Formula One: The Final Seats

Screen Shot 2016-12-14 at 23.06.54.png

As the  F1 world rapidly heads towards the winter break. The sport finds its self in a highly unusual position of having for seats still to be confirmed on the 2017 grid.

Whilst it is not out of the ordinary for seats at the lower end of the field to still be open at this point on in the year, for a seat to be open with the championship winning team is almost unimaginable. Nico Rosberg’s shock retirement from the sport has effectively stalled the driver market with no driver or team wanting to make a commitment before Mercedes conclude a deal with whoever their new driver will be.

At the time of writing favourites for the drive alongside Lewis Hamilton with the Silver Arrows in 2017 are; Valtteri Bottas, Pascal Wehrlein, and my own favourite Sergio Perez. Which ever driver is awarded the drive will have a knock on effect for the teams they are currently or likely to be driving for.

Should Mercedes manage to agree terms with Williams and they release Bottas, the team will be left with serious lack of experience in their driver line up as they head towards one of the most technically challenging regulation changes in two decades., As such working with Pascal Wehrlein who has only taken part in 21 races in unlikely to be their first choice.  More likely would be development driver Paul Di Resta taking the role or recently retired Felipe Massa or Jenson Button making an unexpected return.

In the scenario in which Mercedes take the brave move of putting Pascal Wehrlein in the second seat of the W08, Manor Racing will be left with two seats to fill. The team are likely to be secure drivers with funding, which could lead to a return of a funded Rio Haryanto to the grid. Anther option could be Felipe Nasr should, a driver Bernie Ecclestone has commented he is keen to keep on the grid to assure Brazilian interest in the Championship. Manor Racing development driver Jordan King is likely to find a role within the team. Dependant on the budget he brings this could be in the role of reserve or second driver.

Moving to Sauber, with Marcus Ericsson confirmed the rejuvenated Swiss team have one seat still to fill. 2017 will be a season of rebuilding for the team, as such their focus will be on ensuring consistency and strong feedback. In an ideal world I can imagine the team would like to work with a driver already familiar with the world of F1. Critics may dismiss this option but I would not rule out Pastor Maldonado finding a new home in Hinwil. Should the team head down the rookie route GP2 vice champion Antonio Giovinazzi would be a bold move and one demonstrating the team’s commitment to the future.

Sergio Perez moving to Mercedes would cause Sahara Force India a great deal of pain. Of course Mercedes would compensate the team, but over the past 3 seasons Force India have focused the majority of their business development efforts around building a profile in Mexico. To loose Perez would be a major blow. As such I can see them looking to replace one Mexican for another and signing Esteban Gutiérrez to the team.

One thing is for sure, the F1 silly season is far from over and it still has a few surprises in store!

Advertisements

Formula One: Force India’s Future?

18 year old Jehan Daruvala might not be a house hold name just yet, but his success on the British & European Go Karting scene and Formula Renault 2.0 over the past two season’s alongside the likes of 2016 Mclaren Autosport BRDC Award Winner Lando Norris, suggest he could be name to watch out for in the coming years.

Finishing 3rd in Sahara Force India “One in a Billion” programme in 2011. A campaign which saw bought together and nurtured the greatest racing prospects across India. Jehan relocated to the UK to pursue a full time career in motorsport. Jehan remains a firm part of the Sahara Force India academy as they support his development through junior categories with a long term ambition which will see him take to the wheel of an F1 car.

Earlier this month Jehan announced he will join Carlin Racing for the 2017 season, taking part in the European F3 championship. A championship which over the past two seasons has become more of a feeder series to F1 than GP2 with Max Verstappen, Esteban Ocon, and Lance Stroll head to the F1 following their success in the ultra competitive championship. Could Jehan sit alongside Esteban Ocon with Sahara Force India in 2018? Only time will tell.

To keep up to date with Jehan’s progress follow him on twitter here

Formula One: Rosberg fools us all?

Screen Shot 2016-12-12 at 16.48.10.png

Following Nico Rosberg’s shock retirement announcement after sealing the 2016 Formula One World Championship, could the news have been an elaborate joke from the German and his team?

Nico Rosberg posted the below image on twitter earlier today. The seemingly innocent promotional tweet for team partner IWC, sees the date of one of iconic timepieces set to April 1st. i.e. April Fools Day. Whilst this could be nothing more than a coincidence or the IWC marketing team looking for some publicity. Could it also be possible Nico and the entire Mercedes management have been playing the F1 World as fools over the past two weeks?

