't able to accomplish. They will be aiming to throw up more surprises in 2020 in their new avatar and livery. They persist with their lineup of Pierre Gasly and Daniil Kvyat. Kvyat did a fine job in 2019 and Gasly came into his own after Red Bull decided to demote him down the grid into the B Team. Both the drivers will be hoping to maintain the momentum going into 2020. I hope both get an opportunity to prove themselves with a top team in the future ( if not Red Bull ).

Toro Rosso has always been in the mix, 2020 is going to be no different.  The biggest positive for them will be the mileage they have clocked in the pre-season tests. The Honda Power Unit ( which is getting faster and more reliable with each passing day ) coupled with a potent chassis will pose a serious challenge to their immediate contenders. Team Principal Franz Tost is bullish about 2020 and believes his team can finish in P5 at the end of 2020. McLaren's Carlos Sainz Jr. also stated that Alpha Tauri was one of the two teams he feared most for 2020. They finished P6 in 2019..it will be tough to go better than that in 2020 but in F1..you never know.



Alfa Romeo Racing Orlen F1 Team :

Alfa Romeo Racing F1 is now known as Alfa Romeo Racing Orlen F1 after Orlen, the Polish-based Oil Refinement Company came on board as a co-title sponsor. Robert Kubica, the ex- Williams Driver joined the team in the reserve driver role while Kimi Raikkonen and Antonio Giovinazzi continue their partnership for another year. It was a good decision to persist with the latter; he has had a very strong second half in 2019 and should be able to maintain the momentum in 2020. In Kimi Raikkonen, the team has the wise old head and he will always be a force to reckon with. ( This could be his last year in F1 though ). He is adept at eking out results while Giovinazzi with his revived form could be auditioning for a potential seat in 2021 at Ferrari. Both share a great relationship, the Italian Stallion learning the trade with the Iceman as his mentor.

Alfa Romeo's performances in the pre-season tests have been somewhat of a hit and miss. The low-fuel runs were good but race simulations a disappointment. Both drivers reiterated the need to make changes before the Australian GP and the Hinwil based outfit must ensure that they don't lag in the ever-so-tight midfield.  Strategic calls will also be a big make or break in the races, something that the team struggled within 2019. 

It is early days for a prediction but I do hope to see the team battle hard in the points scoring positions, possibly even for a podium.



Haas F1 Team :

Haas F1 had a season to forget in 2019; after the highs of 2018, the team weren't able to break the rut of mediocrity in 2019. Their decision to persist with their current pairing of Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen for 2020 came as a big surprise. The only logical reason behind this seems to be their desire for continuity and working with people who are well versed with the functioning of the team. Pre-season tests suggest that the car is nowhere near the level of performance they expect it to be. Some experts believe that this will be the slowest car on the grid in 2020. The Ferrari power unit has also been through an overhaul and all isn't well on the powertrain side either. It might end up being a very long season for the team.

Gene Haas, the team owner has made it clear that he will reconsider his decision to continuing in the sport should their results not improve in 2020. Roman and Kevin must ensure that they work together, as one, in propelling the team forward, maximizing results as and when the opportunities arise. This year will decide the fate of both, the drivers and the team. They can't be sparring team-mates, they have to justify their status as F1 drivers.



Rokit Williams Racing F1 Team :

Williams was the slowest team on the grid in 2019. The team also lost a sponsor ( Orlen ) which left with Robert Kubica who moved to Alfa Romeo ( as a reserve driver )They have roped in the services of F2 Driver and 2019 F2 Runner-up Nicolas Latifi to partner George Russell for 2020. Russell will have his hands full since Latifi isn't a slouch. He will eventually come out on top I feel.

Williams was the first car out on track for the pre-season tests.. a big step from not running on the first 2 days last pre-season. They even put in a considerable number of laps albeit with a few hiccups on the powertrain side. They are in the thick of the lower half ( 7th to 9th ) of the field and must work hard throughout the year to ensure they don't lose touch of their immediate rivals There seem to be better days ahead with a slightly faster car, a young and fast driver pairing but the biggest challenge will be finances and their ability to bring in upgrades throughout the year. 

