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Posts for Tag: Grand Prix

Paddock Club Diares - 2017 Belgian Grand Prix - Day 1

The Latest post in the Paddock Club Diaries comes in from the 2017 Belgian Grand Prix. The Event was held from 22nd August to 24th August at the iconic Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps.

I had the privilege of being a guest of Scuderia Ferrari F1 Team in the Paddock Club and as always, the first post is from what I experienced on Friday.

I stayed at the Radisson Blu Hotel in Hasselt. Hasselt is the birthplace of Red Bull Racing Driver Max Verstappen and about an hour's drive from the circuit. An early morning drive from Hasselt is recommended as the traffic was atrocious going into Spa.


Enroute to the Circuit :


The Race Passes picked up from Radisson Blu Hotel in Spa :


Walking to the circuit :


The Scuderia Ferrari F1 Club :


The View from the Ferrari F1 Club :


I didn't have the opportunity of making it to the First Pit Lane walk of the day and as soon as I settled in the Suite, it was time for Free Practice 1.


Shots from FP1 :


Scuderia Ferrari F1 Team during FP1 :


Chequered Flag :



Kimi Raikkonen was the fastest in FP1 with Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel completing the Top 3. Only a tenth of a second separated the trio.


Marc Gene visits the Ferrari F1 Club for a quick Q&A :


Video Link of the Interview :



A Moment with Marc Gene :


Friends, Scuderia Ferrari Family!


Prior to the Pit Lane Walk, I signed up to go downstairs and join other guests on a truck which would take us around the track for an amazing tour. Its a part of the F1 Experiences, a new initiative by the new owners of F1 to bring the sport closer to its fans.


I got the Chance to do the Paddock Club Track Truck Tour. The Best Experience ever!


Video Link of the Track Truck Tour :



Shots from the 2nd Pit Lane Walk of the day :


The Scuderia Ferrari Garage :


Sebastian Vettel's Ferrari being readied for FP2 ( Video Link ) :



Lunch!


I had a hearty lunch and it was time to settle in for Free Practice 2. FP2 saw limited running after an hour thanks to rain belting down on the track. Only Daniel Ricciardo and Fernando Alonso volunteered to venture out but the conditions got treacherous really quickly.


Shots from FP2 :


Free Practice 2 saw Lewis Hamilton set the Fastest time. Kimi Raikkonen and Valtteri Bottas not too far behind.


The track was then thrown open to the 2 Seater F1 Cars from the F1 Experiences.

2 Seater F1 cars offering those with deep pockets a couple of laps around the circuit. A new venture called F1 Experiences.


Formula 2 cars then took to the track for the Qualifying Session.

Qualifying Session of F2 :


The Session over, it was time to head back to the hotel, get some dinner, rest and be ready for Saturday Morning!


Returning to Hasselt :



It was quite an eventful Friday. I got the opportunity to be in the garage when it was raining in FP2 and the Ferrari cars up close!


Thank you to Scuderia Ferrari F1 Team and the hosts for hosting me over the weekend. Thank you to Edge Global Events for ensuring everything was arranged for and I was not found wanting anything.

Saturday and Sunday experiences to follow soon. Watch this space!

A Gallery of Memories - Part 14

The Latest post in the "Gallery of Memories" comes in from the Legendary Track of Spa Francorchamps in the Ardennes region of Belgium. I got the opportunity of attending the Belgian Grand Prix in the final week of August and it was a great experience!


Once again I had the privilege of meeting celebrities and the tradition began from the day I flew out of Mumbai Airport bound for Brussels International.


A Quick trip down memory lane!


Bollywood Actress Parineeti Chopra :


Bollywood Music Director Anu Malik :


Bollywood Actress & Comedian Sugandha Mishra :


Marc Gene, Scuderia Ferrari F1 Team Development Driver :


Mattia Binotto, Chief Technical Officer of Scuderia Ferrari F1 Team :


Riccardo Adami, Sebastian Vettel's Race Engineer :


Federica Masolin, Sky Sports F1 Italia Hostess :


Jacques Villeneuve, Former F1 Champion and Expert on Sky Sports F1 Italia :


The Jovial trio, Martin Brundle, Damon Hill & Paul Di Resta of Sky Sports F1! Stay blessed guys!


Pat Symonds, Ex Williams and Sky Sports F1 co-presenter :


Mark Webber, Fan moment here with the AussieGrit!


Jock Clear, Scuderia Ferrari F1 team :


Niki Lauda!


The Professor! Alain Prost! What a gentleman!


