Category Archives: Formula One 2012 World Championship

The speculation surrounding Lewis Hamilton

Let us firstly put this into perspective. Lewis Hamilton is contracted to Vodafone McLaren Mercedes until the end of this current season. That is highly unlikely to change.

He has entered into talks, and is in ‘advanced stages of negotiations’ with the team to move forward and negotiate an ongoing contract. Which, one would suspect, would be similar to the ‘multi-year’ contract teammate Jenson Button is currently enjoying with the team.

‘Silly season’ really does seem to have got out of hand once again this year; the two main ‘victims’ appear to be Hamilton and Schumacher. The latter appears to be the victim of a Freudian slip of the tongue from Bernie Ecclestone, the former; it appears, is the victim of sensationalistic comments coming from someone who is not necessarily regarded as the most credible.

The common denominator between the two ‘stories of the season’? Ladies and Gentleman, I give you, the one and only, Eddie Jordan.

Everyone in Formula One regards him as the ‘Paddock Jester’, his colleagues never miss an opportunity to either discredit his theories, nor mock him in front of millions on the TV.

Asked about comments Jordan had been making in the lead up to the Italian Grand Prix at Monza this weekend, McLaren Team Principal Martin Whitmarsh said “I’ve heard a range of speculation this week but any sentence that begins ‘Eddie Jordan understands’ is immediately questionable, isn’t it?”

In addition, it is apparent that Whitmarsh himself is not even involved in the seemingly ongoing process himself. ‘My understanding is that we are in talks with him [Hamilton]’.

Eager to jump on the bandwagon, many journalists of questioning ability, and credibility for that matter; have continued to blow the story out of all proportion, despite all involved (understandably) refusing to add fuel to the fire. In a statement, Mercedes said that they “do not comment on speculation”, but added “Until we are in a position to confirm our full driver line-up for next season, it is inevitable that there will be speculation around this topic.”

Whilst some of the points made by certain journalists do seem to make some logical sense, I would point out that this is nothing more than conjecture and have absolutely no factual basis whatsoever.

Predominantly, none of these sensationalistic stories have even touched upon the amount of time, effort and money that has been expended during the development of Hamilton himself, from his career in Karting through to his rise to the upper echelons of the sport he loves; Formula One.

From a commercial standpoint, McLaren will almost certainly be reviewing the return on investment in Hamilton. Admittedly, he has delivered a World Championship, along with twenty wins, forty eight podiums and a total of 865 points during his F1 career.

This suggests that both parties are merely trying to negotiate a mutually beneficial value for what each brings to the table, and have yet to agree what this is.

During questioning this weekend, Hamilton made it abundantly obvious that he was not even involved in the talks himself. This was being left to his Management Team, XIX Entertainment and Simon Fuller.

This itself begs a question. If a company who is more used to managing the likes of the Spice Girls and David Beckham is managing the process, they are bound to be as creative as they possibly can be, in order to not only increase the profile of their client, but to get the maximum value from negotiations for their own commercial and financial gain.

Admittedly, I am a fan of both Lewis Hamilton and the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes team, but what has annoyed me about this so-called story, is the lack of factual or evidential material to support any of the claims being made.

Speculation is bound to continue and could potentially escalate, but there is one thing that is certain; until negotiations are complete and either the ink is drying on the contract, or both parties have agreed it is no longer beneficial to continue; speculation is all that it will ever be.


Hungarian Grand Prix – Hungaroring – Race

Following a successful weekend which saw him top two of the three practice sessions, Lewis Hamilton won from the front in Hungary.

With expectations of rain surrounding the build up to the race, focus would quickly switch to an aborted race start. An additional formation lap was ran so the idle Mercedes of Michael Schumacher could be pushed back into the pit lane, where the German would have to start his race.

Following disappointing starts in recent races, Hamilton was determined to get away from the lights well in order to develop a lead. He started so well in fact, that he went faster and deeper into turn one than expected, locking his front right tyre, something he later made light of in an interview.

Teammate Jenson Button seemed to start well from 4th and was able to pass Vettel for third in turn two, but Hamilton and Grosjean would both develop their lead over the field. Hamilton was able to build his gap to the Frenchman in the opening laps of the race, cleverly managing to stay out of the DRS zone.