2020 is an important year for the team and its top brass..they can't be stuck in this vicious cycle of staying last every year..something drastic will have to be done then.



The outbreak of the COVID - 19 Coronavirus :

The start of the 2020 F1 Season is less than a week away and the entire sporting spectacle is under serious threat due to the global outbreak of the COVID - 19 Coronavirus. The virus, whose origins were in China has spread rapidly claiming the lives and infected many globally. 

Moto GP, Formula One's counterpart on 2 wheels, had to cancel their season opener in Qatar and some other GPs also seem to be impacted.

In F1, the Chinese Grand Prix ( 4th Race on the Calendar ) has been postponed due to the outbreak. The Bahrain Grand Prix Organisers have declared the race to be a "Participant - only" event. The Maiden Vietnam GP could also be cancelled if the situation fails to improve. There are logistical hassles as well due to these schedule changes. The Australian GP ( as of now ) proceeds as planned.

Travel Restrictions and Quarantine procedures have been enforced by various countries to control and contain the spread of the virus. Italy is one of the countries badly hit and this will impact the number of personnel that teams like Scuderia Ferrari and Scuderia Alpha-Tauri can deploy for a race weekend. 


Praying for all those affected by the virus and wishing everyone a speedy recovery...



F1 returns ( hopefully ) and so will sanity! This will be Kimi Raikkonen's last year in F1 and I hope he has a great end to an illustrious career. I plan to be at 4 races to support him and Giovinazzi in the Alfa Romeo Orlen colours! 

Ferrari gets another shot to make it to the top. Is Ferrari sandbagging and trying to hide their cards until the last moment? We shall know soon.. Haas F1 and Rokit Williams F1 need to have a decent season in 2020 to deem it favourable to stay beyond 2020 ( for Haas ) and keep the team alive and potentially grow ( for Williams ). Red Bull need to ensure their challenger gives Mercedes a hard time and keeps Verstappen convinced that this is the team to be in for 2021. Renault Sport F1 Team can't afford to get it wrong again..they have a lot at stake besides holding onto Daniel Ricciardo.

Title Number 7 beckons for both Lewis Hamilton & Mercedes AMG Petronas F1... probably the year of completion of their fruitful partnership. He might look at other pastures post-2020...


A lot will be revealed throughout the season. It is the year of "Now or Never" for so many!

Bring on F1 2020!

2019 F1 Season Review - & That's A Six!

Formula 1, the Pinnacle of Motorsport has given its fans so many champions... Senna & Schumacher being the most popular. Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes AMG Petronas ( 5 Championships for each ) have broken a lot of records since the return of the Turbo Era in 2014. The competitors ran it close on many occasions but the three-pointed star prevailed. The 2018 season saw a close fight between Scuderia Ferrari F1 and Mercedes. The former would have a great base to mount their challenge in 2019. 

2019 also saw a lot of Personnel changes. Charles Leclerc moved to Ferrari while Kimi Raikkonen went the other way to Sauber F1, now known as Alfa Romeo Racing F1. Daniel Ricciardo switched to Renault Sport F1 while Pierre Gasly got promoted to the Red Bull Racing Team. Robert Kubica made a return to the sport with Rokit Williams Racing F1 Team, a feat after his career-ending injury in rallying in 2011. George Russell ( 2018 F2 Champion ), Lando Norris and Alexander Albon were the rookies making their entry into the big league. 

2019 was also the year where drivers would also be awarded a point for the fastest lap in the race ( should they finish in the top 10 ), a great way to mix things up when it comes to strategies on track.

How did the season unfold for the champions and the contenders? Let us have a quick recap!


Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team :

Mercedes weren't the fastest team in 2019. However, they raced as a team, fought as a team and eventually won as a team! They made winning in 2019 seem so easy! Neither Valtteri Bottas nor Lewis Hamilton put a foot wrong when it mattered. Germany and Brazil were their only blemish, although those races were a lottery due to changeable conditions. Valtteri started the season on a great note with a win in Australia, two 2nd places in Bahrain & China and another win in Baku. His next win, however, didn't come until Japan and then Austin but by then it was too late to sustain a challenge for the Championship. He eventually finished 2nd in the Standings with 326 points, 4 wins and 11 podiums.

Lewis Hamilton was in a class of his own again! It didn't take him much time to get up to speed and capitalized whenever the others slipped up. His team-mate was his only true competitor in the second half of the season and he sealed the Championship at the United States GP. Lewis amassed 413 points with 11 wins and 6 podiums! He suffered no retirements unlike Bottas who didn't finish Germany and Brazil and his worst finish was 9th in GermanyLewis deserves all the credit for being relentless in his quest to win and being consistent throughout the season. A 6 Time World Champion..surreal!

Mercedes AMG Petronas flattened their opponents in 2019. The Strategic calls throughout the season were on the money, they managed both drivers well and wrapped up their 6th Championship at the Japanese GP. The only disappointment of the season was at the German GP, a GP where the team celebrated 125 years in Motorsport and their 200th F1 Race Start ( oh the irony ). After locking out the front row in qualifying, a 1-2 was all but confirmed on Sunday. However, the weather played havoc and what unfolded was a chaotic race ( The Race of the decade for me ) with Bottas crashing out and Lewis finishing 9th after a couple of incidents on track. I am sure this disappointment would be long forgotten. The quest to win the 7th beckons!


Scuderia Ferrari F1 Team :

Ferrari roped in the services of their wunderkind Charles Leclerc who would partner the 4 times World Champion and Hamilton's closest contender in 2018, Sebastian Vettel. They had put up a valiant fight in 2018 and hopes were high after being the fastest car in pre-season. However, it was anything but that. The team was plagued with strategic errors, reliability issues ( Charles Leclerc should have won the Bahrain GP but for engine issues ) & even Driver errors ( Germany & Brazil ). Sebastian Vettel was denied victory in Canada after Marshalls penalized him for dangerously rejoining the track while leading the race. The team had a resurgence of sorts after back to back wins in Belgium & Italy for Charles Leclerc followed by victory in Singapore for Sebastian Vettel. They finished 2nd ( again ) in the Constructors' Championship with 504 points. Charles Leclerc won the intra-team battle, finishing 4th in the Championship with 264 points with wins in Belgium & Italy, podium finishes in Bahrain, Canada, France, Austria, Great Britain, Singapore, Russia and Abu Dhabi. Sebastian Vettel was 5th with 240 points with a solo victory in Singapore and podiums in China, Baku, Monaco, Canada, Germany, Hungary, Japan & Mexico. The team had made it clear that Vettel would have a preference but over the year his younger team-mate challenged this claim and beat the veteran ( cause for friction between the 2 as well ). Vettel seemed to be a mere shadow of his former self amid the challenge mounted by his younger team-mate. The coming together of the two team-mates in Brazil summed up the season for Ferrari..a thorough disappointment after all that the pre-season had promised. 

It turned to be another year of "What could have been". Mattia Binotto, the Team Principal admitted that there was a fundamental flaw in the design and they were in damage limitation mode with their 2019 contender, something that didn't go down well with the Tifosi. Ferrari needs to get their act together both on track and off it if they want to mount a serious challenge against the Mercedes. Not much has changed in 2019..hopefully 2020 will be different.