Pierre Gasly, Red Bull Racing F1 Team Reserve Driver :


Maurizio Arrivabene, Scuderia Ferrari F1 Team Principal :


Not the selfie I wanted but nonetheless, Kimi Raikkonen!


Gino Rosato, Scuderia Ferrari F1 :


A Moment with Seb's P2 Trophy :


Massimo Rivola, Scuderia Ferrari Academy Supremo :


Giuliano Alesi, Jean Alesi's son & Scuderia Ferrari Academy Driver in GP3 :


Mark Arnall and Kimi's Partner in Ice One Racing ( Motocross ) :


Silvia Hoffer, McLaren F1 Team PR and one of the oldest faces in the paddock :


MOKO!!


Daniil Kvyat, Scuderia Toro Rosso F1 Team :


Sir Franz Tost, Team Principal, Scuderia Toro Rosso F1 Team :


Carlos Sainz, Scuderia Toro Rosso F1 Team :


It was a memorable weekend in Spa and I would like to thank Scuderia Ferrari F1 Team for the Hospitality and the graciousness shown to me over the weekend. A big thank you to Edge Global Events for ensuring nothing was out of place and ensuring that I had an enjoyable weekend.


Apologies for the delay, Paddock Club Experiences coming thick and fast!

The Driver Merry-Go-Round...Continuity Is Key

The European leg of the 2017 F1 Season has come to an end and the "Fly-Aways" remain.

The new owners of F1 have ensured that the sport is in the news for all the right reasons. Its also that time of the year when teams are locking down driver contracts or are in the final stages of talks with prospective pilots for next year.


Driver Markets is one topic that the media can never get enough of. Many claims turn out to be true, many don't.


Lets take a quick look into who is confirmed for 2018 and who isn't.



Scuderia Ferrari :

Scuderia Ferrari confirmed their lineup on the Belgian GP weekend with Sebastian Vettel signing a 3 year deal up until 2020 and Kimi Raikkonen till the end of 2018. Raikkonen's extension had a mixed reception but as a fan of Raikkonen its great news! I believe its the right decision by Ferrari to persist with the duo ( totally unbiased analysis here ). Raikkonen complements Vettel very well and the atmosphere within the team is extremely healthy. Kimi with his experience provides invaluable feedback to the team and Ferrari still have some catching up to do with Mercedes. Sebastian Vettel knows Ferrari is his best chance to get his 5th world title. Vettel is loved in Maranello and its great to see him continue in the red.

Experience over youth is the way forward for 2018 for Ferrari


Mercedes AMG F1 Team :

Lewis Hamilton continues his contract until the end of 2018. Staying put is a no-brainer for him. Valtteri Bottas joined the team for 1 year and the team made its intentions clear to continue the partnership into 2018. Bottas is doing an exceptional job in his first year. The team-mate relationship is as good as that in Ferrari. Bottas and Lewis are doing a fine job of keeping Ferrari at bay and the team have one hand on the Constructors' Trophy! Bottas is no slouch either and will be a more potent force in 2018. Its imperative that he must stay inspite of having protegees waiting to move up into the A-Team.


Red Bull Racing F1 Team :

The Honey Badger Daniel Ricciardo & The Flying Dutchman Max Verstappen continue their partnership for 2018. The chances of a seat opening in the other 2 front runners seemed a difficult prospect so it is best for the duo to stay put.


Sahara Force India F1 Team :

Force India also announced their intention to persist with Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon for 2018. It hasn't been smooth sailing with the team-mates coming together and causing the team grief on a few occasions. They are banned form racing each other in 2017. However their talent cannot be belittled. Force India is a force to reckon with and it needs motivated and hungry individuals to pounce on any opportunity they may get from lapses by the front runners. There are few who can do what Perez and Ocon are capable of.


McLaren Honda F1 Team :

The Situation at McLaren is very tense. Their hopes of returning to glory with Honda have fallen flat. Fernando Alonso is very vocal about Honda's failures to deliver a powerful reliable engine, Stoffel Vandoorne feels no different. McLaren, the 2nd most successful team in F1 are now at a crossroads. Fernando Alonso will leave if McLaren choose to continue with Honda in 2018. Losing a two time World Champion to another team will be disastrous for McLaren and there is no driver that can replace a man with Fernando's experience. Renault power units is the only other option for them and the possibility of a switch has gained traction in the past fortnight. McLaren also need to consider the cost of divorce with Honda. Only McLaren can afford the pay demands of Alonso. Will they switch to Renault? I definitely think so. A must to maintain their respect and prestige in F1 besides holding onto the best driver on the grid ( personal opinion ). Stoffel Vandoorne is confirmed for 2018.