To add insult to injury following his start in the pitlane, not only was Schumacher under investigation for speeding in the pitlane, but had suffered an inexplicable puncture which would force him to return for fresh tyres. He would be handed a drive-through penalty two laps later, damaging his race beyond repair.

Button meanwhile was pulling away from Vettel in fourth, however on lap 16, he suffered with oversteer on turn four which would force his decision to pit for a fresh set of medium compound tyres. Vettel left his pitstop decision for two further laps, allowing Button to push and ensure he remained in front of the German.

With Hamilton approaching the pits on lap 19/69 to change to the Medium compound tyre, a perfect stop was needed in order to ensure he maintained the lead from a pressing Grosjean, but he was held slightly in his getaway from the pitbox.

Thankfully for Hamilton, Grosjean would suffer a similar delay after his pitstop and he would remain in the lead. With the Frenchman on the soft compound tyre however, he would begin to close the gap to Hamilton, but this would only harm the tyres on the Lotus-Renault which would allow Hamilton to redevelop his lead.

Button was still holding the Red Bull of Sebastian Vettel as the race moved towards the halfway stage, but Vettel was convinced he could go faster than the McLaren. He was heard desperately urging his engineer “I can go much faster than him [Button] so do something.”

The Williams of Bruno Senna meanwhile was going well, following the Brazilian’s most successful qualifiying session of the season so far. He was running in eighth following the Ferrari of Felipe Massa.

But things were developing in the Lotus-Renault garage, with the team telling Kimi Raikkonen that he had to make this long stint count. Grosjean however had manage to close the gap to Hamilton sufficiently to allow him the use of DRS.

Whilst it didn’t look as though much was happening on the track, certainly a lack of wheel-to-wheel racing, it would be the strategy that would determine the eventual outcome of this race and by the midway stage, both of the McLaren drivers engineers were telling the pair they had to switch to ‘Plan B’.

It appeared that both drivers were being switched to a three-stop strategy, which would ultimately be detrimental to Button. Having changed to the softer tyre, Button had emerged from the pits behind Bruno Senna, but would struggle to find a way past.

Hamilton was having a struggle of his own upfront though, and complained over his radio “Charlie [Whiting, race director] these guys are not getting out of the damn way.” But one lap later, he would pit after a personal best second sector, changing to the medium compound tyre, thankfully emerging ahead of Grosjean.

A flurry of activity in the pits would follow with both Ferrari’s following each other in for simultaneous tyre changes; Alonso able to rejoin in front of Bruno Senna in 7th.

This would not be the last of the activity, Raikkonen’s engineer urging him over the radio to push before pitting for his final stop of the afternoon. The Finn would emerge from the pitlane just as his teammate Grosjean was approaching turn one.

The two came very close to touching, but Raikkonen, probably using some of his KERS, managed to pass his teammate jumping from fourth to second in the process.

Button’s afternoon was not over by any means, sadly not in a positive way. His third pitstop was less than fluid and a problem with his left front saw him held longer than expected in his box. He would later finish in a disappointing sixth.

True to form and providing an unwelcome distraction to proceedings at the front, Pastor Maldonado had a ‘coming together’ on lap 51 with Force India’s Paul di Resta, seeing the Venezuelan issued with yet another penalty. Surely if this poor standard of driving continues, more harsh penalties and even a ban must be considered.

But it seemed that Hamilton, although under pressure from both Lotuses, was in control of the race in the closing laps. Raikkonen was heard over his radio saying that “My only hope of getting past is if Hamilton’s rear tyres go away from him.”

The misery of Schumacher’s afternoon would culminate in him being the first car to retire on lap 60/69. With the German so far refusing to comment on the likelihood of him renewing his contract with Mercedes, is it now time for him to step aside and let a younger driver take his seat? We shall see.

A truly fantastic weekend for Lewis Hamilton then; not only dominating two of the three practice sessions and a great qualifying session, he controlled the race from start to finish.

“I am looking forward to the continuation of the championship. A long way to go and a lot of work to do but we have shown we can compete. It is very, very close but we are going to give it all we can.”

All photographs in this post, including the masthead, are courtesy of Vodafone McLaren Mercedes Media Centre, with thanks.