Red Bull Racing F1 Team :

Red Bull Racing chose to switch to Honda Power ( a 2-year deal ) for 2019 and 2020. It was a big move because the Engine Supplier had struggled with Pace & Reliability Issues since its return to F1 in the Turbo Era. Red Bull also promoted their protegee Pierre Gasly from Scuderia Toro Rosso to replace the outgoing Daniel Ricciardo. Red Bull wasn't the fastest but they pounced on every slip-up by their competitors. Max Verstappen was brilliant as ever, Gasly had a very mercurial start to the season. Eventually, the bosses decided that Gasly wasn't the best fit for the team and replaced him after Hungary. Rookie Alexander Albon got the nod ahead of Daniil Kvyat from the Toro Rosso team and performed very well in the second half. Max Verstappen finished 3rd in the Drivers' Championship, a great feat beating the Ferrari duo. He had 3 wins to his name - Austria, Germany & Brazil, Germany being the most memorable one. He also had podiums in Australia, Spain, Hungary, Singapore & USA. Gasly's best finish with Red Bull came at the British Grand Prix ( 4th ), along with 8 other points finishes. Alexander Albon matched Gasly's best finish in Japan and always finished in the top 6 ( except Brazil where he was robbed of a podium by Hamilton ) after his promotion to the A-Team. Gasly & Albon finished a close 7th and 8th with 95 and 92 points respectively. 

Red Bull can be immensely proud of their season gone by. Honda as an engine manufacturer has announced their return to the sharp end of the grid with the Victories and the podiums ( even with the sister Red Bull ). Its onwards and upwards from here for the Milton Keynes based outfit. Red Bull finished the season in 3rd with 417 points, comfortably clear of the 4th placed McLaren F1 Team. 


McLaren Racing F1 Team :

McLaren sported a new lineup with Carlos Sainz Jr. & Rookie Lando Norris in 2019. They finished 4th in the Constructors' Championship with 145 points The Team had a slow start to the season and it wasn't smooth sailing after either. However upgrades kept trickling in throughout the season and the team were rewarded for their efforts when they bagged 3rd place with Carlos Sainz Jr. in Brazil, a podium after 5 years ( 2072 days to be precise )! Carlos Sainz Jr. was the best of the rest in 6th place ( winning the B Championship as many call it ) with 96 points. His best finish was 3rd at the Brazilian GP along with points finishes in 12 races. Lando Norris was 11th with 49 points to his name, 6th in Bahrain and Austria being his best finishes along with 9 other Points Finishes. 

Carlos Sainz Jr. has been a great asset for the team. He is the Driver of the Season for me. His consistency and ability to maximize results helped the team in 2019. Lando Norris had a decent first season but I wasn't expecting the deficit between the two to be this big. He needs to up his game, considering the talent that he is. A lot of credit must also go to Andreas Seidl who came onboard as the Team Principal this year. His experience in the world of motor-racing be it in WEC or Formula E has been extremely beneficial. This is a great base to build from for 2020 and the added financial benefit ( of finishing higher ) is the icing on the cake.


Renault Sport F1 Team :

Renault Sport F1 had a good 2018 and were hoping for a better outing in 2019. Daniel Ricciardo joined forces with Nico Hulkenberg to help the team return to the sharp end of the grid. The arrival of Ricciardo was a big boost for the team but a bold move for the driver. He gave up his place in a race-winning car to be with a works team still coming up the ranks. Nico Hulkenberg was the experienced warhorse, consistent and dependable. Renault, however, had a very mercurial 2019 with reliability issues hampering their progress throughout the year. McLaren, their customer team were able to beat them to 4th while they only just managed to beat Scuderia Toro Rosso, who finished behind them in 6th place. Renault has work to do over the winter. 

Daniel Ricciardo outperformed his team-mate and finished on 54 points ( 9th in the Standings ), 4th in Italy being his best result. Nico Hulkenberg was 14th in the standings with 37 points, his best result coming at the Italian GP as well ( 5th ). Ricciardo finished in the points on 7 other occasions while Hulkenberg could manage 9. The Team also suffered disqualification after the Japanese GP ( 9 points lost ) after the discovery of an illegal breaking aid. Renault F1 are blessed with good personnel and infrastructure to turn things around but it is taking longer than anticipated. It also remains to be seen whether the parent company is willing to stay patient or sees this as a sport that is bleeding their finances. Ricciardo is in a really difficult position, hopefully, 2020 will be kinder. Hulkenberg bid adieu to the team at the end of 2019 and will be replaced by Esteban Ocon, Frenchman ( in a French-owned team ). I think 2020 will be their "make or break" year.