The speculation continues….

Head to the IWC website to check out their latest range!

Formula One: Dr Jenson Button

Fresh from what is more than likely to have been his final Formula One Grand Prix, earlier this week Jenson Button was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Engineering from Bath University.

In the short clip above Jenson expresses his gratitude for the university’s recognition of his engineering capabilities demonstrated throughout his 16 year career in Formula One.

Bath University is located less than 15 miles from Frome, the town in which Jenson Button grew up.

Formula E: Ice Drive

Since the inception of Formula E little more than 3 years ago the championship has developed a real ‘can do’ attitude. The ‘no idea is a bad idea’ corporate language seen in offices across the globe is taken to it literal limit with the Formula E management team. So when the suggestion of taking a completing a demonstration run on an iceberg was proposed last year, the only question on the lips of Alejandro Agag and his team was when? not how.

Following the Marrakesh ePrix, an event twinned with COP22, the annual gathering of world leaders to address the issue of climate change, Formula E bought together key figures in the sport, media, and industry together for the première of ‘Ice Drive’. The film follows the team as they set about bringing to reality the challenge of taking a Formula E car to the ice caps and attempting to run the car on the ice.

The challenge proved to somewhat more difficult than a simple arrive and drive, and the obstacles the team had to deal with along the way serve to highlight the true impact of climate change. You may note I initially referred to Icebergs and latterly an Ice Cap. This was no mistake…

It was a privilege to receive an invitation to the première of this film, hearing Prince Albert II of Monaco speaking of his foundation, their involvement in the project, and his dedication to supporting initiatives to tackle climate change, alongside Lucas Di Grassi talking through his eye opening experience of spending time around the disintegrating ice caps and the challenge of driving a Formula E car on ice, was hugely inspiring if a little daunting.

Formula E recognise they have a platform to educate fans of the sport on matters of environmental sustainability and a responsibility to support projects addressing the issues directly. They take this seriously but remain mindful to do so in an engaging and unique way.

Enjoy the film!

Formula E: Jean Eric Vergne in profile

spacesuit-media-shivraj-gohil-fia-formula-e-marrakesh-eprix-november-2016-5d5_0446
2016 Shivraj Gohil / Spacesuit Media

Back in November I had the good fortune to attend the Marrakesh ePrix with the Techeetah Formula E Team and Jean Eric Vergne. Marrakesh played host to the second round of the 2016/ 2017 Championship and gave me my first behind the scenes experience of an ePrix weekend.

At 26 years old, you would still consider Jean Eric Vergne to be a young driver, so when you take a look back at his career in motorsport it’s incredible to think of what he has already achieved. As with many successful drivers, Jean Eric’s career started in Karting. At the age of just 4 years old he first got behind the wheel at his fathers karting circuit on the outskirts of Paris. At the age of 10 he entered his first competition and went on to become a junior French champion in 2001. He continued in karting competing in the European Championship and others until 2007 when he graduated to Formula Renault

Driving for Formula Campus, Vergne won the championship with ease securing 10 podium finishes from 13 races. His performance attracted the attention of the Red Bull Junior team, who navigated his career through the British Formula 3 Championship with Carlin where he won 12 races in 24 events securing the championship with 6 races remaining. Alongside his British F3 outings he also competed in GP3 and in 2010 Red Bull promoted Jean Eric to Formula Renault 3.5. A championship he secured his first win after only 3 races in the championship. He took the championship fight down to the wire and whilst ultimately lost out to another competitor, his skills in the championship were enough for Red Bull to bring him into Formula One initially in a test capacity then joining the Toro Rosso team as a driver in 2012.

Reaching Formula One can be the pinnacle of any drivers sporting career. From the very outset Jean Eric’s pace with Toro Rosso was unquestionable. More often than not Jean Eric would be found ahead of his teammates on the track, unfortunately he found himself in a situation of wrong place at the wrong time. Poor reliability  left Jean Eric seemingly trailing his team mates Daniel Ricciardo and Daniil Kyvat at the wrong time. Resulting in him being overlooked for the Red Bull Racing drive

spacesuit-media-shivraj-gohil-fia-formula-e-marrakesh-eprix-november-2016-5d5_0115
2016 Shivraj Gohil / Spacesuit Media

Despite these stumbling blocks, for which many insiders say were no fault of Jean Eric’s, 2015 saw him transition to Formula E with the Andretti team. The Frenchman instantly found a new home in the series setting pole on his debut in Uruguay. JEV went on to complete the season with Andretti and for season 2 moved to the DS Virgin Racing Team.  A team which with the freedoms offered to teams as the championship found its feet took an alternative approach to technical gearing and power delivery compromising the team’s ability to consistently compete at the front of the grid.