Williams Martini Racing F1 Team :

Williams have a talented prospect in Stroll who is finding his feet and beginning to impress people. Felipe Massa came in to fill the void left by Bottas at the end of 2016. Williams made it clear that they are in no hurry to discuss options for 2018 up until the end of the season. Paul di Resta is the reserve driver but his chances of landing a seat seem bleak. Stroll should be able to do enough to warrant a contract extension. Felipe's decision to stay or retire is still a debatable one. Williams hiring Alonso was also doing rounds for some time. Williams need someone experienced enough and fast to aid the development of the 2018 Contender. They must convince Felipe to stay another year before they can actually scout talent or hire a capable replacement for him in 2019. Pascal Wehrlein is out of contract and Mercedes would try to get him a seat at Williams should Sauber not opt to continue with him. Wehrlein is one driver Williams must consider.


Haas F1 Team  :

Haas confirmed Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean quite early in the season and they rightly shifted their focus to developing a stronger and a faster car.


Renault Sport F1 Team :

Nico Hulkenberg is confirmed for 2018 and as per the reports coming in in the past couple of days, Renault have acquired the services of the talented Carlos Sainz Jr. This means that Jolyon Palmer's career in F1 might be coming to a sad end. Hulkenberg is fast and consistent and Renault is improving its car at a brisk rate. They will definitely be moving up the grid in 2018. Carlos Sainz Jr. has been stuck for quite sometime in Toro Rosso, Red Bull's B Team and his chances of moving up to the main team has dwindled drastically. He will definitely benefit from joining a Work's Team. Carlos Sainz's impending move to Renault will be just reward for his performances - but it could also hand a well-earned F1 chance to another deserving racer.

Renault will benefit from having 2 consistent strong drivers. Jolyon Palmer, as for him, its best to seek other pastures.


Scuderia Toro Rosso F1 Team :

Toro Rosso are yet to announce their 2018 line-up. Daniil Kvyat is out of contract but with Carlos Sainz Jr. departure to Renault, he should bag an extension. Pierre Gasly, Red Bull Racing's Reserve Driver is slated to take up the 2nd seat for 2018 and the Frenchman has proven his potential in test sessions earlier. If Kvyat does get a contract extension, its imperative that he outperforms Gasly to ensure a strong case for promotion in 2019, should any of the current Red Bull Drivers opt to switch to another front runner.


Sauber F1 Team :

Sauber has both seats available for 2018. Ferrari are intending to invest in Sauber and re-brand it under the umbrella of Alfa-Romeo. Should the move come to fruition the team could become Ferrari's B Team and that could open up places for Antonio Giovinazzi and the talented Charles Le Clerc in F1. Marcus Ericsson would also have an opportunity of continuing there ( performances in second half matter ). Its improbable that Ferrari would allow a Mercedes Protegee in Wehrlein to continue in the team. Sauber still has the freedom to choose what they think is the way forward for them but for how long?


The championship resumes in Singapore this weekend and there will be a lot more clarity with teams and drivers in the coming weeks.

The general consensus for most has been to continue with the current pairing of drivers. Continuity is key for 2018..









2017 F1 Mid Season Review - There Can Only Be One..

2017 turned a page in the turbo era of F1. Bigger tyres, more downforce, faster lap times and the good emanating out of new ownership of the sport prove that F1 is slowly making its way back to the glory days. 2017 has brought a sense of freshness to the sport and the teams have embraced the challenges with aplomb. New Partnerships were created and New Rivalries were born. The Mid-Season Break is ongoing but the work carries on in the respective team factories. So how good have the contenders been up until the halfway point of the season?

Lets have a quick peek.


Mercedes AMG F1 Team :

Mercedes, the undisputed champions of the Turbo Era are tipped to retain the crown for both the Drivers' as well as the Constructors' but unlike the years gone by, the competitors have posed a bigger threat than they ever have before. Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas are having to play catch-up with Sebastian Vettel. Mercedes' lead in the Constructors' is a slender 39 points and they have been outclassed in a few races this year. Lewis Hamilton is P2 in the Championship, 14 points adrift with 4 wins and 2 podiums to his name. Valtteri Bottas is P3 with 169 points with 2 wins and 6 podiums.

Its advantage Lewis in the intra-team battle according to me. Lewis knows how the team functions and has shown time and again why he is a 3 time world champion. The Team will look to him to aid their defense of the world title. Valtteri Bottas on the other hand is a revelation and surprised one as he settled into his new team fairly quickly. Bottas is keeping Lewis honest in this title fight. The team must ensure that a healthy environment is maintained between the 2 garages. Mercedes maintained a fair fight on the track and delivered on their promise so far. They still have the fastest car on the grid but an unsettled one as well when stuck behind another car. 


