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The Driver Merry-Go-Round...As Unpredictable as it can get

Drivers, one of the most important assets for a team to attain success in F1. A team can have state of the art facilities, great financial resources, a very talented bunch of engineers and mechanics who can build a race winning and probably a championship winning car; but all this comes to naught if the man behind the wheel cannot bring home the desired results. Sometimes a car is only as good as its driver and we have seen instances in the past when good drivers drove mediocre cars and produced decent results.


This year, the Driver Markets Scenario can be termed the silliest of them all. There are various theories circulating in the paddock and barring 2 teams, each team has at least one seat on offer for the 2019 season. 

I shall make a conscious attempt of exploring the possibilities of driver lineups for 2019 based on all the information that I could glean off team insiders, reporters and friends from the F1 paddock, but first those who have locked down their drives for 2019.


Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team :

Mercedes is in a fierce contest with Ferrari for supremacy this year. Their focus is solely on retaining both the Drivers' and Constructors' Titles; so its no surprise that they announced their driver lineup with no changes fairly early in the season. Drama due to media speculations can become a big distraction for a team in a highly stressful environment so kudos to them for steering clear. Valtteri Bottas will partner Lewis Hamilton for 2019 with an option to extend for another year for the Finn.


Renault Sport F1 Team :

Nico Hulkenberg is on a long term contract with Renault but the team from Oxfordshire acquired one of the hottest properties of 2019 - Daniel Ricciardo! His acquisition left the entire F1 Community in shock and awe. What triggered this decision? Will it prove to be a masterstroke or a debacle? Lets try to answer these questions.

What triggered this decision?

Daniel Ricciardo is a successful product of the Red Bull Driver Program and enjoyed a fair amount of success with the A team since 2014. However he is yet to win a Championship with them and with the arrival of a much younger Max Verstappen ( almost all believe he will be a World Champion eventually ) maintaining parity is becoming a challenge. The Biggest Factor that has triggered this decision though is that Red Bull switches to Honda power for 2019. Honda's return to F1 is a fiasco. The situation hasn't changed much in 2018 and Toro Rosso has suffered their fair share of retirements. Will Red Bull be a force to reckon with in 2019? Aerodynamically yes, in power hungry circuits, an emphatic no. I would be surprised if they even manage to be on the podium regularly. Mercedes shut the door and Ferrari refused to offer Daniel a drive. Only one Works Team remained. A team with the resources to return to the top end of the grid, win races and even challenge for Championships - Renault F1. 


Will it prove to be a masterstroke or a debacle?

Red Bull are 3rd in the Constructors' at the summer break, 141 points ahead of Renault. Renault is yet to score a podium since their return to being a full works team while Red Bull notched up 3 victories this year. Statistically its a howler of a decision; for many it is like going from a front running team to a mid table team. However 2019 and 2020 will give us a very different story.

Let us look at 2 recent examples of such decisions : Lewis Hamilton's switch to Mercedes in 2013 and Fernando Alonso's switch to McLaren Honda in 2015. 

Mercedes were nowhere near the front in 2012 or 2013. McLaren was one of the cars that could challenge the dominance of Red Bull but come 2014, the advent of the 1.6 V6 Turbo era and the Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team were untouchable. They have won 4 titles on the trot while McLaren have slipped back into oblivion. Lewis' decision to switch at the end of 2012 was viewed as a disaster by some, the results thereafter suggest a totally different story.

Alonso tried to win a title at Ferrari for 5 years. It was not to be. He chose to return to McLaren in 2015 with the hope of returning to the top step of the podium and rolling back the years to the golden era of Senna and Prost ( who ran Honda Powered engines ). The result is a disaster. Honda struggled to find their feet and the alliance was terminated at the end of 2017. Fernando Alonso has not been on the podium for 4 years. The biggest difference between the 2 decisions is that Mercedes was a full works team ( chassis + powertrain ) while McLaren are only chassis designers. A good chassis working in tandem with a reliable and quick powertrain can win you races, titles. Hence in the case of Lewis, it was a masterstroke and in the case of Alonso, a debacle.

Renault build both and are expanding their personnel and R&D facilities with every passing week. They are not there yet but have taken giant steps in that direction. Their results in comparison to last year's speak volumes of the progress made. 2019 will see him as a regular on the podium. A win? Probably not...but come 2020, Ricciardo will be in a Championship winning car ( in my opinion ).



Now onto the teams that have a seat each on offer!