For Season Three Jean Eric Vergne has become part of the newly formed Techeetah Formula E team, a team built on the foundations of the Aguri team with power unit supply from championship leading Renault. Edmund Chu, Techeetah Team President on Jean Eric joining the team commented:

We are tremendously excited to have Jean Eric on board. He has a great experience in the upper echelons of racing and his experience in F1 and FE is going lend itself to us as being a competitive team.”

During pre-season testing Jean Eric showed the pace fans had become accustomed to in his early career, topping the time sheets on 5 of 6 days. Pace at the Hong Kong ePrix gave indications of the team and driver pairing potential, unfortunately with the team still familiarising themselves with their new surroundings the ultimate result did not quite meet expectations.

Bringing us full circle Marrakesh. Meeting Jean Eric on the eve of the ePrix the Frenchman comes across as relaxed and engaging. The characteristics of the circuit, look set to suit the Techeetah team, something Jean Eric demonstrated in shakedown testing setting the 3rd fastest time.

As we head into race day the air of quite confidence resumes, something which Jean Eric manages to carry all the way through qualifying, bringing his car into the super pole session setting the fastest time during the group sessions. Unfortunately, team teething troubles strike again leaving JEV unable to repeat his earlier efforts and he heads into the race starting P5, which later becomes P4 as Buemi is hit with a post qualifying penalty.

Between qualifying and the race Jean Eric and the rest of the grid compete in an eRace in preparation for the $1 Million eRace taking place in Vegas in the new year. Whist the crowds in Marrakesh are smaller than some may have hoped the fans that are at the circuit flock towards Jean Eric at any opportunity and relish this chance to meet their hero.

spacesuit-media-dan_bathie-fia-formula-e-hong-kong-eprix-october-2016-7458
2016 Dan Bathie / Spacesuit Media

Heading into the race as we circulate the grid Jean Eric has a quiet confidence about his ability to turn his P4 into something special. Early race performances vindicate this confidence with JEV moving into a strong P2 ahead of the car swaps. Then disaster, the pit lane speed limiter fails and JEV incurs a drive through penalty. Whilst able to recover and score vital points for the team. Jean Eric is left feeling as though a possible victory has been snatched from his grasp.

spacesuit-media-shivraj-gohil-fia-formula-e-marrakesh-eprix-november-2016-5d5_1044
2016 Shivraj Gohil / Spacesuit Media

After such a challenging result you might expect Jean Eric to be frustrated, and there is no doubt he is, not so much for losing a race win, but because he knows the team can do better. After a few hours debriefing, Jean Eric puts the race behind him, firmly resetting focus towards the next race. He is commitment undiminished, Formula E is his home. A home in which he is determined to win.

Formula E: The season 5 conundrum

screen-shot-2016-12-08-at-15-12-00
2016 Nat Twiss / Spacesuit Media

Formula E is in a great place. With Jaguar joining the championship, Audi scaling up their involvement, BMW committing to the category and Mercedes taking up a placeholder position, OEMS are falling over themselves to get their place on the grid. The same can be said for host cities, in only 3 seasons Alejandro Agag has secured events in locations Formula One have spent decades trying to get on their calendar. The Championship is growing beyond anyone’s expectations.

The success of Formula E is due in part to the mentality of cost control placed upon teams and organisers. Through staggering development cycles of components teams are not in a position to throw money at a problem to find a solution, instead they are forced to find creative solutions to move up the grid. The result Is exceptionally close racing in which more than half the grid are genuinely capable of winning races on their day. However, the Formula E development cycle could be about to cause the championship a serious headache.

I have followed Formula E since day one of the championship. I have been fortunate enough to attend a number of races and spend time with a variety of people in and around the sport.  I am a huge supporter of the championship and the racing, although I have to be honest until attending racing there was always one element of Formula E that I couldn’t get my head around. That was mid race car swapping. Why would a championship designed to promote electric vehicle (EV) technology build prospective EV buyers greatest anxiety, battery range, into the race? For a time, it seemed that OEMS shared the same concerns and to give credit to Formula E, they had a plan. From Season 5, battery technology will be upgraded and the need for a mid race car change will be removed. It is exactly this evolution of technology that has seen BMW commit to the championship.