Scuderia Ferrari F1 Team :

Ferrari persisted with Sebastian Vettel & Kimi Raikkonen for 2017 and they have upped their game this year. Sebastian Vettel has been leading the charge and is currently the leader in the Drivers' Championship with 202 points with 4 wins to his name ( Australia, Bahrain, Monaco & Hungary ) and four 2nd place finishes. Kimi Raikkonen was the slow starter again and had many issues hampering his progress, both on the mechanical and the strategic fronts. The Iceman's performances improved in the races going into the break. Kimi Raikkonen is P5 in the Championship with 4 podium finishes to his name.

The Gap between Mercedes and Ferrari is 39 points. Momentum is with the Prancing Horse. Mercedes are definitely looking nervously over their shoulders. I wish to quote Ferrari Team Principal Maurizio Arrivabene : At Ferrari, there is no holiday. We have to stay humble and keep pushing. Unquote.

Sebastian Vettel is the favourite for the driver's title. Kimi Raikkonen is providing the perfect support role. Mathematically Kimi isn't out of the title race but realises its best to not jeopardize team chances by unsettling his team-mate in races ( inspite of being faster ). Kimi had the chance to win 2 races, one in Monaco and the other in Hungary but the team chose otherwise. Once again the Finn has shown that he is a team man and a class act. Ferrari will always be indebted to him


Red Bull Racing F1 Team :

Red Bull had a strong 2016 and had hopes to replicate it in 2017. However Ferrari arrived a lot stronger and currently maintain a healthy lead over them. Red Bull are unbeatable when it comes to chassis design and aerodynamics. However the Renault Power Tag Heuer branded Power Unit continues to be their Achilles' Heel. Daniel Ricciardo sits P4 in the Drivers' Standings with 117 Points and 1 victory to his name. ( Azerbaijan ). Max Verstappen has been very unfortunate with issues in his car causing him to retire from strong finishing positions in 4 Races. Verstappen's  best finish was P3 in China. Max is P6 in the championship with 67 points.

Red Bull must ensure that both cars reach the Chequered Flag. They don't face an immediate threat from Force India but if they plan to dethrone Ferrari by the end of the season reliability will be the key. Red Bull top brass will be thoroughly displeased if they are unable to bag P2 in the Championship. Realistically, its a far fetched dream. The Development curve must not stop and Red Bull must aim to carry their progress into 2018 to be closer to the fastest teams on the grid.


Sahara Force India F1 Team :

Force India continue to be a revelation in 2017. They are right up there with the big boys fighting wheel to wheel and causing some upsets along the way as well. An accomplished power unit in Mercedes alongwith a capable chassis has ensured that Force India is the strongest customer team on the grid. They are well ahead of Williams in the Constructors but considerably behind Red Bull so improving to P3 at the end of 2017 seems uncertain. Barring Monaco, the team has always scored points. Sergio Perez leads the team-mate battle with 56 points to his name and P4 being his best finish ( Spain ). Esteban Ocon isn't far behind with 45 points, Spain his best result ( 5th ). Team Livery also is a talking point - eye-catching pink coloured cars on the grid. Driver Race Suits were similar and this invited some healthy banter with other teams over social media.

P4 would be a great finish and for a team with financial constraints like Force India, they can be extremely proud of what they have achieved so far.


Williams Martini Racing F1 Team :

Williams started well in 2014 with the New Turbo Engines suiting their cars well. However they have gone backwards since and sit 5th in the standings in the mid season break. Felipe Massa returned from retirement to take up Valtteri Bottas' place who left for Mercedes AMG F1. Lance Stroll, the rookie joined forces with him. Williams have underachieved in the first half of 2017. Lance Stroll's 3rd Place in Baku Azerbaijan was a surprise but Massa has been the more consistent of the two. His experience has been vital in keeping the team in 5th, albeit just 2 points ahead of the fast charging Toro Rossos. Massa's best finishes came in Australia and Bahrain ( 6th ) alongwith points finishes in 4 other races. Stroll is on 18 points scoring in 2 other races barring his podium. Its early days for the Canadian but in a demanding sport like F1, its vital to find your feet quickly.

The biggest advantage for Williams is the Mercedes Power Unit and there are still some power circuits left on the calendar so holding onto P5 shouldn't be an issue for the team. 