Scuderia Ferrari F1 Team :

Sebastian Vettel stays with the Prancing Horse for 2019 and that is no surprise. Its an excellent alliance and they should lift the title this year...a long wait but worth it. Kimi Raikkonen's seat, like every year is the hot topic of discussion. Rumours that Charles Leclerc will replace Kimi Raikkonen in-season gained a lot of traction. Some even claimed that Kimi would return to Sauber and finish his career where he started it. This really is the most retarded theory out there. Another publication claimed that Kimi would return to McLaren to replace the outgoing Alonso ( Another fictitious theory ).  Then the Iceman upped his game and silenced all critics. He finished on the podium 5 times in a row, the only one to do so in both the Triple and the Double Header. Suddenly news that he was being offered another contract extension started doing the rounds. Nothing is official yet and the 2nd seat at Ferrari is still up for grabs.

Its no secret that Charles Leclerc, Scuderia Ferrari Academy Driver is destined to occupy this seat. When rather than whether is the question. He has been a revelation in Sauber, comprehensively beating his more experienced team-mate Marcus Ericsson. Is he ready to step into the big league? I don't think so. He has the talent but rushing him into a top seat with only a one year experience in F1 might turn out to be a disaster. It would be better for Leclerc to go to the stronger customer team Haas F1 for 2019 and then join the A Team in 2020. Kimi is having his strongest year in Ferrari since his return to Maranello in 2014 and is the perfect team-mate to Vettel. They share a no-nonsense, friendly and transparent relationship; both push each other to their limits and when needed, Kimi is a true team player. His experience in the sport cannot be matched. He definitely has another year of racing in him and as most experts agree, his recent performances and his current position ( 3rd ) in the Drivers' Championship has earned him the right to be a Red for another year. 

Ferrari, like Mercedes must lock down their driver lineups soon to eliminate unnecessary media attention and the drama that comes with it. They are in the Driver's seat so their focus should be on winning the title rather than addressing issues for 2019.

I expect Scuderia Ferrari to announce a contract extension for Kimi Raikkonen in Belgium. GO ICEMAN!!



Red Bull Racing F1 Team :

Red Bull will lose a star in Daniel Ricciardo for 2019. Christian Horner, Red Bull Team Principal, thought Ricciardo was joking when the latter expressed his desire to leave the team at the end of the season. Well a seat is vacant and Red Bull are spoilt for choice for 2019. Pierre Gasly, Carlos Sainz Jr, Fernando Alonso are all vying for this seat. ( Brendan Hartley, former WEC Champion won't make the cut ( below par debut in F1 ) and hence not in the reckoning ) 

Carlos Sainz Jr. was loaned to Renault for 2018 and considering the fact that he started his F1 career with Max Verstappen, he would be the logical choice to jump into the seat next year. Astonishingly Red Bull are not in a hurry and will bide their time to make their choice. It leaves Sainz in a very unfortunate position. If he were to not be the chosen one, he could find himself out of the sport. McLaren seem one destination but that would mean going backwards on the grid. No disrespect to McLaren but they are a shadow of their former self. Sainz is a talented driver and deserves to be on the sharp end of the grid. Sainz has a sponsor in Estrella Galacia and that can be a trump card.

Pierre Gasly another Red Bull Protegee is having a strong year in F1. He is already working with Honda at Toro Rosso so that is a bonus. His relative inexperience is a negative and having 2 young drivers can be a recipe for disaster.

Fernando Alonso, the opportunist, a man who can move mountains in order to have a winning car under him. He is believer to be one of the contenders for the seat but will he team up with Honda again? Considering his rants in races in years that Honda raced with McLaren, it doesn't seem that Alonso and Honda have an amicable relationship. Red Bull is a team that practices parity between team-mates but should Alonso join, will this practice continue? Politics come into play too and the atmosphere within the team might not stay healthy. In my opinion, Alonso will stay put to head to WEC next year. 

I really wish that Sainz Jr. gets the Red Bull drive in 2019 but Gasly seems the favourite according to experts. It might turn out to be a blessing in disguise for Sainz Jr. if he opts to go Renault Powered McLaren and it ends up beating a Honda Powered Red Bull!

Time will tell...



Now onto those who have both seats up for grabs!


