Tag Archives: Lewis Hamilton

Formula One: Ricciardo to Renault?

 

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Daniel Ricciardo: Time to remove the Red Bull Racing race suit for good?

 

As the 2018 FIA Formula One World Championship heads to Barcelona, silly season is kicking into high gear. At present, when looking towards the 2019 season, the state of play for the likely top four finishers in the Constructors Championship this season is as follows: 

Mercedes: both drivers out of contract

Ferrari: One seat open

Red Bull Racing: One seat open

Renault: both seats open

Being only four races into the 2018 season it may seem a little premature to be talking about 2019, but the events of Baku are likely to play a pivotal role in the decision-making process across the market.

With 99% certainty, it can be expected Lewis Hamilton will or has already renewed his commitment to Mercedes for 2019 and beyond in what will likely be his final contract as a driver in Formula One.  Leaving a single seat with the Silver Arrows. Whilst many have questioned his outright ability to take the fight to his competitors, Bottas has proved to be a reliable second driver for the team. Lewis’ response towards his teammate after being gifted his first win of the year, illustrates a team working in cohesion. Management would have to think long and hard about what they were trying to achieve in looking to replace Bottas. I expect he will be retained for a third season unless Ocon finds himself without a seat at Force India.

Over at the Scuderia, Kimi has been in his final season since he rejoined the team in 2014. Whilst never stella, he again creates an environment in which his teammate can thrive. Arguably he weakens Ferrari’s ability to challenge for the constructor’s championship, but I personally believe he will either be renewed on another single year agreement, or make way for Charles le Clerc, who finally started to prove his strengths with a fantastic performance in Baku. I do not believe Ferrari are considering Ricciardo as a possible partner for to Vettel.

Then to the curious case of Red Bull Racing. In Baku, Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo broke the golden rule of motorsport and took each other out. The incident was a long time coming, after a race in which multiple passes between the two had already resulted in contact, the drivers compromised their own strategies and slowed each other down. With the team standing by their philosophy to “let them race”.  In the short term, I don’t believe this will destroy team harmony, but it went some way to sowing the seed in Riccardo’s mind that a team not willing to favour one driver over the other may not be the team in which he achieves his ambition of securing a world championship. This coupled with the widely expected announcement that Red Bull Racing will switch to Honda power for 2019, which whilst much more competitive with Toro Rosso than it ever was with McLaren may not quite be at the level to compete for championships.

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Renault F1 Team  successfully challenging Aston Martin Red Bull Racing for position during the 2018 Azerbaijan GP

Then to Renault, a team whose 3-year plan to reinvigorate the Enstone facility and rebuild a once championship contending team, is now starting to come to fruition. From 2019 onwards Renault should expect to be challenging for outright wins and comfortably challenge the likes of Mercedes and Ferrari. In Hulkenberg and Sainz the team have a formidable but unthreatening lineup. As the team look to challenge for wins, they need a superstar driver. Could Ricciardo become Renault’s next superstar? As a works team, they are in a position to offer the salary driver of Ricciardo’s calibre should command, and they can offer something no other team can, the ability to shape the team around him. Some will say it would be risky for Ricciardo to give up a race-winning seat for a team which hasn’t won a race in over a decade, but the same could be said for Lewis Hamilton when he walked away from McLaren. Renault presents opportunities Red Bull Racing simply can’t offer.

Should the top four teams be covered by four manufacturers, it would be fantastic to see the top four drivers of the current era; Hamilton, Vettel, Verstappen, and Ricciardo behind the wheel of different cars each with their own strengths and weaknesses.

Daniel Ricciardo racing for the Renault Sport F1 Team for 2019 is my prediction for the big shift this silly season. Sainz may well return to Red Bull fold as a result, but I personally believe he will remain with Renault with Hulkenberg heading to life after F1 and Gasly moving into the Red Bull Racing team.

Image Source: Red Bull Media Pool

 

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Formula One: Motorsports Mayweather vs. McGregor

Mayweather Vs McGregor

The Formula One circus springs back into life this weekend with the championship heading to Spa for the iconic Belgian Grand Prix. If history is anything to go by we can expect to see Red Bull Racing have made a step forward in performance through the break, and for Lewis Hamilton’s form to kick into high gear.