However, I’m not convinced this is the best direction for the sport. As mentioned until attending a race I was a sceptic of the mid race car change. Why not have two shorter races? It wasn’t until spending time at the London ePrix last season with a group of lifestyle journalists and corporate management that I saw the value of the car change.  In explaining how the breakdown of a Formula E race, the most thrilling element of the race without any question was the car change. Witnessing drivers jump from one car to another bought the race to life and gave a very human perspective to the spectacle. It became the talking point of the day and the lynch pin of subsequent questions around the championship. The championship had me and many others converted!

So what happens in Season 5? In theory the range of Formula E batteries will be increased to remove the need for each driver to require two cars to complete a race distance. In theory we could see a lights to flag race with no interruptions. Is this the right direction? Speaking to drivers and team managers at the Marrakesh ePrix last month few seem convinced. Formula E races with no concerns over battery life and range and no need for pit stops could become quite mundane and processional. Drivers talk of their enjoyment of having a unique challenge mid race. A new element of their racing to finesse. Do we realy want to loose this?

No doubt Formula E organisers are more than aware of this and have already started to evaluate how they can change the way in which the championship goes racing to maintain the thrill and strategic element to an ePrix. To help them out along the way I’ve mapped out a few options for them to build into the equation:

Tyre change pitstop: A relatively logical and simple way to maintain the strategic element of ePrix in the post car change era would be to introduce mandatory pitstops for tyre changes. However, Michelin (the control Formula E tyre supplier) have commented in the past that their strategy around motorsport engagement is to showcase durability. They would not want to develop degrading tyres to artificially impact the race. Moreover, pitstops require additional equipment and manpower from the teams. Any savings generated through the removal of a second car would be negated. Formula E is an environmentally conscious sport; tyre changes could be seen to promote a message of waste.

Joker Laps: A seen in World Rally Cross (WRX), introducing the concept of a secondary element to a circuit layout which when taken will increase lap times by a number of seconds. Drivers could be mandated to take a certain number of joker laps during a race, introducing a dynamic element of strategy. Recently crowned WRX champion Mattias Ekström has passionately advocated their introduction in other series commenting “In F1, if you see how close many races were and it’s difficult to follow, if you have a joker lap someone has to do at a certain time, you can also time it different to get free air for a couple of laps, and that time you can launch your attack,”

Of course concerns around open wheel single seaters returning to a racing line from another point on track at full speed would have to be addressed, but Joker Laps would certainly add an interesting element to future Formula E events.

Dynamic induction charging: Qualcomm are a founding partner of Formula E. They work with the championship in the development of new technologies fit for the evolving automotive industry, one such technology is the Halo system. Halo is an induction charging plate currently used by the championship BMW i Safety and Medical cars. The charging plate removes the need to plug an EV into a charging point. This technology will be launched on road going cars in the coming 18 months. The next phase of this technology is to replicate the induction charging technology whilst a vehicle is in motion. Formula E, could look to introduce dynamic charging strips of 100-200 metres around elements of a circuit off the racing line in which drivers could pick up a power boost. Qualcomm have the technology to facilitate this kind of development. It would require additional investment and require extended periods of preparation time at ePrix circuits, but such a move would push Formula E further towards the pinnacle of motorsport technology. An accolade I am sure they are keen to achieve!

So where to next? Formula E is riding a crest of success. The Championship will have it’s work cut out in the coming years to balance the growing demands of a number of OEM’s all of whom expect to win, and the expectations of fans and sponsors to be entertained. Formula E should see the removal of mid race car changes as an opportunity to throw another element of change into racing. They’ve convinced the sceptic once; I trust they will do the same again!

Formula One: Lorenzo’s Mercedes audition

In the weeks preceding Nico Rosberg being crowned 2016 Formula One World Champion and subsequently announcing his retirement from the sport, former Moto GP champion and future Ducati rider had the opportunity to sample the Mercedes AMG Petronas W05 around the Silverstone International Circuit.

The experience, arranged through mutual sponsor Monster Energy, was a dream come true for the Spaniard who became only the forth Moto GP champion to sample Formula One machinery.

With every man, woman, and child seemingly replying to this advert from Mercedes:

Screen Shot 2016-12-08 at 10.08.59.png

Lorenzo can at least now tick “any previous experience” box!