Sahara Force India F1 :

Force India F1 isn't Force India anymore but will have a new name after a consortium headed by Mr. Lawrence Stroll got them out of administration today. Both seats are available for 2019 but after Lawrence Stroll, Lance Stroll's father acquired the team, the Canadian will ply his trade there. ( Official announcement pending ). Esteban Ocon, Mercedes backed and part of their informal program should stay. Any speculation linking him with Renault is now over and Mercedes will ensure he stays at their strongest customer team. This means Sergio Perez will be without a drive. Perez too has a sizeable sponsor in Telmex backing him and as per his recent admission, his future in F1 lies elsewhere. McLaren is the best option, Haas an alternate. Williams also might not be a bad choice if they are able to improve their performances.  

Force India will retain Ocon and Lance Stroll will be his team-mate for 2019 according to me.


Haas F1 Team :

Haas F1, like Red Bull is spoilt for choice for 2019. Magnussen is having a great year and Grosjean the complete opposite. The general consensus is that Grosjean is set to lose his drive. Charles Leclerc is the ideal replacement. Ferrari would want him there to assess him in a faster car and if he can better his performances, Haas F1 will cherish this decision. Magnussen, also without a contract should end up renewing with Haas since the team will want an existing driver to help with the development for next year. Perez has an outside chance but its a very slim one. 

Haas will field Magnussen and Leclerc in 2019.


McLaren F1 Team :

McLaren's status in F1 is now reduced to a mid-field runner. Its embarrassing to see a team with such a decorated past to be struggling with mercurial performances week in week out. The patience of their Spanish Matador Fernando Alonso is also running low. He is exploring the possibility of joining WEC next year ( someone close to the team confirmed the same ). Many predict a career in Indy but Honda might be the roadblock in that endeavour. It would be a major setback for the team if he were to leave F1. Stoffel Vandoorne has been a disappointment this year and his lacklustre performances leave his drive in jeopardy. He might be retained if Alonso leaves. The options available are many for 2019 and the team must bide their time before zeroing in on their lineup. Landon Norris, a part of their driver program is performing well in Formula 2 but it might be an year too early to rope him in into F1. The team must do everything in its capacity to hold onto Fernando Alonso. Carlos Sainz Jr is one of the frontrunners for a race seat, a move that will be effected if he is left high and dry by Red Bull, albeit a second time. Sainz Jr will be delighted to partner his hero in 2019. He also brings a sizeable sponsorship in Estrella Galacia as mentioned earlier. However if Sainz does go to Red Bull, then Sergio Perez is a good option. Financially, he has an equally strong backing. He drove for the team in 2013 but was ousted in a not-so-amicable way ( much like Fernando at the end of 2007 ). 

Factoring in the current situation, its safe to say that McLaren will end up having an all Spanish lineup with Alonso and Sainz Jr in 2019.


Alfa-Romeo Sauber F1 Team :

Sauber F1 are extremely pleased with the performances of Leclerc this year. Marcus Ericsson like his previous year is nowhere in terms of performances. Astonishingly he retained his seat in 2018 and he might in 2019 as well! Leclerc is bound for Haas according to me and Antonio Giovinazzi Ferrari's Reserve Driver ) is a regular feature in tests and practice sessions for the team this year. I believe he will make a return to the grid in 2019. I don't see Sauber going outside the Scuderia Ferari Academy umbrella to hire a F1 Pilot. Antonio Fuoco ( from Charouz Racing Team in F2 ) will have to wait another year, maybe he will be roped in as a reserve driver this year.

Marcus Ericsson and Antonio Giovinazzi is the lineup for Sauber according to me.


Scuderia Toro Rosso F1 Team :

Toro Rosso is in a serious dilemma. Gasly ( according to many ) is set for the Red Bull Racing seat in 2019. Brendan Hartley was slated to be replaced but the Red Bull Driver Program has no one ready for the big jump into F1. The man closest to the seat is Dan Ticktum who is plying his trade in Formula 3. The biggest hurdle will be that he will not gather enough superlicense points ( even if he wins the F3 championship ) to warrant a drive next year. However the FIA reviews its points criteria every year and maybe they might have modifications made that will enable him to enter F1. Hartley, if Gasly was to leave might just be retained for another year ( I am being a bit biased towards him here ). He is a great guy and a genuinely quick driver but for some reason is not able to find his feet in F1. If Ticktum can't make the cut, Toro Rosso will be compelled to see someone outside their program and Perez, Vandoorne will be options. Perez should win this bout with the experience and the money he brings. 

Toro Rosso will have Perez and Hartley ( if Ticktum can't make the cut ) in 2019. ( Bold prediction ).