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Hungaroring – Home of the Hungarian Grand Prix

The Hungaroring is roughly 30 kilometers northeast of Budapest, Hungary’s capital city.

The first Hungarian Grand Prix was held in 1936, in Népliget, or the “Peoples Park” in Budapest. With politics and an impending war however, Grand Prix racing would not return for fifty years; Bernie Ecclestone would secure the first Grand Prix race ever to be held behind the Iron Curtain in 1986.

Ecclestone wanted a race in the then USSR, but a Hungarian friend of his recommended Budapest. Originally, Ecclestone wanted a street circuit similar to that of Monaco to be constructed around the original site of Népliget, but the government opted for a circuit to be built just outside the city. Construction began in October 1985, and the circuit was completed in just eight months; less time than any other circuit on the calendar.

Passing at the circuit is generally difficult due to its narrow twisty nature, and is affectionately referred to as ‘Monaco without the walls’. It is also a very dusty track due to lack of use; normally this means that those running later in Qualifying sessions benefit from better conditions, so expect to see very late attempts at the fastest lap for Pole Position this weekend.

Weather for the race is generally dry and hot, a factor backed up by the fact that the circuit didn’t experience its first wet race for twenty years! (One wonders if this is a record, but have been unable to find any records to substantiate this). Opinions of the track differ between the drivers, some love it, some find it too hot, too slow and demanding.

In 2003, in an effort to improve overtaking opportunities and allow more entertaining racing, some changes were made to the circuit. More significantly in recent times however, the introduction of DRS (Drag Reduction System) to Formula One in the 2011 season has improved overtaking opportunities significantly.

With the DRS detection point just prior to turn thirteen, activation will take place just seventy metres into the main start/finish straight and should give good overtaking opportunities down the straight and into turn one. The FIA have opted to stick with a single DRS zone for this race, as they have at both Silverstone and Hockenheim recently.

It has historically been a successful track for McLaren; the team have won more races here (ten) than any other constructor. It is also a successful track for the British pairing of Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button.

Jenson not only celebrated his 200th race at the Hungaroring in 2006, but his first ever Grand Prix win. He would win the race again in 2011 in similarly wet conditions. Hamilton, on the other hand, first won in Hungary in 2007. He would be the first driver that season to lead every lap of a race, such was the competitive nature of the season. His second win at the circuit would come in 2009.

With McLaren dominating wins at the circuit overall as a constructor, and Jenson and Lewis winning four of the last six outings, it bodes well for the team this coming weekend.

With the passing of the halfway point in the season at Hockenheim last weekend, and the impending mid-season break upon us; McLaren will be keen to demonstrate that the upgrades they have added to the cars have been successful. In addition, they will be hoping that the historic success at the circuit will stand them in good stead for the season going forward.

In anticipation of the upcoming break in racing, I am working on an update  to a previous article, which I would really appreciate some help with. If you could visit and answer a very short survey, I would be eternally grateful.

German Grand Prix – Hockenheim – Race

Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso yesterday became the first driver to win three times this season.

It was an incident filled day, which began even a couple of hours before the race got underway, when Red Bull were reported to the Stewards following FIA technical delegate Jo Bauer’s report surrounding the legality of the teams’ engine maps.

Bauer was of the opinion that the engine torque maps of the RB8’s were in breach of Article 5.5.3 of the Technical Regulations, the thought being that the engines were able to deliver more torque at a given engine speed in the mid RPM range, thus potentially altering the aerodynamic characteristics of both cars, in direct contravention of Technical Directive 036-11.

Horner, being chased by a pack of journalists through the paddock area into the pit-lane, was clearly annoyed by the interest the investigation was generating, taking the unusual stance of challenging the media’s ability to be in the pit-lane whilst a support race was underway. A clear indication, in your author’s eyes, that there was something amiss.

Following meetings with representatives of both Red Bull and Renault however, examinations of ECU (Engine Control Unit) data, stewards said that “while they did not accept all the arguments of the team, they concluded that as the regulation is written, the map presented does not breach the text of Article 5.5.3.”

In effect, the stewards say the rules are as clear as mud. It is widely expected that clarification will be issued by the FIA in the near future.