Scuderia Toro Rosso F1 Team :

Scuderia Toro Rosso had quite an eventful 2019. They began their season with Daniil Kvyat ( who returned after a short stint as a reserve driver with Ferrari ) and rookie Alexander Albon. The latter was a sensation in F2 and it was time for his entry into F1. Albon's year got even better when Red Bull decided to promote him to the main team after Gasly couldn't meet the team's expectations. The announcement came just a week after the Hungarian GP during the mid-season break. It came as a surprise to many since Albon was still a rookie and being consistently beaten by his team-mate. Kvyat proved that he deserved to be in F1 after a stellar 3rd place in Germany. He also finished in the Points in 9 other races; ending the season in 13th with a total of 37 points. Albon, after a really slow first half, finished in the points in 6 races with 6th in Germany being his best finish. Gasly ( who replaced him ) stepped up his game in Toro Rosso and even bagged 2nd place in Brazil ( besides finishing in the points in 4 other races ). He finished the season in 7th with 95 points, 3 more than Albon. A statement had been sent out to the bosses of Red Bull. 

The performance of a more reliable Power Unit along with a balanced chassis played a big part in catapulting them to 6th in the standings at the end of the season. They were narrowly beaten by Renault ( who were 5th with 91 points ) but they can take great encouragement from the fact that they can beat even those with a larger financial kitty. Kvyat had a really strong return to the sport while Gasly has come into his own after his demotion. The future looks promising for both.


Racing Point F1 Team :

Racing Point, an old team with a new name & new ownership were in a rebuilding phase in 2019. Lawrence Stroll, Lance Stroll's father led the consortium of investors who completed the takeover of the team. Sergio Perez retained his drive while Lance came in from Williams replacing Esteban Ocon (despite intense pressure from Mercedes ). The former team-mates ( Perez and Ocon ) didn't enjoy a healthy relationship and the team lost a considerable number of points due to incidents on track in 2018. 

Racing Point ended the 2019 season with 73 Points ( 7th in the Constructors' standings ). Sergio Perez was 10th in the standings with 52 points while Lance Stroll was 15th with 21. Lance brought home the team's best finish with 4th in the highly entertaining German Grand Prix ( he even led the race for a few laps ). He finished in the points on 5 other occasions. Sergio Perez's best finish was 6th in Baku & Belgium with points finishes in 9 other races. He deserves all the praise for his performances and consistency throughout the year. Lance Stroll had a decent maiden year with the team but has a lot to learn from his team-mate. The Team will need both their drivers to perform at a consistent level if they are to challenge those in this extremely close midfield. There is a lot of scope for improvement..thankfully they have the finances to improve results on the field.


Alfa Romeo Racing F1 Team :

Sauber F1, rechristened as Alfa Romeo Racing F1 Team ( thanks to Alfa Romeo becoming the title sponsor ) was another team to have a new driver lineup in 2019. Kimi Raikkonen returned to the team he started his F1 career within 2001 and he had the Italian Stallion Antonio Giovinazzi ( A Scuderia Ferrari Protegee ) partnering him. Charles Leclerc switched seats with Kimi while Marcus Ericsson took up the reserve driver role. It was a tale of 2 halves for the team. Kimi Raikkonen scored all points ( but one ) for the team and was 8th in the standings! Giovinazzi scored his first point of the season in Austria. However, the team struggled in the second half of the season. Giovinazzi managed a 9th and 10th in Italy and Singapore respectively but Raikkonen failed to be in the points up until the Brazilian GP. Brazil saw a big resurgence from the team, narrowly missing out on a podium with Kimi who was 4th and Giovinazzi who ended up 5th. Kimi Raikkonen eventually finished the season in 12th with 43 points on the board. A stronger second half helped Giovinazzi finish with 14 points and 17th in the Championship. Kimi is the seasoned campaigner and is an ace at turning things around. Giovinazzi came into his own in the second half of the season, one must remember that he has been away from competitive racing since the past 3 years.