Williams Martini Racing F1 Team :

Williams is last in the Championship and with the latest news of Lawrence Stroll buying out Force India, they have lost a sizeable amount of finances for 2019. Sergei Sirotkin, the debutant this year will retain his drive in all probability ( taking into account the money he brings into the team ). George Russell, the F2 Championship leader and Mercedes Protege  should get a drive with Williams. He is set to win the F2 Championship this year and Williams will be a suitable fit to assess his abilities in the big league. 

Sirotkin and Russell look certain for Williams next year.


So to sum it all up :

Mercedes : Hamilton & Bottas ( Confirmed )

Renault F1 : Ricciardo & Hulkenberg ( Confirmed )


Scuderia Ferrari F1 : Vettel ( Confirmed ) & Raikkonen ( Predicted )

Red Bull Racing : Verstappen ( Confirmed ) & Gasly ( Predicted )


Force India : Stroll & Ocon ( Predicted )

Haas F1 : Magnussen & Leclerc ( Predicted )

McLaren : Alonso & Sainz Jr ( Predicted ).   If Alonso leaves, Vandoorne will be retained.

Sauber F1 : Ericsson & Giovinazzi ( Predicted )

Toro Rosso F1 : Hartley & Perez ( Predicted )   

Frankly, its a bold prediction and I might be well off the mark so apologies in advance! 

Williams F1 : Sirotkin & Russell ( Predicted )


So Grosjean and Vandoorne ( if Alonso stays and that is a BIG IF ) might not feature in 2019. I would be gutted if Vandoorne doesn't make the cut. He still has time to turn it around and I am hoping that I am proven wrong in my prediction!


These are my predictions ( my views based on my assessment ) taking into consideration the information collected in the last few weeks. I might be completely wrong when the lineups are confirmed officially by the teams. This year it really is as unpredictable as it can get.

2018 F1 Mid Season Review - The Contenders, The Wingmen & The Also-Rans

12 Races done, 9 to go and we are already in the Summer Break. The 2018 F1 Season has flown by!

This season is the longest in the Calendar with 21 rounds and there will be a lot to fight for in the 2nd half. We shall also be entering into a phase where grid penalties will become a common feature and resources for many will get strained.


How is 2018 treating teams and drivers? Lets have a quick peek :


Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team :

Mercedes, the kings of the Turbo Era are nervously looking over their shoulder in 2018. Clearly this is the toughest battle they have faced. Unlike the years gone by, they have been unable to break free from the Prancing Horse and the limits of their cars are being tested. One slip up and the contenders are ready to pounce. They are also aware that inspite of being the fastest, they aren't the best car on the grid. Lack of composure in the dirty air of the car in front, faster tyre degradation are 2 major challenges faced by them this year.  They had a slow start to the year but the team gained momentum from Baku. They currently lead the Constructors' battle by a slender 10 points but with 43 points up for grabs every weekend, the lead can disappear with one bad race. 

Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas have had their fair share of ups and downs this season. Bottas is yet to win a race and suffered some bad luck with retirements in Baku and Austria ( while leading ) and being tagged by Vettel in France. However he is 4th in the Championship with 132 points, 14 points behind Kimi in 3rd. Lewis leads the Championship ( after playing catch-up for most of the first half ) with 5 wins to his name ( Baku, Spain, France, Germany, Hungary ). He has a sizeable lead of 24 points over Vettel, the latter's DNF in Germany costing him big time. Lewis must maximize results in Belgium and Italy before the fly-aways commence and the F1 circus heads to circuits which aren't the kindest to a Mercedes. Bottas, although in contention, is already being considered a wingman for Lewis' title charge. 

Can Mercedes hold onto both titles in 2018? I highly doubt. 


Scuderia Ferrari F1 Team :

Ferrari, a team that has been playing catch up in the Turbo era is slowly turning the tables on Mercedes. Clearly the most balanced, kindest on tyres and very close to a Merc in outright pace, Ferrari have the car and the tools for making this THE YEAR. Only 10 points separate them from Mercedes and its turning out to be one of the most closely contested fights in recent history. A lot of credit goes to the duo of Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen, the latter more so. Kimi got learner over the winter, faster and is enjoying having a more aggresive front-end to his car and that is bringing home the results. He looks hungrier than ever is really enjoying life in F1. Vettel on the other hand is the well-oiled German Machine that never stops being consistent. 