Horner’s McLaren counterpart, Martin Whitmarsh refused to be drawn to make a comment in the run up to the decision, but said that he hoped “the FIA would take advantage of a meeting of the sport’s Technical Working Group on Monday to issue a clarification that banned what Red Bull were doing.” He went on to state “It’s an advantage. You don’t do things like that which are challengeable unless there is a performance advantage.”

With the decision being delivered close to the start of the race, the Red Bull’s were allowed to start from their qualifying positions, Webber however being relegated to eighth on the grid, following a gearbox change on Saturday.

It was an eventful first lap, Ferrari’s Felipe Massa, starting in a very disappointing 13th, collided with the Toro Rosso of Daniel Ricciardo. Massa’s front wing was seen to fly through the air and debris was all over the track at turn one. We have seen Safety Cars deployed for less, but unusually Charlie Whiting decided against sending out the Mercedes SLS AMG.

Grosjean and Senna would suffer front wing damage, Senna also suffering a puncture to his front left tyre. Another victim of a puncture on lap 3 was Lewis Hamilton; he struggled to get the car round to the pits, even reporting to the team on his way round that he should retire. The team changed the tyres and sent him on his way, despite being way down the field, ultimately his pace was reasonable.

Jenson Button in the sister McLaren was proving that the upgrades they had bought this weekend were working well, overtaking both Hulkenberg and Schumacher, promoting himself to third by the 11th lap.

With Vettel stopping one lap later than Button, he was able to come out in front of the McLaren driver, but the pace of the MP4-27 finally proved to be good and he closed in on the German and second place during their second stints.

As the halfway stage of the race approached, Vettel began to catch Alonso with just under a second between them. But the out of position McLaren of Hamilton was on fresher tyres and he was determined to unlap himself into the inside of the hairpin, which he was well within his rights to do, much to the annoyance of the German.

Button would then take the race to Vettel, pitting on Lap 41 to what would seem to have been the quickest pit-stop of the season so far at 2.31 seconds. With Vettel’s tyres ‘falling off’, he would pit for tyres on lap 42 at the same time as Alonso.

Approaching the pit exit as the Red Bull of Vettel was still building speed, Button made the pass stick and moved into second place behind Alonso. Button’s race engineer heard saying over the radio ‘that was perfect Jenson, let’s have Alonso’.

Button continued to catch Alonso in the closing laps, while behind him, Vettel seemed to be nursing his tyres. With ten laps remaining, Button had closed the gap to Alonso to just half a second. Meanwhile, teammate Hamilton had retired with what is thought to have been a gearbox issue, the only retirement of the race.

In the final five laps however, Vettel seemed to have benefited from nursing the tyres and by this time was around 0.2 of a second faster than that of Button, who appeared to be struggling for grip, Alonso increasing his lead at the front.

On lap 66 however, Vettel was able to benefit from using DRS into the hairpin and managed to make the pass, but Button and his engineer were quick to complain that the pass was made outside the circuit, his engineer confirming they had already made a complaint to Race Director, Charlie Whiting.

Annoyingly, Vettel said after the race in several interviews that Button didn’t tell him that he thought he would be handed second place back, despite us clearly hearing that conversation take place before the podium celebrations began.

A stewards inquiry ensued, and some time after the race was over, the stewards agreed that Vettel had indeed made his pass outside the limits of the circuit and he was handed a 20 second penalty, demoting him back to fifth and handing Button back his rightful second place. Raikkonen and Kobayashi also benefiting from the German being penalised.

With the McLarens showing an improvement in pace, despite Hamilton’s difficult outing, the upcoming weekend in Hungary; a track where the team are not only competitive, but with 10 wins they are the most successful Constructors. The McLaren pair are also multiple winners at the Hugaroring; Hamilton winning in 2007 & 2009, Button in 2006 & 2011.

Formula One German Grand Prix 2012 – Hockenheim – Preview and Selected Quotes

Hockenheim will this weekend host the German Grand Prix, marking the halfway point in the 2012 Formula One season. Following on from an eventful British Grand Prix at Silverstone two weeks ago, we should see further upgrades from the main protagonists, and there will be more than enough for fans to be watching out for.