Strategies and Outright race pace were the Achilles' heel for the team. The team struggled to keep up with the competitors ( in terms of R&D and funding ) but they had a much better outing compared to 2018. They will also have a bigger kitty to work within 2020, not to forget the sponsors coming onboard..they can be proud of the season gone by, not to forget the bouts they had with the bigger fish in the pond. 


Haas F1 Team :

Haas F1 persisted with their lineup of Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen for 2019, something that baffled everyone. Continuity can be the only plausible reason behind this decision. They finished the season in 9th with 28 points on the board. Kevin Magnussen won the team-mate battle, scoring 20 points ( 16th in the Championship ) to Grosjean's 8 ( 18th in Drivers' Standings ). Magnussen's best finish was 6th in Australia and finished in the points in Spain, Germany and Russia. Grosjean's best finish was 7th in Germany and scored a point each in Spain and Monaco. Another disappointing season for the Frenchman. 

It was a season to forget for Haas. They were flying high in 5th at the end of the 2018 season but 12 months later they are languishing in 9th. Flaws in Car Design is one of the major reasons, friction between the team-mates another. Team Principal Guenther Steiner had to play peace-maker often and I think this affected the performances of the team as a whole. They have a lot of work to do over the winter to make things right and they do have the personnel to accomplish it, even though they would have taken a considerable financial hit due to their final position in the standings. 


Rokit Williams F1 Racing Team :

2018 F2 Champion George Russell teamed up with Robert Kubica for the 2019 season. It was a great achievement for Kubica to make a return to F1 after all that he has been through since 2011. The team did lose a considerable amount of investment after Lawrence Stroll, Lance Stroll's ( Williams driver in 2018 ) father decided to direct his funds away from the team to Racing Point, his son's new ride in 2019. There was some consolation with PKN Orlen, Kubica's backer but Williams' woes on the track continued in 2019. They struggled to stay in touch with the rest of the field, lapping consistently slower all season long. Upgrades towards the end of the season did help performance to some extent but not enough to beat other back-markers. They scored a solitary point with Robert Kubica at the German GP ( thanks to a penalty to the Alfa Romeo Team ) but it meant nothing in the grander scheme of things. George Russell's best finish was also at the German GP in 11th. Both suffered a couple of retirements in the season, so reliability wasn't an issue. 

It is getting really difficult for the bosses at Williams to stem the tide. They require a complete overhaul, personnel at the top included..but will it happen??



2019 promised to be a close contest between the top 3 teams but it turned out to be a mauling. Mercedes once again proved to be the class of the field, emphasizing the fact that you win as a team and having the fastest car doesn't equate to being a championship-winning car. Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas were efficient and consistent, the former once again showing why he deserves to be a 6 time World Champion. Bottas will hope to offer a stronger fight in 2020; as for the competitors in Ferrari, they need to have a hard look at the way they operate on a race weekend and the strategies they devise from the Pit Wall. Red Bull capitalized on every opportunity and know they can mount a big challenge in 2020. Renault has a long winter ahead, so does Haas, Racing Point and Williams F1. McLaren, Toro Rosso and Alfa Romeo will be pleased with what they have achieved in 2019.  

Lewis Hamilton & Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team can bask in the glory of their 6th Championship..the 7th beckons next year..can't wait for the 2020 season to start!

The Paddock Weekends - 2019 Japanese GP - Day 3 ( Day 2 called off )

Typhoon Hagibis had wrecked havoc in mainland Japan on Saturday. The Circuit organizers had decided to shift Qualifying to Sunday Morning while cancelling all events on Saturday ( and rightly so ). The storms lasted for the night but the sun came out in the morning! It was great to behold the morning sun on what promised to be a very very busy Race Day!