Scuderia Toro Rosso F1 Team :

Toro Rosso, the final step before a Red Bull Driver Program protegee steps into the A Team prove time and again that a team operating on a small budget can still perform well with the right chassis and personnel. Daniil Kvyat and Carlos Sainz Jr. continued their alliance going into 2017. The quest to impress the bosses has token a toll on Kvyat. Incidents, accidents, retirements have marred the Russian's performances and he must pray for a strong second half to retain his seat. Carlos Sainz Jr. is in a league of his own outclassing his team-mate and bringing home majority of the points. He sits 9th in the Drivers' Standings with 35 points while Kvyat has managed only 4 and is 17th currently.

Toro Rosso will have the backing of Red Bull for the rest of the season but as much as they have to stay focused to hunt down Williams who are 2 points ahead they have to keep an eye out for those behind as well. Renault and McLaren will be forces to reckon with by the end of the year. Its imperative for the team to "make hay while the sun shines"


Haas F1 Team :

Haas F1 fielded Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen for 2017 and they deserve credit for the start provided in 2017. Haas impressed one and all since their arrival in F1 and at half-way point in 2017 they lead 2 works' teams! Grosjean has 18 points to Magnussen's 11 and unlike the teams below them, both drivers have scored points whenever presented with an opportunity. Haas is powered by Ferrari so the unit is potent enough for strong results. However the Chassis needs improvements and the team will improve with experience.

They are 10 points off Toro Rosso and it will be a close battle up until the end of the season. Toro Rosso wont be an easy team to beat but the mid-field battle is about to get fiesty in the second half of the season as Haas are no slouches.


Renault Sport F1 Team :

Renault returned as a factory team in 2016 with an elaborate road map. They made their intentions clear by acquiring the services of the talented Nico Hulkenberg and the German has been a great investment. He has scored all the points for the team this season, the tally of which stands at 26, seemingly safe from McLaren Honda. Nico's best results were 6th in Spain and Great Britain. Renault is improving the performance of its power unit and I predict P6 for them at the end of the year. Like McLaren the chassis is pretty competent and Renault have the privilege of pumping in more money unlike their immediate competitors. Another concern for the team is the performance of Jolyon Palmer. The Former GP2 Champion is yet to score a Championship Point and is fairly off the pace in comparison to Hulkenberg. He missed being in the points on 3 occasions and he must start bringing home the desired results to aid his own career as well as the team's chances in moving up the order.

Renault has the money, the tools, the personnel, the facilities to improve race by race and as a fan I definitely believe that they will soon be fighting at the sharp end of the grid. Priority though is to have a strong second half in 2017.


McLaren Honda F1 Team :

McLaren in the second year of its partnership with Honda still languishes in ninth in the Constructors' Standings. The Chassis has been brilliant but Power Unit Issues have cost them at many races. The past few rounds promise a change of fortune and as claimed by Honda, the unit should be powerful enough to beat a Renault. Will this turn out to be true? Highly doubt it. Fernando Alonso is ahead in the intra-team battle with 10 points on the board to Stoffel Vandoorne's one. Both achieved their best result in Hungary, a circuit where power isn't the deciding factor for a strong result.

Mclaren cannot afford to be P9 by the end of the season and Honda must get its act together to ensure they don't lose sponsors and vital financial benefits of finishing higher up in the pecking order. Fernando Alonso is another asset they cannot afford to lose. I believe he is the best driver on the grid with race craft second to none. Reliability with performance will lead to stronger results to make a strong case for the Spaniard to stay put.


Sauber F1 Team :

Sauber F1 currently stands 10th and last in the Constructors' Standings. They have managed only 5 points till now and are still adrift of McLaren by 6 points. Sauber went through a change of leadership with Monisha Kaltenborn leaving the team and Frederic Vasseur taking over the reins. Its hard to see them move up from the back of the grid ( due to cash constraints ). Pascal Wehrlein has impressed again bagging all the points for the team. Marcus Ericsson needs to pull his socks up and capitalize on finishing in the points whenever the opportunity arises. Antonio Giovinazzi stepped in for Wehrlein for the first 2 races after the German's preparations for 2017 were halted with a crash in the Race of Champions. He finished 12th and retired in the next race.

Its difficult to see Sauber finish higher at the end of 2017.


The final leg of the race will resume from Belgium.  A lot of action, drama awaits us in the second half of the season. The Second Half will also see many drivers suffering grid drops as components are changed on cars and exceed the permitted number by the FIA. The Teams must wait for the opportune time for such changes to ensure Damage Limitation. These could make or break the contest in the Drivers' Championship.

5 contenders to the Drivers' crown. 2 for the Constructors' but There Can Only Be One!

Bring on Spa - Francorchamps!