As is usual at most Grands Prix, all eyes will be on the home contingent to perform. With no less than five German drivers lining up this weekend, local fans will be spoiled for choice. But at this crucial stage of the season, there are several other factors to consider.

Recently there has been speculation regarding the security of Felipe Massa’s seat at Ferrari. Shortly after the British Grand Prix, Mark Webber revealed he had held discussions with the Maranello outfit before confirming he would remain with Red Bull for 2013. Massa will need to continue his, albeit slight, recent improvement in form if he is to continue at Ferrari going forward.

Reigning Champion Sebastian Vettel will arrive at his home Grand Prix having not won since Bahrain in April. Despite him having broken numerous records, perhaps the most elusive for Vettel; who only lives thirty minutes from the circuit, he has yet to win his home Grand Prix. “I haven’t won the German Grand Prix before and of course, I would like to!”

Celebrating a milestone of his own this weekend is McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton. Going into his 100th Grand Prix, he will be looking for an improvement on his last two races, which have seen him not finish at Valencia and unable improve on a poor qualifying performance at Silverstone.

“Unbelievably, next weekend will mark my 100th grand prix. That’s incredible, because I still remember my first as if it were only yesterday – I guess Formula 1 has that effect on you!”.

With so-called “silly season” in full swing, Hamilton is himself subject of speculation regarding his future with McLaren. It is widely expected he will announce his intentions during the mid-season break, following the Hungary race at the end of July.

Teammate Jenson Button meanwhile, is sensing the importance of a strong team performance ahead of the upcoming back-to-back races. “The final back-to-back before we head into the summer break will be important for the whole team: coming off the back of a couple of disappointing weekends, it’s important that we capitalise on the opportunities available in Germany and Hungary.”

Martin Whitmarsh, McLaren Team Principal, is also looking forward to the two races leading up to the mid-season break, keen to move on from recent disappointments: “There is a huge resolve within the operation to ensure that our aggressive development strategy is upheld across the summer: we are determined to narrow the gap to the championship leaders before the start of the summer break.”

In a somewhat confusing statement, Mercedes Team Principal Ross Brawn said: “The German Grand Prix will be our second home race in two weeks following the British Grand Prix at Silverstone last weekend, and we are looking forward to racing in front of our home fans and Mercedes-Benz colleagues once again.”

With a 40% chance of showers forecast for both Practice sessions on Friday and a 60% chance of showers for Qualifying on Saturday (depending on which sources you believe), tyres are bound to have a huge impact on proceedings this weekend.

Paul Hembery, Pirelli Motorsport Director, is hoping to bring an experimental compound for teams to evaluate this weekend: “the weather in Germany at this time of year can be almost as unpredictable as it is in England: when we were at Hockenheim for the GP3 Series two years ago we saw plenty of rain, although it’s been very hot in the past too. The new hard tyre is not a big evolution, but it has a slightly wider working range, which should make it easier for the teams to get the tyres up to temperature and maintain them in the correct operating window.”

Additionally, this will be Pirelli’s first outing as tyre supplier at Hockenheim, but he doesn’t seem fazed by the prospect: “Coming to a circuit that is new to us always holds a different challenge, as we don’t have any of our own previous data to compare it with. But the progress that has been made with simulation is incredible: these days you can learn so much about how a tyre will behave on a circuit without even going there.”

The result of this weekend’s outing at Hockenheim could prove to be influential on the overall season. Going into this weekend, the top four in the Driver’s standings seem to hold the answer as to who will be crowned Driver’s Champion, barring any unusual developments. To that end, Lewis Hamilton will need a good result in both Germany and Hungary in order to maintain contact with current leader Fernando Alonso.

Who do you think will win the German Grand Prix? Vote here:


British Grand Prix – Silverstone – Race

As the Formula One circus descended on the Northamptonshire circuit this weekend, fans were greeted with typical British weather. Heavy rain, mud and traffic jams were the order of the day Friday, as the venue struggled to cope with the deluge of rain and heavy traffic coming into the venue.

Friday’s difficulties led Richard Phillips, Managing Director of Silverstone Circuits, to ask up to 20,000 paying fans to stay away from the circuit on Saturday, so that car parks could recover from the heavy rain on Friday, in the hope that conditions would improve for the race on Sunday.