 

A Glorious Morning after a Stormy Saturday!


We had learnt our lesson and decided to use the Trains to make our way into Suzuka. The first leg of my journey consistent of a one stop Metro ride to Nagoya Central Station.

Taking the Metro to Nagoya Central Station :


The train ride to Shiroko Station and a 15 minute Taxi ride to Suzuka from there.


Shiroko to Suzuka :


The journey was fairly brisk and we reached the Paddock Gates at 9 in the morning. There were others from the F1 Fraternity making an entry with us!


The F1 Supremo, the CEO, Mr. Chase Carey :


Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team Principal Toto Wolff :


Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team :


Welcome to the Japanese GP Paddock!


Chocolate and Cappuccino to go with breakfast :


Post breakfast, I made my way down to the F1 Village to see what the stores had on offer.

The F1 Village, completely packed with passionate fans. It is pretty evident that Kimi Raikkonen is a big hit in Japan.


An hour of walking around and it was time to head to the Viewing Terrace for the start of Qualifying.

The view from the Terrace on Sunday Morning :


Shots from Q1 :


Charles Leclerc was the fastest in Q1 from Lewis Hamilton & Max Verstappen. Both the Alfa Romeos made it into Q2!


Returning to the Pits at the end of the session :


Q2 Underway :


Valtteri Bottas was the Fastest in Q2 from Lewis Hamilton and Alexander Albon! Antonio Giovinazzi qualified in P11 while Kimi Raikkonen finished in P13, both Alfa Romeo cars out in Q2 sadly.


Shots from Q3 :

Video Link for Start of Q3 :



Sebastian Vettel grabbed Pole position from Charles Leclerc and Valtteri Bottas, a great position to start for Scuderia Ferrari F1 Team!

Alfa Romeo would be disappointed to narrowly miss being in the top 10, but a free tyre choice should promise them a strong race!


The various levels of Access in the Paddock World of F1. Complex and confusing!


Post Qualifying, it was time for the Pit Lane Walk :

Shots from the Pit Lane Walk :


The Alfa Romeo Racing Garage getting prepped :



Lunch :


The Motorhome, a busy place. Everyone grabbing a quick bite before heading back to the garage to prepare for the race :


Grid Kids making their way down to the grid :


I found my vantage spot on the Terrace and it was time to get ready for the Grid Presentation and the Race Start!


The Starting Grid - a hub of activity before the Race Start :


The Drivers gathering for the National Anthem before the race :


The chariots being readied for their riders :

The Alfa Romeo crew getting the machines ready :


The Boys getting suited up for battle :


Time to get buckled in :


Final checks before the Formation Lap :


The Timer running down :


The Grid is cleared for the start of the Formation Lap :


Formation lap time!


Video Link To Start of the Formation Lap :



Cars forming up on the grid for the Race Start :


2019 Japanese GP Race Start ( Video Link ) :



Shots from the race :


Charles Leclerc Pit Stop ( Video Link ) :



Alex Albon Pit Stop ( Video Link ) :



Sebastian Vettel Pit Stop ( Video Link ) :



Alfa Romeo Racing F1 Team battling in out in the race :


Valtteri Bottas reigned supreme in Japan. Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton finished P2 and P3 respectively. Kimi Raikkonen and Antonio Giovinazzi finished P12 and P14, another weekend with no points for the the team..unable to break the rut!


The Paddock being packed up before the race ends. A common occurrence at a lot of race weekends.


I spent some time socializing with friends post race.

China is a short trip from Japan and it was amazing to meet the ICE ARMY from China! Fanatical Kimi Raikkonen supporters this lot!


Antonio Giovinazzi, Alfa Romeo Racing F1 Team :


Making my way to the circuit exit :


Bye Bye Suzuka! You were awesome! Hope to be back here one day!


Back to Nagoya..will miss these views.