For the F1 fan during a Grand Prix weekend, it can easy to forget other forms of motorsport exist let alone other forms of sport, but this weekend it will be nigh on impossible to miss the relentless coverage of Mayweather vs McGregor.

Everyone loves a cross over! Mayweather vs McGregor is the sporting world’s ultimate cross over. The undefeated heavyweight boxing champion Floyd Mayweather coming out of retirement to answer the challenge of UFC legend Conner McGregor. Cynics would say it’s all about the money with each fighter set to earn in the region of $200 Million for the night and let’s face it, it is, but who cares?

Give the fans what they want and the world will talk about it. Prepare for every social media record ever set to be broken!  It costs more for a sponsor to have their name on Conor McGregor’s elasticated waist for 1 night than it does to be title sponsor of a leading F1 team for an entire season!

How can any other sport compete? Has there ever been a comparable event in motorsport? Could F1 or any other category put on a similar show?

What the world of boxing and UFC have in Mayweather and McGregor are personalities. Neither are backward in coming forward, both believe they are the best in everything they do and both have a constant need to tell the world. Their respective categories embrace this, encouraging them to build their names, which in effect will build the category. They are showman, they are entertainers. Within Motorsports this level of self-adulation isn’t overtly encouraged, the sport is about the team and is often attached to an automotive manufacturer whose reputation could be tarnished by an extrovert driver. In the coming years, should F1 elect to move away from it’s mandate of acting as a basis for automotive development and focus more on entertainment, the Mayweather and McGregor characters could emerge. Until then, we’re stuck with drivers being forced to apologise for sneezing in a way which could damage the brand they represent.

Motorsports is no stranger to a crossover. This year alone, Fernando Alonso was given the opportunity to try his hand in Indycar and proved to be no slouch, drivers often compete in multiple categories such as Jean Eric Vergne racing in Formula E and the World Endurance Championship this season. But when did a champion of one series last race directly against another champion? The simple answer is the annual Race of Champions event, which can attract a high calibre of driver including the likes of Vettel and 2016 champion Montoya, but given the knock out style of the event do they really get to race against each other? Is it really want the fans want?

Motorsport can do better than the Race of Champions. Liberty Media should take inspiration from Mayweather vs McGregor and go all out.  What would you like to see them do? Who would you like to see compete?

Finally, how many F1 drivers will be getting up at 5AM / staying up until 5AM on Sunday morning to watch the arguably the greatest sporting event of the year, and how many drivers will dare tweet about it?

Formula One: Time for Mercedes to go Aggressive?

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The 2017 Russian Grand Prix looks set to be the race in which Scuderia Ferrari cement their status as the dominant force in the World Championship. Having won two of the first three races of the season, the Scuderia’s pace was unquestionable yet many felt AMG Mercedes Petronas still held an ultimate performance advantage.

However with Ferrari having locked out the front row in qualifying for the first time since 2008 at a circuit which Mercedes have dominated in recent years, it is becoming clear that the boys in red have overtaken the silver arrows in terms of out and out pace. Since the introduction of the current power unit regulations, ignoring a few erroneous races, Mercedes have been the dominant force. The team has adopted an approach in which only an inter team battle is considered as a threat. In so doing, in a bid to ensure equality amongst drivers, race strategies have been safe and mirrored on both sides of the garage.

With a genuine threat from Ferrari for the overall  2017 World Constructors Championship clear, has the time come for this to change? At this point in the season Mercedes and Ferrari are the only team capable of challenging for race wins. Red Bull Racing being the next closest team were 1.8 seconds of the pole lap time in Russia. In this situation the challenging team, in this case Mercedes have two choices; acknowledging the lack overall race pace, they could take adopt the same approach as Ferrari in qualifying and the race, with the hope that driver skill or mistakes will elevate performances, or they could switch to an aggressive strategy, splitting their drivers tyres compound section in the hope of interfering with Ferrari.