Sebastian Vettel sits 2nd in the Championship with 189 points, trailing Hamilton by 24 while Kimi Raikkonen is 3rd with 146 to his name. Vettel has had 4 wins ( Australia, Bahrain, Canada, Britain ), two 2nd places and one 3rd place, total of 7 podiums. 

Kimi Raikkonen is yet to win a race in 2018 but has 8 podiums, one more than Seb's. The Botched pit-stop in Bahrain and the PU failure in Spain cost the Iceman valuable points and podium finishes which would have brought him closer to his team-mate's tally of 189. He is still running the earlier-spec engine and should finally receive an upgraded unit in Belgium ( confirmed to me by a Ferrari Insider ). Qualifying still remains his Achilles heel and this is one major reason why a win still eludes him. However this is the best year since his return to the team and his 3rd strongest season overall ( both stints at Ferrari combined )

Vettel on the other hand had a very strong start to the year but his drives have not been flawless. The Big Mistake came in Germany when he aquaplaned in changing conditions knocking him out of the race and handing Lewis a big win in the grander scheme of things. The lock-up in Baku at the safety car restart, coming together in France with Bottas and the unfortunate tag by Max in China have added to the "points lost" tally. 

Ferrari have two world champions racing for them vs Mercedes' one. Their combined experience is better than the Merc duo. Ferrari should win the Constructors' Title in 2018 in my opinion...but then anything can happen in the world of motorsport! This definitely is Ferrari's Title to lose.

  

Red Bull Racing F1 Team :

Red Bull predicted at the start of 2018 that it will be difficult to stay in touch with the Mercedes and the Ferraris. The Constructors' table does suggest that but Red Bull have enjoyed their moments of glory in the first half of 2018. Daniel Ricciardo's win in China was exploiting the conditions on offer and applying a master strategy. His win in Monaco ( a track suited to Red Bull ) was a memorable one, redemption for the debacle in 2016. Many argue that Max would have won in the Principality. He was a step ahead of everyone but a crash in qualifying blew his chances and probably denied the team the chance of a famous 1-2. Come Austria, Red Bull's home race and Max took an unexpected win. Austria is a power circuit where the lack of top end grunt in the Tag Heuer branded Renault Power Unit is massively exposed and the what would have been damage limitation for the team turned into ecstasy. Retirements and PU failures have cost the team badly. Both drivers have 4 retirements each to their name, retirements from podium positions in the race, costing the team valuable points in the Constructors. Daniel Ricciardo is 5th in the Championship with 118 points while Max is 6th with 105. Ricciardo has 2 wins to his name while Max has 1 win and 3 podiums. It seems like Red Bull will finish P3 again in the Championship. They have enough breathing space from Renault and trail Ferrari by a massive 112 points. A lot can change in the final 9 rounds with Singapore being the major points scoring opportunity for Red Bull but giving Ferrari a run for P2 is highly unlikely.


Renault Sport F1 Team :

Renault, who made a return to F1 as a full works team in 2016 is making a steady climb up the ladder. 4th in the standings at the summer break is a massive achievement. They have already bettered their tally of a meagre 57 points in 2017 before the summer break this year. The Facilities in Oxfordshire are expanding, personnel being hired and updates to the car coming at the pivotal moments. Nico Hulkenberg and loanee Carlos Sainz Jr. offer a great combination of youth and speed to the team. Hulkenberg leads the Intra-team battle with 52 points on the board while Sainz Jr has 30. Will Renault be able to better their current position by the end of the year? No. The gap ahead is still large and there is a lot of work to do but they will definitely extend their lead to the chasers by the end of the year. The challenge has just begun for Renault Sport F1, to challenge those in the big league is no mean task but the recruitment of Daniel Ricciardo for 2019 is a step in the right direction!


Haas F1 Team :

Haas F1, the strongest Ferrari customer team on the grid is improving each weekend. Haas' improvement curve since their entry into the sport is really inspiring. Working closely with the Ferrari Power units, the chassis is very balanced and performs pretty well at most circuits. The only thing eluding them is a podium, which I still think is at least an year away. Kevin Magnussen has borne the responsibility of scoring the chunk of the points. He is currently 8th in the Drivers' Championship with 45 points, his best finish being 5th in Bahrain and Austria. Romain Grosjean is having a torrid time with crashes and DNFs ( thanks to a ghost version of Marcus Ericsson :P ). He has amassed only 21 points, scoring in 3 of the last 4 rounds of going into the summer break. 4th in Austria was his best finish, a drive which showed that the Frenchman has it in him and he just needs to keep it clean. The mid-table battle between Haas, Force India and McLaren is very intense and its imperative for both drivers to finish races in the points consistently. A non-finish for both and the tables can turn drastically. Haas don't have the resources of a McLaren but they know to invest wisely. I believe they will eventually come out on top in this 3 way bout.