Kimi Raikkonen flag, Thank you for the gift Ice Army China :


The Collectibles from the Race Weekend! Mini helmets of Antonio Giovinazzi, Kimi Raikkonen, Charles Leclerc & Lewis Hamilton and the Scale model of Kimi Raikkonen's Alfa Romeo F1 Car C38.


It was yet another disappointing weekend for Alfa Romeo Racing F1 Team. However we keep pushing and we will be back to better days soon! A Big Thank you to the team for their hospitality!

Japan has been an overwhelming experience. I am bowled over by the warmth & respect shown by the people. Words fall short to describe the passion that the fans have..they Live, Breathe F1. At every step you find fans with unique ways of expressing their love & support for the teams & drivers. 

God Bless this land abundantly!


I do hope that you enjoyed "The Paddock Weekends" series from 2019. There will be more of these in 2020. 

Thank you all for your support and love!


The Paddock Weekends - 2019 Japanese GP - Day 1

The Circuit of Suzuka has been one of the legendary circuits on the F1 Calendar. Visiting Suzuka was on my to-do list for long. I finally had the chance of visiting it in 2019. The Plans were made, albeit at a short notice. I flew into Tokyo, staying for the weekend in Nagoya. 

Unfortunately, due to Typhoon Hagibis which was due to hit Suzuka on the weekend, the organisers decided to not run any sessions on Saturday. The same was announced on Friday. Friday was going to be a busy day for the teams - Gathering data and locking down their facilities to survive the storm.


My Pass for the weekend :


We were driven to the Circuit on Friday. Big Mistake! We got stuck in traffic and missed about 20 minutes of Free Practice 1.

Enroute to the Circuit :


The makeshift Alfa Romeo Racing Motorhome for the weekend :


The Paddock on Friday Morning, usually calm and silent :


Beauties used in the Pirelli Hot Laps Experience, I was amazed at the rides on offer :


I soon found a spot in the Paddock Club and began clicking some stills from FP1.

Shots from Free Practice 1 :


Valtteri Bottas was the fastest in FP1 from Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel. Antonio Giovinazzi suffered a Gearbox Failure and did only 4 laps in FP1. Kimi Raikkonen finished P12.


I made it back into the Paddock and it was time to meet some F1 Fraternity!

Mr. Sami Visa! Kimi Raikkonen's PR! He is such an amazing and humble guy! So blessed to meet him!



Takeo Yokoyama, Technical Manager for Repsol Honda Team in Moto GP. I had never imagined meeting him at a F1 race weekend; as a big Repsol Honda Fan, this was truly an honour!


Lunch is served :


The lunch complete, I made my way down to the Pit Lane for the only Pit Lane Walk of the Day.

Time for the Pit Lane Walk!


Scuderia Ferrari F1 Team was kind enough to invite me into their Garage during the Pit Lane Walk :


Fans dressed up as Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas enjoying their F1 weekend :


The Alfa Romeo Racing F1 Pit Box :


Sergei Sirotkin, Renault Sport F1 Team Reserve Driver :


Nico Hulkenberg, Renault Sport F1 Team :


Daniel Ricciardo, Renault Sport F1 Team :


It was then time for Free Practice 2!

Shots from Free Practice 2 :


Valtteri Bottas was the fastest in FP2 from Lewis Hamilton & Max Verstappen. Kimi Raikkonen and Antonio Giovinazzi were P11 and P15 respectively.


The Paddock winding down after Free Practice 2, the post session formalities being carried out :


Cappuccino and Swiss Chocolate, an unbeatable combination :


Lance Stroll, Sportpesa Racing Point F1 Team :


Alex Albon, Aston Martin Red Bull Racing F1 Team :


Friday Evening was more like a Sunday evening, a lot was being packed up by the logistics team; sandbags were placed to weather the storm that was incoming. No one was sure of the damage the typhoon could leave in its wake, all they could do was to fortify and prepare.


Meeting some Japanese Super fans in the Paddock! The Duo had the best day of their lives, thanks to Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team who invited them to enjoy a whole day in the Paddock! I was really awed by their passion!