For Mercedes to maximise an interference strategy the team should have sent either or both Hamilton and Bottas out into Q2 on Super Soft tyre compounds, with Ferrari qualifying on Ultras softs. This move would have safely taken them through the session and allowed them to run much longer in the first stint of today’s race. In electing not to do this Mercedes opportunity to interfere with Ferrari today will be limited to a strong start, or adopting a two stop approach over the expected one stop norm.

Moving forward, in order for Mercedes to challenge for their 4th successive constructors championship they must adapt to the new norm and consider irregular approaches to race strategy. Simple accepting, ‘the second row was a the best we could expect’ is not good enough from a championship winning team.

Formula One: Eddie Jordan slams Lewis Hamilton & Mercedes

Ahead of the 2017 F1 season former team owner turned pundit Eddie Jordan has suggested he would his response to Lewis Hamilton’s decision to back up Nico Rosberg in the final race of the 2016 season in a bid to secure his 4th World Championship would not have been as forgiving as that of Toto Wolff and the Daimler management board.

Never one to shy away from a headline, in this 2017 preview for Mobil One’s The Grid, Jordan comments on the departure of his good friend Bernie and the new start of a new era with Liberty Media.

Despite questioning Lewis’ approach to 2016, suggesting his lost focus, Jordan predicts he will be the favourite going into 2017. On Bottas, Jordan suggests 3-4 wins could be possible but questions his ability to push Lewis through the season.

Formula One: Fernando Alonso looking to end decade wait for F1 crown

It has been over a decade since Spanish driver Fernando Alonso last won a Formula 1 Drivers’ Championship crown, but he isn’t ready to give up trying for another just yet.

The stylish Spaniard is a fan favourite and, despite not lifting F1 silverware since his last triumph back in 2006, he remains confident of finally ending that 11-year wait this upcoming season.

Alonso will be buoyed by the fact reigning champion Nico Rosberg has departed proceedings after announcing a shock retirement last year, following his title-winning race in November.

The now 35-year-old was a dominant force during the 2005 and 2006 campaigns, as he rallied to back-to-back F1 title successes during the height of his powers when representing Renault.

He now resides with McLaren-Honda and is seeking to add a third world crown to his list of honours from over 10 years ago.

The Oviedo-born steerer endured a frightening crash last season, when his car went sliding off the circuit in Australia and collided with the track’s barriers at a whopping 180mph. He luckily escaped without any serious injuries, somehow sustaining just a collapsed lung and some fractured ribs.

Alonso ready to challenge for title again

The determined Spaniard is confident he can start the next season strongly and finally start to make an impact on races across the globe in his car.

McLaren boss Zak Brown angered Alonso recently when suggesting that the team are unlikely to win many races next term.

The Spanish driver was quick to overlook the comments and confidently claimed he will remain positive in his bid to enjoy success across 2017.

“I read what Zak Brown said, but who knows?” Alonso declared. “I am keeping a positive attitude, preparing for the championship as intensely as ever, and I will do everything in my power,”

The double world champion won his first world title at the age of 24, which then made him the youngest ever Formula 1 Championship winner.

Hamilton the man to beat

However, times have changed throughout recent years and the circuit veteran now finds himself up against a hugely talented roster of steerers. British Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton is currently leading the way and is regarded as the heavy favourite in the F1 odds to win a fourth world title in 2017.

Meanwhile, if Alonso is going to taste success this year he will have to get the better of Red Bull’s deadly duo too.

Young starlet Max Verstappen became a sensation last season when making history as the youngest ever F1 circuit winner ever. His teammate Daniel Ricciardo is also a threat and boasted plenty of pace all across last year.

Retirement on the horizon?

Previously quizzed as to whether 2017 could be his last campaign on the track, Alonso was coy regarding retirement plans.

“We’ll see. We’ll go step by step,” he stated.

Alonso is a long-serving F1 driver and believes he still plenty to give in the sport which he has mastered in his impressive career. Still, he faces a tough task in ousting the younger, hungry competitors in the 2017 circuit.

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:

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

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Formula One: Pérez for Mercedes?