Sahara Force India F1 Team :

Force India is going through some really testing times. One of the creditors went to the court for dissolution of the team and the team is destined to go into administration until the new owners take charge. Their challenger on track isn't having the best outing either. The team is currently 6th in the standings, 2 places lower than their best position in the recent years. Renault and Haas have jumped them, although overtaking Haas by the end of the year should still be an achievable task. A 3rd place by Perez in Baku brought some joy to the team but both Perez and Ocon have scored 59 points combined, too few going into the summer break. Perez leads his team-mate by a point with Ocon finishing in the points on 6 occasions compared to Perez's 5. The lack of funding is hurting the team bad and I doubt they might finish 6th by the end of the year. Anything lower than 4th is a disaster but that is the reality and the team must ride the tide and hope for fortunes to change in 2019.  Astonishingly, Force India remains the most successful Mercedes Customer Team on the grid.


McLaren F1 Team :

McLaren switched to Renault power for 2018 and hoped for a better outing. Its been anything but that. The experts always believed that McLaren had an excellent chassis but their design flaws have been exposed this year. One can argue that its only their first year with Renault and every team needs time to completely adjust to a new engine manufacturer. Fernando Alonso is digging deep to bring home the results and after a strong start to the year, is now struggling to keep McLaren in the fight. Stoffel Vandoorne seems to be struggling with multiple issues and is nowhere near the level of racing he has been. Alonso sits 9th in the Standings with 44 points while Vandoorne is in 16th with just 8 points. Fernando is one driver who will give his 110 % week in week out and is unbeatable when it comes to race wit. Vandoorne must drive better to save his seat, a shame if he was to lose his. Eric Boullier, the Racing Director at McLaren resigned during the triple header and that didn't help matters. McLaren needs to start afresh, begin from scratch and have the right people in the right positions with the legitimate authority to make some tough decisions. 2018 is a good lesson for the team but they still have time to turn things around. Force India is only 7 points ahead and with the issues they face off-track and on it, McLaren must capitalize on every opportunity to put pressure on them in the races and steal P6 off them. Its a long road ahead and we have seen many stories being re-written, so all is not lost for the Woking based outfit. 


Scuderia Toro Rosso F1 Team :

Toro Rosso made the big leap from Renault to Honda for 2018, practically becoming the guinea pig for feasibility and amalgamation with a Red Bull Chassis for 2019. Pierre Gasly and Brendan Hartley drive for the men in blue and both had their share of retirements and incidents. Gasly is the better performer of the two with 26 points in the championship and 3 finishes in the points. ( 4th being his best ). Hartley on the other hand scored two 10th places in Baku and Germany. His F1 career is under serious scrutiny and the WEC World Champion is finding it difficult to establish himself in the sport. The Duo need to be on the top of their game and hope that the Honda Power Unit at the back doesn't let up ( like it has in the first half ) to ensure they keep the Saubers at bay. Gasly's aim will be to impress the bosses in the A team and make a strong case for himself to be seen as an ideal fit for the outgoing Daniel Ricciardo, a move that has put the cat amongst the pigeons ( will explore this in the Driver Markets post ). Toro Rosso are known for having a balanced chassis and this might prove to be the winning card in their quest to stay P8 in the Championship.


Alfa-Romeo Sauber F1 Team :

Sauber sits 9th in the Standings with 18 points to their name. Charles Leclerc, the Scuderia Ferrari Academy Driver has led the charge with 5 points finishes, 6th in Baku his best result; while Marcus Ericsson finished in the points only thrice with 9th being his best finish in Bahrain and Germany. Its a closely contested battle with Scuderia Toro Rosso who have 10 more than them and ideally, Sauber should have been ahead but mistakes and reliability issues in the recent rounds hit them hard. On the financial side, they are in better waters thanks to Alfa-Romeo and will have enough resources to give Toro Rosso a serious headache. Charles Leclerc is making a name for himself in the paddock while Marcus Ericsson's credentials are being questioned. The Swede needs to pull up his socks in the second half else his financial backing wont be able to get him a drive in 2019.