Normally very quick to criticise Silverstone, even Bernie Ecclestone praised the way in which they coped with the difficulties. He said: “The people at Silverstone got over things very well and I’m very happy.”

Saturday’s Qualifying session was eventful to say the very least. Wet conditions still hampered not only the circuit, but the drivers too. The session was red flagged into Q2 with only six minutes remaining. Sadly, Jenson Button had already fallen foul of the weather having only managed to put his McLaren on 18th; disappointing to say the least for his and his team’s home Grand Prix.

When proceedings resumed, almost an hour and a half later, it would be Button’s teammate Hamilton that would suffer. Coming out on full wet tyres, he hadn’t realised the state of the circuit had improved enough to justify Intermediate tyres. Returning to the pits to change, he lost significant time which saw him only able to put the McLaren on the fourth row of the grid in eighth.

Hopes were high for either Button or Hamilton to storm through the field on Sunday and deliver the fans a much desired British winner. Having decided to start on the harder tyre, Hamilton’s strategy looked to be paying off when he went further into his first stint than Alonso, and he briefly took the lead.

His second and third stints however were off the pace, and all Hamilton could manage was a lowly eighth, exactly where he started. Button faired a little better, he had managed to promote the McLaren up to tenth place, following a battle with Bruno Senna and Nico Hulkenberg, the latter seemingly suffering from extreme tyre degradation.

The race was not without incident, as on lap 11, Pastor Maldonado was again making a name for himself by colliding with Sergio Perez. Maldonado insisted the crash was accidental. “It was unlucky this time because I lost the car on the entry to the corner, right on the apex with the front and then the rear,” he said. “I did the braking on DRS, and actually even braked before my normal braking place.”

Perez was vociferous in his statement regarding the incident; “he is a very dangerous driver and he can hurt someone”. Despite this, the Stewards who included former World Champion and Silverstone winner Nigel Mansell, only delivered a reprimand and a €10,000 fine.

Lap 39 saw Kamui Kobayashi get it all wrong as he came into the pits. Completely misjudging his entry speed, he collided with two of his Pit Crew, knocking them both to the ground. Thankfully, it was later reported that the injuries suffered by the pair were minor. Kobayashi later admitted he was at fault and apologised to the team, citing that he had no practice running in the dry and was unsure how much he could push.

The battle for the lead was where all eyes were in the closing stages of the race however; Alonso and Webber battling it out in what seemed to be their own private race. Alonso’s demise would begin on lap 38, having pitted earlier than expected for his final stop.

By this time, Webber’s pace was significantly better than Alonso’s and with only six laps remaining, his lead to the Australian only 0.5 seconds. With just three laps remaining, Alonso was obviously suffering with tyre degradation. Webber had a look into turn two, but thought better of it, deciding to sit in the Ferrari’s slipstream and await a better opportunity.

This would come, perhaps quicker than both expected, as Webber bravely decided that he would make his move around the outside at Brooklands. As he approached the Chequered Flag, Webber had managed to develop a two and a half second lead over the Spaniard, only demonstrating the level of degradation he was suffering.

With the next round heading to Hockenheim in two weeks, expectations remain high for the McLaren pair, Hamilton and Button. Their poor performances at the weekend will surely spur them, and their team on to deliver an acceptable level of performance.

Hamilton said: “We will keep our heads down, stay focused and hopefully at some stage we will get a car to challenge at the front.” Button added: “You can see where our weaknesses are. I just don’t think we are very quick at the moment. I don’t think we did anything wrong with strategy, we just were not quick enough today. We need to find some pace. It is not just the Red Bulls and Ferraris who are quicker than us, a lot of cars are. We have a lot to work on.”

Team Principal Martin Whitmarsh confirmed there were concerns with the cars performance, but admitted that he was “not seriously worried”. He added: “We have a reasonable upgrade package for Germany and we’d like that to be as successful as we can and make sure we can make it for Germany.”

With Hamilton and Button both seeing themselves slip in the standings following promising starts, there will certainly need to be a lot of hard work, and late nights, at the McLaren Technology Centre in the build-up to the German Grand Prix.