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With the shock announcement from 2016 Formula One World Champion Nico Rosberg’s retirement last Friday, almost every driver on the grid has been named as a possible replacement for the German. Nico’s decision came as a surprise not only to media and fans of the sport, but to his employers and rivals on the grid. Had there been an inkling from anyone that Nico may have taken this decision the contractual status of a number of leading drivers may be looking very different at this point in the season.

The Mercedes board will be keen to install a replacement driver as soon as possible to minimise the impact on the teams 2017 campaign and maximise driver acclimatisation. That being said, should Mercedes opt for a driver currently under contract with another team it is highly unlikely they will be able to work with said driver until the new year.

From an ease of transition perspective Mercedes could opt for one of their junior drivers in Ocon or Wehrlein. Whilst kind on the cheque book and simplest to implement, Mercedes require a driver capable of performing from at the very top level from the word go, it is undeniable the potential of both drivers is without question,  but it would be a risk to place them with the team from the beginning of 2017.

Realistically, this leaves Mercedes with little option than to approach drivers with existing agreements for season ahead. Toto Wolff has intimated he is reluctant to poach drivers from Ferrari or Mclaren, acknowledging the damage this could cause to future team relations in the lead up to strategy group negotiations with Liberty Media over the coming 36 months. This in theory removes Sebastian, Kimi, and Fernando from the equation. Whilst Toto did not explicitly rule out either of the Red Bull Racing drivers, it is highly unlikely either would be released from what are understood to be long term contracts.

This has left many to suggest Bottas has the most likely candidate for the seat. He is part managed by Toto Wolff and with Williams working in close collaboration with Mercedes a deal in theory could be easy to achieve. I see this to be quite unlikely. 2016 was somewhat of an underwhelming season for both Bottas and Williams. If the cliché of ‘you are only as good as your last race / season’ were to be applied. Bottas is not hot property and should not be regarded as the next best option.

Taking all of this into consideration I believe the best placed driver on the grid to replace Nico Rosberg for 2017 is Sergio Pérez. With 101 points, and 2 podium finishes in 2016 Sergio Pérez was the best performing non works Mercedes driver. He lead the Force India team to their most successful year in history, finishing 4th in the constructors championship scoring points in 16 events over the season. From a pure performance perspective Sergio Pérez has to be regarded as a genuine contender for the seat.

Over and above on track performance, Pérez is highly attractive from a commerical perspective. Mexico is a hugely important market for Mercedes, the car maker is looking to double car sales in the country by 2020. Having a national hero behind the wheel of a Silver Arrows would support this strategy.  Beyond this Sergio Pérez brings his own sponsors to a team. Mercedes are not a team struggling for budget, but opening doors to the Slim family (Telmex Group) will be more than welcome.

Of course Sergio recently signed a one year extension with Force India which in theory locks the Mexican in to the team until 2018, however were Mercedes to offer the services of Wehrlein alongside a discounted Power Unit I am sure an agreement could be found.

Sergio Pérez is a changed driver from the man who replaced Lewis Hamilton at Mclaren in 2013. He has proved his consistency and ability to work with a team during his time with Force India. He deserves another opportunity with a top team. He is the most logical option for Mercedes.

Would it prove to be a threat to Lewis Hamilton? Only time will tell. His has a unique ability to manage tyres and with the huge shift in regulations coming for 2017 this attribute could prove invaluable. At this time Sergio Pérez’s management have declined to comment on the possibility of such a move, but there should be no doubt they will be evaluating any opportunity should it arise.

Formula One: Hamilton back behind the wheel

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Following the conclusion of the 2016 Formula One World Championship, Lewis Hamilton has returned to the cockpit this morning to take part in the final assessment of 2017 Pirelli tyre compounds and sizes.

As per regulations Lewis Hamilton is completing the test in a modified W05. This test session should serve to draw a line under rumours around Lewis’ relationship with the team following his approach to the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix over the weekend.

Further details around the test will be issued in the coming days.

Hamilton will complete the morning session, with Pascal Wehrlein completing the afternoon session. Red Bull Racing and Scuderia Ferrari are also taking part in this final 2016 evaluation of 2017 Pirelli tyres.