Williams Martini F1 Racing Team :

Williams is going through a very tough phase in their history. The Team has gone backwards and seem a bit lost in their quest to close up on competitors. Incidents, Non-finishes and a single points finish to show for their efforts leaves them languishing in 10th and last in the Constructors' table. Lance Stroll managed the best finish for the team in Baku with 8th, a stark contrast from the podium they bagged the year before.They claimed to have identified the source of their problems but amends can only be made in 2019. Williams are destined to finish last in 2018 and also bound to lose their title sponsor in Martini at the end of the year. Williams will only be able to score if misfortunes hit the cars closest to them.The Future looks grim and we hope for the best for one of the most decorated teams of F1.


The title battle is wide open this year and all 4 drivers ( Mercedes and Ferrari ) are in contention for the crown...which begs the question : Will the teams allow Bottas and Raikkonen to challenge Hamilton and Vettel respectively? Parity between team-mates is claimed by both team but what happens on-track is contrary to claims. We are nearing that stage of the season when its wise to choose the real contenders for the crown; at this stage its a tough call to make since the Finns are not too far in terms of points. However one bad race or non-finish will seal them as the number 2 in their respective team. Their jobs will be reduced to Mere Wingmen, snippets of which were showed in Germany and Hungary.

Mercedes and Ferrari are in a class of their own. They are the True Contenders for the crown. Red Bull can only capitalize on the mistakes made up front and they have exploited it on a few occasions. The rest of the field will continue to contend amongst themselves to be the best of the rest.


A lot is still at stake...I can't wait for Round 2 of the Bout!


A Gallery of Memories - Part 15

The German Grand Prix made a return to the F1 Calendar this year and the race was held at Hockenheimring. I was fortunate to be a part of the same and the first blog post from the weekend kicks off with the "Gallery of Memories"


Chase Carey, CEO and Executive Chairman of the Formula One Group :


Dr. Helmut Marko, Head of Red Bull's Driver Development Program and advisor to Red Bull Racing F1 Team :


Charles Leclerc, Alfa-Romeo Sauber F1 Team!


Bernd Maylander, FIA Safety Car Driver :


Joe Saward, F1 Journalist :


Mervi Kallio, Finnish TV MTV Presenter :


Mara Sangiorgio, Sky F1 Italia Journalist!


Federica Masolin, Presenter for Sky Italia F1 :


Jacques Villeneuve, 1997 F1 World Champion :


The Man who made me fall in love with F1, Mika Hakkinen, 1998 and 1999 F1 World Champion! A LEGEND!!!


Nico Hulkenberg, Renault Sport F1 Team :


Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull Racing F1 Team :


Peter Bonnington, Race Engineer for Lewis Hamilton :


Norbert Haug, a legend from the Kimi years in McLaren and Former Vice President of Mercedes Motorsport :


Mattia Binotto of Scuderia Ferrari, Gene Haas ( Team Owner ) and Guenther Steiner ( Team Principal ) of Haas F1 Team :


Beat Zehnder of Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 Team :


Pierre Gasly, Scuderia Toro Rosso F1 Team :


Grace Capristo, German Artist who had the honour of singing the National Anthem before the Race.


Brendon Hartley, Scuderia Toro Rosso F1 Team :



Maurizio Arrivabene, Scuderia Ferrari F1 Team Principal :

Antonio Giovinazzi, Reserve Driver for Scuderia Ferrari F1 Team :


Alexander Molina, Marketing Operations, F1 Hospitality :


Toto Wolff, Team Principal for Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team :


Robert Kubica, reserve driver for Williams Martini Racing F1 Team. Nice to see him back in the Paddock.


Paul Ripke, Photographer for Mercedes AMG F1 Team :


Lewis Hamilton, 4 time World Champion and Driver for Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team :


Matteo Bonciani, head of F1 Communications for FIA :


Riccardo Adami, Sebastian Vettel's Race Engineer in Scuderia Ferrari F1 Team :


Rosanna Tennant, presenter and host for F1 :


Lance Stroll, Williams Martini F1 Racing :


Nico Rosberg, 2016 F1 World Champion :


Will Buxton, Broadcaster and Journalist in F1 :


Carlos Sainz Jr., Renault Sport F1 Team :


Esteban Ocon, Sahara Force India F1 Team :


Paddock Club Diaries to follow soon, so watch this space!