Screen Shot 2016-12-08 at 10.01.23.png

 

Formula One: One last ridiculous Santander ad for Jenson Button!

screen-shot-2016-12-06-at-15-00-32

Jenson Button’s F1 Racing Career may have come to an end on lap 12 of the 2016 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, but those sponsorship commitments are far from over.

In recent years Santander UK and Jenson Button have developed a reputation for putting out adverts so cringe worthy they are almost good. In what could be Jenson’s final advert for the bank every effort is made to surpass his earlier efforts!

So for the Jenson Button fan struggling to come to terms with his retirement sabbatical, check out this clip from Santander UK:

While you are there, why not enter the competition too, who knows maybe Jenson will deliver an unexpected Christmas present just for you!

For more from Santander UK head to bank’s website here

Formula One: Felio Siby join Sahara Force India as official “Lifestyle Partner”

Screen Shot 2016-12-05 at 16.16.50.png

Luxury design house, Felio Siby, has announced its multi year corporate brand sponsorship of the Sahara Force India Formula One race team.

The Miami based luxury purveyor of apparel and high-end accessories for men and women has formed a unique partnership with the UK based team – a business alliance considered to be the first of its kind in the world of Formula One.  Sahara Force India welcomes Felio Siby as the team’s official Lifestyle Partner, whereby the independent fashion house has designed a limited edition timepiece for race team members to commemorate the exclusive partnership.

The Sahara Force India Watch by Felio Siby is the first Formula One team endorsement for the luxury design brand and a crowning achievement by Miami-based company founder and CEO Dominique Siby, from Gabon in Africa. The multi-year lifestyle partnership has given naming rights for the Felio Siby logo to appear on the Sahara Force India Formula One racecar throughout the 2016 season and beyond.


We are thrilled to join forces as the official Lifestyle Partner for Sahara Force India,” says Dominique Siby, Founder and CEO of Felio Siby: “This year comes with great emotional significance for me, being the ten-year anniversary of my father’s passing. Working with a Formula One team was a project we always wanted to do together. I dreamed of being part of this sport since I was a child, watching the timeless battles between Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost.  This partnership represents our joint pursuit of world class performance and precision engineering and we look forward to sharing our Sahara Force India Watch with the world.”

Vijay Mallya, Team Principal and Managing Director of Sahara Force India says: “A luxury watch-maker and a Formula One team are a perfect match: both pursue excellence, have absolute attention to detail and work to produce awe-inspiring machines through the wonder of human ingenuity. We are delighted to welcome Felio Siby to our family and we are looking forward to sharing the successes of a long and fruitful partnership.”

Dominique Siby experienced his first Formula One competition at the Singapore Grand Prix in 2012 and soon converted in to an avid enthusiast.  His dream was to design a watch for an F1 team but this vision turned out to be a much larger corporate venture unbeknown to the founder.  After speaking to the Sahara Force India Team Principal, Vijay Mallya in February 2016, it was agreed that Felio Siby was an ideal match, not only as a team car sponsor, but as the team’s official Lifestyle Partner. By May 2016, Dominique had the team’s official timepiece designed in Switzerland and ready to be unveiled at the Monaco Grand Prix.

Screen Shot 2016-12-05 at 16.15.25.png

Black and orange has been chosen for the Sahara Force India Watch – to reflect the race team’s official colors. The mounted figures 1 and 7, outlines of the two inner circular dials and both hands of the watch itself are all given a distinctive white finish that provide a bold contrast upon the black “Cotes de Geneve” Hexagonal decorative facial engraving, on which the .2-carat diamond is set. A stylish orange trim is positioned around the outside of the watch face, and a small window to reveal the inner organs of the watch’s Vaucher Manufacture Fleurier Swiss movement can be seen above the center. The Sahara Force India logo is placed in white at the 3 o’clock position, as a stamp of authenticity.  Casing made with black Titanium also features the Felio Siby signature crocodile imprint, and a premium quality black rubber watchstrap reinforces its sporty design. With a self-winding power reserve of 50 hours and weighing only 80 grams, the limited edition Sahara Force India Watch by Felio Siby is priced at an eye watering $150,000 and is now available

As an official race team sponsor, the Felio Siby logo and corporate identity was first seen on the nose of the VJM09 Force India F1 racecar at the Russian Grand Prix in May this year, prior to the watch being unveiled with both drivers during the Monaco Grand Prix.

Additional Felio Siby product lines are in development by Dominique for the Sahara Force India F1 team, including a series of travel accessories, as part of the Lifestyle partnership

Click here for more information on Felio Siby and to check out the Force India range.